How cheap can you feed someone?

The friendliest place on the web for anyone that enjoys cooking.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

BAPyessir6

Senior Cook
Joined
May 15, 2020
Messages
157
Location
Prior Lake
I had a friend yesterday brag to me (for a good 30 minutes) about how frugal he was in being able to feed "himself plus 4 others a hearty meal for less than 5 bucks in total." This was during a chat on Financial Peace University (basically how to save money and get out of debt) and we were going around talking about how we cut costs when possible and how cheaply we could eat for a week. I was excited to share that I got really good quality bacon from a local store at only 50 cents a pound, 20 pounds total (I love bacon and I have freezer room), then my friend said he'd recently fed a gang for way cheaper than my bacon. When I was curious to know further, he didn't elaborate as to what his cooking methods or ingredients used. It got me thinking nonetheless. How cheaply could you feed a group of say 4-5 people? I don't have a budget, but I try to be frugal when I can and usually spend about 100 dollars a week on groceries for me and my husband.
 
So many variables!

Even with today’s higher prices you can fill people up with fairly inexpensive meals but their health may suffer over an extended period of time.

Start with something basic like, dry beans, rice, pasta, oatmeal, flour, cornmeal, eggs, etc… and build around it with an inexpensive fruit or vegetable, add some seasonings and if possible a small amount of something special.

I’ve never been really stone cold broke and have always had access to a basic kitchen and a modest pantry.

For those that literally have nothing it would be almost impossible to feed one let alone 4 or 5.
 
Last edited:
I definitely don't spend $50 a week to feed myself, though I couldn't give you even a general number of what I spend. There are many weeks I go w/o going to any stores, when there are no great deals, then there are some weeks when there are things I stock up on (this week SR has something I will stock up on - Italian sausage, @$1.49/lb!). Of course, a freezer costs something to run, to store things like that, and watering and lighting plants grown at home has to be factored in, but that's cheaper than buying a lot of things at stores, and many things, like eggs, that have prices on roller coasters, I simply don't buy when the prices go high - I don't need them that bad!

When I started cooking to save money was in college, when I joined a co-op - something that still exists, though not around here, except for things like Sam's club, BJ's, and Costco, though they really aren't the same. I learned quickly that cooking most things from scratch cost less, and usually tastes better! One of the things I learned was the biggest rip-offs was bread - something that I don't buy to this day, except for some types of rolls, occasionally.
 
Last edited:
I'm sure you could spend $5 to feed 4-5 people. Just think of oatmeal fruit and flax seed a little honey. Or brown basmati rice and beans (take your pick of a dozen kinds), with sauce (another choice from a dozen). Or veggie rice and stir fried veggies with or without sale priced meat or eggs. Bread or pizza crust with a creamy sauce or pizza sauce, some inexpensive previously cooked sausage and veggies. When we find things on sale or reduced produce, we work with it to use it.
If you have bacon for 50cents/lb, there are a lot of ways to use that because 'what doesn't taste better with bacon'?

There's a dozen ways to do it but some days will cost more than that and spices aren't inexpensive either. Having some variety (spices, sauces, meals) makes a big difference on satisfaction.
So far this week (2 people) we spent $17, 8 large peppers, 1 egg plant, broccoli, bananas, avocados, oranges. Our dry goods (beans, rice, ww flour, oats, grains) are all $0.50-$1.75/lb and we keep them on hand usually in bulk. We might shop again this week for produce or we might use more canned/dried/frozen food by the week-end. (canned/dried/frozen is not free, but I couldn't tell you its price either)
 
What drives me insane because I always fall into this pit. I buy large quantities due to cheaper prices then end up throwing out spoiled food.
Plus buying 'things' to make 'that' and never getting around to making 'that'.
 
Two more thoughts on this.

Don’t set a dollar amount when attempting to determine how low you can go. If you set a $5.00 limit you will tend to manage to that limit when in fact the minimum could be much lower.

Managing and shopping to a $5.00 limit for each meal is much more difficult than managing and shopping to the same $5.00 per meal budget weekly with $105.00 or monthly with $450.00.
 
What drives me insane because I always fall into this pit. I buy large quantities due to cheaper prices then end up throwing out spoiled food.
Plus buying 'things' to make 'that' and never getting around to making 'that'.
Yeah, I'm doing the same thing. And every time I throw away food, I think that next time I'll do it differently
 
What drives me insane because I always fall into this pit. I buy large quantities due to cheaper prices then end up throwing out spoiled food.
Plus buying 'things' to make 'that' and never getting around to making 'that'.
Me too, and DH can't eat anything with a lot of flavor in it right now, which makes it difficult for me to think of things to make that we will both enjoy.

