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Your best meals for $5.00 or less

I am starting the new year cutting my food budget for myself to $40.00 a week.

I know my way around the kitchen.I make a pot of beans,cook chicken using the leftovers for soup.Also make frittata,waffles,pasta,vegtables, and the list goes on.I also like using leftovers to make other meals for the day.Any recipes you like to cook for $5.00 or less?

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  1. Eggs... delicious, nutritious, and dirt cheap. Our family's favorite cheap meal is pasta with meat sauce (scratch).

    1. There are tons of options, but a lot will depend on seasonality, demand, and prices in your area.

      - salmon croquettes
      - turkey chili
      - shakshuka
      - polenta with turkey, pork or sausage ragu
      - turkey burgers
      - meatloaf
      - adobo chicken
      - braised chicken or turkey thighs
      - African peanut stew (chicken optional)
      - chicken cacciatore
      - pot roast
      - pulled pork shoulder
      - London broil
      - tuna noodle casserole
      - baked cod

      Remember that you can use one large batch of cooked protein - roast chicken, whole fish, chuck roast, pork shoulder - in several different recipes.

      1. Run right out and buy yourself some of those roasts, the larger the better, that have been discounted after Christmas! Turkey, pork shoulders and the capons that did not sell have now been frozen and will make the basis of a dozen meals each.

        Last year hubby and I did a successful $75.00 a week budget, for both of us, for 3 months (bet with a competitive and frugal friend).

        Here is where 1 6-lb frozen chicken, original cost $12.00, broke down, by portion. The cost of added ingredients totalled approximately $8.00, so $20.00 in total.

        Roast Chicken, Celeriac and Lemon Zest Sauce-2 portions
        Hot Chicken on Rice (Dark meat leftovers with Lemony Gravy), red pepper and remaining celeriac-2 portions
        Chicken Divan (white meat leftovers, bread, brocolli, masked with bread-crumbed bechamel)-3 portions
        Curried Chicken Salad, Romaine, Grapes and Almonds-2 portions
        Rosemary-Chicken Noodle Soup (made stock from carcass and used odd bits to enliven celery and carrot) 2 portions fresh and 2 to freezer
        That was a total of 13 servings for about $20.

        I could parse a pork shoulder or roast of beef, too, but you get the picture...it is truely meat as condiment. My husband who is a meat lover hardly noticed the deprivation as everything was smothered in flavour additives from spices, herbs, roasted veggies.

        1. A roast chicken is truly the one that keeps giving.

          The chicken itself as a main the first night
          pieces of chicken in meals for at least 2 more meals
          and stock from the bones that you can use to steam veggies, make sauces, make soups, cook grains, etc.

          And once you go Zuni you never go back.....

          We (2 of us,) average $40 a week and eat very well.

          8 Replies
          1. re: weezieduzzit

            It is hard for me to do this because I try to be low carb to keep my weight down. Some things I have learned:
            - Some groceries have their roast chickens half off later in the day. One $3 chicken can be four servings, if you don't mind noodles or potatoes (good ramen noodles with stock, veggies and meat makes a good meal)
            - some stores sell nearly-expired ham and turkey that are cryovac wrapped. I used to get them half price.
            - A mirepoix can make soup, stew or sauce easily. A bag of carrots, a bag of celery and a couple onions last a long time
            - If you can find a deal (even Costco) a flank steak can easily do 6-8 servings and is therefore quite affordable.
            - Sauces make leftovers taste like a new dish. We do mustard sauces and we puree the mirepoix we use to cook poultry with.
            - You can deep fry many greens to get tasty, crunchy sides or toppings. I love to do it with spinach!
            - Corn tortillas are inexpensive and freeze well if wrapped tightly. They can be fried or just warmed as bread or used to wrap proteins and cheese/veggies.
            - Black beans are good and good for you
            - Use lots of spices so things have more flavor.
            - Fresh fruits are filling and nutritious
            - Vary your breakfast a lot or you'll get bored soon
            - try to buy local when you can.

            Some specifics besides the noodles and tortillas
            - Stuffed baked potatoes
            - Stuffed cabbage leaves. You can find lots of recipes on the web depending on ingredients you like. These are nutritious and filling.
            - Make sauerkraut -- a good, cheap, healthy veggie
            - I love adding Wakame ( a sea vegetable usually sold dried) to soups, etc. It is really cheap ($4 worth will last months even if eaten 3-times a week). It is very healthy, too.
            - I stuff roasted green chile with cheese and meat/poultry/shrimp and bake for a very inexpensive dinner. Depending on size, two chiles, 50 cents worth of cheese and 50 cents worth of that $3 roasted chicken makes a good, cheap dinner.

            1. re: travelerjjm

              I always cringe a little when inevitably these threads are full of posts suggesting that you "stretch" meat with carbs. It's nice to see someone understand that you aren't saving money if you give yourself type II diabetes (etc)

              1. re: jvanderh

                Its also just not necessary! We eat pretty low carb (I eat 30g a day or less,) and only spend $40 a week for 2 of us! A lot of that is in the shopping but it can be easily done.

                1. re: weezieduzzit

                  $40 a week is still too high. Assume someone's on SNAP, at 1.40 per meal. Good luck.

                2. re: jvanderh

                  I agree. I will have maybe a small amount of protein with vegtables, and my carb of choice is potato. More than often boiled. I add it to my plate. No need to add butter.Plenty of fat from your protein.Reply to jvanderth.

                  1. re: jvanderh

                    if by "carbs", you mean bread crumb extender and lots of pasta, then yes. But, lots of dried beans? Beans are healthy and cheap.

                    1. re: mwk

                      and beans served with rice create a complete protein. like tofu it's boring if you're not clever, but cheap and nutritious.

                      1. re: hill food

                        I envy those who can eat beans and rice. I do and I gain ten pounds overnight from one plate.

              2. emglow, I am so glad you asked this question. One of my granddaughters just moved into her first apartment and asked me about recipes for inexpensive meals. My brain just went dead. Now with the responses to your query, my brain in functioning again, and I feel that I can help her.

                1. Go vegan.. mujaddara, Indian dals, Caribbean rice+beans, Ethiopian stews, the world is your oyster! :)


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: blinknoodle

                    I find fresh vegetables often cost more than some meat and fishes...on a day to day basis.....especially Organic or at the Farmers Markets.

                    1. re: blinknoodle

                      I am trying ot go Vegan (due to health issue) and have embraced Indian cooking style, still I doubt you can really make a meal in $5.

                      1. re: vegiefudie

                        organic - yes. but there are discussion threads on the comparative benefits of organic vs. local and the costs and environmental factors involved.

                        it may just be me, but I find while there's an initial high cost when starting in on a new cuisine it quickly becomes a much cheaper pantry issue of maintaining this or that.

                    2. Bacon has to be one of my favourite budget foods. I find it can jazz up a good side dish to make it a little more substantial.

                      Rice gratin with your choice of a seasonal vegetable or two is great with a bit of bacon mixed in.

                      Roast yourself a chicken. You open yourself to a world of leftover creations. Including a cheap and cheerful hash.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: Musie

                        +1, bacon. If into 'meat candy' it will jazz up inexpensive food.

                        I buy ends and pieces usually in a three pound package for about $5. Chop fine then fry on a low heat in two batches (under the 370 degree F smoke point). Lasts two weeks dressing up all kinds of things. And the not burned bacon fat works great to fry things in.

