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Challenge $35 for a week 3 meals a day for 2

Help what would you cook and how to make healthy filling meals on a major budget? I need to start doing this so I want some great recipes to go along with your wise help. I need it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 adults for 1 week on only $35, Then I am going to try this for at least 6 months until I get the hang of it. We eat alot of chicken and fish not so much beef but once in awhile. Thanks

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  1. Do a search on this board for "recession cuisine". Tons of great, inexpensive ideas.

    1 Reply
    1. May I suggest that you consult our own rworange who has done extensive research on this subject...here's a link to a post to get you started:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429348

      I see you each chicken and fish...do explore the world of beans, too, and lentils, very cheap and packed with protein.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Val

        Thanks for finding that link. While I only expected to do this for one month ... it has had a lasting impact on my eating. It boils down to the 5 'S''s.
        - seasonal
        - sales
        - spices
        - stock up
        - salad

        That last was a shocker. Because I was going for healthy in my month of cheap eats, I avoided the usual starchy junk so I had a big green salad every day. It was really quite filling and it is something I continue to this day. Lettuce can be surprisingly inexpensive either at farmers markets or on sale at various markets.

        Maybe two more 'S's ... skip supermarkets ... except for sales, they are really expensive. Check out the local small mom and pops ... especially Mexican, Indian and Asian markets.

        Hope you will post what you make during the six months.

      2. Try pasta dishes too. Pasta is inexpensive and you can dress it up very simply with olive oil and garlic, or pesto, be creative and you will be amazed at what you can come up with. I bake all my own bread and pizzas for pennies. It not only saves me money but it is much tastier and better for you since you control the ingredients that go in. There are just my husband and myself at home and we go shopping every 2 weeks and spend roughly 75-80 dollars. I also clip coupons and shop for sale items and if you can check out your grocery store mid week for fantastic sales on meat that is getting close to its expiration date. I do that and then portion it out for the 2 of us and freeze the rest for another meal.

        For example, last week the 1 store had pork tenderloins marked way down. I picked 1 up for under 5 dollars and it was enough for 2 meals. If you have a crock pot you can get away with cheap cuts of meat that tenderize nicely being slow cooked. Also now that warm weather is upon us purchase your fresh produce at local stands and save a ton of money. Good Luck!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Smileelisa

          Has pasta not really increased in price recently in the States? In Britain and Italy it's more expensive because wheat has doubled in price over the past year.

          1. re: Smileelisa

            Husband doesn't love pasta unfortunately and now they are rasoning (spelling)
            rice and I don't love pork tenderloins but will eat chops. I did that almost expired deal with chicken and almost killed myself so I will not do that. It just seems you just eat more calories when trying to cut back. I need more help please?

            1. re: nbermas

              Just what is it you will eat?

              While I can understand having a bad run-in with a discount chicken, that is the execption. That has never happened to me. However, years ago I had a run in with some bad smoked oysters (not discount) and it was years before I ate them again.

              The easy thing is to go for the high-calorie junk like potatoes, cheese and cheap cold cuts.

              If you read the threads mentioned you should get some ideas ... or you can go the easy route and make tuna casserole with Campbell's mushroom soup.

              It might be a little more helpful if you will describe what you usually eat and how you intend to modify that.

              Just going with breakfast ... what do you currently eat? What won't you eat?

              I like oatmeal a lot so for me, a $2 large container of oatmeal lasts all month. This week my local market had large containers of fresh strawberries for $1.47. So for me, breakfast was about $35 cents. It was neither high calorie nor unhealthy.

              This is the time of year for asparagus so for dinner that has been my vegetable. At $1.50 a pound, it was healthy and not expensive. I'm not going to be buying asparagus in November when it it $5 a pound.

              Look at what is seasonal and on sale and work around that. Really ... look at your local supermarket ads if you won't shop at ethnic markets. Post what is on sale this week and what you would eat ... I'll come up with menus for you.

          2. I think that sometimes "economies of scale" can be helpful. Supermarkets sometimes only put the "family size" packages of meat on sale, so if you can spend a little more one week when chicken is on sale, wrap it up individually and freeze it, it evens out the budget over time. Bigger bags of rice, beans, etc are often less expensive too. On the other hand, if you only need a little of something, it can be more economical to buy at a place that sells in bulk, like health food stores. Then there is less waste.

            1. Oh and homemade granola is good, easy, healthy, and can be very inexpensive. Great for breakfast and snacks.

              1. Some of us have been baking bread with the 5-minute-a-day method. Almost free bread! You mix up a batch (flour, yeast, water) and then can refrigerate it for up to 2 weeks. You can then take out a grapefruit sized blob a day and bake that. So there is almost no waste and it's easy. If you want more info, let us know.

