Frugal Living: Take the 'Food Stamp Challenge'

Frugal Living: Take the 'Food Stamp Challenge'

Kari Patterson is a mom and self-proclaimed penny pincher who values eating well. 

One year ago, she watched the documentary, Food, Inc. It showed a family struggling to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. The mother in the movie said it was cheaper to buy fast food hamburgers rather than a head of broccoli. 

“I just thought that this is wrong that real food is actually more expensive than Cheetos,” said Patterson.

That’s when she challenged herself to buy wholesome food on a food stamp budget - around $275 per month.

“That first month, we came in at $186,” said Patterson.

How did she do it? Patterson said she uses four simple strategies.

Waste Nothing

Patterson tries to use the whole food.

“Could you filet that for me,” asked Patterson on a recent stop at the grocery store fish counter. “I would love to keep the spine for stock.”

She does the same with chicken, making her own soup stock.

Most grocery store butchers will cut up your meat and fish for free, saving you the mess.

Freeze Seasonal Produce

When we visited Patterson in November, she was swimming in zucchinis. 

She shreds them, sticks them into one cup-sized plastic bags and puts them in the freezer. When she cooks, she simply tosses the defrosted veggies into soups and casseroles. The kids never know that they’re eating vegetables.

Patterson says if you find organic produce for under $1 per pound, consider it a good deal and stock up.

Avoid the convenience food trap

Inside Patterson’s pantry, you won’t find any cereal boxes. Instead she has bulk organic oatmeal.

“Tons and tons of oatmeal, bought on sale, organic, at New Seasons for 75-cents a pound,” boasted Patterson. “About $8 covers the whole month.”

Know Your Family’s Food Intake

Finally, Patterson says know just how much food your family eats, so you can maximize good deals.

“I just bought as many as I could use until the expiration date of May 22,” said Patterson, showing us several blocks of Tillamook Cheese, purchased on sale for $4 instead of $7.

She does the same with eggs.

“Organic eggs are usually $3.69 for a dozen at Trader Joes,” said Patterson. She got her eggs on sale for $2.50 per dozen. She bought ten dozen, because that's how many eggs her family eats in a month.

By shopping and meal planning intentionally, Patterson proves your family can eat well for less than $200 per month.

To see more of Patterson’s ideas, plus sample menus and grocery lists, click here.

For more stories in Shellie's "Frugal Living" series, visit the KATU Problem Solvers page