Do you ever find yourself in the position of urgently needing some extra cash? Most of us have been there for any number of reasons, and I’ve learned over the years of taking care of my family (3 kids and a husband), that an effective occasional place to save money from was in our food budget.
I’ve mentioned before that when my husband and I got married almost 33 years ago, we had a monthly take home pay of $1,350 to cover our expenses. I would budget $30 a week for groceries for the two of us. I remember so clearly making up my meal plan and grocery list each week, and estimating what each item on my list would cost, so I could figure out if my grocery list was within the $30.
Nowadays, our food budget is much higher as we tend to spend extra on quality meats and organic produce if we can, but I still know how, in a tight situation, to cut my grocery budget fast, without scrimping too much on taste and variety.
I really was excited to put together a sample meal plan for 7 days, 3 meals a day, for a family of 4, for under $60, without using any coupons or running to different stores.
Update 5/27/2022 Since I published this post 7 years ago, the cost of groceries has gone up 7.8% and so $57 for this week of meals may be unrealistic. Nevertheless these are still frugal meals compared to meals with meat included, and they use very few ingredients as well, which will save you money.
Before I get started here are some considerations:
- I am not a nutritionist, these are for low cost meal ideas only, and for adequate nutrition you may need more variety.
- I live in the state of Ohio, and all prices were from Walmart on 2/15/18. Depending on where you live, what time of year it is, and coupons and sales, prices will vary.
- Everyone’s appetites fluctuate, so your serving sizes and caloric needs may be different.
- This plan assumes you have oil, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and baking powder already on hand.
- This week of meals won’t be doable for everyone because of food allergies, special diets, or taste preferences.
- A quick way to up your calories is to add more peanut butter, butter, mayonnaise, oil or milk.
- My personal preference, with any meal plan, is to have a daily multivitamin, but consult your doctor.
- Babies and children have special dietary needs, so please use common sense or follow your doctors recommendations.
That being said, here is my under $60 sample meal plan, with a grocery list, and exact current prices in my area.
Breakfasts for each person:
- 1 to 2 pieces whole wheat toast with 1-2 Tablespoons peanut butter, and a whole apple
- Regular serving of oatmeal with raisins, and 6 ounces of milk
- 1 to 2 “fried egg in a hole toast” and 6 ounces of orange juice
- 2 pieces of french toast and 6 ounces of orange juice
- Baked oatmeal with raisins
- 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, an apple, and 6 ounces of milk
- 1 to 2 pieces whole wheat toast with 1-2 Tablespoons peanut butter, and a banana
Lunch for each person:
- Egg salad sandwich and carrot sticks
- Tuna salad sandwich and carrot sticks
- Cheese toast (2 pieces), carrot sticks, raisins
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich and carrot sticks
- Cheese sandwich (with mayo) and carrot sticks
- Fried egg and cheese sandwich and carrot sticks
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich and carrot sticks
- Homemade cheese pizza
- Pinto beans and cornbread
- Split pea soup with carrots
- Quiche with rice crust
- Pasta with tomato sauce and green beans
- Potato soup with carrots
- Fried rice with peas and carrots and egg
- 3 20 oz loaves whole wheat bread $1.68 x 3 = $5.04
- 18 oz jar of peanut butter $2.18
- 3 dozen eggs (18 for $1.34 x 2) = $2.68
- 1 12 oz can orange juice concentrate $1.27
- Raisins (6 one oz boxes) $1.33
- 1 gallon of low-fat milk $1.78
- 3 pound bag Gala apples $3.44
- 18 oz whole grain quick oats $1.68
- 6 bananas $1.50
- 8 oz syrup $1.00
- 20 oz jar mayonnaise $2.28
- Carrots 4 pounds (2 x 2 pounds) $1.44 x 2 = $2.88
- Cheddar cheese slices (8 oz, 12 slices) $2.22
- 2 5oz cans tuna $2.00
- 32 oz jar grape jam $1.48
- 2 6.5 oz pizza crust mixes 2 x $.52 = $1.04
- 2 24 oz jars pasta sauce 2 x $1.50 = $3.00
- 8oz mozzarella cheese block 2.22
- 16 oz dry pinto beans 1.36$
- 8.5 oz corn muffin mix $.47
- 16 oz bag dry green split peas $1.44
- 32 oz long grain enriched rice $1.38
- 1 12 oz bag frozen broccoli florets $1.00
- 1 12 oz bag frozen peas and carrots $.84
- 8 oz cheddar cheese block $1.98
- 16 oz box pasta $1.00
- 12 oz bag frozen green beans $.84
- 5 pound bag Idaho potatoes $2.47
- 5 oz soy sauce $1.52
- 16 oz brown sugar $1.36
- 8 oz butter with canola oil spread $2.24
French Toast (recipe doubled)
Baked Oatmeal – substitute 1 to 2 boxes of raisins for the cranberries
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Tuna Salad Sandwiches – made with 1/3 cup mayo and two 5 ounce cans of tuna
Pinto beans and cornbread – I grew up with pinto beans and cornbread made very simply. After sorting and rinsing my beans, I cover them with a couple of inches of water and simmer for 2 – 3 hours till they’re tender, adding more water as needed so they don’t get dry. Then to serve, I crumble a piece of cornbread in a bowl, and cover it with some beans and a little of the bean “juice,” and eat it with ketchup, onions or relish. You can get creative and season your beans with cumin, chili powder, salt…
Simple split pea soup – Of course there are fancier ways to make this soup, but for our simple, budget soup: Sort and rinse dry peas, cut up 2 carrots into bite size pieces, then cover peas and carrots with 8 cups of water, and simmer for around 2 hours till tender. Keep an eye on it, and add more water if it starts to get dry. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Quiche with Rice Crust – (use this recipe, but for our budget use your white rice and omit onions)
Potato Soup – (use this recipe, but for our budget leave out celery and onion, and add a couple of chopped up carrots)
Fried Rice – use this recipe, but for our budget use any high heat oil (although sesame oil is AMAZING), and omit onions
Tips to save money on any meal plan:
- substitute dry beans for meat
- use store brands
- substitute in recipes and use what you already have
- shop at dollar stores or ALDI
- make things from scratch
- do more prep work and cooking instead of convenience foods
Hope this helps give you some frugal menu options!