Could you feed yourself for $38 a week?

I'm interesting in trying, just to see if I could keep my principles of healthy eating on such a minimal amount.

Gwyneth Paltrow couldn't meet the challenge:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/food-news/67718462/gwyneth-paltrow-ridiculed-for-her-29-shopping-challenge

The Rules:
• Limit yourself to US$29 (NZ$38.50) total food budget for the week, per person.
• DON’T accept free food from friends, family or colleagues – this includes food served at work, parties or events you are attending
•DON’T use food you already have in your home* *You may use common spices and condiments already in your pantry.

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 20, 4:32 pm

Nope. Not now.

Chef_mbos, Apr 20, 5:05 pm

yes, easy, by myself.

Chef_lilyfield, Apr 20, 5:08 pm

You could fast for a couple of days!

Chef_bedazzledjewels, Apr 20, 5:25 pm

Me fast? The world would be a dangerous place to be if I had to go without food ;)

I am going to try it. One week, two people, three meals a day, for $77 - I think it would be quite difficult. Will see if I can budget some recipes first, then start in a week.

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 20, 5:35 pm

I was just thinking that. I have a garden and an orchard. Does that count? I could also, if I learnt how to shoot, eat rabbits and pheasant. I can fish as well and if I was fishing near a beach with kaimoana, I'd gather that. I love watercress and know how to gather than free as well.

I seriously doubt I could eat well on $38 a week if I had to buy everything I ate. Still, if I chose a cheap, fatty meat with bones, cooked it with a lot of vegetables and pulses and ate that for 3 or 4 days for dinner, stuck to eggs (10c each) for b/f, liver and vegetables for lunch, plus did intermittent fasting I could probably come in close to that figure. My DH definitely would rebel on the first day though.

It would mean no glass of wine with a meal, severely limiting coffee (don't drink tea), reducing my butter and eating a lot of sauerkraut which I always have plenty of and shouldn't count as food in the house because I make it.

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 20, 5:37 pm

I think it would probably be easier in the winter than the summer, as soups can be very nourishing and also very cheap, but boy it would be some challenge wouldn't it? I guess you would need time to plan it well also, so you made sure you were getting all the necessities out of the food.

Chef_strebor1, Apr 20, 5:48 pm

2 of us here and I spend $60 per week on food, that's all we have after bills, mortgage etc. If I don't need petrol I can have $80. Buys not just food but all other household stuff and personal stuff for us.
We eat very well but I must admit that at least I have a vegie garden over summer which keeps us going for a bit into winter and my neighbours swap fruit with us for vegies.
Idea of winter menu: Chicken enchilada's (home made not from a packet)
Soup Pumpkin, sausages cook 6 and make do 2 meals ie toad in the hole and sausages with vegies, mince makes lots of different meals, ie tacos, nachos, spag bol, plain mince, meat pie, meatballs, patties. bacon and egg pies, pizza make the bases at home. I also do a couple of non meat meals like beans made into patties, fish souffle, fish pie, cheese souffle.
For 2 I buy only 150-200g of meat per meal.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 20, 6:11 pm



Good Grief, you are amazing.

Chef_molly37, Apr 20, 7:58 pm

Mrs B here. If it was just food, nothing else than yes. Our budget for a family of 4 adults is $250 but that's everything, and with three of those adults female, well you can imagine what some of the budget goes on. We too have a big vege garden, but I figure the majority of people on food stamps in the US would not, just as here, people on the bones of their proverbials probably do not either, its almost a priviledge these days, whereas I thoroughly believe every household should have one!

Chef_brightlights60, Apr 20, 8:31 pm

Yes, do it all the time. Two of us here, I just spent $50 at P'n'S and $70 at Countdown and thats it for two (or three if I push it) weeks!

Chef_ruakokopatuna, Apr 20, 8:35 pm

I spent $35 at packnsave last week my meals consisted of chicken neck stew with all veges from the garden added I don't buy milk or butter or marg or bread I still have mince and a bacon hock soup I made tonight

Chef_ritebuy, Apr 20, 8:43 pm

Guess you could if you live on porridge and soup and not much else. Guess you buy sub standard ingredients. Interesting to see how it would go long term.

