Feeding yourself on $100 a month

June 11, 2009|By Michèle Marr

You’re hungry for ways to trim the portion of your income that goes to groceries. Some of you are close to starving for tips on how to spend less at the check stand as many prices climb.

For most of you who e-mailed or stopped me somewhere in Huntington Beach to chat about last week’s column about my attempt at the Food Stamp Challenge, the spiritual benefits of eating less and spending less on food is gravy.

You want to know how to cut your food bill and still preserve the nutritional value of the meals you feed your family. So the religion you find in this column will be minimal, aside from that of religiously sticking to a shopping list based on a monthly lost-cost meal plan.


If you haven’t been following this story, check the archives for last week’s column, “Sage advice on budgeting food,” and for “An extra food challenge for Lent,” from March 5, for the beginning of it.

When I first wrote about my decision to take on the Food Stamp Challenge, a number of you e-mailed me your own tips on thrifty grocery shopping. Not one of you thought I could eat — much less eat well — on $100 a month.

Lou Murray, who with Vic Leipzig writes “Natural Perspectives” for this newspaper, wrote to say she couldn’t imagine it. She explained how last fall she had on average spent $80 a week on their groceries.

That amount, however, also purchased paper and cleaning products as well as some of their wine. But since non-food items and liquor and tobacco cannot be purchased with food stamps, they are not included in the Food Stamp Challenge.

By March, despite gas prices coming down, Lou discovered she was spending as much as $144 a week at the grocery store.

As many of you did, she suggested I monitor newspaper ads for foods on sale, planning my meals around them. I gave it a shot but wasn’t good at that.

Weekly supermarket fliers make my eyes glaze over and my mind lock. When I discovered, it helped but didn’t easily break old habits.

With this website’s free membership I can search weekly grocery store fliers by store and by food item. This aids my “find a recipe, buy the ingredients” method of shopping.

Lou was the only reader who mentioned supermarket day-old racks. I had shopped them before, but they’re now an essential in my collection of cost-saving strategies.

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