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Oct 6, 2012 10:11 AM

$20 - 1 Person - 1 week Can it be done?

I've been stalking Chowhound for years now, and I often see topics on how to cook for 2 on a budget, or a family of 4 but what about the single person? I am a foodie, an I have every spice imaginable.

I am curious if you could feed a person for 1 week with $20.00. I think I could but only because I have a lot of ingredients that I've stalked up on during sales (spaghetti sauce for example). I started thinking...I could do dinner for 1 on - $20.00 but not an entire day.

So to everyone out there. What you feed 1 person for 7 days - 3 meals a day - with variety (remember foodie here) and you have to stay under $20.00

I was thinking something like:

1 Rotisserie Chicken served with rice and spinach salad
Next night make half of that into enchiladas
Next night left over chicken can become curry with rice
Next night last bit of left over chicken and rice can be made into congee
Then spaghetti w/ home made bread and noodles and spinach salad
1 pizza night (homemade of course!)
hmmmm? left over pizzia not sure

now the hard part is lunch because I don't do sandwiches and I doubt I have enough left overs to eat for lunch.

Breakfast easy
Egg White Omelet with spinach and cheese + bacon
Scrambled Eggs with Potatoes and Cheese + bacon
Pancakes from scratch
Grits - Baked
Repeat any of the above.

Now for this personally the only thing I would need to buy would be chicken, and spinach everything else I had but if I had to buy everything I know it wouldn't be under $20.00....

So ........ I am open to suggestions

1 Person - 7 Days - 3 Meals a Day

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  1. do you have any quinoa or couscous or something along those lines on hand? If not, they would be an inexpensive purchase. make a big salad with a grain, vegetables and herbs. Throw in a can of tuna or salmon if you want. could easily last a few days, and can vary. There is a great thread on quinoa salads here. You could also make some kind of lentil or chickpea dish, these again are very inexpensive options that will give you a good protein (especially if you buy dried instead of canned)

    7 Replies
    1. re: cleopatra999

      I have both. The quinoa I have is the red kind. I like it in salads totally for got about that! I have cans of tuna good suggestion.

      I could also make tuna fish sandwiches for lunch which i love and have everything for.

      I do have chickpeas but I usually make those into hummus.

      Oh, and being southern I could make red beans and rice forgot about that one.

      Good suggestions Cleo... you got me thinking

      1. re: sarahgw

        Don't forget to use that chicken carcass for a wonderful broth that can be a soup or sauce base.

        1. re: sarahgw

          Yes--a pound of red beans can be had for $1.25 or so. Buy a cheap ham hock if you like and throw that in. That pot of beans alone, w/rice, would provide at least 8-10 servings.

          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            yesyesyes...dried beans or legumes!...I think I saw a 1 pound bag of lentils (might have been split peas) for LESS than $1 in WalMart--now THAT is an awesome dry good to have & make mulitple meals from!

            1. re: Val

              mm split pea soup!! That would be super easy and cheap and is one of my favorites. This is looking very do able.

              1. re: sarahgw

                er, I meant to type *multiple*..sheesh Val...also sarah: if you really want to save $$, consider stepping away from "meat is the only protein" isn't...and it is costing more and more and more...even poultry and fish...there are less expensive protein sources available, just gently saying. I think you will have FUN with your project!!!

            2. re: nomadchowwoman

              Unfortunately, since off cuts of meat has become trendy, ham hocks are now pretty expensive. 5 bucks for 3 in a package at Walmart.

        2. You have to do more cooking from scratch, I think. For example, spaghetti sauce. It's better to get tomatoes on sale, then make a big batch and freeze individual portions. If you try to save money by getting the cheapest ready-made sauce in jars, it's going to have a lot of sugar in it.

