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How far does $20 get you at the grocery store?

What ingredients would you grab from the grocery store to make a meal for $20 or less?
Homegrown tomatoes used to make homemade salsa.

The cost of food has been a hot topic over the last couple of years – reignited recently by federal MPs grilling some of the nation’s top grocery CEOs about the increased costs and what one report details as record profits. 

Typically, I find grocery shopping to be a relaxing outing - a chore that I truly don't mind doing. Whether it’s picking out ingredients for homemade meals or grabbing snacks for school lunches – it's never really bothered me... until recently. 

The pandemic, of course, threw a wrench into what used to be a relaxing time wandering down the aisles. Trips were a lot more stressful with rules and arrows. Then came the product shortages... and after that the steadily increasing grocery bills. 

I would classify my household as a fairly typical family of five – there are two adults, two growing kids and one dog. When my kids were little, I remember a big shopping trip would involve diapers and other baby extras – and paying that $150 bill was a bit of a shock. 

Now, my regular, weekly shopping trip easily exceeds $250 – and that’s without a few key items. 

We get most of our beef directly through a local farm, and I haven’t had to buy a few produce items – like carrots, potatoes, and green beans – for a good six months thanks to growing a big garden. 

I have an extra fridge in the basement that I bought specifically to store extras in the fall and early winter months – and it still has a healthy stock of homemade salsa in it. 

Recently, a fellow Great West Media journalist put out a call to see how far $20 could get people at the grocery store. The writer, Lucy Haines, opted to make chili – which allowed her to feed her family for two meals. 

So, I took a moment to think about how far $20 would get me at the grocery store. 

On Thursday night, my husband made homemade hamburgers. If we had bought pre-made burgers from the freezer aisle, our family’s favourite brand would have cost $20 just for six burgers. Thankfully, we didn’t. We have ground beef in the freezer purchased locally at a much lower price.  

A bag of buns runs about $4.50, which I grabbed fresh from the store. 

On the side, we added some storebought perogies from the freezer aisle. And, as a vegetable, the kids ate cucumbers, and we grabbed green beans from our freezer. Of course, there are the extras - like cheese and toppings - but overall, the meal for four sticks to about $20, thanks to locally grown products - and buying lots of cheese when it’s on sale. 

So, what would you make for $20? And what tricks have you found save you the most money at the checkout? 

You can email your $20 meal ideas and shopping tips to [email protected]  

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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