Thrifty Food Plan: End of Week 1 and Intro to Week 2

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$172 per week, two weeks, family of 5, real food.

That is the current experience.  We’re starting completely from scratch following the monetary guidelines put out by the USDA for the Cost of Food at Home Thrifty Food Plan.  The USDA attaches a weekly dollar amount to each person dependent on age and sex.  You can check out their graph to see where your family falls.

My desire for this experience is to offer an alternative to the Thrifty Food guidelines put out by the USDA.  And if one is switching from a Standard American Diet (SAD) like promoted by the USDA to a real/whole/traditional foods diet (I’ll just call it real diet from here on) one is most likely starting with a blank slate and will need EVERYTHING.  Week 1 I had to buy everything. Salt, pepper, sweeteners, baking staples, everything. And I actually didn’t have the money to get everything I wanted.  One example is baking powder.

I often make muffins and use baking powder in them.  I actually forgot that I didn’t have baking powder until I had my muffin batter mixed up and soaking. About an hour later I was thinking what I’d put in my muffins (I use an adaptable formula instead of an actual recipe) and realized that I was without baking powder or baking soda.  I do have sourdough starter (which is allowed for use this week; you can get free starter from a friend, start your own or get it from Carl’s Friends for no charge) so decided to add 1/3 cup of starter to the batter. I actually don’t make sourdough muffins usually and guessed at how much to add. (If I wouldn’t have been so flustered I would have went to the GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse and see how Wardeh recommends making sourdough muffins.) I was quite pleased when the muffins turned out near perfect. They were moist and delicious and had a decent amount of rise.

Day 5

It’s the morning of day 5 as I start these notes. This morning Joe (my husband) said the hardest part of this week is the lack of snacks. He’s used to being able to grab nuts or a Lara bar whenever he wants.  Those items didn’t fit into the budget this week. I’ve made a few snack style items (muffins) and we have fruit but I do see what he is saying. He’d rather have nuts than an orange 🙂

Eggs with kimchee and sourdough toast  for breakfast this morning leaves us with only 4 eggs and about 1/4 loaf of bread.  I have the ingredients to make more bread.  With the money still available ($3.81) I can buy a dozen eggs for $3.  I had planned on using that $$ to buy stuff to make a salad for a dinner.  I’m not sure which I’ll do at this point.  I need to do a complete inventory of what is left and possible adjust the meal plan I had made at the beginning of the week.

On today’s kitchen agenda is doing the food inventory.  Making hummus. Making sourdough bread.  I wanted to make cracker to go with the hummus but I don’t think I have enough flour for both plus I’m thinking that I want to make pancakes this weekend so I should save the flour for that.  Instead of crackers with the hummus I can slice the bread very thin and toast it to make something resembling crackers.

Lunch was leftover tacos plus fresh made hummus with toast points and carrots.

Dinner was beyond delicious.  I marinated salmon in a wonderful citrus marinade served on top of wheat pilaf.

Snack for Christopher was yogurt with raisins. I don’t think anyone else had snacks on this day.

Day 6

Breakfast– Brown rice custard. This was an experimental dish that turned out completely wonderful.

Lunch meatballs and beans plus orange slices.

Around 2 in the afternoon Kiki decided she needed cookies. She thought maybe she could make sugar cookies using whole wheat four and Sucanat. Unfortunately we only have just over 1 cup of butter left and I don’t want that used for cookies.  She considered for a few minutes what else she could make but in the end decided nothing would be okay.  I have to admit I don’t really understand the girls obsession with sweets this week.  We don’t have dessert daily. In fact it is only a once or twice per week thing  and on rare occasion more often. But maybe the fact that we do make  something if we want it and this week we can’t is the problem.  And I can’t even make more of the fondue since we are pretty much out of anything to dip in it.  Well we do have 2 oranges so maybe that could be the only dipper.

Snack ended up being hummus with carrot sticks. A better choice than cookies anyway. 🙂

Dinner– Smorgasbord plus scrambled eggs.  I pulled out all the leftovers from the fridge and warmed them up on the stove.  I also made scrambled eggs combined with leftover cooked broccoli (I saved some broccoli for tomorrow night) and shredded cheese.  I did have to buy a dozen eggs.

I now have 81 cents left. Oops, I realized in the wee hours of the morning that I has forgot to account for the yogurt starter that I needed for my homemade yogurt earlier in the week.  I had starter left from a previous batch and used that but someone just starting out may not. And usually yogurt starter isn’t something you would get from a friend like sourdough starter.  I’ve bought those individual servings of plain yogurt before to use for around 60 cents. I’m going to take 60 cents off to accommodate for buying yogurt starter.  I now have 21 cents left.

