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Eating on $25 a week

I’ve written several times about small food budgets. It’s one thing to live with an intentional, low food budget, and quite another one to be forced into a meager existence. The Illinois Food Bank Association is sponsoring a public outreach, challenging participants to live on $25 a week or $3.50 per person per day. For military families, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Shop at the commissary. I’ve said it over and over again, but you will save 30% on your groceries if you use your commissary.
  2. Plan ahead. Don’t shop impulsively. Use a menu planner and online sources to link major meals to follow-on meals. An example is a whole chicken. It can be roasted for dinner, leftovers for lunch, and the bones and scraps turned into soup for the next day.
  3. Avoid prepared and processed food.
  4. Less expensive cuts of meat can be marinaded to make them more delicious.
  5. Use coupons thoughtfully. You may pay more for the same item because the cost is higher even with the coupon. Also, do you really need 10 cans of tomato sauce? If so, then by all means…
  6. Watch out for items in the checkout lane. The grocery stores pack the checkout areas with high margin, impulse choices that will bust your budget if you’re not careful.
  7. Grow your own fresh herbs.
  8. Frozen orange juice; add your own water and you’ll save money.
  9. Use a home water filtration system instead of bottled water.
  10. Frozen/canned vegetables you eat are better than fresh vegetables that you throw away.
  11. Watch the prices! From time to time chicken, pork, or beef prices will spike for various reasons. Read the news, comparison shop, and be a little flexible on the protein choice for your dishes.
  12. Go meat-less three times a week. Substitute beans or lentils for protein.
  13. Desserts should be occasional.
  14. Minimize snacking. Don’t snack while watching television, playing cards, or doing some other activity. Enjoy the snack, then go back to the movie. Don’t eat out of the bag! Pour a measured serving into a dish.
  15. Cook to feed your family, not The Army! If you need four servings, but make eight, take the first four and put them away for leftovers. Then serve dinner. It’ll avoid waste and overeating.
  16. Drink a glass of water before every meal.

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