Thursday, March 27, 2014

Guest Post: Feed a Family of Four on $15 a Day!

This writer has chosen to remain anonymous.

Thank you, Andrea Kratzenberg, for the use of your photo. 

According to recent estimates, 1 in 5 American households are receiving some amount of food benefits. As any family receiving benefits and trying to keep food on the table knows, it can be difficult to have a filling and healthy diet on a small budget.

The benefits amounts have increasingly gotten smaller as the government has been forced to cut programs to the Farm Bill, which incorporates SNAP (Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps).

Additionally, the cost of preparing meals from fresh ingredients can easily be more expensive than cheap fast food options. Here’s a quick one day family menu designed to cost less than $10 total for the combined servings, but not for the ingredients.

Oatmeal (buy bulk)
1 egg per child, 2 per adult
Frozen sausage patties or links in bulk package, 2 per person

Oatmeal will always be one of my favorite ways to fill a belly early in the morning with something that is warm, comforting, and sticks to the bone. I like to add some protein so I can keep the troops going until snack time or lunchtime.

To save, adopt a few backyard chickens! You can sell the excess eggs to neighbors.

TOTAL COST:  $0.50 + $1.34+ $1.16 = $2.82

Pretzels from bulk or large package
10 Strawberries
String cheese sticks (one each adult, kids split)

Pretzels are one of the cheapest snack items one can purchase. The crunchiness is what attracts me, and the earthy flavor. For a real cheap party snack, make your own soft pretzels at home and serve with mustard, marinara sauce, or homemade cheese sauce. Delish!

TOTAL COST: $0.10 + $0.99 + $0.75 = $1.84

Brown Rice (from bulk)
Teriyaki Sauce (from family size or bulk size)
Grilled Chicken Tenderloins, marinated and topped with
Teriyaki sauce (bought in bulk package from a warehouse store)

The cheapest place that I’ve found to buy meat, thus far, has been Costco frozen chicken. I am partial to the tenderloins, which sell for about $16.00 for a six pound package. They sell a ten pound package of frozen chicken breasts for $19.99, but I’m too impatient to wait for them to defrost. The tenderloins will defrost easily in the microwave.

TOTAL COST: $0.50 + $0.65 + $2.66 = $3.81

Popcorn (buy kernels in bulk and prepare at home)
Apple slices

TOTAL COST: $0.20 + 1.24 = $1.44

Buy the cheapest apples that are not red delicious apples. I find these become mealy easily, and are over waxed. To save, plant an apple tree in your backyard! It takes 10 years for them to begin to produce fruit, but it is worth the wait!

6 Tortillas, burrito size
Re-fried Beans (homemade from beans bought I in bulk and soaked overnight)
Mexican rice (homemade with white rice, a small can tomato sauce, and onions and peppers)
Cabbage or Lettuce Corn (from frozen bulk package) and green onions

TOTAL COST: $1.22 + $0.45 + $1.25 + $0.99 = $3.91

Rice and Beans combined make a perfect protein. This is a classic South American dish, once made for me as a tween by my friend Adriana’s mother, a Mexican-American immigrant.

She made her re-fried beans homemade, as should you, adding a small amount of lard and spices to cooked beans and putting them in the blender. Voila! Re-fried beans!

There are many recipes online for homemade Mexican rice, find one that suits you and perfect it. The rice can be combined in the burrito with the beans and cabbage or eaten as a side. Prepare the corn on the grill, if you can, or in a grill pan.

Add spices and a small amount of fat and cook until corn is heated thoroughly. Don’t add the green onion until the last minute.

Cinnamon rolls (homemade)

(Editor’s Commentary:  As mentioned below by the author you will be needing sugar, cinnamon, frozen bread dough.)

Buy or make your bread dough homemade. It can be frozen. I like to buy a five pack of frozen bread dough, found in the freezer section next to the garlic bread. I defrost one loaf and let it go through the first rise.

Then I flatten it out and add butter, sugar (a combination of brown and white), and cinnamon. Google a copycat recipe if you’re partial to the kind you can find in the mall. Let rise again and then bake. The aroma will be enough to draw the family to the kitchen without you announcing what’s for desert! 

TOTAL COST: $0.60 + $0.50 + $0.25= $1.35

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