When you look up eating frugally, about the most austere you get is $1.50 per person per day. (At least in recent history.) A few years ago there was an "eat below the line" challenge on social media that asked people to try eating for $1.50 per day to raise awareness about people around the world that live on that amount.
There were some flaws, I think, with the campaign. But luckily for us there are now quite a few blogs and online resources detailing exactly how you can do this. Most people don't keep it up long term, and the average "frugal" family budget it seems is somewhere around $4.00-$5.00 per person per day.
We have been shopping at a local discount store, which has helped our grocery budget significantly, but we still average about $200.00 a week on groceries ($4.00 per person per day). And here's the thing... I end up throwing away a lot of food.
I hate to admit that because throwing away food is bad! It's something I have always been frustrated with in terms of my homemaking skills. I should not be throwing food away!! And definitely not every time I go to the store!
I have tried various systems to attempt to stop throwing food away, but it still happens. One of my biggest faults, I think, is my relationship with food. I go to the grocery store once a week and that day I have this vision of all the beautiful, healthful produce my family should be eating. I make this grand meal plan full of clean and nutritious meals.
And then... I don't feel well one day, I'm out of time to make dinner the next day, I simply don't want to spend an hour in the kitchen and then hear whining about all my hard work, eating a big salad isn't appetizing today, etc... Once the easy meals are gone by Tuesday, or I have enough failures under my belt I just give up the meal plan entirely.
So then we go back to the store (or worse the fast food place) and buy easy, convenience food that is neither nice to our bodies nor to our wallets. And by the end of the week I have a ton of unused perishables that perish with all my good intentions. And it begs the question, if I'm throwing it away, did I need to spend all that money in the first place?
I hear many moms swear by the idea that less grocery shopping saves them a lot of money. It makes sense, the less time you spend in the store the fewer opportunities to buy impulsively or off plan. Monthly groceries are the way to go to save money they all say! And I would sit behind my computer and envy them, wondering why I couldn't make meal planning work, why I couldn't find time for batch cooking and energy for sticking with just a few days of meal plans.
So I more or less gave up on the fugal thing until I read a few articles about the $1.50 a day challenge. And there was an intriguing trend I saw. The people who did this experiment went to the grocery store every single day. Every day! And they were spending less than anyone! Of course, it's obvious why. If you have that little to spend you can buy barely enough to feed yourself for one day, let alone a whole week.
The wheels began to turn in my mind. If I decided what was for our meals on a daily basis, I would have a much better idea of how I was feeling, whether or not prep work was done the night before, what our schedule looked like that day and what the kids were up to eating. And if I only had enough money to buy what I needed for that day, my purchases would be more targeted. There would be much less waste. I buy the food and we eat it. Rinse and repeat.
It seemed super simple, and we could cut our grocery budget by more than half. We have a store close enough to walk to, so this could actually work for us. I don't know that spending the gas to drive every day would be worth it, but we are close enough to walk, and walking is good for me to!
So I started thinking about the nitty gritty. We have eight people in our family, seven who actually eat food. That would give us $10.50 to eat every day, or $73.50 per week. I decided to round up to $75.00 per week and have an extra $1.50 on hand each week for accidental overages. (Darn you sales tax!)
I quickly realized that the purchasing power of a large family is really beneficial, and that $1.50 per person is way easier to do when you have seven people than it is to do when you only have yourself. If I had to, we could eat on only $1.00 per person a day and still be ok. So if someone wanted to be extra austere for fasting reasons or debt reasons or saving-up-for-something reasons, they totally could - at least part time.
I'm super excited about this idea, and I'm going to share our little journey with you in this new series. I'll update you once a week on what we are eating and how it's going. In the challenge the rule was not to use food you had on hand before starting. Since this is a real life change for us and not an experiment, I'm not going to do that. I'm definitely going to use our stocked pantry to my advantage!
A lot of people who talk grocery frugality also tend to lump toiletries and consumable household items into the grocery budget. We don't do that, we have a separate budget for household items, so for future reference, when I discuss our groceries I'm only talking food and how much it cost us to eat that day.
I really hope you enjoy the new series! We are starting today so next week you should be getting the one week update! Wish us luck! :)
Read the next post in the Frugal Food Series.