Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Can You Buy With $20?

This image, originally from My H.E.B Texas Life magazine's January 2012 issue, caught my attention when it was shared in The Dinner Garden's blog and on their Facebook page (an excellent organization, worthy of your support if you have the means to help them) a little over a week ago.  Several people commented that there is no way it would cost that little to buy all that stuff where they live, so I thought it would be an interesting idea to see how much this stuff would cost where I usually shop.  Since this list didn't specify whether the items were on sale or not in the graphic, we went by sale prices when applicable and regular prices when not (I think the only thing on sale was the kidney beans, but since I had my husband and son do this while I was doing the real shopping, I'm not 100% sure).  So here are the prices we found on a random day at a store in Michigan:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts: $2.99

5 lbs potatoes: $2.99 (we found it interesting to note that organic potatoes were the same prices as conventionally grown potatoes!)

4 piece steamable cob corn: $2.69 (fresh corn was 4/$1.00)

1 lb oranges: we called it $1.00, since they weren't priced per pound, but 1 orange, weighing about 3/4 lb cost $0.79

1 gallon skim milk: $2.99

1 lb ground beef (couldn't find a percentage on the label): $3.99

32 oz tub of light vanilla yogurt: $1.93

18 oz canister of oatmeal: $2.19

1 lb frozen green peas: $1.25

1 lb dried kidney beans: $1.50

For a total of $23.52, so if the grocery budget was $20, we'd have to put something(s) back from this list for the week!  Still, if some of the items were on sale, it is very possible.  How about where you live?  Go ahead and click the print button below, take the list to the store next time you go and price out the items on this list, then report back your findings to see how prices compare elsewhere.


  1. 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts: $1.69

    5 lbs potatoes: I just bought 10 lbs for $2.89 so call it $1.45

    4 piece steamable cob corn: canned corn equivalent 59 cents or a bag of fzn $1

    1 lb oranges: $1
    1 gallon milk: $3.89

    1 lb ground beef $2.49
    32 oz tub of light vanilla yogurt: $2

    18 oz canister of oatmeal: I pay $1.99 for 42 oz so 85 cents

    1 lb frozen green peas: $1

    1 lb dried kidney beans: $1

    So $16.37 if I added correctly. The key for me is to stock up at rock bottom prices, shop alternative stores, home grown and can, etc. I pull ingredients together the night before, knowing that i paid the best prices possible, or the item wouldn't be on hand. I just took my last pot roast out of the freezer. We won't have it again until it hits $2.49/lb or less. I am a price book person, too.

  2. That's a good challenge! I'll have to check the prices here in ny.

  3. Thanks for doing this challenge! I am interested to see what everyone else says. Holly from

  4. What I posted when it was at The Dinner Garden's FB page --

    I can do it for about $20 in Hannaford Supermarkets, in Vermont, with only a few substitutions. None of these things generally qualify for coupons (sometimes I get milk coupons), but they do have store brands for some of it. Biggest substitution would be the beef --no way could I get 96% lean and stay in the budget.

    Best-case scenario:
    $2.80 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast *
    $2.50 5 lbs potatoes
    $1 1lb frozen corn
    $1.30 1lb oranges **
    $3 gallon milk
    $3.40 1lb 85% lean ground beef ***
    $2.19 32oz plain lowfat yogurt
    $1.50 18 oz oatmeal ****
    $1 1lb frozen peas
    $1 1lb dried beans

    *from a 2.5 Lb.package of Hannaford Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast for $6.99
    ** 3lb bag usually goes for $4
    ***sale price, otherwise I could only get 80% lean
    ****store brand: $3.49 for 42oz, vs $2.50 for 18 oz

    For a few things, I'd have to split a larger size with a friend to keep that week under $20 total outlay, or else account for it spread over multiple weeks.

    If I could make a bigger substitution, it would be a dozen eggs ($1.79) and 15oz canned mackerel ($1.99) instead of the pound of ground beef.

  5. Almost 1/3 again in Florida. I can get a $5 off $50 coupon, or occasionally $5 off $30 coupon from my local grocery that lets me buy non-processed food, but the milk is over $4, the ground beef [which I rarely buy due to the cost] was over $5, and the frozen veggies are over $2 a bag.

    The only items cheaper were the dried beans and oranges. The beans were on a buy one/get one free and the oranges, being local, were also buy one/get one free, with approximately 5 lbs per bag and one bag for $3.99

    To make this budget, I'd be buying local fish or shrimp from the guy who comes 'round the local strip mall and sells it out of the back of his camper. That way the local shrimp [which is HUGE] drops from $10 a pound to $6 for the 21 count. Then I go to the flea market or drive all the way downtown to the farmer's market, buy whatever local produce is in season, and supplement with dried beans of assorted varieties which are rarely over $1.29 for a 1 lb bag and often on the buy one/get one.

    The trick is to stock up and fill your freezer in summer when the local stuff is fresh and cheap, rather than buying the supermarket frozen veggies. Same for fruit. We have strawberries local here, along with peaches from Georgia, so you can fill a freezer, then eat well thru the winter without being at the mercy of the supermarkets who overcharge for foreign food.

    Right now mine is pushing SPANISH clementines in Florida, when we're one of the top 5 citrus producers in the world! What's wrong with this picture? And that import is EXPENSIVE!

