Monday, December 15, 2008

January Parents Mag: "Feed Your Family for $71 a Week"

When I wrote this post and it landed on the front page of MSN.com, I got hundreds of comments, many of them claiming that my $80 weekly grocery budget was ludicrous and that they couldn't get out of the store for under $200. Now, most of you know that $80 is really quite generous for any bargain shopper who knows what she's doing, and I'll bet many of you spend less than that each week for larger families than I have.

So I was gratified to see a mainstream magazine like Parents feature a $71 weekly grocery budget this month. The article is written by a dietician and mom who the magazine assigned the task of feeding her family for under $100 a week.

If you check out what she bought, it looks like she did pretty well for her $71. She managed to get some things I consider luxuries, like instant oatmeal, Parmesan cheese, granola bars and macaroni and cheese. She forgot the beer and wine, though.

She came up with some very sensible advice, such as knowing when to allow yourself a shortcut (for her, that was buying instant rice and canned beans, for me, it's meant stocking up on some canned foods for my husband to have at work in case I forget to make him a lunch). She also noticed what I would call my main learning from shopping on a budget: If you don't allow yourself to go back to the store for an ingredient you think you need, you end up using much more of the leftovers and such that might otherwise get thrown away.

Finally, the article included a little graphic on how the demand for ethanol has pushed up food prices by increasing the amount of acreage dedicated to corn and decreasing the amount of wheat, fruit and vegetables grown. Anyone who wants to know more about what a huge problem something as innocuous as corn has become in our food system needs to read The Omnivore's Dilemma , the best book I have read all year.

Here are the experts consulted in the Parents article:

Stephanie Nelson, Couponmom.com (getting a ton of press lately)
Kim Danger, Mommysavers.com
Teri Gault, TheGroceryGame.com and author of Shop Smart, Save More


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