Happy Friday y’all!
Had a blast from the past when this AWESOME comment popped up, and thought it was helpful to share in case anyone else is struggling with keeping their food costs down :)
If you were around last year, you might remember a post we shared on how my friend Dan budgets for his family of 8 (2 parents and 6 kids!!), and one of the sections that exploded was how he feeds his family on less than $1.00/meal.
It was pretty hilarious to see all the opinions and naysayers come out basically calling him a liar (that’s the internet for ya, eh?) so we ended up running one of these views with hopes it would spark even more convo and people would then share how they themselves eat so well on the cheap.
It worked (200+ people chimed in!) and you can find that one here: How in GOD’s NAME do you spend so little on food??
Then Dan gave a rebuttal and that only fueled the ideas and opinions even more, turning into another epic convo (180+ comments): How to Eat on Less Than $1.00/meal
Which brings us to today’s comment…
While people shared a lot of insight and you should totally check them out if you have the interest (and time!), this person here really stood out with her own set of “rules,” and offered a slew of real-life examples to boot. Even though I couldn’t follow half of them myself, particularly #2 (I love meat!), #5 (I suck at cooking) and #6 (don’t take away my cereals!!). We’re all different though, so I’m sure you’ll find something to take away from this :)
Oh! She also came back to drop some great recipes too! So look for that at the end of the post… Talk about some quality comments, boy. Hope this helps!!
*** Janet’s Tips on Making (Healthy) Meals on The Cheap! ***
My goal is making nutritious meals for $1 to $2 a day per person…
- Choose nutritionally dense foods
- Use meat and cheese sparingly
- Buy food on sale only, and in bulk when price is right
- Keep meals more to the simple side
- Cook from scratch and make own bread
- Give up cold cereal for breakfast, it’s very expensive and not much on nutrition
- Snacks are fruit, vegetables, pretzels, tortilla chips or nachos (we don’t buy potato chips, cheetos, crackers, ice cream, etc.)
Here’s what some of our meals look like following these rules:
- Brown rice n’ raisins / milk / boiled egg
- Blender whole wheat pancakes / fruit
- Oven pancake / fruit or juice
- Oatmeal pancakes with applesauce
- Oatmeal with craisins / milk / boiled egg
- Cooked blender cracked wheat with butter n’ honey / fruit / boiled egg
- Scrambled eggs / whole wheat toast / juice
- Hash browns / fried eggs / fruit
- Green smoothies / toast
- Blueberry muffins / yogurt / banana
(We often include homemade whole wheat/whole grain bread, rolls, or muffins (our favorite are oatmeal muffins). Every so often I’ll bake french bread or make homemade refrigerator crescent rolls or even popovers, and for cornbread and corn muffins we use stone ground cornmeal medium grind.)
- Homemade pepperoni pizza / veggie tray with homemade ranch dressing OR salad (romaine, shredded red cabbage, homemade cream italian dressing)
- “Chicken-Fried” dinner patties / mashed potatoes / creamy gravy / green peas (the pattie is made from oatmeal and eggs, tastes like a chicken pattie)
- Baked yams / siraccha deviled eggs
- Siraccha egg salad sandwiches / green salad
- Frittata (eggs, potatoes, spinach, green onions, cheese)
- Lentils n’ eggs / sous vide carrots
- Italian sausage stew (has lentils, cracked wheat, sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes)
- Lentil tacos with lime, cilantro, sour cream, salsa (family fave, sometimes we add chorizo purchased at a local store where they make their own, not the awful junk found at grocery stores)
- Tuna salad on whole wheat / roasted potato chunks with kale
- Crusty tuna patties / garlic mashed potatoes / green beans
- Chicken noodle (homemade) soup with vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, cabbage, potatoes, kale)
- Mom’s chicken tortilla soup with crushed tortilla chips and cheese
- Italian tomato bread soup (cubed leftover homemade french bread croutons) The soup is made of home canned tomatoes, garlic, onion, home grown basil (grown year indoors)
- Chili (with ground beef) / corn muffins / salad or celery sticks
- Southern pinto beans / cornbread / carrot sticks
- Burritos / mexican rice or cilantro-lime rice / radishes or cucumbers
- Creamy mac n’ cheese / steamed broccoli n’ carrots
- Spaghetti (has ground beef) with homemade oven sauce / steamed broccoli / homemade french bread
- Bacon fried rice / steamed carrots and peas
- Black beans over rice with cheese (black beans, sausage, onion, oregano, tomato sauce)
So, if we have spaghetti, sauce, broccoli, and bread, here is the cost breakdown for 5 adult servings:
- Extra fiber noodles, yearly sale: 50 cents for 14 oz.
- 1/2 lb. ground beef (on sale for $1.99 lb)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, 3 cents
- 1 yellow onion on sale, 8 cents (every fall 25 lb. for $4.00, some of them we dice and freeze)
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes, 40 cents per can on case lot sale
- 1 can tomato sauce, 20 cents per can on case lot sale
- Dried Italian seasoning / fresh basil, 2 cents
- Fresh broccoli on sale, 1 and 1/2 lb. 89 cents
- French bread made with unbleached flour, 36 cents per loaf
Total: $3.48 / about 70 cents per each of 5 servings
Now let’s say we have oatmeal n’ craisins for breakfast, and baked yam/deviled eggs for lunch:
- Oatmeal per serve, 4 cents
- Craisins, 1 T. , 8 cents
- Milk, 1/2 cup, 8 cents
Total: 20 cents/serving
- Yam, 1 person, on sale, 38 cents
- Butter, 2 T., 4 cents
- 3 halves deviled eggs, 21 cents
Total: 68 cents/serving
[Editor’s note: I would have to eat two bowls of oatmeal to fill me up at breakfast + orange juice (I take it her family drinks a lot of water?), and then probably 3x yams & deviled eggs for lunch, haha… But yeah, would def. still be cheap! And just something to keep in mind too – that these are all things that work for *her and her family*, so we’d have to adjust as needed/wanted.]
