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If You Were Broke For The Week, What Would You Buy?

I had to cut back to part-time hours at work because I am getting my master's degree, and we are having one of those weeks where we don't have much until payday--$50 for food to be exact. I already spent it, but I bought what many would consider luxury items. I was thinking about it and though that surely I am not the only one who would spend their last penny on things like good bread for toast, imported butter, coffee, real cream, and wine.

It made me curious about how others would do it, if you only had $50 to spend, but had some food in the pantry, what are your "must haves" to get you by until pay day?

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  1. big question is if I was paid weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. If I only had $50 bucks for groceries to last a week and had a well stocked pantry/freezer I wouldn't even sweat it. I would buy what I wanted/needed. $50 bucks is more than enough for a week for the two of us.

    Now if that $50 bucks had to last 2+ weeks I would probably spend the bulk of money on good, fresh produce since my pantry could keep the meals well rounded. I budget accordingly and when I have money I take advantage of stock up sales, my vacu-sealer and freezer to help save money by buying in bulk. In addition I also always have things like pasta, rice, beans, grains , flour, sugar, crackers, snacks, etc in the pantry. Honestly I could live off my pantry/freezer for a good month or more. I could always take the time and make my own good bread, rolls, dough, etc with what I have on hand.

    But good fresh produce I shop for every couple of days so I would take a good portion of that $50 to get my fruits and veggies. Local heirloom tomatoes if its summer, local apples, acorn and butternut squash in the fall, small fingerling potatoes from the famers market. Oh and fresh local eggs from the family down the street.

    1. Eggs, pasta, a couple good cheeses, Greek yogurt, asparagus and my dirty secret addiction: Diet Coke.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Kat

          Eggs for sure. One of the cheapest sources of protein, they taste good and are versitile

          1. re: Kat

            Definitely Diet Coke. I cannot survive without it.

          2. You are SO not alone. I'd prioritize good coffee, good cream, good eggs, nice fresh greens of some kind and cheese. I'd rather live with fewer ingredients and eat clean.

            1. If the freezer/pantry is pretty bare, I'd buy a couple boxes of pasta and a few jars of sauce, some kind of protein, whatever's cheapest... chicken breasts, ground beef, ground turkey, whatever. I'd also get some frozen veggies, since they're generally cheaper than fresh, although I'd do fresh if I could swing it. I'd also buy some english muffins and peanut butter, for breakfasts, and some bread and lunchmeat for lunches if I don't have leftovers to eat. If I ate eggs I'd buy those. Oh, and diet coke here too :)

              But I'd be pretty set since I have a very well stocked freezer and pantry. So, I'd use the $50 to buy the fresh veggies/fruits and other fun stuff like cheeses and wine.

              1. I would have to assume that my wife is away for the week, otherwise the scenario just doesn't work. We have credit cards and she is not afraid to use them rather than eat cheap (and unhealthy).

                Assuming I have some bare essentials (milk or canned milk, butter, spices, etc.,A large bag of macaroni, two large cans of diced tomatoes, about a pound and a half or so of ground beef, cook the ground beef, cook the mac, drain both, mix in about a cup and a half of milk or can of evaporated milk and a stick of butter, the cans of tomatoes, and ground beef. season with salt and pepper and heat through. Childhood comfort food and money stretcher.
                Five pounds of potatoes and two big yellow onions for potato soup, another childhood favorite.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PotatoHouse

                  Yum. I love those childhood favorites. That macaroni dish sounds so good.

                2. It's only for a week.

                  I do keep a very stocked pantry, and a somewhat stocked fridge and freezer. I probably have 10 different kinds of grains and pastas alone. I always have sugar and flour/ I have several kinds of oils and vinegar, plenty of dried spices, beans, popcorn kernals, canned tomato products, a couple of kinds of nuts and dried mushrooms. I keep at least 2 kinds of Better than Bullion, onions, carrots, and celery. I usually have eggs, domestic butter. half and half, 3-10 kinds of cheeses (or more), eggs, Greek Yogurt, salsa, and sour cream. I keep a few frozen veggies, Amy's burritos, frozen sour dough bread, pizza dough, and frozen noodles, and often a couple of kinds of meat. I guess my point is that even in a slim week, I have so much in my pantry that I can more than make due.

                  Because of always having so much to eat, I focus my cash on wine, bakery bread, good butter, a giant package of organic spinach (to use for Quesadillas, omelettes, and soup), bananas and grapes. I have a great store bought roasted chicken I buy (it's REALLY good) because I can make 2-3 meals from that. I also buy locally roasted coffee, even though it is a splurge and organic dairy products. Tonight, when I went to the store, I also bought stuff for a cream cheese icebox pie as a treat. I'm not an avid baker, so I make simple stuff.

                  I seriously would spend my last cent on super good food. When things are tight, a good meal makes me feel not so deprived.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                    exactly- if its just a week then $50 is plenty if one normally has a well stocked pantry, fridge, freezer. I wouldn't even consider only having $50 bucks as desperation. I would buy what I wanted knowing that pay day was just days away. If that meant a nice bottle of wine and some wild salmon so be it.

                    However if I knew that I was consistently outspending my salary and finding myself with the same $50 dilemma week after week that might change my mind. How can you keep a well stocked pantry if you never refill it? Nothing sucks more than living paycheck to paycheck and then suddenly needing new tires, or some other big expense and now that $50 bucks has buy food but also basics too.

                    So yeah if it's a one shot deal here there then I am not going to sweat a $50 weekly grocery budget. There are families of 4 or more whose budget is that on regular basis. But if I find I am regularly spending that much on imported butter, cheese and wine while not saving anything and no rainy day fund? Well that would be a wake up call to rearrange my priorities,

                    1. re: foodieX2

                      I was thinking about this and I only spend 50 a week average for the two of us. So I would buy the usual. One thing we but every week is a half gallon of organic skim milk so that takes care of 3.65 right there.

                      We are fairly well stocked with ingredients and current it is still the meat and veg CSA season. Even not buying CSA I typically would have only spent 70-90. In that scenario I would spend approximated 10-25 dollars on fresh produce. And maybe 10-20 on meat/fish.

                  2. I'd probably make a couple of large batches of things I really like that are basically cheap but have a small amount of pricier ingredients to make them interesting, like a pot of white beans flavored with tomatoes, white wine, and fennel sausage and a big pan of roasted eggplant baked with layers of puttanesca and cheese or a large pot of some curried vegetables with a little chicken or shoulder lamb chop for flavor. I'd extend it with salad and use shredded wheat or oatmeal as my safety net. I'd budget for some cheap wine in the mix. I'd probably max a credit card on Friday for a cheeseburger and a martini.

