Free download: Eat Well on $4 a Day.
When I worked full-time, lived on my own and put myself through undergrad (eons ago) my goal was to come out with the lowest amount of student loan debt possible. In order to do this I used many techniques learned from my parents and grandmother to save money. One of them was how to grocery shop on the cheap and eat well. I still shop almost the exact same way decades later. 50 ways to save money on groceries. I’m not suggesting that we all live on $4 per day but given that many people are under severe economic stress this could be very helpful.
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Efficient grocery shopping process:
- Organize your cupboards and freezer and do an inventory. 50 ways to save money on groceries.
- Review the weekly ads and make a list of all the loss leaders that you (and your family) will eat. By doing this you are eating seasonally. Generally, whatever produce is in season is cheap.
- Buy all the loss leaders/sale items, that you eat, listed in the weekly ad.
- Create meals from the loss leaders and your pantry.
- Use meat as a flavoring rather than as the center of a meal. i.e. Make tacos with beans, veges, and a sprinkling of meat and cheese.
- If you eat leftovers cook large batches and freeze into one meal portions. That is the number of people in your family x one portion If you don’t eat leftovers cook, enough for one meal. If it’s not enough eat a piece of fruit.
- Keep a price book so you know what you pay for items and can recognize when there is a good deal on staple items and then you can stock up.
Every week (or sale period) grocery stores have “loss leaders” for sale such as a gallon of milk for $1.99 and in-season produce. The store loses money on these items. They are intended to get you into the store so you will then load up with other stuff you don’t need. You should buy all the loss leader items (that you will use) each week and incorporate them into your meal plan.
Shopping during Coronavirus
Ordinarily I would pick up sale items from Jewel, Mariano’s, Whole Foods, Target, Walgreens and CVS. Obviously these aren’t normal times but I have leveled out my grocery spending after an initial huge spend in March and April. I am currently ordering and having shipped (not Instacart) all my staples online from: CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Mariano’s. Mariano’s offers an option to get non-perishables shipped to you for free on orders over $35. My orders from all stores reach at least the minimum to get free shipping. I throw stuff in my cart over days or weeks and when I hit the free shipping minimum I order. Prices and availability still varies from day-to-day and store-to-store. I go to the grocery store once a month to restock items I can’t get shipped to me. I alternate between Imperfect Foods and Fresh Picks for my fresh produce. I cook and freeze, flash freeze and/or eat all the produce first before it goes bad. I order spices from Spice House. To stock up for winter I made a trips (for the first time in 7 months) to Target, Whole Foods and Jewel for items I couldn’t get elsewhere.
Eat Well on $4 a Day
This book, Eat Well on $4 a Day, was written to help SNAP (food stamps) recipients to eat healthy on food stamps. It didn’t exist back when I was poverty-stricken in undergrad but it’s free and a great source for excellent recipes. I’m not suggesting that we all live on $4 per day but given that many people are under severe economic stress this could be very helpful. There are several things I don’t agree with in this book which I list below.
Some things I don’t agree with:
Buy expensive eggs. $4 v. $2 or less? Now isn’t the time.
Buying larger amounts usually brings the price down. She is correct about that but you must use the calculator on your phone to check unit prices. Larger containers often are not cheaper per ounce, pound etc.
Don’t buy a bunch of spices you’re unfamiliar with. If you have a recipe that calls for something you don’t like you will have wasted $3-4+ on something you will eventually throw away.
Buy fresh bread. I do that, in normal times. I get it sliced then wrap it in plastic in sections and freeze it. It’s expensive. Now I would just stick to commercial bread. I’ve been buying Dave’s Killer Bread.