Feeding a family on a budget doesn't have to be difficult. It does, however, require sacrifice and careful planning to be sure you're getting the most out of your budget. That means choosing grocery stores that fit within your budget (ALDI is a great choice if there's one near you) and picking the least expensive brands.
This post includes a basic grocery list along with 12 meal ideas (four meals each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and is a guide, not a fool-proof list. In Ohio, this list would cost me around $50. You may need more ingredients, you may need less. Feel free to tweak the list and meal ideas based on your family's preference and budget.
- Eggs (2 Dozen)
- Gallon Milk
- Cheese (16 Slices)
- Bread (2 Loaves)
- Hamburger (1 Pound)
- Sausage (1 Pound)
- Rice (1 Large Bag)
- Pancake Mix
- Cereal (1 Large Box)
- Beef Boullion Cubes
- Apples (1 Bag)
- Baby Carrots (1 Small Bag)
- Onions (2 Large)
- Tomato (2 Large)
- Tomato Sauce (2 Cans)
- Bell Peppers (4)
- Lemons (3)
- Garlic (1 Head)
- Pasta (1 Box, Any Kind)
- Lunch Meat
- Peanut Butter
- Canned Beans
Please note that this grocery list does not include dessert, snacks, or coffee. If you have more money to spend or are able to sacrifice any of the items on this list, then you can make room for coffee and treats, if you'd like. Again, this is a very basic guide.
Breakfast #1 - Pancakes with Fruit
With a box of pancake mix, you can make dozens of pancakes. They are easy to make and are very filling. The grocery list above does not include syrup, but you can dress pancakes up with a tablespoon of vanilla in the batter or by topping your cakes with fresh fruit, such as cooked apples with cinnamon. This makes an easy, balanced meal. Finish it off with a glass of milk.
Breakfast #2 - Eggs and Toast
A breakfast of eggs and toast is a very simple, inexpensive meal. Cook your eggs however you prefer them, toast your bread when the eggs are almost done, add a pat of butter, and then serve the eggs directly on top of the toast for a light, energizing breakfast. Finish it off with a cup of tea.
Breakfast #3 - Cereal and Milk
When you're in a hurry, cereal is a go-to breakfast. Choose a cereal that's high in iron and fiber and try to avoid the cereals that are loaded with sugar. Cereal is a simple breakfast that both children and adults can enjoy. You can always add fruit, if you'd like, such as blueberries or strawberries. Alternatively, you can just purchase a container of oats and create your own oatmeal with milk, cinnamon, and fruit.
Breakfast #4 - Waffles and Fruit
Did you know that you can use pancake mix in a waffle iron to make delicious, soft waffles? That's right. Just pour the batter directly onto the waffle iron, close the lid, and let the machine work its magic. Cook up your waffles, put them on a plate with a little butter, top with your favorite fruits, and you have a beautiful breakfast.
Lunch #1 - Grilled Cheese and Tomato
Grilled cheese is delicious on its own. As simple as it seems, a slice of tomato can really dress up a simple grilled cheese sandwich. This lunch requires only four ingredients: Bread, butter, cheese, and a tomato slice. You can even add mayo, if you'd like. It's a quick, easy meal that allows you to squeeze in some vegetables.
Lunch #2 - Soup and Salad
If you have a little extra time on your hands, you can whip up a large pot of soup using a stock base, your favorite vegetables, herbs, and seasonings. Just let it simmer over the stove for several hours and then serve with a spinach salad (drizzled in oil) and a slice of bread. Wash it down with a glass of water. Add a lemon slice for a little flavor.
Lunch #3 - Noodles w/ Garlic Cream Sauce
Again, another meal that requires a little time but is delicious nonetheless. You can use any kind of pasta, but linguine is one of my favorites. Just cook the pasta according to the box instructions, drain, and the create a creamy garlic sauce with cream (or milk if you make a roux using flour and butter), garlic, and seasonings. Mix it all together and you have a filling meal.
Lunch #4 - PB&J Sandwich
This is perhaps the most simple meal on this entire list. It's healthiest if you pick up all-natural peanut butter and jelly with no added sugar, but sometimes these types are more expensive and harder to come by. Either way, this makes a delicious, simple sandwich. Serve with a side of carrot sticks or apple slices.
Dinner #1 - Beans and Rice
Beans and rice were a staple when I was growing up. It's inexpensive, easy to make, and with the right seasonings, you can create a dish worthy of a king. Whether you're using black beans, chili beans, or red beans, experimenting with seasonings is the best way to bring this dish to life. If you have leftover vegetables, feel free to implement those in your dish as well. Onions are a favorite.
Dinner #2 - Rice and Sausage and Veggies
Perhaps my favorite dish on this list, sausage and rice is so simple and rustic, but delicious. Simply boil two cups of water on the stove and add two bouillon cubes, a teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. Once it's boiling, add a cup of dry rice, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about fifteen minutes (or according to your package instructions). Let the rice stand for five minutes. While it's boiling, cook your sausage until it's no longer pink. Drain. Add in your favorite vegetables and cook until they're tender. Mix the veggies and sausage with the rice and serve. Feel free to top with cheese.
Dinner #3 - Hamburger Soup and Rice
Create a basic soup using three cups of beef stock (you can make it using three cubes of beef bouillon to three cups of water). Add one cup of dry rice, a pound of cooked hamburger, sliced onions, minced garlic, a can of tomato sauce, and your favorite seasonings. Allow to simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes. Pour into a bowl, top with cheese and french-fried onions, if available.
Dinner #4 - Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed peppers are a healthy way to get meat and vegetables. You can fill them with whatever you'd like. Just simply slice the top off, remove the seeds and the membranes, then season the insides with a little salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill your peppers with cooked and drained hamburger and sausage, rice, tomato sauce, and seasonings. Bake for about an hour or until the peppers are tender. Top with cheese and broil for 30 seconds to a minute until the cheese is melted.
You don't have to eat just hot dogs and Ramen noodles when you're on a budget. There are ways to make delicious, filling, versatile meals using what little money you have. Of course, it requires a bit of planning, but in the end, you'll find that you're frugality isn't effecting your meal quality.