Sticker shock used to be synonymous with new cars. Now it’s in the grocery store (and everywhere else).
Along with gasoline prices, the cost of food has increased across the United States. In fact, the USDA reports that 2021 at-home-food prices increased 3.5% over prices in 2020, well over the historical increase of 2%.
The challenge: Feeding 1 person for $50 per week
How can you continue to make a variety of tasty meals and stay on budget? The answer depends on the size of your family and your budget. Cooking for one or two has its own share of hurdles when shopping. I wanted to know if I could feed myself for a week for $50 by shopping at a discount grocery.
As an ALDI shopper, I felt that combining frugal shopping and making more items from scratch would allow me to maintain my food budget at $200 per month for a single person.
For this article, I shopped for only one week, with the assumption that you, the reader, already have a supply of spices, baking soda and powder, and oils. But I purchased flour and brown sugar in the first shopping trip. If you do not have any pantry staples, you may want to spend a portion of your monthly budget on the first shopping trip to purchase staples or sale items. I would have added some bulk items like rice or sale items if I was doing so. Put on your apron, because you will need to follow a few recipes to make this happen! Even if you have a higher food budget, you’ll want to try out the butter tortilla recipe!
Adjust the shopping list
I took a look at the items that had the highest increases in 2021 according to the USDA, and I looked at ways to stretch those items into as many meals as possible. For instance, beef prices rose 9.3% in 2021, so I ditched my usual ground beef purchase and looked at pork and poultry. Both of those meat items rose as well, but not as much as beef — 8.6% and 5.%, respectively.
The plan was to buy a whole chicken for this experiment, but ALDI had a sale on chicken quarters in 10-pound bags. Pivot! A whole chicken would have cost at least $10, but I cut my cost down to $5.50. Yes, I had to sacrifice the white meat of the chicken, but eventually breasts or whole chickens will be on sale. I dropped a half pork loin in the cart for $6.56 instead of buying ground beef at $6.99 per pound, knowing that this purchase would become pork medallions, shredded pork barbecue, and even substitute for ham in a breakfast omelette. Ka-ching! (If you haven’t cooked with pork loin before, check out this helpful article that explains four techniques for cooking this inexpensive, versatile cut of meat.)
Now I was in for $12.06, and I had to work smart to stay under $50. Eggs were next. I had planned to pick up a dozen white eggs for $.99, but the shelves were empty. A dozen cage-free eggs went into my cart — still a deal at $2.45. My favorite brand name Greek yogurt costs about $5.50 at a local grocery, so I grabbed an equal sized container of Friendly Farms whole milk plain Greek yogurt for $3.39. It is just as fresh and tasty. This is a great staple to have on hand for breakfast smoothies, or as a substitute for sour cream in many recipes.
Don’t waste anything
I knew I would be making baked goods this week to stretch the budget, and buying both white and brown sugar would leave little to no wiggle room for the remainder on my list. My decision was to tweak a few recipes and use only light brown sugar ($1.62) as a compromise for both (it worked out!). Five pounds of all-purpose flour ($1.56) went into the cart as well.
It was still early in the season to find great deals at the local farmer’s market, so with price increases in fresh fruit and vegetable categories I decided to mix it up. Strawberries were in season and a deal at $1.99 per quart, and I chose a package of spring zucchini for a total of $2.00 at $1.39 per pound. They joined a package of yellow onions ($2.79) and a bag of sweet potatoes ($2.79) that would take me to the end of the month. Then back to the frozen section for steamable California medley ($.99) and frozen blueberries ($3.85). The fresh fruits and vegetables would be first in line on the menu to avoid food waste.
My total so far was $30.31 and I still had a few more basics left to buy. ALDI had only one size of quick oats – the large size. It would last for several weeks of recipes, so it went into the cart for $2.55. Unfortunately that meant my original choice of a 2-pound bag of rice would have to wait until next week, and I took a smaller bag of 90-second rice ($1.24) instead. A quart of half and half ($1.95) would work as cream and as milk if water was added.
By now I was getting close to my $50 limit. So I picked one cheese – mozzarella – to be the cheese of the week at $1.85. A can of black beans ($.71), crushed tomatoes ($. 98), organic creamy peanut butter ($3.89), pole and line caught tuna (.99), and a package of salted butter ($3.39) rounded out the list.
The balance came to $53.04 – I was $3.04 over budget. This meant a reworking of the weekly menu to stretch the main purchases into the following week. By making my own tortillas and biscuits, and keeping my recipes simple with fewer ingredients, it would be possible.
Have it your way
Your recipes and methods will vary, of course – find your own way to plan, cook and serve meals under budget. I found that roasting all the chicken quarters and the pork loin on the first day saved time in the long run. I also packed the oven with sweet potatoes, blueberry crisp, and blueberry bread to save money on electricity. While everything baked, I made enough butter tortillas for the week. When the meats came out of the oven, I portioned everything for meals, freezing all but the first two days’ worth of meats. The chicken bones were boiled and combined with the roasted juices for gravy and a future soup later in the month.
Here is the week’s menu:
Fresh strawberries with yogurt and light brown sugar
Toasted blueberry bread (substitute light brown sugar for the sugars in this recipe and reduce the amount if preferred) with 1 egg
Oatmeal with blueberries and brown sugar
Omelette with vegetables, onions and mozzarella (rinse frozen vegetables in warm water or steam before adding to omelette)
Diced pork loin with eggs and onions
Oat and onion bake (sounds weird but it is so good!)
Blueberry bread with strawberries
Chicken and peanut sauce
Stir fry using leftover meat and vegetables from dinners below
Leftover sweet potato cakes and pork slice
Toasted blueberry bread with chicken
Chicken and cheese quesadillas
Leftover cheese pizza (see recipe below)
Tuna and blueberries in a tortilla
Roasted pork loin slice with zucchini and baked sweet potato
Mozzarella chicken (using one chicken quarter, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, mozzarella) on zucchini noodles
Chicken thighs and chicken gravy with mashed sweet potato
Pork, rice and vegetable stir-fry
Shredded pork with sweet potato cakes
Zucchini poppers with yogurt dip and sweet potato fries.
Here is an easy blueberry crisp recipe that you can easily tweak by using rhubarb, apples, or other firm fruits in the next few weeks:
½ bag ALDI frozen blueberries
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup flour
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup packed light brown sugar
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and lightly flour an 8×8 baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with the blueberries. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients and cover blueberries with the mixture. Bake until the blueberries are bubbly and the top is nicely browned. Serve warm with half and half.
If you liked this article, you may also like:
- How to shop and save at ALDI
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- Can Costco save you money?
- How to save money on food without using coupons
- 12 hacks to cut your grocery bill in half
- Is Sam’s Club membership worth it?