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What is your "go to" meal when there is too much month left at the end of the paycheque - past or present

Food prices are rising - I don't know anyone who hasn't been hit these past few years trying to do more with less.

I'm from a family of six children - very limited income.. I am most in awe of mom (in her mid 80's now)
in how she made tasty meals - and find myself going back to them often.

hamburger meat pie - especially cold the next day dipped in ketchup
leftover hamburger buns, broil with slice process cheese and strip of bacon
meatloaf with bread stuffing...

home made fries wrapped in bread with ketchup and salt
or fried egg sandwich with french fries

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  1. Spaghetti tossed with olive oil, garlic and whatever grating cheese is around--a beaten egg tossed in or a fried egg on top would be a bonus. And don't forget the cracked black pepper.

    14 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      Absolutely. At Big Lots and local supermarkets, you can find really great pasta (including whole wheat) for 2 for a dollar sometimes. Sometimes with a little butter, salt and pepper, sometimes olive oil and garlic, depending on what I have. Tossed with any leftover greens if I have them til wilted.

      1. re: escondido123

        My version of this is just plain spaghetti tossed with a high quality butter, sprinkle with truffle salt and grated fresh parm. I'll eat this even at the beginning of the month it's so good.

        1. re: SpareRib

          I would eat that cold at midnight from the fridge!

          1. re: SpareRib

            truffle salt and fresh grated parm... compared to my grad student budget you have too much "paycheque" at the end of your month!

            1. re: mattstolz

              LOL! So right on target... I certainly don't begrudge anyone their money, but high quality butter, truffle salt, and freshly grated parmesan are not the items on a poor person's grocery list.

              1. re: KailuaGirl

                Well, I decided to do the math to see if my fancy-sounding dish was actually more or less expensive than a less-than-fancy -sounding pasta dish.

                1/2 lb Pasta (I buy mine at Giant when they are on sale for $1 each): $0.50
                Kerrygold Butter at $3.99 per pack - I use about 1oz per 1/2lb pasta: $0.49
                Fresh Parmigiano cheese (1/2lb for $8.99 from Giant) - 1/2 cup grated : $0.56
                Truffle salt (averages $25.00 for 3.5 oz on Amazon. I purchased mine
                over 2 years ago and have only used about 2/3 of it. Generously served
                you would get about 150 servings per 3.5 oz). $0.16

                = $1.71 for 2-3 servings.

                1/2 lb pasta $0.50
                1/2 jar of Prego Ragu from a jar $1.25
                No cheese - you can't afford it, you're over budget!
                = $1.75 for 2-3 servings.

                So, I guess you can take your pick, truffle pasta or Prego! I know what I would rather eat for under a dollar per serving. (All prices based on Giant prices available on-line in DC metro area.)

                1. re: SpareRib

                  hahaha while i love your reasoning here (its pretty comparable to the reasoning i like to use when budgeting), comparing your dish to pasta with regular butter, the green can of parm, and table salt might lead to a slightly different outcome!

                  1. re: SpareRib

                    Wow. I've still got some money left on my Xmas Amazon gift card so will look at truffle salt. I wonder if they sell that at Trader Joe's? I live in Hawaii, where there is no TJ's, but a friend in Seattle makes regular TJ's gift baskets for me, usually including sea salt. Maybe I can switch to truffle salt for a change. :-)

                    1. re: SpareRib

                      While per serving this comes out cheap, it's still not a cheap meal to make because we hav to first have $25 to spend on the truffle salt. For me, that's a week and half's groceries most of the time.

                      Of course, for those who can afford to splurge on the truffle salt during more flush times, it's a great meal. But I think the problem with comparing it with pasta with tomato sauce is that it doesn't provide the same kind of nutrition. Not that a jar of prego poured over pasta is the most well rounded of meals but atleast it provides some veggies and so I could eat it a few times a week if it came down to it. when money was really tight and still feel like I was getting a decent meal. This dish, while delicious to me seems more like a side dish to go with some veggies and meat than as an entree. But then, I'm pretty fussy about getting a well rounded meal no matter what the budget.

                      That being said - a block of parm is most definately something I keep in my fridge at all times, even on my tight budget. I buy an 8 oz piece probably no more than 3 times a year and use it very sparingly. Just grating just a tiny bit of it over my plain pasta with sauce kicks it up several notches and makes it feel less like an 'end of month broke' meal

                      Just for fun I calculated my average cost for a plate of spaghetti.

                      $0.08 1/6 lb pasta (I stock up when pasta goes on sale for 50c/lb)
                      $0.28 - 1/6 of a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes (a quart jar holds 1.66 lbs of tomatoes purchased at $1/3 lbs)
                      $0.10 - a tiny bit of finely grated parmesean
                      $0.05 - assorted other items from my space cabinet - purchased from the ethnic stores
                      = 49 cents for 1 serving with cheese!

                      Of course, other than the pasta, I make this 6 servings at a time, refrigerate or freeze and boil my pasta fresh for each meal. This was an interesting exercise though. I rarely calculate cost per meal or serving, but my goal is to stay under $1/meal most of the time. Of course, I make up for staying this far under by splurging on cans of artichoke hearts every now and then and eating them in a single sitting.

                  2. re: mattstolz

                    OK, so real parmesan is never cheap, but there are pretty fair domestic "parmesans" that don't cost much. And real pecorino romano is less than half the price of real parm. Some people join Costco just for the bargain cheeses. Truffle salt I don't know about, but I keep a tiny bottle of truffle oil in my fridge. Expensive? Yes. About $20. But you only need a drop or two in a dish, and that bottle keeps forever refrigerated. I get several years and literally hundreds of meals out of it, so I think it's a bargain, considering how much I love the flavor.

                  3. re: SpareRib

                    I love my truffle salt - huge flavor boost for every thing. And I didn't pay but $15, and I still have half the container left after two years.

                    1. re: SpareRib

                      My version is spaghetti tossed with butter, salt, and a grating of nutmeg. So good, no need for cheese or truffle salt, it would ruin it!

                    2. re: escondido123

                      We make something similar--1 pound (weighed before cooking) spagetti with most of the water drained but enough left behind so it is a little "soupy", 1/4 pound of butter, about 4-6 beaten eggs (I have chickens so I can be flexible with that) but no black pepper (just because I don't like it, but give me crushed red pepper in spagetti sauce or on pizza anytime). On top of that, we add the grated cheese in the "green can".

                      1. re: escondido123

                        I used to make the same. Sometimes to change it up I would add grated ginger and a touch of soy sauce

                      2. My go to meal anytime, but very economically, is Chinese soup noodles. I always have chow mein style noodles in the freezer and cans of low sodium chicken broth on hand. Toss in whatever stray veggies and meat/tofu leftovers you have et voila!

                        1. A good book on this topic is "Good Cheap Food" by Miriam Ungerer. The balck beans and rice from it did it for us many a time. The book's cheap now too!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: buttertart

                            I used to own this book! I don't know what happened to it. I remember the recipe, Spaghetti Marco Polo in it.

                            Yes, it is an interesting cookbook.

                            1. re: sueatmo

                              You can get it again for $4.00 or so including shipping. I enjoy Miriam Ungerer's style.

                            2. re: buttertart

                              Great book - lots of good economical ideas. You can buy the book used on Amazon.

                              1. re: MARISKANY

                                I like the tip about if you cook meat you always have fat to cook in. Her other books are also fun. Love her tone.

                              2. re: buttertart

                                Love that book! I've made a lot of her recipies.

                              3. Aloha caseygirl:

                                Roasted potatoes w/ rosemary.
                                Scrambled eggs w/ last night's leftovers.
                                Spicy lentil soup.
                                Spinach wilted in bacongrease.
                                Whatever I've caught or shot.
                                Fruit from the tree.
                                Root veggies from the cellar.
                                Onion soup.


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  . spinach in bacongrease...oh yeah! brings back the bread fried in the bacon grease that we always had a bowl of in the fridge. - God in Heaven - "gotta love "your roots" its who we become ..I don't think i could eat that now... while not that I'd admit (ha) ..

                                  1. re: caseygirl

                                    Ooooh, caseygirl, be careful:

                                    One of my fav sandwiches to this day is a good baguette, split and buttered with a little bacongrease, broiled for some brownness, and then a little mayo and mashed avocado. Bacon strip on top optional, depending on budget and lipid level.


                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      ok, I admit... I'd do the fried bread - however your version sounds much better!

                                2. Lentils and rice, spaghetti with (cheap) oil and garlic, butternut squash lasagna, bibimbap, basically anything meatless

                                  1. When we were young and building our house and living virtually hand to mouth, we'd buy an inexpensive boneless ham. We'd use that in casseroles, scalloped potatoes, sandwiches -- for the two of us it would last for a long, long time, and it's a lean source of filling protein.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: junescook

                                      Can you be more specific about the boneless ham ? I can't find anything that looks like it in my supermarket

                                      1. re: Herne

                                        Boneless ham is simply pork that has been boned and then cured and smoked. Supermarkets genreally carry several brands. I's easier to cut and serve than bone-in, and you're not paying for the bone. Click on Images on the site below:


                                    2. Breakfast for dinner- eggs, French toast, bacon or sausage. I can make enough spaghetti and meat sauce (Italian sausage) to feed an army for around 12 dollars. Beef Stroganoff w/ egg noodles or rice. Cubed steak is pretty cheap for CFS. Beans and ham hocks and some fresh shepherd's bread fills the void as well. The possibilities are endless!

                                      1. My darkest days were when I was 12-13...Nobody but my Mother and me....At the end of the month sometimes it was "Peas and Corn Bread" ...Pink-Eye Purple Hulls with a little bacon ends and pieces cooked in... and hot buttered cornbread,,,That was it!... Sometimes the Corn Bread was "Water Bread"...No Milk... No Egg at times.

                                        One spring it was fried bream and "light bread" (10 loaves for a $! at the bakery) The bream were from a pond beside the house...No going anywhere to buy fish bait....It was get off the school bus, dig worms, catch crickets, grass hoppers etc, and go catch supper....13 days in a row.

                                        Breakfast and After school 'treats' were toast...sometimes with 'Oleo' ....and fig preserves, or wild plum jelly.

                                        I also remember eating a lot of fried tripe....french fries, and 'po-mans' french bread. That was good eats!