Chef_asue, Apr 20, 11:01 pm

Budget: $10 4 loaves bread and 3 litres milk, 2x butter on special, bacon 1kg, Pnut butter, flour, rice, banana's, onions, potatoes, coffee, $42 at Countdown but I tend to do this then shop at pak'n'save checking the savings first. eggs $7 a tray at market. This weeks necessities but it could change depending on what I run out of, ie swap rice/flour for tortilla wraps (the countdown $4 ones), buy cheaper coffee etc.
Next week I would buy meat instead of the Pnut butter, flour, coffee, eggs, bacon and rice but I get it from a butcher so approx $10-$20 and vegies from the market approx $6.
I try when I have a little extra to stock the cupboards, I also do shop very frugally, My staples I buy fortnightly or monthly are flour, eggs, bacon, coffee and cheese. Milk and bread are weekly.
If I have eggs, bacon and cheese in the house I have a meal.
Oh and things like liver and kidneys keep the meat bill down too.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 20, 11:46 pm

It is very impressive reading these posts to see how resourceful you lot are.

I'm sure I can do better than just porridge and soup. But I can see my usual choice of free-range eggs and chicken would cut into the budget, badly.

Hadn't considered cutting back coffee in this, oh dear!

The challenge means no food from outside sources, so no veggie garden, no fishing/hunting. You cannot use what is already in pantry/freezer, except spices and condiments.

I don't think oils and vinegar count as condiments so that's another expense I hadn't thought of. Please someone say they do, ha ha. It's the expense of extra things like that, that will make this hard for me.

I've informed the husband we shop Sunday, start eating on our $77 budget next Monday! Eek.

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 21, 5:41 am


Same here, well not an orchard but I have strawberries, lemons, oranges, cherries, passionfruit and grapes.
We have a winter garden also. Currently growing, miniature silverbeet, beetroot, leeks, caulis, capsicums, potatoes, herbs.
Can grow potatoes all year.

Even buying it all, well pasta and rice are cheap. flour is cheap - I already make our bread, veges cheap at local vege shops.
Chicken pieces at local chook shop - $5 a kg.

It's do-able here anyway.

Chef_lythande1, Apr 21, 6:50 am

If I couldn't 'hunt', fish, gather kaimoana, forage for wild food, scrump, or use what is growing in the garden then I doubt I could do it. At least not continuously. Cheap grain foods (bread, pasta, rice, enchilladas) would leave me in pain for the entire week. I cannot imagine a day without vegetables. The menu given in post #19 would only be acceptable to me if there were plenty of fresh vegetables. The poster didn't mention vegetables which can cost something like $7 - $20per person, depending on the season.

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 21, 10:17 am

buzzy110 vegies from the garden at moment or buy from market a bag of mixed carrot. cauli, potatoes and parsnip approx $6 lasts us 3 weeks.
We have a lot of frozen tomatoes that I use. So for instance the enchiladas I made for dinner last night, 6 wraps, 1 small chicken breast, ¼ of a large onion, grated cheese, and a jar of enchilada sauce, a a few drops of tabasco for heat. You can add other vege to the enchilada's but I don't always bother but have added in the past peppers, grated courgette and carrots. Followed by yoghurt and peaches.
Tonight I haven't got around to thinking about but it will be carrots and parsnip, potatoes, corn (from garden) and possibly frozen peas (home grown), Meat probably sausages or maybe I will cook the above vege and then make a quiche with eggs for protein.
Another night will be cauliflower crumble, cauli ½ cooked, the a cheese sauce made using some of the cauli water and wholemeal flour, add in corn kernals, onion, and parsley, then pop all into a casserole dish cover with a crumble topping and bake until golden. I would serve with either green beans or a salad depending on what I had in garden and fridge.
We have just finished the last of the beans so have had lots of meals with those. Fish if the budget runs to it is a treat on a friday night.
Saturday night might be pizza, make the bases myself then add homemade plum sauce, cheese, bacon, salami, peppers, olives, pineapple if I have it, and generally make a garlic butter one as well, left overs for lunch or dinner the next night also.
We don't eat a lot of meat, I make rissoles from canneloni beans, with brazil nuts in them and serve with a tomato pasta sauce or plum dipping sauce over spaghetti noodles.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 21, 10:52 am

One of the most nourishing things you can eat is chicken soup, made from chicken necks or frames. A lot of goodness comes out of those bones, not to mention flavour. Add some vegies that are in season, and you have a complete meal. There is nothing substandard in that!

Chef_strebor1, Apr 21, 11:04 am

I could at a push, have done in the past. Don't think I could do it currently, to be able to access food at a low price I need to drive 45mins each way, would spend that whole budget on fuel just to get the food lol.

Chef_clydris, Apr 21, 11:32 am



I agree - if I don't have my loads of vegetables I feel unsatisfied and sad :( It's the focus of my meal. I don't know how much we usually spend on vegetables a week. I am guessing $50-70.
I tinkered with meal ideas - ended up with $17 over to buy all our fresh vegetables. So back to the drawing board, cos that ain't never going to work for me.

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 21, 11:41 am



I am planning on doing a chicken, and making stock from leftover carcass and vegetable ends. Not as good as fresh carcass, of course, but it's still something from what would otherwise be waste :)

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 21, 11:43 am

Good on you, some very tasty meals can be made out of "waste".

Chef_strebor1, Apr 21, 2:57 pm

I do the 21 dollar challenge, making use of what you have and not spending more than 21 dollars, admittedly it is using up everything. I do it every couple of months, I have a son who is flatting and he comes for a meal every week, plus I give him extras to take home. Another son who is a huge but healthy eater, fruit etc . We do not buy biscuits etc as my son needed to lose weight, he lost 34 kgs. I am on a low carb diet, under my dr at the moment and no salt, so that is easy but hard. Soups etc are great, and good for the soul. I cannot have barley or soup mix which is so nice!

Chef_lazkaz, Apr 21, 7:00 pm

Very proud of my son for that, a potato couch, etc, and now going to Uni in July, progress at long last. I had several TIA's and a terrible relux problem, all good now. Lost 3.9 kgs since 2 March,

Chef_lazkaz, Apr 21, 7:02 pm

I also do not eat much meat, and find im way more creative and eat way more veges, meat is hard on digestion, if I can afford organic on special I will buy it, love seafood! eat mussels and squid and fresh fish when I can

Chef_motorbo, Apr 21, 7:48 pm

If I could amortise costs over a month or so I could do this easily. It would be fun to try if I didnt have a family of 5.

Chef_trouser, Apr 21, 8:37 pm

Ah but with a family of 5 you multiply the $38 by 5 so could you spend $190 or less on food for a week? Would that be a challenge.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 21, 11:43 pm

Of course most of us could do it, financially, if we had to - as a challenge. But the point is I think that when people have to live on that, because its their only choice, its a very different story. I imagine that it is very depressing, there wouldn't be lot of variety, and supermarket shopping would be a horrible experience of walking passed a thousand unaffordable items to select the staples that you could live on for that. Cheap rice and pasta, tins of tomatoes and a few seasonal or frozen vege. Cheap milk or milk powder, very little meat and it would be low quality, tinned fish and battery hen eggs. Very little fruit, treats would amount to plain biscuits very occassionally. It would be very hard - mentally - to live like that week after week I think. Multi-millionaire Gwyneth 'I'm better than you' Paltrow turning it into some kind of game is more like a kick in the guts for real families forced to try and make that work every week. Who the F does she think she is buying 7 limes on that budget then giving up after 4 days? I think she's merely showed once again how badly out of touch she is with the real world. I could count on one hand (maybe two!) the amount of weeks I've had to really stretch a grocery budget like that, I've been very lucky, my heart goes out to any parent who faces that more regularly, that's tough.

Chef_oli3, Apr 22, 1:43 am

It is certainly proving to be a good exercise in gratitude - for what I usually buy, in quantity and quality, without thinking twice.

I made a budget shopping list, and a meal plan, and I have had to take so much stuff off. I thought $77 for two would be easy, but 'essential' things like coffee and butter cut into actual meal ingredients, and are now luxuries!

