Even if you aren’t tight on money, finding cheap meals that go a long way and can help to stretch your budget really helps in saving money.
Stretch Your Budget With Cheap Food
Being wealthy or not doesn’t matter when it comes to having a stock of cheap food that goes a long way in your house. Saving money, needless to say is always a good thing, and food is one of the hardest ways to save money.
There are techniques of coupon clipping, using phone apps and so on, but in the end, it really comes down to how long the food will last in your house versus how much you’ve paid for it.
There’s also a balance between cheap food and healthy eating, but it is possible to do both at the same time. In my book, there are two main categories that foods fall into:
- Cheap but unhealthy
- Cheap and healthy
Add to that how long you can make the food last for and things start to get a bit tricky.
For example, let’s take the college kid’s king of cheap food, Ramen. At $0.25 per pack, it’s probably the cheapest thing you can buy that can make a meal (if you can even call it that). The ramen packs will keep for years (literally) and one pack can be an excuse for a meal if it absolutely has to.
Ramen is pretty bad for you. It has tons of sodium and other bad stuff for you, so just eating Ramen isn’t something you want to do for very long. Bottom line is it’s the cheapest food going, but at a horrible expense to your health.
Then there are those Little Caesar’s $5 pizzas. I’ve actually seen people that eat a whole pizza every day for about a week. Again, you’re buying food that stretches the budget and is cheap, but it’s terribly unhealthy and doesn’t keep for more than a day unless you freeze it.
Rice, Beans Noodles and other Grains
These are what I like to call “foundation foods” usually you can buy them in bulk, and they’re pretty cheap when you do. These types of foods will last for a very long time if you have them sealed up good.
It’s easily possible to pull these foods out even a year or two after you’ve purchased them and use them for a dinner.
These are also very filling foods that will really help to make you feel full after a meal. Rice, in particular, expands a bit so you can eat a bit less and feel just as satiated.
Noodles (like Egg noodles, not Ramen) are extremely cheap food and perfect for soups and dishes where you might only put one or two items over them. Obviously, great for red-sauce dishes, but also very versatile, so they can be used in cold dishes as well.
The Tummy Fillers
I call foods such as Potatos, Canned chicken/tuna, ground beef and eggs as “tummy fillers” when coupled with a Rice or Noodle foundation, these foods can be a delicious add to the meal while rounding off the filling feeling after the food is consumed.
These types of foods, unless they’re canned, usually don’t last that long, so they’re not really on the cheap end of the spectrum, however you can usually find foods like this on sale or in bulk, helping to lower the overall cost of the food item.
Flavor adds are cheap food items that you can get that make the overall dish taste better. You might think of Salt and Pepper or Ketchup, but I also suggest that buying clove garlic, onions, cilantro and other herbs and veggies can really add a dynamic flavor without going broke.
You can also get powder packets of french onion soup, beef/chicken bullion, taco seasonings and marinades at the store. These packets aren’t very expensive, and also really can add to the overall flavor of the dish.
Fruits and Veggies
These foods can be inexpensive at times, but they tip the scale on the health side of things. If you’re going to by something that’s more expensive, you may as well get something that’s healthier too. Fruits and veggies are the ideal food to support a healthy diet.
- Apples, Oranges & Bananas
- Onions & Garlic
- Hot & Green peppers
- Cilantro, Basil, and Thyme
- Melon if it’s in season
A $3 “Healthy” Ramen Dinner
Dice a tablespoon’s worth of onion for each bowl of Ramen you are making. Also dice cilantro, if desired. Chop green onion and pull out sesame seeds if you have them to sprinkle on top when done.
Next, take frozen beef or chicken and shave thin slices from each. The amount is up to you, and since they’re such thin shavings, it really doesn’t add up to too much from a cost perspective. You also will need one egg for every bowl.
Put a pot of water on the stove with the eggs for hadboiling. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and let the eggs harden.
Toss in the noodles. ** DO NOT put the flavor packet in yet!!! **
Add in the meat shavings, chopped round onion and cilantro. Do not put in the chopped green onion or sesame seeds
It takes about three or four minutes for the noodles to soften, but when they do, drain almost all of the water.
At this time, also remove the eggs and shell them. Put one egg in each bowl.
Back to the pot of noodles:
You will want roughly a half cup of water for each bowl left in the bottom of the pot with the Ramen. Now add the seasoning packet. If you make two or more Ramen, add one whole packet, then add as needed.
You don’t want to overload on sodium, so keep tasting the noodles until the taste meets your expectations.
Put the Ramen in normal soup bowls along with roughly the half cup of broth. Sprinkle a bit of green onion and the sesame seeds.
That’s all you have to do. The meat cooks itself really quickly in in the boiling water before you pour it out, and the dinner just works. I’m not really sure why it does, but it makes for the best cheap ramen dinner ever.