DAILY Food Total for that menu would be: 88 cents/person. Add in 70 cents for dinner and you’re looking at $1.58 for the day.
This is of course based on prices/sales/bulk that I bought recently. But shows you the idea in action. If we chose… brown rice n’ raisins / lentil tacos / chicken noodle soup – the total for one person that day would be: $1.10
Again, my goal is for the meals to be one day/per person, under $2.00 and to get daily cost as close to $1.00 per person as possible.
*** Some Good Recipes to Use! ***
[Legend for those non-cookers like me: c. = cup, T. = tablespoon, tsp. = teaspoon]
I make my patties a bit different, but wanted you to see this site: http://theprudenthomemaker.com/chicken-fried-steak. She has some frugal recipes that might help a few people, although I think there’s a lack of protein to address in some of them.
BLENDER WHEAT PANCAKES:
- 1 and 1/4 c. dry whole wheat kernels (also called berries)
- 1 and 1/4 c. milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 T. oil
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt or sea salt
Put dry wheat, milk, eggs, oil, vanilla in a blender. Blend on low until smooth, about 5 minutes. Put mixture into a bowl, add baking powder and salt; stir until mixed. Cook pancakes on medium high. Makes 12 to 16 pancakes.
This is the only way some of my family will eat oatmeal for breakfast… I like that these pancakes have very little flour, just mostly oatmeal, yet they turn out light. Can easily double or triple this recipe.
Mix in a bowl, let sit, covered, about 30 minutes or longer:
- 1 c. quick oatmeal
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 T. oil
- 1/4 c. unbleached flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt or table salt
Add egg, oil, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well, adding some water as needed for batter consistency (it usually takes up to about 1/2 c. water). Cook smallish pancakes, 3 or 4 at a time: spoon batter onto heated (medium heat), oiled, fry pan or skillet. When top is bubbly and puffed up, and underside golden, turn pancake, cook until done. Serves up to 4. Top with syrup or applesauce.
This is where our first lentil tacos came from, but we ended up adding more seasonings after we tried these: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/tasty-lentil-tacos
FAVORITE OATMEAL MUFFINS:
These muffins are great with soups, salads, or for breakfast… Our family favorite!
- 1 c. dry quick oatmeal
- 1 c. milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 T. sugar
- 1/3 c. oil
- 1 and 1/4 c. unbleached flour**
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 12-muffin tin. In large bowl: mix oatmeal and milk; let sit a few minutes. Then add egg, sugar, oil; stir. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Stir all with a fork JUST to moisten. DO NOT over-mix. Spoon batter evenly in greased muffin tins. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Done when tops bounce back to touch. Makes one dozen.
**I like to use 1 c. unbleached flour + 1/4 c. whole wheat flour for more grains/nutrition.
Desserts for us are not everyday, but when we go for them I like to base them on fruits or vegetables: http://www.goodenessgracious.com/2013/09/easy-peach-cobbler.html
Low fat and delish! My most requested recipe…
- 4 eggs
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 2/3 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. oil
- 3/4 c. milk
- 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 c. flour (or 1 c. flour + 1 c. whole wheat flour)
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. cloves or ginger (or 1/4 tsp. of each)
Preheat oven to 350˚. Grease a 15x11x1 pan. Mix eggs, brown sugar, sugar, oil, milk, pumpkin, vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, spices. Mix until smooth. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes,
until bounces back when touched.
Let cool after baking until *****COMPLETELY***** cooled, not even a bit warmish!
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 2 T. butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 c. powdered sugar
- Milk to dilute (as needed, 1 T. at a time)
Mix ingredients on low speed until smooth; add milk if needed, then beat on high to fluff, for 30 seconds. Cut into small bars.
*****Make sure to COMPLETELY cool the bars before frosting***** (If they are frosted when even a little bit warm, the frosting will slide). Also, these are moist bars, so when putting on the frosting, be gentle and drop in dollops, the moist top can make it tear easily, but if you use a light hand, it will not tear.
Lastly, THE BEST FRENCH BREAD I have ever found:
I think most people could learn to make this: http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2012/04/26/cook-soft-and-chewy-french-bread-with-garlic-spread.html [Have not made the spread so can’t comment on that part, but the french bread itself we’ve made 4 times in the last few months, one time for company and they raved about it!]
THANK YOU SO MUCH, JANET!!! This is so incredibly helpful!
UPDATE: Janet has listed all the food and ingredients in her household down in the comments too, for anyone who’s interested… Pretty incredible what she makes from scratch – including tootsie rolls?!!!
Really appreciate the time you spent writing this all up for us – especially for slackers like me ;)
The door’s now open for comments/ideas/more sharing! Just please keep it civil so we can make this as productive as our past posts on this stuff…
Here’s the quick list of articles again from this series if you missed any:
- What a Budget For a Family of 8 Looks Like
- How in GOD’s NAME do you spend so little on food??
- How to Eat on Less Than $1.00/meal
UPDATE: A friend of mine recently launched a meal plan service that helps with planning cheap meals if anyone’s interested… It’s called “$5.00 Meal Plan” and they’ll email you a weekly meal plan that contains ten recipes to make each week. The plans are easy to prepare, don’t use exotic ingredients, and will cost you less than $5 a meal if you plan and use coupons. More info here: 5DollarMealPlan.com.