5 On Your Side

How to feed a family of four on $5

Posted June 3, 2009

— Feeding your family can be expensive. But what if you could make dinner for a family of four for less than $5 a night? You can, with a strategy called "Meal Planning."

With more than nine years of meal planning, Faye Prosser is a pro. She said the key is overstocking. When Prosser finds deals on items that keep, she stocks up.

"I start with my overstock: fridge, freezer, pantry," she said.

Prosser has a master meal plan list.

"It's basically just a list of the favorite foods, the favorite dinners that we like to eat as a family," she said.

Prosser then selects meals from the list, based on her overstock.

"Realistically, I make about 80 percent of my meal plan based on what I already have in the house," Prosser said.

The remaining 20 percent is anything fresh she needs to complete the meals. She says the system ends dinnertime stress.

"I always know what we're going to have. There's no guessing. There’s none of that at 5:30 p.m. the kids’ saying, 'Mom, what's for dinner?' And I'm thinking, 'Hmm, I have no idea,'" Prosser said.

Because Prosser uses her overstock that she bought deeply discounted through sales and coupons, or even got for free, and then supplements with fresh items on sale that week, the meals are also low cost.

"The great thing is you can actually provide meals for $5, or less per meal. That is my goal every night," Prosser said.

Prosser said all you have to do to save is get started.

"You need to give yourself a good 10 to 12 weeks to get your couponing in line, to understand what the different store promotions are and to start your meal planning. And this is where it all starts," she said.

Prosser has so much overstock that she often donates it to area charities.


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  • queene01 Jun 9, 2009

    coupons are actually pretty good. I make sure to put them in the buggy when I buy the product, so I dont have to hold the line up. Then just give them to the cashier at the end. I saved 60$ the other day at the grocery store, with coupons & MVP. That's a new pair of shoes!!!

  • abswitala Jun 8, 2009

    A good friend and stay-at-home mom of two has inspired me to coupon. Hey kids are coupon holders and are with her as she shops for good deals. Her husband is a waiter and this is her way of contributing to the family without paying the high cost of childcare. She does this because she wants to spend time with her family and she often MAKES money when she goes shopping. She has inspired me. She does couponing because her family is in great financial need. Those who are not should not speak harshly about those who do this out of necessity to be wise stewards of their money.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Jun 8, 2009

    I would like to see the Nutritional Information before I can commit to this approach. Typically, cheap products are excessively high in sodium and not well-balanced in other areas.

    My family and I do use coupons, but we are very focused on what products we would purchase. We also ensure the coupons are valid, and we are ready to go at the cashier's line to minimize time spent.

  • psm5000 Jun 8, 2009

    I fail to see the novelty here. It's actually NOT $5/day when you consider the items used on hand in the pantry, while maybe purchased on sale, still amount to more than $5/DAY. PLUS, I have been doing this since I was married 20 yrs ago and thought everyone (or at least most) did so, too. So why is this anything special?

  • fuzzmom Jun 8, 2009

    Or better yet, ask some oldtimers? A pound of dried beans, a cake of cornbread from meal and flour, and some gresh veggies from a small garden out back.

  • scubasteve Jun 5, 2009

    An example, instead of theory, would have been nice. What did the woman prepare the night of the interview with WRAL, and at what cost? What items did she already have "in stock" and at what cost?

  • brewmonkey Jun 5, 2009

    kittn - i think 'overstock' here means how the store refers to it. this lady is really saying 'stock up when it's cheap'. ex: can of beans, say normally .90, on sale at 4/$1, so she buys $5 worth while they're on special. she uses her coupons on triple-value day and gets things for close to free. chicken legs are on sale for .49/lb, she fills the freezer. now when the family says we want chicken for dinner (or whatever), she's already gotten everything cheap. if you have a lot of pantry (and freezer) space, ideally you get the majority of your groceries only when they're really cheap, and use them as you need them.
    doesn't do much for fruits and veggies, though. and yes, this story is pretty poorly written. (disclaimer: all numbers were made up, and no animals were harmed. except the chickens.)

  • kittnkboodle Jun 5, 2009

    Well... this sounds great but after you calculate the cost of the overstock, you don't really have a meal for $5 per night. What am I missing? If someone wants to buy me overstock, let me know and I will get on the plan!

  • wcnc Jun 5, 2009

    The article was clear on how she plans her meals and spend less than $5 each....she stockpiles commonly used items in her meals and then plans her meals around the items she has on hand.

    She can give away to charity and still save $$ because some of the items she gives she bought for FREE!!

    I've heard other couponers say that if you watch one 1-hour tv show per week, then you have time to cut and file coupon and plan a grocery list and menu. you just do that while you watch that tv show and you aren't "wasting" any extra time.

    For all of those who complain all the time about high prices and no raises, you'd think people would think this is a good news story instead of complaining yet again!

  • MEME1180 Jun 5, 2009

    LOL@ Busy B. Sorry ;)