We are coming to the end of our food. We have only 2 oranges and 1 grapefruit for fresh fruit.  About half a head of cabbage and maybe a cup and a half of cooked broccoli.  A can of wild caught salmon is the only meat.  We do have bread made (about a loaf and 3/4) and still have flour left. We have plenty of old fashioned oats, maybe 2 cups of wheat berries plus about 1 cup of rice to be cooked.  We have a quart of yogurt, raisins, honey and about half a jar of peanut butter.  We are in great shape on salt, pepper, tea bags, dried mint and Sucanat.  We have just under half a gallon of real milk along with about half a  pint of cream that was taken off the top (I usually take half and leave half turning the taken into sour cream or butter) and almost a half gallon of kefir soda. We also have a chunk of cheese, 8 eggs, whey, almost a gallon of broth, a cup and a half (or so) of sprouted garbanzos, 4 onions, a little bit of fresh ginger, about half a head of garlic, 5 lemons, 1 cup of butter, a small amount of homemade sour cream and an incredibly small amount of clabber cheese. A bit less than half a quart jar of lacto-fermented salsa and a quart plus half a pint of kimchee. I also have juice to make 3 more batches of kefir soda and tomorrow I’m going to check on the kombucha and see if it is finished brewing.  Oh and half a bar of that 100% dark chocolate.  Maybe I have enough flour that I could make a small cake with it. Or maybe chocolate muffins. I’m not sure…

Day 7

After taking and recording inventory last night, I made up today’s menu plan. I had started the week with a menu plan but had left off the final day quite honestly because I ran out of money and hoped that I would have enough things left by this point to fill in the day.

With an abundance of oatmeal, we are going to refer to today as Oatmeal Day.  We do like oatmeal and do find it to be quite versatile (I have an ode to oatmeal style post that shows some of the ways we enjoy oatmeal). So last night I put 3 cups of oatmeal on to soak that will become the basis of two meals. I also decided that part of the chocolate bar would be turned into muffins so started muffin batter to soak with uses flour and oats.  4 cups of oatmeal taken off the inventory list.

Breakfast was sourdough oatmeal pancakes with homemade syrup.  These were an experiment that turned out delicious. I made a basic simple syrup (1/2 cup Sucanat plus 1 cup water brought to a boil and then allowed to simmer) that each pancake was topped with. Have you read Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder? In that book pancakes are made and as each one comes off the griddle it is topped with butter and sugar then the next warm pancake is put on.  I used that same concept for these pancakes (minus the butter) by putting about half a tablespoon of simple syrup on each pancake as it came off the heat.  They were yummy! I also offered the last of the fruit but no one wanted any.  I’ll offer fruit later in the day. This used half of the oatmeal I’d put on to soak. 3 cups dry equals 4 cups soaked (in case you ever wanted to know that piece of information).

Lunch ended up being quite late. I think we were a little off today with the time change. We went into town and everything took longer than it should of.  By the time we were finished everyone was starving. STARVING.  Oatmeal salmon patties topped with gravy and orange slice on the side made a fast meal. That used the rest of the soaked oatmeal.

Dinner was a soup made out of pretty much anything that could go in it! Beef broth was the base with sauteed onions, shredded cabbage, sprouted garbanzo beans, broccoli, minced garlic and cilantro. At the end of cooking I streamed in 3 well beaten eggs.  The overall result was good but my broth was a bit bitter. I assume it was from the addition of the cilantro stems. I’ve put in parsley stems before with great results but apparently cilantro isn’t a good thing to add to broth.

For a snack we had muffins. I used the sourdough version of the Design a Muffin (mentioned above) and added about half of an orange cut in small bits (with the pith removed) and the remaining half of the chocolate bar cut in very small pieces.  The chocolate bar is 100% cocoa so it is rather strong. I would say these muffins are for dark chocolate lovers! The combination of the orange and dark cocolate was good. Everyone liked them except Christopher (age 3), he took out the chocolate pieces.

Week one is over!

The remaining 21 cents carries over to next week. I start week 2 with a few supplies and $172.21 to spend. All supplies also carry over.  Several things that needed to be purchased last week will not need to be purchased this week which will give me $$ to put toward other things or buy higher quality items. 

