What is a five dollar grocery challenge?
I learned of this challenge from Amanda over at The Fundamental Home YouTube Channel. She completed two of these challenges, but I’m only completing one challenge. This challenge gives you five dollars with which you are required to get enough food for one person for three meals per day for three days.
Why would anyone need to do this?
This challenge is based upon the following scenario. You are supposed to imagine that all you have is five dollars and payday is three days away. What would you buy to feed yourself three meals per day? You are allowed to use condiments and spices that you may have on hand, but no other “food” can be added to what you buy.
What was my inspiration for the Five Dollar Grocery Challenge?
Since I first heard about this challenge from Amanda at the Fundamental Home, it seems only appropriate to share her videos here. Amanda’s videos are very educational. She does an amazing job of feeding her family of five on a limited budget. Check out the videos below to see what she bought with her $5.00 and how she planned her meals. Just don’t forget to come back and see how I chose to spend my $5.00.
How did Patty Cake’s Pantry approach the $5 grocery challenge?
For my five dollar challenge, I chose to go to WinCo Foods to shop. I chose WinCo Foods because they have a bulk bin area where I could purchase just what I would need for the three days rather than having to purchase a whole pound, or more, of each item. This worked well for me.
My original plan was to purchase eggs and tortillas and build around those two items. Unfortunately, eggs were nearly $1.00 per dozen. That put them out of my price range. I still could have purchased some cheap tortillas, but without the eggs, I decided I needed to think outside of the box. Since challenges like this are always better when shared, I invited a YouTube friend along with me. Aaron, from Random Life of A. Don’t forget to check out his channel to see how he spent his $5.00 and what he ate for his three days.
As I was gathering things and putting them into my cart, I remembered my 30 days of vegan challenge. The high cost of eggs made me decide to try to create vegan meals for three days with my $5. As long as I stayed away from prepared vegan food items, I decided that I might be able to pull this off.
What did I buy with my $5.00?
After realizing eggs were too expensive for this challenge, I headed to the bulk foods section. My first thought was for breakfast, so I picked up some bulk oatmeal. Quick oats are very versatile and cook quickly. They can also be used as a topping for a fruit crisp, too. I got a little over half a pound for $0.41.
Next, I decided to pick up some beans and rice since they go together well, and together, they provide all of the essential amino acids that we need in our diets. Rice is also very versatile. It can be an accompaniment to dinner or cooked in a variety of different ways, so it seemed like a good idea to have some rice for the next three days.
I checked the prices carefully. The cheapest beans were navy beans which cost $0.85 per pound. I picked up just under half a pound for $0.37. The cost for the rice was less. The least expensive rice was $0.44 per pound. I bought just over a pound of long grain white rice for $0.45.
My next stop was the produce section. I love vegetables, so I considered my options. Cabbage is a very versatile vegetable. It can be eaten raw, or fried. It can be added to soups, and stews.
Green cabbage was on sale for $0.38 per pound, so I bought a smallish cabbage.
It ended up weighing two pounds, and cost me $0.76.
Potatoes are also a good source of calories, and another versatile vegetable as they can be baked, boiled, fried, and mashed. Because of my limited budget, I carefully checked the prices.
Yukon Gold potatoes were the cheapest. I picked up one of the larger potatoes which weighted over one-third of a pound. I didn’t know what I was going to use it for, but I knew I would use it for something. The potato cost $0.27.
Next, I considered how I would add flavor to my meals. I picked up a large yellow onion that weighed about half a pound. The onion cost $0.22. Then, I selected a large bunch of green onions. These are great served on top of fried rice or beans. The green onions cost $0.38. I would have liked to buy a single carrot or stalk of celery, but these options weren’t available at WinCo Foods.
Now, I was thinking of ways to create meals out of the things that I had in my cart up to this point. I headed to the international aisle. There, I purchased one package of original soy sauce flavored ramen which cost $0.22. I also selected a package of El Guapo brand Fideo noodles. These seven ounce bags of pasta are very economical. They only cost $0.30.
