Help me crunch the numbers...

I need some help with healthy, quick meals on a budget. I know the adage about cheap, fast and good (if it's two, it probably won't be the third), but here's hoping!

I am a full time student, I work, and I have a toddler - I usually have between 50-100 dollars a week (depending on how many hours I'm able to get at work) for groceries and it's really tempting to buy cheap, easy food (lots of pastas, junky snacks, etc). For whatever reason I'll take the time to make my daughter something healthy, but I cop out when it comes to my food because I'm tired and just grab whatever's easy.

I'm determined to make a change, I know it can be done, there have got to be others in my situation that manage. My question is this -

If you had to plan a weeks worth of meals for 2 adults, one toddler on $100, what would you buy? What are YOUR healthy, affordable staples?

Replies

  • pamperedpenguin
    pamperedpenguin Posts: 95 Member
    Frozen veges are pretty cheap.
    Also buy fruit that's in season (like apples right now)
  • VelociMama
    VelociMama Posts: 3,119 Member
    Frozen vegetables (try to find them on sale and stock up for non-sale times when you can)
    Dry beans
    Pasta is healthy and perfectly fine as long as you control your portion sizes
    Look for meat and produce on sale and in-season

    You may also consider trying to look for online coupons for certain food staples. There are a bunch of online coupon sites that could help you save some cash.
  • cmriverside
    cmriverside Posts: 33,829 Member
    Brown rice, dried beans (pinto are usually the least expensive) cheese, milk, chicken, frozen veggies, apples, bananas, tuna, lettuce, salsa. Lots of combinations, plenty of nutrients.
  • I usually don't have $100 to spend on groceries. I have 2 kids (ages 5 and 8) and myself to feed. I don't have to worry about cooking for a husband though.... lol!

    I make sure that I have eggs in the house (we have brinner often, breakfast-for-dinner), and sides like yogurts and fruits. Eggs are cheap and a great protein to help you stay full for longer. Add onions, green peppers, shredded carrots, spinach if you want to get more bang for your buck!

    We also have taco nights, 1lb grd turkey, reduced fat shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, fat free sour cream. I usually make mine a salad with salsa on top. (the kids usually just want a cheese quesadilla, also very inexpensive)

    Another easy dinner (and to use my leftover lettuce and tomato) is BLTs with turkey bacon. I sometimes make it a lettuce wrap and skip bread. Or I toast the bread and put a light skim of lite Miracle Whip.

    I also like to take the brownberry sandwich breads, put bbq sauce and veggies like onions, peppers, or fungus like mushrooms (turkey sausage crumbles sometimes), a little shredded cheese and bake them in the oven. Mini pizzas and very cheap!! the kids love this, because they help assemble our pizzas.

    Lately I've been making a turkey bean chili, which makes a ton and is high in protein. Pretty simple to make: 1lb grd turkey, 1 onion, 1 green pepper, 2 cans northern beans, 1 can fat free refried beans, 1 jar salsa, 2 cans diced tomatoes and 1 can rotel. Sometimes add some broth to up the liquid content, or even just some water.

    Oh yeah, and don't estimate the power of tuna! I make a quick tuna pattie that the kids love. It's 2 cans tuna, drained, 1pkg whole wheat saltines (this part isn't too healthy, lol), 1 egg and some milk to help with moisture. Just mix it up to form a patty. I then just put them in a pan with a little veg spray, salt and pepper. I cook them like a burger and when they're a little toasted on both sides they're done. They like them with mac/cheese.

    I buy very little meat since it's more expensive. We have PBJ nights too, which is easy, cheap and not that bad for you. If you do buy meat, get some fresh chicken breast from your local butcher shop. Usually the cuts are larger and fresher. I always pound the pieces, cut them into portion sizes and freeze in individual baggies. Little extra work, but it makes the chicken go farther on a tighter budget!

