Posted by: brianandbethany | July 5, 2009

$5 a Day for Food [Budgeting 101]

We had the audacious idea to try to spend $5 a day on food all summer long. For both of us.

While we had several exceptions (using coupons, using food we had already purchased, taking much appreciated help from parents and friends who are providing food for us), we quickly discovered that it was very difficult to do this at all, much less while living on the road and not being able to use our own groceries and kitchen all the time. While we would sometimes get close, there were many other times where we would spend $10 or $15 for both of us. We’re still going to keep trying to do our best with it for the rest of the summer, but it may be when we get settled in our apartment and have an income, our own kitchen, and a routine schedule that we better discover how to live on a reasonable food budget.

However, even while traveling there are a few things we have picked up and tricks we have learned:

  • Pack lunches while going on road trips or multi-hour activities. We have been taking rice-cakes with peanut butter or tuna and cheese, for example, as well as apples.
  • Some fast food restaurants have some great money-saving deals…Chick-fil-A has many great coupons for things absolutely free on their calendars, Arby’s does a special every Wednesday where they give a great give-away with purchase of another item, Wendy’s gives free burgers with a phone survey, and Sonic always has Happy Hour slushes everyday from 2-4 pm!
  • IMG_2625Not only is fresh fruit and veggies good for you, but they are also cheap. Wal-mart sells cucumbers for .48 and hummus for $2, dipping cucumbers in the hummus is delicious! They also sell massive sub sandwiches (larger than a 12 inch) for a little under $6. We’ve also eaten a lot of bananas (.32 a pound) and yogurt (.50 each).
  • Hang onto your condiments and plastic ware from fast food restaurants! They come in handy when you are on the go.
  • Carry nalgenes or camelbacks in the car and order water as often as possible. Not only is it better for you–it’s free! You can refill plastic bottled water with tap water and refrigerate it and you probably won’t tell the difference when you drink it later.
  • Eat a light meal for lunch or dinner and a little more for the other. This helps you save money and eat better portions.

All in all, we’ve discovered that it is possible for two to eat on 5 bucks a day. But we need the right environment and little more willpower. Hunger and thirst make you do crazy things, like spend $1.75 on gaterade bottle. ouch. Almost half our budget for the day!

We’ll probably have more tips or stories later when we get settled (and as we continue to try to do this this summer).

What ways do you guys save money on food usually? While on the road? Any special deals you guys know about?

– Brian & Bethany



  1. Hey!

    My mom used to write–along with her friend–a national newsletter called Big Idea Small Budget which was all about euntrepenuers and budgeting. Her and her friend would take turns feeding our family’s for less than $60 a week. At the time, we were a family of five to eight kids. I never knew which week was or wasn’t the budget one. It is amazing how cheaply and well you can live when you really try.

    Recently, my granddad gave me the best recipe for chicken and rice. It’s delicious and really cheap.

    Love you two. You should map where you’re going on a google map so everyone can see!

    • I can’t believe your mom fed your family for 60 bucks a week. she’s amazing. If we end up with a big family, I may be talking to ya’ll about that. Hey, I’d love to have your awesome chicken and rice recipe if you’d share it! you can email it to me (impact email still works). miss you!

  2. Add to the list: pocketsized condiments/napkins from the store, Preferrably whole foods. Sometimes they have like little butters and jellies that you can grab a few off and stock up on instead of buying the jars…especially if you only need them once in a while.
    they also have flavored syrups like the kind you put in coffee…but i don’t think you’d make it out of the store with those 😛

    you can do this with ketchup/mayo/etc at fastfood places too…

    just note that when you have teens this will look very err, funny, (*wink wink*)
    good idea! haha.

    • thanks, Tiffany! I love anything from whole foods! seems like everything is cuter when its smaller, too. I’ll have to look for these next time I go!

  3. When it comes to spending money on groceries, I know very few, if any, people, who do it more economically than I do. But much of what I do involves actually living at home and I’m unclear if that is your situation right now, as I keep seeing blogs that seem to involve travel! But if you’re interested and living in one place, let me know and I’ll gather my thoughts and give you my best tips.

    • thanks so much, Debbie! we are traveling until august, but then we should be more settled. I’d love to hear your tips then!

  4. I went to college with Brian and I have been enjoying your blog! I don’t know if you would have access to a freezer at one of your parent’s houses, but my husband and I have a cow processed every other year and it saves a ton of money on meat in the long run. Also, I make casseroles made for a 9X13 pan and cook one in a glass 8X8 pan and freeze one in a tin 8X8 pan. This allows us to eat it for a couple of days and still have one to enjoy later on in the next 6 months. It really helps with food waste. Just wanted to pass that along!

  5. what a great idea! I’ve never thought about having a cow processed. I don’t know when we’ll have access to a chest freezer or anything, but I’d love to try that. And I like casserole idea could work really well to split a recipe in half and freeze part of it. when you are cooking for 2, you just don’t need to prepare much food. Thanks for the tips!

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