A recent conversation about how much food you can buy at grocery stores for $32 sparked fierce debates between dozens of Reddit users.
The argument started when one user posted about a recent shopping trip that cost her $32 even though she didn't buy much: various kinds of fruit, some nuts and a soda. She complained about the rising cost of healthy options, noting that it was cheaper to buy junk food or McDonald's. Others on Reddit disagreed, arguing that, while it takes some work, you could eat healthy, even for a full week, on $32.
Could I restrict my food spending to $32 for one week and still make decent, satisfying, reasonably healthy meals? I decided to try it and see.
I challenged myself to create a week's worth of budget-friendly, nutritious menus, noting that there are plenty of Americans who must do just that on even less. The average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit in 2018 amounts to roughly $1.40 per person per meal.
My meal plan included pasta salad, rice dishes, pan-fried chicken and a kind of frittata. For the purposes of my test I assumed that I would already have on hand pantry staples like oil, salt, pepper and seasonings, as well as condiments like ketchup and mustard.
A sampling of the meals made with a $32-a-week grocery budget. Source: Megan Leonhardt.
The final shopping list for 21 meals came to 23 items. I took that list to four popular grocery chains: Acme, Aldi, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
Here's how I fared trying to buy my ingredients for just $32 at these stores, ranked in order from most difficult shopping experience to most successful.