                        My nurse grandma who read lots lived to be 97 frying in mostly bacon fat. She never had a microwave or ate out of one (knowingly) as claimed it superheated vegetable fat to make polymer (plastic) the start of cancer. She also claimed overheated unsaturated vegetable fat of any kind smoke is cancerous (especially in a home kitchen without proper ventilation). She then went on to say saturated bacon fat is better in moderation. So I keep it and fry in it when do not use coconut oil. Is how she taught me.

                        1. re: smaki

                          +1 for bacon ends and pieaces..... this was the first cooking trick (secret) I learned. I've had a fronzen log of bacon in my freazer sinse (20 years or so).

                          I simply freeze it, when I need some bacon fat I saw off a slice or two.

                          It's also called seasoning bacon.

                        2. re: Musie

                          Really? I find bacon to be terribly expensive!

                          1. re: melpy

                            I am mystified too. In terms of cost per gram of protein, it seems like it has no business on a thread like this. I guess it's being used as a condiment, and people like it so much that it's worth the money to them.

                            1. re: jvanderh

                              melpy and jvanderh, please consider buying 'ends and pieces' instead of the nice looking slices that are so expensive. Seek and you will find.

                              I've found starting with thicker ends and pieces end up with better bacon bits for a fraction of the price. I sometimes find bacon for 99 cents a pound or less. 68 cents a pound is my best deal in recent years. Under $1 a pound find is never a reliable consistent local supply (do not know why). When see it I buy it. Prices have been going up on food in recent years with the fuel prices. The 'ends and pieces' bacon I like right now is 3 pounds for $5. My local Winco and Grocery Outlet have two pound packages of 'ends and pieces' for about $5.38 here in Portland, Oregon that works when unable to get my favorite (is not always available).

                              When purchase bacon I dig through the pile and buy the meaty package with the least amount of fat (lots of red instead of lots of white). I cook half the package then eat on it a little at a time all week then cook the other half for the following week. I buy bacon once a month so only have it in my fridge 50% of the time. Bacon definitely does dress up cheap food.

                              The bonus is I nearly always have a supply of saved saturated bacon fat to fry in. I keep in old tea cups covered with a non-BPA sandwich bag in the fridge. Better flavor with brown crust than butter or oil when fry potatoes, a burger, a steak, chicken, etc.

                              1. re: smaki

                                Ends and pieces, huh? Interesting.

                                1. re: smaki

                                  Agree with the bacon ends....I buy them in 3 lb packs (for $5.00) also and divide the pack into three ziplock bags. I freeze two and keep one in the fridge until used up. I use it in everything like regular bacon. Prices here are 2-12 oz packages of Gwalteny bacon for $5.00 ON SALE these days. I'll keep buying the end pieces.

                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                    and a little goes a long way, sometimes you just want a bit of flavor. a dab here and there does that without loading up on the saturated fat.

                                    I did have issues with the BLT from a deli that was proud of a 1/2 lb. of meat on every sandwich. that was just wrong.

                                  2. re: smaki

                                    Where does one get these bacon ends? I've never seen them. I'll have to look a little harder next time I'm at the store.

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        Cool, thanks! I'll check that out.

                                        1. re: Kontxesi

                                          We don't have TJs.
                                          Giant doesn't sell them but once in a while Karns has ends which I stock up on and freeze. Thanks for the tips. I still buy my Oscar Mayer when it is on sale.

                              2. re: Musie

                                Another vote for bacon here, to "jazz up" dishes. You don't need a whole pound to add the flavor to things like pasta or to wrap/lay on inexpensive pieces of meat to improve the flavor/moistness, and it makes a basic sandwich so much better. The bacon I buy (Kroger store brand "Private Selection" center cut) goes on sale often for $3.50 for a 12oz package, and i1 or 2 pieces is all I really need. Plus you can save the fat to replace stuff like butter or oil in cooking.

                                1. re: Musie

                                  Bacon is definitely a must. Also try those cubes of salt pork. If you soak them in some water, you can get rid of the extra salty flavor if you like. I freeze mine just a little and use a very sharp knife to cut thin slices to use just like bacon. Well, salt pork is just unsliced pork bellies. You can also grind up a little to mix with ground beef for flavorful burgers and meatloaf. A chunk in a pot of soup adds lots of flavor with having to fill the pot with expensive meat. Good in a pot of beans too.

                                  1. re: hippioflov

                                    Fried salt pork is a childhood treat I long for. Grandma also used it to make collards and green brand.

                                2. Not meal specific, but for your weekly budget, you have to learn how to be a better shopper and learn which stores in your area offer you the best value. If you shop at one major grocery store supermarket, then you must learn to purchase only what you need and what is available from the weekly circular....this will also offer you variety as well..

                                  As others have mentioned, roasting meat and having leftovers for the week is a start. Nothing gives you more bank for your buck than a Chicken or Pork Shoulder. Also, look for the daily manager specials and markdowns where you can save 50% off regular prices because it it on the last day of *suggested best if use by date* Many meats today have air tight packaging and could easily be kept for a few more days.....much longer if you are willing to freeze the item.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    This! By simply changing my weekly shopping from Stop & Shop to Market Basket my food costs are down 40% and more. As others have stated, hams, turkeys and capons are all heavily discounted now that the holidays have passed. Lasagna is also a go to money savor for us as a whole lasagna is easily 10 meals. I'll make 1/2 meatless, and half with sausage, or eggplant just to mix it up. I also make my tomato sauce by the (several) gallon and get 10 or so meals for around $10 total (plus the cost of pasta).

                                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                      I just got back from shopping at ShopRite, shoprite.com., ....where this time of year they have a promotion known as Can-Can Sale....basic vegetables, tomatoes,beans, beets, potted meats, soups and etc......highly discounted for at least a couple of weeks.. The beans and vegetables are only .33 a can. They also have many other can items as well included int he promotional sale

                                      They had Progresso soups, 10/11.88.....not great soups, but nice to have as a convenience item.

                                      They also had virtually every Ronzoni Dried Pasta variety for only .59 per package.,,,I picked up 30 for less than $18.

                                      I realize some of these items go on sale throughout the year and I'm pretty good with remembering prices....but these prices were even lower than most sales...

                                      Sometimes it pays to stock up on items you know you will use frequently.....I tend to favor having Ceci and Cannellini beans available for soups or salads.....and some beets for the latter. Yes they taste much better made fresh...but I hate the mess...Different tomatoes for quick sauce and gravy.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        if you are trying to save money canned beans are no bargain compared to dried.

                                        1. re: magiesmom

                                          at .33 for a can and not having to cook or clean, while not using natural resources to do so....I'd they're a bargain.

                                          a bag of beans cost on average about $1.50 (Goya) how much exactly do you think you are saving cooking them on your own.

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            Canned beans are usually very high in sodium, and mushy, and not worth my money at any price.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              okay -- they're still cooked at the factory, so still using natural resources -- just not at your house.

                                              But there are always a few cans of beans in my pantry for nights when I'm in a time crunch.

                                            2. re: magiesmom

                                              and they have a weird taste compared to dried.

                                            3. re: fourunder

                                              Shop Rite also rocks in the Manager's Specials category both in their front of the store cases where I nab fresh cheese for 50-75% off and make grilled cheese sandwiches out of high quality brands marked for use in a few days AND the entire deli and dairy area where SR Mgrs. mark things down each day. Ask the dept Mgrs for their specials list and you'll receive a one sheet that bears checking out.

