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I’m intrigued by the challenge that’s been issued by The New York City Food Bank to buy 7 days worth of meals for 29 dollars per person. In my house that would be $145 a week. We currently live on $120 per week and we eat well.

Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget - $29 Budget - Real: The Kitchen and Beyond

Our grocery budget includes nonfood items like over the counter meds, paper products, and toiletries. I added in $650 for the lump sum we paid for beef for the year and an extra $400 as a cushion if we go over budget some weeks, which averages out to $120 a week.

Gwyneth Paltrow is all the hype right now with her Twitter photo of what a $29 grocery budget would get a person. I’m not sure what alternate reality she lives in to think she is a “regular old person” because no “regular old person” I know lives the way she does. Does she even grocery shop on a budget? Because honey, I can get more for $29 than this, and let’s not forget that her grocery list is only somewhat nutritious and not at all appealing to most kids.

Gwyneth’s Grocery List

Prices based on Santa Monica, CA Vons (4/8-4/14/2015)

  • 1 dozen eggs ($3.29 – for the cheapest eggs. Perhaps she bought different ones, which would anser the price differentiation.)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce ($2.19)
  • 1 avocado ($1.25 sale)
  • 1 onion ($1.12)
  • green onions ($1.20)
  • 1 tomato ($0.62/each or $2.49/lb sale – likely around than 1/3# – $83)
  • 1 head of kale ($1.99 sale)
  • 1 ear of corn ($0.50)
  • 1 clove of garlic ($0.60)
  • 7 limes ($0.60/7 = $4.20)
  • Corn tortillas ($1.79)
  • Cilantro ($0.60)
  • Brown rice ($2.19)
  • Green peas ($1.20)
  • Black beans ($2.19)
  • 1 jalapeno ($0.11/each)
  • 1 sweet potato ($1.69)

TOTAL based on the online prices: $26.73. Either she didn’t pay sale price or the online prices are cheaper, which isn’t normally the case. Either way, let’s say it’s close.

Real: The Kitchen and Beyond’s Shopping List

Since Gwyneth seems to be buying gluten-free and dairy-free, we will too. We are also going to stick close to what she is buying as a comparison for the same style meals. If I wasn’t trying to compare to her list I would be buying different products for varied healthier meals and you will see that in the 29 Dollars Meal Plan series that I am starting May 1rst – The $29 Grocery Budget.

  • Eggs ($3.29)
  • Black beans ($2.19)
  • Brown rice ($2.19)
  • Potatoes, 10# ($4.39)
  • Medium salsa, 16 oz. ($2.79)
  • Yellow Onions, 3# ($3.29)
  • Avocado ($1.25)
  • Limes, 4 ($2.40)
  • Garlic ($0.60)
  • Cilantro ($0.60)
  • Frozen Peas ($1.20)
  • Frozen Corn ($1.20)
  • Frozen Broccoli ($1.20)
  • Romaine Lettuce – ($2.39)

TOTAL per online prices at the same store – $28.98. Note that I purchased less fresh produce but bigger quantities. An important part of shopping on a tight budget is stretching it as far as possible. This week we have less fresh produce but it will pay off in the end. This is where we start building our “stock up and save” pantry.

By buying bulk and frozen products, along with premade salsa, I was able to buy enough groceries for the week and have potatoes and onions to stretch into next week. This means I will be able to buy other products next week, like fresh produce and her corn tortillas if I so desire.

Questions for Gwyneth

  • What diet are you following?
  • Do you usually do your own grocery shopping?
  • Do you usually follow a budget?
  • Will your kids eat these foods?

My Story

I grew up dirt poor, the oldest of 7 kids. As most kids would, we may have felt like we had it rough but we always had food on our table. It may not have been fancy food but it was hearty food. We were very rarely sick, had very few dental issues, and we never went hungry.

I actually polled my dad on our grocery budget for that time (7 kids from 5-17) with no financial aid and no lunch program and he said it was somewhere around $50 a week. Even with that being 16 years ago, a $50 grocery budget for 9 people is nothing to laugh at. That’s pretty hardcore. We didn’t have a garden at that point and we never raised our own animals. We ate a lot of chicken, had potatoes or rice as our starch, and a veggie. Breakfast was usually cereal or pancakes and we sometimes had eggs and fried potatoes.