                          1. re: caseyjo

                            My pantry is so (over)stocked that I periodically need to institute "use what you've got" weeks where the only things I allow myself to buy are perishables: usually only milk and vegetables.

                            1. re: Jeri L

                              Since I don't often drink it as is, after having countless containers of milk spoil before I used them, I switched to canned evaporated. Because of mobility issues, I buy dried vegetables online (Barry Farm et. al.) come fall, to tide me over in the event of prolonged snowy/icy winter weather. I discovered that Martin's brand of whole wheat potato bread stays moist and mold-free for over a month. I can, and have, managed for as long as a month without a trip to the supermarket or eating out.

                              1. re: Jeri L

                                Me too, JeriL. I could go for three or four weeks with what I have in the pantry and just buy milk, fresh produce and cheese. I make all our bread and everything else from scratch. I'm enforcing a "cook from the pantry" policy for the next month or so, except for Thanksgiving.

                                1. re: Jeri L

                                  We do this every February. We try to go the entire month spending literally as little as possible, just clearing out what we have in the pantry and freezer. I'll buy a minimum of fresh ingredients, but it's really quite remarkable how little we spend that month (About $60 for the whole month.). A giant thing of eggs and milk from Costco, and a couple runs to SuperKing for fresh veggies. You start to get really creative with what you have. At the end of the month, we can think about what do we really want to stock the pantry with. It's really fun - we call it "The Great Experiment." Once or twice we'll splurge and get a coffee out and it seems like an INCREDIBLE indulgence to pay that much when you realize you haven't spent that much in a couple days on food.

                                    1. re: Jeri L

                                      Mine is too. We could probably survive for a couple of weeks or more with what we have. If I had to start out, pasta, eggs, coupla sweet potatoes or butternut squash, walnut or olive oil, a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes (I'm going on this time of year). Maybe some beach Cliff Fish Steaks with hot chiles- cheap and yummy.

                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                        We figure we could live nearly a year off what we currently have (except for produce, milk, eggs) because we buy whole lamb, large amounts of beef and pork, poultry, etc. from local farmers and freeze. We get game and fish (frozen) from local hunters. As we live far from a city we stock up on lovely things every other month. Plus I grow my own vegetables and preserve them so the pantry is lined with all sorts of wonderful goods.

                                        1. re: chefathome

                                          That is lovely, but as you say, you live in a small town or rural area. Not so doable in a small urban apartment. Advantages of the latter mean a lot of cheap "ethnic" shops where you can buy staples in bulk, and sources of protein are often cheaper and more varied than in chain supermarkets.

                                2. First off - coffee and cream.

                                  Then, for medicinal purposes - a bottle of vodka or rum. (If I did not have a stocked pantry.)

                                  Then? Fresh tomatoes. Asparagus. Canned clams and dried pasta. I'd make sure I had flour, buttermilk and oilve oil and cheese - suddenly bread, pizza, biscuits and more are possible. Semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter and eggs.

                                  And never under estimate the power of rice. Eaten with butter and parmesan? A meal or a snack - and always a joy.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: happybaker

                                    Rice, yes! I don't even need the parmesan. Just butter and salt is a treat. Or soy sauce and sesame oil.

                                    1. re: happybaker

                                      <And never under estimate the power of rice. Eaten with butter and parmesan>

                                      Try mayo :)

                                      Actually, I don't do it often, but I tried it once and it is pretty awesome. Japanese mayo though:



                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Don't tell my fiancée but sometimes when I get home from the bar and am hungry and in no mood to cook I have been known to heat up a bowl of rice and pour salad dressing on it. In particular the sesame dressing works very well before crashing.

                                          1. re: TeRReT

                                            Okay, this is good - now I don't feel so odd.

                                            Because after butter and parmesan, my fav thing is to take the spicy gingery soy sauce/vinegar dipping sauce I make for pot stickers - and pour any we don't use over the left over rice to have as a snack, later.

                                            1. re: TeRReT

                                              I love sesame ginger salad dressing on rice but I also often throw a fried egg on top of it!

                                              1. re: happybaker

                                                I forgot about rice- gotta have rice.

                                              2. We keep a pretty well stocked pantry as well. So if it was short term, I'd get something like 2 gal milk ($6.40), bananas (ie cheap snacking fruit) (maybe 3lbs for $1.80), a few apples (say 1 lb at $1.30), pack of 3 heads of romaine ($2), maybe a 17+ oz tub of Fage yogurt ($3.50), 2 lbs frozen spinach ($3), 19 oz pack of tofu ($1.70) and the 1.5 lb bag of baby carrots ($1.50). Total around $21.20. We don't eat a lot of meat. We might open a couple cans of tuna during the week. Or not.

                                                If paychecks were erratic for the foreseeable future, I'd be even more inclined to scale back (so as to build up an emergency fund). So I'd switch to cheaper veggies, drop the high-markup baby carrots, drop the yogurt. Keep the fresh milk. And make a separate chocolate budget. :-)

                                                1. I freelance, so I get paid per project rather than regularly. In the last year or so, I've had several patches where clients either stiffed me or took longer to pay than originally stated, and I've found myself trying to stretch $20 for ten days. So I'd pretty much buy the largest box of store brand cereal I could find and a bag of cornmeal, because that goes farther than flour. Cornbread and polenta, cornbread and polenta. It's not a life I would recommend to anyone.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Skippy1414

                                                    Wow, I'm kind of surprised that cornmeal goes further for you than flour. Is that because of the price or how you prepare it? For us, flour is cheaper pound for pound.

                                                    1. re: 1MunchieMonster

                                                      I guess it goes further because to make polenta you basically need only the cornmeal. Same with cornbread- you can get away with very few ingredients.

                                                      1. re: 1MunchieMonster

                                                        A little more exotic but more nutritious is chickpea flour, available both in Mediterranean and South Asian shops.

                                                      2. re: Skippy1414

                                                        You make me want to feed you Skippy!

                                                      3. Several kinds of dry beans and pulses. Rice. A few spices and seasonings. Garlic. Onions. Some inexpensive greens, even frozen ones if they're significantly cheaper. Millions of people live quite happily on no more than that.

                                                        1. This thread rocked: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809032

                                                          It's a stellar collection of recipes for beans of all sorts-- the Word document I created from that thread runs to twenty-some pages.

                                                          And since beans and rice-based dishes are cheap, too -- I'd start working my way through the book, with seasonal (read: cheap) produce to supplement.

                                                          1. Chicken livers, BLT's, cheese omelettes, egg noodles.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              Chicken livers were very cheap when I was in college. First, I like them. Second, they are fairly inexpensive, so they never really hurt my wallet too much.

