Friday, December 12, 2008

5 Super Cheap Meals

In an effort to share useful information, help people stretch their hard earned money, and give a few pointers for preparedness, I offer these five super cheap, super easy (because I really don't cook well) meals:

Red Beans and Rice
  • 1 can of pinto beans, drained (about 50 cents on sale, cheaper if you use dried beans)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (also about 50 cents on sale)
  • Half a diced onion (about 15 cents)
  • Couple of cloves of garlic chopped (about 10 cents)
  • Salt, pepper, chili powder (pennies)
  • Steamed rice (about 50 cents)
Put all of the ingredients except for the rice in a big sauce pan, add a couple of cans of water and simmer for an hour. Serve over rice. This makes enough for three or four people at a cost of less than $2. Note that all of the items can be stocked up on during sales and stored with your emergency foods (except for the garlic and onion, for long term storage buy garlic powder and dried onion flakes).
  • Spaghetti noodles (about 50 cents for a half pound of noodles)
  • Spaghetti sauce (canned/bottles sauce runs about 75 cents to a dollar on sale)
  • Bread (about 50 cents at the bread outlet store)
  • Salad fixins--a tomato and a cucumber with Italian dressing or lettuce and tomatoes with Italian dressing (about a dollar if you use homemade dressing)
Boil noodles, heat sauce, toast bread with a little butter and garlic powder, and mix up a quick salad and feed three or four people for about $3. Noodles and sauce can be stockpiled, bread can be made with stored flour, oil, yeast, and salt, and salad-like greens can be made from sprouted mung beans.
Tortilla Bake
  • Corn tortillas (about 50 cents)
  • Can of Refried Beans (about 50 cents on sale)
  • Cup of steamed rice (about 25 cents)
  • Large can of tomato sauce (about 75 cents on sale)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder (pennies)
  • Shredded cheese ($1 for about 5 ounces)
Heat up the tomato sauce and add about a half can of water; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. Add a layer of sauce to a 9'x9' baking dish. Cut up about six tortillas into quarters and put a layer of tortillas on top of the sauce. Layer tortillas with rice and beans. Repeat (sauce, tortillas, beans, and rice). Cover with remaining sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about a half hour or until hot and bubbly. Serves three or four people for about $3. All of these items can be stockpiled except cheese (which can be frozen) and tortillas (simple to make from scratch with Maseca flour).
Curried Vegetables Over Rice
  • Chopped onion (about 25 cents)
  • Two potatoes peeled and diced (about 15 cents)
  • Three carrots peeled and diced (about 10 cents)
  • Chopped other vegies that you have on hand--broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, etc (about $1)
  • Salt, pepper, curry powder, cornstarch (pennies)
  • Steamed rice (about 50 cents)
Stir fry the onion and vegetables in a bit of oil. Add water and spices and simmer for about a half hour. Mix corn starch with a bit of water and add to the curried vegetables to make a thick sauce. Serve over rice. Serves two or three people for about $2. For emergency preps, all of these vegies would need to be properly stored in a root cellar. Spices and rice will store well with your stockpiled food.
  • For the dough--flour, oil, yeast, sugar, salt (about 50 cents total)
  • Can of spaghetti sauce (about 75 cents on sale for a can; use half of this for a cost of 40 cents)
  • Shredded cheese (about $1.50 for a half pound block of cheese)
  • Chopped vegies--tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, olives, etc (about $2)
Make dough, let it rise, punch it down, flatten it out in a 9"x13" baking pan. Spread sauce on dough, spread shredded cheese over sauce, top with an assortment of vegetables. Bake at 400 degrees until brown and cooked. For under $5 you can make a fairly good sized pizza that will feed three or four people.
The bottom line?
  • You don't have to be a good cook to create simple, tasty meals.
  • By shopping sales and cooking at home you can save a whole lot of money.
  • Going ethnic usually saves a lot of money too. Check out ethnic stores for really cheap prices on food that is commonly used in various cultures (and is usually really over priced at American stores such as spices, vegetables, and grains).
  • Cut your serving sizes, you don't need to eat all 2000 calories in one meal (I have yet to see a seven course gourmet meal, an "if you can eat this 72 ounce steak you get it free", or a per person serving size as big as a Cadillac's hubcap in most other countries; eating until you are in a food coma is a uniquely American sort of thing.)
  • The best way to stretch your food funds is to go vegetarian as much as possible.
  • If you have a bit more money, consider adding some ground beef, sausage, or chopped chicken to the above recipes.
  • Don't overlook other additions--the day old vegetables that you get at the store for pennies, the venison that a friend brings you, the fish you just caught...all of these things will help you spend less yet still eat well.


  1. Bravo! A great post on an important subject. Cheap eats can be very good and tasty, as well as good for you. Thank you for a very helpful and thoughtful blog, a daily read for me.

  2. I just made a pizza this morning, I do use baking soda instead of yeast, but yeah, great eating for no money.

  3. is a good survival skill to have. The more creative--the better!

  4. Another super cheap and filling food is polenta. Just make a big batch and put it in bread molds. The next day it will be solid. Slice it and pan fry, bake, or grill. Serve it with tomato sauce and cheese, or just sprinkled with cheese, or topped with chili, or with chopped tomatoes from the garden, etc. It's awesome.