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How to Eat on Less Than a Dollar a Meal with frugal living tips anyone can use.
A few years ago, when I was working in an office environment, my co-workers were discussing their food spending. Some were spending 400 a week on their family of four on food and that didn’t even count all the eating out. In fact, if you were to ask a roomful of people what their biggest budget buster was, most will say food spending is their most significant issue.
Let’s be honest, most people aren’t that great at truly shopping to save. They might decide what they want to eat, make a list and then go to the grocery store to buy those items. If you really want to save money though, you need to budget and build your meals around what is already in your pantry and what is on sale. Learning to budget can help you to not spend money on things unnecessarily so that you have money left over to spend on things you really value.
While we don’t always restrict our food budget as drastically as spending only a dollar a meal per person, it is a great way to get through tight times between pay cheques. Eating on less than a dollar a meal per person is a goal you can reach easier than you think, and without starving yourself. Read on to learn how to eat on less than a dollar a meal.
No Eating Out
It should go without saying that you should be preparing your own food at home and avoid restaurants.
Get Smart with Protein
There are plenty of ways to save on protein, and I’ve shared some of my post best tips in my blog post – 7 Easy Ways to Save Money on Meat. Some will advise you to go completely meat free but honestly that is completely overkill. One or two meatless days won’t hurt anyone but you don’t need to go vegetarian to eat on a budget. You can also use eggs, beans, lentils and tinned meats like tuna and salmon for cheap sources of protein.
Recently I’ve also started price matching meat at Freshco whenever possible. Whenever I see meat on sale at another local grocer or market I can take my flyer right into Freshco and not only will they match the price – but they will beat it by 1 cent. I like buying my meat at Freshco in particular because it is high quality, fresh and even the everyday pricing is affordable. Last Thanksgiving we got an amazing Grade A Turkey from Freshco for a pittance thanks to their “cheaper guaranteed” policy.
We actually have a FreshCo I can see from my front yard so when we moved here it became our go-to for “Oops, we are out of xyz” and “Oops, I forgot to thaw the chicken”. It quickly became our regular grocery spot though once we realised how fresh the meat and produce is, but at discount store pricing.
Buy in Bulk
If you read the article on how to save on meat (if you haven’t, seriously you need to,) then you know one of my biggest tips is to buy meat in bulk. This tip works for other non-perishables too though. We buy giant bags of rice, flour, beans, and lentils because the per unit price savings compared to smaller formats is incredible. You can find the larger format rice, beans and lentils in the International section at Freshco. Seriously we usually get an 8kg bag of parboiled rice for something like $7 at Freshco and that will last us a couple months – running at about 5 cents per serving. It’s hard to beat that.
On the other hand, only buy what you need when it comes to perishables like eggs, milk, cheese, and produce or you will end up wasting money on food that goes bad.
It’s important to pay attention to the price per volume when shopping for non-perishables. Sometimes the larger format is not actually cost effective so don’t automatically reach for the largest sized item without checking on the price per volume first.
Tie this all together with some serious meal planning to get more bang for your buck. You can minimize the expenses on your grocery list and make sure that no ingredients or items on the list will be wasted since everything will be used throughout the week. Take things up a notch by planning around your weekly flyer so that you are making meals based on what is on sale that week. Be sure to make a list and stick to it when you go grocery shopping!
The bonus here is that it is a huge stress reliever – no more arguments over “What’s for dinner?”.
I’ve written a helpful post about how to start meal planning and you can download this free printable meal planner kitchen set I created to get you started.
Skip the Prepared Foods
Cooking from scratch is cheaper, and healthier than buying prepared foods and you will generally get more servings when making things from scratch (think leftovers).
A Real Life Example
Here is my actual receipt from my most recent trip to Freshco. You can see clearly that by shopping flyer deals and planning our week around what is already in our pantry and freezer we were able to keep our grocery bill for the week at only $61.02 with a total savings of $25.04 over Freshco’s regular price. (Can I just say how much I love the format of the Freshco receipt? I love seeing how much I saved right there in black and white.) That doesn’t even tell the story of how much we saved over regular price at other grocery stores as their prices are as low or lower than competitors. It is also including “splurges” like the condensed milk, tonic water and a surprise egg each for the girls as a treat but no fresh meat because my freezer is full of meat I stocked up on while on sale.
You will also notice that this was accomplished without any coupons.
I used to coupon a lot. Mostly before I had kids and could spend the time combining deals and coupons to get rock bottom prices. Frankly, I don’t have time for that these days, coupons haven’t been great lately and you can still achieve huge savings just by buying fresh seasonal produce, skipping processed food, being smart about your proteins and shopping at a store like Freshco where you can get your dollar to stretch without compromising on the quality of your fresh produce, baked goods and meat despite the low prices.
Do you have any favourite $1 or less per serving meal ideas?
Elizabeth Lampman is a coffee-fuelled Mom of 2 girls and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoys travelling, developing easy recipes, crafting, taking on diy projects, travelling and saving money!
Saturday 31st of December 2016
I just reread your "How to Eat on Less than a dollar a meal." I wanted to refresh the tips you gave us. I hope to go more on what I have in the freezer and cupboard and the weekly flyer. Thank you for all your tips. I reread them from time to time.
Thursday 24th of November 2016
I am still trying follow your tips for cutting down on our grocery bill. It is coming down slowly and I intend to follow it until I feel I am successful . I plan on running off your meal planning guide to help make me more successful. Planning in any endeavor is so important.
Monday 24th of October 2016
I think your budget is wonderful and I am trying to save by working with what I have on hand and sale flyers I am sure it will help me cut down on our food bill. I really appreciate your tips and I plan on using most of them.
Nancy @ whispered inspirations
Thursday 22nd of September 2016
My hubby and I make a list and plan our meals every week. It makes life so much easier and we can budget exactly what we need.
Wednesday 21st of September 2016
Great tips. We have to be frugal right now. We have a 4 generation home and a dozen mouths to feed.