          Homemade soups can be inexpensive and nutritious, whereas canned soups are overpriced, not as tasty, and full of salt. I make a fish soup or chowder using commercially packed cod fillets from a restaurant supply store. These come in 5-lb boxes (frozen) with six pieces. This is not a good fish for serving on a plate, but diced and simmered with an onion in a crockpot for a few hours, it makes an excellent soup. Add fresh celery, a potato, and water after the onion and fish are well cooked. You can take a shortcut and use condensed cream of potato soup instead of a fresh potato, which you can buy in case lots and stock up on. A fresh potato might be less expensive, but only if there is no waste. That's the difficulty with the economics of fresh ingredients when cooking for one — avoiding waste while minimizing the cost of trips to the grocery.

          1. I have no idea what your appetite is like, but I know I could make five meals out of one roast chicken and then make stock with the carcass. If you buy the chicken raw and cook it yourself, you can make that chicken go a lot further and have more to spend on veggies. For instance, I just came from a store where chicken quarters were 1.29 a lb, and you can often get them cheaper. So if one leg quarter sufficed for a meal, that would cost you somewhere in the vicinity of $1-$1.29.

            Do you like beans? Dried beans and lentils go a long way.

            Pasta + a bit of oil or butter + breadcrumbs and/or a bit of cheese

            Even a small batch of marinara sauce can make several meals with pasta.

            Tortillas rolled w/beans, cheese, maybe a little onion.

            Tortilla pizzas--spread w/a little matinara sauce and sprinkled w/cheese (I lived on these when I was in school on a shoestring budget)

            Salad bars, even while the per lb. price sounds high, can be your friend. Everything is washed, trimmed, ready to go so you can buy small bits of things (go for the pricier items--capers, olives, nuts, cheese, arugula, spinach) to add to staples.

            Pork shoulder is usually very economical and incredibly versatile.

            Yep, I think you can do it if you plan carefully.

            3 Replies
            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              Excellent suggestions. I GH - I cook a lot from scratch and I have some tools that help me! On my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer I have the pasta attachments. I have a bread maker so that helps making bread and stuff.

              I grew nearly 100lbs of tomatoes this summer so I canned them into spaghetti sauce w/o meat. So that should be easy. I do have an herb garden so I don't have to worry about fresh herbs.

              Now that the bay area is finally starting to cool down I can start my fall crop. Which will be helpful with lettuce and carrots and other goodies.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Just cooking for 2, I find that a lot of my veggies go bad before I get a chance to use them, especially lettuce. Getting a small amount from a salad bar is a good idea.

                1. re: Oboegal

                  Yes, I've had that problem too. That's why I try to use versatile vegetable like spinach I can put in an omelet, sauté, add it to pizza, or as a salad. The same with brocoli and carrots plus they're great to snack on.

              2. This is an old thread, so prices have probably changed quite a bit, but RWOrange's experiment of going for a month on $3/day might give you some ideas.


                1. As other posters said, roasting your own chicken and making stock from the carcass would be the foundation for many good meals. I just got a 7 lb roaster for $1.09 a pound to use for that very thing. Soup would be a good lunch, since you don't care for sandwiches.
                  You can mix a little salsa, rice and chicken with some of the stock, add cilantro and you've got a delicious Mexican style soup.
                  Matzoh ball soup is filling and cheap.
                  Good old chicken noodle soup with carrots and celery takes care of a few days worth of meals.

                  With the chicken leftovers, shred up some of the meat, some cabbage, carrot, onion and either Asian seasonings or Eastern European type seasonings and make eggrolls or stuffed pastries.

                  If you do a ground beef spaghetti sauce, the leftover sauce can be used another day in a Johnny Marzetti casserole.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                    I just bought a roaster chicken for .89 cents a pound and make a few meals out of it, saving one leg and the carcass for soup. If the OP is near a Market Basket that is. :)


                    1. re: jmcarthur8

                      If you make chicken stock from the carcass, instead of rice you can use tortilla chips (make from fried corn tortillas -- not the expensive bag kind) to make great tortilla soup. Add cilantro, lime and a little chicken and it is very tasty. A few drops of hot sauce or a chile cooked in the broth makes a different and spicy taste.