The $5 Stretcher Survivor Challenge

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Family Food Crisis


When Your Food Budget Is Critical

The Challenge

This is a challenge I plan to take myself. It is sort of a "Survivor" mentality game/challenge. Suppose you were down to your last $5.00 and had to eat for a week. How far could you stretch that $5.00 ? (eg : buy bread at outlets, rice, etc.). I'd love to hear how everyone did and what and where they bought items and for how much. I'll do my own challenge if and when this is printed in the Dollar Stretcher !

College Student's Ideas

As a college student in the mid 90's, I had a food budget of $30 a month. Yes this is slightly over $5/week, but not much. My menu consisted of things like:

  • Rice and Beans- Always cheap
  • Top Ramen- often on sale 10 for a $1.00
  • Mac and Cheese- Often 3 or 4 for a $1.00 (don't use all the recommended butter)
  • Peanut Butter sandwiches with cheap bread
  • Carrots, Celery, lettuce
  • Potatoes

I would often add variety, by mixing extra stuff in Mac & Cheese (like potatoes). I would add thinly sliced carrots to Top Ramen. I found that when it comes to a tight food budget, creativity goes a long way.

Stretching the Budget

The $5.00 challenge is virtually what I had to eat on the last week of each month as a new college grad. One of my favorite ways to stretch it was to buy 5# potatoes, a dozen eggs, some Jiffy cornbread mix, beans and an onion... Also Bisquick so I could make pancakes, waffles, etc for variety.

I'd try to put canned fruit on the shelf during the month for that last week. That took care of breakfast and dinner..... if I had anything in the apartment to take for lunch that was good, if not, who had time for lunch, anyway? Great memories.....

Farming and Gardening Help Save Budget

I am assuming that it is for the entire family. I am also assuming that the items in my pantry are not included in this cost (we're just getting by until the next payday). I am also assuming that the time of year is now - namely end of July, early August. Many items in our garden are ready, but the tomatoes are still green and the corn will be in about a month if I can keep the raccoons out.

This is what I do:

With 3 kids in the house, we need milk. My kids will not drink powdered milk, but my husband and I will. Since I always keep a large box of powdered milk on hand, milk for just the kids for one week is 1-1/2 gallons = $3.00. Breakfast is toast with jelly (homemade blackberry jam - a must in everyone's pantry) or oatmeal (again, always on hand). Bread for a week is 4 loaves. Our local gas station/convenience store sells bread cheaper than the outlets at 3 loaves for $1 (it's actually cheaper than home made or frozen dough), so that totals $1.33.

This leaves me a total of $4.33 with $0.67 left for main dishes for a week. I guess I had better get a dozen eggs for $0.49 a dozen at the local gas station (again cheaper than the grocery store). So now I have 18 cents in my pocket.

I'll plan on 5 large meals for the 7 days using leftovers for lunches and the other days of the week:

Dinner 1: Chicken and Noodles: Take a chicken out of the freezer. (We raised chickens this summer and have quite a few) Boil the chicken, take off the bone. Take half of the chicken meat and the broth and simmer. Make some homemade noodles (1 egg and enough flour to make a stiff dough - roll, cut and dry for at least an hour). Simmer the noodles in the broth. Go to the garden and grab some new potatoes. Serve the chicken and noodles over the mashed potatoes (when making the mashed potatoes - save the peels in cold water - you'll see). Serve with some garden green beans (or a quart off the shelf from last year). This is a meal my Grandmother served for the threshing crews, and is still a family favorite.

Dinner 2: Potato Peel Soup: Take the clean potato peels from yesterday and cook in some chicken stock (made from the bag in the freezer where I keep all the necks, backs, wing tips, gizzards) Add some chopped onion, carrots, celery and green beans. If you like the cream style for potato soup, add some milk or cream right before serving. (this is really delicious and I make it quite often!)

Dinner 3: Chicken Pot Pie: Take the rest of the chicken meat from Dinner 1 and make a white sauce gravy, toss in some mushrooms, peas (whatever else in the cupboard) and put in a deep cast iron skillet. Roll out a batch of biscuit dough 1/2" thick and place on top the skillet. Bake at 400 until the crust is light brown, about 30 min. Serve with a fresh garden lettuce salad, and some beets (or cook the greens if the beets are too small)

Dinner 4: Our grocer's meat department has a 'institutional' section where they sell larger quantities of boxed meats. A few weeks ago they had 10 lb. boxes of ground turkey for $7.50 and I still have about 6 - 1lb packages left. Fry up one pound, add herbs and spices, and a quart of tomatoes canned from last year and you have a very fresh tasting pasta sauce. Just cook up some spaghetti noodles and get some more leaf lettuce from the garden for a salad. Fried green tomatoes are also great with the sauce!

Dinner 5: Boston Baked Beans: Soak some (2 lbs.) navy beans over night. The next morning, toss them in a crock-pot with some onion, molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, dry mustard and just enough water to moisten. Serve with a batch of corn bread (again - on hand: corn meal, flour, baking powder...) Blackberries are in season and the kids picked 2 quarts this morning! Take 4 cups of berries and make a blackberry pie for dessert! (save the rest for jam - I just freeze the berries now, and make the jam in the winter when it's not so hectic)

The other 2 nights are for leftovers, Chicken and Noodles, and a smorgasbord of whatever else we have. Add a few vegetables from the garden for salads and side dishes. Salad dressings are home made. Lunches are leftovers from supper the night before. For snacks I have some apples that I got just yesterday at the orchard - he was going to throw out the fallen apples on the ground, so we got a 5 gal pail of apples for free. Most are good yet, and a few will make sauce or pies. So we made it for the week. We really still don't need anything but bread and milk for $4.33 for next week (still have a few eggs left). By then the cabbage in the garden should be ready. Let's see - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, cole slaw, maybe some stir-fry on rice....

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