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Cheap Meal Help


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#1 Atticus

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:00 PM

Okay, here's the deal.  I have $60 in gift cards for grocery stores for a family of five a cat and a dog for about a fortnight.  Any ideas on cheap meals?   Preferably semi-healthful (ie. no fried lard recipes, even if it is delicious.)  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  

My idea thus far is Froot Loops for breakfast (really good sale)
PB&J for lunch (ramen makes my heart feel all jumpy from the sodium)
Pasta-Roni and frozen veggies for dinner (once again really good sale.)

If anyone has any better ideas, please let me know.  My husband gets laid off around the year-change, and is due to start work again (for awhile anyway) tomorrow.  I just want to try to not go into debt in the interim.

Thanks,
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#2 Guest_ellsbeth_*

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:57 PM

I would suggest to keep it as healthy as possible, buying those large bags of frozen Veggies, apples and oranges.
Stock up on eggs, as they are good protein and keep well for 2 weeks in fridge.
Whole grain bread, rice in larger quantities. Bread can be frozen, and rice keeps forever in a container.
Dried Beans or peas to your liking.
Meats--I would choose sausage made of turkey or chicken if possible, and whole hens for freezing.
(I hope you have a large freezer).
Dried milk for calcium, can be mixed with water.
Cereals--not the sweetened ones, as you can add a bit if you like.
Canned Tuna fish on sale.
Dried noodles if you like them.
Dry cat food and dog food.

I would use the imagination to create meals with whatever spices or herbs you might have.
Like, sausage steamed with rice or noodles and veggies on the side and bread. Soup from the peas/beans with chicken or sausage served with noodles or rice or bread.
A fruit salad made from the apples and oranges.
Eggs, boiled can be a good snack along with the fruit, and kept in fridge bowl for several days.
Tuna or egg salad sandwiches for lunches.

It is difficult, I know, but doable.

Best,

Ellsbeth

Edited by ellsbeth, 02 January 2008 - 07:59 PM.


#3 Porcelain

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 03:48 AM

Omlettes with ham and cheese and onion,
Sausages in bread with tomato sauce and mashed potato,
Spaghetti bolognaise, or chili - mincemeat and tinned tomatoes should be pretty cheap, and pasta is cheap. And if you make a lot of the sauce, you can freeze and have leftovers later.
Tinned soup for lunches
Corned beef and frozen veggies
Fish fingers and frozen veggies
grilled cheese sandwiches
Pancakes or crepes, if you already have flour and eggs and stuff

Good luck!

#4 LuvMyWeinerDog

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 05:44 AM

When I am low on funds and I want to feed the family cheaply, I always go for spaghetti for at least one night.  Pasta is CHEAP!  
Also, as Ellsbeth mentioned, a whole chicken will go a long way.  I usually get the fryers because they're cheaper, but they don't have a ton of meat. If you get the oven-stuffer roasters, (or frozen whole turkeys might be on sale, since it's after the holidays!) you can make the bird and use the meat all week long in all sorts of dishes. (tacos or burritos, chicken and rice casserole, etc.)  AND you can use the carcass to make soup stock (which freezes well) and you can make soup for lunches or even dinners on cold nights.
You can make refried bean burritos very inexpensively.  A large can of refried beans are only two bucks or so and one can can feed my family of five. And they are high in fiber and low in fat.  The tortillas are filling, so you don't have to use a lot of stuff inside. You can add rice too, if you want. You can get a block of cheese and grate it yourself to put in various dishes (like the burritos), it's cheaper than buying pre-grated cheese. You can slice it and use it in sandwiches with lunch meats (see below) or even make grilled cheeses with it.
One of those big boxes of saltine crackers are only a buck or so, if you get the store brand and they can be spread with all sorts of stuff (peanut butter, jams, cheese, my boyfriend likes butter on his (yuck!), even egg salad) for very filling snacks.  Sometimes I have cheese and crackers for lunch. I also eat 'em plain.
Lunch meats are usually two packs for three bucks, so that's good to stock up on.   And eggs, like others have mentioned!  My kids LOVE having breakfast for dinner.  I scramble up some eggs and make pancakes (cheap!!!) and (if I have it) brown up some sausage.  But the eggs and pancakes are usually plenty and very filling.
What I've done for a quick dinner in the past is get a long loaf of french bread, split it lengthwise down the middle and use that to make french bread pizzas.  The loaf is usually about $1.50 at my grocery store down here.  I use left over spaghetti sauce and whatever meltable cheese I have.  (within reason) Cheddar is good, mozerella, obviously, and American cheese is good too.  The one loaf of french bread streches a long way, since it's halved down the middle!  You can top it with left over meat too. Or olives.  Whatever you got, really.
When I am having budgeting problems (more often than I'd like to admit!!!), I look at stretching my buck like it was a game and it's much more fun and challenging.
Hope you get some good ideas from us!