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                                          I love fried breams and I've got a bag of them in the freezer that a friend caught & brought me....gonna have to thaw those out!

                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                            Leave the porch light on...I'm on my way!!!

                                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                                              Those are I believe the scrappy little sunfish we called bluegill. Our Methodist Youth Fellowship was invited on a fishing weekend at a camp whose lake had become badly overstocked with those; they were biting on bare hooks! We came home with a big washtub full of them, and whenever they'd drop one of us off we'd have to go get a bucket for our share of the fish. They were about the size of a kid's hand, maybe 4" long. We cleaned ours and Mom cornmealed and fried them, then put this heaping platter on the table. Basically one good bite per side, and mercy! so good!

                                                1. re: Will Owen

                                                  OMG! My mom used to fish for bluegills with her dad in southern Ohio.

                                                  Years later she admitted "Not much fish per fish. But oh, it was tasty."

                                                  1. re: happybaker

                                                    OMG - I used to fish for bluegill with MY dad in southern Ohio. Are you my long lost daughter?? :-)

                                                    1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                      Oh what a hoot!

                                                      But, um.... No.

                                                      My mom is from Marion. You?

                                                      1. re: happybaker


                                                        Oh yes, Marion. That's where people go after first going to Dayton. (Get it? Dayton? Marion?) Sorry - a bit of teenaged Ohio humor there!

                                                        1. re: woodleyparkhound

                                                          Oh, that jokes a groaner!

                                                          That said, I'll check with my mom to see if she's ever heard it! : )

                                            2. re: Uncle Bob

                                              It is crazy how a lot of stuff that we ate as kids while growing up w/ little income has now become popular. Restaurants are now charging a god awful amount for stuff like tripe, beef tongue, sweet breads, etc.

                                            3. Dried beans pressure cooked, or if pressed for time and money, toasted cheese sandwiches.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                Pressure cooked pintos, w/ a "sauce" of blended, reconstituted dried New Mexican red chiles, garlic and fried dice pork, poured over the pintos, topped w/ grated cheese and diced rawn onion w/ a side of corn bread. Chile and beans, New Mexico style! I never get tired of it.

                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  My mother would cook up a big batch of pinto beans, often in the pressure cooker, with salt pork, bay leaf and 1/2 an onion. We ate them in bowls with the bean broth topped with grated Longhorn cheese, diced onion and a splash of cider vinegar. We also had skillet cornbread on the side. This was in West Texas.

                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                    This thread has come closer to home than I anticipated. We teach in New Mexico and got paid our summer salaries in May and didn't get payed again until the 3rd week in August. We spent more than anticipated at our home in Maine. Two weeks of pintos, corn bread and red chile. Still not tired of it.
                                                    Carpe chow!

                                                2. Dried beans for sure. Even here in SoCal pork hocks and neckbones are plentiful and cheap if you know where to look (Food4Less, Latino markets), as are bulk beans - peruanos, a bean resembling beige canellini, are often on sale here at 99¢/lb or less. And the onions and carrots and celery you might want for soup veges are cheap there as well. My most extravagant Giant Pot o'Soup is a gumbo, with those neckbones, the aforementioned fresh vegetables plus a couple of bags of frozen cut okra and tomatoes, and I wind up with enough soup to last until we get tired of it, and then freeze the rest, all for maybe $15. Of course that doesn't include the cost of the water ;-)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    Tagging to all above of use of legumes
                                                    There is not just economy but beauty in beans.

                                                    Remember that Pintos are so aptly named
                                                    not just for their mottling, but their strength in the wind.

                                                    To paraphrase Frost and his Swinger of Birches
                                                    it is good to have gived breeze from gift of the Pintos.

                                                    As supple as branches filled with sap in the Spring
                                                    celebrate certain buoyancy that comes from the beans.

                                                  2. refrigerated corn tortillas are a great way to eat cheap. fry them in a little bit of oil, separately make whatever kind of veggies or beans. season with some salt, oregano, etc. if you have some cheese or sour cream on hand that works.
                                                    pasta of course. onions and eggs and some kind of grateable cheese, s&p. veggies of course too. or
                                                    canned tomatoes with canned tuna, parsley and pasta
                                                    omelettes are pretty cheap. a great one is parsley and onion with a load of parsley, some kind of mild cheese or even none.
                                                    keep good bread in the freezer for toast.
                                                    fried rice: leftover rice and veggies, small amount or no protein and an egg.

                                                    funny thing is i prefer to eat like this all the time and yet we spend a lot on food. (mainly bc of eating out and trying to get good veggies and fruit i think).

                                                    1. When I was a kid, my mom used to make spaghetti with butter and egg. Similar to cacio e pepe, but much more filling.

                                                      Boil up some spaghetti in salted water.
                                                      Drain off most of the water, leaving enough in the pot to keep it 'soupy'.
                                                      Add a couple pats of butter and let melt with some black pepper, and bring back to a simmer.
                                                      Scamble up a couple eggs and toss them in the water to mix with the spaghetti, which instantly cooks them in the buttery 'broth'.
                                                      Finish with crushed red chile.

                                                      That with a big chunk of bread for dipping and I was golden.

                                                      1. How anxious must parents be, to have to feed dependents! My family was super poor for a bit, and I have no idea how my parents did it skating below the poverty line with three young children and no outside help whatsoever.

                                                        During those times, I remember my mother making a lot of sujaebi, rice and kimchi with gim and eggs, kimchi jjigae, spicy potato jjorim, dwenjang jjigae, jeon, and when it got really bad, just rice with soy sauce and sesame oil. We also had kimchi fried rice, SPAM, ramyun, etc. The fare was actually pretty healthy, all things considered, and nothing we don't eat today. The only difference is the frequency of those meals and proportion of starch to protein.

                                                        In college it was a burrito every other day, ramen, deli sandwiches, cheap takeout, candy, etc., but I think a lot of us know that story in some form. Though I no longer have to worry about keeping alive until the next paycheck, I recently reverted to simple Korean meals for both weight and student loan loss...

                                                        1. My mom says we were “dirt poor” when I was a kid

                                                          We had clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads, food on the table and got an Easter Dress every year, so I don’t know how “dirt poor” we were, but I know she scrimped every penny

                                                          I do remember having cauliflower with cheese sauce for dinner… I guess because cauliflower was cheap that week… I wasn’t a fan of cauliflower, mom cooked every veg until it was quite soft and I hated them like that…even as a kid I would have rather had raw.

                                                          I thought it was awesome when we’d have pancakes for dinner. It turns out we’d have them because that’s what we had in the house, a couple of eggs, milk, flour etc..

                                                          Bean and lentil soups were a staple in our house too, because they’re good for you and they’d fill your belly and we ate A LOT of pasta.

                                                          All that being said, we always had a bowl of fruit on the table and some sort of cereal in the cupboard, like oatmeal or cream of wheat and milk was always in the refrigerator too.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: cgarner

                                                            I read one of the food-memoir articles by Kenneth Roberts (a Maine author, wrote best-sellers in the '30s and '40s) in which he said that he always thought his mom fed the family what she did because it was the best food possible, and found out later it was just what they could afford. I was in my early teens when I read that, and it struck a chord with me because that's how we ate and why we ate it, but tuna-noodle casserole, the various kinds of pounded and fried round steak in gravy, scalloped potatoes with ham, that wonderful skillet dish of macaroni, ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes … ! So good, and at the time so cheap. Oh, and I loved it when I was in grade school, and I'd come home for lunch on a cold day and have pancakes, with "maple" syrup made with brown sugar and maple flavoring.

                                                          2. Pinto beans, cole slaw and cornbread. I love it and it's cheap. I think I'll do that tonight. MMMM mmmm.

                                                            1. When I was a kid, during lean times, lots of beans and potatoes, and casseroles made with cheap ground beef.

                                                              Fortunately, lean times are rare for me now, but a couple of times a year I have to make it through the week without buying any thing. During those times, I eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly or PB and honey. I always PB on hand, and almost always have everything for baking bread if I need to. Also, bean or lentil soup with whatever random cut of meat I have in the freezer, and cheese toast.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                                My go to meals when I have to stretch my food budget (and not already mentioned by others, sorry if I repeated accidentally) includes

                                                                Congee - rice porridge and then adding leftovers or a salted duck egg
                                                                Curry chicken bones - the bones are $1 a bag and each bag has 4 carcasses albeit stripped of the breast meat, wings and legs but there's enough meat left to make it worthwhile
                                                                hot dog fried rice - might sound weird but it is actually quite tasty
                                                                Rice with a fried egg - egg yolk must be runny so that the rice soaks up all the oyey gooyey goodness. When I was a kid I didn't even cook the egg, just cracked it into a bowl of steaming hot rice with some soya sauce.
                                                                Fermented bean curd.....with rice (I know there's a theme on starches)

                                                                I'm making a soup with Chinese Okra, knackwurst sausage and elbow macaroni for dinner..... the most expensive thing was the vegetable.....sigh.

                                                              2. As many others have said, eggs, pasta and beans have saved us many a time, like when the car stopped working last month, or when the boyfriend had a mishap on the ice a week later. I also *always* buy garlic, and whatever onions and peppers are the cheapest (no matter how much we have in the bank), and so always have those on hand to make a little more of a meal than we might sometimes have. I always tend to keep the cheaper canned fish on hand (tuna melts do cheer me up). And I can get broccoli for cheap, which is easy to incorporate into a dish, or as a side.

                                                                -Frittatas, which can also be used quite well in a grilled cheese sandwich.
                                                                -Grilled cheese sandwiches, usually served with a very economical soup, root vegetable, or a cream of tomato made from canned tomatoes.
                                                                -Pasta with marinara, or with garlic and oil, sometimes with a little anchovy or sardine thrown in, or served cold as a pasta salad with whatever we have on hand.
                                                                -Refried black beans, usually served with rice, and topped with an egg.
                                                                -Spicy peanut noodles, or a version of bumped up Ramen. Ramen, the really cheap stuff, is actually very much fun to play with. Nowhere to go but up, right?

                                                                All of these appeal to me endlessly.

                                                                ETA: Also, did you know that if you happen to buy a large bag of tater tots on sale, and then forget to put them in the freezer, and they are left thawing for three or so hours, you may have the best tot of your life? Just use cooking spray on the baking sheet, and make certain to turn them every seven or eight minutes, as the thawing and the spray sears them a bit faster. The crispiest tots I've ever had without a deep fryer. This is best with sriracha mayo.

