Being good with money, When the money stops
My understanding of what I can achieve on a budget completely changed in March of 2020. My husband and I run a business from home, which went onto life support with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Local businesses around us where shutting down at a rate of knots, as their clientèle dried up and started staying away...these where our customers, which had a serious impact on our business and cash-flow. During this time,I still had to feed the family...!
All was not lost though, as I had been watching this situation like a hawk. 20 days before our country went into lock down, I was able to take action . This simple action has yielded the most astonishing results, which I would like to share you today.
How to Feed a Family of 4 for 40 days on only $5 a day.
Isn’t extreme pressure totally amazing? Just when you thought there was no way you could stretch your food budget further, the virus chaos hits. Then we see how much we are really capable of.
Jumping into Food Budgeting Action
So here’s how I did it.
I only had $50 (R900) for my first batch of shopping. I used this as a guideline as to what I could afford for 1 week’s food for the family, as I normally shopped.
My usual grocery bill for 1 week was sitting at around the $84 (R1500 ) mark. Honestly, my heart was in my mouth, as our January food inflation had been taken a big jump up, and I had very little faith that I could stick to this budget. But choices were limited and luckily:
“The earth responds to action" - Ron Kussmaul
So , here’s how I tackled the problem:
Make it Rather than Buy It
There are a whole heap of items which you can make at home, rather than just buying them (maybe if you have same extra time at home, it’s a good time to experiment. I’ll also have a list of those super easy items which we have had success with, on my web site).
I looked at what we normally ate.
example : 1 loaf of bread a day
- I considered the product’s ingredients:
Flour, yeast , water, sugar, salt
I worked out how much of the
base products I needed to make one item
- Flour – 3 cups flour (200ml x3) = 1 loaf of bread
- Sugar – tiny amounts
- Yeast - 1 sachet
- Of the items , I asked myself if I could make any of them, and could I purchase these ingredient in bulk, and would it make sense to?
- Yeast : yes I can make my own if I have the time or the shops run out.
- Flour, 3 cups per loaf for 20 loaves. This would be a sensible bulk purchase.
- Next I asked myself what I could do without, I went through my whole food list in this manner.
Replace where Possible
- I then asked myself what is the cheapest, yet still healthy alternative for each of the items on this list
- Example: I could buy pork instead of beef .
- I could buy cabbage instead of expensive salad greens...yes some things the family needs to get used to, but at least you’ll have food on the table. (side note – with some different preparation, even cabbage can taste really good).
Decide where to Purchase
- I recreated my list, after optimizing, replacing and bulking it.
- I then went on-line and researched the best shops to source the bulk of these items, so that I didn’t need to jump to different shops, wasting petrol and time.
- At that stage , as we were not in lock-down, I took my list along with me and shopped EXACTLY what was on the list , and only that.
- When we got home, I commenced with rationing our portions out to last as many days as planned, and labeling containers with the dates for opening and finishing.
Have you ever come home from shopping with a lovely bunch of banana’s, only to blink 24 hours later and they’re all gone? Well if our family was to survive lock down, and do so with a balanced diet, these types of situations also needed to be rethought.
Again, this new strategy yielded amazing results. Items that lasted for 7 days, I was now able to split out over 14 or more days.
I even went as far as splitting up the items that the kids can never get enough of. This included fruit, jam(jelly) and peanut butter.
An excellent way to save those bananas, is to simply slice them up, divide them out and freeze them into portions. Then, if you like me and you have hungry teenagers, simply put a Quota Board on your fridge as a regular reminder to them of what their daily portion of fruit is. That way, Mom and Dad also get to share in the ‘fruits’ of our labor, and keep a balanced diet.
When you don’t know when your next paycheck is coming, you realize how little you really need and how absolutely vital food budgeting and financial budgeting is.
Photo: apples, banana, jam splitting
Here’s a link to my Quota board printable, to assist you with this process
Plan your way Through
So now I had to plan the meals, to ensure that I used only the allocated quantities that I had set aside.
So, this is where I got to stretch the ingredients even further. Bad habits such as eating meat every night now moved to meat only 3-4 x a week. Our recipe books (and the Internet) came to the rescue as I discovered recipes that used the ingredients and created really tasty alternate meals, possibly even better than our usual meals.