Putting the fideos into my cart made me think about preparing some Sopa de Fideos which is a tomato noodle soup. In order to make this, I needed some tomatoes. I selected a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes for $0.58. I would have liked to buy a can of tomato sauce, too, but decided I could do without them.
I still had a little bit of money left, so I headed back to the produce section. I decided that I wanted something sweet to add to my meals. The cheapest fruit were bananas, but I wasn’t in a banana mood. The second cheapest fruit was pears. They were $0.78 per pound. I realized that I could add these to my oatmeal or perhaps transform them into a pear crisp using some of the oats combined with other ingredients that I had at home. I carefully weighed out what I hoped was between three fourths and one pound of pears.
According to my calculations, I still had some money left, so I headed back to the bulk bins. I didn’t know what I wanted to buy, but I studied the contents of the bulk bins as well as the ingredients in my cart, and I had an epiphany. I quickly bagged about 1 cup of raw Spanish peanuts. These cost $0.38.
I headed for the checkout while Aaron criticized my choices and questioned what I was going to make with my weird food combinations. Being a young 20 something male, he had chosen boxes of food that college kids eat, but you’ll have to check out his video to see exactly what he bought.
The total cost for all of my groceries came to (drum roll please) $4.97.
How did I use my five dollar grocery haul?
First, I should tell you what was already in the house that I added to my purchases to create these meals.
- Mayonnaise (vegan)
- “Butter” (a vegan version)
- Soy Sauce
- Bouillon Cubes (vegetable flavored and vegan)
- Dried Oregano
Meal Plan for the Three Days
- Sopa de Fideos (made from 1/4 of the onion, oil, fideos, water, 1/2 of the can of tomatoes, bouillon, and water)
- Simple Coleslaw (made from 1/4 of the head of cabbage, some green onions, a dollop of mayo, some vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar)
- Mediterranean Beans (made without carrot or celery and using only 1/4 of the onion)
- Curtido (Technically, this was cabbage relish, or pickled cabbage, made from a chunk of the head of cabbage, a bit of yellow onion, green onion, vinegar, salt, and oregano.)
- Fried Potatoes and Onion (made from the diced potato, and a piece of the onion, fried in oil with salt and pepper)
- Green onion for garnish
- Cinnamon Oatmeal (oatmeal, cinnamon, and sugar)
- Leftover Beans from Day 1
- Leftover Curtido from Day 1
- Spanish Rice (made with remainder of canned tomatoes, a small bit of the onion, bouillon cube, and half of the white rice that was sauteed in oil prior to cooking).
- Leftover Fideos from Day 1
- Leftover Coleslaw from Day 1
- Dessert of Pear Crisp in a jar (diced pears with topping of quick oats, cinnamon, sugar, and butter)
- Oatmeal with diced pears, sugar, and cinnamon
- Peanut Fried Rice (made from half of the peanuts, cabbage, a slice of onion, cooked rice, soy sauce, oil, black pepper, and topped with sliced green onions. It was surprisingly good without meat or eggs.)
- Ramen Stir Fry (made with cabbage, onion, oil, peanuts, and the seasoning packet that came with the Ramen)
- Pear Crisp in a Jar for dessert.
What did I learn from this experience?
The thing about this meal plan was that we actually had enough food to feed two people for three meals for those three days, and there was some leftover Spanish rice and Ramen Stir Fry (a.k.a. “chow mein”). I ate the leftover Spanish rice with some eggs and cheese the next day for breakfast, and Food Critic finished off the Ramen Stir Fry which he called “chow mein” for lunch. Overall, the Five Dollar Grocery Challenge was a great experience. We didn’t feel deprived, though we had to modify some of our recipes to make them work with these restrictions.
What helped us to succeed?
I don’t know how well the Five Dollar Grocery Challenge would have worked if we hadn’t been able to purchase food from the bulk bins, but it worked for us. This whole challenge made me think that we could probably reduce our grocery budget, even more than we already have, by being a little more creative with our meal plan. This could help us to pay off our debt even faster.
What do you think about the foods that I chose for this challenge? Do you like the meals that I came up with? Would you have done anything differently? Would you like to see us do more of these sort of challenges? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.