                                                            2. I fit the 'broke all the time' category, technically. I am a full time student with a part time job that barely covers my basic bills. However, I live with a parent who's happy to buy the household groceries (which I'm grateful for). I try to purchase some of my foods, both because I don't feel that my parent should spend money on 'nonessential/luxury'-type food items that I desire and because I try alleviate some of the financial burden on them as much as I am able.

                                                              On weeks when I am really tight: Free things (I am good with coupons and also utilize 'freebie'/sample promotions), in season produce(I currently have a simple baked vegetable casserole-type dish I made in the fridge that was cheap and will be portioned out for work meals), lettuce (I make a salad out of nearly anything, so as long as I've got something in the cupboard that something+a bed of lettuce = a meal).

                                                              On a less tight week: the same as above plus a brand of tortillas I like (I prefer tortillas/wraps to bread), Greek yogurt, eggs/eggbeaters (again, lately I've been doing a lot of 'throw random cupboard contents with some eggs and bake it for a casserole'-type dishes), tofu (splurge item), pepsi maxx (splurge. A bad habit that I want when stressed. )

                                                              In all honestly, when I'm extremely low on money and stressed about it I become an irresponsible impulse buyer. My favorite brand of gum and soda are pretty much first on the list at that point (great 'food' huh? I sound healthy!). It's not so much 'quality' as what bad habit the stress is going to make me fall back on. Though to be honest I'm pretty tight this week and yet I impulse bought a Spanish cheese sampler yesterday that was calling to me.

                                                              1. I lived on a very tight budget when I was in college. I was buying very inexpensive goods, nothing luxury. I was living on about $15-20 grocery per week, and would get disappointed if I spend any more than that. I ate mostly starch to keep me full, a lot of vegetable, very little meat. Ironically, I probably eat much healthier because of it.

                                                                Now, there are few items which I either want what I have, or none at all. I remember trying the Safeway version of Coca Cola and really hate it. So if I have to have Coke, I want the real one (not that I drink Coke often at all). I also want the decent quality of soy sauce. I cannot stand crappy soy sauce. Oh yes, ice cream too. I don't need the best ice cream, but I don't like crappy ice cream. I rather not eat any, then to eat poor quality ice cream.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  what are your decent brands of soy sauce? i can't seem to find one i like.

                                                                  1. re: joshhead

                                                                    Organic wheat free tamari is my favorite by far

                                                                    It is usually $5-7 at whole foods / sunflower / natural grocers

                                                                    1. re: joshhead

                                                                      For me, I like several brands of soy sauce. Koon Chun is pretty good for Chinese light soy sauce. Very reasonable price ($1-2) and very simple ingredients.


                                                                      I also like Lee Kum Kee soy sauce too, but it has coloring and preservatives. I really liked Yuet Heung Yuen when its production was in Canada. Now, it has moved to China. I am not so sure about its quality anymore.


                                                                      For Japanese shoyu, Kikkoman is fine by me.


                                                                  2. Been there, done that more than once. Assuming I had basics like pasta, rice, seasonings, and chicken/beef stock in the cabinet, I'd get:
                                                                    --garlic (I buy the 1lb bag of pre-peeled cloves)
                                                                    --salad stuff (romaine hearts, carrots, celery, cucumber)
                                                                    --boneless skinless chicken breasts
                                                                    --canned tomatoes
                                                                    --shredded mozzarella

                                                                    Grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and salad one night, spaghetti carbonara the next, chicken parm/pasta/salad for Wed, linguine with garlic and olive oil Thurs, and Fri would be homemade pizza. The weekend would be leftovers.

                                                                    1. When I was poor, I ate a lot of lentils and rice. You can't go wrong with bags of dried beans (super cheap everywhere) and rice (cheapest if bought at an Asian market).

                                                                      1. Go to any Chinese market and pay attention to what the little old ladies are buying. Buy that. I was invited to dinner aboard a small commercial fishing boat in Ganges harbor years ago. The whole family worked and lived on the boat. The 'pantry' consisted of a large plastic bin of rice. Another held vegetables another held a large piece of smoked pork butt another smaller bin had loose green tea. Lots of small jars of sauces and condiments. That night we had fresh caught whole rock cod/s wrapped in 'sea lettuce' the kids had gathered that day. Plain boiled white rice. Green tea. Lots of little saucers of sauces and condiments. I took away a lesson on how to eat delicious/cheap/nutritious food. All four kids grew up, went to UBC, got degrees in accounting etc and two became doctors. Oh yeah. Mom and Dad paid for all their tuition etc by cash. While they were in university during the summers there were always one or two kids working on the boat

                                                                        1. This happens to me sometimes (ah, grad school). And I'm just as frivolous with that last $50 (well, you said we, and I just live alone so it would probably be my last $25). Anyway, my usual m.o. is to buy a whole chicken, whatever vegetables are cheap/in season (definitely carrots and celery), milk, eggs, a baguette, some cheese, and as much wine as possible.

                                                                          During my cheap week, I would roast the chicken with some vegetables for Sunday dinner, and definitely use some of the leftover chicken, minced and cooked in a sherry bechamel sauce over toast for lunch. I'd combine the chicken and vegetables with pantry items (rice!). Eventually, I'd simmer the chicken carcass for awhile and make a nice batch of chicken noodle soup, or chicken and dumplings. Stretch out the rest of the meals with stuff from the pantry or freezer, and end the week by using the vegetables and cheese to make a quiche or frittata. Wash down everything with table wine, and hopefully it will be payday by then.

                                                                          But seriously, I could probably live off the stuff in my pantry and freezer for at least a month, so during the poor times at the end of the month I usually just don't buy stuff.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: caseyjo

                                                                            <and as much wine as possible>

                                                                            Ha ha ha. I just started laughing when I read that -- totally taking it as a different meaning than you did.

                                                                          2. If you shop smart $50 goes a long way! That's an average week's groceries for the two of us and we eat well (and do not rely on grains, we hardly ever eat grains.)

                                                                            Stay out of the big chain stupidmarkets and shop ethnic markets, it's amazing how much chain stores overcharge for the same items (not to mention all of the wonderful things you can get that the chaions don't carry!)

                                                                            1. I keep a very stocked pantry and freezer so it would likely be, milk, eggs and whatever I needed for side dishes like potatoes.

                                                                              1. Eggs, garlic, onions, pasta, navy beans, baguette, olive oil, slab bacon, kale, and a good IPA ...
                                                                                Combinations ...
                                                                                Pasta - garlic & olive oil, carbonarra
                                                                                Soup - tuscan bean soup (beans, garlic, olive oil) with crostini, bean / bacon / kale soup, french onion
                                                                                Eggs - spanish omelette, soft boiled, egg salad (grab a pack of mayonnaise at the deli)
                                                                                Snack - kale chips, bread and olive oil

                                                                                  1. No starches for me, so I'd buy whole chicken, eggs, and fresh whole veggies and prep it all at home. Maybe some low carb wraps and cheeses. I have a pretty well stocked freezer and very well stocked pantry along with fresh herbs growing much of the time. I buy wine by the case and drink litlle, so that's always here, too.