    Hope this helps!! :) and Good luck, it's not easy!
  • palmerig88
    palmerig88 Posts: 623 Member
    Chicken when it's on sale, whole or pieces (many ways to fix)
    Potatoes
    Bread and eggs that are on sale
    Cereal, Rice
    Bananas
    Fruit that is on sale
    Whatever other meat that is on sale, perhaps pork chops or a loin or roast
    Store brand dairy (milk, cheese)

    With couponing, you can save on household products for cleaning and many canned goods, things for your toddler, etc. It take awhile to get started and grocery store sales cycle around every six weeks. So you have to collect the coupons for awhile when you start before you notice an impact. Sunday newspaper, coupons.com, smartsource.com, bettycrocker.com, etc. are good sites. You can use the sale price, a store coupon, and a manufacturer's coupon all at once on one item, sometimes getting things free. There are many blogs about using coupons, the info is out there, takes some time and effort but it is worth it.
  • KrazyAsianNic
    KrazyAsianNic Posts: 1,227 Member
    I definitely look for sales. For example, my freezer is stalked up with meat from the "buy one get one free" sale. I chose relatively close prices to make it as buy one get one free as possible.

    I also look for what veggies and fruit are on sale. The sales vary, meaning so will you fruit and veggies.
  • crackdmirror
    crackdmirror Posts: 20 Member
    Been there....when I was in nursing school as a single mom of two, I was lucky to have $50 to spend on food for the week. The good news is it can definitely be done, but it takes planning.

    Must-haves on the shopping list:
    --Beans. Dried are MUCh cheaper than canned, but if you have a crock pot it's very easy to cook up a batch ahead of time so you have them ready to go all week.
    --Chicken thighs. The price will depend on where you live, but around here they will go on sale for 89 cents/pound. Much cheaper than boneless skinless breasts that are all the rage, better flavor, and the increase in fat isn't as bad as everyone would have you believe.
    --Corn tortillas. Not just for tacos! You can wrap this around meat and cheese for a pseudo-sandwich, top with pizza fixings, or make any kind of wrap.
    --Canned tuna/salmon: Cheap, quick, easy protein fix.
    --Broccoli: It's green, and I've never seen it more than $1.69/head (usually closer to $1.29, 99 cents on sale)
    --Apples and bananas: Cheapest fruits out there!
    --Canned fruit in juice: On sale, can find super-cheap, plus it won't rot (less waste!)
    --Frozen green beans: Unless it's the height of summer, much cheaper than fresh, and much tastier than canned.
    --Greek yogurt: This is a bit of splurge, but it's quick, easy, and the protein content makes it worthwhile (plus, if you can catch it on sale, stock up and put some on the freezer for a healthy ice cream alternative).
    --Frozen fruit: Smoothies. 'Nough said.
    --Frozen juice concentrate.



    These are the basics. Rice is a good filler to bulk out meals. Of course shop the sales. Even now, most of the time my grocery list will just read "fruit" or "meat", and then I will get whatever is on sale (like in the summer when strawberries are $1/pound). Have a plan, but make it adaptable to what is on sale.

    Cheaper cuts of meat can be made more palatable by marinating over night. Also, the crockpot is your friend here.

    It's winter now, so we eat a lot of soup this time of year. Cheap, filling, and you can pack in the veggies!

    This is just a start. Invest in some good spice blends, and you will never lack in flavor or variety :)
  • 77tes
    77tes Posts: 7,626 Member
    A slow cooker/ Croock pot can help with time. Throw a whole chicken (cheap) in the pot in the morning and come home to a lovely dinner and leftover chicken for sandwiches. If you make good food for your daughter, eat what you make for her.

    Good luck. :flowerforyou:
  • If you like pasta.. Go whole grain. I like to snack on a lot of fruit.
  • Been there....when I was in nursing school as a single mom of two, I was lucky to have $50 to spend on food for the week. The good news is it can definitely be done, but it takes planning.