The rules remain the same. $172 (plus the carryover), an empty kitchen (plus the items purchased last week), family of 5, only foods eaten at home (per the USDA specifying this is for the ‘cost of food at home’).  We’ll be including Joe’s lunches he takes with him to work (because they are made from food at home) and school lunches (also made from food at home).  This is an odd school week. Kiki’s grade has testing Tuesday thru Friday and will have normal days but Lulu’s grade is out each day at 11 since they do not have testing.  So, woe is me, I need to drive in to town each day and pick Lulu up from school. If you had any idea how hard I avoid going to town you would feel bad for me 😉 If we happen to dine out this week that does not go into the amount. Only the cost of food at home.

I’ll be back on Wednesday to share the Week 2 shopping results and how the first couple of days of week 2 are going.  

I’d love to hear your ideas of what you would make on Day 7 with the inventory on hand at the end of Day 6. Please share in the comments.


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See all posts in the Thrifty Food Plan Series here.

Millie Copper
Millie Copper is a Wyoming wife and mama. After reading Nourishing Traditions in early 2009, her family began transforming their diet to whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods—a little at a time while stretching their food dollars. Millie is passionate to share how, with a little creativity, anyone can transition to a real foods diet without overwhelming their food budget. Millie began blogging in late 2009 and has amassed a collection of frugal recipes and methods. Her specialties include cooking with wild game and creating “Stretchy Beans”. Discovering a love of writing, she has penned four books focusing on healthy eating on a budget and is trying her hand at fiction writing. Learn more at


  1. Hannah

    Hi Millie! This is Hannah, Laurie’s daughter. I’m really enjoying this series. I’ve been feeding my family (two adults, one toddler, one nursing baby) on roughly $200/month for a couple of years now. It’s hard! But real food is important to us so we’ve learned where to cut back in other areas of our budget to afford more or better food. It’s encouraging to see how you’re making it work for your family. Good luck this week!

    1. Post

      Hannah! It is great to ‘see’ you on here! Would you share some of your tips with us? What do you focus your food dollars on?
      Your mom told me about the exciting things happening for you and your family. I am so happy for you all!

      1. Hannah

        Tip #1: If your mom is into real food, ask her what to do! 🙂 The one way I couldn’t manage without is bulk-buying. As you noted last week, stocking your cabinet from scratch is expensive and leaves your pantry lacking. I actually just started a blog and am working on a post about this very subject, due later this week. Hope you’ll stop by!

  2. NancyO

    I continue to be impressed with your detail, and wonder if you’re aware of the service this is to your readers? I have always known we could eat “leaner” budget-wise if we needed to, and am encouraged to try this as proof very soon.
    I do want to comment on your daughter’s apparent need to for sweets. I wonder if she’s experiencing a bit of emotional stress about what she sees as a lack of food, or choices, or something along that line? As a new mom I used to experience a slight panic on a deep level if my pantry got bare. I’d never been without enough to eat, but as an avid reader, had read enough accounts of people whose circumstances left them without enough food. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder recounts times of not having enough as she was growing up. As an adult I realized this for what it was (basically an irrational fear, because there was always enough to eat, just not always enough for extras) and I learned that having a deeper pantry meant we would always have enough to eat. I also learned that knowing how to be creative would go a long way in keeping us from ever “starving” if we were to experience a down-turn economically. Perhaps she needs some encouragement along these lines. I may help her to have a reminder that you won’t do anything intentionally to challenge her safety or health in this experiment, but that this is an exercise in discipline that will make her stronger in the long run both emotionally and creatively. You may already be thinking along these lines…just thought I toss in two cents though. 🙂
    I’m loving poking around your site and wanted you to know that “stretchy beans” are a staple in our house…we call them Daniel Dinners (Biblical Daniel) for their lack of meat. They’ll be on the menu even more in the coming weeks! Blessings!

    1. Post

      Hi NancyO,
      I think you are right about my girls. While we have had a food budget for the last several years, because of the way we shop our cupboards never look bare. This week we really notice the lack of food because they can see the bare cabinets/fridge. Of course, there is plenty of ‘other food’ but for the purpose of this experience it is unavailable. It has brought up some very good conversations about people who really do struggle to put food on the table. I hope it will make them more aware. And I have learned alot this week that will help me in our food storage efforts. One thing I am convinced of is that food fatigue can truly happen and I need to store more chocolate 🙂

      Thank you very much for your comment. It is good to know that this experience is helpful.

  3. NancyO

    Food fatigue…that’s one thing I’ve always wondered how I’d handle if we found ourselves eating the same thing over and over. I’m sure creativity would be helpful, but really, there’s only so much you can do. Yes, plenty of chocolate would surely help! Sounds like your creativity is kicking into high gear! 🙂

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