Tag Archives: low-cost recipes

piggy bank with vegetables

How to Budget for Feeding Your Family

Budgeting for meals is an extremely important part of managing a household. But how do you know what a good amount is for your family? There are a few shortcuts to help you set a food budget that meets the MyPlate recommendations, evaluate the cost of recipes, and save money at the grocery store. Continue reading

Summer Produce Recipe Round-up

Do I sound like a broken record yet? Seasonal produce saves money, tastes better and is more nutritious. Buy it at the Farmers Market or harvest from your garden. Summer is the best time for buying, cooking, and eating fresh fruits and veggies, as it’s the height of the growing season. What is your favorite summer fruit or vegetable?


Fruits and vegetables in season in Virginia in Summer

What’s your favorite?

If you need some inspiration for new summer produce recipes, check out this list.

Summer Recipes

Dietetic Intern Courtney’s SNAP Challenge- Meal Planning and Shopping

Meal Planning & Shopping 

By planning meals then sticking to the plan, you’re not only guaranteed to achieve your goal, you eliminate the uncertainty about meals and the need for on-the-fly judgements about what, when, and how much to eat…” ~John Walker

I love this quote from John Walker in his book The Hacker’s Diet from 1991. In my case, the goal is to eat a well-balanced diet under $32. The uncertainties that I hope to eliminate by implementing a plan include, “Will there be enough food?” “Can I have snacks?” “Will I be able to maintain my activity level?” “Will I stay under $32?” “Will I be tired of eating the same thing?” “Will I have to go without coffee?” Meal planning is a tool that I used to ensure that there will be a variety of nutritious food provided for each day of the challenge.

When planning my meals, I began by choosing items that I knew I liked, were versatile, nutritious, cheap, and could remain edible for at least a week. These items included peanut butter, rice, oatmeal, bread, beans, milk, plain yogurt, eggs, bananas, and potatoes. From these foods, I took the recommendations for food groups in to consideration (6 ounces of grains, 2 ½ cups vegetables, 2 cups fruit, 3 cups dairy, and 5 ½ ounces protein.) Grains were covered, and if I opted for brown rice, I will be on track for a high-fiber diet this week. Super! Dairy is sufficient, although I would have loved to add shredded cheese, cottage cheese, and ice cream into that category. Fruit and vegetables are present, but extremely lacking in variety and sheer number – yikes! Protein is a little iffy – not sure if I can make 5 1/2 ounces per day out of it. Also, the recommendation for fish consumption is at least twice per week.

With these considerations in mind I added tuna, “meat of some sort,” and more fruits/vegetables on my list.  My shopping list was flexible and many specifics were yet to be determined based on availability and cost.  In addition, I knew that many of my long days would go a lot better if I had coffee, so I was determined to find cheap, instant coffee.


Condiments should be addressed because they are something I use daily and do not think cutting them all out of my diet this week is necessary.  In reality, I shop for condiments every once in awhile. When I run out of something, I buy it. If I have it, I don’t buy it. I am applying this concept to the challenge. For my meal planning this week, I could utilize mayonnaise for tuna and egg salads and margarine would be great for cooking, toast, and oatmeal, however, the containers in my fridge are almost empty. Therefore, I will include them on my list. Will I use up the entire containers? Goodness, let’s hope not! I would be able to use those items for weeks to come. If I were to spend $32 on next week’s groceries, I may need to buy ranch dressing and jam which are near the same price, but also things I would only need to buy occasionally. With that said, since I added condiments in my cost this week, I am going to use (at a minimum) other condiments such as lemon juice, salt, pepper, jam, salad dressing, honey, spices, and sugar.

Shopping for the Best Price

**Note – Maybe some of the items I found were cheaper at the store I shopped at, but the very next day, my husband found canned beans at a different store for $0.50 per can versus $0.68 per can that I paid. On the beans alone, I could have saved $0.32 somewhere else! Learning Moment #1: Be aware of which grocery stores have the best prices on items that I typically buy. It may not be what I assume! The ads that stores provide in local newspapers are a good resource to find good sales. I also realize that many people may not have the luxury of being able to choose where they shop for groceries if there is only one grocery store option.

My Purchases

After an hour of searching, calculating, and strategizing at the store, I bought the following items:

  • • Instant Oatmeal ($1.68)
  • • 2 Red Apples ($1.09)
  • • 1 Sweet Potato ($0.53)
  • • 1 Pound Ground Turkey ($2.78)
  • • 2 Bananas ($0.45)
  • • 1 Russet Potato ($0.28)
  • • Brown Rice ($0.78)
  • • 1 Grapefruit ($0.68)
  • • 1 Red Potato ($0.35)
  • • Margarine ($1.24)
  • • 2 Navel Oranges ($0.96)
  • • Bag of Spinach ($2.18)
  • • Plain Yogurt ($2.38)
  • • Mayonnaise ($1.98)
  • • Bread ($1.98)
  • • Peanut Butter ($2.28)
  • • 2 Cans of Tuna ($1.48)
  • • Bag of Carrots ($0.78)
  • • ½ Gallon of Milk ($2.36)
  • • Dozen Eggs ($1.78)
  • • Folgers Instant Coffee ($1.00)
  • • 1 Can Kidney Beans, 1 Can Black Beans ($1.36)


The items totaled to $30.38 which is $1.62 under the average Virginia SNAP benefit given per week ($32 or $128 per month). While I was shopping I was taking sales tax into consideration, so I was slightly modest. Later I was reminded that SNAP benefits are not taxed; I could have bought an additional $1.62 worth of food.

As you may have noticed, I purchased the smaller containers of most items such as mayonnaise, margarine, milk, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc.  Even though the unit price (price per unit) may have been more expensive than the larger containers, I had to keep in mind that this will be for one week only.  In that case the smaller containers are cheaper than the larger containers.  If I were to buy for a month at a time, I would definitely change my strategy by taking the unit price into consideration.

Canned Versus Fresh Produce

In addition, I would like to add this note about canned versus fresh fruit. I ended up trading a can of store-brand mandarin oranges ($0.99) for the 2 oranges ($0.96). It is not always true that frozen or canned vegetables are cheaper than fresh.

My Meal Plan

With the foods I purchased, I came up with the following *tentative* meal plan:


This is what I'll eat for a week. How does it compare to your usual meal plan?

This is what I’ll eat for a week. How does it compare to your usual meal plan?

I will be estimated the cost of each meal/snack and keeping track by adding the price in parenthesis after I mention them. At the end of the each day’s post will be a total or “cost per day” and I will also compare how my eating habits compare to the MyPlate recommendations for food groups.