I am no stranger to making meals on a budget, and sometimes that budget is very small. Very, very small.
What follows is a very simple plan to feed a family of 4-6 for a week, including breakfast, lunch and snacks. I’m not going to even pretend that this a healthy or “clean eating” menu. This menu is a menu for the week when you have only a little bit of money to spend on food. These foods will keep bellies full while you wait for a better day.
Some people will consider this list ridiculous and argue the validity of some items; hopefully someone, somewhere, finds this list helpful. This is *MY* list, the plan I go to when the pantry is running low and there’s a week left until payday.
There are a couple of things to know about this meal plan:
1. This menu assumes you know how to cook and bake from scratch, don’t let this intimidate you. Trust me when I say that if *I* can figure out how to bake a loaf of bread you can too. All recipes and links provided are easy to follow and don’t require special equipment.
2. The prices I list are based on my personal experience at the time of this writing. I live in Central Florida and shop at Aldi and Publix. Aldi’s prices are comparable to Wal-Mart, Publix is known for having higher prices but really good sales. The prices I list are not sale prices and are rounded up to the nearest half-dollar (math isn’t my strong point!)
3. This list also assumes you have some pantry staples available. I’m talking about things like salt, baking powder, oil, butter (or a substitute), sugar, maple syrup or honey, etc. If you find that you need one of these things but don’t have it, check the internet before you give up because there is probably something you have that can be used as a substitute. The exception is yeast, if you don’t have yeast and can’t buy it, do a search for yeast-free breads.
4. You’ll notice that meat isn’t included in this meal aside from a bit of canned tuna, there’s a reason for that. Meat is expensive, even on sale. If you want to include meat or have a method of getting meat inexpensively, by all means do so. You’ll also notice that I don’t have beverages listed, that’s because in my family the little kids would get 2 glasses of milk a day and we’d make do with tap water or tea for the week. Yes, I will even forgo coffee in an emergency week.
5. If you garden, forage, hunt or glean you’ll be able to make this menu go much further. Go for it! Oh yeah, you’ll also want to precook those dry beans, I cook mine a day early in the slow cooker and freeze the leftovers.
And without further ado, here it is:
$50 Emergency Meal Plan
Breakfast: pancakes or waffles, fruit slices
Dinner: tuna pasta with spinach, baked potatoes
Directions: cook and drain pasta. Return pasta to pan with some oil, a splash of lemon juice if you have it, some salt, garlic and parsley. Add tuna and spinach and toss until warm.
Snacks: homemade crackers, hard boiled eggs
*on day 1 I’d cook the black beans and store in refrigerator
Lunch: Baked potato fries, spinach salad with hard boiled eggs
Directions: cut 2 or 3 potatoes into sticks, toss in oil and herbs. Bake on well-greased baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Snacks: fruit slices
*on day 2 I’d cook the garbanzo beans and store in refrigerator
Breakfast: Cinnamon toast, fruit slices
Lunch: leftover black beans and rice, veggie sticks with peanut butter
Dinner: Garbanzo bean and potato curry OR fried rice (depending on your preference)
Directions for curry: In a heavy pan heat oil and saute an onion. Add a diced potato and cook until browned. Add diced carrots. Add a few handfuls of cooked garbanzo beans. A can of tomatoes and/or peas goes nicely in this dish, if you have one in your pantry. Add curry powder to taste. Add a cup of water or broth to the pan and scrape the bottom of the pan well. Allow the water to cook down. Add a few TBSP of milk or yogurt before serving. Serve over rice.
Directions for fried rice: Cook rice ahead of time and allow it to cool to room temperature. In a heavy pan or wok heat oil and saute an onion, carrots, celery, garbanzos & any leftover vegetables and meat you have. Stir in Chinese 5 spice (I like to skip 5 Spice and use a tiny bit of cinnamon and A LOT of black pepper, garlic powder, cumin and powdered ginger..use what you have!) When everything is almost cooked push it to the side and crack an egg or two into the pan and scramble (optional, I like to add an egg or two if I can spare them.) Add the rice ½ cup at a time and mix well until you have the rice to veggies ratio you prefer.
Snack: homemade crackers with hummus
Dinner: black bean burgers , homemade rolls, lettuce salad
Snacks: hardboiled eggs
Breakfast: green smoothie
Directions: in a blender combine a handful of spinach per person, ½ apple per person, a drizzle of honey, ice cubes and 1-2 cups of water. You can substitute a peeled cucumber for the spinach (if you have one) for a milder flavor.
Dinner: bean soup using mixed beans, homemade rolls
Breakfast: Homemade biscuits with peanut butter, fruit slices
Lunch: leftover bean soup
Dinner: Tacos with black beans and rice as a filling, lettuce salad
Snacks: Hard boiled eggs
Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter
Lunch: hot dogs cut-up or on homemade rolls, veggie sticks
Dinner: Baked potatoes, salad with hard boiled eggs, leftover bean soup
Snack: Whatever you haven’t already eaten is fair game :)
SHOPPING LIST (& approximate prices)
10 lbs flour – $4
1 lb dry garbanzo beans – $2
pack hot dogs (cheapest)- $1.50
2 doz eggs – $3
rice – $2
peanut butter – $3
2 boxes pasta – $2
1 can pasta sauce – $1
5 lbs apples or oranges – $5
1 lb dry black beans – $1.50
10lb potatoes – $5
milk – $3
2 lb carrots – $1.50
celery – $1.50
old fashioned oats – $2
yellow corn meal – $2
1 lb mixed dry beans (soup mix) – $3
head lettuce – $2
bag baby spinach – $2
2 cans tuna- $2
taco shells- $2