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Nov 13, 2009 07:12 PM

$100 weekly grocery allowance for two, what are some options for dinner?

My girlfriend and I are college students with a $100 allowance for groceries every week. We love to cook tasty dinners, however with little spending money I'm wondering where the money should go. What are some cheap dishes? What are the best cuts of meat on a budget? Thanks

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  1. I think that your budget is unrealistic. In a big city, allowing less than $10 per day per person for food is going to result in sub-par nutrition.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      Not at all really, we eat pretty good. I'm just looking for more variety for dinner without breaking the bank.

      1. re: pikawicca

        Nonsense. I live in Boston, and as a freelance writer (a pretty feast-or-famine profession), there have been weeks on end where I can and have kept the family food budget under $100.

        Basic rules: buy as few processed foods as you can, and learn to cook from scratch as much as possible. Keep an eye on the supermarket circulars, and when things you like are on sale for cheap, stock up as much as you can hold: the idea is to build a larder. (If you have room and you can lay hands on a small extra freezer, those are very useful for long-term storage.) As others have said, ethnic markets can be much cheaper on some products: spices are stupid cheap at Indian markets, for example, and decent quality, too.

        1. re: pikawicca

          That's untrue. We've feed our family of FOUR quite well on $100 a week, just as recently as five years ago (food stamps). You just have to know how to cook from scratch....

          1. re: Beckyleach

            Fed, that is...and it was six years ago.

            I need a copy editor. ;-)

          2. re: pikawicca

            The average American spends about $7 per day on food which is pretty much their budget. I live in Manhattan and spend considerably less ($40-$60 per week) and eat fresh fruits and vegetables (often organic), and can afford non-essential items raspberries, asparagus, hormone-free dairy and cranberry juice (the most expensive juice to buy retail according to the USDA).

          3. Since this is on the SF board rather than Home Cooking, are you talking about eating out every meal? If so, then forget it. If you're talking about eating at home, my opinion is that $100/week would feed you quite well.

            1. Think about WHERE you are buying these groceries.
              Go to Grocery Outlet, 99 Ranch, ethnic markets (Chinatown etc) -- depends on where you live. If near Berkeley Bowl -- haunt the "marked down" section. 99 cents for a bag of slightly bruised produce.
              Are there still places for "day-old" bread? I used to go to a place in Berkeley -- on Grove Street as I recall -- but that was forty years ago.
              Avoid prepared food -- buy bulk beans and grains.. Buy vegetables in season -- winter veg now, such as squash, greens. Mostly apples now, and pears. Citrus will be cheaper in a month or two.
              Crockpot could be good to save prep time.
              Avoid meat as much as possible (because of the expense).

              Is the $100 for groceries just for dinner, Or dinner and breakfast? Are you packing lunch prepared from the $100 budget?

              5 Replies
              1. re: Joel

                $100 is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the entire week. I'm in lower Nob Hill any suggestions for groceries?

                1. re: mbilderbach

                  Check out Stockton St in Chinatown for produce (Asian and western available), fresh seafood & poultry. Your budget is quite do-able for ingredients.

                2. re: Joel

                  I have a $50 budget for one in Toronto, and I don't have to avoid meat. The key is to find cheaper cuts, store them properly, cook them to bring out their best, and in some cases, eat them properly.

                  For example, one grocery near me regularly has 5-8 lb beef tenderloins for $3.29/lb CDN (about $3.15 US). It's Canada AA which is the equivalent of USDA Select. Is it as flavourful as Prime or Choice? Of course not. On the other hand, it's much leaner. But I take it, trim it, and slice it into steaks, which I freeze in packs of 1 or 2. The day before grilling, I take it out and marinade it overnight. I end up with a tasty piece of steak without as much fat at a decent price. Blade steak is usually cheap, and people shun it because it's gristly and grainy. If you learn to cut away the gristle (you'll need good steak knives!), and then cut the trimmed part thinly across the grain, it's very tasty and very tender.

                  Pork tenderloins, and packages of chops regularly go on sale. Again, buy, separate, and freeze. Assuming you eat bacon, it freezes very well. So do sausages.

                  Cheap cuts generally respond to lower, slower cooking techniques. I don't have a crock pot or a slow cooker, but I find a slow oven with a braising liquid and a tightly covered lid (or foil) works nearly as well. I make a lot of stews, which are an excellent way to stretch your meat with cheap and nutritious root vegetables.

                  Good luck!

                  1. re: FrankD

                    Great suggestions. I, too, live in Toronto and some months back gave myself a grocery budget challenge: $300.00/month for two people. So far, I'm succeeding. I eat less meat, lots of veggie dishes, legumes. I plan ahead, check the local flyers each week (in our area they come out on Thursdays), familiarize myself with the prices, stock up on non-perishables when they're cheap, avoid prepared foods, do my best not to waste by planning ahead and tracking what's in the fridge that needs to be eaten. And I use, which has a great search feature that allows you to type in the ingredients you have on hand, and then it'll give you some recipe options. It is definitely doable.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      Yes, I've noticed tin beans - chickpeas, white/red kidney, black, romano, etc. - go on sale pretty regularly, and I regularly pick up 6-8 tins at time. You get to experiment with lots of chilis, with and without meat, baked beans, bean salads, etc. I'll also add the beans to soup, which makes a huge boost in protein and fibre.

                      Went to the local No Frills this morning, and picked up a canteloupe, turnip, spaghetti squash, 500 ml of sour cream, and 2 lb sirloin tip roast for $10 total. I cut the roast into 3 steaks (one of which is marinating in the fridge) and two packs of stew beef - that's five meals for $4.31. As you suggest, read the flyers, plan ahead, and it's not all that hard.

                3. Since you're cooking, you can eat very well and not have to give up meat. I'm in a different city, but most stores put meat on sale weekly; this week we had pork chops for $1.19 per pound; last week, chicken breasts .99 per pound, you get the idea. Get the family packs and divide into servings. . I shop the meat counter's mark down section when I'm there, this week I got 2 (2 inch thick) porterhouse chops, which is a t-bone & fillet (which I stuffed) for $3.98. I also shop the produce mark down rack which is a goldmine (at least where I'm at).

                  Thanksgiving is coming so turkeys will be on sale. I buy extra for the freezer because I like to cut one in half to make Pulled BBQ Turkey sandwiches. You could cut the breasts, legs & thighs off to use later and use the carcasses for soup. Use the meat for kabobs, ground turkey for burgers, thighs for curry and bone the legs out for stuffing. For lunches, make large batches of soups, pastas, buy sandwich meats in bulk when on sale (they freeze well as does milk).

                  Pasta, beans, oatmeal, rice are cheaper when you buy larger sizes. If there is a breadstore, buy from there and if you have a freezer, bread freezes well. Because you enjoy cooking, why not bake some bread & sandwich buns? Check out dollar stores grocery isles, as well as ethnic markets which usually have cheaper dry goods than supermarkets. It helps to have a freezer.

                  It would help to know what you're already eating or your dislikes so that we don't throw the same dishes at you in terms of suggestions

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Cherylptw

                    Great, advice thank you. Now I just have to find some great recipes.

                  2. If you avoid convenience foods you should be able to eat pretty well for that amount of money, at least once you've stocked your pantry with things like rice, couscous, pasta, and baking supplies. (flour, sugar, etc)

                    I think things like soup and chili are great for people on a budget. You cook them for a long time, so generally you can use cheaper cuts of meat, and usually they freeze pretty well, so you can make several meals worth of food and not have to cook every day.