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Cost per month

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi, first off, I searched this forum for an answer to this question, but didn't come up with anything. I may be on my own for the first time this summer, and I'm wondering roughly how much it might cost me per month to feed myself, providing I don't go out at all. This is not including pots, pans, and other utensils, since I already have a budget allocated for those items. The only real stores I have nearby (I don't have a car) are Super Stop & Shop and A&P Foodmart. I should mention that I actually want to learn as much as I can about cooking in this period of time, so I'm not really interested in buying premade food like ramen, etc. However, SIMPLE food is fine--in fact, the simpler the better since I have no prior cooking experience. So how cheap can I get? Again, I'm onyl looking for rough estimates since I realize that the answer to this question is variable. Thanks for any and all responses.
post #2 of 18
Well if you buy 1 chicken every 2 days, 1 pot roast every 2 days, eat vegetarian 2 days, and fish 1 day, that could be $20.

Then veggies, fruit, pasta/rice, maybe $20?

Misc. stuff $20? So I think for one person $60 is doable. 15 years ago my wife and I used to have $50 grocery budget for the week.
post #3 of 18
Here I'm pretty much copying and pasting from a post I made in another thread. A rice cooker is cheap and can do a lot.

In college I didn't have a kitchen of any sort. My rice cooker was my best (cooking) friend. Not only is rice economical, but there's a lot more you can make in a rice cooker than just plain rice. Depending on cooking times and end effect wanted, you can add ingredients at different times. For example, if you want to cook greens with it, you can add the greens at the start of cooking or soon after, which makes the 2 ingredients a blend. Or you can wait until the water goes below the level of the rice and have the greens as a separate layer on top, adding a bit of flavor to the rice.

Seasonings and condiments can be added while cooking or added after cooking, of course.

Processed meats work great with this method, whether added early on or later. Raw eggs dropped on the rice for the last few minutes of cooking come out great. Fish fillets come out great when added as soon as the water level goes below the rice. Canned beans, rinsed and drained, are another thing that fits in nicely. I had a lot of fun and a lot of good food, for a low price, and not much dishwashing.

(Also, if you haven't had much rice in the past, I'd suggest using jasmine rice from an Asian grocer for a start since it's much better tasting than generic white rice).
post #4 of 18
I figure $40 a week for me but I always have leftovers i the freezer so some weeks its less. I rarely buy anything thats processed other than salad dressings/olives/etc.
post #5 of 18
There have been related threads, usually revolving around food stamps. Here's one,

Cooking for one is a bit more expensive than cooking for more. Economy of scale does enter into it. But you can eat reasonably for $2-3/meal on average. Breakfast usually less, dinner usually more. 21 meals/ week takes you to the $45-60 figure already mentioned here.

However, there are some upfront costs that setting up a new pantry incurs. You've got to get flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, spices and so on all up front. Afterwards, replacing those should figure in your weekly budget over time.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for your responses, they are much appreciated.
post #7 of 18
This question is difficult to answer.
1. It depends on your likes and dislikes.
2. How energetic are you, do you want to cook.
3. Depends on how good a shopper you are, do you use coupons, watch specials etc. Do you have freezing space.
4. Do you have the time, or can you make time?
As you see there are many factors to consider.:bounce:
post #8 of 18
To follow up from Ed, it also depends on how willing you are to learn somewhat intricate and unusual techniques, and spend the time to deploy them, in the name of thrift.

Example: One whole tilapia or similar fish -- I said whole, like head and all. You can get those pretty cheap. That can be two easy meals, or three if you're very open-minded. If you fillet the fish yourself, you have three parts: 2 fillets and everything else. Each fillet can be broiled, seared, steamed, or whatever, and served with Yeti's rice. You can then split the head, shear the spine into fat chunks, and cook all those bits in soy, ginger, and dashi, and the result is another meal -- very popular and old-fashioned Japanese home cooking.

The problem is that you have to look for whole fish, you have to learn to butcher it whole, and you have to be open to eating a meal whose primary protein is fish head.

That's just one example, but it should clarify Ed's point, which is dead-on. What he can live on, what I can live on, and what you can live on are three different things.

Can I suggest that you pick up one of those general-purpose cookbooks aimed at beginners that you can get at any used bookstore? I mean things like Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, and so on. Joy of Cooking is better in many ways, but it is usually rather more expensive.

Whatever you're thinking about buying, look carefully at the index: you want to be able to look up that stuff sitting in the bottom drawer that really needs to be used ASAP, not just primary ingredients. So for example, if you have four carrots that you meant to use up and forgot about, you want to be able to look up "carrot" and not just get carrot dishes as such -- you want some indication of every dish that features carrots, at least in any significant quantity. That way you can look and go, "hmm, that sounds good, I already have the onions and a jar of olives, guess I just need a couple shrimp" and you're ready to go to the store.
post #9 of 18
the library is a good resource for cookbooks, Cheftalk has suggestions throughout the archives for cheap/easy eats.

A few years ago I taught inner city kids cooking classes trying to fit within a certain formula:
something they are semi familar with, something new
techniques a 4th grader can use

Omelets made alot of sense, eggs are can add meats, cheeses, veg, herbs.

sweet potato muffins....freeze well, tasty options

pizzas, there are numerous crust options (flour tortilla, english muffin, pitas, french bread, or try making your own).....again sauce, optional cheese, veg, meat

Quesa dillas, cheap eats......salsa, beans, cheese, tortilla....can add meats, veg.

Fried rice
all are bases for dishes.


Using meat as an accent instead of center of the plate will reduce costs.

*what's rough cooking for one is that a 3# bag of onions is typically cheaper than buying one onion by the #. So stocking up may mean shopping every 2 weeks instead of every week, which is rough if you are just learning.