    Must-haves on the shopping list:
    --Beans. Dried are MUCh cheaper than canned, but if you have a crock pot it's very easy to cook up a batch ahead of time so you have them ready to go all week.
    --Chicken thighs. The price will depend on where you live, but around here they will go on sale for 89 cents/pound. Much cheaper than boneless skinless breasts that are all the rage, better flavor, and the increase in fat isn't as bad as everyone would have you believe.
    --Corn tortillas. Not just for tacos! You can wrap this around meat and cheese for a pseudo-sandwich, top with pizza fixings, or make any kind of wrap.
    --Canned tuna/salmon: Cheap, quick, easy protein fix.
    --Broccoli: It's green, and I've never seen it more than $1.69/head (usually closer to $1.29, 99 cents on sale)
    --Apples and bananas: Cheapest fruits out there!
    --Canned fruit in juice: On sale, can find super-cheap, plus it won't rot (less waste!)
    --Frozen green beans: Unless it's the height of summer, much cheaper than fresh, and much tastier than canned.
    --Greek yogurt: This is a bit of splurge, but it's quick, easy, and the protein content makes it worthwhile (plus, if you can catch it on sale, stock up and put some on the freezer for a healthy ice cream alternative).
    --Frozen fruit: Smoothies. 'Nough said.
    --Frozen juice concentrate.



    These are the basics. Rice is a good filler to bulk out meals. Of course shop the sales. Even now, most of the time my grocery list will just read "fruit" or "meat", and then I will get whatever is on sale (like in the summer when strawberries are $1/pound). Have a plan, but make it adaptable to what is on sale.

    Cheaper cuts of meat can be made more palatable by marinating over night. Also, the crockpot is your friend here.

    It's winter now, so we eat a lot of soup this time of year. Cheap, filling, and you can pack in the veggies!

    This is just a start. Invest in some good spice blends, and you will never lack in flavor or variety :)

    I'm in nursing school! :) $100 is a good week for us, I work in a restaurant and don't make much and DH's paycheck is tied up in bills. It can be frustrating, but I am so encouraged by your story! I have to keep reminding myself that there is an end in sight. Thank you so much for all of the suggestions.
  • I usually don't have $100 to spend on groceries. I have 2 kids (ages 5 and 8) and myself to feed. I don't have to worry about cooking for a husband though.... lol!

    I make sure that I have eggs in the house (we have brinner often, breakfast-for-dinner), and sides like yogurts and fruits. Eggs are cheap and a great protein to help you stay full for longer. Add onions, green peppers, shredded carrots, spinach if you want to get more bang for your buck!

    We also have taco nights, 1lb grd turkey, reduced fat shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, fat free sour cream. I usually make mine a salad with salsa on top. (the kids usually just want a cheese quesadilla, also very inexpensive)

    Another easy dinner (and to use my leftover lettuce and tomato) is BLTs with turkey bacon. I sometimes make it a lettuce wrap and skip bread. Or I toast the bread and put a light skim of lite Miracle Whip.

    I also like to take the brownberry sandwich breads, put bbq sauce and veggies like onions, peppers, or fungus like mushrooms (turkey sausage crumbles sometimes), a little shredded cheese and bake them in the oven. Mini pizzas and very cheap!! the kids love this, because they help assemble our pizzas.

    Lately I've been making a turkey bean chili, which makes a ton and is high in protein. Pretty simple to make: 1lb grd turkey, 1 onion, 1 green pepper, 2 cans northern beans, 1 can fat free refried beans, 1 jar salsa, 2 cans diced tomatoes and 1 can rotel. Sometimes add some broth to up the liquid content, or even just some water.

    Oh yeah, and don't estimate the power of tuna! I make a quick tuna pattie that the kids love. It's 2 cans tuna, drained, 1pkg whole wheat saltines (this part isn't too healthy, lol), 1 egg and some milk to help with moisture. Just mix it up to form a patty. I then just put them in a pan with a little veg spray, salt and pepper. I cook them like a burger and when they're a little toasted on both sides they're done. They like them with mac/cheese.

