My monthly grocery budget varies anywhere between $450 – $550 a month. This is for only 2 people! This budget is just for food and does not include paper products, toiletries or cleaning supplies. This budget is already AFTER I meal plan, shop with a list, buy in bulk and ‘shop my pantry first’. And (except a few items) I am not even shopping at Whole Foods, I am shopping Costco and Trader Joe’s. I reuse leftovers and freeze any extras.
It’s crazy and it’s New York reality. I don’t have any outside space and am not able to supplement my groceries by growing a garden. Everything we eat, we need to buy. I am not able to ‘really’ stock up on sales either as I have minimal space in my kitchen – my fridge and one 2-shelved deep cupboard are my pantry.
30 breakfasts, lunches and dinners per month per person. This means 180 meals total for my household of two. Going with $550 per month budget this means an average of $3.05 per person per meal. While some meals definitely cost more than that (try fresh salmon with green beans and it will cost you at least $20 to make), not to destroy my budget, and have more flexibility to occasionally splurge for fancier meals, I try to make at least 3/4th of my meals on a low cost side. Such as less than $5 per meal for 2 (sometimes even leaving me with enough leftovers for next day’s lunch). So what is it that I make?
15 Super Easy Meals For Under $5
1. Oatmeal with fruit
1 cup of rolled oats (real stuff, not instant), 2 cups of water, 1 banana, 2 apples, half cup of yogurt, cinnamon.
Chop fruit and add to oats and boiling water. Simmer (covered )on low for 20-25min. Stir and cool a little. Add yogurt and stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Yum.
2. Potato latkes
4-5 potatoes, 1 small onion, 1 egg, 2-3tbs of flour, salt & pepper, oil.
Grate potatoes and onion, add egg, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a frying pan (1/2 inch thin), drop thin cakes – I portion 2 tbs of batter per each latke. Fry till golden, remove exceed oil with paper towel. Great with sour cream.
3. Fried rice
2 cups of cooked rice (at least 1 day old) , 2 medium carrots, green onions, garlic, 2 eggs, 2 tbs of soy sauce, salt & pepper, oil.
Sauté green onions and garlic, add thinly grated carrots. Sauté 5 more min. Add rice, stir well, turn heat to low. After 3 minutes add soy sauce and scrambled eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more green onions on top. Voilà!
1 cup flour, 1 cup milk, half cup water, 2 eggs, 1tbs of sugar, pinch or salt, 3tbs of oil or melted butter.
Whisk milk, water and eggs, add flour, sugar, salt and oil. Whisk well. Put aside for 10 minutes. Coat a frying pan with oil only for the first crape, no need to add oil to make next ones. Use 1/4 cup of butter for each crape. Use your favorite filling – I usually settle on banana and nutella. So good!
5. Baked rice with apples
This dish literally brings a smile to my face. When I was growing up, my mom would make it at least every two weeks and we always begged for more.
5-7 cups cooked rice (whatever amount you have on hand), 3-4 apples, half cup sugar, 3-4 tbs butter, cinnamon. Chop apples and simmer with sugar till apples fall apart (approximately 1 hour). Coat small Pyrex glassware with butter. Layer rice, apples and cinnamon. Repeat. Finish with rice on top. Put some butter on top of rice, sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in 350 degrees for 45 min.
6. Everything soup
Carrots, celery, potatoes, onion, parsley root or whatever else you have (you decide on proportions), chicken stock, water, 2 chicken drumsticks, orzo pasta, salt&pepper, sour cream.
Bring veggies and drumsticks with chicken stock and water to a boil. Simmer till thoroughly cooked, add pasta, season with salt&pepper. Let is cool a few minutes. Add some sour cream (and butter – optional). I usually like it best next day.
7. Breakfast burrito (great for dinner too)
2 burrito wraps, tomato, avocado, 2 eggs and whatever you have on hand (refried beans, basil leaves, mozzarella cheese), salt&pepper.
Slice the veggies. Heat or toast the wraps. Scramble eggs. Stuff the wraps with whatever you feel like, close with a toothpick. So easy yet so delicious.
8. French toast (try caramelized french toast)
3-4 day old bread (challah bread works best), 2 eggs, 1ts sugar, cinnamon, oil.
Slice bread. Whisk eggs, add sugar and cinnamon. Soak bread in the egg mixture until it is throughly soaked. Heat oil in a frying pan, add soaked bread slices, fry till golden on medium low. Serve immediately, preferably with fruit. Try caramelized version and you will never want another breakfast again.
5-7 eggs + whatever you currently have in a fridge. Onions, potatoes, shredded carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms + oil/butter.
Heat oil, throw in chopped veggies in, fry till soft. Add whisked eggs, cover. Simmer on low until settled. You just got yourself a frittata.
10. Chickpeas with potatoes
Delicious and nutritious. And super inexpensive (if you cook chickpeas yourself and not buy them in cans that is).
2 cups cooked chickpeas, 2 big potatoes, medium onion, salt&pepper, oil. Chop and boil potatoes. Heat oil and sauté onions till translucent. Add potatoes and chickpeas to the onions. Simmer for 30-45min on low stirring occasionally. Season with salt&pepper.
11. Pasta salad
Any shape of pasta you have on hand, pesto, broccoli, salt&pepper. Cook pasta and broccoli (separately). Cool pasta, add pesto, stir well. Add chopped broccoli. Season to taste.
So so easy and so good. Make more for leftovers. Great hot or cold.
Oh yeah. Going an easy route sometimes. Just like crapes, this is my ‘go to’ Sunday breakfast. My favorite recipe is here. I usually skip maple syrup and serve my pancakes with a drop of honey and seasonal fruit.
13. Bean burgers
My absolutely most favorite bean burger recipe is here
14. Sweet potato mash
T. makes amazing sweet potatoes cream / mash / mousse. Usually we would eat it as a side to a main dish and usually would make enough to last 3-4 days (it is great when reheated). While it is a side dish, I am usually very happy to have just that for dinner!
2 medium sweet potatoes, butter, milk/or crème fraîche, salt&pepper, garlic salt. Skin and chop sweet potatoes. Boil till soft. Mash with butter, milk and / or crème fraîche. Season to taste. For a variety you can use Japanese sweet potato.
15. Good ol’ spaghetti
Shopping at Costco means that sometime I am in a rush to use things up before they go bad. 12 pack of tomatoes usually ends up being turned into a homemade tomato sauce. Usually like to freeze any extras for the nights when I don’t feel like cooking.
What are YOUR ‘go to’ cheap (yet tasty and healthy) dishes when you are on a budget?