  6. I stock up on things when they are on sale instead of buying a weeks worth of groceries at a time, but here is what I bought recently and am eating now:

    5-pound bag of frozen chicken nuggets for $4.88 (97 cents a pound. Usually $5.95 a bag. Nuggets are all chunks of solid white meat, not pureed mush with filler, and only lightly coated for cooking. I filled my freezer)

    Dried beans $1 a pound (store had a special sale. I got Kidney, cranberry, navy, pinto, garbanzo, white. I bought about 30 pounds but wish I had bought more)

    Pancake mix - about 90 cents a box after buy 1 get 1 free. It's complete - only add water - so is cheaper than making it from scratch since I don't usually keep milk on hand.

    Veggies - My garden is still producing collard greens, since it's been a mild winter. I'm still using frozen tomatoes from my garden (to make chili and use those beans) I stocked up on canned veggies when they were 39 cents a can, and still have a bunch squirreled away in the back of the cupboards and closet.

    Peanut butter $1.50 a jar. I stocked up when it was on sale buy 1 get 1 free and have enough for about 6 months of PB & pickle, PB & banana, PB & honey, PB & J sandwiches.

    Snacks: I go to the weekly flea market and buy outdated snacks. I figure that if a bag of nuts or candy bar has a shelf life of 2 years, then a couple of extra weeks won't matter. I bought 6 oz bags of mixed nuts & dried fruit 3 for a dollar, large energy bars, 5 for a dollar, and small energy bars & candy bars, 8 for a dollar. By the way, the Betty Crocker Turtle energy bars, with caramel, are very good. They taste so good I wonder how they can be healthy and also have so much protein! Of course, I buy them as for a snack, as candy and not as health food, but even so, eating a chocolate energy bar is better for me than eating a chocolate candy bar. Or at least not quite as bad.

  7. Fabulous! I will check prices around here too. I love this post! Notice there is no soda or processed foods on that list!?!? Yes!

  8. We don't eat grains or milk (we do drink 1/2&1/2 though) so I don't even know how much they cost. For the rest, I'll go with the cost from the last time I bought them.

    1 lb chicken breast - $.97 (bone-in though so I got extra use out of it in chicken stock)

    5 lb potatoes - $1 from the dollar store

    4 ears of corn - we don't eat corn so I'll sub a 1 lb bag of carrots - $.33 (3lb/$1)

    1 lb oranges - $.33 (3lb/$1)

    1 gal skim milk - we don't drink milk but we do use 1/2&1/2 to make ice cream - $5

    1 lb ground beef - $2

    32 oz ice cream - ok, I already have the 1/2&1/2 ($1.25/32oz), 1/2 dz eggs ($1), honey ($.50), maple syrup ($.75), vanilla and salt(negligible). total - $2.25

    18oz canister of oatmeal - assuming 18 oz lasts 2 mornings for 4 people, converting oatmeal to eggs would be <2 dz eggs for us but rounding up to 2 - $4

    1 lb bag of frozen peas - $1 from the dollar store

    1 lb of dried kidney beans - $.75

    grand total - $17.63

  9. Interesting challenge, Chris. I have a corollary. How many meals for four would you get using this list?

  10. Since I didn't make up the list, I'm not sure what they had in mind for making with it, but it looks to me like it could feed a family for 2-3 days, most likely.

  11. Excellent challenge. I have printed this out and will be taking it with my children to the grocery this week. This is a wonderful lesson in economy.

  12. I'm shocked! I came in at $16 even. I went to the cheapest place in town - and bought in the bulk bins for the beans and oatmeal. The chicken was bought in bulk from Costco. I am sure if I just bought 1 lb I could still do in for under $20. I'm in rural California where I thought everything was more money. We're at 3.70 for a gal of gas though - ;-(

    1 lb chicken boneless chicken breasts 2.99
    4 ears of frozen steam-able corn cobs 1.95
    1 lb of oranges .58
    1 gallon skim milk 2.50
    1 lb gr beef 3.18
    32 oz low fat vanilla yogurt 1.98
    18 oz oatmeal (bulk price) .91 lb rounded up to $1.05
    1 lb of frozen peas .78
    1 lb of dried kidney beans (bulk) .99

  13. oh wait, I forgot to add in the 5lb bag of potatoes at $ 1.78 for a grand total of $17.78

  14. I mostly am a co-op, organic shopper and am drooling at spending $20.00 and I am from VT.
    1 lb free range grass fed chicken boneless chicken breasts 8.50
    1 bag of frozen organic corn 2.50
    1 lb of organic oranges $4.00
    1 gallon local GMO RSbT free whole milk 5.00
    1 lb local grass fed/ free range ground beef 6.00
    32 oz Stonyfield Whole Milk yogurt 4.00
    18 oz oatmeal (bulk price) $4.00
    5 lb bag potatos- $4

    1 lb of organic frozen peas 2.50
    1 lb of dried kidney beans (bulk) 1.00
    grand total- 41.50, double...all none sale prices of course. on sale with coupons I could probably save 5-10 dollars at the co-op on these items.

  15. I checked prices today when I went to the store. I couldn't do it either. I blogged about my trip.

  16. That's really awesome, thanks for sharing!

  17. I can do it at Winco, but now that has risen so much I cant go there. I could probably do it for that at my local Walmart minus the ground beef, which I dojtllnt eat anyway.