    I buy very little meat since it's more expensive. We have PBJ nights too, which is easy, cheap and not that bad for you. If you do buy meat, get some fresh chicken breast from your local butcher shop. Usually the cuts are larger and fresher. I always pound the pieces, cut them into portion sizes and freeze in individual baggies. Little extra work, but it makes the chicken go farther on a tighter budget!

    Hope this helps!! :) and Good luck, it's not easy!

    It does, you've given me some great ideas! I'm actually a little excited to go to the grocery store. :)
  • A slow cooker/ Croock pot can help with time. Throw a whole chicken (cheap) in the pot in the morning and come home to a lovely dinner and leftover chicken for sandwiches. If you make good food for your daughter, eat what you make for her.

    Good luck. :flowerforyou:

    I got a slow cooker this year - I've been browsing the recipe section of this site for ideas, I'm low on creativity. I love the idea of being able to throw some things in it, go to class, and come home to a meal. :)
  • VelociMama
    VelociMama Posts: 3,119 Member
    A slow cooker/ Croock pot can help with time. Throw a whole chicken (cheap) in the pot in the morning and come home to a lovely dinner and leftover chicken for sandwiches. If you make good food for your daughter, eat what you make for her.

    Good luck. :flowerforyou:

    I got a slow cooker this year - I've been browsing the recipe section of this site for ideas, I'm low on creativity. I love the idea of being able to throw some things in it, go to class, and come home to a meal. :)

    Crock pots are wonderful! Do a google search for crock pot recipes, and you'll come up with a lot of great ideas! I love mine.

    Just a hint, Reynold's makes a crock pot liner that makes cleanup really easy. Definitely pick those up too.
  • crackdmirror
    crackdmirror Posts: 20 Member
    Ahh! Yes, nursing school is worth it, but they certainly put you through hell in the process :). You've received some great advice here (love Love LOVE my crockpot!), so hang in there. I bartended/served throughout, and while it wasn't easy I'm so glad I stuck with it. I like to think my trials as a single mom in school helped me be more understanding to my patients who are having tough times. That, and the practical experience in meal planning really helps with the education aspect, if you are discharging people on heart healthy diets, etc.

    Good luck on your journey! When do you graduate?
  • MzStarrQueenB
    MzStarrQueenB Posts: 194 Member
    Frozen veggies buy the store band. If you steam them they are so good. I eat 2 or 3 servings for lunch and dinner.



    If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.....



    http://www.myfitnesspal.com/groups/home/8987-serious-diet-support-group
  • Lindsay_N
    Lindsay_N Posts: 100
    Soup
  • lifeisbeautyfull
    lifeisbeautyfull Posts: 9 Member
    If you have a local farmers market, you can get fresher producer for better prices than the grocery store. And it can be a fun experience for your daughter!
  • LorinaLynn
    LorinaLynn Posts: 13,248 Member
    Check online circulars at the stores nearest you before you go shopping to determine which has the best sales this week, and/or if going to multiple stores might be most cost effective.

    I always get many bags of frozen veggies, chicken breast, sauces, marinades, rice, pasta, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, cheese, whatever fruit is in season and a good price, potatoes, sometimes pork or beef or fish if it's a good price. One of the stores often has buy-one-get-TWO-free specials on breads and english muffins, so I'll stock up and freeze what I won't use right away.

    I eat pasta a lot, but I always mix in a lot of frozen vegetables so I'm eating a smaller portion of pasta than I would otherwise.

    A typical meal is chicken breast, some kind of sauce or marinade, some kind of vegetables that go with that sauce or marinade, and rice or pasta. For instance, chicken, Italian vegetable blend, vodka sauce, ravioli. Add enough of the veggies and you won't need as many raviolis. Or chicken, Oriental blend vegetables, Teriyaki sauce, brown rice. Cooked all in one pan for minimal mess.