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  • Lesson 7: Could You Feed Your Family on $4 a Day?

    Frugal Find Logo

    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    Could you feed your family on a $4 per person per day budget?  For some, that might seem impossible; for others, that would be an increase in their current budget.  I'll share our personal budget in a bit more detail shortly, but I wanted to touch on what the Grocery Outlet executive team is doing this month.  They're each adopting the $4/day challenge for themselves personally and sharing their stories here on the Bargainista Blog.


    Four $1 Bills


    So when Grocery Outlet asked me to take on this challenge—as serious as it is—Mr. Frugal and I did chuckle a bit.  We wondered who would be sending us the extra $93 for that week's budget.  You see, for our family of 6 (2 adults and 4 elementary-aged children) our budget is $75 - $100 per week.  That is right around $2 per person per day.  I'm sure you're wondering just how we're able to accomplish this.  You may assume we eat processed food, indulge on the $1 menu at fast food joints, and subside on the cheapest white bread we can find.  However, it's actually quite the opposite here in our home. Let me try to explain how we manage this budget but giving you a peek into 6 different ways we save money on a weekly basis.

    1. Stock up when prices are low. I practice the stock pile method of buying several weeks/months worth of an item when it’s at it’s rock bottom price so I never have to pay retail. While also always staying within our weekly grocery budget. The way we shop means that we may not have a certain item in the house for a long time, if it’s not on sale – but when I find it at my “Buy It Now” price I’ll stock up.

    Shopping List

    2. Meal plan and cook from scratch. Ingredients are cheap and they go a lot farther than processed food. Quite frankly it's much healthier to make your own beef stroganoff than it would be to buy a box of Hamburger Helper. I recently shared how I stretched one rotisserie chicken between 3 meals. I paid $5 for the chicken—it could have been a bit less if I roasted it at home, but time is also a factor in our weekly budget. That breaks down to about $1.66 per meal for the protein or $0.28 per person.

    Here are a few other Meal Planning Resources for you…
    Free Printable Freezer Inventory Form
    Meal plan for the YEAR in one weekend!
    Sample Weekly Grocery Shopping Trip for a Family of 6 – $78.70 Spent

    3. Eat in season fruit and veggies. When produce is in season, it’s cheap and a deal is easy to come by. I like to eat grilled asparagus all year ’round though, so when it’s cheap I buy a lot and freeze it! I know this might be super obvious but it is something I’ve done for years and it allows us to eat whatever veggie or fruit that sounds good regardless of whether it’s in season or not. It’s also another trick to keeping our weekly grocery budget so low. I stocked up on strawberries and we’re still using them 6+ months later in smoothies. They’re deliciously sweet and nothing like the ones we would have to buy in the middle of the winter, plus we made amazing Homemade Strawberry Jam with them too!

    4. Shop Grocery Outlet and often. Grocery Outlet is a staple in my weekly shopping budget, you can see a few of the deals I spotted last week below. Grocery Outlet is like a treasure hunt, you never know what deal you’re going to find! The prices and stock change out often, making room for more great deals each and every time you shop!

    Coffee Mate Creamer
    Coffee-Mate Fat Free Creamer, Hazelnut - $0.99


    Nature Valley

     36 ct Box of Nature Valley Granola Thins for $2.99!


    Sara Lee Bread

    Sara Lee Sourdough Bread - $0.99!


    5. DIY or Homemade Household Items for less! Any chance you get to make something you normally pay a pretty penny for at home from scratch instead is almost always going to cost you significantly less. Check out our previous post on DIY for a few homemade/DIY recipes that we've tried with great success.

    Of course this is just the tip of iceberg, but for those of you frugalites out there I am certain if we put our heads together we could come up with a wide variety of money saving methods. The goal isn't just to save, but to LIVE WELL on less. It is possible and whether you need to or have to, it can be done on $2/day or $4/day.

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  • $4-A-Day Challenge: Mark

    Hi, I’m Mark, the Marketing Director for Grocery Outlet at our home office in Berkeley, CA.   I’m going to share with you my experience this week in eating on only $4 a day, which is going to be interesting since I can occasionally blow $20 on just one lunch!  My wife told me I was on my own this week, so I’m having a “bachelor” menu. Mark and Lois

    Eating in Berkeley isn’t cheap, unless you shop at Grocery Outlet.  I’ll be doing all my shopping there, so I’ll be paying about half price for my food which will put me at a big advantage versus people who shop at regular grocery stores.

    So here’s my story, hope you enjoy it, I’m sure I’m going to learn a few things!

    I had planned it all out, I would do my shopping on Sunday and have everything ready to fix during the week. Then family came in from out of town and we had to travel on Sunday and all of a sudden it was Monday morning and I hadn’t shopped. Now what do I do? I looked at my “rough” meal plan and went downstairs to our store to strategize. I had planned eggs ($1.49/dz) and hash browns (only $2.49 for ten Lindens hash brown patties!) for a couple of breakfasts, then I saw some Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage sandwiches for only $5.99 for a 20ct box (only 30 cents a serving!). Sounds good! However, as I picked up the box and looked at the ingredients, it struck me that I was making some less than healthy choices. Hmmmm….

