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WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

If you only had $20 to spend at the grocery store for a week, what would you buy?

Asked by WillWorkForChocolate (23163points) February 17th, 2012

self explanatory…

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51 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I would probably just die. Lol. I guess I would buy a bunch of Top Ramen and stuff for a sandwich.

cheebdragon's avatar

Bread, peanut butter, ramen noodles, milk, cereal, and oatmeal.

tom_g's avatar

As much rice and beans I could get for $20.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Rice, beans, chicken livers. Then I would go catfishing.

bkcunningham's avatar

How many people do I have to feed and what season is it for produce and fruit? If it is just me, as staples I’d buy a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, half gallon of milk, five pounds of potatoes, dried spaghetti noodles, butter…then some fresh veggies like corn on the cob if it is in season, peaches, apples, turnips or other cheap fruits and veggies on sale.

jerv's avatar

I like lentils. I like beans and rice. I like pasta. All of those are inexpensive, and if you already have a decent spice rack, they can be prepared in a variety of ways yet still leave you with enough cash for a gallon of milk and some eggs and cheese.

janbb's avatar

PB & J, whole wheat, in season cheap fruit, spaghetti and tomato sauce but $20 is hard!

thorninmud's avatar

I’d seriously consider spending the $20 on gas and going dumpster diving. I once heard a report about people who eat pretty darn well by hitting dumpsters behind upscale food stores.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

A ham hock, beans, a whole chicken, rice, and noodles.

marinelife's avatar

A chicken (whole, uncooked) $4.00
Some Pasta S2.00
A can of white tuna $1.25
Some mushrooms $1.99
Some cheddar cheese $2.50
An onion $1.00
A green vegetable, fresh $3.00
Bananas – 3 $1.00
Frozen Green peas $1.50
A bag of rice $1.00
A red bell pepper $.75

rebbel's avatar

Half the groceries I usually do.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Honestly, I have no idea. I am going grocery shopping today and I will experiment. I’ll limit myself to 20 dollars and let you all know what I get and then I won’t buy any more groceries until next Friday.

Would you consider it cheating if I used stuff I already have in my kitchen to supplement my meals? If so, I’ll buy everything with this 20 bucks and I will only eat what I’ve bought with it. :)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I’m also voting for beans and rice. They can be spiced up with jalapenos, which I love. There are plenty of other good suggestions here.

I live on a frugal budget and have to be very careful with what I buy. Still, it’s more than $20/week. My main complaint about living in Hawaii is the expense. It’s about 30% higher than the US mainland.

Blackberry's avatar

Why so many votes for rice and beans? Is it nutritious and cheap?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry Cheap nutritious and oh so flexible.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blackberry : Beans are high in protein and fiber and other goodies. They also take on the flavors of whatever you can find to cook them with. Rice is a staple here in Hawaii. It’s served at every meal. It’s filling and also good for you.

This stuff is also very cheap.

SpatzieLover's avatar

They used this premise on the TV show Secret Millionaire. The millionaire would have to live off from the amount of funds given for the week. Sometimes as high as forty bucks sometimes as low as $14.

Most of these people bought bread & PB. Dumb idea, since they’d run out of food before the end of the week.

I’d buy rice first. Then figure out where the biggest bang for my buck would be with protein & veg for that particular week at which ever store I was shopping at.

Most likely, I’d bake something or make a soup that I could eat off from for a few days in a row. Soups go a long way.

flutherother's avatar

Oatmeal, milk, bread,margarine, cheese, rice, fruit, vegetables.

bkcunningham's avatar

I would think peanut butter would be nutritious and economical, @SpatzieLover. Not for every meal, but for lunch. I know where rice would be economical and nutritious too, but I’d absolutely have to have it as a base for something. I couldn’t eat it for every meal. When I was growing up, sometimes we’d have rice in the mornings for breakfast with milk and sugar. Yummie, but I couldn’t eat it every day.

jca's avatar

some type of fruit
a loaf of cheap bread
cat food (cats have to eat, too!)

LuckyGuy's avatar

Whole milk
Whatever veggie was on sale. Carrots
Box of Cheerios

SpatzieLover's avatar

In some of the scenarios @bkcunningham, the millionaires had to live in rooming houses without anyhing but a hot plate.

Mind you, the $20 would also need to include a coffee habit if you are addicted.

janbb's avatar

yes – I buy a jar of peanut butter and have it for lunch almost every day for a month.

wundayatta's avatar

A latte for each of the work days.