**herbs, spices, vinagers, oils.....are many times what defines a dish, they can be expensive.

Some people are ok with eating the same food for 4-5 meals, they will be able to eat cheaper.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #10 of 18
I remember this one guy in school. He used to eat the same meal everyday. Chicken, shake and bake, potatoes, and some veggies. He'd eat one big meal a day.

No kidding.
post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 
Well, I guess I forgot to mention in my first post that I am a competitive runner doing 12+ miles per day, so I eat a lot, and I need lots of protein and carbs I guess, specifically probably more red meat (or other sources of iron) than most people. I'm willing to spend as much time as I need in order to prepare meals, and the example using the tilapia is exactly the kind of thing I'm interested in. I'm basically open to any ideas that will get me fed and keep me healthy. And I do have a small freezer.

Regarding the cookbooks, thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking about buying the Joy of Cooking since my mom has told me that it's essential if I want to learn to cook.

Thanks for the tips shroomgirl, that sounds like useful information.
post #12 of 18
Are you in college?
post #13 of 18
I think one of the key things to figure out for a beginner home cook is the reuse of leftovers.

I've never found it again but there was a simple cookbook for the college student I got from the library once. It was brilliant. And pretty beat up so it may have been discarded soon after. But the author went through what a kitchen needs minimally, sanitation and food safety and basic technique of using the equipment. Then there were some recipes. Then there were sample menus tying the menu planning, shopping, cooking and reuse of ingredients throughout the week.

For example, at the start of the week, you'd cook a whole chicken, bake some potatoes (multiple to use the time and energy wisely), and some vegetables. Cauliflower for the sake of this example. That's all very white but ignore that for the moment as I have only limited recall of what was all in there.

Remove the meat from the bones. Save the bones and the skin if you prefer. Enjoy some of the chicken at this meal.

Make a stock from the bones and skin and basic vegies. Use some for a soup, some for sauces, gravies etc.

The leftover baked potato would get used for a quick hash or hash browns of a sort or other uses.

Some of the cauliflower would be mashed and used to build the not-crust of a crustless quiche.

The author really kept the waste to a minimum and re-used your effort in the kitchen as well as the foods from earlier in the week to simplify and economize while still producing varied quality meals of good taste and nutrition.

While you might be eating the same basic foodstuffs for 3 or 4 meals, they get presented differently and with different flavors each time. With a freezer, you can freeze some of this leftovers for other meals and increase the weekly variety.

I'd love to find this book again. It was awesome for beginners and even insightful to an experienced cook.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #14 of 18
With the small freezer I highly recommend getting a Food Saver vacuum packer. Leftovers can be vacuum bagged and they keep a long time frozen. I always have stuff in the freezer for days I don't feel like cooking. You ca also buy meat in bulk and portion it down and vacuum bag it, that alone will pay for the cost of the Food Saver.
post #15 of 18
Over the past three or four years, the cost of many foods almost doubled. Assuming you're doing some scratch, some partially prepared foods, and some fully prepared (like bread), it's probably going to cost you around $6 a day. For instance, it's about $1.50 to put three scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast, and a cup of coffee on the table. A couple of all beef hot dogs in buns, with mustard, relish and onions, with a bag of chips -- about $2. You can cut that in half if you use chicken dogs and the cheapest buns, but it won't taste very good. Also, living as a single, means either buying in small quantities, accepting a certain amount of waste (expensive), or eating the same things until you run out.

You can reduce per day costs substantially if you make a big effort to buy bulk (you said that wasn't really available for you, plus it brings up that whole eating the same thing over and over thing), did your own baking, cut down on meat and limited yourself to economy cuts on sale, and so on. In other words, if you spend a lot of time and effort. You can also cut costs if you share food with two or three other people who are dedicated to living cheap.

post #16 of 18
you can follow what I eat in the other thread...I usually don't skimp out on ingredients....

I spend 40-80$ a week on groceries that consists of 3 meals a day, for at least 6 days (we may eat out dinner 1 night a week) for 2 people.

Lunch is ALWAYS leftovers from dinner.

I've learned to be a little frugal with a few rules,

- ALWAYS plan your menu, COMPLETE.....1 week in advance...and stick to it.

- Always shop at least 1 meal from the freezer and/or with ingredients you always have.

- always look at the store flyers and shop only once a week, for everything you need..and base 1 meal around whatever protein has the best sale...

- look for dishes that use the same ingredients and couple them in the same week (for instance, I'm having beets in a dish 2x this week, and they were on sale.

- buy meat "whole" and butcher chickens when they are on sale, even if you only need breasts or thighs...

- get a foodsaver vaccuum sealer

- pasta or noodles, 1 day a week and or vegetarian

My average is around 55$ a week for 3 good meals a day for 2 people. I'm sure people can do better, but, I'm also eating filet mignon, steak, duck, lamb, etc. etc....
post #17 of 18
Michael Field's was a cooking teacher and writer from possibly the 1960-70's, I'm pretty sure he was apart of the Time Life Internation Series team....possibly France?.....
Anyway his cookbooks had adaptations and variations with most of, if not all the recipes. Some of James Beard's cookbooks have options after recipes.

Joy of Cooking is probably the most recommended book from CT, many of us prefer the older versions.....actually I gave away one of the newer ones because it just didn't have some of the older basics.

Phil, funny you should talk about adapting, that's one of the exercises that comes from personal cheffing.....or actually any homemaker (is that a PC term? shoot sounded better than Mom....).
We used to play those games on CT, ok so you've got bananas going south whatdyado with them?.....been a while, may be worth a revisit.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Funny you should mention that shroomgirl, because my mom has mentioned before to me that the new version of Joy of Cooking isn't as good as the older one that she has.

And to kuan, yes, I'm in college.

Thanks again for all of the tips and advice.
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