                                                                . . . I wonder if this works with cheap french fries.

                                                                1. For a sort-of-different way to combine the perennial favorites, lentils, rice and pasta, may I suggest koshari?


                                                                  Also, using day-old bread, you can make panade, a savory, supple bread pudding with greens and caramelized onions. Sharp supermarket cheddar works just fine instead of pricier cheeses.


                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                    The koshari is so interesting - I never would have thought to serve pasta, rice and lentils all in the one dish!

                                                                    1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                      I used to live in Egypt - koshari was everywhere ... a tasty, filling, simple, cheap meal.

                                                                  2. My father was foreman at a plant where a lot of the crew members were Mexican. Periodically I would be there at lunch time when they guys would pull out their lunches and they would always share them with me. A little refried beans from one, some enchilada from another--and the food was still warm because they're wives often brought it over. I remember one day telling my dad that I'd eaten some potato enchilada--and wondered why they didn't have them filled with meat and cheese. His answer. "Honey, pay days not for until next week so potatoes are all they can afford." Made me stop and think, and obviously I still remember it.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                                      I know it's almost a year later, but I *love* the idea of Potato enchiladas. I see that on the menu next week! thanks

                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                        That's so sweet that they shared their lunches with you! I remember noticing as a kid (I was a Camp Fire girl and we would sell candy at Christmas time when there was plenty of snow on the ground) that the blue collar houses were much more generous than the white collar houses. I am having chicken tacos tonight ...

                                                                      2. Joining in on the beans and rice, (with the leftover rice used to stretch the morning scrambled eggs for 6 kids. Lots of oatmeal breakfasts, too. My mom bought frugally all the time, buying and canning any veg/fruit that were on sale at the fruit stand - she knew the Italian owners and sometimes they'd give her bargains to buy a whole bushel of whatever. We'd also drive out to the country to a little old German couple's farm and buy corn and beans by the bushel to freeze. (That corn was incredible--sugary sweet in the days before franken-corn bred for sugar content.) At the regular store, she'd get lots of cabbage for almost nothing, and chicken livers have always been cheap. The day-old bread store was a weekly visit. It was about the only time we had store-bought baked goods, but she made homemade desserts every night after the store-bought was gone, utilizing whatever was cheap. We were great scavengers, too. We picked up pecans on "halves" - owner got half and we got half. We ate a terrific salad made from thistles - work gloves to remove the prickly parts. Mama and my aunts would split a side of beef and portion it out and freeze it. Believe it or not, that was a cheap way to get beef back in the day. I got sick of steak one time, when it was plentiful and money wasn't. Great food, all of it.

                                                                        1. Bittersweet thread for me. When I was younger and too self-involved, it never occurred to me to ask my parents how in the WORLD did they manage to feed a family of 7 on my father's waiter salary (and he wasn't working in any fancy restaurant either).

                                                                          Now that my parents have passed on, I'm just left with my own possible answers.

                                                                          Looking back, we were clearly poor though it never felt like we were. There was always food on the table, at least three meals a day, including seafood, vegs, meat.

                                                                          I do remember my parents making the nearly 2-hour trip to Manhattan's Chinatown (round trip) at least once a week, and I believe that has a lot to do with how we ate so well on a dime.

                                                                          Today, I try to follow my parents' footsteps (groceries can be sooo much cheaper in Chinatown and other ethnic neighborhoods), but having the advantages that my parents never had, I don't do it as often as I should.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                            My brother-in-law grew up in Canada where his father worked in a hotel. Although his salary was not large, he was able to get some foodstuffs from the kitchen, which helped them to stretch their food dollars.

                                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                                              That's a good point. I'm glad you made it because it brought back some (forgotten) fond memories of these delicious cai bao (vegetable buns) my dad would bring home from his job. But those were occasional treats only.

                                                                              If my parents were still around, I'd ask them why they didn't apply for public assistance. Probably like one poster said below, they simply didn't know that was an option.

                                                                          2. I am a "food hoarder" now because I grew up very poor and often very hungry. I remember eating a lot of rice and spaghetti that mom would fry and add bouillon cubes to, pancakes, baked beans, pea soup (GAWD I hated that.... it was thick as sludge) and a lot of soups made from the discounted veggies. We were so poor at one time that we actually stole potato chips being tossed because they were out of code from a grocery store dumpster. Mom was too proud to ask for public assistance and was horrified we stole the chips, but GAWD did they taste like heaven at the time.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                              .. pea soup... bleah.. just the texture..I hated that too!.. -we also had porcupine burgers.. cheap minced meat with rice mixed in - bread crumbs.. fried till crispy - then pour in a can of cream of tomato soup and let simmer... then dump over homemade french fries - and of course the quintessential stack of white bread in the middle of the table..

                                                                              1. re: caseygirl

                                                                                We still have porcupine meatballs, but by choice rather than necessity as it was when I was younger. We serve it with Kraft mac and cheese.

                                                                              2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                I too am a food hoarder. My parents had a habit of disappearing for a while and we had to scrounge around for food and toilet paper (completely off topic with the TP, but - it is true!). I have never been that desperate since. We used to walk to the water and fish. I made bread, corn bread and beans, watermelon and mangoes. My comfort food is still pintos with ketchup and cornbread.

                                                                                I also hoard TP. My mom sees it in my garage and knows why I have like 30 rolls. She keeps her comments to herself.

                                                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                                  I've lived on my own since I was 16. As a high school student my wage was meager coupled with roommates with the munchies eating everything in sight, well food was scarce. (I started eating yohgurt since it was the only thing the roommates wouldn't touch.) This was also the period of the supposed paper shortage and TP was often no where to be found in stores. Businesses started installing the locking TP dispensers due to theft.

                                                                                  End result, I hoard canned goods and TP! I don't feel completely secure unless there is a nice backup stock. We are the folks that Costco was made for!

                                                                                2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                  That's not stealing when it's being thrown away ... you were just freegans ahead of your time! I'm not sure how I escaped being a food hoarder, but I'm happy I did. I guess one reason I don't like to keep a lot of food around is that my upbringing taught me to eat to please myself as an adult, and I never know what I'll want in advance.

                                                                                3. We used to make a lot from scratch that other families bought ready to eat, portioned or frozen--cookies, bread, french fries, jam, salsa, mayonnaise. I learned to can when I was a teenager. Anymore, that's not always the least expensive way to do things, but if you buy on sale or in bulk or you know the farmer and can get good deals, it still can be. My grandparents had an acre garden and were just amazing at being virtually self sufficient, canning, storing, and putting up everything from peanuts to jam.

                                                                                  I used to eat a lot of rice, and liked it plain with butter and pepper, or with a fried egg, runny yolked, on top. I ate that all through college. Nowadays, I'd make omu raisu, if I had the ingredients, and I like it best with chile sauce instead of ketchup. It's pretty cheap, and very filling.

                                                                                  1. - Spaghetti with meat sauce - heavy on the tomato and light on the ground beef...
                                                                                    - eggs and potatoes
                                                                                    - omelet and iceberg lettuce salad
                                                                                    - soup with barley or noodles

                                                                                    The other day we had crepes with cinnamon sugar for lunch. Not because we were broke but because the milk was starting to go south and I didn't want to waste it, and we only had one cup of flour left so I couldn't make the batter any thicker! Not exactly healthy, but it sure was cheap...

                                                                                    1. Lots of pasta, lentils, potato and eggs on italian bread, eggs in purgatory, egg croquettes in sauce over rice. Larger portions of pasta or rice with smaller amounts of meat.

                                                                                      Potato and eggs is really really of my favorites; also good with pepper and onions.

                                                                                      1. Excellent thread, it is good to know that so many of us grew up under harsh circumstances and have managed to survive. I also grew up poor, and while we never went hungry, we were often on the edge. My parents (like many of yours) were too proud or to uninformed to seek public assistance, so we made do with what we had.

                                                                                        My mother made a big pot of congee (jook) every weekend, it was often flavored with a small piece of salted scrap pork and 1000-year egg, or a couple of stripped fish frames that she would get from the fishmonger for a quarter. Now that I am no longer in such dire circumstances, I still make a pot of congee now and again for comfort food and am always amazed that I can make 8 bowls of congee for less than $2.00.

                                                                                        1. On my own, oven-roasted potatoes and onion with a little ham got me through some pretty lean times. Other things I just copied from my parents and grandmothers -- cabbage and noodles, little bits of meat stretched with a variety of veggies and sauces.

                                                                                          If fact, I do a lot of the same stuff now, the quality of the ingredients might be better, but I stretch with pastas, egg noodles, potatoes, rice, beans, etc.

                                                                                          1. A potato-egg scramble saved my butt more than once when I was a single parent; good filling hot food, easy and cheap. It still tastes really good to me. Lots of ground meat sauce, seasoned differently, served with rice or noodles. Many many pots of vegetable soup. Ramen, fixed different ways; especially softened and tossfried with shredded cabbage and onions. Things like tamale pie; tortilla casserole; beans; etc.

                                                                                            1. Egg-fried rice with frozen peas and carrots (cooked, of course).

                                                                                              1. many of the solutions above when I was little. We had navy bean soup with the ham bone, served over white bread and topped w/ketchup.

                                                                                                Baked beans w/sausage.

                                                                                                creamed peas on toast.

                                                                                                Kraft spaghetti dinner in the box

                                                                                                Blue Box Kraft mac n cheese

                                                                                                Chef Boy ar Dee pizza in the box


                                                                                                Baked potatoes w/condensed soup on top

                                                                                                1. This is a great thread. We weren't poor - but we certainly didn't have a lot of money. We lived in a "company town" in Texas where rent was cheap (you couldn't own your own home in the town) but I had frugal parents who saved for their annual 3 week trip home to see family 2000 miles away, the expense of having 3 kids, etc. And even though my Dad was a chemist the pay was not that great (a long time ago).

                                                                                                  Every year my parents would buy a "side" of beef - half a cow that they would have made into hamburger, roasts, stew beef and I guess steaks (don't remember eating them though). At the same wonderful butcher they would buy a good supply of Texas sausage to last through the year.

                                                                                                  During the shrimping season, my Dad would go out all day with a friend shrimping. I remember one time specifically, they caught so much shrimp that my Mom & Dad stayed up all night packaging it up and freezing it - we had enough shrimp for the winter (used for making gumbo - it went further that way).