                                                                                    1. I also have a pretty well stocked pantry and plenty of spices, herbs outside. I'd focus on inexpensive staples - bulk rice and beans, tortillas, flour (I'd use my breadmaker), cheapest decent meat I could get on-sale, seconds rack for veggies, eggs. I am OK with store brand butter, 3 buck chuck, don't use cream. Coffee might be the one thing I'd have a problem compromising on quality. However, if money was really super tight, I could skip coffee altogether and drink the free stuff at work, at least M-F.

                                                                                      1. I agree with a lot said.

                                                                                        Eggs can be used many different ways.

                                                                                        Cans of no salt added whole tomatoes are pretty cheap and you can make sauces out of them.

                                                                                        Making your own pizza at home it a lot cheaper than delivery provided you have the staples to make it. If not some grocery stores sell pizza dough you can take home and make your own.

                                                                                        Plan things out to use ingredients for 2 meals.

                                                                                        Spaghetti and meat balls the left over meat balls can be used to make a meat ball sandwich for lunch. You can make an omelet.

                                                                                        and chili!

                                                                                        1. $50, I'd go to an Asian or Indian market and I'd leave with six bags instead of three and have more than enough produce, dairy, breads, pantry items and a few goodies like ladoo and premade ribs to last me a week...maybe two. What I wouldn't do on a shoe string is shop a national chain market.

                                                                                          1. Food is so much cheaper in the US than here, but I'll give it a crack.

                                                                                            Seeing as I have a regular delivery of a seasonal box of fruit and vegetables, chicken thighs, beef mince, bread, milk, eggs, OJ and yoghurt we usually have enough hanging around to make do with.

                                                                                            So down to the last $50 I would be making sure there's pasta, rice, flour, butter, caster sugar, stock, tomato paste and checking the fridge for gaps in vegetables such as celery, spring onions and garlic. We have plenty of wine, liqueur and spirits. There MUST be enough Diet Coke. And in honesty ever since I got my thermomix it is so easy to make super, super cheap and filling foods so easily that I rarely feel like I suffer for not eating well. I have even finally grasped pastry with 'Thermie', so making pastry and a sauce for some kind of protein and vegetables means PIE! Which is just good.

                                                                                            I think I might be able to stretch $50 to the above items, but it would mean buying bottles of Diet Coke, rather than cartons of cans. So it wouldn't be so bad :)

                                                                                            1. My goal is to try to do $50 a week for 2 people. We have a well stocked pantry with a free, endless rice supply, about 6 bottles of ponzu which we got on sale, backups of soy sauce, fish sauce, oils, sesame oil, etc.

                                                                                              What I pretty much do is shop selectively. I know what each grocery store will often have cheap. I buy things when the price is right, and if the price is not right I come up with a different meal plan. I know the one grocery store often has 20-50% off meats, so when that is the case I will stock up, always have some sort of backup meat in the freezer.

                                                                                              I also know that the one store has a dozen eggs for 30 cents when you spend $10 on mondays, so if I am low on eggs I go there on mondays, they typically have average prices on vegetables and gorgeous fish, so its not difficult to spend the $10, but never on things I don't need.

                                                                                              Our staple is rice. Probably 5-6 if not 7 days a week the main starch is rice. It is often stir fried whatever vegetables are cheapest on sale and pork, but can also be curry or hamburg or nabes especially this season. When we do a big nabe that will last 2 days for dinner plus one lunch and really does not cost too much to make.

                                                                                              Pasta used to be my go to, but now that I have my rice cooker and given I get free rice which probably helps out it is generally what we do first. Also always have rice in the freezer so when we are tired and don't feel like cooking can always make something fast with rice and not have to go out for dinner or do takeout or whatever.

                                                                                              I am fortunate that the dollar stores here are beyond incredible, and I can pick up various curryys or miso sauces or herbs and sugars, salts, all that stuff there. I can buy all snacks there and have lots near me.

                                                                                              I alternate monthly between best and maybe 3rd best coffee, but that comes out of my money rather then our collective money, as does beer/alcohol money :P

                                                                                              I comfortably am able to do $50 a week without sacrificing any quality, It just takes shopping at multiple stores which is no problem as on my way to work I bike past 3 or 4 plus have 2 very close to me.

                                                                                              1. This pork for example was friggen gorgeous, and normally ¥1280, but was on sale for ¥896 which was a very good price for the quality of meat, and we were able to divide it into 8 meal portions for 2 of us. And then nabe sans pork, and then with pork, we did splurge a little with this nabe as my fiancee's sister came to dinner, but nonetheless we would make a large one which just contains cabbage which we can buy for $0.50ish, mushrooms which are $3.00 for 3 packs, 2 different kinds, and then onions for $1.00, and tofu for $0.29 and $0.78 for a bunch of chives, and then pork which if we put a lot in is usually $3.00ish, and thats good for dinner, with rice then next days lunch, and then the next days dinner we just put some udon in and crack a couple eggs in and have another dinner of it.

                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                  Wow, I am impressed. First, the pork and the nabe do look very nice. Second, I thought living expense is more expensive in Japan than in US (or Canada). You seem to able to buy good quality food without killing your piggy bank.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                    It just depends. If I didn't shop around or was not aware of the prices it could break my piggy bank very fast. I know for example the store close to me has all kinds of mushrooms, green onions, chives, lettuce, and eggplant for $0.78 probably 30% of the time, another 30% the same things are $0.98, and the remaining 40% they are $1.28. Most other stores they are $0.98 or $1.28. So when they are $0.78 I will definitely buy them, when they are $0.98 I buy them only if I am needing or wanting to use them that day, $1.28 I am not buying them.

                                                                                                    Beef is expensive, as its mostly all wagyu obviously, though there is some Australian and US beef available, its not nearly as beautiful. I do not eat too much beef here, only on special occasions. Pork and chicken are cheapish, especially the Canadian pork I usually end up getting. It is much cheaper then buying it in Canada. I can get a full pork tenderloin for $2-3. But that is not always available since its mostly the thin sliced pork which I generally buy when it is 30-50% off anyways.

                                                                                                    Fruit can be very expensive. A single peach for $10, a watermelon or bunch of grapes for $10-$60. I typically buy things like melon or pineapple when it is 50% off. The one store here also sells boxes of overripe fruit for $1-$2 which is good because I was able to get a box of tomatoes and make a nice tomato sauce.