P.S. Re: Gwyneth Paltrow - she got people talking though. Perhaps she deliberately manufactured outrage. If it wasn't for her seven limes (lol) I wouldn't be trying this myself.

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 22, 5:38 am



Can I suggest you google mooncup. If you could all manage to use one of these they would quickly pay for themselves. I have been using one for about 4 years and have not bought any 'lady products' since.
Not food related but a great way to save on your weekly supermarket spend.

Chef_pamellie, Apr 22, 7:45 am

Gwyneth Paltrow did make a point that it is very hard to go from a Champagne Budget down to a Beer Budget without feeling somewhat overwhelmed.
I know that at one time we didn't have to worry about how much was spent on groceries or what we were buying. If we wanted it then we bought it. Hence what we call a champagne budget
Now things have changed and we are totally focussed on what we need rather than want. A much smaller food budget has helped to see that we didn't really need what for us now are luxuries ie bought biscuits. Hence the beer budget in other words we no longer can afford the top of the range items like Molenburg bread, its now budget or Home brand.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 22, 9:55 am



Looking at it that way I'm already doing it. Our fortnightly spend is less than $340.

Chef_trouser, Apr 22, 10:01 am

Does this shop provide EVERY meal for the entire two weeks without resorting to 'top up spending' and lunch buying?

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 22, 3:55 pm

l have been living on $25 pw for the last 6 months and manage to eat fairly well. My biggest expense if fruit and vegetables.

Chef_huntlygirl, Apr 22, 7:54 pm



I have to disagree with your last sentence. The mistake most people make is to buy vegetables that are out of season, i.e. not cheap. You buy the cheapest veges each season, or you freeze excess of summer veges (carrots, beans, zucchini etc) for the best budgets.

Chef_brightlights60, Apr 22, 8:08 pm


Yip. Includes fish and chips twice to. They are the most expensive meals of the fortnight with $19.50 as the usual.

Chef_trouser, Apr 22, 9:23 pm

I buy cheaply but seriously I couldn't buy cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, butternut, mushrooms and all the other vegetables (POTATOES ARE NOT A VEGETABLE) for one person for 1 week for LESS than $7.

The challenge didn't allow for frozen, homegrown produce, or other foods already in the house. It had to be bought only for that week. I suppose that is because how those on food stamps in the US live.

Can I point out that freezing and bottling fruit takes up electricity, which people on food stamps are probably using with extreme care as well.

And seriously. I don't buy fruit and vegetables out of season. If they are grown in NZ and sold fresh then fine but I don't get greenhouse tomatoes, cucumber or other hothouse crops or imported fruit and vegetables.

Maybe for 1 week I could squeeze by but I couldn't do it week after week after week.

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 23, 4:57 pm

You are amazing. I often see posts in here where people say they only spend X amount of dollars but question them closely and you find that they buy lunches, get bread and milk every other day, haven't 't included cleaning and sanitary products and generally spend up to another $50 - $80 over and above what they claim is their budget on incidentals.

Coffee would be my second biggest expense and buying it from cafes is definitely outside our budget. We don't do it unless it is a special occasion - so basically about 4 times a year. Wine and beer are our biggest and once again, we don't drink out unless a special occasion and I tend to prefer cooking my own special occasion food.

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 23, 5:06 pm

Yes, I could, but it would be boring. Porridge, baked beans/spaghetti on budget bread, fried rice with a fried egg, pancakes, noodles etc. I am fortunate to live near an Asian supermarket that consistently has much cheaper veges (at the moment, capsicums are 50 cents each, cucumbers 99 cents, bananas $1.60kg, bunches of bok choy, spinach etc $1.50, potatoes $1.20kg etc etc. A few weeks ago they had corn cobs for 10 cents each!). The price of fruit and veg at Countdown and the like is truly APPALLING.

Chef_chchers, Apr 24, 11:07 am

It would be boring. And not only that, the foods you would be eating are also quite fattening which is why poorer people who have to live like that generally do not look underfed, even though they are malnourished.

Chef_buzzy110, Apr 24, 1:06 pm



I'm going to attempt to disprove the budget=boring/bad equation. Of course, what I like to eat may be some (most) people's idea of hell, and I may fail dismally.