                                                                                                  Our everyday cooking was meatloaf, hamburger patties, meatballs with tomato sauce and rice, tuna with cream sauce & peas over rice, pinto beans and corn bread, sausage, rice and cabbage - things that didn't take too long because my Mom also worked. This was for dinner.

                                                                                                  We surely didn't go hungry at all - but we ate cheaply and well with the access to a great "meat locker", fantastic shrimping, great cheap Texas produce (4 watermelons for $1), 2 fig trees in our yard and 5 pecan trees.

                                                                                                  Now talking about my 2nd & 3rd post-college years is a whole different ball game -- talking about no money for food! I remember one time at the end of the pay period I had nothing but 4 chicken wings in the freezer....but that's another post.

                                                                                                  1. Ramen with leftover wilty vegetables from the crisper (usually onion, celery, carrot), topped with an over easy egg is my go to end of paycheck meal.

                                                                                                    Grandma Brown's Baked beans (baked with a little brown sugar and molasses) with cornbread and ketchup - no idea why this combo - it was one of my mom's things. It was filling and delicious. I might have to make this soon. Yum.

                                                                                                    Leftover hot dog or hamburger buns, broiled with butter and garlic, topped with spaghetti sauce and whatever cheese (usually american) that my mom had in the fridge.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: jeanmarieok


                                                                                                      Reipce for grandma's beans! Thanks.

                                                                                                    2. I had retured from 'Nam, was back in college and the GI Bill was not covering expenses. (I was also working swing shift at ALPO dog food factory.) I was down to literally 2 cans of beets. That night I dressed in black, complete w/ blackened face, and pulled a midnight commando raid on the Allentown trout hatchery (Penalty, $100 per fish!). Damn, those trout tasted good!

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                        Would we all have fish hatchery in radius could raid.
                                                                                                        A few plucks from those tanks and our meal is dang made.

                                                                                                        But lacking that ladder to full complete protein
                                                                                                        One must stack in the pantry some beans,

                                                                                                      2. Some of my most favorite protein are inexpensive cuts of meat. Today I made a discovery - after purchasing pork neck bones and beef shanks from local chain grocery stores I went to my local butcher as there were no shanks at grocery store and got some for FREE. I almost fell over. Roasted them up and had marrow on toast. Also enjoy gizzards and liver.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: juliewong

                                                                                                          I have been a marrow fiend since I was a kid... my grandfather had me taste it once and I was hooked ever since. My mother used to be somewhat horrified that I would eat the marrow out of the bones she'd roast for beef soup

                                                                                                        2. We ate beef tongue, which no one ate when I was a kid , Cheese bread and egg casserole (in Joy of cooking) and did weird things like a sandwich on toast was a single slice of toast sliced in half to make two full size very thin pieces - I think I cried the first time some one of my friends mothers gave me a sandwich on two pieces of toasted bread - it wasn't right!!!. We also ate broiled grapefruit as dessert.

                                                                                                          As an adult I had many a dinner of rice tossed with whatever cheese bits I could find and baked til the cheese melted.
                                                                                                          Funny - I still like all those things.

                                                                                                          1. When I'm alone, biscuits and gravy. I always have flour, fat and either milk for white gravy or frozen stock for brown. Sometimes a fried egg. Cost- less than $1 for a lot of food.

                                                                                                            For dinner, when the husband is here, pasta and sauce. $1 for a box of pasta, $1-$2 for a can of tomatoes. Dried pantry staple spices, and sometimes whatever meat I can excavate from the back of the freezer. Doesn't really matter if its ancient and freezer burned when I simmer it for a couple of hours in acid and garlic.

                                                                                                            Growing up, even when the phone would get shut off and our winter boots were duck taped together, Dad bought decent food. Sirloin, cut up chickens to grill outside, lasagna.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: rohirette

                                                                                                              Thanks for reviving this thread. I've enjoyed rereading all the posts and reading yours.

                                                                                                              I love biscuits and gravy too, if the gravy is homeade. I like biscuits with butter and jam the best.

                                                                                                            2. When I was in college, and the ends of months were serious business, it was a baked potato with mushroom soup on it- about 30 cents in those days. It was quite good if you were 19 years old and starving, but I haven't revived it lately, probably cost at least $3.

                                                                                                              1. As a kid, we did a lot of fried bologna sandwiches, and meat and potato pie(homemade pie crust, hamburger, leftover veggies and mashed potatoes). Also, as the oldest of 10 children, Mom could stretch a chicken a country mile. One night, it was roast chicken w/ mashed potatoes and canned corn, green beans or peas. The carcass and a little meat was saved for chicken noodle soup and the remaining meat was used for chicken and dumplings made w/ bisquick. That chicken could last us a week. She also made bread from scratch which saved money. As a child, her job was to make the bread every morning. She used to tell stories about how excited she was when sliced bread became available in stores. She grew up in Newfoundland Canada and they lived near a cemetery. It was common, apparently, for people to leave fruit near the gravesite instead of flowers. She told me she and her siblings would go over after the service and take the fruit home as a treat(why waste good food when the deceased couldn't eat it?). Of course, she also had fond memories of bringing hardtack to school as a snack.

                                                                                                                1. Funny. Yesterday, I found some Beluga lentils in the pantry that are I don't know how old. I cooked them, and wilted some spinach in hot oil with softened onions, and then added the cooked lentils. I've done this with plain brown lentils too. Very inexpensive, but very good. Add a chopped fresh tomato in the end of cooking. Drop a little Parmesan on top, Eat--enjoy. Lentils are a very good cheap food.

                                                                                                                  1. When I want to save $ I roast a chicken (sometimes I just make it because it's yummy). Two people can get at least four meals each out of that bird. Two meals of chicken and sides...then you get one meal of chicken salad sandwiches (yes, you do have to add a few things) ...then boil the carcass and make chicken soup (butterklassen dumplings from Joy of Cooking!) which might get you two meals each.

                                                                                                                    Not going to go to bed stuffed but you'll feel like you've eaten well.

                                                                                                                    That $5-$6 chicken stretches a heck of a long way. With some veggies and other fixins I can get the meals under $2 each.

                                                                                                                    In college I found that red beans and rice with just a few ounces of protein filled me up and gave me tons of energy. Again, less than $2 per meal.

                                                                                                                    Also, about once a year I try and eat everything in my pantry, fridge and freezer (except condiments and spices) and only augmenting them with one or two missing ingredients. Then I start over. I save money and come up with some crazy dishes trying to use the last of the pimentos...or whatever.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: Aabacus

                                                                                                                      I too roast a chicken and we eat it for a couple of days, including lunch. You cook it once; you eat it four times! Plus, you can make a light stock from the carcass.

                                                                                                                      I love beans too.

                                                                                                                      I forgot to mention that I like your last idea. Food for thought.

                                                                                                                    2. How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.

                                                                                                                      Zorba the Dumkeg

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. I have been more fortunate than many people on this thread in that I have never been truly poor, but my first job paid me just a little over $15K. Mind you, this was in DC in 2003, so I definitely learned to stretch a buck! I actually owe much of my Chowhounding to this, as it is the reason I learned how to cook. I couldn't afford Taco Bell like my ritzy friends! Breakfast was always oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Lunch was usually either pasta with whatever veggies were on sale at the store mixed with chickpeas, or a ham sandwich on whole wheat with an apple and a can of V8. Now, dinner got fancy. In addition to every conceivable variation of beans and rice known to man, I also perfected stewed tomatoes over grits topped with a poached egg, French Toast Sandwhich (a specialty of the house!)- basically French toast grilled cheese, endless salads with eggs and beans combinations, fried rice- made with the leftovers from my veggie pasta lunch, and all kinds of homemade soup.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: iambecky

                                                                                                                          Beer is actually rather easy to make.

                                                                                                                        2. Macaroni with canned tomatoes,canned milk, and butter. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you have it, you can also add cooked hamburger to make it stretch even further.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                            Boiled potatoes w/ fresh dill and melted butter.

                                                                                                                          2. I am in the same boat with you I came from a family of 4 children and 2 parents. My mom made it work on a very limited budget.

                                                                                                                            Meals where the left overs can act as the ingredients for something else.

                                                                                                                            Spaghetti and red sauce extra sauce becomes the base of a home made pizza

                                                                                                                            Chilli - better the second day anyway. Left over can top hotdogs

                                                                                                                            Tacos left overs become breakfast burittos

                                                                                                                            veggie and cheese omelet - whatever leftovers you have in the fridge

                                                                                                                            Leftover rice from last nights dinner becomes egg fried rice served at breakfast.

                                                                                                                            Ham and white bean soup using leftover ham and leftover veggies.

                                                                                                                            Kilbosa and mac and cheese

                                                                                                                            Grits served for breakfast and dinner

                                                                                                                            1. I don’t know if it’s a generational thing or if it’s because we’re mostly like-minded people here on CH, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead of going for the $1 menu at any given fast food joint, more people who were short on money fed themselves and their families like this?

                                                                                                                              All of these posts are giving much healthier and more economical options than the drive thru… yet people in lower socio-economic circumstances rely so heavily on cheap calories from fast food to fill their bellies… it makes me sad!

                                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                I agree. My parents didn't believe in fast food. We would end up with the Mcdonalds toys from my grandparents who had a dog that ate happy meals. They would give the toys to us, we never cared.

                                                                                                                                I've still never ordered through a drive through window before in my life. Something I'm proud of.

                                                                                                                                I think I mentioned this story in another thread about what kids are eating these days but my sister has a two year old son who was introduced to fast food and my mom wasn't to please.

                                                                                                                                My sister said, he loves fries! So my mom always keeps at least one potato in the house if he wants fries she will make them for him.

                                                                                                                                One day He picked up the potato and handed it to her and said "Fries!" "Fries". This is when we realize that he knew where fries came from, and most children his age think they come from a little redheaded clown.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                                                                  Yeah, back in the cheap-old-days my mom could feed herself, me, and my big brother (my step-father was usually out to sea) for three days on the $6 or so it would cost her to take us for one meal at McD's. I remember my mom being exasperated at spending $150 for a month's worth of groceries at the Navy Exchange.

