Just because you are broke does not mean you have to sacrifice nutrition. I know it can be tempting. The price on that pack of ramen noodles looks like a smart purchase but believe me, you will be giving up way more than variety. Your body needs good nutrition to keep your energy up to finish this debt dumping race.
I have comprised a list of the most frugal foods and an idea of what a weekly meal plan looks like. This is nothing fancy. Remember, you’re BROKE! This is the bare essentials. First here are a few tips to keep in mind…
- Always shop your pantry before going to the store. Build your meals around what you already have. Have a bunch of dried peas and some carrots? Make split pea soup. You have a bunch of crackers and a pound of ground beef? Make a meatloaf.
- Keep meals very basic. There is nothing wrong with tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner. Make your tomato soup and bread from scratch for an extra nutritional boost and cost savings.
- Cook! Make everything from scratch. Roasted potatoes are way cheaper than a bag of french fries. Not to mention healthier too. It’s true, the more work you put into it, the cheaper it is. Convenience cost.
- Don’t worry about organic. But wait, isn’t organic healthier? Yes and no. Sometimes it doesn’t make a difference at all. Focus on whole foods and not necessarily if its organic or not. Its way healthier to eat lots of veggies and home cooked meals from scratch. If you are not eating fast food, drinking soda and snacking on ding-dongs, you are already doing better than most Americans. Remember, this plan is for when you are completely broke. If you are trying to clean up your financial mess, you won’t be broke forever. Look for the cleanest foods you can without going over budget and do NOT feel guilty about serving your family non-organic foods.
- Serve a complex carbohydrate with every meal. I know this sounds contrary to popular demand in the health food world. Low carb diets are really in and for good reason. Some people just can’t handle a bunch of carbs. My husband is one of them. But, hungry kids can. Serve roasted sweet potatoes, rice, whole wheat biscuits or beans with every meal.
- Go vegetarian for a while. If you are dirt poor, a vegetarian diet is the way to go. Focus on protein from beans and lentils, clean dairy and eggs.
HEALTHY CHEAP FOOD
- Romaine lettuce
- Chicken- especially dark meat (thighs, legs)
- Ground turkey
- Dried beans and lentils
- Whole wheat flour (Soaking whole wheat flour in apple cider vinegar breaks down the gluten and makes it more digestible.)
- Coconut flour (You can find coconut flour for about $3 lb, most recipes you only need 1/2 cup for a whole batch of muffins or bread.)
- Frozen vegetables
- Peanuts and peanut butter (natural)
- Popcorn (Pop it yourself in an air popper. It’s way cheaper to buy the kernels than the microwave bags.)
- Canned pumpkin
- Canned tomatoes
- Coffee (Beans or ground not k-cups)
- Tea bags
- Water (The only necessary drink…tea is the second. Haha)
- Canned full fat coconut milk (Look for ones that have only coconut and water in the ingredients.)
- Sour cream
So here is what a one week meal plan looks like for a large family.
Breakfast: Oatmeal, eggs or green smoothie
Lunch: 1) Beans and rice with sauteed garlic and onions topped with sour cream, 2) Tuna and cucumbers, 3) Thinly sliced pork loin with tomato and lettuce sandwich (made with homemade bread or biscuits), 4) Steamed veggies with baked chicken, 5) Omelettes, 6) Leftovers
Dinners: 1) Herb chicken legs with roasted sweet potatoes and salad, 2) Grilled pork loin with steamed broccoli, carrots and a baked potato, 3) Chicken stir-fry over rice, 4) Chicken tortilla soup, Fajita rice bowls, 5) Veggie frittata and roasted carrots 6) Chili with cornbread, 7) Sauteed cabbage and onions, black bean and bell pepper salad and grilled Cajun chicken thighs
Snacks: seasonal fruit, popcorn, baked goods
This meal plan has a good variety of food and flavors. If you are super broke, less variety means less money. So you can come up with a couple of meals centered around a handful of ingredients to save you big time. If you don’t mind eating an egg bake a few times a week or a big pot of chili, go for it!