                                        2. How many portions do you want for your $5? Change your thought process so meats are condiments rather than the dominant part of a meal, e.g. bite-sized bits of meat as part of a stew or stir-fry, with vegetable or dairy protein sources to complement the meat. Use weekly circulars to create your shopping list, but check the mark-down area in each supermarket department first, changing plans on the fly when good bargains are to be had. A big package of ham ends in the deli section? Pea or bean soup, croque monsieurs, ham salad... Bruised fruit? Compotes, crisps, applesauce... And so on. $40 per week is more than enough for a single person who does not eat out.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            I forgot to add, that includes beer.I know how to shop. You won't find me eating processed foods or going out to eat.I know $40.00 a week is plenty of money for my food budget.What I was trying to ask is for what you like to make for $5.00 or less.You can make great meals for five bucks. Looking for some more ideas.I know you have some great ones you cook.

                                            1. re: emglow101

                                              vegetarian chili, and

                                              vegetarian ghormeh sabzi

                                              dal and brown rice

                                              saag with tofu

                                              hummus with crispy pita and a green salad ('ya gotta make the hummus yourself with dried beans for it to be "really" inexpensive)

                                              add shelled edamame to any salad that doesn't contain cheese

                                              lentil soup

                                              minestrone soup

                                              bean cheese and tofu burrito (get the super firm high protein tofu from tj's--it does NOT come in a tub)

                                              grilled cheese sandwiches (get the aged rembrandt gouda from costco for this-- great quality/price ratio)

                                              with some of the leftover rembrandt gouda make a cheese sauce using a roux. you can pour this on cardboard and it will taste good.

                                              ricotta al forno from evan kleiman's cookbook paired with ratatouille

                                              this is sort of half meal, and half dessert, but we've had it for dinner at my house:
                                              slather toast with peanut butter, sprinkle with tj's chocolate chips, put the whole thing back in the toaster oven under "broil" until the chips melt.

                                              for frozen convenience food, tj's is your friend. (skip their appetizers)

                                              tj's brand of beer.

                                              if you drink wine, whole foods on occasion stocks a brand with a "three wishes" label on it for $2/bottle. the white is not good, nor do i recommend the merlot, but the "cabernet" is drinkable, much better than 2 buck chuck

                                              you can pop plain popcorn( from the whole foods bulk department) in the microwave in a double layer of little brown bags for snacks.

                                            2. re: greygarious

                                              I totally agree grey. One half of a chicken breast last me four meals and a chicken thigh is at least two, maybe three.

                                              Stir frys are my best friend, rice, veggies and a smidgen of protein.


                                            3. This recipe, Beefy Mac Soup, has become a family favourite: http://www.5dollardinners.com/2009/10...

                                              I just throw in whatever veges I have on hand. Sometimes I substitute taco seasoning for the italian seasonings and call it Taco soup - this variation is even more popular with the family than the original recipe.

                                              The whole site will give you heaps of great ideas for five dollar dinners!

                                              1. My current favorite is one bag of frozen beans/peas (lima, black eye, crowder, whatever...) 1/2 bag frozen chopped collards, and a few ounces of country ham ends-and-pieces. Dump it all in a small pot with 1/2 cup of water, and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve over rice.

                                                Another fave is diced sweet potato sauteed in butter/oil until soft and golden brown, then I toss in diced kielbasa or smoked sausage and cook until the sausage is heated through. Serve with sauteed greens - I like sauteed shredded cabbage, but any leafy green will do.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mpjmph

                                                  Your food sounds scrumptious:)! I love cabbage in any way shape or form. The same with yams and sweet potatoes.

                                                2. I like to make pasta and add some kind of seafood with parmesan or asiago and veggies regularly. Seafood is cheap where I live so a pound of shrimp is not going to be an issue. We always have cheese in the fridge so the only things I buy weekly are meat/seafood/poultry and veggies. I'd say I spend about $50 a week on food items only for the two of us. If I buy a roast, that will make sandwiches for days & leftovers are frozen for later. Same with red beans & rice. I make a big pot and freeze them so when we're sick of roast or chicken I have the beans in the freezer. We just got a bag of 12 fish fillets for ten bucks. Good deals are there, you just have to look. Big Lots and dollar type stores have great food sales too but they don't have fresh things here in my area, only boxed and canned items. Fresh fruit/veggie stands are wonderful for local items at a discount.

                                                  1. Pasta usually goes on sale 10/$10 every two months here (it seems) so if you are a pasta eater you can stock up on that.

                                                    I buy tomato items at Costco in the cases like diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc. it's not always cheaper than buying them when on sale but I usually get the organic s&w brand. *shrug*

                                                    Also, I have HEARD but not confirmed, that Costco (if you don't have a membership find a friend who does!) will sell roasted chickens 4 in a packet for a cheap price--they are all missing their breasts! They use the breasts for their prepared foods so they have breast-less birds hanging out with no homes. You'd probably want to go and ask if they do this and what days they do it or if you can reserve them.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: eperdu

                                                      Wow, really about Costco? I'd like to get to the bottom of that

                                                      1. re: tcamp

                                                        Yeah. I keept forgetting to ask but have a friend in Atlanta who gets them every week and uses them for a lot of her meals.

                                                    2. I often make a ghetto beef stroganoff - onion, ground beef, 1 can of mushroom soup, 1/2 package of frozen peas, and sour cream to taste. I know the can of mushroom soup is not htat healthy but it makes my life easier as generally do not have milk on hand at home.

                                                      making a soup out of vegetables is a nice way to stretch food too my favorite is spinach, a few shrimp and chicken broth flavored with a bit of salt, pepper, red pepper, etc/ Also my mom has a way of smashing and chopping up the shrimp to make them seem more plentiful and give a better texture to the soup. you can use almost any vegetable leafy or sturdy that cooks quickly cruising the asian markets can give you inspiration.

                                                      Oh and make your own wontons for soup or with a flavorful black bean and ketchup sauce!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: cheeseplatesf

                                                        Because I know it must have been a salt/fat bomb, I do not make my mother's chicken parts with cream-o-mush. As I recall, she browned skin-on pieces, then mixed in an undiluted can, which, cooked a while on low heat, combined with the rendered fat into a sauce as delicious as it is unhealthy. Possibly there was a very small amount of milk but I can't be sure.

                                                        The old recipe for chuck roast topped with a can of c-o-m and a packet of onion soup mix, wrapped tightly in foil, and baked in the oven is another scrumptiously easy evil. ATK or CC recently did their take, concocting their own versions of the convenience elements although it didn't seem worth the effort for what small nutritional benefit it contributed.

                                                      2. I just made two of my cheapo favorites today. First was a black bean soup using a ham bone that I got for free, left over from an office potluck. I feel like the office vulture sometimes but, hey, it was headed for the trash can.

                                                        Second is chicken stock made from two carcasses stockpiled in the freezer, leftover from roasts over the past month. I'm making hot and sour soup tomorrow with some of the stock.

                                                        1. Tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. I like to make my own from canned diced tomatoes, a bay leaf, and crushed garlic.

                                                          Plus this can be jazzed up to avoid boredom. You can add diced hot peppers; a touch of curry and chopped cauliflower; a few tablespoons of cream or sour cream; finely diced greens wilted in a little bacon grease; or cook up some elbow noodles and let them sit in the soup overnight - yum!

                                                          The soup is a great base for a veggie soup if you put it in a crock pot with whatever you have and let simmer all day.