I have worked out my meal plan for next week, and I admit it was HARD.
I stuck to a rule of $40 of my $77 on vegetables, and (sadly) crossed off the list everything that I felt I could dispense with to reach that goal. The hardest part was realising I couldn't afford even the cheapest butter AND olive oil. Refuse to back down on coffee, though! I have just two canned products: tinned mackerel and coconut milk.

(Confession: porridge does come up twice, but that is usual for us anyway).

Chef_mjhdeal, Apr 24, 4:16 pm

with large pack of bacon i can make bacon and egg pie pasta cabanara and frittata or bacon and egg 3 dishes or if stint on bacon 4 meals

Chef_sticky232, Apr 24, 7:51 pm

with no bacon I can make an egg and vege pie, a pasta dish without bacon and a frittata and its cheaper with no bacon and better for you. not having a go here - just stating you can make it even cheaper

Chef_motorbo, Apr 24, 8:36 pm

when the kids where younger. 4/5 people each meal, & 4/5 meals per chicken.
I used to buy a chicken, boil it, with onion and herbs.
& make soup out of the stock. (meal 1)
slice the breast, serve with roast potatoes veges etc.( meal2)
use the meat off the wings, & some off legs . rice rissotto (meal3)
any left over meat, was used for sandwiches, & chicken patties.
I am not saying its easy. However it was economical,

Chef_jude343, Apr 26, 3:42 pm

Porridge,
make as directed, and stir some fruit flavoured yoghurt into it for breakfast,
1 small pottle, does 2 people for 2 days.

Chef_jude343, Apr 26, 3:45 pm



Totally agree in corn season when it can get as low as 30 c per Cobb. we eat corn for lunch and dinner. apples freely available on trees . may not be first grade but can be stewed up for pies, and wiht muesli for breakfast,
Carrots can be bought really cheaply. in bulk. replace fruit with a carrot or two, tomatoes are very seasonal. and you can grow a lot of the basics. silver beet, bok choi, cabbage, for a fraction of the cost to buy,
Potatoes . buy in bulk. and pumpkins. they are very cheap about now and if you buy good ones from the grower they will store for at least 6 months . soup. it's just planning.
I would be pushing to live on$38 for one week, from scratch but with access to stored fruit veges could average it out.
Rice in 20 kgs is cheaper than buying by the kilo.
Sharing with friends and neighbours as well
Unfortunately those on food stamps probably don't have that luxury and live hand to mouth

Chef_kindajojo, Apr 26, 6:58 pm

Well I spent $6.20 on eggs at tray of 30 which will last 2 weeks or more. Vegies from the market garden $6.40 I was extravagant and bought lettuce, radishes, spring onions, potatoes, kumara. Groceries from Pak.n.Save $35. Which included coffee, butter, Sanitarium Pnut butter, peaches, ground almonds, crackers and cream as well as pumpkin, banana's, coconut milk and talc (12 items all up).
Tonight I did pizza bread and a spicy vegie Indian type soup for tea.

Chef_cgvl, Apr 26, 10:12 pm

google "live below the line"
it is a challenge living off $2.25 per person per day

the recipe book is quiet good

Chef_duckmoon, Apr 26, 11:05 pm



Thanks for the tip - I downloaded the recipes :)

I went shopping today, so can start my test tomorrow. I ending up over-spending on meat, and we'll be eating way more meat this week than we usually do - but I couldn't see any cheap deals on smaller portions.

For $52.65 I bought:
Vegetables: small bag parsnip, small bag carrots, 1 kumara, 2 broccoli, 2 bananas, 1 buttercup, small bag tomatoes, 2 avocado, 1 onion, 1 lemon ($13.02)
Meat: 2 kilos chicken thighs, ox cheek, ox heart, lamb liver ($22.24)
Other: Oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, can mackerel, coffee, olive oil, can coconut milk, 6 eggs ($17.39)

. so only $24.35 over for greens/other vegetables. Given vegetables are 3/4+ of what we usually eat, not sure how that will go, but it will be interesting.

Chef_mjhdeal, Sep 12, 1:50 pm

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