The rest of the time will take care of itself. I’m sure someone will help out. It’s just a cash flow problem. People will buy me lunch and we’ll eat whatever’s in the kitchen at home.

john65pennington's avatar

Go to Aldi’s first.

Buy enough ingredients for a huge pot of veggie soup. Include ingredients you like.

The soup should last you several days, if its refrigerated.

You might get tired of it, but it’s better than being hungry.


You could buy a foot long Subway for $5.00 each day. That would last you four days for twenty dollars. Fifth day, invite yourself to dinner at a friends house.

jazmina88's avatar


bkcunningham's avatar

@wundayatta, I like the way you think.

ucme's avatar

I’d gamble it, probably on a horse.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I just got back from my grocery store trip. Some of the stuff I budgeted for is estimated because I already had it and I don’t want it to spoil. I’ve put it all on the bottom shelf of my fridge so I don’t forget. I admit, I went a little over budget so I’ll see what I have left over at the end of the week.

9 oz bag of prunes: 1.99
6 oz box of dried apricots: 1.99
Gallon of whole milk: 2.95
Dozen eggs: 1.99
5 4 oz containers of yogurt: 3.50
1 lb of pancake mix: 1.00
8 fl oz of syrup: 1.00
32 fl oz bottle of orange juice: .80
32 fl oz bottle of apple juice: .80
8 oz package of pepperjack cheese slices: 2.99
4 oz package of mozzarella cheese slices: 1.50
6 pack of corn muffins: 1.84

Final cost: 22.35 dollars.

I’ll let you all know how long it lasts, how I’m feeling by the end of the week, if I have any left over and if I have gained or lost any weight. I do so love food experiments in all their incarnations. :)

SpatzieLover's avatar

^So love that you are so willing to experiment @KatawaGrey. Can’t wait for the update

bkcunningham's avatar

@KatawaGrey, that was a pretty good take for $22.35. This is going to be a fun experiment. I agree, I’m glad you are willing to do this! I hope you don’t get hungry before the week is up.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@KatawaGrey Ohmigod! I can’t believe you’re doing that! I was wondering what everyone’s first idea for food would be, but I really adore the fact that you’re going to try it out! Yet another reason why I think you’re amazing. =0)

I would probably stick to my usual weekly diet and buy coffee, creamer, slim fast, soup and maybe some celery and peanut butter.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I’ve tried to do stuff like this before and I’ve always been too lazy, or gotten sick or simply didn’t have the self control, but now I’m going to do this! I admit, I’m worried about the lack of fruits and veggies I usually have more than just some dried fruit and juice so we’ll see how that goes. So far, I’ve already had a delicious dinner of silver dollar pancakes half a cup of pancake mix and a bit of the syrup, a glass of milk and a few prunes. Supposedly, prunes are an appetite suppressant because they slow down digestion, which is why I bought them. :)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@KatawaGrey I thought prunes just made you poop out all your food…

bkcunningham's avatar

Stewed prunes are good for breakfast, @KatawaGrey. Just simmer them with enough water to cover and a little bit of lemon juice. Simmer until they absorb all the water. Prunes do help soften your stools.

deni's avatar

I really only spend about 30 bucks a week at the grocery store so it wouldn’t be too hard. A ton of fruits and vegetables. Maybe some pasta.

bkcunningham's avatar

I live in Florida. You would think that veggies and fruits wouldn’t be very expensive since we grow so much produce here. The prices are outrageous. Has anyone else in other parts of the country noticed the increase in prices at the grocery stores over the past year?

ETpro's avatar

Two fifths of rot-gut vodka. It’s going to be a long week, but I will lose a few pounds. :-)

Berserker's avatar

There’s a dollar store in my area that saved my ass a few times, when 20 bucks was pretty much all I had for long periods of time. I got cans of Chef Boyardee shit, they cost 1,25. Got a few of those, obscure pasta sauce brands, noodles, ramen, bread, peanut butter and some juice. Spam too, to make sandwiches with. Eventually they got Kraft Dinner boxes for really cheap, but I was getting out of my rut at that point.
It didn’t have so much choice and sometimes I got sick of always eating the same things, but it kept me fed, and I could get a decent haul for an extremely small amount of money. They even have coffee, and although it didn’t taste so awesome, still did the job.