                6 Replies
                1. re: karykat

                  Karykat, I would love to know more info about the 5 min a day bread. Can you share a recipe and how you make it?
                  Thanks in advance!

                  1. re: Mellicita

                    Karykat is referring to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a cookbook by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

                    Their website: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com

                    If you go to the NY Times website and search for their names in the archives, you will find an article that includes one of their recipes.

                    Chowhound thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/483709

                    1. re: jjones21

                      Wow--they did poor editing job with that book--check out the error page on the book's website...

                      1. re: Ora

                        I do think it is bad to get the amount of yeast wrong in the book (when you are dealing with a recipe that only has 4 ingredients including yeast.)

                    2. re: Mellicita

                      Give it a try and let us know what you think. I do think it is a great way to have fresh bread and save money, because you can make up a bunch of dough, have it in the fridge and then pull off a little hunk each day to bake. Fresh bread/ low cost. You do need to have enough time to get for the rising before you bake it.

                    3. re: karykat

                      Thanks for the link for the 5 minute bread. I can't wait to try it out

                    4. The question is what kind of food you like. If you're eating on a budget but don't enjoy the food, you're going to suffer. But for $5 a day for two you should be able to eat reasonably well.

                      The main thing is to get away from the idea that meat should be a major component of each meal. Animal protein is expensive. Think of meat as a flavor enhancer rather than a main menu ingredient. Once you've done that, you're home free.

                      Focus on legumes and grains. Beans and tortillas, lentils and rice, whatever. Things like peanuts and hard squash also provide a lot of bulk and nutrition for very little money. And don't forget eggs. Easy, cheap protein.

                      When it comes to vegetables, look for things that are fresh, seasonal, and local. You'll find better bargains at farmers markets than in grocery stores. And the stuff will taste better.

                      For flavor, grow your own herbs and buy spices and spice mixes at an ethnic market. In many places, basil is a weed--why pay $2 for a bunch of it when you can grow more than you can possibly use in a flower pot on the patio? Mae Ploy makes a bunch of curry pastes that are cheap and intensely flavorful. A glass jar of cumin costs $3 at the supermarket, but a plastic bag of the same stuff costs $.69 at the carniceria next door.

                      Finally, look for recipes that interest you. Lentils can be used in French, Italian, Moroccan, and Indian dishes. Plain lentils every day may get boring pretty fast. But by varying the herbs, spices, and cooking methods, you can trot the globe--and stimulate your palate--with one humble legume.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        You've got lots of great ideas in this thread already. Actually, alanbarnes said everything I wanted to say, but he said it more eloquently.

                        To expand on and add to what he said:

                        To echo his comment about using meat sparingly, or, in popular vernacular of late, "eat lower on the food chain"...Tofu is also relatively inexpensive. Often, I will do a stir-fry where I only have a little meat (for flavor) and add tofu to achieve a satisfying amount of protein.

                        Also, minimize waste. Use the whole animal and the whole plant--save bones and carcasses and shells to make stock, etc. Cook the giblets. Use the celery, beet and radish leaves; the stem of the broccoli; , etc. Use your stale bread to make bread pudding or bread crumb or French toast. Here's a great thread on "underutilized treasure" http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49597... Use your overripe bananas http://www.chowhound.com/topics/506446 your leftover oatmeal http://www.chowhound.com/topics/275809 your leftover chicken http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49983...

                        Grow your own and learn to can and preserve. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41670... http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44212... or buy in bulk (and if you can find a friend or neighbor who wants to go in on it with you, you can share it to reduce your initial cash investment) and learn how to store and preserve foods.

                        And, the opposite advice can be true--buy small quantities when you need to. For instance, I just made a meringue-top pie that called for cream of tartar. I don't need to buy a whole jar of cream of tartar for the once or twice a year I make meringue, so I went to my co-op and bought just a teensy amount out of the bulk spice bins.

                        Buy direct--from the farmer at road-side stands or farmers markets etc. Cutting out the middle man means cutting out the middle man's share of overhead and profit, too. This even works for buying a side of beef or pork or lamb directly from the farmer if you can get friends or family to go in on the purchase with you. You'll have to own a deep freezer to make this part work...

                        Take advantage of occasional foraging opportunities. Depends on where you live (and local laws, etc.), but if you live in a place where asparagus grows wild in the ditches in spring, collect your own and freeze them. Or where berries grow wild in summer, collect your own and freeze them. Do you have a neighbor who lets their apples fall, uneaten, to the ground? Knock on the door and ask if you could "help" them pick their apples and arrange to keep some amount for yourself as your fee. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/48730...

                        Actually, be more neighborly in general with your neighbors and learn to swap and share when you can. Remember when it was a cliche to borrow a cup of sugar? Well, maybe I should gone next door to ask for my quarter tsp of cream of tartar. When you have too many tomatoes, take some to your neighbor. Maybe they'll bring you some rhubarb when they have too much...