Edited by LuvMyWeinerDog, 03 January 2008 - 05:51 AM.

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#5 Morning_Glory_

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:01 AM

pot of chili - all of the ingredients are cheap and Jan is definetly chili weather!

Also if you have some meat of whatever kind you can make things with it.

When we're low on funds and I'm scrounging around the kitchen I can usually figure out something if I have a little meat on hand.  Sausage and baked bean casserole, poor man's shepherd's pie which consists of hamburger or sausage, whatever canned veggies I have, and a layer of instant mashed potatoes.  

Rice mixed with pieces of chicken (if you cook a whole chicken add the edible scraps) and veggies that you have on hand.

Spag noodles with butter and parason cheese.

Theres all kinds of combinations you can make if you have the items on hand to kind of mix and match.

Be sure to have oatmeal on hand as well for breakfasts and cooking.  Sometimes oatmeal mixed with applesauce and brown sugar is more filling and warming than cold cereal on a cold day.

Best wishes for your hubby and his new job, hopefully once you make it past this stretch you'll be in the clear for awhile.

#6 JeepersCreepers

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:29 AM

I don't think anything is cheap anymore! Groceries are soo expensive here! But I found some links with recipes for you that may give you some ideas. I hope this helps! I like the first one the best.

Cheap Eats Recipes

Cheap Meals

Cooks.com



#7 sicboy13

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:51 AM

I would buy 60 Totino's pizza's!

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#8 Vlawde

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:55 AM

Look for meat specials, Raley's sometimes had packages of chicken quarters (leg with thigh attached) for very cheap. Look for the "logs' of ground beef. pasta is good, spaghetti, mac and cheese etc. Buy cereal in bulk, it's cheaper. Bananas are ppretty cheap
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#9 Tantric KittenGStudy

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 07:11 AM

We're not quite as desperate as you but we're doing groceries on about $40 a week.

First off, if you have a good stand mixer, make your own bread.  The recipes on the back of the flour bag are good and it's MUCH cheaper than store-bought (my family eats whole-wheat bread that costs me about $.80 to make a loaf and a loaf in the store is $3.00, a rustic white bread like french or italian is just about $.20 of flour and water and a little cornmeal to scatter on the pan) -- honestly, it's also MUCH better tasting.

If you make a thick-crust pan pizza it will feed your whole family for about $3.00 plus frozen veggies (or put the veggies on it -- don't use too much cheese and use whatever you have in the way of tomatoes in the cupboard for sauce or just skip it altogether and make a "focaccia").

HamBeens brand 15 bean soup... $2.79 for the cajun one (better than the ham flavored one) and all it really takes is a can of tomatoes and a shot of lemon juice to finish it off.  Makes enough for two meals.

We use lots of frozen vegetables and rice to round out our meals.  We also use half a pound of hamburger instead of  a whole one in a hot dish or a casserole -- no one minds (I don't think the kids notice).  

Spaghetti is really cheap, especially if you go to Super Target (the "good" brands of sauce are like $1.79 a jar and a box of "good" spaghetti is under a dollar) -- we used to eat that all the time and now that we're living lean, we're starting to again.

Ramen soup will make a nice "chinese" dinner with frozen veggies and tag ends of a roast (if you happen to have one in the freezer) and a little soy sauce and sugar.

Instead of froot loops for breakfast (I just developed a severe allergy so I'm kind of down on them right now anyway), make "instant oatmeal packets" -- a serving of quick-cook oats, some brown sugar, and some raisins (or whatever the kids like and you've got in the cupboard).  Package it up and they can nuke it in the microwave just like the ones that come prepackaged for you.

Yes, switch over to powdered milk -- but make it up and let it sit overnight -- it's better at pretending to be milk then.