                                                          1. Last night I made lemongrass pork chops with rice noodles and shredded vegetables. 2.87 for a package of five thinly sliced pork chops (on sale, .1.39 a lb. to start with and reduced for sell-by date 25%) pounded thin, marinated in a bit of vinegar, sugar,fish sauce, juice of one lime and one stalk of lemongrass and pan-grilled, with a pile of rice noodles(the whole bag was .79 and I used half of it) and a (big) shredded carrot, some shredded cabbage (the 'heel' left over from coleslaw) and a chopped cucumber...under 5 bucks, easy, fed four of us (two chops for the teenage boy!) It helps a lot to buy at our (awesome, old, NOT upscale) farmer's market, Soulard, and at the Asian market where I can buy small quantities of things like one big carrot and one stalk of lemongrass. I also like to buy a beef shank or chuck steak (small one) and make a nice ragu with a can of tomatoes and whatever veg I can scrounge from the fridge or buy a few of (mushrooms, celery stalks, an onion) and serve it over cheese polenta...you can use the scraps and ends of cheese for the polenta, get good strong-flavored cheese, and just use whatever varieties sound good. And soup, of course...french onion soup is basically onions and beef stock, a piece of bread and some more of that cheese....the flavor derives more from caramelizing those onions than it does from fancy or pricey ingredients. A big go-to for me is baked potato soup, which takes milk, chicken stock, a couple of baked potatoes, and some butter & flour for the roux. Sprinkle dill on top or cut up a chive (I confess I have been known to go pluck some wild onion stalks from the yard) to make it fancier.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: tonifi

                                                              hey Toni - I love Soulard, but recently fell in true love with Global over on Kirkwood, I was doing black-eyed peas for New Year's of course and for $2 got a big hog jowl (only used half and froze the rest) a bag of the peas, cheap onion and garlic so for less than $4 got 6 servings. avocados were 2 for $1 and we had lettuce and a tomato anyway. surimi was about $1.59 and I only used half at most in the salad. so a grand total for a very filling meal with plenty of protein and roughage was just a little more than $5.00 for 6.

                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                Global is an amazing store! I live in Iowa now, but my family is in Northeast MO, I make a stop anytime I'm in the city.

                                                                1. re: Rach321


                                                                  or uhh would that be paisana? all cities should be so blessed. Global, Jay, Seafood City...

                                                            2. Hi, Em:

                                                              How willing are you to count/price your time into that budget?

                                                              Fresh, no-knead bread, toasted, with mayo and schmashed avocado, salt and pepper? Slo-N-Low $1.29/lb Boston Butt done Hawai'ian kalua-style? Foraged Morel mushrooms added to budget spag sauce? Homemade gooseberry jam on stale-bread toast with a dab of Irish butter? Brussel sprouts and parsnips roasted in bacon grease? Mont-St-Michelle-style thick omelet filled with ANY of the above?

                                                              If I might suggest, an approach is to zap up affordable staples with other things you can find/make for yourself. For example, a simple ginger syrup can transform everything from waffles to roasts to the cheapest beer.

                                                              Another unsolicited suggestion: Make your $5 go farther. Where I live (Seattle), there are grocery and resto "outlet" stores, e.g., Cash & Carry and Grocery Outlet, that are excellent. I buy a lot of my wine at the GO, and I'm a winemaker! Also, buying in bulk is a good gambit. 50# of good flour from a resto outlet isn't a lot more $ than 10# at Whole Paycheck.

                                                              The history of cuisine is that the poor inherit the Earth. Exult and be inventive.


                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                                                Yep - I think the same way Kaleo - I can and do save a bunch of money but it takes time. When I'm working brutal hours (70+) per week, I'm happy with some cheese and crackers and seasonal fresh fruit. I've laughed out loud when I've found fresh eggs in the frig!

                                                                When I have more time, I'll forage through my own frig and pantry and come up w/ something delicious and inspiring.

                                                              2. Shop sales. Have an extra freezer. Have extra dollars in your pocket when you shop. Never ruin quality ingredients. Remember bulk bins can be some of the best prices for quality foods. When find a deal buy extra to stockpile. Make your find your own. Local and fresh knowing each food item history through its creation is best. Buy only what your crew can eat. Cook big on the weekends and freeze to grab when hungry. Gives variety and can be a healthy inexpensive way to eat.

                                                                When go to my freezer right now I can pick:

                                                                chicken enchiladas
                                                                burritos (home made with love)
                                                                turkey stew
                                                                beef stew
                                                                baked beans
                                                                brats (bought dated on sale for $1 instead of $5 for six)
                                                                chicken, broccoli, cheese soup
                                                                lox (made with salmon, salt, and dill)
                                                                steak (often get for less than ground beef)

                                                                Rotate. Toss or give away what do not eat before bad.

                                                                Keep lots of fresh veggies and fruit on hand when on sale. Pickle, can, and freeze what unable to eat fresh for later. I buy as much Tillamook white medium cheddar for under $5 for two pounds I can afford when on sale (blue plastic) - it lasts a year and is better with age (do not freeze or changes texture).

                                                                When get an elk, deer, fish, salmon, or sturgeon it is a great thing to fill a freezer or smoker storage shelves with healthy meat to eat for many months.

                                                                Change it up. One of my favorite ways to eat brats is with lots of color on the BBQ then chop to make home made whole wheat pizza with various toppings. We also like to make home made pocket bread sandwiches when have supplies. Fresh juice rocks when can get free when pick or grow or on sale.

                                                                Treat yourself as you eat cheap. It is a lifestyle.

                                                                In summary, cook on the weekends so you can have a life when eat great during the week. Mix it up so not the same or you will get bored. Someone said make breakfast special - my feedback is make every meal special. Shop to know the best sales or you will pay quadruple or more.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: smaki

                                                                  re: the extra freezer
                                                                  when i factored in the cost of the electricity that the freezer was eating up, the whole thing made NO economic sense.

                                                                  sold the extra freezer.

                                                                  (maybe other areas haver cheaper electricity that i do)

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                    I just went to Sears.com and looked up their 20.6 Cubic foot upright freezer. It uses 526 Kwh per year at an estimated $56 per year of electricity. An upright is far less efficient than a chest style. At 20.6 cubic feet, that is one of the largest Sears has.

                                                                    I'm sorry but I think you should re-calculate.

                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                      at this point, i wouldn't take it if it were completely free.

                                                                      1) my electric rate has risen substantially since i did the calculation.
                                                                      even if freezers have become more efficient since the time that i did the calculation, my cost of electricity is sure to CONTINUE to rise and i would have already spent the money to buy the freezer.

                                                                      2) i live in an area that has a number of very reasonably priced ethnic restaurants that serve some really terrific food at this point, i'd rather eat out. i'm no longer serving meals for an army.

                                                                      4) since i don't eat meat nor poultry any more, really how much would the savings be? the really BIG saving is to be had by moving toward a plant-based diet and getting off meat and poultry entirely.

                                                                      5) that said, i still do eat fish once or twice a week, and for fish there is a mexican seafood restaurant near me that has their fish driven up here by family members from matzalan.
                                                                      their food is out of this world.
                                                                      also, there is an upscale asian restaurant that makes an incredible version of steamed cod in spicy sauce that i adore.

                                                                      6) the floor space in my garage that would be taken up by the freezer is much more profitably rented out to neighbors to stow their boating equipment. before that it was rented by a neighbor's kid for her vespa.

                                                                      7) whenever i've worked in a restaurant EVERY freezer/refrigerator breakdown occurred on the hottest day of the year. we'd end up scrambling while an emergency call was made to the appliance repair guy. we'd be begging the other nearby restaurants to "lend" us a little space in their units until ours was fixed.

                                                                      sears can keep it's freezer.