                                                                                                    Cheese and other dairy can be expensive, so I don't buy it at all really. Things like red onions can be $3 for 1 red onion in the grocery store, but if I go to the market I can get a bag of 5-6 for $1. I have the time to shop around and I bike so parking is never an issue, and there are probably 20 different grocery stores within a 20 minute bike ride, and I know what to get where, so we can make it work.

                                                                                                    Its all about seasonal here too, a couple months ago a container of cherry tomatoes was $1. now that its nearing winter the same package is $3, so we no longer buy them.

                                                                                                    And Japan has point cards. You can't even comprehend point cards until you come to Japan. You think you know point cards, but you don't. They have a point card for virtually every single store. And they are pretty useful, every couple weeks we get $5 in points to spend towards groceries at various stores.

                                                                                                    1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                      TeRRet, interesting comments on the cost of fruit in Japan.

                                                                                                      While visiting Singapore, I was shocked to see how much imported fruits from Japan could cost. Considering what you've said the cost of fruit can be within Japan itself, those prices I have seen seem more reasonable, in retrospect.

                                                                                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                      Things like pickles and olives or foreign things are generally expensive as well. Hence why I picked all these fresh olives off my friend's tree and am in the process of brining them now :P

                                                                                                      And if you want luxury, they definitely have that, this $300 mushroom for example.

                                                                                                      1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                        Really appreciate the information. I guess it is true that Japanese daily food expense is more expensive. You just have to look for a good time to buy. On the other hand, I am assuming that it is easier to shop around in Japan just because everything is closer together. Here in US, it is very tough to compare prices.... I mean I can, but I would have to drive around, and it is just not worth the time or the gasoline.

                                                                                                        I assume you didn't buy that $300 mushroom. :) So how did you get that photo? Did you start taking photo in the grocery store? I wonder if that mushroom has medicinal purpose -- you know, like ginseng or something. Any medicinal product can cost quiet a bit.

                                                                                                        No, I have no idea what Japanese point card is. So I won't even pretend that I know anything about it.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                          I also assume since many women don't work, that they can afford the time more readily.

                                                                                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                            <they can afford the time more readily.>

                                                                                                            I assume you mean more time for shopping around, right?

                                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                              That may be true in most cases, but as I am foreigner I am the one with free time and my fiancee is the primary breadwinner at this time :P It also helps that I have 2 different grocery stores literally a 30 second bike ride, and then another 5 different ones within a 5-10 minute bike ride, and then exponentially more within a 20 minute bike ride.

                                                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                              ChemK - point cards: frequent customer cards issued by the stores. used to track purchasing habits. usually you can get a point-of-sale discount on many items not available with a normal coupon. also very common in the US.

                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                I was thinking something along that line (getting points and getting discount or gift), but TeRReT implied that it is very different than what we North Americans are used.

                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                  Its different in that EVERY single store has one. If you look in a Japanese woman's purse you are likely to literally see 50+ cards.

                                                                                                                  1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                    sounds like Europe - I had to buy small wallet just to hold all the stupid cards. There's real savings to be had...as long as I don't spend it at the chiropractor to repair the damage from carrying them all around!

                                                                                                                      1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                        whoa, it's not THAT common in the US. but I am amused when a clerk gives me one in some anonymous name and least I get the deals and not the junk mail.

                                                                                                          2. This is currently my reality-$50/week for a family and some weeks a little bit less. I try to get basics with the first $40, make sure that I can make meals for the week, and if the kitchen is decently stocked, I will splurge with the last $10. Splurges in our world include a new spice I didn't have before, a good oil or vinegar, a nice cheese, some not on sale exotic fruit, etc.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                              One tip that I continue to use is visiting the websites of food companies. Many offer coupons, deeper discounts in extra savings for joining their newsletters and marketing campaigns and many small companies are offering help to consumers if you write a letter to the HQ. Broke for a week means visiting a soup kitchen, going shopping with a neighbor and stretching your combined shopping dollars, shopping at dollar stores for dry good basics & cooking pans, registering with a food bank if the 'broke for a week last longer' and visiting church pantries.

                                                                                                              Whatever the definition of 'broke for a week' there are solid resources to make every dollar stretch and places to go for even temporary help.

                                                                                                              And good bread for toast, imported butter, coffee, real cream, and wine all go on sale somewhere. The Net is a useful tool for vetting the buys local.

                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                That's a great tip on the company websites and letters to them, thank you! I'm new to coupon clipping but I'm diving in head first!

                                                                                                            2. I'm going to go ahead and split the $50 budget in half since I shop and cook for one. I did have a significant period of time where I tried to keep my weekly grocery allowance around $20. I used a lot of dried beans, and less expensive produce. Everything on sale. Grains and spices from the bulk bins at the local co-op or Whole Foods. I always checked the meat section for marked downs, and would go over budget to stock the freezer if there was a very good deal, like the time I bought three whole chickens for $6 total. All of that lends itself to soups, stews, and casseroles. My big splurge was diet coke.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                One of the local cheese shops contacts loyal customers when their case is about to turn over. Some real good to free buys can be had that way and I've shared some wonderful cheese plates as a result. I've cooked for our family of six on $70.00/week and we ate very well. Planning ahead like many have said here is the best way to enjoy the splurges that come along for learner times.

                                                                                                                Personally I've spent my own food budget to travel or attend a concert out of state and dealt with the hungry belly when I landed. Can't say I ever had trouble being food satisfied at any budget.

                                                                                                              2. My graduate student diet consist of during lean times:
                                                                                                                Canned beans (didn't always have time for dried) and homeny
                                                                                                                Chicken base (last forever and while cheaper than stock, not as bad as bullion)
                                                                                                                Garlic powder (didn't use fresh fast enough)
                                                                                                                Fresh onions
                                                                                                                Basic blocks of cheese (extra sharp cheddar, colby, or part skim motz) nothing fancy
                                                                                                                Pasta & Sauce
                                                                                                                Whole potatoes / Sweet Potato
                                                                                                                Peanut Butter
                                                                                                                Bunched Spinach (can be used for salad or as ingredient)
                                                                                                                What ever vegetable was on sale (mushrooms, leeks, cabbage, ect)
                                                                                                                Frozen vegetable like peas and corn
                                                                                                                Ramen noodles
                                                                                                                Tea bags
                                                                                                                And when on sale and had a little extra, whole chicken or pork (pork was really cheap since this was during the swine flu phase.)

                                                                                                                While I lived better than most of my peers. It would be hard to go back to that basic menu.

                                                                                                                1. $50 isn't broke. you can get away with buying luxury items with that.
                                                                                                                  It's more than my weekly budget for 2.
                                                                                                                  If you cut me back to $5 a week for two? Then I'd have to really work (still doable, but really, really tight).