                        Eat fewer convenience and processed foods. All that packaging and processing comes at a cost to you.

                        As far as recipes, well, the May Cookbook of the month is Flexitarian Table--there will likely be a lot of interesting meatless recipes. You can pick that book up at your library or find some of the recipes online. I'm trying the lentil and rhubarb curry tonight. The tofu with soy, lemon and white wine recipe is fantastic. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51106...

                        Here is a thread about lentils http://www.chowhound.com/topics/48080...

                        Here's a thread about canned beans--buying dried is less-expensive, but this is a good start and I'll bet many of these recipes can be adapted http://www.chowhound.com/topics/50632...

                        Cheap and labor intensive food:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394426

                        Good luck!

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Thank you for all your help I love the forgaing idea but too scarred that I might get sick and I don't know enough about the big bad forest and woods, any ideas of a quick way of learning on I live in Fairfield County where everyone isn't very friendly and the gas to get where it is a nice area is soooooo much now. I wish I lived where they were nicer.

                          1. re: nbermas

                            Ah, well, it may not be for you. It really does depend on what's nearby you that you want and feel comfortable collecting. I love when I can find some wild blackberries--but, you either have to know a place or be in the right place at the right time.

                            ~TDQ

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            That's good advice for someone new to tofu like me. Use it with meat.

                            (I will be giving that a try later this month with the Flexitarian book.)

                            1. re: karykat

                              Yes, if you're a person who needs at least a little meat to be satisfied with a meal, it's a great strategy to use some tofu and some meat--this is especially effective in stir fries, but you use the strategy for other things, too.

                              ~TDQ

                        2. Lots of good advise. One thing not mentioned is to know your lifestyle and how it affects your cooking. At one time I would plan & purchase for my week. But something always happened and perishables being perishable...So now I plan ahead, but purchase the perishables for just a few days in advance. This has saved me many dollars and stopped my fridge from being a biology experiment gone very wrong. My life tends to be one extreme or the other - so when it is slow & quiet I cook, cook, cook & freeze. Then when it is crazy busy I have lots of good stuff to turn into quick, easy home cooked meals. It used to drive me crazy - now I just work with it. Consequently, I do best with a monthly budget rather than weekly. It works out to the same, but gives me more flexibility to take advantage of good sales or opportunity for my mega cooking sessions.

                          On a related note, the following link is interesting and has some resources to offer.
                          http://www.slate.com/id/2189234/?GT1=...

                          1. So many great ideas in this thread and many of the linked ones.

                            I recently moved from the States to London, where food is essentially double what it cost in the US (weak dollar, and I'm paid in dollars and live in pounds, so...), so I've had to learn to make healthy, interesting meals for less. I have 2 small kids, so I'm feeding 4, but I refuse to feed my family junk.

                            You will have to broaden your horizons with food. My husband has had to get away from the "Meat & 2 veg" mentality for his meals. He has tried things he wouldn't normally eat at home, like dal and different curries. We eat a lot of lentils & beans, and only eat meat about 3x a week. I save all my vegetable waste to make stock. I make a lot of soups. I get a weekly vegetable box. I go to the butcher to buy my meat, and I've gotten familiar with less expensive cuts like pork belly and chicken thighs. I try to make larger cuts of meat, so that we can eat the leftovers for at least one more meal.

                            I suggest investing in an all purpose cookbook like Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" or JOC, so that you have a reference point on how to cook things like dried beans, unfamiliar cuts of meat, vegetables, etc. I sit down with both of the above every week after I've gotten my veg box to plan out what we are going to eat for the week and what I need to buy from the butcher and the market.

                            You can do it! You'll get lots of help and ideas from this board.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: dexters

                              Dexters: Thanks for your tips and have fun in London, what about fish and chips is that also very expensive there? There are alot of caribbean people living in London so maybe that would work to learn how they cook?

                              1. re: nbermas

                                Fish & Chips can be reasonable..we ate it on Saturday night for about $40 USD for 2 people, which unfortunately is considered "cheap" here. We only eat out once a week now, so that has been another major change in moving here.

                                I'd love to learn to cook Caribbean food. Of course that doesn't help with the weak dollar and absolute cost of food, but that's OK. We're having fun learning to try new cuisines and foods. Tonight is moussaka, so we'll see how that turns out.

                              2. re: dexters

                                Chicken thighs are a great idea. We've gotten away from buying chicken breasts as much and are using the thighs. I used to think I didn't like them but my so has been doing some great things with asian marinades. We do buy high quality meat, but instead of high quality most-expensive-cut we're using high quality cheaper-but-very-flavorful cut.