                                                                2. hillfood, it really is a wonder that we haven't run into one another...I try to frequent Jay more than Global (city bias) but I must admit that the greater amount of space at the store in Kirkwood makes for a lot more variety, particularly at the meat counter. I buy my pork bellies, beef shanks, breast of lamb (cut it in half and you have lamb ribs and the makings for lamb bacon), and all kinds of stuff there. Really, if you are shopping on a budget and looking for more interesting options, Asian markets can't be beat. The minute a cut of meat becomes trendy (like short ribs or hangar steak) the price at more traditional groceries goes through the roof, but at the Asian market they're still priced like the workaday foodstuff they've always been for home cooks from other cultures. Last time I was there an elderly woman went into raptures over the beef hearts, which she said her mother made all the time.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: tonifi

                                                                    Toni - I still love Jay, but the claustrophobia...I'll PM you through that other venue.

                                                                    Asian and Latino markets have been budget-crunch lifesavers over the years.

                                                                  2. apart from the above, I make other egg based dishes: shashuksa, baked potatoes with scrambled eggs, baked eggs with greens. I also like cottage cheese/whole grain pancakes,. Stirfrys with tofu or tempeh are also cheap and good.

                                                                    1. It really does vary for me depending on what's on sale. One meal might cost $2 one time, but $6 another. For example, I made some pork chops the other night that fits the under $5 threshold... ingredients were organic pork chops (2) that I got from the manager's special bin at my store for under $3, a can of diced tomatoes, which I got with a coupon for 59 cents, half of a red onion (so 50 cents?), some red pepper flakes, and olive oil (1tbsp), salt and pepper. We had baked potatoes with it. I had gotten the 10lb bag of potatoes for $1.50 on sale. But, another time that meal might cost at least twice that.

                                                                      Speaking of the manager's special bin, that's where I get some really great deals on protein, especially the more expensive organic stuff, which is usually out of my price range. I bought 3 packages of the above mentioned pork chops, and just froze them until I was ready to use.

                                                                      As others mentioned, pasta is always super cheap, and stocking up on stuff when they go on sale. My store had chicken breasts for $1.99/lb this week, which is the lowest it ever gets in my area, so I bought 4 packages for $28, each package had 5 breasts, and often 2 breasts makes 4 servings. I do the same for stuff I eat a lot, like English Muffins. they go on sale every so often for around $2 a package, so I buy like 4 packages and freeze them. I plan my meals around what I have on my freezer and/or what's on sale, and I don't cook more than one recipe a week that requires me to buy a new more expensive pantry ingredient.

                                                                      I also shop at a more produce-centric market (Sprouts) to buy most of my produce. The other night I got almost my entire week's worth of produce for $12 just by choosing stuff that was on sale.

                                                                      Tonight I'm making this, and it's not under $5, but it's making 10 servings of 10 potstickers each (which is probably a lot for one serving) so it's around $1 a serving. I'm going to use some for lunches this week and freeze the rest. http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2010/... I got my pork on sale for $3, The wonton wrappers were $5 for 2 packages, and the rest of the ingredients were less than $3, and some were pantry items that I already had.

                                                                      Speaking of Budget Bytes though, I would really encourage you to check out all her other recipes, it's one of my favorite blogs to cook from, as I am on a budget too, $75 a week for 2 people. Just about everything I've made from there has been delicious and flavorful, which a lot of other "budget cooking" recipes seem to be lacking.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                        I second the Budget Bytes blog. She's got some really good recipes and she also breaks down the costs for each one. The blog isn't that old so it's fun to start at the beginning and move forward and read everything.

                                                                      2. After Christmas the half-hams are often reduced for clearance and when you count up all the meals you can get from one, the initial cost pro-rates to very little per meal. Every tiny bit of a half-ham can be used. Scalloped potatoes with ham. Baked beans with ham. Omelets and frittatas with ham. Ham and sweet potatoes. Hot ham and cheese sandwiches. Ham biscuits. Ham loaf. Ham salad. Green beans cooked with the skin or the goo from the pan. Navy bean soup, or split pea soup, or Cuban black bean soup, made with the bone. You can also freeze some of the meat for future use.

                                                                        1. I am a big sale shopper and I have to say owning a vacu-sealer and an extra freezer has paid for itself time and time again. By being a savvy shopper, coupon cutter and reader of flyers I find I can easily make meals for under $5 (family of three) often with leftovers that would normally cost a lot more. So don't necessarily have $5 recipes its more that I build my meals around whats on sale and what I have on hand. I may go to the store to get XYZ but then find they have a managers special ABC so I get that instead.

                                                                          Of course doing so often means I have fork over more dollars at one given time so its important that I know what my overall budget is so that if I have to spend a lot more one week to take advantage of a good price I know to cut back other places.

                                                                          Perfect example is that my grocery recently had organic/free range chicken thighs for 89 cents a pound, no limit so I bought 4 family packs, broke them down into meal sized portions and vacu sealed them. There are so many meals I can make with them that will come well under $5.00!

                                                                          Of course all this means that I sometimes have forgo creativity when my freezer has more chicken than beef but that doesn't happen too often and I could probably live off my freezer for a couple months, LOL.

                                                                          Another thing I do to get the cost of meals down is to batch cook with a friend. About once a month we pool our resources and spend the day cooking. We took a break for the holidays but are meeting again at the end of the month. We buy in bulk from the cash and carry and our plan is make multiple meatloaves, meatballs, lentil soup and pizza dough. We then divide everything up and have meals stockpiled in our freezers. Cost averaged each meal will be under $5.00.

                                                                          Lastly we make a point of eating fairly cheap breakfasts and always pack our lunches. This can often give me some leeway when we want to splurge on take out or more expensive dinners.

                                                                          1. Grow your own meat and vegetables to know what is in it if able. Store-bought food even most restaurant eats typically have unknown history - but we buy to eat it anyway for top dollar? Something is wrong with the picture! Maybe they were smarter in past times than now ... more had gardens, canned, farmed, pickled, hunted, fished, etc.

                                                                            Plant a garden year round if able - not just summer veggies. I eat 'free' broccoli and spinach most of the year here. Green beans, carrots, and sugar snap peas I get two crops a year. Fresh celery is good to have around. Love the tomatoes, green onions, chives, chili peppers, and corn but only grow in the summer here. Radishes grow fast. There is nothing like a fresh out of the garden salad with home made dressing. Pickled beets, green beans, carrots, cucumbers, and asparagus are a must have here. Fresh herbs are awesome to have around to zing up otherwise bland cheap food.

                                                                            If unable or unwilling to raise your own, get your meat from family or friends that do. Those who raise it with less 'added' hormones, antibiotics, and GMO corn than anything in a store. For example, I buy 100% natural Texas Longhorn grass fed good water lean beef for $2 a pound half an animal at a time cut and wrapped pre-frozen. I also get my chicken, pork, buffalo, lamb, ... for less from local suppliers (limited supply so often have to get in line with freezer space ready).

                                                                            A couple more home-made favorites:

                                                                            Taco Salad
                                                                            Potatoes and Eggs (like for breakfast or in potato salad)
                                                                            Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and / or bacon
                                                                            sandwiches all kinds (a good Ruben rocks)
                                                                            pea salad
                                                                            soft tacos
                                                                            chicken salad
                                                                            solid tuna (like well-drained with onion, pickle, celery, mayo)
                                                                            smoked fish (trout, sturgeon, salmon, steelhead, ...)
                                                                            lunch meat
                                                                            gyros (chicken, beef, or lamb depending on cheap availability)

                                                                            1. I think I got pretty close to $5 per serving tonight. We had leftover standing rib roast, fresh Brussels sprouts and bucatini.
                                                                              The beef roast was $4.19 a pound, which came to $2.71 per serving. I found three 2 pound bags of Brussels sprouts for $1.99 each, so that came to about 50 cents per serving. Bucatini was maybe $.25 each...and I threw in some sour cream and leftover crisp bacon.
                                                                              There's still plenty leftover of everything for another meal, too.