In college, my husband and I were newly married and I lost my job. We lived on a $10 grocery budget plus he had breakfast at the college and I had lunch at the college for months. We bought a box of cereal, a 10# bag of chicken legs, a 10# bag of potatoes, and some fruits and veggies every week – less produce when we needed toiletry items.

In 2007, our family of 4 lived on $35 per week + WIC (eggs, milk, bread, cereal, peanut butter, tuna fish, and cheese). We had more tuna fish and peanut butter than we could eat at that time!! We ate some processed foods and mainly used frozen vegetables with some fresh – some salads, bananas, and apples usually. I couponed quite heavily at this time.

In 2015, we have a $100 budget (but are adding the extras, which makes it average to $120). This includes all toiletries, raw milk, farm eggs, grass fed or organic meats, and organic produce when we are able. We eat very little processed foods and do not buy cereal very often.

Why the History?

I share my grocery budget history to share why I have the experience and ability to show people how they can live on a $29 PER PERSON budget. Over the next weeks I am going to share meal plans that do just that. In them I will share my tips for how we have adjusted our lifestyle and still maintained a stable budget, but also take into consideration those who may not have the same resources I do.

Are you ready to take the challenge with me? I would love for you to join in and share how you are making a $29 per person grocery budget work for your family.

Feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment with your challenges, questions, and tips.

Check out $29/per person budget meal plan 1.

Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget - $29 Budget - Real: The Kitchen and Beyond

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    1. Thank you. I always need to reevaluate every couple months. It’s easy to get off track or lose sight of. I’m so excited to see ALDI is opening in Manchester this week. I might be one of the first people in the door before we head to PA to pack up the truck and make our move to Manchester.

    1. With the challenge I am doing it is definitely stretching our budget to shop one store and have the larger budget. It would be hard on our budget to have the $145 per person in the long run. I do think it is is easier to live on less the more people you have. I definitely prefer shopping around, buying bulk, etc. to stretch the budget.

  1. I have a few thoughts about the Gwyneth controversy and food in general.

    1. Gwyneth bought her food at Vons, a chain grocery store. Inner city people, suburban people with no car, and rural people will not have access to the same resources as Gwyneth.

    2. In regards to Lisa’s point about prices being higher, there are other places where prices will be higher – richer areas (yes, there are families using SNAP in these areas) and rural areas. I don’t think we will see a huge fluctuation in prices across the country if one factors in lots of different areas.

    3. In regards to Lisa’s point about Heather’s background and education, Heather made it clear that she grew up poor in a large family. She also has experience using WIC and food assistance programs for her own family. I think sometimes we’re guilty of thinking poor only has one face when it has a multitude of faces, with the majority being women and children.

    4. I love that Heather is offering to teach people how to fish as it were. I think cooking skills are being lost in this age of fast food and microwave meals. Good, nutritious, basic food takes time, yes. But if you consider how you spend your day, you have time to make good food for your family with some planning.

  2. Have you seen the movie “A Place at the Table?” I think that in black and white, yes, you can eat on $29 a week. But there are things you haven’t taken into consideration–like living in a food desert (which many SNAP recipients do), higher prices in inner cities, and other things like just not being taught to cook and eat healthy. If you are a self-professed foodie with much cooking experience, no doubt you can transfer those skills to budgeting as well. But not everyone has your background and education. Good for you that you can do this…however, imo, bottom line is that we need to as a country, help these families and allocate more money. Because by and large, you cannot eat healthy on $29 a week, and it’s not ok that 1:5 American children is food insecure. It affects brain development, learning and so much more.