I saw this in the Washington Post yesterday. A timely message to simplify what we eat and eat what we have (gift article): How to shop less, cook the food you have, waste less and eat well
 
Me too, and DH can't eat anything with a lot of flavor in it right now, which makes it difficult for me to think of things to make that we will both enjoy.

I saw this in the Washington Post yesterday. A timely message to simplify what we eat and eat what we have (gift article): How to shop less, cook the food you have, waste less and eat well
Thanks, the article has some great tips and reminders.

I’ve been trying to use up all of the odd bottles of condiments, pickles, olives, etc… that tend to accumulate and then, the most difficult part, not replace them!

A weekly clean out the fridge day is helpful in using up the odds and ends.

I’m also wrestling with the idea of continuing to cook with a well stocked pantry and fridge vs living with a dorm room style snack bar stocked with a few well chosen convenience foods, grab ‘n’ go, delivery, etc…

As I get older I think that it may be a good compromise to make the switch in an effort to safely maintain my independence.

We’ll see!
 
When I first got married and moved to Philly, I was in school and my wife was making $6.50 an hour. We had $3 a meal budget. Needless to say, we ate a lot of spaghetti and jarred sauces. In addition, we'd buy those Lipton flavored rice packets ( broccoli and cheese ...) and buy some fresh veggies to enhance it. There was also a few great produce markets where you could get a whole box of veggies for like $10 - $15. Made a lot of soups, cause they went a long way.

Cleaning out the fridge is something I do weekly. Coincidentally, tonight is a clean out the fridge kinda dinner, adding Mushrooms, asparagus and baby artichokes , which were all left over from previous dinners, to the dish. Granted, they in themselves are not cheap veggies, but Im stretching them as far as I can go.
 
The biggest way I save money and reduce waste is my vacuum sealer. I can buy family packs of meat, or even better, meats at half price because they are a day away from their "sell by" date. I vacuum seal the meats in meal-size portions, pop them into the freezer, and they are good for pretty close to a year.

CD
 
Definitely, CD - the Foodsaver will help save you a lot! Not just for freezing food, but many other things, like spices, and dried fruits and grains, and many other things that go bad, eventually, even when it seems they are packed well - they just loose their flavor or quality. I have I think 7 of those 14-18 gal tubs in my basement, with many things I buy in large amounts (when saving, of course!), and I vacuum seal them, either in large amounts, then just cut a tip off one end of the bag, re-fill a jar I keep whatever it is in, then re-seal that bag with the Foodsaver. Or I vacuum seal whatever it is in the amount that I store it in - usually 4 c - and rinse the bag out, dry it, and use it again (I don't do this with meat bags, of course) - another way to save.

For these things, and freezers, something that has to be done, is keeping an inventory. Even in my younger days, there is no way I could remember all that food I have! And a good way to use the older food. I learned way back, that even in a freezer, butter will go bad - and I don't mean absorbing aromas from food put in, that isn't sealed well, but the fat going bad. I "lost" a pound in the freezer, for about 3 years, and this happened. After that, I vacuum sealed all the butter I would stock up on (lidl had butter for $1.29/lb this last fall), in 2 or 3 lb amounts, and it will stay perfect, until the next holiday season (I really don't use a lot the rest of the year).

As you can tell, I have a bit of an OCD, when it comes to food. :LOL:
 
The biggest way I save money and reduce waste is my vacuum sealer. I can buy family packs of meat, or even better, meats at half price because they are a day away from their "sell by" date. I vacuum seal the meats in meal-size portions, pop them into the freezer, and they are good for pretty close to a year.

CD
This past winter (assuming it's past) I took a vacuum sealed chuck roast out of the freezer to make a soup/stew, etc. and I noticed it had been in the freezer for a little over two years. It was in great shape, no freezer burn or other indications it had issues. I cooked the recipe and it was as good as ever. I love the FoodSaver I picked up in the Salvation Army thrift store for $2.00!
 
Weekly, usually mondays mr bliss shops and calls me from the store if there are big choices (Lbs) on reduced produce. I can usually carve out 4 hours of time to chop veggies, or can extra, or chop/freeze, or if he helps we can dehydrate 9 trays of bananas. I can't do that every day/during canning season. If I'm not up to putting away veggies or fruit then I let him know. I have a hard time passing up a deal.

Usually anything he brings home has a plan behind it, 30 lbs of tomatoes means canning, 2 big bags of pears means chopping and freezing for baking later, 16 peppers means a stir fry that week plus half of them finely diced to freeze and use in cooking, 50 bananas means dehydrating, 30 lbs of berries/fruit means making berry/fruit puree/jam. So if we aren't going to eat it that week, I have to do something with it.