    Nimble Bar
    So I started my Monday with oatmeal and frozen blueberries mixed together which was very tasty. Lunch was two yogurts (3 for $1 at GO) and a “Nimble” peanut butter nutrition bar. Ok, Nimble is supposed to be for women, but the price was right ($ .33/bar) and it has 5g of fiber, 10g of protein plus Calcium, Iron, Vitamins C, D, E & B6, Lutein and Beta-Carotene! Dinner was my one vice with a salad with two pieces of Red Baron 4 meat pizza (only $ .50 a slice!). I normally drink water for most meals and the savings will help me save up for some wine with dinner later in the week!
    Final tally for Monday; $3.35
    $16.65 left for the week

    I scrambled three eggs and added some fresh fruit for a nice breakfast that only penciled out to $.62. I started to adjust my plan for the week and observed that healthier choices (salad, fruit, etc,) were actually bringing my costs down! Lunch was a nice green salad with a Nimble bar. You can get a lot of salads out of a head of lettuce! Newman's Own In fact I got a little “heady” and decided I could have a glass of wine for dinner the last four nights with a $3.99 bottle of Newman’s Own Merlot, a great wine that sells for up to $9 elsewhere. With Newman’s Own, I’m also benefiting the charities that they donate their proceeds to so it’s a “win-win”. A 750ml bottle is 25.4oz which translates to four 6oz glasses. Cheers!
    I’ve got this figured out!
    Final tally for Tuesday ; $3.45
    $13.20 left for the week

    Felt a little hungry this morning so I grabbed for breakfast one of my yogurts I was originally going to have for lunch. Breakfast
    When I got to lunch, I found to my dismay that my lettuce was going bad! Rats! I had pre-washed it and put it in an airtight ziplock, but I hadn’t dried it properly and didn’t put it in the “crisper” drawer in the fridge (yes honey, I know!). So, I had some slightly rusty salad for lunch along with a Nimble bar and some “humble pie” (cost: “priceless”). Then for dinner, with my 2 slices of pizza I had to substitute fruit for the salad (in addition to the grapes from the wine of course!
    Ew!  Lettuce gone bad! With my lettuce gone, I need to start re-strategizing the rest of the week now.
    Final tally for Wednesday; $4.11
    $9.09 left for the week

    Take a look at a very nutritious breakfast bowl! This is oatmeal ($ .28), with frozen blueberries ($.83) , plus a light showering of an anti-oxidant trail mix ($ .25). I usually get off to a good start with breakfast, then it’s all downhill the rest of the day! Lunch was yogurt ($ .66) and a Nimble bar ($ .33).
    My wife and I have our bocce ball league tonight and I’m meeting her there, so I’ll have to grab something before I leave. A two pack of mini burritos ($ .79, $1.49 elsewhere) looked good (remember what I said above about going downhill the rest of the day?) so I had those along with a banana ($ .20) for some extra potassium.
    Mojo bar
    While looking through our NOSH (Natural-Organic Specialty-Healthy) section I noticed Clif Mojo bars for only $ .50! With all the “Nimble” bars I’ve had this week I figured I could use a little extra “Mojo”!
    Final tally for Thursday: $3.84
    $5.25 left for Friday!


    When I ventured into Melissa Porter’s (VP of Marketing and my boss!) office I caught her eating a full size salad bowl! We sell these pre-packaged salad bowls (complete with proteins, cheese, veggies, etc., even a fork!) for only $2.99, but that still would bust a $4-A-Day budget. I think there’s something fishy going on here!

    Melissa eating salad!

    I’m in the home stretch and have a whopping $5.25 left for today! My only question left was, “what would Lois Prices do?”. I went to my old standby, 3 scrambled eggs with fruit for breakfast ($ .62). Lunch was yogurt, a Nimble bar and a banana ($1.20). So, $3.43 left for dinner… let’s see, what would I like?Glass of Wine
    Friday is always pizza night at our house, so I went for 2 slices of pizza ($1), some salad (ok, I had to borrow it!) for $.25 which left me with $2.18, I guess that means I can have an extra glass of wine! Cheers!

    Total tally: $19.82
    Not bad!

    Looking back on the week, I was surprised at how cheaply you can eat with careful planning, preparing and of course, shopping at Grocery Outlet for the best prices! I do have a new found respect for those who face a tight food budget every day as it does require considerable thought up front as well as planning and preparation for a family. I look forward to using the things I’ve learned this week to eat for less money as well as eat healthier (and store my lettuce properly!).

    What about you? What have you learned on your $4-A-Day Challenge? Leave us a comment on Facebook and let us know!

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  • $4-A-Day Challenge: Steve

    Steve Wilson is our VP of Purchasing.  He supervises all our buyers that make product decisions every day.  He's doing the $4-A-Day Challenge along with all of our executives, and wrote up how he's doing the challenge for us. 


