Well, I’m not really broke, but if we are going to save up for Disney, the money must come from Somewhere. The only thing I can really control is my grocery spending. We have cut back our spending just about everywhere else.
This is the final frontier for our family. Time to tighten our belts and really save. It won’t be cheap to take a family of 9 to Disney World. Here are the 14 Dirt Cheap Dinners for When You Are Broke that I’m going to make during this pay period.
Is it possible to really tighten your food budget?
As a family of 8, I can tell you it is. We’ve cut back in many ways, but we also must deal with a special diet. For us this means cutting out processed foods and junk. I do a lot of cooking from scratch and we tend to eat more whole foods. Meat and produce are my biggest expenses. I’ve found many wonderful ways to cut back on this, but the next step would be repeating and eating the same or similar meals for 2 weeks in a row.
This is part of my plan for the next 2 weeks. We will be having the same meals or same type of meals each week. As you will see in my menu, the next two weeks will repeat itself pretty much, with just a slight variance. This even includes the side dishes. Sides can cost as much as the meal itself, if you aren’t careful.
When I wrote 4 Ways to Tighten Your Food Budget Today, I didn’t go into details about how to save money. I was just giving a brief overview with ideas you could use immediately. Now, I’m putting those tips into actions.
We will also be repeating the meals both weeks for lunch and dinner.
How does this save money?
I buy my meat from Sam’s Club in bulk, unless it is on sale at one of my local grocery stores. I know exactly how much that meat is going to cost me, and how many meals I can get from my purchase.
For example, I can get ground beef 90% lean for $2.69/ pound, if I buy 10 pounds at a time. That is 5 meals for my family. This means I’m spending about $5.38 for my family of 8 for the ground beef per meal. This may seem like a lot of $, but when you break the $5.38/8 it is $.67/ person for the meat. Now that makes it not seem so bad.
I do the same thing with boneless skinless chicken breast. If I can snag it for $1.88/ pound, I buy 7-8 pounds per package, and usually buy 2-3 packages. Since chicken is cheaper than beef, we eat more chicken. I use 3 breasts per meal and that is about 2 pounds. This means I’m spending $4.77 for my family of 8 for the ground beef for the meal. This breaks down to $.59/ person for the meat. Once again, this really isn’t a bad deal.
So, if I buy 10 pounds of ground beef and 21 pounds of chicken. I have a total of 12 meals from these 2 purchases. This covers most of my dinners. If you toss in a whole pork loin that is about 8 pounds and is running $1.69/ pound. I can make 2-3 meals from that for $.85- $.56 per person per meal. We usually hold about 1 pound aside to make fried rice with it.
When you break down the numbers, they really aren’t as bad as you think. I’ve spent $79.90 for at least 15 meals for 8 people. That is $.67/ meal/ person.
You’d save more if you used cheaper meat.
I agree with you, but as I mentioned before we have 3 people on a special diet. I must be very careful about what they eat, and that includes the hormones in their meat. This includes knowing exactly what they are eating and what is in it. While it isn’t dangerous like a peanut allergy, it does affect them harshly if they eat something they shouldn’t.
When my children were smaller, we lived on leg quarters, and drumsticks. We also ate cheaper ground beef. It was juicier, but the fat content was HIGH. This certainly didn’t help my waist line, and the hormones weren’t good for my family either. We were also living on a lot less money and were barely scraping by.
The down side to cheaper cuts of meat is that it is hard to make the meal not be meat heavy. When using things like chicken breasts, you need less to use in soups or casseroles, than if you served a slab of meat per person. Also, consider you are paying for the weight of the bone as well as the meat.
When it comes down to it, you must decide where you are going to draw the line. I draw the with cheap cuts of meat that are filled with hormones to make my 14 Dirt Cheap Dinners for When You are Broke.
I don’t have time to cook long meals.
No one does. It doesn’t matter if you are home all day or not, you don’t have time to cook long meals. Cooking from scratch doesn’t mean you are slaving over the stove all day long. The only time I do that is when company is coming over, and even then, I try to use my slaves (crock pots, roasters, rice maker) as much as possible.
Cooking from scratch does take more time than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven or a frozen lasagna. I’m sure we can all agree that it won’t taste as good as a home cooked meal, nor will it be as healthy. It may take a little planning, a little work, and a lot of love (after a long hard day) but it will be worth it.
You need to choose your hard. It is hard to cook a homecooked meal, but it is also hard to be in debt and save money to a dream vacation.
14 Dirt Cheap Dinners for When You are Broke
Like I said earlier, we aren’t broke, but saving for vacation, paying off debt, and planning to move this year. So we need every penny we can get.
2 of these meals will be repeated, but they won’t be the same, so that means 14 Dirt Cheap Dinners for When You are Broke instead of 12.. The variety comes in the toppings for these two meals, and that usually comes from leftovers.
Crock Pot Baked Potato Bar (Toppings are what we have on hand.)
Taco Tuesday, chips and salsa
Spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad
Cheeseburger Soup and sandwiches (For starving children)
Homemade pizza (Toppings are what we have on hand.)
Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, garlic bread, and salad
Crock pot Baked Potato Bar (Toppings are what we have on hand.)
Mexican Casserole, chips and salsa (Recipe below)
Chili, cornbread, and maybe a peanut butter sandwich
Baked Potato Soup and BBQ pork sandwich
Homemade pizza (Toppings are what we have on hand.)
Bacon, Chicken Carbonara, garlic bread, and salad
How much does this cost?
When I buy my groceries every 2 weeks, that includes breakfast and lunch. I will also admit that I have a good stocked pantry right now. I spent a total of $350. This was for my breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the next 2 weeks for a family of 8. This breaks down to $1.04/person/meal. You can’t get much better than that.
In this budget was also a special birthday dinner. Each of my children tell me what to fix special for them on their birthday. Though my little guy is only 2, I knew his favorite meal was anything involving pasta, so he is going to have the chicken and broccoli fettuccini, with garlic bread and salad. The most expensive part of this meal is the salad, but it makes the rest a little healthier.
Final Thought and Recipe
Just because you are broke doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. If money is tight, then it is tight. The key is to find meals that can easily spread over the entire family, and maybe even give you leftovers for lunch the next day. The key for me is to always include either some fruit of a vegetable green.
Here is our family recipe for what we call Mexican Casserole. It is just my revision of my mother-in-laws Hamburger Casserole that my husband remembers eating often as a child.