Anyone interested in a Kitchen Challenge? No restaurants and a monthly food budget of $300/family of four
I'm going to be doing this anyway so i thought i could use some partners here. We are trying to save money, but yet eat healthfully. Here are my rules-no pre-packaged foods, as in canned pasta, anykind of boxed dinners, most processed food.
Canned veggies and fruits, okay. Dried pasta and beans okay.
No HFCS allowed
No modified food starch.
No trans fats.
No restaurant eating.
I'm going to the grocery store tomorrow. I got to come up with a list, and amenu, and i'll post it here.
Do you have the flexibility to buy large quantities and store them in a pantry or freezer or is the $300 per month rock hard?
Order a 25 lb bag of pinto or black beans from your local food coop/health store. So many uses. Serve the "weekly special" fresh veggie and combine w/ on sale meat. Make a big pot of soup on Sun. for week day lunches.
Cabbage on sale is cheap and has lots of uses, from slaw to soups. On sale chicken legs & thighs, 1001 uses.
We raised 5 kids on limited income.
I think instead of the 25 lb bag of beans, I might get three 10 pound bags of different beans.
Not sure what modified food starch is but assuming they qualify, a big bag of egg noodles, too.
I'm sure what me and passa are getting at is meals with only a small amount of meat. As a bonus, the rice and or beans are good for left overs too.
Scrap the idea of a monthly menu - you'll need to shop the specials and mark-down shelves. It's fine to make a list of generally economical dishes but not to lock yourself into them. For example, when I found a big package of roast beef ends (thick slabs from the ends of the big roasts) in the deli department, I made a stirfry and a stroganoff which I would not have done if I'd had to buy steak.
Ditto on the specials. Most stores use them as loss leaders to get people into the store.
I tried a challenge at Whole Foods where I tried to feed the family for $75- $100 a week and shop there only. I stopped by the meat section first, looked at specials (look closely because they'll say they're specials, some barely marked down). Then scope out the vegetables and then plan your meals. Make things that will last days, eg a roast chicken can become stock w/ the carcass (one day, serve roast chicken, the next use the rest to add to pasta, the day after, make stock and have soup). Cut ground beef w/ cabbage and you'll reduce meat by half. Use dried beans. A serving of meat is only 3-4 oz. Stick with that and fill up on whole grains, vegetables. Frozen can be less expensive, especially if it's on sale. Save "trash", eg ends of veggies, for stock.
For your challenge, if you can go to Costco, buy what you can there in bulk, flour and active yeast ($2.99 for 2 pounds is more than you'll ever use) to make bread, pizza. Use leftover bread to make bread crumbs, meatloaf/meatballs, stratas. Buy pasta, rice there. Those can be your filler starches. Buy low fat cuts of meat, like chuck roast, that use slow braising--inexpensive and delicious. It's all about planning ahead but not sticking religiously to the plan.
Breakfast for dinner is a great way to save money. Eggs are cheap, and you can use leftover veggies and meat in frittatas. Look for day old bread at the local bakeries, and use it for french toast, bread pudding, croutons, and breadcrumbs.
Rice and bean dishes are dishes that can easily be extended, or transformed. They are fantastic with a fried egg on top, or rolled in a tortilla. I have found that I can serve my boyfriend a rice and bean dish for three days running, as long as I have eggs, tortillas, and, of course, sriracha on hand.
Chow has had a few threads on this subject that should be helpful. I wish I could accept your challenge, but I'm on a spicy noodle kick, and that pretty much hits every no-no on your list. Good luck! I look forward to seeing what you come up with.