     Steve Wilson, VP at Grocery Outlet


    Here’s his meal plan and shopping breakdown for the week:

    Day 1
    I did my shopping for the week and here’s what I bought:
    Jumbo eggs (12ct) - $1.39
    Lettuce - $0.99
    Green grapes - $1.99
    Tuna (2) - $0.79 ea
    FMI Chicken Breast 4# - $6.99 (12-14, 4-5z pieces/bag) 
    Tomatoes (2) - $0.50
    Naked Juice, 32 oz - $1.99 +crv
    Total - $16.03                

    For Day 1, I had free coffee for breakfast and a huge salad with chopped chicken for lunch.  $1.99 combined for breakfast and lunch.


    Day 2
    Dinner last night was 2 chicken breast, salad and 20 grapes...needless to say my stomach was on empty this morning, but I only spent $1.60.

    Breakfast was 3 jumbo scrambled eggs, 18 grapes and 8 oz of strawberry banana Naked Juice. Did you know that 32 oz has 47 strawberries, 3 bananas, 3 1/2 apples and a hint of orange?  All of that was $1.04.

    Lunch will be a can of tuna with a chopped hardboiled egg, lettuce and 20 grapes for $1.09.

    I also bought today:
    Bag of carrots                $1.29
    Roma Tomatoes (2)            $.40
    So far total spent for the week        $17.72

    Dinner: 3 chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad 5 mini carrots and 6 grapes. $2.20


    Day 3
    Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 chicken breast, 12 grapes and 4 oz of Naked Juice. $1.15

    Lunch will be left over tuna with chopped hardboiled egg, 1 roma tomato, 4 mini carrots and lettuce. $1.36

    Bought today:
    Roma tomatoes (2)                $.80
    Nectarine    (1)                $.33
    So far total spent for the week            $18.85

    Dinner: 2.5 chicken breast, lettuce and tomato salad, 2 mini carrots and 9 grapes. $1.82.


    Day 4

    Breakfast: 2 eggs and 1/2 a Roma tomato, 3 oz of Naked Juice and 10 grapes. $.90

    Lunch will be tuna...again! If anyone wants to try the FMI chicken breast I have one for sale at $.70. Really good but after 4 days I need something different.

    Dinner TBD.  

    The hardest part is variety.  It’s really tough to eat the same stuff day in and day out.

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  • $4-A-Day Challenge: Mike

    Michael Thomas, VP of Distribution, oversees our warehouses and distribution, making sure that our product gets from our suppliers to our distribution facilities, and then on to our stores.  Originally from Liverpool, England, Mike has a very interesting perspective on what it takes to make the $4-A-Day Challenge work:

    "Leftovers are a big part of eating on a budget. Another big part is planning, buy in bulk, make a lot of something and just keep going till it’s gone. It is far easier to think about $28 per week for four people than $4 per day. Mike Thomas, VP of DistributionThe ground beef ($2 off last week) came around again for lunch yesterday, this time on top of a couple of potatoes. Pretty easy, about $1.65 by my reckoning. It's penultimate iteration will be tonight in a chili over squash and yellow beans and it will go through to Thursday lunch over a couple more potatoes.

    Dinner last night was a throwback to the old days in the UK. Meat in the UK is (and was) way more expensive than in the USA so people of modest means used to use other proteins and have meatless meals at least a couple of times a week. My parents generation went through ten years of rationing during the war and into the Korean war so meat was actually scarce. The answer - CAULILFLOWER CHEESE - ingredients one cauliflower, 4oz strong cheese. Make a cheese sauce, pour over cooked cauliflower, eat. Cost about ($1.60 per head).

    I have to say that the teetotalers have it easy. I could have killed a beer night. If I am a bit snappy at the office today this could be a clue."

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  • $4-A-Day Challenge: Melissa

    We're kicking off our $4-A-Day Challenge week with a personal account of weekly grocery shopping from Melissa Porter, VP of Marketing at Grocery Outlet.

    I did my shopping today for the $4-A-Day Challenge. I found some great buys at Grocery Outlet that will make it possible for me to eat pretty well this week:  2.5 pounds of Foster Farms boneless skinless chicken breasts for $5.99. That's six or seven nice servings of high-quality protein. Another great buy was a big pack of Campari Tomatoes for only $1.50 and also a BIG pack of Romaine Lettuce also for only $1.50.  So my meals this week will be:

    • Oatmeal, $0.20
    • Polish sausage, $0.35
    • Sauerkraut, $0.40
    • Salad, $0.70
    • Apple, $0.50
    • Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry, $1.50 
    • Apple Cinnamon Snack Bar, $0.16

    Total for the day = $3.81

    I know I will want a pre-bedtime snack and the apple cinnamon snack bars were only 6 for $0.99.  I hope they're pretty good, because if not, I'm stuck with them!

    Wish me luck!

    Melissa takes the challenge!

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