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                Oh, I though it was $5 a recipe, not a serving. I am feeling even more frugal now! :)

                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                  Oh, I thought it was per meal!
                                                                                  How many servings do you suppose the OP intended for the $5?
                                                                                  Do I get a do-over? ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                    it is unclear whether it's $5 pp or for a table full.

                                                                                    unlike life, if I were in charge I'd say you do get do-overs on this.

                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                      We have mixed lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes and kale in the vegetable garden right now. I can make an entire meal for next to nothin' by adding some of the aforementioned roast beef and a crumble or two of blue cheese to a bowlful of freshly harvested salad. A splash of vinagraitte, and there's a five dollar dinner..
                                                                                      howzat, hill food? ;-)

                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                        I was figuring to feed 2 people for five bucks or have leftovers for one.

                                                                                  2. I have to second the early suggestion of eggs. They can be breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, and I use them to make things more interesting when I'm "shopping" in my pantry or fridge. A beaten egg into chicken broth is lovely; homemade egg foo yung (sorry for spelling incorrectly) is a treat, and yes, of course, frittatta in which I use all but the dried, woodiest ends of asparagus scraps, or onions, or aging spinach, etc.

                                                                                    1. Cereal (preferrably Honey Bunches of Oats or Kashi GoLean Crunch) washed down with Diet Coke.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        If only the Honey Bunches of Oats didn't get soggy so quickly. I love the Kashi GoLean Crunch because it is crunch until the very end.

                                                                                      2. My fallback dinner is eggs on rice. If I've got no other ideas, don't feel like cooking and I'm just feeding myself I go to the store and buy vegetables - only enough for that night. A tomato, a single small stalk of broccoli and a zucchini, or whatever. It always comes out to be about $3. At home I've got eggs, sushi rice, garlic and soy sauce. I like to poach two eggs and steam the vegetables and garlic with the rice, towards the end of its cooking. Keep the tomatoes raw. Douse with soy sauce and you've got a big bowl of hot, awesome, cheap dinner. Love it.

                                                                                        1. Piggybacking off the bacon and eggs suggestions, spaghetti alla carbonara can be made pretty inexpensively depending on how much you have to spend on parmesean.

                                                                                          Chicken adobo (Filipino) is even less expensive.

                                                                                          1. One of my absolute favorite weeknight recipes is under $5: Fava (creamy yellow split-peas) with caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes with crusty fresh bread.

                                                                                            1. My favorites:

                                                                                              Arryo's Con Pollo - I follow Daisy Marteniz's recipe pretty closely - the Sofrito can flavor many things as well.

                                                                                              Beans & Greens: I make a pot every couple weeks, My local supermarkat sells 16 bean blend for soup (2 bucks). A ham hock, a can of tomatos and onion and whatever other vegs I have. Honestly, I don't think I would ever want to go more than a couple of weeks without this.I love it.. very good for you too. Doing the quick soak method seems to just about complete de-gas them for me.

                                                                                              Stir Fry. I use one chicken breast and what ever veg and rice.

                                                                                              One of my favorite meals of all time regardless of price. Tomato Soup with fresh or dried, dill and toasted Tuna Fish Sando.

                                                                                              I add, finely chopped onion, macerate in seasoned rice wine vinegar for a minute and also add some of the fresh dill... best Tuna ever (not just according to me).

                                                                                              Check the discount Bin for marked down meats.... It's amazing that you pay big money for an 28 day aged cut of meat but after 5 days at the market they discount it 30%. Granted, it;s not dry aged as very expensive piece of meat is however, a big part of the ageing and getting more flavor out of the meat is the enyzemes breaking down the protein..(when they turn deep red even slightly grey that's the hunk of meat you want). You can find some good buys this way and I promise the meat is better.

                                                                                              Soup. Stews and of course pasta.

                                                                                              I've been really amazed at how fast and how high food prices have gone up - the cost of fuel, recovering economy and Drought are going to make this worse.

                                                                                              1. I just made one last night.
                                                                                                1 lb. Ground Turkey ($2.99)
                                                                                                1 (6 oz) can tomato paste (.59)
                                                                                                1 pkg. sloppy joe mix (.99)
                                                                                                1 can corn (.99)

                                                                                                OK, that is $5.50; I'll get 3 or 4 meals out of it. I like it over canned french style green beans or shredded iceberg lettuce. Normies prefer hamburg buns I guess.

                                                                                                1. After the Roast Chicken.....Soup

                                                                                                  Escarole and Beans....Crusty Bread and a Nice Salad.

                                                                                                  1. Chicken and sweet corn soup


                                                                                                    4 cups chicken stock
                                                                                                    2-3 eggs (depending on how thick you like it)
                                                                                                    1-2 cans of creamed corn
                                                                                                    Handful of frozen corn (optional)

                                                                                                    And any* of the following seasonings (if I don't have these on hand, I do without and just add some salt)
                                                                                                    Dash Maggi seasoning sauce (or soy sauce can be substituted)
                                                                                                    A few drops sesame oil
                                                                                                    A few drops of fish sauce (not too much, it's very strong)
                                                                                                    1/2 tsp grated ginger

                                                                                                    Finely chopped shallots (optional garnish)

                                                                                                    *I don't think I'd use ALL of these seasonings at once, I'd just follow my mood.


                                                                                                    Put the stock, creamed corn and frozen corn in a large saucepan.
                                                                                                    Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
                                                                                                    Whisk the eggs.
                                                                                                    Once the soup has come to an energetic boil, sloooowly pour the egg in (in a thin stream) while stirring.
                                                                                                    Add the seasonings.

                                                                                                    If you like the soup a little thicker, add some cornflour in a little water/stock and pour it in, stirring well.

                                                                                                    A dash of dry sherry doesn't go astray either, if you have it.

                                                                                                    Taste and adjust seasonings. If too strong / thick / thin, add chicken stock / egg / corn - whatever it needs more of.

                                                                                                    Serve with a garnish of finely chopped shallots.


                                                                                                    Bare minimum - quickest, cheapest version but still good!

                                                                                                    Add the creamed corn to the stock, bring to the boil.
                                                                                                    Stir in the egg.
                                                                                                    Add salt to taste.

                                                                                                    And it's ready!

                                                                                                    It's also a very forgiving recipe. I use more or less of the ingredients depending on what I have on hand.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                      to make it even cheaper make the stock from the bones you reserved from last week's roast (which morphed into 2 or 3 more meals).

                                                                                                      ginger, garlic and shallots grow fairly easy in pots on window sills (OK maybe more of a pain than worth).

                                                                                                      ursy's recipe sounds good, but I would definitely follow the repeated advice to keep tasting/testing throughout.

                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                        Thank you hill food :)

                                                                                                        I just came in to share a recipe I tried today. It's quite unusual, I was intrigued when I first saw it, and I really enjoyed it:

                                                                                                        Poached egg soup

                                                                                                        Other pluses are that it's incredibly quick and it's a very light meal, but still flavoursome.

