Ever since becoming a single mom, master of my own house (and children! and bills!), I’ve hit a few weeks that are prettttty tight. What?! That happens around your budget, too? Well, fear not! Because there’s a way to take those penny-pinching weeks and turn them into a fun adventure in the kitchen.
It’s possible to feed a family of four on just $20 a week, and I’m gonna show you how. Of course, this isn’t a grocery plan for every week of your life, but when times get tight, isn’t it nice to know you can grab a twenty, head to the store, and still cook up delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners without breaking the bank?! Yeah, I kinda think so, too.
1. Buy 3-lbs Chicken Legs/Thighs (Approx cost: $3)*
Follow your grocery store’s sales flyer to purchase 3 pounds (or more!) of inexpensive meat like chicken legs and chicken thighs. Ground beef or pork may also be on sale and worth buying. Use this meat throughout the week for dinners, chop up leftovers for chicken salad lunches, or toss in omelets for breakfast.
Need more ideas for your chicken? Check out 8 Ways to Grill Chicken Thighs
2. Buy a 2-lb bag of Rice (Approx cost: $1.49)
A bag of rice is so cheap and so versatile! Try serving it with a bit of margarine and roasted chicken thighs. Whip up a simple peanut sauce and make a homemade Satay chicken recipe served over fluffy white rice. Or make my favorite go-to fast & cheap dinner…fried rice!
Looking for a few fun ways to cook up fried rice? Check out our recipes at 6 Fun Twists on Fried Rice
3. Buy 2-lbs of Pasta (Approx. cost: $1.50)
Go Italiano and feel like a food diva, even when you’re eating on a budget. There are so many easy, affordable ways to make pasta. Top it with storebought spaghetti sauce, keep it simple and add a bit of melted margarine & salt & pepper to your noodles, or make an easy cream sauce with milk, margarine, and a little flour.
Or check out any one of these 20 Easy Pasta Recipes
4. Buy 2 Cans of Spaghetti Sauce (Approx. cost: $1.49)
Storebought spaghetti sauce is inexpensive and surprisingly delicious. While you’re eating on a budget, it’s a great thing to have in that pantry for those busy weeknights when you need to pull together a quick dinner. Toss it over rice for a simple paella-style meal, or serve it on top of eggs for a pizza-inspired breakfast. Of course, if you’re looking for dinner you can always do spaghetti.
Need a twist on the traditional? Try one of these 10 New Ways to Eat Spaghetti
5. Buy a Gallon of Milk (Approx cost: $2.50)
You can usually find it for less at wholesale stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, but regardless the price, a gallon of milk is great to have on hand for those tight-budget weeks. Make peanut-butter & banana smoothies with it, French toast, creamy omelets, or just wash down PB&J with a big glass of the cool, white stuff.
Once you’re done, get extra thrifty by trying one of these 24 Useful Ways to Reuse Milk Cartons
6. Buy 1-Pound of Margarine (Approx. cost $0.89)
Whether you’re tossing it into pasta, rice, or slathering it over your French toast, having a pound of margarine in the fridge on those tight-budget weeks helps you feel like you’re not totally pinching pennies. After all, when you can eat a buttered piece of toast, everything will be alright, right?!
Or borrow some chocolate chips from your neighbor and use it to make the World’s Most Delicious Vegan Cookies
7. Buya Loaf of Bread (Approx Cos t: $1.25)
So, being on a budget means you’ll be eating the cheap bread…but it doesn’t mean you won’t be eating deliciously! Toast it and serve it with a beautifully poached egg, make peanut-butter stuffed French toast with it, or serve it topped with chicken and gravy for a classic comfort-food dinner.
Then, expand your toast horizons with 29 Toast Recipes That Justify Our Obsession — the toastabilities are endless!
8. Buy a Dozen Eggs (Approx. cost: $1)
Eggs are inexpensive, full of nutrients, and totally versatile. Try making poached or scrambled eggs for breakfast, boil them into Egg Salad Sandwiches for lunch, or serve them over pasta for a fun dinner!
For more fun, simple, budget-friendly recipes, check out our 8 New Ways to Bake Eggs for Breakfast
9. Buy a Jar of Peanut Butter (Approx. cost: $2.50)
You just gotta keep PB&J around (so long as no one in your house is allergic!). It’s versatile, protein-filled, and positively pantry-friendly. Slather it on toast for breakfast, whip it into Peanut-Butter and Jelly Smoothies for snacks, or melt it into a simple Peanut Sauce for pasta. Of course, you an also serve it the classic way!
Try it with a twist! Check out our 15 Creative Ways to Enjoy Peanut Butter and Jelly
10. Buy a Jar of Jelly (Approx. cost: $1)
An inexpensive jar of jelly can be used for peanut butter sammys, but do you know you can also melt it with a bit of water into a fun, flavored syrup for French toast? Add a dollop to your smoothies, serve it over toast with a side of tea for an inexpensive afternoon snack.
11. Buy On-Sale Fruits & Veggies with Your Remaining $$
Carrots, bananas, potatoes, and apples are a good place to start once you’ve bought all the basics. These fresh produce items are inexpensive (so you can buy a bundle!) and can be used in everything from breakfast omelets to dinnertime pasta. Whatever money you have left over after purchasing the first nine ingredients should be spent on affordable fruits and veggies. Toss in an additional $5 toward fresh produce to really oomph up your nutrition for the week.
*all prices in this post taken from Colorado grocery sales flyers from January 2013