That being said, I came up with a plan for one person for $29 a week. Most people do get paid bi-weekly, but I'm sticking with the $29 each week for those that are limited in start-up funds.
This is a 4-week plan, because it will take that long to get enough food and basics in your rotation so that you aren't eating ramen and hot dogs every week (as I have heard some people complaining). If you have the benefit of a "head start" on pantry items, you can consider skipping down to week 4.
Week One food list
Week Two food list
Week Three food list
Week Four food list
Special tips for one person:
- It will help if you have a little bit of oil to start out with (otherwise it is included on the list for week 3). You can make do without, but most recipes will work better with some oil in a pan. If you don't have someone who can loan or sell you just a quarter cup or so of oil, hopefully you either have a non stick pan (use just a bit of water to make sure it doesn't stick) or don't mind a little burned on food.
- Bring a friend with you and split meat purchases. Some meat purchases can only be bought in "family size" packs. Let's say the smallest pack available is a 4-5 pound pack of meat. So if you are in weeks 1-3 and want to buy more than one kind of meat, you may not be able to. If you have a friend with you, many full service grocery stores will cut the meat for you and repackage it. So, if the only way to get pork (for example) for $1.99 per pound is to buy a 4.5 pound loin, you can ask the butcher to cut it up into pork chops and split it into 2 packages. Call the store first to check if this is something they will do. If the butcher won't do it, you can always share the grocery store purchases with a friend and split the packages later at your home (or theirs).
- Splitting purchases can also work for other items, including non-food items. For example, many of the large packs of toilet paper can be found for $10 and can be split into 4 individually wrapped packages without much work. If a 10 pound bag of potatoes is on sale for $2.50, you can split that using paper bags after purchasing.
- You can even split meals! If you want to cook a large meal and share the work, you can make a chili, soup, or casserole and either freeze the leftovers or share with another single friend.\
- You must use all your leftovers. If you don't need to buy more lettuce on your "shopping day" try to make it until the next week and rearrange your meal list so you use the lettuce up first. If you have leftovers of anything and it's not on the meal list, it is expected to be frozen before it goes bad (i.e. if the hot dogs have been open for 7 days, then put any extra in the freezer). It can help to write on each package when it was opened.
- If you truly have nothing in your pantry, living on this budget will require discipline. However, you may find, once you get going, that you are used to buying certain items and can recognize a good price if you see something on clearance or sale. For instance, if you see boneless, skinless chicken on sale for $1.79, you can buy that instead of the whole chicken from week 2 and use the week 4 meal list. Or change the meal list as needed to reflect actual sale prices in your area.
- Also, if you are truly in need, please use a food bank in your area to get started. Once you've built up a pantry of items, you can gradually return items to the food bank as you have room in your budget.
- If you have used all your local resources and still can't make this budget work, or are concerned about your finances in general, you can seek assistance from a counselor. Churches may provide no or low-cost counseling, many colleges have counseling centers, or if you need primarily financial counseling you can contact a local non-profit Consumer Credit Counseling Agency in your area (check your credit card statement for a phone number to call). Also, if you ever feel panicky, depressed, or unmotivated about your situation, please contact a crisis hotline (such as 1-800-273-TALK) immediately, Mental health can be just as important as financial health in keeping on track with your life. I have found that many people who are struggling financially, or in other ways, need to address something within their own mind before they can move forward.