                                                                                                                                2. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                  Depending on where you live (especially in inner-city areas in big cities) you mightn't have the access to fresh produce and diverse ingredients that some of us are lucky enough to take for granted. Also I think some people are a lot more time poor than others. It's a bit simplistic, and classist, to not think about all the factors involved in diet and choice.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: raisingirl

                                                                                                                                    It is a grim reality, but dollar menu dinners and the equivalent cheap but not very healthy packaged foods have their place as the legitimate "best" meal choice for some people sometimes.

                                                                                                                                    The dollar meal gets you 360-400 calories for a dollar depending on what condiments you add. You can get the same calories if you eat instant ramen or discount dried pasta and discount sauce. All of these dietary choices have their place in a $3 to $5 a day meal budget in order to get to a 1200 or 1500 calorie minimum. Sadly, while the recipes that most people are posting are really very inexpensive and much healthier, just adding a few ingredients or making some of the items from scratch can easily and quickly push the budget up to $5 to $10 a day per person (this is still an extraordinarily low budget, but sadly it is simply out of reach for a segment of the US population).

                                                                                                                                    Cost is also not the only issue. A harried single parent holding down 3 part time minimum wage jobs, or two full time minimum wage jobs on top of taking care of the family who is in the $3 to $5 meal budget per person per day can see a significant boon in getting take away a few times a week.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: khuzdul

                                                                                                                                      And with the SNAP card (food stamps) now being accepted at fast food chain restaurants in certain states, it is even more prevalent for people with low incomes to continue to eat poorly.
                                                                                                                                      I was chastised once in a discussion by someone, when I suggested that the health benefits of good nutrition should be stressed and people who receive these benefits should get more help to lean how to create nutritious meals on a “food stamp budget”

                                                                                                                                      It’s not that I think that people don’t know better, I realize that it’s a tough road, but the poor nutrition of people on assistance results in obesity and the myriad of health problems that obesity causes.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                        I agree. My daughter and SO eat too many Dollar Meals and don't cook enough veggies. Every time I visit I try to teach cheap healthy cooking. But the dollar meals are a cheap convient temptation for her. She is 24 and getting a round little belly.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                          Food for thought, a study that recently came out...

                                                                                                                                          "A new national study of eating out and income shows that fast-food dining becomes more common as earnings increase from low to middle incomes, weakening the popular notion that fast food should be blamed for higher rates of obesity among the poor."

                                                                                                                                          "Fast-food restaurant visits rose along with annual household income up to $60,000. As income increased beyond that level, fast-food visits decreased."


                                                                                                                                          1. re: khuzdul

                                                                                                                                            Thanks, that's very interesting info.

                                                                                                                                            I remember a speaker from our local food bank telling us that you should never assume because a child is overweight or obese that s/he isn't going hungry. It can be another form of food hoarding.

                                                                                                                                            IMO obesity is also a sign of emotional pain, since food is a way to self-medicate.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                              It's a good point. And even for middle/upper class families, sometimes the kids are learning a very strange relationship with food (some nights mom only serves steamed broccoli for dinner, dad withholds food for days bafore football tryouts, or when we're going to a buffet for dinner, we're not allowed to eat breakfast or lunch,) which causes them to hoard food and stress eat. It's sad stuff.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: raisingirl

                                                                                                                                        Another segment of the low income group is homeless and doesn't have anything to cook on, much less with. Even if living in a tent, it costs money to get charcoal for the fire to cook the food you can afford. Fast food might be the only option. Sad but true.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: cgarner


                                                                                                                                        Yup. And Yum! Brands are lobbying to allow the use of food stamps at fast food restaurants.

                                                                                                                                      4. I think everyone should know how to cook cheap nutritious meals just in case. When my husband was in graduate school in the late sixties and I was the sole breadwinner I had a budget of $20 for the week including a side trip for bread and milk. As a new cook I cut out recipes from Family Circle and made sure no supper came to more than a dollar. Lunches were sandwiches from home. We got by and never went hungry. I learned a lot from those budgeting years and tend to be frugal today even though I don't have to be.

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: noodlepoodle

                                                                                                                                          Noodlepoodle: Ditto-ditto only I did it in the 'fifties for $10 a week. Cheap tuna was 2 cans for 39 cents and a box of noodles was 10 cents. I made so many tuna-noodle casseroles that although my husband lived 51 years after getting his degree he never, not once, ate another tuna-noodle casserole.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                            I did it in the mid to late 60's for $15.00 a week including all extra bread and milk and GAS! Of course, you could get about 4 gallons of gas for $1.00 then! The biggest problem was that my husband was a very picky eater, so he got the most desirable food and I ate whatever was left. But it didn't matter much to me as I always liked beans and vegetables. Even now, at 64, I'm not exceptionally heavy (a little overweight, but not so much considering my age) even though I can afford to eat anything I want. I think it gets to be a habit not to eat too much!

                                                                                                                                        2. Past and present eats:

                                                                                                                                          - pb & j sandwiches and a banana-yogurt smoothie for breakfast is my current go-to.
                                                                                                                                          - cereal (any time of day)
                                                                                                                                          - French toast (made this so often as a kid that my sister hated it for years afterwards - but when there's nothing but bread, eggs and milk in the fridge growing up...)
                                                                                                                                          - lugaw (filipino porridge of chicken and rice)
                                                                                                                                          - pasta with Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce. So tasty but the amount of butter still freaks me out a little. (http://steamykitchen.com/8375-marcell...)
                                                                                                                                          - pasta scrambled in eggs
                                                                                                                                          - rice with a diced hard-boiled egg and tomato (the filipino dish I grew up with used salted eggs; this is obviously healthier without all that salt)
                                                                                                                                          - greek salad with garbanzo beans (or just about any beans, for the protein)
                                                                                                                                          - a store-bought cold roast chicken can last weeks with a bit of planning. (Yes, store-bought. I just don't have the luxury of time to roast a chicken at home. God, I love the smell.)
                                                                                                                                          - french onion soup (the cheese is pricey but if you have homemade stock, a couple onions and bread, you're set!)
                                                                                                                                          - soft polenta cooked with milk (or cream) and finished with parmesan. Buttered toast on the side. Lovely with roasted tomato or ham/bacon on the side too. Ate this for weekend breakfasts a lot awhile back ago.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: jubilant cerise

                                                                                                                                            My conscience compels me to take exception with some of what you've listed here. French onion soup requires a stock reduced so much that many families couldn't spare the expense of the ingredients required to make merely stock, much less the cost of the good cheese you suggest. I was once asked by an acquaintance who is on a much tighter budget than mine what ingredients I use to make my potato gratin. Sure the potatoes are cheap, but it takes plenty of heavy cream, more than a couple of stewed onions (which aren't so cheap anymore) and a good amount of expensive gruyere (yes, gruyere is always a budget buster). The acquaintance then asked me if she could substitute a much less expensive swiss (think WIC approved) and still get the same results. Of course she couldn't, but she's feeding her entire family on a shoestring budget and has time restraints as limiting as what you suggest. She makes soups out of value packs of chicken legs that have a good, but certainly not strong broth. She makes really terrific food considering her budget, but that budget has no room for store bought rotisserie chickens, fancy cheese, luxurious dairy or produce that most would consider a bargain. It's just a fact.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: agoodbite

                                                                                                                                              My mom made Macaroni and Tomatoes - still a family favorite amongst siblings. Not so much with spouses.

                                                                                                                                              She also stuffed hot dogs with cheese and broiled them.

                                                                                                                                              Chicken and dumplings.....lots of broth.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: agoodbite

                                                                                                                                                I'm happy to give you an incredible - and cheap - onion soup recipe.

                                                                                                                                                No beef stock - you make the broth by reducing POUNDS of onions, then adding water once they are browned. I can get onions on sale 5 pounds for a dollar, so this is darn affordable. And while expensive swiss cheese would be nice, you can use grocery store swiss and it is still company worthy. I think it would be a really nice and affordable treat for your friend. (And she can do most of the cooking in a crockpot, freeing up her time, the final finish on the stovetop will take less than 30 minutes.)


                                                                                                                                            2. Really cheap meals we had when I was a kid.

                                                                                                                                              Breakfast sausage links baked in a roaster w/canned baked beans

                                                                                                                                              Creamed peas on toast

                                                                                                                                              Creamed (canned) salmon on mashed potatoes

                                                                                                                                              Navy bean soup ladled over white bread served w/ketchup

                                                                                                                                              Tuna noodle casserole

                                                                                                                                              today when there is more month than $$$$

                                                                                                                                              Oatmeal for breakfast (not prepackaged ~~ cook it yourself)

                                                                                                                                              PB&J sandwich for lunch

                                                                                                                                              Pasta w/marinara for dinner (add garbanzos or can of lentil soup for protein)

                                                                                                                                              1. I forgot to mention that potato pancakes are a great budget stretcher - I always have potatoes and I always have applesauce, so it's nothing to throw these together.

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                  LOL in my mother's home, leftover mashed potatoes were made into potato patties. Loved them.

                                                                                                                                                  In my home, it was what? leftover mashed potatoes?

                                                                                                                                                2. We overspent in Maine this summer and have trouble making it to payday after paying bills. No money until payday this Friday. This weeks menu: breakfast, oatmeal; lunch, cold pasta tuna salad, supper, green chile enchiladas w/ pintos or green chile w/ pintos.
                                                                                                                                                  Thankfully, I coach soccer and the night before games we have team dinners at parents' houses 2 or 3 times a week. Last week: green chile enchiladas one night and bbq brisket, fixin's and home made desserts. It really helps. After away games I get to eat my first chain burgers in 15 years! Meh. Wendy's and Carl Jr. seem to be the least bad.
                                                                                                                                                  Remember Wall Street, teachers are overpaid; slash their salaries and retirement (Maine did this!) to balance the budget!

                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                    When I was 15 and homeless, I scraped by on hamburgers on hot dog rolls, Reese's peanut butter cups, and beer, in a cabin across the Housatonic about a half mile south of the Stevenson dam in Monroe, CT.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                      At 20, I sneaked into the Allentown trout hatchery (penalty $100 per fish) in a midnight raid when I was reduced to 1 can of beets in the cupboard. A baked 10 lb. trout stuffed w/ beets. A very fond memory.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                                                                                        I like that Passa,

                                                                                                                                                        What a picture you paint.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                        Veggo, Reese's peanut butter cups are not cheap and neither is beer. Been there myself.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Mmmm, I am rather enjoying perusing this thread and will probably come back to it in the future :)

                                                                                                                                                      Some of the past and present cheap eats include:

                                                                                                                                                      Porcupines (or porcupine roadkill if I don't make the meatballs into balls of meat): ground beef, oregano (really good dried whole oregano is REALLY cheap around here), garlic, canned tomato sauce (also very cheap in this area, and I always keep the pantry well-stocked with it), and rice. Very filling, tastes better the next day, and does about three meals for two of us.

