Post # 1
I used to love LOVE cooking. I followed all sorts of food blogs, got daily recipe emails, was constantly trying out new recipes and foods, etc.
Then FI and I became grad students who live in NYC.
As much as I love living here, I am really struggling with how much groceries cost. I can’t really buy in bulk, because I can’t transport the groceries back to my home easily. (Plus I don’t have a place to store bulk foods.) I’ve gone from cooking fun interesting new meals every day to relying on the same basic, affordable things: spaghetti, black beans and rice, pasta with frozen veggies, grilled cheese, PB&J… that’s about it, and it’s really depressing me.
Does anyone have any suggestions for VERY cheap meals that are healthy and delicious? Or is this impossible?
We have about a $2/meal budget, but if you don’t live in NYC, that probably equates to about 75 cents/meal. The website budgetbytes used to be a fun go-to, but it’s unfortunately too expensive now. 🙁
Post # 3
Eggs are like the cheapest food everrrrrr. You can build real meals off of them. Stuff a bell pepper with black beans, tomato, spinach, and an egg. Make omelettes or scrambles with cheap ingredients. Tuna is super cheap – make tuna salad (like …. salad, with tuna on top), tuna alfredo on spaghetti noodles.
Post # 4
One of my go-tos is “African Peanut Soup” – bascially rice, peanut butter, tomatos, and broth. It sounds a bit funky but I promise it’s good! With any soups, I will sometimes add in whatever veggies I have on hand (carrots in particular for this recipe) and blend everything before adding the rice. For less steps, ignore the scallion and peanuts.
Post # 5
@howsweetitis: Ugh I hear you on this! I am doing a six week clean eating challenge that is pushing the paleo limits and put down well over $100.00 last night for three days worth of dinners and a few lunch snacks. My DH and I both commented at how ass backwards it is that healthy food is unattainable for people because of the cost.
Tacos with whole wheat tortillas is a great option with beans, chicken breast, some low fat cheese, fresh salsa or tomatoes, onions, and avocado (healthy fat in moderation). Not expensive and very simple to prepare.
Stir Fry is another go to of mine. It is paleo too and very clean so healthy beyond belief. If you pick certain vegetables they go a long way and can be affordable; zuccini, onion, bell peppers (freeze any leftover, just as good reheated), mushrooms, broccoli, and for me I love water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Throw some garlic in there for seasoning. If you want to avoid paleo and add flavor try a little soy sauce to bring out flavor of vegetables. Cook in wok and serve over brown rice. This is what I am having for dinner tonight. 🙂
Post # 6
@howsweetitis: I second the eggs. Idk where in NYC you live, but there’s a great little market that’s on 52nd (btw 8th and 9th I believe). It’s in a makeshift tent type setup, but they have the cheapest and most delicious fruits and veggies and eggs 🙂
Post # 7
I’m not sure how healthy these are lol but they are cheap:
Tuna patties, you take a can of tuna (or however many cans), mix with an egg, crackers or bread, seasonings, anything you want to add in: onions, garlic, peppers. Make little patties and fry.
I take chicken (you can buy bags of frozen chicken cheap), boil it, shred it, mix with a can of black beans, add in optionals of : taco seasoning( less than .99cents), rice, peppers, onion, cheese. Roll up and grease the outside somehow, Pam, olive oil, or veg oil. And bake until crispy.
Ramen with mixed veggies you have in it.
Potatoe soup goes a long way.
Beans and rice.
Chili dogs, can of chili, hotdogs, on bread.
You can get a can of biscuits, and a pack of gravy to make a version of biscuits n gravy.
Post # 8
Make a huge pot of soup on Sunday and eat it throughout the week. I used to make huge batches of Turkey Vegetable soup, but you could do any kind – black bean, lentil, chicken tortilla, etc.
Post # 9
Look for recipes with beans. You can use them in almost anything! Plus they’re super cheap, healthy, and filling because of the protein. I made brownies with black beans last night and you’d never know the difference 😉
Post # 10
There’s an ethnic dish that DH makes that is easy and cheap.
You slice up a tomato or two (the variety doesn’t matter) into about 1 cm slices and pan-fry them on about medium heat. After they start to soften a bit, then you would season them with salt and add a few (or more) eggs. Don’t crack the eggs; they should fry alongside the tomato slices. Once the eggs are set, you can serve this with crusty/toasty/crunchy bread (e.g. crostinis). I suggest serving this literally right off the stovetop. You can use a fork or spoon to spoon the eggy, tomato-y mixture right onto your bread.
Post # 11
@TomatoPie: Holy moley, this sounds delicious and different! I am so excited to try this!!
@sayanything: Ugh, I’m like 60 blocks north of that. The only downside to our really nice university housing is that everything around here is WAY expensive. The university does a weekly farmer’s market, and tomatoes were $5/lb! WTF?! I might check it out with FI if we feel like trekking for some cheap produce, though. Thanks for the suggestion!
Thank you all! These are really good ideas!
Post # 12
@lilbluebird: Oh my gosh, yum. Tomatoes are ludicrously expensive, but if there’s nothing else in the recipe but egg and bread, I can totally make this happen!
Post # 14
Oh, but I’ll also add: Lentil soup makes a great, hearty, super cheap meal–perfect for the winter, especially. Dried lentils are very filling, and you can throw basically any veggies you have in with some water and salt. I like using an onion, an apple, carrots, winter greens (kale or chard work perfectly), and potatoes.
Post # 15
Start a pan with garlic and a tiny bit of butter (optional).
Add vegetables (I use a full bag of california blend frozen ones (costs like $1-$2 depending on sales).
Once they are cooked a bit, add some salt, pepper, whatever flavors you like.
Toss in 1 or 2 pieces of chopped up bacon, ham, salami, or pepperoni (whatever you happen to have).
Whisk eggs in a bowl (6 to 10 depending on the size of your pan and amount of veggies), add a little milk and a tiny bit of cheese.
Pour eggs over veggies.
Top with a little more cheese and a tiny bit of meat if you desire. Cook on stovetop till eggs are mostly cooked.
Bake in oven 10-15 min on 350. Test by seeing if eggs are cooked through (tilt pan to see if runny).
This is high in vitamins from veggies and protein from eggs/meat/cheese. Can also be made vegetarian if you prefer.
Post # 16
Pasta and butter! I can get 900g of spaghetti for $1.68, add like 4 tablespoons of butter. This is my FI’s favourite. Maybe not healthy though (I do light butter and multigrain pasta).