    1. I think this is a great conversation we need to have as Americans, but not because we should feel sorry for someone who is on SNAP or WIC, but because we need to stop buying into the lies of the media and radical liberal politicians who have an agenda to keep people dependent on the government. Anytime you become dependent on an institution, that institution – especially government since that is what this is all about, has complete control over your life and ultimately your choices. I believe you can choose to not take assistance because my family has found a way and many other families I know have found a way. As much as Lisa may feel sorry for people who are on subsidy programs, it is ignorant to believe that they actually need that help. If ‘American’ wants to help – we need to educate and stop doing the same things without any actual change. Welfare was not meant to be a long term solution to the issues during the depression – its a historical issue that got taken advantage by the politicians and abused over the years. I wouldn’t write this post if I hadn’t seen how hard my husband and I work so that we don’t need to take assistance from the government

      The reason I want to reply to what Lisa said is because we don’t need to be a nation that helps everyone else, that is what gets people in trouble, when everyone is looking for a handout. I am a stay at home mom of four and home educate my children, I am well aware of the sacrifice it takes for my family to not be dependent on the government or anything it offers, even education. Most of the women in my life are as well. I have a family of 6, and can we can live on a $174 budget a week of food easily – then you add in coupons, sales, and wisely planning out your menu and even adding extra to the pantry. It is a choice to be healthy and its a choice to self educate. I know many people who didn’t grow up with moms who taught them to cook or shop wisely, who didn’t even finish high school – but instead of thinking they should get a pass because of their upbringing and just get a hand out, they choose to learn how to be good moms and wise with their money. I freezer meals for $4 a meal for our dinners and that is for 6 people, We are a Paleo family because of allergies, we make all of our own snacks, we do not eat out, and we do not eat anything processed or non-GMO.

      Before you assume people need government subsidies, educate your self on history, politics, and how easy it is to budget and not take Government Subsidies. If you really care, don’t feel like you need to give a hand out to make a difference or you need to support politicians allow families to stay on Welfare forever. Volunteer to educate women. The change should never come from Government, it should come from people desiring to work hard and make America better, thats what this great nation was founded on – not a Welfare state who allows anyone to live here on the back of hard working tax payers .

    1. Everyone is stumped on the limes. I think it has to do with the ethnic food she chose. However, a little lime goes a long way… maybe she is using it to fill up on flavored water. Or maybe the store had a deal on limes and you HAD to buy that amount… or she though she did. Who knows. I would love to see what she did to make that food work for a week. Thanks for stopping by. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’m excited to see what you do with this. I’m always looking for ways to cut our grocery bill. I try to spend about $100 a week but even that seems like too much. My family has some diet issues and we do try to go Organic if possible. I think this series is a great idea.

    1. How many of you are there? If it is $100 per week for 4 and you buy quite a bit organic it may not be that unrealistic. However, I may still have tips that can help you. I have a Frugal series I did before that has many of my tips for keeping it frugal under the meal planning tab. Join us for the challenge though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. What a great idea Heather. We spend way too much on groceries, especially with some of the “specialty” items we buy due to my son’s multiple food allergies. BUT your story and ideas are inspirational. I must focus on reducing our food budget!

    1. Food allergies can make it so hard! I feel like narrowing it down to as fresh and whole foods as possible can sometimes be the biggest tip. Join our challenge. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Very interesting! We spend a LOT on food because we feed our kids strictly organic or Non-GMO, grass fed meats, not to mention a whole LIST of food we don’t eat (too long to post). On one hand, it’s pricy, but OTOH, we don’t buy many packaged foods so we save by cooking WAY more than we did years ago. Sometimes it balances it out, sometimes it only does if I can find coupons and app rebates for my favorite foods (not easy). We all have our food journeys, I guess!

  6. Thanks for sharing this Heather, its a true and real perspective I am the oldest of 5 and while I may have thought we didn’t have much growing up (because I didn’t have designer jeans or go on lavish vacations). We did. Their was food and snacks a plenty. My mom was home with us and I was never hungry. Tax rebate time we would all get new sneakers and clothes. Dad always…always gave us money for books from the mall. Shoes and books…they were important to him, lol! Sure we had a tight time here and there if a big dental or medical bill popped up however I never felt that. Flash to today and I don’t even look at prices at the market…I should, I really should. The money we could save or redirect, if I was more conscious there would be amazing. I can’t promise I can do this challenge but it has given me food for thought.

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