                                                                                                                                                      Goulash: random ground beef or pork product from the freezer (sausage, ground beef, etc....), canned tomatoes, random veggie from the fridge or freezer, usually garlic, oregano, and some "random" seasoning from the pantry, and some starchy thing (rice, potatoes, pasta). It seems no matter how broke we are I can fanagle a really good goulash if I just use that basic method, adjusting the seasonings according to mood.

                                                                                                                                                      Egg drop soup
                                                                                                                                                      Tomato soup and cheese sandwiches
                                                                                                                                                      Chicken and rice (mushroom soup with rice and cheap chicken thighs; or canned tomatoes with rice and chicken thighs)
                                                                                                                                                      Pinto beans, rice, and pork roast (with the amount of pork subject to change lol) in tortillas
                                                                                                                                                      Spaghetti noodles with pesto and an egg, maybe some sort of protein if it's available (chicken, bacon, etc...)
                                                                                                                                                      Breakfast! Scrambled eggs or omelette with.... whatever else is in the fridge (leftover green beans with tomatoes worked well once, or caramelized onions)
                                                                                                                                                      Onion soup
                                                                                                                                                      Hash (potatoes fried with bacon or sausage, onions, garlic, and a random vegetable such as string beans, or mustard greens, etc...)

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Popkin

                                                                                                                                                        Popkin, what is your "method" for making goulash?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                                                                                          Brown some ground beef, sausage, bacon, or other meat. Add 1 or 2 cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, or crushed tomatoes, seasonings to taste, a vegetable (I usually use string beans as they are cheap around here), a starch (rice or pasta), then enough water or broth to cook the starch. If I'm using potatoes I usually fry those up with the meat, omit the water, and simmer until everything tastes nice. I usually add everything, bring it up to a simmer, and add more liquid as needed and seasonings to taste as it cooks. I usually just make it by "feel" but the basic idea is you toss a bunch of stuff in the pan on the stove to gently simmer.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Popkin

                                                                                                                                                            There was cheese in the goulash I ate at potlucks as a child ... I make it with a pound of pasta, pound of ground bison, WIC-approved jack, canned diced tomatoes, and lots of Italian spices.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Homemade bread for me, too, and fried tortillas with anything. Also fresh pasta with butter or garlic oil. And minestrone soup. Seems to be very filling with just a little meat.

                                                                                                                                                        1. I'd say my number one cheap eat staple is rice. I buy big bags of medium grain rice at GrandMart. A few cheap meals I gravitate to when money is tight are fried rice or congee with tiny bits of meat and leftover veggies. Also, I make a pressure cooker full of beans and make rice and bean bowls or burritos. By having rice, dried beans, and frozen inexpensive cuts of meat on hand, I can stretch the food budget pretty far. I work FT so these are also items that can be prepared in advance and reheated at the end of the day (or packed for lunch).

                                                                                                                                                          1. We just finished a big pot of chicken green chile and tomatillo posole, cheap and healthy. We ate it for 5 night and the spice keeps it from becoming monotonous.

                                                                                                                                                            1. Found a super fast and easy dumpling recipe the other day (1 potato, 1 egg, flour to make a dumpling consistency, roll into a log and slice, boil in salted water). Decent nutrition- a little protein and fiber in there. I nuked the sweet potato and scooped out the flesh, and it worked perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                              Pizza can be a good one, too. Not rice-and-beans cheap, but pretty close, especially if you are willing to make the dough. I used roasted seconds tomatoes in place of sauce for one last night, and it was surprisingly good. It's one of those meals that makes a little meat feel like a lot. On the same token, calzones or homemade hotpockets.

                                                                                                                                                              1. You can make an very inexpensive soup with chicken backs. Even though I am buying at a "butcher" shop, Rocky Jr. backs are around $1.80 a pound and there is a quite a bit of meat on the bones. If you don't splurge on a $4 breast, you could make a great soup or porridge with six backs with the side benefit of a lot of schmaltz.

                                                                                                                                                                1. When I was in college, I ate a lot of eggs, canned tuna, frozen veggies, pasta & rice. You can actually make a lot with these. For example, for the eggs alone, I could turn it into, scrambled eggs with toast, egg curries with rice, egg purgatory, fried egg on rice with some soy sauce (my comfort food), eggs with pasta, fritata, and omelet. Oh, I always just throw some frozen veggies in whatever I cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                  After I graduated from college and got married, I was unemployed for more than a year. During this period my cooking skills sky rocketed by necessity. Since I was home all days, I learned to make a lot of stuff from scratch. Before that, I had never made cake or cookies from scratch, but during my "domestic engineering" days, I even made bread from scratch. I also learned to make other foods that I never even tried before like Stuffed Cabbage, Saag Paneer, Pierogies, and many more. For two of us, the monthly food budget back then was less than $160 so we really had to stretch out. We didn't go out at all, even McDonald seemed too expensive. It was a really really hard period of my life, and cooking was my solace.

                                                                                                                                                                  Now, I have a job, but it doesn't mean we have a lot of money at our disposal. However, I don't have all the time in the world anymore. I embrace leftover now more than ever. For example if I were to make a pot of chicken soup, on day one, I would eat it with rice and some stir-fried veggies. On the second day, I would boil some pasta, and steamed some veggies to eat with the soup. On the third day, I would make some sandwich and maybe eat the soup as a side. On the fourth day, I would add tom-yum paste to make it taste differently and eat it with rice noodles, spinach, and other herbs. On the fifth day, when there is not so much soup left, I would try to thicken the soup with mashed potatoes or tomato paste and add more veggies to it and tossed some pasta to it and call it a dinner. I know, the idea of evolving leftovers used to make me gag, but now that's how I live. heh.

                                                                                                                                                                  I also embrace lunch food for dinners. The way I think of it is, it is still cheaper for me to make the sandwich or wraps at home than to buy it at Subway, etc. And it doesn't take that long either to make it, so why not? One of our favorite is grilled cheese. If you're making at home, you can jazz it up however you want it. I usually use Muenster cheese, with pesto sauce spread on one side of the bread, and a layer of sliced tomatoes added in the between the cheeses with red pepper flakes sprinkled on top. yumm..

                                                                                                                                                                  I rarely freeze ready-to-eat leftover because we have a fairly small fridge. Instead, I would freeze some cooked items like rice, broth, and sauces. I also have a lot of store-bought frozen veggies (spinach, peas, corn). With some preps, these could easily turn into any meal on any given days. My freezer is full of ready-to-cook, rather than ready-to-eat food. But with these "shortcut," cooking on a typical weekdays really doesn't take too long.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. Chili mac
                                                                                                                                                                    Sloppy joes
                                                                                                                                                                    BBQ chicken legs in the oven
                                                                                                                                                                    +1 on the big supermarket ham-you can easily get a bunch of meals out of it depending on the number of mouths to feed
                                                                                                                                                                    These are the things my mom made to stretch the dollar

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Dried beans are a must. Good plain with cornbread. Great base for chili or soup. Good over rice. Mash them up and make fried bean patties. Roll 'em up in a tortilla - which are amazingly easy and cheap to make at home. Add a ham bone and a few onions and you have ham and bean soup. Also any green like kale, collards, chard, cabbage, etc that goes on sale is great in beans or on the side steamed or fried with a little salt and vinegar. Pasta and tomato sauce is always cheap - just add extra garlic.

                                                                                                                                                                      Of course, this is how my mom cooked all the time. Never realized this was to save money. I thought everyone ate this good! :)

                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hippioflov

                                                                                                                                                                        Love this thread. It's so down to earth and evocative.

                                                                                                                                                                        I find almost any leftover can be turned into a soup or casserole. If you've got some rice, make a stir fry.
                                                                                                                                                                        If there's a little flour and shortening on hand, biscuits are quick and easy. And the honorable potato. I could eat them every day. Sometimes it's odds and ends from the freezer that make a meal. (Actually this would be a GREAT time to use up those 'mystery' packages in the freezer. )


                                                                                                                                                                      2. When I was growing up, my mom would often fry up a pound or so of hamburger, drain the fat, and then combine the meat and some beaten eggs in a pan and scramble it up. This would be served with fried potatoes and toast on the side and ketchup dabbed on the top. It was a very economical way to stretch a little bit of inexpensive meat among two adults and three kids.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. "and when there was no meat, we ate fowl and when there was no fowl, we ate crawdad and when there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand."

                                                                                                                                                                          1. I like to make what I call "pantry surprise" and for some reason, my husband loves it. It's usually a can of black beans, a can of tomatoes and whatever veggies I have (frozen or fresh) and some sort of meat (leftover, frozen, or canned chicken). It changes depending on what I have around (chicken broth, wine etc).

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I do smashed black beans with sour cream and grated cheese. I start by soaking and cooking a big bag of black beans. Then I sauté minced onions in some lard. I then add some minced jalapeños and garlic. I throw in some black beans and let it simmer for awhile, then smash everything up with a potato masher and garnish with the sour cream and cheese. I add cilantro if I have it (33 cents at the corner grocery store). This tastes particularly good with brown rice cooked in tomato juice.

                                                                                                                                                                              I've been doing advance planning more recently, as I've had a few too many close calls with not enough food. I keep bags of beans and rice in the pantry, and I make sure that my freezer contains leftovers from a few previous meals. I also have been buying produce boxes in advance, so that when things get tight I still have organic produce. Saving for a rainy day, I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Salmon cakes and tuna fish sandwiches are pretty economical towards the end of the month. Kielbasa and sauerkraut with fried potatoes is another old standby.

                                                                                                                                                                                And, of course, what's cheaper than a pot of beans. I like pintos, black beans, limas, black-eyed peas, or navy beans served over rice with a pan of cornbread.

                                                                                                                                                                                I cook pork neckbones with stock, garlic, hot peppers and onions. Midway I'll add potatoes and carrots. Really good stuff. I make it when I'm not stretching the budget.

