There’s a lot of focus on what to buy on minimal means, but I think it’s worth mentioning ways to make some extra cash quickly, so that $20 food budget for 2 weeks becomes $40 for 2 weeks, which can make a big difference. A $10 per week food budget would be very minimal. Below are some suggest recipes for ultra-low budget meal plans:
$10 a week food budget
$10 per week food budget: Buy Eggs (2 dozen x 1.99/dozen), WHOLE MILK (1.99/gallon), WHOLE GRAIN RICE (1 x 1.59/lb) Russet Potatoes (2 lbs x $0.79 / lbs), Spaghetti/Pasta (1 x 1.59/lb) = 10.50 per week + 7% for taxes brings it about $11.00 per person per week.
- First you must look at poverty stricken world that survives “on less than one dollar a day”. How these people do it is by combining resources and sharing. It is a lot easy for 5 people to survive on $50/week than it is for 1 person to survive on $10 per week.
- Best way to cook is to constantly make soups, stews, crock pot, etc in such dire situations. Use spices (as said before) including Salt & Pepper. Creating Soups and stews by adding water to ‘stretches’ the food you do have, extends the life of your basic staples, and can make 3-4 meals for a very inexpensive cost. Beans, Lentils, Rice, Pastas, are all very inexpensive and filling and will leave you full of energy.
$20 a week food budget
$20 per week the same as 10 per week just add a bit more variety cuts of meat (steak, chicken, ‘off cuts’ such as chicken livers and gizzards/hearts = $1.09 / lb and much more vitamins, nutrients, etc)
- Add Cooking oils (coconut oil), butter, bread, beans, more ‘staple foods’ in a higher variety than the $10/week budget limit.
- Increase the amount of spices and variety to keep food as a source of motivation and break up the monotony of surviving on a budget.
Tips for people in $10/$20 week dilemma
- Find and collect any/all change in your apartment, car, couches, parents & family house, change and spare dollars add up very quickly especially if you are sustaining on $10/week for food. Use change counter at your bank which you can turn in for 100%, no service charge like CoinStar.
- If you are in college, go to club meetings which usually serve food or pizza. Also a few of your friends have dinner meals/lunch meal tickets at the college cafeteria they may let you use.
- Attend networking events, professional events, SALES PITCHES, everything and anything with free food.
- Volunteer at soup kitchens/food pantries and learn the system and how the food is doled out, when the best times, etc. Ask for a free meal after each volunteer shift.
- Start a garden. Cucumbers and Squash produce the highest amount of food in the smallest amount of space. Usually 4 week turn around from planting to producing food and can last for 6 months for the price of water. Find soil and containers through craigslist.
- Eliminate expenses. Chances are if you are surviving on $10 a week for food, you are throwing away more money on something else. For example a single cup of Starbucks ($4.00) can cost $28 / week or $1400/year. Start tracking your expenses and eliminating as many as comfortably possible.
Other Ingredients to Buy on Small Food Budget
Things I would buy if I were in this predicament-
- Brown rice
- Dry beans
- Peanut butter
- Whole wheat bread- or whole wheat flour and yeast if the poster is inclined to bake bread
- A box or two of pasta, preferably whole wheat.
- Tuna fish
- Seasonal/sale/clearance veggies and fruits as budget permits
If enough money is available, a small whole ‘fryer’ chicken to roast, make chicken sandwiches with, and turn into enough stock for a lot of soup with the noodles, some sale or canned veggies. A cup or two of cooked beans in your soup is filling and tasty.
I realize that not everyone can buy all things on the list. Some people have 30 dollars, others have ten, etc. Prices fluctuate depending on the store, sales, the region or country of the poster.
Shop your dollar store, you discount grocer (Aldi), sales, clearance cart at the grocery store, farmer’s markets, etc.
Now would be a good time to practice portion control if you don’t already. Read the serving sizes on your rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal, etc and follow them. Drink a large glass of water with every meal. In cold months, a hot beverage can be very soothing and filling.
Learn to cook- google basic recipes. If you do not know how to cook this is contributing greatly to your budget problems. Eating takeout and pre packaged foods will burn through your budget at a rapid rate. Ingredients are cheaper than a restaurant meal.
Cutting Out More Expensive Ingredients
Cutting the amount of expensive ingredients in a dish can really stretch what you have. I cut the amount of ground beef I put in chili in half, just add more beans or some TVP- no one will notice. Heck, I’ve made totally meatless chili and not had my husband notice the lack of meat until I told him.
Eating Proteins While on Budget
Eaten proteins are broken down into amino acids in the gut and enter the blood plasma (basically a salt/glucose/amino acid sauce your blood cells live in). The amino acids are then transported to where they are needed and rebuilt into proteins, to form new cell membranes and whatnot.
Rice and beans together create a complete protein, which is a protein containing enough of nine essential amino acids. Having either on their own isn’t as nutritionally sound as having both. Mixing lentils with rice is another complete protein. Peanut butter with whole wheat bread is, too.
Eating Amino Acids While on a Strict Food Budget
Some amino acids are essential. You need to get them, or you can’t build certain proteins. Most are not essential. One of the essentials is lysine, which is the amino acid found in rice and wheat and all it’s products. But not in beans, which covers all the other essentials. So, mix them together, and you have all the essential amino acids and can build every protein needed.
Drink More Water to Stay Less Hungry
Also, people must be careful to only eat when they are hungry, and not eat because they are stressed or bored. If you’re in a financial jam you have to make your loaf of bread last you all week, not two days. Drinking water between meals is a good way to stay full- if you’re still hungry 20 minutes after drinking a glass of water, then you were actually hungry.
Other Tips to Keeping a Food Budget on Low Budget
Hit up your local Asian/Indian/Philippine markets. They generally carry food at cheaper prices and in greater quantities. You may have to experiment a little bit, but generally you can get a MASSIVE quantity of rice-noodles and beans or other staples onto which you can put anything to make a meal. Buy SPICES…not sauces. Sauces are expensive. Spices can be put on anything.
If you must travel and your gas tank is almost empty, take EVERYTHING out of your car and run it until it’s nearly empty. Don’t do this permanently, as it’s bad for your engine, but only filling up for 10 bucks worth a few times shouldn’t hurt it. You’ll get better gas mileage on that tail end bit of the tank.
Cut your coffee intake to one cup per day, tops, and roll your own cigarettes. Switch to English Breakfast Tea, if you can. You can get 100 tea bags for $2-$3. Ideally, you’d quit while you’re nearly broke but some people can’t do that. You can get about five packs worth of cigarettes for between 4 and 8 dollars, if you buy the tobacco and papers by themselves.
Your local food pantries will probably all let you go once a month and the first time you go, you’ll get several weeks worth of food, so go to ALL of them. You should get enough food to last you from X to X, if you’re willing to hunt around a bit. Finding a food bank in your area can help supplement your budget with some free groceries such as bread, canned goods, and veggies. If you are uncomfortable with taking the help, you can always donate back later when you can afford it, paying it forward to help the next person in your situation. Occasionally, some food pantries even give out coupons which you can use to get fresh vegetables and fruits at local farmers’ markets.