Skip to content

How far does $20 go at the grocery store? Readers take the challenge.

Can you make a meal for a family of four for $20? Take our challenge and find out!

In this time of rapid inflation, it's a challenge to even the thriftiest among us to stretch the food dollar. Butter over $6? A head of lettuce for $4? And let's not even start on meat prices. Shopping on the big chain's 15 per cent off first Tuesday events is a must, but that's only part of it.

Even though every aisle of the grocery store has seen substantial increases--from peanut butter to cereal to canned beans and frozen vegetables, meat and fresh produce take up the bulk of the budget now. For my $20, I got sale-priced lean ground beef, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, squash and tinned beans. The bar of cheddar cheese was a luxury add-on, but I managed to stretch that $20 to create a good-sized pot of chili that lasted for at least two meals.

Take the lead of 67-year-old Marilyn McGreer. The St. Albert senior took the $20 challenge for a ride at her local Safeway store. Calling it a great 'experience', McGreer and her husband aimed to spend the $20 to create a healthy meal for themselves and were pleased with what they came up with.

"My first choice for meat would be Atlantic salmon fillet, but that was priced too high. Chicken breast, our second choice was also too costly," she said. "So we got a package of thin-cut pork chops as the centre of the meal." The pair added whole wheat bread, eggs and bananas to come in under the $20 total.

"It's sad our food bill should come out so high," she said.

Willy Grant took the challenge too, agreeing $20 doesn’t go far these days. 

"I find I need to get creative to bring the overall cost of the meals that I prepare for my husband and I down.  I look for the deals on meat.  Recently No Frills in Edmonton had pork loin halves on sale for $1.99 per pound.  I made sure to get to the store on day one of the sale so that I wouldn’t miss out.  I bought the limit," said Grant, adding once home, she breaks the large piece of meat into individual portions, then vacuum seals and freezes them. 

"This meal is my pork loin with cherry tomato ragout made with Swiss chard, bell peppers, onions, garlic, oregano, and chilies.  It cost me $19.57 to make this with four servings.  There are only two of us, but I like to make extra so that I can eat them for lunch or dinner the next day."

Willy's pork loin and tomato ragout ($20 to serve 4)

4 x pork loin chops

2 cans of cherry tomatoes

1 large onion or 2 smaller onions, sliced

2 bell peppers, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, leaves and stems separated, both sliced

1 Tablespoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes

1/3 cup of vegetable or chicken stock or water

Salt & pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil