Tuesday, June 11, 2024

BROKE? Ideas for Meals in Those Times

Happy Tuesday my friends.  It is VERY chilly here this morning.  In the 40's(F).  Yesterday stayed in the 60's all day.  Funny how things can change - yesterday highs in the 60's and in a week, they will be in the mid 90's!  Going from early April temps to mid-July temps in a week.   
Yesterday I took a day off (for the most part) and had a play day!  I laughed so much yesterday - such a fun day.
Now on to serious business.
BROKE?  Many who are starting out on this journey, have not learned ways to feed a family on very little money!  Using what is in the house!  Getting cheap ingredients!  Yep, it can be done.  Now let me say - not all these ideas may be the healthiest ideas on the planet - but starving isn't healthy either.  We as adults can truly eat about anything to fill our bellies and be happy - (not nec. advisable), but children need their bellies full of something other than junk food.
So let us talk about some cheaper things and ways to help get through a rough time.

Pasta, rice, potatoes, oats and dried beans are all relatively inexpensive foods to buy and to have on hand.  They all can be transformed into many things.  Make sure you have these foods on hand (stock in the good times).  Don't forget peanut butter too!

Baked potatoes can be a meal.  Top a nice baked potato with absolutely ANYTHING you have left in the frig, or with cheese, cream cheese, soup, meat scraps, veggies, etc.
Potatoes can be mashed, fried, baked, added to soups and casseroles and made into salads.

Think about spaghetti and sauce.  You don't have to have meat in your sauce, but if you choose you can add any kind of meat you have.  You can also add beans to the sauce.  Remember you can top any style of pasta you have on hand - it does not have to be spaghetti noodles!  Mix up the use of pasta for whatever you have.
You can also turn spaghetti noodles into lo mein.  Add leftover veggies and a little soy sauce in a pan and you can have a yummy meal.
Mac and cheese - add any type meat leftovers you have or a can of tuna.  Add veggies to it and you have a meal.
Pasta can be added to any salad veggies to stretch.  Add to soups as well.

Rice can be a base for a stir fry type meal (using your leftovers) or it can be added to soups or casseroles or it can be a great side dish.  Season your rice to add flavor with bouillon or whatever you have.  Top with anything.  Add to a can of soup to stretch it.  G used to love leftover rice with a little added sugar and butter for a breakfast meal.
Fried rice is so easy - use your rice, leftover veggies or meats, add an egg if you have and some sauce.  Super easy and filling.

There is always soup beans - super cheap and easy.  Throw beans in a crockpot in the morning and you have a cheap dinner.  Add rice or pasta or potatoes if you want.  Love fried potatoes and soup beans!!
Beans and rice are tasty.

For a fun breakfast make a bunch of pancakes or waffles ahead of time.  You can freeze and have for quick breakfasts.  Breakfast burritos (cheap or homemade tortillas) or biscuits are good as well.  How about the old time favorite of 'toad in a hole'!!! (egg in bread)
Make it fun.  Throw and egg in the middle and fry.
Never forget oatmeal!  That is filling and warm.  Add any fruit or toppings you like.  You can even make baked oatmeal - for something different and for those that don't like regular oatmeal.  There is always cereal as well - though it tends to be expensive and loaded with false calories.

Soups - throw together whatever leftover veggies you have with some broth, tomatoes, meat if you have and seasonings.  You can also add rice or pasta to soups to stretch them and make them feel heartier.
How about grilled cheese and tomato soup?  That has always been a go to for me.
If all you have is some canned soups - eat them!  Add things if you want to stretch a can of soup or serve it over pasta, rice or potatoes.  There are many ways to stretch it.
Yes, I know Ramen is bad - but if that is what you have, throw in a bunch of leftover veggies and any meat scraps you have leftover and jazz it up.  Sometimes it is what you have!  Been there and done that!
Heck, I have made tomato soup with pasta added as a meal in years past (I still like it)!!!  
Trust me, many of us have been in this position and have eaten whatever we had to get by!!

Think about cabbage - it is generally inexpensive compared to other veggies,  You can add to soup, or you can saute' or fry.  It is good for you and can be added to many things.  Throw some chopped cabbage, tomatoes, rice and a little ground meat together in a skillet and you have a skillet version of stuffed cabbage!
Goulash is easy - a little ground meat, tomatoes and pasta - hearty and tasty.  Top with some cheese if you have it.

Tuna salad, chicken salad, or whatever you want to make.  It doesn't have to be a sandwich if you have no bread.  Make a nice plate with some crackers and any veggies you have - fresh or cooked.
Think about peanut butter and cracker or a peanut butter sandwich - full of protein and filling.

Veggie sandwiches are very tasty.  You don't need meat.  I love a tomato sandwich often in the summer!

Fritters are easy to make and you can utilize any veggie you have into them.  A little flour, an egg or two and your chopped veggies - then fry up.  YUM

Salads of any type can be added into a meal or eaten as a meal.  Anything can be a salad.  Add pasta to veggies or rice and throw in dressing and you have a hearty salad.  Make a bean salad - throw in a hard boiled egg or two (chopped).  Potato salad, egg salad, rice salad, corn and beans, bean salad, pasta, the list goes on and on.  There is no limit to what can be a salad.

Biscuits and gravy - that was a staple in my house growing up.  It sure is easy to make and costs very little.  Mom fed us a hearty gravy over biscuits and sometimes just over bread.  I still do this.

Super easy and warm and yummy!
Another easy-peasy fix.  Check your pantries - if you have some canned chicken, make nuggets.  Heck you can make patties or nuggets with canned tuna as well or salmon.
Remember you can substitute what you have.

If you have leftover beans and or rice - think about making some enchiladas or burritos.  Add a little salsa or sauce and top with a little cheese or sour cream and you have a new meal.  Always can add tortillas instead of bread.
Think cornbread as well - easy to make.  My siblings and dad and even my G liked cornbread with a little milk on it and it was like a breakfast!  You could also top with a little syrup or jelly.

There is noooooo limit to what you can do.  You have to look at things differently sometimes.  Yes, rice and cornbread aren't always thought of as a breakfast - but why not?  
Use what you have.  Whatever you get from food pantries - get creative with it.  I know often food pantries give basics - but there is a lot that can be made.
Remember not EVERY meal has to have meat!  You can add in other proteins and have a good meal.  

Life can be complicated sometimes.  People worry about feeding their families, now more than other times, as prices have climbed so.  You can use the basics and eat well.  It DOESN'T have to cost a fortune.  
Ask questions on sites like this one or others - go to sites like Myfrigfoods.com - it gives great ideas on recipes using what you have.  There are lots of places you can check and get ideas.
Just don't give up.  Feed you family and feed them well.

Many of us have been in this position at some point in our lives.  It isn't fun I know - but it is possible.
Get creative and make do.
I hope this gives someone HOPE!


  1. If you use basics, that's the healthiest way to cook and eat. This is because you are eating processed foods.
    Love all the suggestions. Sometimes we just forget what possibilities exist with what we have.
    One more thing, I tell others we don't eat leftovers. That's because if we paid for it, we're sure gonna plan to eat it. Therefore, we have Planned Overs..haha!

    1. Correction: you are NOT eating processed foods. Oops!

    2. I love that "planned overs". Yep, that is what I have too. Nothing goes to waste. It is amazing how many things we can make with a few basics!

  2. Great post for those just starting out and facing the horrible prices on everything at the store. Breakfast can be anything is something a lot of people don't think about. I have been known to eat cold pizza for breakfast on many occasions by choice. lol

    1. I LOVE cold pizza for breakfast. Yep, I have been known to eat about anything for breakfast! It is all food!!!!

  3. Planned Overs, that's clever! I think of leftovers as a convenience food, maybe even a fast food... I don't have to make a new meal, just doctor it up a bit: a new presentation (meatloaf sandwich or in spachetti sauce?), differrent veg or protein, another salad, different dessert. Or just skip a day between.
    Cheryl, gravy-bread is a very special treat for me! OMGoodness how yummy that can be. :)

    1. Convenience food - that is a good one too. Never thought of it that way either.
      Yes mam, anything can be re-made into a new dish. Food is just fun.
      Good eats isn't it? I love gravy on about anything.

  4. Excellent post, Cheryl, for those just starting on their journey and a good reminder to anyone else I concur with Lori that breakfast, and for that matter any other meal, can be anything. I'm a fan of cold pizza and cold Chinese food. lol. Just as an aside, dry milk can be the basis for so many things. Reconstituted it can be made into yogurt. I don't have a yogurt maker but use a heating pad inbetween a folded towel , egg custard, milk shakes, hot cocoa, white sauce or gravey, with a little sugar, cornstarch and flavoring or cocoa it can be made into pudding. Cookie

    1. Thanks. Yes anything at anytime. I know I am not picky!
      Good tip - thanks. Dry milk is like peanut butter - just something we should have on hand. I forgot all about that. So many uses.
      Thank you!

  5. I like beans for breakfast sometimes, not because I don't have any breakfast food but because beans are delicious. We just eat what we have if food is prepared. This is not because we don't have other food.
    Salmon croquettes were always eaten eagerly at our house. It was ne o our favorite meals. This may be a make-do meal, but not when we were kids.
    At lunch today, there was no bread. I ate leftover spaghetti pasta with sundried tomatoes and cheddar cheese and olive oil.

    1. Yes, anything can be eaten at anytime. That is the neat thing about the foods we like.
      I really do like salmon. I tend to go to tuna as it is cheaper, but do have a treat now and then with salmon.
      I eat bread so infrequently - mainly for a sandwich. Your lunch sounds perfect.

  6. My husband arrived home at dinner time yesterday after a 12 hour drive. I thought he'd appreciate a nice dinner after being in the car all day. I found two pieces of pork tenderloin and a side of lemon rice in the freezer. The pork wasn't really enough for a full serving and I thought it's going to look a little sad on the plate with the rice and a side salad. I didn't have any "dinner" bread. I thought he's going to look at that and think I was skimping on dinner.

    So I poached the pork in water so it wouldn't be dry. I sliced it and arranged it across the lettuce on the dinner plate. I sprinkled some cheese on the lettuce too before drizzling a homemade honey mustard dressing over all.  I toasted the half a bagel I had in the freezer and buttered it. I served the lemon rice in small dish. I thawed the last 2 chocolate chip cookies from the freezer in case the dinner disappointed. It looked pretty good I must say. And it must have been a satisfying too because he didn't eat the dessert. 

    It was so fun to create a nice dinner out of basically free food. It was all small stuff I'd saved from other meals.

    1. That sounds wonderful. Great job using the freezer! Very creative. See you young gals, a lot can be said about creating a lovely meal for basically free and with what you have.
      Thank you for sharing! Love this!!!

  7. Earlier today, I saw a Facebook post that struck a chord, as does this one. The moderator of the group posted up about the nastiness that people were posting in the comments, simply because they "don't eat xxx ingredient" whether by choice (most often) or by necessity (real health reasons). When $$$ is tight, restricting yourself to a Mediteranean diet (by choice) for example, should not be a priority; eating as healthy as you can for as little as possible, using what you have on hand, should be the primary focus. Buying only brand-name labels in the grocery store may need to be set aside for awhile -- store brand works just as well as in a pinch. What set this person off was someone who is vegan by choice using "sickly" emojies and rude comments on a meat recipe that was shared as a way to feed a family of 4 on a budget. And someone else commented on another thread that they'd never buy anything but XX salad dressing because it was "the best and organic". When your household income is cut in half due to employment or other issues, it's a rude awakening. If straying from brand preference or giving up a specific diet plan for a few weeks or more means that you can feed your family a nutritious meal, you do what you've got to do.

    1. Yes, yes and yes to all that person said. That is why society is a mess right now - people are so engulfed in "their ideas" that they are blind to see the reality of life.
      When you have little or no money - you can still eat good - just be smart.
      I can buy what I want most any day, and I still don't buy a lot of brand names (I use generic a lot), and I still don't fall for all the new & improved labels on things. Most aren't true.
      People today hide behind their computer screens and telephones and think they can say whatever they want.
      Reality is reality and we have all been there.
      I hope the newbies don't get frustrated by these kinds of people. Thank you for bringing that up!