                                                                                                                                                                                I go to an international market nearby, because their prices for fish are reasonable. Their fish is fresh and priced to move quickly, and they have more varieties than the local grocery stores.

                                                                                                                                                                                The butcher takes turkey legs or wings, smoked or fresh, and slices them horizontally. He even does that with fresh pork hocks. That way I don't have to cook the whole piece, which I use it to flavor the stock and then add veggies to bulk it up. The smaller pieces cook quicker, too. Saves me money. I can get more meals out of one leg or wing and it saves me time, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. I'm Australian, and grew up one of 8 children - plus our boarder and their kids, so there were usually 13 or 14 people for dinner every day. My dad had a bad back and couldn't work consistently, and mum was kept busy looking after us kids - consequently we lived on very little money. Food we ate included:
                                                                                                                                                                                  - Roadkill - if we hit a kangaroo with the car out driving and killed it, we'd usually take it home, skin it and eat it. We'd also check the pouch for young, and if found, would look after it until it was old enough to either go back to the wild or be donated to a local zoo. Kangaroo is very strong tasting meat, so it would usually be something like a goulash
                                                                                                                                                                                  - Fish! Dad would go out fishing and catch vast quantities of mullet and mud crabs. The crabs would be boiled and eaten (sometimes frozen for later), and the mullet was usually just fried, but also sometimes baked. Dad would fish a fair amount, mostly to supplement our diet.
                                                                                                                                                                                  - Cheaper cuts of meat - I grew up eating tongue, ox tail stew and similar.
                                                                                                                                                                                  - Lots of veggies! We lived in an area with a massive horticultural industry, so we would often get large quantities of seconds. Tomatoes and pineapples by the truckfull! We'd bottle them, make sauce, or whatever else
                                                                                                                                                                                  - Grew our own. Whilst we didn't have a huge amount of success growing the stone fruits that we all loved (subtropics, plus fruit flies), we did grow macadamia nuts, lots of fresh herbs, mango, avocado, papaya (ugh, hate it!), tomato, chilli and whatever else would grow

                                                                                                                                                                                  Other meals we had included:
                                                                                                                                                                                  Toasted sandwiches - usually for dinner after grocery shopping days. Ham, cheese, tomato and sometimes onion
                                                                                                                                                                                  Frozen corn on the cob
                                                                                                                                                                                  Spaghetti bolognese - mum could make 500gms of meat feed 12 people and would sometimes add breadcrumbs to add bulk to the sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                  Toad in the hole
                                                                                                                                                                                  Curried chicken wings - done in the slow cooker, a family favourite
                                                                                                                                                                                  Various stews/etc, all cooked in the slow cooker
                                                                                                                                                                                  Every night, mum would put oats on to cook in the slow cooker and we would eat them for breakfast the next morning, with milk and a little sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                  Bubble 'n squeak - we'd usually just cook up leftover veggies, sometimes a bit of cheese and eat it like that, without shaping into anything. It was a gloopy mess!
                                                                                                                                                                                  Instant noodles - sometimes with cheese and bread - usually a lunchtime food
                                                                                                                                                                                  Sandwiches, often with peanut butter and jam, or vegemite
                                                                                                                                                                                  Curried sausages, or sausages in gravy
                                                                                                                                                                                  Pumpkin soup
                                                                                                                                                                                  Roasts - usually cheaper meats and cuts but could include chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc, served with lots of roast veggies (usually potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, onion), honeyed carrots, peas and/or beans
                                                                                                                                                                                  Corned silverside
                                                                                                                                                                                  Tuna mornay
                                                                                                                                                                                  Pasta bake with chicken or tuna
                                                                                                                                                                                  Eggs on toast
                                                                                                                                                                                  Hot dogs (with lots of veggies)
                                                                                                                                                                                  Rice, served sweet with milk and sugar, or as a side with dinner. Sometimes we had fried rice

                                                                                                                                                                                  Desserts usually included fruit.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Nothing was ever really pre-packaged, except our bread (which was usually day old or older so it was cheaper, we'd also usually have powdered milk as that was cheaper, fresh was a huge treat for us). We'd make our own biscuits and cakes. We'd have plenty of fresh produce - watermelon was cheap when in season, boiled peanuts, pineapple, tomato, lettuce, chard, coconut, starfruit, oranges. Lots of more tropical stuff was cheaper, but we'd also get stonefruits like peach from time to time if it was cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                  We had a pretty diverse diet in general and a reasonably healthy one - very little takeaway (if we did have takeaway, it'd usually just be chips, which we'd have with bread, sauce and onion), no sugary drinks (couldn't afford them!), no pre-prepared snacks.

                                                                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DissidentPhoenix

                                                                                                                                                                                    It all sounds good. Two questions: 1) what is corned silverside? Is that like the corned beef we eat in the U.S.? 2) How did you toast your mac nuts to get rid of their toxicity when raw? I always thought you needed a commercial type roaster to get the heat up high enough, but maybe a longer time in a conventional domestic oven does the trick, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Corned silverside is probably exactly the same thing as the corned beef you eat in the U.S. - silverside is the cut. It's from the hindquarters and is about the only cut used in corned beef in Australia.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I know that a lot of nuts other than almonds and walnuts do require cooking, but Macadamia nuts are perfectly safe to eat raw. In fact, I much, much, much prefer them raw. Growing up, we'd pick a container-full from ours or the neighbors' tree, sit around on our concreted landing area at the bottom of the steps and bash them with a brick to get at the nuts, which we usually ate immediately.
                                                                                                                                                                                      This page provides some information about the nutritional qualities of macadamia nuts: http://www.macnuts.com.au/nut-benefit...
                                                                                                                                                                                      I now live in South Australia, which has a Mediterranean rather than subtropical climate so can't grow macadamias here - this makes them a very expensive treat now, especially if I want them raw as these are mostly only available in health food stores :(

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DissidentPhoenix

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks. Good to learn about mac nuts. I've always been told that the raw ones were toxic. Now I know different, and may go out to pick some. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: babette feasts

                                                                                                                                                                                            No, I'm here in Hawaii and people sometimes sell mac nuts on the side of the road. One guy who sold bags of both the roasted and the raw ones was the one who always said they were toxic. I figured that since he was a mac farmer, he knew what he was talking about. It probably also cut into this sales, since he sold the raw and the roasted for the same price. Go figure...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                              Recently left Oahu, but my favorite cheap roadside eat from your side of the rock was the van or two you always spotted somewhere where a local fisherman or -woman disposed of surplus fresh ahi (tuna) and aku (bonito). It came out of his cooler in huge chunks, in a plastic bag, and it was cheaper even than Chinatown. Many's the time when I bought ahi this way on impulse and took it home to saute or grill. You can never have too much fresh tuna. (Yeah, I know, mercury, but I'm not a pregnant woman.) The great local fish almost nobody in Hawaii eats, because most of it is shipped to the mainland, is broad-billed swordfish, identified on packages by its Japanese name, shutome. Whenever I saw it in the stores, I grabbed it. Marinate the steaks overnight in lemon juice, olive oil, salt/pepper, garlic, oregano and chopped mint and grill. Sicilian style. Nothing -- not even prime beefsteak -- is better Swordfish is expensive on the mainland .. not in Hawaii supermarkets. But it's scarce. The other local marlins are OK too, but not as good as shutome.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: emu48

                                                                                                                                                                                                I agree 100% on the shutome. A lot of local fishermen keep their shutome for family and friends, so that's another reason not too much of it makes it to the markets. As far as the ahi goes, a friend of mine operates one of those trucks. He and his brothers go out fishing, catch, take the fish back home to clean and butcher, then head out to the side of the road. Whenever I saw Danny out there selling I knew the fish had been caught that morning. If the rose guy is there you can even get a dozen roses for the table for a sinfully cheap price. Opah (moonfish) and opakapaka (pink snapper) are two more favorites. Both are great on the grill.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Everyday around here is a 'end of month budget' kind of meal for me right now, and I keep my food budget to between $10 and $20 a week for myself. I think that all things considering, I eat pretty darned well.

                                                                                                                                                                                    A dozen eggs for $1.99 will give me protein for a week, especially if I supplement it with beans in some of my meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Flour is cheap, and home made bread is easy enough. And tends to come out nicer than the 99 cent white bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Kale is cheap - a 99 cent bunch will make 4 meals when sauteed with garlic, an onion, and half an italian sausage per serving. Toss this with some pasta and top with a little grated parm and it makes a tasty hearty meal. Sometimes I switch the kale out for rainbow chard when it's on sale. I suppose just about any greens would work.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Half an onion, a can of sardines and a handful of whole wheat pasta once again topped with a little parm cheese is tasty and lands on my table atleast every couple of weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Spaghetti carbonara is in regular rotation here too. Bacon is expensive, but I buy it on sale, wrap 2 slices in plastic and freeze. That way I can grab jsut a couple of slices to make carbonara without being tempted to eat it all for breakfast in a matter of days.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Soups are great - a bag of beans, a small amount of cheap meat of any sort, some stock make from left over chicken bones if I have it, or a dollop of Better than Boullion if I don't, onions, carrots, a jar of my canned tomatoes and whatever seasoning appeals to me, and I can feed myself for a week.

                                                                                                                                                                                    A rotisserie chicken can easily feed me for 12 or so meals. I realized one day that while I could eat it 4-5 times by having chicken with a side, I could stretch it a LOT further by using the meat in other dishes such as stir fries, soups, sandwiches, etc. And when I'm done with most of the meat, the bones make a great start for a pot of soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I do however keep my pantry very well stocked. When I find non perishables very cheap, I buy enough to hopefully last me till the next sale. I have low price points for almost everything I buy, and if an item drops below that price, I stock up. Sardines get stocked at 50 cents a can, pasta at 40 cents / lb, cream of wheat (my preferred breakfast) at 1.50/box. This past summer I also started canning, buying produce at rock bottom prices and putting it up. I'm loving having jars of crushed tomatoes to use in my meals without having to go out and buy them. My red onion relish and tomato jam are great for dressing up plain burgers, eggs, sandwiches, wraps, etc for very little money, and home made jam is the perfect way to sweeten cream of wheat or oatmeal. My biggest expense last summer on these was the jars, but next year I'll be able to reuse the jars, so it will be even cheaper to do this. I've also bought a pressure canner, so I can put up a larger variety of items. I can't wait to get started!

