Eating for Pennies – Part I- Breakfast

Alright, I’ve tried again and again to show you all how to eat cheaper.  I’m still getting people commenting on how can I feed a family of two adults and two small kids for about $10/day? (Keep in mind that $10/day also includes my cleaning supplies, paper towel and other items for the house.)  To them it seems impossible.  So I talked to my wife and we are going to do a little more in depth series on what we eat and how we cook and how to eat well for pennies.  We are actually tracking everything we eat for a month so I’ll report on that later.

Generally speaking there are two main rules to follow: 1) buy more of something when it is on sale or in season or bulk (if you are going to actually use it) and 2) avoid prepackage or foods full of chemicals you can’t say or even know what they are.

So when soup is on sale by the case for about $0.50/can buy two cases and stock up.  That way you are always eating cheap soup.  The same applies to other basics like sugar or flour which keep for a long time.  For the longest time I never paid more than $5 for a 10 kg bag of white flour.  Now I can’t see to get a sale for less than $7, but it is still much cheaper than the regular $11.50 a bag.

The other rule is simple.  The more processed a food is the higher the profit margin is for the company.  Therefore buy the base ingredients and just make it yourself and pocket the margin you would have paid them for yourself.  Not to mention, home made typically tastes better!

This post we are going to focus on eating a cheap breakfast.  First off contrary to most people’s thoughts a bagel at $0.50 a person isn’t a cheap breakfast.  For two people that is $1.00 before butter or juice or anything else.  Homemade muffins are about $0.15/each.  So for $1.00 I can feed my wife and I two muffins each for 3 breakfasts for the same price.  It’s not to say you can never eat bagels, but just don’t do it every day.

So what else is cheap?  Pancakes, waffles, an egg and toast, fruit, oatmeal, buttermilk biscuits.  All of these can be made for dirt cheap and taste good.  Yet some people may wonder, how do you do a pancake or waffle for breakfast during the week?  Easy.  Make it on the weekend and freeze a pile.  Then you heat them up in the toaster (mmm, home made Eggo).

To help you get started here is my mother’s classic recipe for buttermilk biscuits.  Mix two cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp of salt into a bowl.  Then add in 4 tbsp of margarine.  Use a pastry cutter or your fingers and break up the margarine into tiny pieces and mix well.  Then add in 1 cup of buttermilk.  Mix until flour is absorbed.  Knead about 10 to 20 times.  You should now have a nice ball and no flour in the bowl.  Pat out dough on floured counter until 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with plastic cup or use a glass with a little bit of flour on the rim.  Bake ungreased cookie sheet for 12 minutes at 425 F.  Serve with margarine or butter and jam or honey.  I typically make a double batch of these so I can freeze some.  They don’t last long in my house.

Tune in next week when I deal with lunch and at some point we will also report in on what we ate for the last two  weeks.

This post is now part of the 170th Carnival of Personal Finance.

15 thoughts on “Eating for Pennies – Part I- Breakfast”

  1. Hi!

    $7 for a 10kb flour bag? Mind to share where you live? Here in Toronto, the regular price is $13-$14 (probably around $11 on sale) but maybe I don’t know the right place to buy 🙂 Any tips?

  2. Vasile,

    I’m in Regina, SK. It could be where you are shopping. I’ve noticed a lot of places really over charge on some items. For example, I almost never shop at Safeway. I can usually buy the same item at a Superstore not on sale for cheaper than Safeway on a sale.

    A good way to get a feel for prices is to watch fliers from your basic food items and write them down in a notebook or pad of paper. Half the battle is being able to look at a price and know if it is a good sale or not.

    I hope that helps,

  3. How does your eating compare to the Hillbilly housewife 45 and now 70 dollar menu?

    As I mentioned in you other post Trent over at simpledollar spends over $700 on food only.

  4. This reminds me of the classic (and wonderful) “Complete Tightwad Gazette” – I love it! Keep up the series 🙂

  5. This is a good reminder, Tim. I often wonder at people who are clipping coupons to buy the cheapest breakfast cereal, when if they thought outside of the box, they would see that oatmeal, homeade bread toasted, etc, are all cheaper still. Same principle applies to other meals…Look forward to the rest of the series! Oh, and I’ve noticed that our Costco here (Victoria) sells flour cheaper than any of the supermarkets: $9 for 10k instead of $14ish…

  6. We have few basic rules when buying food and thy are close to yours above:
    1) Buy when there is sale
    2) Buy in big quantities
    3) Buy basic ingredients
    4) Avoid brands if possible

  7. MultifolDream,

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention avoiding brand names. Thanks for the list!

    Rob in Madrid,

    Actually those menus are somewhat like how I eat. Thanks for the idea. I’ll have to perhaps try a similar format.


  8. Rice pudding is also good for breakfast: 2 cups COOKED rice, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar,1/2 tsp cinnamon, (1/4 cup raisins or currants) — combine while rice is still hot and let cool OR 5 minutes in microwave uncovered OR simmer 10 minutes stirring often to avoid milk boiling and curdling. Add optional 1 tsp vanilla. Peanut butter might be good stirred in.

  9. A much cheaper way to get flour if you can splurge at first is to grind your own. We get wheat from a farmer near us and grinding our own makes the best bread we’ve ever had. We have a family of eight so keeping costs down is paramount. We never buy canned soup…it just could never get even half as cheap as I can make my own. In fact we eat soup several times a week.

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