AND if you MUST have your coffee (we must), MJB is a lot cheaper and a lot higher quality than Folger's (we drink the premium stuff... you know... the one that's $20.00/pound... and I definitely recommend MJB over any other preground in a can).
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#10 Amethyst

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 07:40 AM

Soup!  Make lots of soup.  You can have it for lunch and dinner.

I just made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup.  I also made a pot of gumbo.  Since I make enough for an army I shared it with my neighbors....4 of them...and still had soup left over.  If you make the soup hearty and thick it can serve as a hot meal.  

I just bought chicken stock on sale. 10 cans for $10.  Make biscuts from scratch to serve with the soup.  A little flour goes a long way.

Buy a chicken and make the stock.  Buy a bag of noodles.

Here is a little tip I learned about veggies.  When I make soup I go to the salad bar at the grocery.  They have the veggies already cut up.  Yeah, by the pound it may be more expensive, but when the recipe says one stalk of celery or 1/2 green pepper, to me, it is cheaper to just buy that much off the bar vs. a whole bag of celery.  It is cheaper that way.

Buy groundbeef.  Make hamburgers, chili, a cassarole, meatloaf.  

Look on the FoodNetwork webpage.  They have lots of ideas.

It is always cheaper to buy things that don't come in boxes.  

Ramen noodles have a lot of salt in them.

Do you have a day old bread store?  We have a Hostess store.


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#11 Qryche33

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 08:33 AM

Potato soup is pretty cheap.  
Vegetarian chili is very cheap to make, and it's actually pretty good.
Grilled cheese with tomato soup (with tomato soup, you can pretty much put anything you want in it to spice it up for kids)
Eggs-they go a long way.
Whole fryer chicken-you can make chicken and dumplings, chicken salad, chicken taco's etc.  

As far as the pets-depending if they eat only cat and dog food, table scraps mixed with water and cheap dog/cat food goes a long way.  

I hope everyone has helped here for you.  Good luck!!!!
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#12 Amethyst

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:24 AM

Regarding pet food

I heard some places like Walmart sometimes have damaged bags and will give them away if they've been torn open.  It doesn't hurt to ask.
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#13 LuvMyWeinerDog

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 10:36 AM

QUOTE(Qryche33 @ Jan 3 2008, 11:33 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Potato soup is pretty cheap.


Oh! That made me think!  Sometimes I make stuffed potatoes for dinner.  It's just baked potatoes, split open with some ground seasoned beef (I usually use taco seasoning) and grated cheese on top! (Maybe sour cream too, if you have it!) It doesn't sound like much, but a big baked potato really fills you up.  And you can use just a little ground beef, so you can save the rest of the pack for another dinner(s).
As TK said, for casseroles or hamburger helper that call for a pound of ground beef, I only use a half pound too!  It makes your meat stretch further and no one really notices.
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#14 Porcelain

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 01:24 PM

Cook some potatoes with the skins on until they're done, then cut the tops off (about 1cm). Scoop the insides out, and mash with cheese, butter, chives and meat of your choice - I do ham or bacon, but you could do tuna, or baked beans, or even beef. Then transfer the mixture back into the skins, put the lids on, and whack in the oven for 10 minutes or so. They're really yummy, filling, and kid-friendly. And should be pretty cheap, too.

#15 trin

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 01:36 PM

cornbread and beans, or rice and beans IS a complete meal, particularly if served with cheese or milk...

Hopefully, things won't get that tight for you.

I don't have recommendations pet food wise, my cats eat better than I do...  However, I've also heard that sometimes the animal shelters/Humane society will have programs to help out people with limited resources.... call and ask.



#16 Atticus

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 07:52 PM

I thank you all.  As for the pets, the cat has an almost full bag of the dried food, and the dog still has a full bag as-of-yet-unopened, so they are good for awhile.  Actually, we got lucky with both of them as they will only eat the store-brand dried food.  We had originally gotten the crazy-expensive stuff, moist, dry, what have you, and they would not eat.  Finally decided that it wasn't worth paying that much if they weren't eating it, so we got the cheap stuff, and they loved it.  

Some of the ideas sound good (Veggie chili and I can't believe I hadn't thought of grilled cheeses, I love those guys!)  I guess in retrospect I could have remembered to add that I don't eat meat.  Even in our (relatively) well-off times we cant afford it, so we just really never got in to it, I suppose.

Thank you all,
-Me