                                                                                                                  1. I'd be getting things to make soups and stews.
                                                                                                                    This morning I was in the grocery store and the butcher had just finished cutting fresh tirkeys into parts and wrapping them for the display case. He then wrapped packages of turkey back bones and necks. I saw that they were marked 19 cents per pound. I took every package (20 lbs total).
                                                                                                                    So this afternoon I'll be making big pots of turkey rice, turkey veg and ban with tuirkey soups. I'll also make Turkey ala king.
                                                                                                                    I have rice and beans in the pantry, and frozen and canned veg as well, For about $5 I can get all the carrots, celery and parsnips I need for the soups.
                                                                                                                    The other $40 would be more than enough for eggs, cheese, bread and milk for the week. I have plenty opf coffee and tea in the house and drink it black.
                                                                                                                    That $4 worth of turkey bones and necks can easilly provode the week's protein. If I want to splurge fresh boneless chicken breasts are $1.48 this weekend. I have beef in the freezer if I really want it. I grind my own, I'll be dammed if I pay $5 for a pund of store ground hamburger.

                                                                                                                    1. eggs, low fat ricotta, peanut butter, whole grain bread, dried beans, basmati or jasmine rice, tuna, Barilla Plus pasta, Classico Four-Cheese jarred sauce. I try to get enough protein to stay strong and satiated.

                                                                                                                      1. When I was in college I rarely had more than $5 to $7 bucks to eat on. I went many a week eating potted meat and crackers, ketchup and hot water soup and raw root veggies I picked up here and there. The swamps near the campus provided crawfish and frogs.

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: mudcat

                                                                                                                          $5-7, that's really tough. Below the poverty line even. Did you not have a place to cook?

                                                                                                                          1. re: 1MunchieMonster

                                                                                                                            I hope so-- you'd have to be pretty hungry to contemplate raw crawfish or frogs.

                                                                                                                            1. re: 1MunchieMonster

                                                                                                                              $5-7 per week for food is not a lot. That being said, $5 worth a lot more 50 years ago than now, so I don't know if mudcat went to college in 1960's. For example, $5 in 1960 has the same purchasing power of $37 in today, which is sufficient for today's college student.

                                                                                                                              In addition, location matters. The purchase power of $5 in New York is not the same as that in Dallas, and it not the same as that in China.

                                                                                                                            2. I've set a $40/week cap on groceries for myself for the past couple weeks and so far have been pretty successful. Last week I spent $38 on fenugreek chicken, curried mustard greens, creamed salmon with spinach, a couple cheeses and salume and splurged on a bottle of wine. This week I'm already nearing my cap, but I treated myself to the luxury of freshly made hummus and baked goods from the Arabic store, but can still look forward to lamb stew, roasted eggplant tortillas, braised celery and duck legs using items on hand. So long as I have a couple treats to look forward to each week, economizing and limiting myself to buying only items on sale isn't too depriving. I also freeze some of my meals so that I can have them in subsequent weeks to add variety.

                                                                                                                              1. I always look for meat and produce specials, and decide what to cook with it depending on what veggies are in season and cheap. For example, cheap beef for stew? Make a stew with roasted veggies. Buy a whole chicken, roast it for a chicken dinner the first night, have some left overs, then make soup. I can get at least 4 good meals for two out of a chicken.

                                                                                                                                I also will start to make more things from scratch, such as bread. I don't use a lot of beans in my cooking, but that's because i can't eat a lot of beans with out a lot of agony (may be an allergy).

                                                                                                                                Rice is nice and filling, and I also make a lot of pasta and potato dishes.

                                                                                                                                When I'm broke, like I am now (stupid unemployment) I do spurge on a nice parm cheese, or a fancy spice, and I try to get the best veggies for my money, while Safeway may be cheaper the Cal-Mart veggies are so fresh and lovely, AND they last for a lot longer. I also make use of Costco and my freezer.

                                                                                                                                also buy things to make one dish with an idea of using the leftovers for another meal. For example, using left over rasted veggies as a ravioli filling.

                                                                                                                                It's desperate times like this that make me thankful I can cook.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                                                                                  Sorry you are unemployed but do agree - cooking gives you such freedom and empowerment.

                                                                                                                                2. Well, you'd have to say how many the $50 is for. Are you feeding teenage boys?

                                                                                                                                  And one week would be too easy, if the family is small. For myself alone, I could skip meals for a couple of days if necessary, out of one week, and leftovers can last several days.
                                                                                                                                  Two or three weeks becomes more of a challenge.

                                                                                                                                  Dried beans, rice, potatoes, pasta (eg penne), tomato sauce, whole chicken or inexpensive chicken parts, greens, garlic, onions, carrots, ramen, some canned fish, bread, mayo.

                                                                                                                                  Beans, rice, and greens can carry you quite a ways.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: racer x

                                                                                                                                    Ah, good point. It's three of us. My child is a ten year-old girl.

                                                                                                                                  2. I vaguely recall that NPR had listeners call or write in with suggestions on how to stretch a limited food budget, a year or two ago. I didn't really hear the results, but you might want to see what their listeners came up with.

                                                                                                                                    1. Sister use to live off of chicken liver/tomato pasta combination (with spices of course). Not sure it is as cheap as it use to be.

                                                                                                                                      1. I was in this place about 20 years ago, I had a decent job (with the catered lunch extras of others to be scored most days) but home was a house with a bunch of friendly junkies. (don't leave anything in the fridge) payday would mostly go to rent and 2 weeks later utilities. got into a pattern of beans and rice with varied additions (it was California so veggies, cheese and herbs were cheap)

                                                                                                                                        learned how to make stuff from scratch and bribe my housemates into doing basic chores while I cooked. you do the floors, trash and bathrooms, I'll cook a big whopping stir fry and even do the dishes. and I get shower priority tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                        it turned out OK, I'm still in contact with one.

                                                                                                                                        1. A couple of years back there was a thread about living on $3 per day for food (rwo range was the OP). For two people that works out to $42 dollars per week. It was possible to eat pretty well on that amount with careful planning, especially elimnating waste by repurposing ingredients (not just having leftovers, but turning the leftover into another dish.) Prices have gone up since then, and depending where you are you get more or less food for your dollar. The OP was in San Francisco which has a number of low cost options, but high basic food costs. I can't seem to find the link to the original thread, which was extensive.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                            this is one of rworange's threads of $3.00 a day...there were several going during a period of time.
                                                                                                                                            for the others just Google the heading..much faster than CHOW search engine.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                              <just Google the heading..much faster than CHOW search engine.>

                                                                                                                                              One of those things we all learn from life. :)

                                                                                                                                            2. If it's only a week ...
                                                                                                                                              brown rice

                                                                                                                                              1 cup rice, 1 cup lentils, 1 onion, 6 cups water,
                                                                                                                                              Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 50 minutes.
                                                                                                                                              Depending on lentil type, you either have a stew or a mush.