I had substituted other expensive items such as morning cereals with milk for cooked grain porridge. To keep these as extra exciting, the porridge get our daily quota of banana or apples, quickly cooked for extra taste, added in, along with some cinnamon for extra joy.
Learning new Skills for Healthier Living
Have you been trying to kick a bad habits for the last month or even perhaps years. Habits such as to much coffee you drink? Well that was the case with me. When I’m stressed, coffee is my fall back....well not any more!
When you know that the food budget for the month has been spent, you make a plan. Substitute tea for the coffee and see how many time you can re-use that tea bag. (making tea in a thermos flask, is a great way to enjoy hot tea conveniently, and let the tea bags stretch). Even better, drink a glass or 2 of water at the start of the day before you even think of coffee. You’ll discover how easily you can go down to 1 or 2 cups of coffee a day, and you may even start feeling better.
Oh yes, and make that tap water please, not bottled. If you’re not happy with your tap water, try boiling it and then cooling it. Add a little lemon juice, if you really struggle drinking tap water. It’s probably cheaper than coffee, and the health (and weight) benefits are enormous.
Some of the skill you can learn to get to healthier, cheaper eating, are actually as old as the hills.
Here are some of the skills I have used to ensure we have better food, that's far cheaper than the shop bought equivalent:
- Buy cabbage instead of fancy greens. Now, go one step further and turn it into tasty Sauerkraut to get an extra dose of probiotics.
- Buy your milk from a local farmer, if you can. Learn how to pasteurize it (if your state or province allows this). Why not learn how to make your own yogurt while you are at it!
- Create your own sourdough bread, which is far healthier for you and easier on your tummy. It also tends to be eaten far slower by the family as it is naturally more filling. An extra advantage is that you can create your own yeast at home, and then keep growing it as you use it. (see...........for the recipe).
- Another really useful skill to get to grips with, is growing your own vegetables during this period and beyond . The health and stress-relieving benefits of growing your own greens simply cannot be underestimated, and you will be surprised how quickly they grow and are ready for the table. In fact, why not get your kids to get started on this for you, and keep them out your hair, when their school work is finished. A great Free resource for kids and adults, can be found over at QuickPickVeg.com.
If you’re keen to learn more about these new ‘old’ skills, have a look at my super affordable course by clicking on this link.
40 Days at $5 a Day
Getting your pantry organized so you can feed your family
So, in summary, after looking at my purchases over the last 4 weeks, along with the final batch of shopping that I will undertake this coming week, I will have managed to feed my family of 4 on $5 a day. This through the worst crisis our business has ever experienced, and we are all still happy and healthy.
We now have lovely Sauerkraut, lovely fresh bread every second day (We now only eat half a loaf and it’s far more filling), fresh garden vegetables daily. I have yoghurt making on the cards for later this week, along with a batch of cream cheese, which my 14 year old loves making for us.
We have lovely warm cooked porridge in the morning, with my youngest one doing the honors of ensuring we don't get more than our fair share of banana or apple, to compliment the porridge.
No one is going hungry....which I must confess, they were at times before this planning, as I was too slow or unplanned to arrange the meals.
My hubby and I are only drinking 2 cups of coffee a day, with loads of water in between and we’re all getting great exercise and enjoying our garden, as we plant our weekly veggies and pick the daily quota for the evening meal.
photo of salad
Running a Household:
Get your free Pantry Planner here
Get my Free Planner
You can follow these steps and reduce your grocery bill by a huge amount. Hey, I just looked, and this means I’m spending a whopping 40% less than I used to before the crisis hit!
You can too!
As you continue or head into lock down, here is a free tool, my Pantry Planner for you.
Get your free pantry planner here
Why not go from Surviving to Thriving and enjoy the blessings of this Easter season, with peace in your heart, knowing your family is safely cared for.
I would love to hear your comments about this article, what great ideas you have come up with to stretch your budget that much further, and how you got your pantry stocked with health food?
I’ll attempt to answer all your questions as soon as I can, so go ahead and ask me your questions and send your comments.
Yours in joy & frugality.