                                                                                                    2. Red lentil and vegetable curry. It's made with kitchen staples as well: red lentils, frozen mixed vegetables, coconut milk, tin of tomatoes, curry powder, cayenne/chilli pepper powder, ground ginger, vegetable stock/water, onions and garlic. It's intuitive and easily varied using whatever you have around: potatoes, squash, replace the lentils with chickpeas, etc. etc.

                                                                                                      You can freeze the excess and eat it in different ways: with rice, with bread, in pastry like a pasty, etc.

                                                                                                      You can use the red lentils in a lentil bake as well. This is also a good recipe to use up excess vegetables.

                                                                                                      I really like this website for cheap recipes (link to the lentil bake): http://pennysrecipes.com/1355/easy-le...

                                                                                                      Another cheap and very easy recipe I like is red beans and rice in the crockpot: http://www.diannesdishes.com/2011/02/...

                                                                                                      1. I thought this "Good Food on a Tight Budget" report by the Environmental Working Group might be helpful. http://www.ewg.org/goodfood/index.php


                                                                                                        1. roasted bone marrow on toast is cheap and amazing.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Brandon Nelson

                                                                                                            roasted bone marrow is indeed crazy good and cheap, but it's also crazy high in cholesterol.

                                                                                                            if one goes down that path, be sure to pair it with cruciferous vegetables and other roughage.

                                                                                                          2. Another thing I always forget, but I have big meat eaters in my house who aren't always satisfied with the "meat as seasoning" approach that is budget (and diet and earth) friendly. In stir-fries and such, I often "extend" my meat protein by adding chunks of tofu. It adds protein and bulk.


                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                              cubed tofu, patted dry, rolled in cornstarch and dried herbs, fried in canola or peanut oil and it's like a protein heavy tater tot!

                                                                                                              I froze some (uncooked) last month, we'll see if it survives.

                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                I've hears that freezing tofu changes the texture, makes it more meat-like, I think? Please do report back!


                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                  really? as I think I'd like it extra-extra-extra firm. I will!

                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                    tj's sells an extra extra firm "high protein" tofu.
                                                                                                                    no need to jump through all the hoops if you have a tj's near you

                                                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                          thanks (sniff...), I make it into the city about every 6 weeks and stock up on things there and at Asian/Latino grocers, I keep a small cooler in the car just in case.

                                                                                                                          but grocery stores out in the sticks are becoming surprisingly more sophisticated so it's not a complete wasteland.

                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                            hopefully the migration of good foodstuffs to "the sticks" will continue!

                                                                                                                        2. re: hill food

                                                                                                                          Oh man. I guess I have to stop whining about 30 minutes.

                                                                                                              2. Being a still rather new professional I am very familiar with eating on a budget. The first tip is framing your grocery list with your meals in mind. My gf and I start with writing 1-7 at the top of our list. We then figure out our meals and fill them in at the top. Afterwards we then figure out what ingredients we need for our meals and fill in our list. This helped to keep us on budget.

                                                                                                                We also use Costco to help stock our pantry. We buy a 20 lb bag of basmati rice for about $12.00 that lasts us at least 6 months. You can get a several pound bag of spinach ravioli for about $11.00 that you can use for several meals. We also buy a 2lb block of cheese for less than $6. We have found that shedding your own cheese will cause us to use less cheese than if we used packaged shredded cheese, which is good for both your waistline and wallet. You may spend $40 at Costco at a time but you will stock your pantry with a lot of essentials.

                                                                                                                Frozen vegetables are a good substitute for fresh vegetables especially in the winter. Whenever Kroger has 10/$10 sales we stock up on frozen veggies. If you have a Grocery Outlet near you, run don't walk. We always go their first because they have incredible deals. The caveat is that you have to go in with an open mind and can not be brand loyal as their product lines change from week to week.

                                                                                                                1. Bill Granger's Carmel Chicken is one of my all time favorite dinners on the cheap.

                                                                                                                  I buy and freeze chicken thighs on sale, always have, soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar and garlic on hand. Served over bulk sized bag of basmati rice and a green on sale. Google Chef Grangers Carmel Chicken for a wonderful, very inexpensive and easy meal. :)


                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                  1. re: mcel215

                                                                                                                    Here is the link for Bill Granger's Carmel Chicken, in case anyone is interested. It's an excellent dish.



                                                                                                                  2. Adding one more: frozen turkey legs! probably the not-frozen ones can be had reasonably, too. In my area, though, you can get two giant legs for less than $5 in the freezer section.

                                                                                                                    I thawed them, dry-rubbed on a mix of pepper,salt, paprika, sage and summer savoury and wrapped each one tightly in tin-foil.

                                                                                                                    I placed them WITHOUT liquid in my slow cooker and them them cook away for 7 hours on low.

                                                                                                                    The results were excellent. We split one for dinner the first night, served traditionally: mashed potatoes, gravy made from slow-cooker drippings, peas, roast carrots,cranberry sauce.

                                                                                                                    It made a lot of gravy so we took the other leg and made a turkey pot pie (gravy leavened by milk/roux-sauteed mushrooms, leftover veggies in a double-crust pastry). That fed us with a salad at supper one night, and for lunch with celery sticks the next day.

                                                                                                                    The two legs for $4.79 fed us three times-that is 6 portions for the price.(I also added the bones and skin to my stock-pot so more meals are being eked out of that original purchase).

                                                                                                                    DH said this is his new favourite way to prepare turkey!

                                                                                                                    One caveat: the skin is not useful to serve-sort of sludgy and only fit for stock...but the lovely dark meat is delicious!

                                                                                                                    1. Boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale are a bargain and have no waste. For $5 I would bake some with soy sauce and garlic powder and a can of crushed pineapple. Serve with rice. Some kind of green salad. Ice cream for dessert. All do-able for $5 if you shop the sales.

                                                                                                                      1. A long time ago, I lived in very rustic conditions on about $3 per day sustained mainly by 'mashed potuna': instant mashed potato flakes made with water, milk, butter, and salt, a can of tuna, and some peas, corn, or celery. Quick, comforting, and under the circumstances the best I could do.
                                                                                                                        On a cold winter day, once in a while, it still appeals.

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Nukedli

                                                                                                                          I have embarrassing cravings for boxed mac and cheese with tuna (and sometimes peas). I might have to try this :-)

                                                                                                                          1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                            That's my favorite way to eat boxed Mac &Cheese. Second fave is Hebrew National hot dogs sliced up and nuked for a second.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                                                              Fond memories of both versions and we still have the Mac'n Cheese with Dogs every year at camp. But I like it these days perked up with good cheddar, some hot sauce and some nice bits of bacon grilled to crispy bits and added on top.

                                                                                                                              1. re: LJS

                                                                                                                                The other day I grated some asiago and sprinkled on some truffle salt. Pretty good!

                                                                                                                        2. I wouldn't think it would be that difficult to find recipes that cost $5 if it is just for 1 person.

                                                                                                                          Crockpot pulled pork
                                                                                                                          Pork tenderloin
                                                                                                                          Pork chops
                                                                                                                          chicken leg quarters
                                                                                                                          lasagna or skillet lasagna
                                                                                                                          A rice pilaf like jambalaya
                                                                                                                          Stir fry
                                                                                                                          breakfast for dinner

                                                                                                                          Every time you cook, make sure you made enough for 2 or 3 meals.

                                                                                                                          Always have mac and cheese or spaghetti in the fridge for last minute meals or snacking.

                                                                                                                          Keep some soup (even canned) in the fridge or pantry. Marie Callendars pot pies are good. Even the large ones are less than $3.

