MAKING YOUR MONEY LAST


Feeding a Family on $300 a Month

my story
Why affordable food? I was running an employment agency for high-end household help -- maids, butlers and household managers. When the economy went south, I couldn't find jobs for everyone looking for work, and I was getting phone calls from people who sounded desperate. I had to do something to help.

SEE ALSO: Save Money on Practically Everything -- Food and More

What is your culinary background? I had been teaching cooking classes for years and knew that a family of four could eat well for $300 a month.

That sounds unbelievably cheap. You're not going to be eating filet mignon, but you can eat well. I can show you how to make a chuck roast taste just like osso buco, and instead of spending $15 or more per serving, it costs $3 to $4. Ohio gives about $140 a month in food assistance for each person. That could let you have money left over every month.

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How are you spreading the word? I started a not-for-profit, Budget-Meals.org, and wrote a cookbook, Beyond Couponing, both of which provide budget menus and saving tips. We give the books away at free seminars on budget meals, which are held primarily in libraries and food pantries in Ohio. We're trying to go national but aren't there yet.

Do you make everything from scratch? Not everything. I don't make my own butter. It's cheaper to buy it. But the taco seasoning that you buy in a package for $1.50 can be made for less than 15 cents with ingredients you have in your cupboard. You also need to study pricing. For instance, you can get a big bag of yeast that will last a year for almost the same as you'd pay for a couple of single-use packages.

What's your strategy? Start with the Sunday paper. Pull out the grocery ads to see what's on sale. Based on that, map out a menu for the week, make a shopping list, and look for coupons for anything you're going to buy. Your final step is to go to the grocery store and stick to your list. If something is really cheap, buy a lot and stockpile it in the freezer. You shouldn't buy anything that's not on the list, unless there's some unadvertised special that is just too good to pass up.

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