                                                                                                                                              This makes a huge amount good for a couple of days.
                                                                                                                                              Very versatile, add green beans, carrots, celery to stretch it further.

                                                                                                                                              1. I gotta agree with those who said onions, beans, rice. I would probably also buy some canned tuna.

                                                                                                                                                1. We've run the financial gamut from very tight to very comfortable, and I've found that generally when it's on the tight end (why, hello, kids in college!) I simply revert to my Grandmother's style of cooking; I'll make my own bread and serve it frequently (with store-brand butter), skip the wine, alcohol or beer, and focus on dishes that require cheap meat to cook for a long time, etc.

                                                                                                                                                  Even as I say that, I do realize that I buy the store-brand butter, but not margarine, and still favor animal protein over legumes. And come to think of it, I do have one utterly non-negotiable item - my k cups for the Keurig (San Francisco Coffee co. Fogchaser, which is, in itself, a bargain brand, but still.)

                                                                                                                                                  Ahh, that joys of living paycheck to paycheck.

                                                                                                                                                  1. The OP was just for one week, but in reassessing our grocery costs, we are going to have to go on a major budget and cut about $400 a month off of our grocery costs, at least until I am done with grad school and back to working full time. Groceries are absolutely breaking us. Reading this thread, and the $3 a day thread has been incredibly helpful.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                      I can't imagine anything more worthwhile, good luck! By the way, don't hesitate to check out some of the less expensive butters - Falfurrio (I recall that you're in TX, and it's sold statewide, easily found in WalMart even in my rural part of the state) is good, and occasionally I can find Challenge on sale for 2.50 a pound, and I *love* Challenge (but I'm not a true butter snob and actually prefer salted butter, so take that with the proverbial -and literal- grain of salt).

                                                                                                                                                      And if you do have a Keurig, always check Amazon first, particularly if you're a Prime member.

                                                                                                                                                      And finally, if you like pinot noir, pick up a bottle of Rex Goliath sometime. It's a blended wine from CA that can range from "eh, drinkable, decent for cooking" to surprisingly good - it all depends on the blend you get in any given bottle. I loved it about two years ago, then it was "eh" for a while, now it seems to be back to very, very pleasant, for less than $7 a bottle. In that same range, Mirrasou pinot noir is another that I like a lot, in particular for cooking, as it has a peppery finish that cooks down very nicely in something like short ribs. Drinkable pinot under $10 is hard to come by, so those two have been a good find for me.

                                                                                                                                                    2. This might be useful to you
                                                                                                                                                      While its not the most healthy this site has a lot of tips for eatting cheaply in the USA

                                                                                                                                                      In my country it would be variations on beans/onions/cheap protein + a egg with milk tea.

                                                                                                                                                      1. $50 a week is easy, if you are willing to try other brands, and not be a snob. Buy a chicken..either cooked or raw, for under $10. This will give you 3 suppers. First as chicken dinner with veggies, another in a casserole or in a "simmer sauce" over rice, and the third is to use the carcass for soup.
                                                                                                                                                        Buy whatever is cheaper...a stew pack of veggies, or them separately. Rutabega, parsnip,potato, carrots,onions,cabbage. Save enough for your soup recipe.
                                                                                                                                                        Buy a package of dried beans, and make a baked beans.Make some homemade biscuits.
                                                                                                                                                        Make homemade pancakes, waffles,omelets,muffins,cooked oatmeal porridge for breakfast.
                                                                                                                                                        Buy whatever fruit is on sale. Throw some into the porridge, muffins for flavor.
                                                                                                                                                        Buy a can of peas or asparagus pieces, make a cream sauce and have it on toast.
                                                                                                                                                        Make a homemade potato scallop. If you can't afford a large canned ham, buy the smaller sandwich one. Perfect for one meal.
                                                                                                                                                        Make tuna burgers. There is probably a ton of food in your cupboards to make meals, if you give it some thought.
                                                                                                                                                        Make your own bread for pennies.Bread machines are great for pizza dough too.
                                                                                                                                                        Salsa is easy and cheap, especially to make. Spread some on flat bread, add some toppings, and cheese, throw it in the oven and make mexican pizza.
                                                                                                                                                        Buy a cheap package of beef or pork. Turn it into a stroganoff/romanoff with a bed of rice.Or use it to make a stew and dumplings.

                                                                                                                                                        1. My pantry and freezer are well stocked; enough food for three weeks. We have "buy nothing week" two or three times a year. With $50 for a week, I would buy: butter ($4/lb), coffee ($18/lb), good bread ($6), and two bottles of wine :)

                                                                                                                                                          1. I would shop to buy the most nutrient-dense and cheap foods available, which invariably can, with a little thought, be made into something delicious - Yottam Ottolenghi style. Some thoughts on things that satisfy those criteria include:

                                                                                                                                                            Legumes and beans like Puy lentils, chickpeas or cannellini; chicken breast and canned tuna; bananas, apples and oranges; and sweet potatoes, pumpkin, frozen spinach, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower and broccoli.

                                                                                                                                                            From those basic ingredients, innumerable delicious stews, broths, soups, and salads can be made, and chances are that you'll have a much more wholesome diet for the week than if you had not been so restricted.

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mugen

                                                                                                                                                              as in so many things (art, design, food, accounting) restrictions enable true creativity.

                                                                                                                                                            2. I once had to cook that way for 7 years of school. 1) Read the grocery store ads and shop the loss leaders. Whatever you can get cheap, start with that. Example, if you can get 10 lb potatoes for 99 cents, this is the time for potato soup, scalloped potatoes, and a meal built around mashed potatoes.2) Avoid pre-cooked fresh or frozen foods---do your own cooking. 3) Focus on pasta and beans with protein added as you can afford. 4) Eggs. 5) Use everything. The bones of a chicken make soup. Vegetable scraps make soup. All of half a ham makes something. 6) Cooked cereal comes out cheaper than cold cereal. 7) I see a lot of luxury products mentioned in these austerity posts---what's that about?

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                I keep a ziploc bag of asparagus stalks (the woody part) various peelings, skins, carrot, turnip greens, corn cobs etc. in good weather I'll pluck the dandelion leaves out of the yard (they're better before the flower turns to a puff) and if I don't have a cheesecloth at hand, wrap them all up in an old cotton shirt or napkin and use it like a mire-poix only bigger and for a longer time in stock I rendered out of the beef and chicken bones saved in their individual bags. I tell ya, simmer a gallon (volume) bag of those bones for 20+ hours in the crockpot in about as much water and the result is an intense base.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                  Luxury is part of the joy of life, yes?