Usually I get it done right after he gets home. Before he gets home I check the fridge to see if anything needs to get thrown out or wiped down to make room for fresh stuff.
In a week or so we'll be getting big bags of vidalia onions from georgia through the bee company we work with. I don't remember if they are 15 or 20 or 25 lbs. We mostly use those as onion slabs battered breaded and baked, and then chopping the rest.

@Aunt Bea, with one person, don't they make a half size refrigerator? Bigger than a bar refrigerator but smaller than 18 cu ft? If I was only cooking for one, I could see getting a half sized one.
 
For these things, and freezers, something that has to be done, is keeping an inventory. Even in my younger days, there is no way I could remember all that food I have! And a good way to use the older food. I learned way back, that even in a freezer, butter will go bad - and I don't mean absorbing aromas from food put in, that isn't sealed well, but the fat going bad. I "lost" a pound in the freezer, for about 3 years, and this happened. After that, I vacuum sealed all the butter I would stock up on (lidl had butter for $1.29/lb this last fall), in 2 or 3 lb amounts, and it will stay perfect, until the next holiday season (I really don't use a lot the rest of the year).

On my freezer door. I cross things off and add things as I use them and buy new stuff. BTW, this is an old photo.

1713316026947.jpeg


CD
 
Thanks, the article has some great tips and reminders.

I’ve been trying to use up all of the odd bottles of condiments, pickles, olives, etc… that tend to accumulate and then, the most difficult part, not replace them!

A weekly clean out the fridge day is helpful in using up the odds and ends.

I’m also wrestling with the idea of continuing to cook with a well stocked pantry and fridge vs living with a dorm room style snack bar stocked with a few well chosen convenience foods, grab ‘n’ go, delivery, etc…

As I get older I think that it may be a good compromise to make the switch in an effort to safely maintain my independence.

We’ll see!
My sister, who is four years younger than me, told me she has pretty much stopped cooking and gets snacky stuff from Trader Joe's.
 
A lot of excellent ideas here and a helpful article.

My overloaded freezer problem wouldn't be solved by having a food saver. The on in the fridge and the one in the basement are both stuffed. But, I'm working on eating my way through it.
 
When I started cooking because I was on food stamps, my limit for a meal was $3 and I planned for 2 meals a day. I still try to stick to $3 a meal, but lately I've had to put it up it to $4. I think it would be easier to feed a group of people for a lower cost than it is to feed a single person. I could be wrong in that.

What I usually do is get a ton of recipes for food I want to have for the month. I figure out what I have, then figure out what I need and go from there. If I want to find out what I spend per meal, I just figure out what I spent on ingredients and divide by the number of meals I got out of the recipe.

I had a big brunch today, so all I had for dinner was 8 mini eggrolls. The bag of 16 mini eggrolls cost $6.98 and I figure I'll get two meals out of that for $3.50 a meal. Now that's definitely not healthy eating, but I really didn't feel like anything else tonight.

Food stamps used to be max for a single person $194 a month. They raised it to $265 which is about $8.50 a day, so about $4.25 a meal if you eat only two meals a day.
 
I put myself through college, so learned to be really frugal and had a lot of frugal meals. However, those habits fell by the wayside during much of my working years. Lately, I have been into reducing food waste. My biggest take-away is that I shop my refrigerator before going to the supermarket. And I have found many ways to use slightly past prime items such as tomatoes. (I will roast them, sauce them, put them into dishes, etc.)

Recently I made a pasta dish with mushrooms. I shopped at Aldi. The fettucine was 1 dollar for a dry 16 ounce package. They had baby bell mushrooms on sale, so I bought two packs for 4 dollars. I had everything else I needed: A few tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper, heavy cream (needed a splash), and some veggie BTB. A bit of parmesan cheese and it was really tasty. So four people for roughly 5 dollars and had enough for lunch the following day. I was able to make fruit salad out of what I had on hand.

If I really needed to feed a group and had very little money, I would likely resort to some of my college standbys. Baked potatoes with several items for topping (like canned chili, sour cream, etc.) Or beans of some kind. (A pack of dry beans has a lot of potential.) Bean and cheese burritos are very cheap. I could make noodles out of flour and an egg with some BTB.

Now, this was many years ago, but I had five dollars for food for a week. I had generic cornflakes with powdered milk, Generic PB &J on my pathetic attempt at bread, and potato soup made with the milk mentioned above for a week. I think that was when I came up with my best college dessert ever: Babies in Jello. Picture a bunch of little plastic baby dolls (no hair) suspended in jello. It was Halloween and I needed something to take to a party. 🤷‍♀️ People still talk about it and have all but forgotten the spam quiche.
 

Latest posts

Back
Top Bottom