6rant6's avatar

@bk Food prices rose almost 40% last year worldwide. Expect another 30% next year.

rooeytoo's avatar

I just watched a show on telly about dumpster diving. These people could have bought food but the supermarkets throw out so much that is out of date or fresh that is past its prime. They lived very well on what they scavenged. I must admit I don’t think I would do that, but the rice and a whole chicken, you can eat the meat, use the carcass and stock for soups, that is 3 or 4 meals there. Rice is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on what you add to it. Often bags of frozen veg is cheaper than fresh and many claim more nutricious. As has been said beans are cheap and good. Tofu is another inexpensive protein source, eggs are excellent. It would be a struggle to have 3 meals a day on 20 bucks a week but if you don’t eat too much at each sitting, it could probably be done and you could stay healthy as well. Also find out when the stores go through and mark down products that are reaching their use by dates, you can get some real bargains that way.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Let’s look at this from another angle. You need about 2000 calories per day. You want to last one week, so that comes to 14000 calories total. You have $20 So you should buy foods that have more than 700 calories per $.
That would be an interesting shopping experiment.

One gallon of whole milk is 2400 calories for $3 = 800 calories per $. Good purchase!

bkcunningham's avatar

Hmm, @LuckyGuy. That is an interesting way to look at the $20 budget.

john65pennington's avatar

I read your food purchase list and I understand just about each item you purchased and why. EXCEPT for the PRUNES!!!!!!

Whatever you take in is not going to stay with you with the prunes.

I just know you know this.

janbb's avatar

@LuckyGuy You really are a engineer!

LuckyGuy's avatar

I went to the grocery store today and looked at calories per $ for all sorts of things. We all should do that every now and then.
A package of generic fig newtons for $2.50 was well above 1300 calories per $.
If you changed the experiment to $40 for 2 weeks, you could buy the larger container of peanut butter at considerable savings. Spaghetti was well above 1200 calories per $.
Also I looked at sale items and bought 4 pounds of chicken drumsticks (12 large, 150 gram each) for $1.01 per pound. $4.15 Calorie numbers vary but it can be in the range of 250–300 calories each so call it 3000 calories per package. / 4.15 = 722 calories per $ Perfect!
A bowl of Life Cereal with whole milk was very close to 700/$

Now that I think about it this was close to my diet when I was in college.

LuckyGuy's avatar

This person figured out the cost of 200 calories for different foods and sorted them in order. The most calories / $ is canola oil – 2857 calories per $. Wow.

If you consider eating out at less expensive restaurants you can expect to get on average 180— 200 calories /dollar. That made me think. Since one pound of body fat is 3600 calories, that extra pound of blubber we are carrying around our middle cost us $20 !

What a waste (waist?)! I’d much rather carry a $20 bill in my wallet.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@LuckyGuy: What an interesting approach to buying food! I can see we are on the same general wave length, though, because I bought whole milk for that exact reason.

@john65pennington: That’s true of people who eat a lot of meat. Seeing as I eat no meat, the prunes will help me poop, yes, but they won’t give me diarrhea as I haven’t eaten red meat in over a decade.

Food experiment update: It’s day 2 and I realize that I am woefully ill-prepared for the days ahead. I think I shall continue this experiment next week and concentrate on decreasing my carb sources and increasing both protein and fruits/veggies. I also had lunch out today. At first, I wondered if this would compromise the experiment, but my mother paid for lunch this is a regular thing; she buys me lunch at least once a week and I ate less than I usually do, deliberately, so that I could have the rest for dinner.

Next week, I may be able to spend a little extra as I got coupons from the drug store which essentially act as “RiteAid bucks.” By this, I mean that I have 4 dollars worth of these coupons and since I don’t have to spend a minimum amount to use them, I can essentially get an extra 4 dollars worth of food for free.

Thanks @WillWorkForChocolate for letting me use your question to chronicle my food experiment.

ETpro's avatar

Actually, it’s relatively easy to fast for one week. Just drink plenty of water. Keep the $20 to add to the following week’s food budget, because you will be hungry when you finally break the fast. :-)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@ETpro Too true. I’m sure I wouldn’t have too difficult a time with it, since I don’t eat much these days anyway. I have coffee for breakfast, slim fast or a little noodle bowl for lunch and whatever I cook for dinner, of which I only eat a small portion. But hey, I’m feeling so much healthier and I’ve dropped 30 pounds!!

@KatawaGrey I just think it’s cool that you did that, sweetie, and it’s so much fun reading your updates!

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would get a weeks worth of Ensure. Done it before. Didn’t turn out well, but kept me alive. With the leftover money I would buy managers specials discounted food.

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