It has been many many moons since I have had to budget groceries on a tight budget. Yet, my knowledge is still here and has been put to use recently with my eldest child. He is really, really, a starving college boy. He currently lives in a different city, attends classes at a local university, and works at a minimum wage paying job. He brings home approximately $1k/month. Out of which he pays rent, gas, electricity, water, internet & cable, and groceries. Because he is under 26 years old, we can still claim him on our health insurance so he is in compliance with the AHCA. And, out of the kindness of our hearts, we pay his cell phone bill (honestly, its because I want to be able to talk to my baby every now and then 🙂 )
His rent and utilities are all his own, he doesn’t have a roommate. Once all of those are paid he has about $100/month for groceries. He doesn’t have a meal plan at college, and doesn’t work at a restaurant to get a free meal a day. His nutrition declined quickly when he was left with his own resources to budget his meals. Wanting to help him feel better, we got to sit down together and formulate a balanced meal plan. I figure if this was something I forgot to teach my son, surely there are others out there without the same knowledge.
How we decided to approach his meal plan was by the essential ingredients, with healthy selections, giving him the opportunity to try different recipes and broaden his palate. He may be a starving college kid, but he still wants a little variety.
Honey Nut Cheerios, 17oz, $2.90 (1)
Oatmeal, Instant, store brand, 20pk $2.98 (1)
Eggs, store brand, 1 dozen $1.54 (2)
Milk, low fat, store brand, 1 gallon $3.00 (2)
Peanut Butter, natural, store brand, 14oz $2.99 (1)
Jelly, Smuckers Natural grape, 19oz $2.74 (1)
Bread, Sourdough, store baked, 1 loaf $2.00 (4)
leftovers- free 🙂
Shrimp, raw, peeled & deveined tail off, 12 oz $5.00 (at Walmart) (2)
Wild Salmon, raw, skinless, frozen 2lbs $8.75 (Walmart) (1)
Ground beef, raw, lean 90/10, 1lb $5.70 (1)
Chicken breast, raw, skinless, frozen, store brand, 3lb $6.98 (1)
Beef, chuck roast, raw, 2lb $10.25 (1)
Brown rice, long grain, 2lb $1.29 (1)
Pasta, whole grain, store brand, 13.25oz $1.00 (2)
Frozen veggies, store brand, 12-16oz $1.00-$1.50 each (4)
Tortillas, whole grain, store brand, 12ct $1.50 (1)
Apples, fresh, on special, 3 for $1.00 (4)
Celery, fresh, 1 head $1.15 (1)
Carrots, fresh, baby, 16 oz $1.00 (1)
Chocolate covered Almonds, bulk aisle, 1lb $5.00 (1)
This leaves $7.00/month for personal hygiene products (this isn’t as costly as it would be for a female), for a grand total of $100.00/month.
This budget is meant for a single person, breaking the meats down to 1/4lb servings for each meal. If you do the math for the number of protein servings, you’ll see there are about 42 servings. Some recipes he will cook more than the quarter pound of protein and enjoy the extra servings as lunch or a dinner on another date. We had set him up with a selection of basic spices and oils for his pantry when we helped move him into his apartment. He will need to replace these as they run out. I’ve shown him the best way is to purchase these from the bulk aisle. You can get practically the same amount of spice that is prepackaged in jars for a fraction of the price. I’ve bought a batch of bay leaves for 77cents, and $1.00 buys enough chicken bouillon to make 10 cups of broth. The savings is phoenominal!
I know some may question how healthy the store brand products and produce are compared to national brand products. I agree, some products may be healthier than some of the ones I have listed. For instance, sprouted grain breads would be a healthier alternative to sourdough bread. However it is worth noting, sourdough bread is a great source of resistant starch, contains probiotics, has a lower glycemic index than some other breads, and is naturally full of vitamins and minerals. I did tell him to wash his produce well because the majority of pesticides and dirt are removed from the simple action of rubbing the produce well under running water.
All in all, for a starving college boy this budget is pretty darn healthy!
From all my years of research and learning, I do understand the nutritional values of our crops have been declining. Because of this, we also choose to help our son’s nutrition by providing him with VitaLea, a multi-vitamin. This way we know, for less than a 40cents/day, he is getting all his nutrients from a pure and trusted source.
How do you make the most of your grocery budget? What are some of your tips for saving money?
*For this article, I used the average prices at our local grocery stores. Depending on the cost of living in your area, the prices may be slightly different.