                                                                                                                          Soup poured over rice is very filling.

                                                                                                                          Except for the high sodium content, Zatarain's jambalaya mix with some andouille or whatever smoked sausage was on sale is very tasty.

                                                                                                                          keeping a loaf of french bread around is always much more comforting with soup than crackers or sandwich bread.

                                                                                                                          I would not skip breakfast. It's the cheapest meal of all. Oatmeal can be kept in a sealed jar and reheated. For less than a dollar, you could have some oatmeal, a couple of eggs, toast and a banana. Heck that breakfast is probably more like 60 cents.

                                                                                                                          1. Love reading this thread! Here's an idea that happened in an accidental sort of way. In your handy crock pot simmer 4 chicken breasts (bone in and skin) in a can of chopped tomatoes with a can of whole kernel corn and a finely diced onion. Spice it up with some Mexican seasonings. Add chicken broth to cover if needed. I also add some hot sauce because we love it spicy. This was two dinners and several lunches for the 3 of us which is saying a lot since one of us is a teenage boy who grows a foot a day! I did add a few things with each meal like lettuce and cheese, roasted carrots, a salad, or enchilada sauce.

                                                                                                                            Meal one was shredded chicken burritos with roasted carrots on the side. P.S. Make your own tortillas; it's cheap, easy, and much tasiter.

                                                                                                                            Meal two was chicken enchiladas with the homemade corn tortillas. I mixed a large can of enchilada sauce with equal amounts of the tomato broth leftover from cooking the chicken and poured that over the enchiladas. We had salad on the side and some pickled beans that I had on hand.

                                                                                                                            The rest of the tomato broth and roasted carrots were pureed for a spicy tomato soup. That was three lunches for me and one for the hubby.

                                                                                                                            1. This thread has been long dead, but I figured I'd add some ideas for anyone perusing the archives. As a Filipino, I grew up on a lot of stew-y dishes eaten over rice, and have found that to be filling, nutritious, and cheap when I went to live on my own.

                                                                                                                              I make chicken afritada with chicken thighs, a tomato-based sauce, carrots, bell peppers, peas, and potatoes (sort of like a chicken cacciatore).

                                                                                                                              Chicken adobo is also cheap, made with just chicken thighs, garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, and supposedly the vinegar preserves the chicken for a very long time (I've heard of it being saved even without refrigeration for days and weeks, though I'm glad I'm not in a situation where I need to test that out!). Not exactly a nutritious meal in itself, but I like to eat it along with a vegetable stir fry or steamed broccoli or spinach.

                                                                                                                              When I was really strapped for cash, I lived on rice and beans, and I would make it gallo pinto style, something I picked up from my friend who lived in Costa Rica for a few years. Its black beans and rice with bell pepper and cilantro, and traditionally a sauce called Salsa Lizano, which is delicious, but almost impossible to find here. I substitute it with Worcestershire and also add cumin. Usually it is served with eggs, either scrambled in or a fried egg on top (I prefer fried egg).

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: nanobabes

                                                                                                                                Salsa Lizano can easily be ordered online. I use it all the time, especially when I throw together a salad with leftover meat/poultry on it. A tasty sub for a dressing.

                                                                                                                              2. Some of my favorites:

                                                                                                                                Pad Thai w/ Tofu - Packet of rice noodles from Asian market: ~$1.50. Fish sauce, tamarind, and tofu can all be had on the cheap

                                                                                                                                Black beans & rice - Ditch the canned stuff. Dry beans are cheaper and tastier. when soaked, takes only 15 minutes in the pressure cooker

                                                                                                                                Kabuli Pulao - Afghan chicken/lamb rice pilaf with glazed carrots, raisins, and nuts

                                                                                                                                Soba Noodle Salad - filling and a great way to use up leftover veggies and herbs lying around the fridge

                                                                                                                                Rigatoni alla Siciliana - eggplant, canned tomatoes, and pasta are all super cheap

                                                                                                                                Bhindi - sauteed, spiced okra with tomatoes and onion

                                                                                                                                Fried Rice or Chow Mein - quick and easy way to use up leftover meat, veggies, and rice

                                                                                                                                Pizza - no knead method for dough along with crushed tomatoes and dry mozz. bake in a jellyroll pan to make a thicker sicilian style pie that can withstand heavy toppings

                                                                                                                                Udon noodle soup - frozen udon, packet of dashi, soy, tofu, and inexpensive veggies. you can add an egg in there to boost the protein content and make it a full meal

                                                                                                                                Penang Curry - tub of Thai curry paste is $1.75 and you only need 1-2 tbls. can of coconut milk is $2. use any proteins or veggies you have on hand

                                                                                                                                Karahi Chicken - a few bone in chicken pieces, ginger, tomatoes, jalapenos, and cilantro make an absolutely amazing Pakistani stir fry

                                                                                                                                Tuna or Chicken Salad - oldie but goodie. super quick and so many variations that you can never tire of it

                                                                                                                                Pav Bhaji - Indian mashed vegetable sandwich.

                                                                                                                                Crepes - a little batter makes a ton and can cover both dinner and dessert

                                                                                                                                Daal and Rice - red lentils are cheap and delicious.

                                                                                                                                Gnocchi - just a few potatoes make a ton of pasta and sauce can be as simple as a little butter and herbs

                                                                                                                                Makoouda - spiced North African potato cakes. you can stuff a little ground meat inside to make them more filling

                                                                                                                                Channa Masala - spicy tomato based chickpea curry. again using fresh chickpeas will be cheaper and taste better

                                                                                                                                Pan Seared Tilapia w/ Charmoula - saw frozen tilapia for $2.79/lb recently. parsley and cilantro are usually the cheapest herbs at the grocery store, about a $1 for one bunch of each.

                                                                                                                                Ratatouille - classic poor man's meal. best in summer when produce is in season and prices low

                                                                                                                                Penne w/ Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce - box of penne, jarred marinara, sriracha, and a small 8 oz carton of heavy cream. add sauteed mushrooms, a tomato, and some protein to make it a complete meal

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Chi_Guy

                                                                                                                                  Crepes is right! Just made them for the first time this year and couldn't believe how easy they were. So few ingredients and you can fill them with anything.

                                                                                                                                  1. Everything I make.
                                                                                                                                    1) Love what you make. Nothing's worse than throwing something out.

                                                                                                                                    Succotash (yes, it's a meal. it's got dried limas, and everything!).


                                                                                                                                    Picadillo (even if you go heavy on the sherry)

                                                                                                                                    Lentils and Carrots....

                                                                                                                                    the list goes on... and on.

                                                                                                                                    1. Hungarian hot peppers with a hot sausage filling (hot sausage, romano cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs and an egg), topped with a can of crushed tomatoes. Cover them and bake them in the oven for about 1.5 hours.

                                                                                                                                      The whole pan of them is about $5 if you get all your ingredients at a discount grocery store.

                                                                                                                                      You can get several meals out of this. I like to make sandwiches with the cold leftovers. I put them on a crusty roll with some shredded iceberg and a little italian dressing.

                                                                                                                                      1. One of my favorites is Joe's Special. I use 1 lb. chubs of ground beef or turkey, a couple of chopped onions and a couple of packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained. Brown meat, add onions and cook until translucent, then add spinach and heat through. This base can then be frozen in batches. To make a meal: thaw one portion and add a beaten egg or two. Depending on my mood and budget, I can also add to the base some sauteed mushrooms and/or cooked bacon pieces. You could also add diced, cooked potatoes to stretch the protein even further. Great quick meal at the end of a long day.