  8. I am not a good cook, so all of our meals tend to be simple. Before I went to my daughter's in April, I'd picked up a few packages of instant mashed potatoes - in case my son wanted potatoes while I was gone. They were still here when I got home. Last night, I fast fried some pork loin chops, used a gravy mix, and let the chops simmer in the gravy for 10 minutes or so. With the instant mashed potatoes and peas from the freezer, we had - what was for me - a delicious meal.

    1. I love to cook and I think I am good, but I like simple things too.
      Nothing wrong with instant potatoes - being alone - been there and done that! I add a lot of butter or some sour cream and they are good.
      A good and quick meal is perfect. Your dinner sounds yummy to me, I would eat it too!

  9. It's so important your teaching these things . There are so many people that
    need this information.
    People are so used to eating out or picking up food at the grocery store already made.
    I walked down a frozen food section in the grocery store and shook my head.
    Premade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, frozen oatmeal, frozen grits!
    These are easy cheap items to make.
    The prices are insane for them.
    Buy only what's on sale or in season.
    Stock a good pantry it will save you money and give you food security.
    You can build it 5 dollars at a time.
    I know from reading your blog for years that you're an advocate of ignoring use by dates.
    I thought about you yesterday.
    I was making muffins and was out of baking powder.
    I dug a can out of the freezer.
    It expired 2020 so I put a teaspoon of vinegar in a cup added some baking powder foamed like crazy.
    Four years out of code and nothing wrong with it.
    I'm using yeast that's six years old.
    I keep my baking products in the freezer.
    I have gluten allergies and gluten free bread is about 7.99 at my local store..
    It tastes awful and is so expensive.
    I bake my own breads,pies,muffins,cookies.
    Wrap and freeze them.
    I'll bake bread then a cakes or cookies since the oven is already hot.
    All small things but save you so much money. Use those instant pots and crock pots,bread machines.
    They are like having helpers in your kitchen.
    Keep preaching and teaching Cheryl.

    1. I have celiac disease so gluten is out for me too. Have you ever seen theloopywhisk.com? She's from the UK and has the best gluten free bread recipes I've ever made, as well as a whole variety of other things. She's also on Instagram and has a cookbook. She does not disappoint. Cookie

    2. Thank you so much. Again, I love people sharing their ideas on how to make this work. Yes, all that pre-made stuff is crazy. I see hard boiled eggs for sell at the store and they want a fortune. So easy to make at home. Most everything is. Society today is always in a hurry.
      You sound like me I have yeast in the freezer from ages back - it is still good. Good idea on keeping all the baking needs in the freezer.
      Love the kitchen 'helpers' they do make life much easier.
      I truly appreciate the encouragement not only for these kinds of posts but to all the new folks reading. We need to let them know not to panic - there is a way.

      Cookie thanks for listing that site!

  10. Excellent post Cheryl, it has reminded me of some good things that I can bring back into our menu. Thanks, Louise

    1. Thank you. You are welcome. Not just the new gals on the block need ideas - we all do at time!

  11. I often use different pastas with my sauce, makes the meal interesting and pasta, while climbing in price, is still relatively inexpensive. Not too good with beans here, but I am using lentils more and those really are not that costly and contain lots of protein.

    God bless.

    1. I have used elbow macaroni in lasagna before. It is all the same just looks different!
      Lentils are great - yes, lots of protein, and can be used as a meat substitute in many things. Good inexpensive protein.

  12. Lots of ways to mix things up, make something new and nutritious. Lots of good ideas from your readers.

  13. This was kind of like talking to my Mom. She could make a meal pit of anything and I was fortunate to learn it growing up.

    Muffins are basic and inexpensive.
    2 cups self rising flour
    1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg
    2 T oil
    1 cup milk
    Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
    Add a cup or less of anything. Plain ones are a quick fill up the kids extra to add to a meal.

    1. Aaahhh that was a nice thing to say. We had good advice growing up!!!
      Thank you - very helpful recipe!

  14. Today will be from the freezer: brown rice, black beans, corn, taco spiced gr beef/turkey mix, cheese and a jar of salsa from the pantry.
    I'll bake it for dinner and there will be 3 work lunches for hubster!

    1. Love this. So easy and yummy! Our freezers and pantries can sure make some goodness.
      Great idea and hopefully someone new will see and think YES, I can do that!