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When I was in college, then later as a struggling new father and husband, we learned to eat very inexpensively. There were weeks when I could get by on under $10 with Ramen noodles (the Dollar Store often had them at $0.10 a package), cheap fresh veggies (a cucumber was practically a full meal for less than a quarter), and generic packages of processed meat.
It’s a lot harder to do that today with inflation and growing food scarcity, but here’s the thing. If the crap hits the fan in any of an assortment of highly possible ways, many of us will be stuck trying to feed our families without the resources to do so very well.
Eating insufficient amounts of food can harm us physically. But even those who have stored away emergency food or are living lifestyles that allows them to produce their own may find themselves with a different challenge. There can be psychological repercussions from major dietary changes. You or members of your family may find eating beans and rice every day drives you a little bonkers.
I am hopeful that the current trajectory of the nation and the world can be reversed, but I’m not going to sit around and assume it will all end well. Knowing this, we are currently practicing “lean weeks” in which we live off the survival food we have rather than ordering out or getting fresh food from the grocery store.
Rock-Bottom Meal Plan for Those Weeks When Money Is Tight
Things are tough in America and they’re likely to get tougher. Many of us are forced to reallocate our money from one necessity to another and often, the thing that suffers first is our diets. If times are tight, you might find this article helpful.
It’s a meal plan created from recipes and strategies in my new paperback, What to Eat When You’re Broke. We released this in PDF format recently and readers loved it. We got so many requests to put it in hard copy format that we couldn’t say no! So, it’s available on Amazon now as a paperback.
The recipes in this article are all included in the book, which I’m selling just above cost. I hope you enjoy it, and please, give us a review on Amazon to help more people to see it when they’re searching for a way to feed their family during difficult times.
Flat Broke Meal Plan
This meal plan is per person per week. Multiply it by the number of people in your family. I’ve tried to make it as varied as possible, and there are a few things included that are not the cheapest on the market. They’ve been added for nutrient value.
Obviously, if there are allergies or foods that your family won’t eat, feel free to substitute.
I shouldn’t need to say this, but it’s impossible to write one meal plan that will work for every single reader. If you are vegan, gluten-free, diabetic, suffer from food allergies, eat keto, or strictly follow a particular nutritional lifestyle, this may not work for you.
With that being said, let’s look at our menu! Stars * indicate that the full recipe is available in the book and you might also have your own recipes for these items.
- Day 1: Oatmeal with brown sugar and banana
- Day 2: Cornbread* with butter and jam
- Day 3: Leftover cornbread, sliced and heated with a butter and brown sugar drizzle
- Day 4: Peanut butter and crackers, apple
- Day 5: Rice cooked with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon
- Day 6: Biscuits and gravy*
- Day 7: Scrambled eggs and toast OR homemade pancakes with fruit
- Day 1: PB&J, apple
- Day 2: Pasta salad with tuna* (or canned chicken)
- Day 3: Bean burrito
- Day 4: Tomato soup* and crackers
- Day 5: Cold peanut butter noodles with shredded cabbage*
- Day 6: Tortilla pizzas*
- Day 7: Leftovers
- Day 1: Beef and vegetable soup* with frybread*
- Day 2: Baked beans with mac and cheese (canned and boxed easy meal for busy days)
- Day 3: Fried Gnocchi* with canned marinara sauce
- Day 4: Crockpot white chicken chili*
- Day 5: Pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese (add ground meat if it’s in the budget)
- Day 6: Homemade pizza*
- Day 7: Ham (slice an inexpensive canned ham or picnic ham and use the leftover for split pea soup), scalloped potatoes*, Christmas beans*
Six quick tips
Here are some ideas to make the meals more filling if this menu leaves you feeling hungry.
- Just add bread – whether it’s toast from grocery-store sliced bread, fresh homemade bread, frybread, or cornbread, adding some bread for sopping up sauces and broth makes meals feel more satisfying.
- Add more carbs – rice or pasta makes everything go a bit further.
- Add beans for more protein. When you’re making soup or chili, add one more can of beans to the pot.
- Baked potatoes make everything better. Looking for a cheap, filling, and tasty side? You can’t beat a baked potato. Top it with butter, sour cream or plain yogurt, and chopped green onion. Eating the skin adds fiber and other nutrients to your diet.
- Add cheap fruit. Bananas and bagged apples tend to be the least expensive fruit. Add one serving per meal to make it more filling and finish off on a sweeter note.
- Focus most of your money on one meal per day. If you fill up on less expensive items for breakfast and lunch, you can swing a better and more filling dinner.
This menu assumes that you probably have the basics in your kitchen, such as seasonings, spices, sugar, and cooking oil. In fact, you probably have much more than that. When I’ve reverted to this menu I am generally able to get very minimal groceries because I have plenty of canned goods and dry goods in my pantry. This just provides me with a great way to use them!
Important: Our sponsors at Jase are now offering emergency preparedness subscription medications on top of the long-term storage antibiotics they offer. Use promo code “Rucker10” at checkout!
Don’t miss out on the paperback!
Help us make it to the top of the charts on Amazon by grabbing your copy this weekend! Your purchase means so much to me!
As well, please do me a favor and leave a quick review if you feel I’ve earned five stars. Doing this ensures that people searching for a book like this are able to find mine and it makes an enormous difference in sales.
I really believe that this book can help you (or someone you know who needs it) to get through hard times. In it, I share many of the strategies that allowed me to keep my children fed when I was a flat-broke single mama. Those times were difficult indeed, but my girls actually look back on that food and consider it their comfort food today.
Most of the recipes require little in the way of hands-on time, because, in addition to being broke, I was also working full time, then chauffeuring my daughters to various places after I got off work. I had a household to manage alone, laundry to do, and other requirements on my time so spending hours in the kitchen simply wasn’t an option. If you have more time, you can cut even more money off these recipes by making each component from scratch.
Here’s the table of contents. I tried to make the book a lot of fun!
- Frugalicious Philosophies
- Flat Broke Grocery Shopping
- Basic Batches
- Ultimate Frugal Formulas
- Cheap Eats
- Pantry Raid
- What a Crock
- Food with a Future
- Love Your Leftovers
- Seasonal Savings
- Lazy ala Daisy
- About the Author
I hope you enjoy What to Eat When You’re Broke! Thank you so very much for your support.
What about you?
What do you eat when money is tight? Share your tastiest and most frugal meal ideas in the comments!