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So, we decided to challenge ourselves to create healthy, sustainable meals on a shoestring budget. Which means, for the entire month of September, I will be eating on the ultra-low budget of $50 (That’s $1.67 a day!).
It takes quite a bit of research and careful planning to make a $50/month budget work. There was a lot of leg work to find the best prices, a ton of internet digging to make sure we getting adequate nutrition and calories, and a bit of creativity to piece together varied meals from the limited ingredients we are able to afford.
We knew that carbohydrates would serve as the base for the majority of our calories. Typically, rice and potatoes offer a ton of calories and nutrition relative to their low price. There will be a LOT of rice and potatoes in my near future.
To eliminate the additional cost of various types of seasoning/spices, we decided to stick to foods from one culture for the month. The most doable one for me seemed like Chinese food.
Vegetables and fruits will be a challenge for us, as they are typically more expensive. I will have to stick to low cost vegetables such as cabbage, and low cost fruits such as banana. Frozen vegetable would also work depending on the price.
The Grocery Shopping:
I wanted to keep the leg-work to a minimum, and still ended up going to 3 different places to pick up the lowest prices. The 3 places are: Chinatown, my neighborhood grocery mart, and Trader Joe’s.
Pro: Amazing prices
Cons: Disorganized, stores close early, no circulars so you never know what prices you are going to get.
Highlights: Picked up chicken drumsticks on sales for $0.59/lb, bottle of soy sauce for $1.59, a head of cabbage on sale for $0.38/lb, 5 heads of garlic for $1, 1 dozen eggs for $2.59
At checkout, I realized that the cashier charged me the price of 39 cents instead of 38 on the cabbage and told her the correct price. She responded:”We only do 39 cents.” I happened to have a picture of the sale sign on my phone that I took for documentation and showed it to her. She then gave me the correct price of 38 cents. When I turned around to leave, she said in Cantonese to the cashier next to her: “Kids these days and their technology…”
Neighborhood Grocery Store:
Pro: Amazing prices, proximity
Cons: Disorganized, limited options, brands I had never heard of (but that’s less of a concern)
Highlights: A 20 lb bag of rice for $9.99! 5 lbs of potatoes for $1.99. A 2 lb bag of onions on sale for $1.29. Seriously, this place is a gem. And it’s in Manhattan!
Pro: Clean, organized, free samples, lots of fresh produce
Cons: Long lines, higher prices than other two stores
I only came here to pick up their $0.19/ea bananas. Sadly, I can’t afford anything else here on a $50/mo budget.
If you think what we are doing is interesting, impactful, or maybe kind of insane, please consider donating to our efforts here. 100% of the proceeds will go towards Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a non-profit that works to eliminate food waste and redirect food waste into solving urban hunger.
Stay tuned to find out what meals we are planning for week 1!