Family fed on $100 a month
You may not be able to save as much on food as this blogger does, but many of her tips apply to everyone.
Can a family of four -- Mom, Dad and a teenage boy and girl -- eat for $100 a month? Brandy Eldridge, who blogs as "Mavis Butterfield" at One Hundred Dollars a Month, says that's what her family does, and she posts weekly updates and photos as proof.
Back in 2008, she was spending $814 a month on food. In a year she cut it to $632 "by being more mindful of sales and unit prices," says an article in The Seattle Times. The following year, she was at $417.
Most frugalists would probably call it quits at that point. That's about $100 a month for each of four people -- a very respectable accomplishment.
"In 2011, with the extreme couponing movement gaining steam, Eldridge made it her mission to spend just $100 per month on groceries," the Times story said. "She met that goal, did it again in 2012, and plans to do the same this year."
However, Eldridge wrote that she burned out on extreme couponing in 2011 because of the massive amount of time spent and the processed food her efforts bought. "As I headed into 2012 I decided to dust off my garden tools, and try something new. I set a goal to grow 2,000 pounds of food in our backyard," she wrote on her blog. Her goal is to double the amount of homegrown fruits and vegetables this year. (Knock on wood for agreeable weather.)
Some of her methods are very specific to her lifestyle. She's a professional blogger with a knack for publicity who doesn't work outside the home.
- Big garden. CNN says she works 12 raised-bed gardens and a greenhouse on 1.25 acres. Since Eldridge lives in Gig Harbor, Wash., she has the benefit of a moderate climate and lots of rain.
- Barter. For instance, she trades produce or surplus store-bought staples with families that hunt wild game. While deer is what's for dinner where I live, that won't work for city dwellers.
- Freebies. The example in the story is a free $20 grocery credit for each $100 spent on Home Depot gift cards. She also gets free boxes of unsold produce weekly from a local market, ostensibly for her chickens, but her family also benefits.
Much of the rest of her advice is pretty normal stuff that anyone can duplicate: Compare unit prices, stock up when your staples go on sale periodically, use coupons (and no doubt stack them with sales whenever you can) and stick to your list. Another crucial aspect is cooking from scratch.
Her blog -- which is a mix of food shopping and gardening updates, recipes, craft ideas, and affiliate links -- includes a year-to-date accounting of how much she's spent on food and garden supplies.
What does she do with the money she saves? One example: "Actually my daughter and I just got back from a trip to Europe paid for by not shopping at the grocery store," she told KOMO 4 News.
This is not the only blog dedicated to drastically reducing spending on food, but it's among the most balanced, sustainable approaches we've seen.
A Midwest blogger spent only $30 for food for one month and dropped 10 pounds in the final seven days, subsisting on a diet of about 500 calories per day. This blogger turned down all free-food invitations and didn't eat anything already in the house before the month began.
A blogged named Jeffrey embarked on a "Eating Well on $1 a Day" Challenge in 2010, with coupons as a major component of his strategy. "I bought $597.96 worth of food and other stuff for $27.08 during the month," he wrote.
My favorite account was by Rebecca Currie on Less Is Enough, who found that Jiffy biscuit mix plus more healthy foods bought from bulk bins kept her sufficiently fueled during her Dollar a Day project in 2009. It was widely covered in the media, including an appearance on Rachael Ray's show.
These were experiments to see what eating on a tiny food budget would be like -- and all those involved were glad when they came to an end. But there were still lessons learned, Currie said, like reducing portion size and not letting food go to waste.
More on MSN Money:
A very misleading article. The time she spends gardening, canning, hunting down bargains, etc has value. That value is not counted. If she spends 20 hours a week at this, what's that worth? If you make $20hr that's $400 x 4. What's the cost of starting the garden and puchasing supplies (implements, seeds, feritilzer, etc) and why isn't that included? Lying to your supermarket to get free produce is just plain sleezy. Then there is the cost for food storage units (tupper ware, jars, etc).
I get that saving money is great and she is probably ahead, but they negelect to include all these cost.
Clip coupons, buy bulk when possible, buy no-name brands of canned (if you find some you like) and you can cut your costs by a third. That's real, and you don't have to lie, cheat, or eat road kill to do it.
When does malnourishment begin to set in? I can get close to $200 and I'm just one person...
It's a nice story if you have time to do the whole extreme couponing thing and raise 12 garden beds worth of vegetables. Some of us are a bit too busy for that. Is she taking into consideration the opportunity cost of spending her free time figuring out food savings instead of using it to bring in some form of income?
I have cherry trees in my backyard that produce 40-50 quarts each year. My raspberries produce up to three gallons a day. My gooseberries produce more than I pick. Same with my apples. Of course, one has to buy and plant these plants, but once they're in the ground, they produce a lot of food and I live on a standard city lot.
For one I try to do it on a hundred; for four (including two teenagers) I would be challenged.
But I might suggest these short-cuts to stretch any monies spent:
If you don't know where the money went, you can't be on the alert to divert it in the future.
So, track expenses to get a feel for that cash-flow. If you're not INTERESTED in FOOD
MANAGEMENT, you'll squander, waste and probably eat miserably. So, if it's your main
role to produce meals, purchase groceries and buy within a budget, accept your fate and
jump in. Master your role and then manage it before it manages you. The cheapest food
is the freshest, least manipulated food, so take the hint and eat healthier while your at it.
Teach kids how to eat, what to eat, cook, hunt, grow and fish. then there's preparation and
planning, basics to management techniques. The English aren't usually an obese people, perhaps because table manners are enforced from a tender age. Taking time to prepare an
eating area for a meal delays food consumption but enhances dining pleasure. A fast nugget
in the driver's seat is another matter entirely. Using lovely stem and flatware enhances
eating experience as well as do major serving utensils (beyond a compartmented styrofoam microwave containers).
Growing one's foods teaches a RESPECT for process as well as QUANTITY of food; time-
staking preparation puts ingredients in focus as well as the completed dish. Waiting 3 hours
to catch a fish that can be gobbled in 15 minutes gives a fisherman another 'sacred' take on
food and it's rarity.
Making diners LOOK AT THEMSELVES BEFORE EATING should also influence one's intake
and food selection, so scatter great mirrors in food areas. How about dragging out checkbooks and reviewing budget balances instead of saying grace to convey heavy cost of eating? Then
we should do grace because GRACE implies delicacy and gratitude. No time to eat right?
Who are these people who haven't time to do 'it' properly? The country could use their leadership
if we but just knew who they were ...
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