                                                                                                                                                                                    My roommate on the other hand is like many other people who live flush at the start of the month, ordering out a few times a week and then scrimps at the end. Her usual end of the month meals are store brand hotdogs, white bread and turkey sandwiches, iceberg lettuce salads, and ramen noodles. And somehow she spends more on all that than I spend on my regular weekly food.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JasFoodie

                                                                                                                                                                                      I used to love canning! I need to get my soil testing as nothing grows in my garden, but I'd like to get back into canning. Would you post about how you make the red onion relish?

                                                                                                                                                                                      Look for the jars on Craigslist or Freecycle and when people are cleaning out basements, etc....I got a lot of mine free that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jenscats5

                                                                                                                                                                                        This is way way way late.. but here's the recipe -

                                                                                                                                                                                        I use my grocery store's $2 red wine to keep the cost from getting too high and it comes out great.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I'm coming back to add something that I made for the first time today - Carrot and potato soup. Sure, the way I made it would be absurdly expensive (I used 2 bottles of organic carrot juice that were given to me) but it could have just as easily been made with regular carrots.

                                                                                                                                                                                      All the other ingredients were cheap enough - 3 potatoes, half an onion, a stalk of celery, a spoon of better than boullion, and a couple of heaping tablespoons of dry milk powder instead of cream. And of course whatever seasonings you want to add from your spice cabinet. This time around it was nutmeg, cumin, and tumeric. Cook everything in just enough water, run the stick blender in the pot for a bit and done! I got probably 4 - 5 servings of soup out of this that's hearty enough to be a meal with some crusty bread on the side.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. My ideas usually start with pasta. Tuna noodle casserole, or spaghetti + butter + parmesan (grated by me) + either asparagus or halved raw grape tomatoes and/or diced raw sweet onion. Today for lunch I had pasta + cold leftover hanger steak and cold grilled asparagus and mushrooms from last night's doggy bag + diced sweet onion + butter + parm. Pasta cooks in 4.5 minutes (baby bowties) ... quick, easy, delicious, and cheap (comparatively). I'll get at least 3 meals from that hanger steak ...

                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh, something else I really like ... I buy half a smoked chicken, and that makes 3-4 servings. I cut a carrot into half coins, brown in butter while the pasta's cooking, toss in the chicken, and then toss with the pasta when it's done. A little fleur de sel (available in the bulk dept in any quantity) on top. Now that is good ...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Make your very own pot of wonderful, savory pot of beans and cornbread. What is left, if any, hubby eats cold on bread the next day.

                                                                                                                                                                                          A good time to clean out the fridge and make a wonderful pot of minestrone soup!! I LOVE soup almost all kinds.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Great question! With several food sensitivities (gluten, soy, dairy), I can't eat many of the traditional go-to cheap meals. Frittatas are always economical; I add whatever leftover veg and odd ends of goat or sheep cheese I have to eggs. A few years ago, I created a cheap variant of shepherd's pie that can feed us for at least a week. I buy whatever greens (rainbow chard is great, since the stems add color) and shrooms are on special, saute them with chopped onion in olive oil, then add them to whatever sauteed ground meat I have around (we're blessed to have a butcher who puts various organic ground meats on special year-round, so I usually have several pounds in my freezer). I then make a sauce from unsweetened coconut milk (I buy this in bulk at my local co-op) and curry powder with whatever GF thickener I have handy. Mix all those ingredients in a big casserole or baking dish, then spoon homemade mashed potatoes or yams on top with some dots of Smart Balance. Bake until the crust turns golden. I'm working on other casseroles with a Greek influence at the moment. We often make a huge batch of Keftedes (meatballs) with the ground meat we keep in the freezer. The key is to be a smart shopper. We're fortunate to live in an area of New England with lots of farms (with greenhouses, they're offering fresh food year-round), fresh local eggs and meats, etc. Our co-op and other independent stores have been putting more staples on sale. Whenever we have some extra cash at the end of the month, we buy anything on special we can and freeze it. Since meat, poultry and fish are often the budget-busters, we can then afford to keep protein on the table the whole month. Butchers are a rare breed these days, but if you have one, then you can save by watching for those specials. A couple months ago, ours held a special sale on Strip Steak, so we had a dozen steaks in the freezer throughout the holiday season. We enjoyed the last two for the Super Bowl. During holiday times, we usually invest in a good organic ham. For $50-70, an average 10-lb ham feeds us for about 10 days, longer if you count the stock I make after simmering the bone/carcass with veggies. In turn, I make a veggie and bean soup with the stock that can stretch for nearly another week. We also make ham salad, frittatas, mac/cheese with the leftovers. GF/DF mac/cheese can also be a good budget-friendly meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Chicken livers
                                                                                                                                                                                              Turkey hash made from turkey legs
                                                                                                                                                                                              Cuban black beans and rice with cole slaw
                                                                                                                                                                                              Fish pie made with the cheapest fish
                                                                                                                                                                                              Salmon burgers made with canned salmon

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Eggs---great source of protein. I like to have them in a sandwich, as an omelet, or hardboiled and on a salad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Veggie stir fry--made with frozen veggies, tofu, teriyaki sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Chili--beans (cooked from dry), onion, canned tomatoes, veggie "meat"


                                                                                                                                                                                                Canned spinach, can of tuna..whatever cheese is on hand...eaten with a tortilla "spoon" haha

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. When I was a kid my mom made a lot of Leftover casserole with noodles, sometimes a can of tuna thrown in. I can't eat casseroles much today lol

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Chilaquiles. Corn tortillas and eggs are cheap, I usually have some salsa in the fridge that I can use as sauce and then just grate a little cheese on top. I used to eat pan fried potatoes a lot too when I was broke - I'd watch for 10 lb bags to go on sale for a buck, fry some up then add just a bit of grated cheese and some cut up kielbasa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Kitsune_SD

                                                                                                                                                                                                      This dish is inexpensive, easy to make and really fills you up. I chop up a head of cabbage, steam it until tender and add a can of Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilis. It's extra good with grated cheese on top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Nobody laugh, but my go-to meal when we are broke is macaroni and cheese with sliced hot dogs mixed in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      My husband and I both ate this when we were kids (I think a lot of people did, lol) and we still like it. It probably isn't the healthiest thing, but when we are really broke we tend to have that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I also like to make homemade chicken noodle soup. This costs around $5 for the entire thing and last 2-3 days. Delicious. :)

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TulsaWife

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yup! Hot dogs in ANYTHING! I like slicing them and sticking one thick slice in mini cornbread muffins.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. From my childhood, when we had not much of anything:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Oatmeal.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Elbow noodles and ketchup.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Saltines with PBJ, or just butter, or anything we could find.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Mulligan stew (hamburger, canned pork and beans, elbow noodles, tomato soup, and chili powder.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Lots and lots and lots of boiled potatoes. We'd get a 50 lb. bag for $5 right from the OTR truckers.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Canned Campbell's soups, Chef Boy-r-Dee spaghettios or ravioli. All the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I still make the Mulligan Stew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. For me it's one of my 2 childhood comfort foods:
                                                                                                                                                                                                          macaroni with butter or macaroni that has been fried in butter to partial crispness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I don't have any exact suggestions because it all depends on what I already have on hand, but one of my favorite food blogs is this one: http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/ It focuses on healthy home cooked meals on a budget, gives cost breakdowns, and everything I've made from it has been delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Black bean chili - 2 cans of black beans, a jar of salsa, some chipotles, a sweet potato maybe, a bottle of beer for liquid, chili powder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, and peanut butter. Lots of peanut butter on bread, rice cakes, apples, whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Eggs on toast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              My one ex used to live on ramen and canned spinach. NOT pleasant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Eggs-Aldi often has a dozen large eggs at less than a dollar. Puffy oven omelettes (whip the egg whites separately and fold into the yolks, milk, and cheese) baked in a jelly roll pan and then rolled up with sauteed veggies on top are big and filling. A meatloaf built around a couple hardboiled eggs makes a cheap meal even cheaper and looks pretty darn cute too. Frittatas with potatoes and cheese or some kind of cured meat. Egg salad on homemade bread (also cheap!) Eggs poached in a chunky tomato sauce. Bread pudding or egg custard for dessert. Souffles, both sweet and savory. Hardboiled eggs in curry.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: POAndrea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Aldis not in the middle of cities seem like they're even cheaper. My Aldis have many, many great deals but eggs are still around a buck fifty a dozen, milk two fifty, butter two thirty right now for plain old regular butter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But blackberries are 99 cents this week!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. And of course, soup. We call it "a$$ end soup" because we put the tail end of all the herbs, vegetables and meats we find in the fridge and freezer. Bones and cheese rinds go in first and come out before serving. Rice and little pastas go in last (and sometimes twice if visitors "stay for dinner").

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: POAndrea

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I call that clean out the fridge soup... I do it about once a month. I always have some roast chicken carcases in the freezer or the broth I've made from previous chicken carcases, so I make soup from that and we eat it as lunches through the week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. OK, here's the deal. I have been in the hospitality industry for better than 50 years, most of the time spent in management. As a single parent of two, we would do a lot of eating out, so that I could "check out" new food trends. Needless to say toward the end of the month the food budget would start getting a little skimpy AND i would have to start cooking at home to economize. That is when we would start eating French and sometimes Italian cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My kids would think this was quite classy little knowing I was doing this to do some serious budget stretching, Some of the meals would be simple, but sound so much better with a French name, such as---
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Croque-monsieur or madam with Potage de Pommes de Terre i.e. ham and cheese sandwiches with potato soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Cassoulet languedocien i.e.a bean casserole with dark meat chicken or turkey and a smoked sausage or hot dogs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Salade nicoise i.e.a tossed salad with a lot of tuna, green beans, boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4. Frittata souffle with cheese,spinach, and ham. i.e.egg whites whipped until fairly stiff with the egg yolks folded in along with other ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    5. Pasta Carbonara (my favorite) i.e. Spaghetti with eggs and ham Italian style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I did finally get my comeuppance of sorts when a couple of parents asked me if I ever thought to fix my kids something simple like breaded fish sticks with fries and slaw. I guess it is really true that no man is a hero in his own home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    One last point, if you like using bacon as an ingredient, buy a box of the bacon scraps,portion them out, and then freeze. This is a lot cheaper than chopping up your sliced bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Robert Hayes Halfpenny