We all love eating and we like good food, but I think we all dread the expense of such. One doesn't have to spend a fortune to eat well.
I have taken the food stamp challenges several times over the years and proved that EVEN on those limited funds, I could buy a decent amount of healthy food to survive on. (I have walked the stores and added up what I would buy if on those funds). NO I didn't get steak and lobster - but I don't buy that any way!! I got good wholesome basic foods. I am so over hearing the nay-sayers say it can't be done. IT CAN - it just takes a little effort.
It is the same with every household. Inexpensive groceries/food can be had with a little effort, thought and creativity!
I realize many have special restrictions to diet - but those can be over come and things can be substituted. There are many options today for organic foods, gluten free foods, non GMO, etc.
I am going to try to give some basic rules to follow and some ideas of lowering that food budget - then I will list a variety of meal ideas.
I HOPE THIS HELPS
1. Look for CLEARANCE and MANAGER'S SPECIALS - FIRST!!!!!!!! The first place I go in the store is to each sections mark-downs and then to the big clearance section. Produce in my stores have either marked down item throughout the produce department and Kroger has the .99 section (bags of less than perfect produce). Meat. bread, deli, dairy - they all have markdowns. REMEMBER items are good for many days/weeks past dates!!! I then go to the major clearance section and find lots of canned or bottled goods. I DON'T pay full price at the store for hardly anything!
2. Garden - fresh is always best. Eat what is in season. Learn to at least do basic water bath canning - you don't really need any special equipment for that (just a big pot and lid & jars). Freeze produce if you can't can. It can be used in many ways later on. Plan for the future. REMEMBER even folks in apartments can garden a little in pots!
3. Barter/trade - with family, friends, neighbors. Exchange garden goodies, eggs, canning, baked goods, etc. One person may be good at one thing and another person is good at something else - do some trade-offs. It helps both families.
4. DON'T EAT OUT - cook from scratch. Plain and simple logic - if you have little funds - stay home!
5. Explore your library or the internet. There are so many books and sites that have fantastic, low cost food ideas. READ a cookbook and try new things.
You don't have to be stuck eating beans and rice when funds are low. If you plan ahead, watch the clearance sales, and do some of the other things listed above - you can eat great. A little added every week, could make a huge difference. Get a few items - maybe spend $5 or $10 extra a couple times a month will help you tremendously. Don't forget about dollar stores and ethnic stores (you can get lots of goodies cheaper).
Mix ground beef with pork or turkey to expand for burgers or meatloaf. Add lots of seasonings and it tastes great. Mix cooked lentils or beans or oats with meat to make burgers and extend the meat.
Hotdogs may not be the best selections (unless buying whole meat), but they are cheap. Load up a sandwich with other stuff. Don't think just condiments - dice tomatoes, shred carrots/lettuce, kraut, chili, salsa, pickles, cukes, you name it!
Mexican can be made very cheaply. Mix seasoned meat with beans to expend (or rice). Burritos are fast and easy - wraps can be purchased for 8/10 $1 or better yet, flour tortillas can be made for pennies at home (super easy). Make taco, Mexican pizza, quesadillas, taco salad (add lots of veggies to extend). Casseroles are an easy spicy way to have Mexican as well.
Pizza or any Italian dishes. Make your own crust at home. You can even get .59/mix (just add water). Top with whatever you have - can be veggies, leftover meats, cream sauces, tomato sauces, etc. Mix some meat and cheese with pastas for easy and cheap dishes.
Loaded baked potatoes are a great budget extender. Top with whatever is left around from the frig. Get creative.
Soups (no limit to combos), stews, casseroles, quiches (great way to extend eggs with leftovers). Leftover veggies can be added to soups or casseroles or you can make a 'cream of' soup.
Large cuts of meat can be divided into many, many meals, Meat can be used in soups, as roast, pulled meat, BBQ, sandwiches, etc. Buy larger cuts when there is a super sale.
Veggies - think coated and fried, roasted, steamed, mashed - they can even be added to sweet/savory breads
SALADS - potato, egg, meat, pasta, broccoli or cauliflower salad, slaw, chef, regular, fruit. Salads can be hot or cold. A salad can consist of anything - meat can even be added for a one dish meal. We do that often!
Sandwiches of any kind. Grilled sammies are always good with a bowl of soup. Open face sandwiches are yummy - top with gravy or cheese.
Make homemade noodles or dumplings and serve with smaller portion of leftover meat.
Calzones (basically stuffed pie crust) can be loaded with leftovers and baked. Very filling.
Stroganoff can be made with leftover eat - serve over cheap noodles.
Leftover rice or stale bread can be turned into rice pudding or bread pudding for a great and inexpensive additive to a meal or dessert.
THINK cereal or oats (can add all kinds of things) for a quick breakfast. Breakfast or dinner - biscuits and gravy.
Make you own breakfast sandwiches with homemade biscuits (easy) and egg and any kind of meat. Wrap and freeze till needed. Make breakfast burritos - with tortillas and scrambled eggs, veggies, whatever you want! Same with them - wrap and freeze till needed.
Homemade pancakes or waffles - breakfast or dinner.
SNACKS - homemade salsa or hummus or dip (can use bottled dressing as well) with veggie sticks. Homemade chips. Popcorn or crisp chick peas (easy-peasy). Drain, season, bake at 400 for 20 minutes!
Fruit, sliced, plain, as salad, grilled, make a crisp or pie, add to muffins or over homemade ice cream/ice milk. Fruit is yummy in a smoothie as well, and can be a substitute for a meal.
Basic homemade cookies, cupcakes, brownies or sweet breads.
Gang, there just isn't ANY reason that a person can not eat well on a limited budgets. I have read article after article and book after book about eating on $3 or $4 a day (per person). It sounds impossible - but it ISN'T!!!!!!
I know there are many days that I don't spend that amount of food for the both of us for 3 meals in a day. We utilize everything - either into a new dish or we eat the leftovers as is.
GET CREATIVE, SHOP THE CLEARANCE AISLES, GROW YOUR OWN, AND EAT WELL!!!