How to Feed a Family of Four Across Seven Days for $200 (+ Recipes)

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With grocery prices at record highs, we’ve put together a guide for a week’s worth of healthy meals

There’s no getting around this simple and unpalatable fact: It’s pretty stressful to go grocery shopping these days.

Thanks to the skyrocketing cost of inflation — which climbed to a 40-year record high of 9.1% in June compared to last year — food has never been more expensive.

The price of pantry staples such as bread and cereal has jumped nearly 14%, according to the Consumer Price Index, and dairy products are not far behind, costing an average of 13.5% more than a year ago. The price of meat, poultry, fish and eggs will also leave a shopper reeling from sticker shock, and don’t even get me started on what a bag of Lay’s potato chips will set you back these days. (A 13-ounce bag costs $5.49 at Target. Target!)

As the PG’s food editor, my job is to cook — a lot. And while I try (really) hard to choose recipes that are as easy for the average cook as they are inspirational and great tasting, it’s gotten considerably tougher in recent months to also make them 100% affordable. Having raised five kids, including three always-hungry sons, I know firsthand how expensive three meals a day can be for a family in good economic times. I can’t imagine doing it today, especially when the cost of everything else we need on a daily basis is rising, too.

The Challenge

Yet I’m also a problem-solver who has penny-pinched at meal time for decades. So I decided to make myself this challenge: Prepare a week’s worth of meals for a family of four, completely from scratch, for around $200.

Why that number? The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program currently allots $215.10 a week to a four-person household to cover the cost of groceries necessary to provide a “healthy, budget-conscious diet” under its official Thrifty Food Plan. I wanted to know what that would buy you in Pittsburgh and whether you could make three squares a day taste good on a budget.

By Gretchen McKay

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