                                                                                                                                                                  When I was in college and needing to eat on a budget, I still bought raspberry jam instead of grape jelly for peanut butter sandwiches, the turkey breast I liked that I cut up myself for sandwiches, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                  I still operate this way ... when I go grocery shopping after payday, I'll get a few luxury items like some really nice chocolate. To me this is the right way to do it ... buy some quite basic things, and also some really nice things.

                                                                                                                                                                2. I eat fruit at breakfast, so I'd probably buy some fruit. Parmesan (and not the cheap stuff) if I didn't have any in the house ... good for making a meal with pasta (in the pantry) and a vegetable.

                                                                                                                                                                  If I have a tight budget often I do not buy wine, and I don't buy imported butter. My standby is store brand organic, and sometimes I buy a different organic brand that is European style and pricier.

                                                                                                                                                                  Usually onions are on my list as I rarely start cooking without them. Typically whatever I need from the produce dept to make what I have on hand work, maybe a bit of meat. And if there's no chocolate in the house, I'd buy some for the week ahead.

                                                                                                                                                                  Farm eggs are a fabulous splurge and yet still very little $ at 3.25/half dozen.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I would buy potatoes+eggs+milk+flour+sugar+olive oil.
                                                                                                                                                                    From this you can make potatoes with eggs or something with eggs in the morning ore pancakes too.

                                                                                                                                                                    This would be my plan.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. Frozen vegetables are as nutritious as fresh ( sometimes more so) and they are a lot cheaper. They get a bad rap.


                                                                                                                                                                      Rice and beans

                                                                                                                                                                      Chicken thighs

                                                                                                                                                                      Peanut Butter

                                                                                                                                                                      Then browse around and see what's on sale. Fresh spinach BoGO; pasta for $1 box; English muffins BoGO . I bought all that on Friday during the storm hysteria.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Assuming a full pantry with spices/condiments etc...

                                                                                                                                                                        Ramen noodles, rice, spaghetti, tomato paste, potatoes, onions,eggs, cream, parm, "closeout" meats from supermarket, whatever green/veg is cheap, Bourbon.

                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe a big bag of frozen shrimp if on sale. That can go a really long way in stir fries.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. When you're super-poor, see what you can cook without buying anything. If you have potatoes or pasta on hand, you can build around a casserole of scalloped potatoes or a pot of pasta. Cornmeal makes polenta or fried mush. Flour and an egg makes pancakes or crepes. A can of tuna or salmon and a box of noodles, obvious. A half-pound of sausage and some milk will make a quart of meat gravy to eat on biscuits. Four eggs plus whatever makes an omelet for two. A few slices of bread, some ratty old cheese, and an onion >some kind of interesting hot baked sandwiches all melty. In the Depression there used to be a joke about Pine Float (a glass of water with a toothpick) but that's going to extremes. But really, it is possible to march in place by utilizing ANYTHING that you have. And if all you have is a truly scrappy meal, fix a hot drink to go with it, a pot of tea maybe---makes it seem more filling.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Depends on what you can eat, and how many you have to feed. What works for you might not work well for another.

                                                                                                                                                                            If I had only $50 for food till payday, I wouldn't have spent it yet, and I'd wait on the imported butter and wine. But if this works for you, then why not?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. No one mentioned sardines in a tin as a nutrient-dense food. Several meals could be just sardines.

                                                                                                                                                                              Eggs and butter.

                                                                                                                                                                              Large jars of lacto-fermented kim chee or sauerkraut for vegetables at the end of the week. I'd get these in an Asian grocery store

                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, a chicken to roast or one already roasted to make 3 meals. Make stock out of this with carrots, onions and celery..

                                                                                                                                                                              These would be my base, but if I could get more, I'd get fresh kale for the soup, cheese for omelets, good bread.

                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: shoo bee doo

                                                                                                                                                                                Agree on sardines. And yes to eggs as well. I can live without butter for a while, but I might have trouble doing without olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: shoo bee doo

                                                                                                                                                                                  Actually, I did mention canned fish (although not sardines specifically).

                                                                                                                                                                                2. this week i'm getting

                                                                                                                                                                                  .5 lb chopped bbq brisket

                                                                                                                                                                                  produce ...

                                                                                                                                                                                  purple potatoes
                                                                                                                                                                                  green onions
                                                                                                                                                                                  asparagus tips

                                                                                                                                                                                  mature cheddar--a brand i consider very good value

                                                                                                                                                                                  this should come in at less than $50.

                                                                                                                                                                                  don't think anything on this list is considered a luxury product, but everything here will make me feel i am eating well--and will be delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                  i always buy what i will want to eat ... and then i do.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. I guess I am more surprised by the original post. Does anyone think really think only $50 for groceries, would be considered "being broke"?
                                                                                                                                                                                    If it was $10-$15 maybe for a week..then possibly.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I would buy a few boxes of pasta...beans.....frozen vegetables if fresh were too pricey......eggs....butter...canned tomatoes....rice......coffee beans....sugar..cream...romaine lettuce....cherry tomatoes...cucumbers.....bananas....potatoes cheese.That seems like quite a lot of food to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I have two orange trees and a Meyer lemon tree for oranges O.J. and lemonade and to use in cooking.I bake bread every few days.My main splurge is and always has been my coffee beans.....cream and sugar. If I can not have a good stiff hot steamy strong freshly ground brewed cup when I wake up then
                                                                                                                                                                                      my God WHAT is the point of me being awake?!

                                                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                                                                                        " If I can not have a good stiff hot steamy strong freshly ground brewed cup when I wake up then
                                                                                                                                                                                        my God WHAT is the point of me being awake?!"


                                                                                                                                                                                        +10 : )

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. --Fresh lemons.
                                                                                                                                                                                        -Canned tomatoes
                                                                                                                                                                                        -Canned beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I guess it also goes almost without saying that you can save a goodly amount by buying your groceries from less-expensive shops, in addition to buying what's on sale and using discount cards, as already mentioned.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Here's a link to an NPR series called "How Low Can You Go?" from a few years back in which they challenged listeners and professional chefs to come up with delicious meals for four for $10 or less.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Diet Coke ~~ a 2 liter bottle every day at work

                                                                                                                                                                                            coffee and/or tea

                                                                                                                                                                                            rice cakes, jam or jelly and hot tea for breakfast
                                                                                                                                                                                            (and a fruit)
                                                                                                                                                                                            soup and an apple for lunch
                                                                                                                                                                                            dinner; either egg salad or tuna salad with veg