Desperate times- our cheapest meals and recipes

Budget Friendly Tuna Mac
It seems we all know someone who is struggling to put food on the table if we’re not in that situation ourselves. I’m not talking about oh, poor me, I have to make my coffee from home, I’m talking about do I get a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas to get to work broke.

We have some friends who are facing that situation now and while we don’t have a ton we certainly have enough to share. (Thank God for stockpiling, I can do most of the shopping in my own pantry and freezer as our cash supply is pretty much nil.)

Due to circumstances beyond their control and some type of office mix-up they have been two months without being paid, even spending money to travel to the job and such, and like most of us they were used to living paycheck to paycheck so it really hurts them.

What we are doing is making sure they have enough to do some basic, really easy, really cheap meals. They might not be the most nutritious so I don’t recommend this menu/diet for the long term, but when you need to get the bellies full as cheaply as possible, here’s how we do it. I know the whole grains are cheaper and brown rice is healthier, fresh veggies pack a higher nutritional punch etc. but again, the goal is to stop the gnawing hunger from clawing at them and making sure they don’t go hungry.

Some good things to include in a care package (or buy really cheap if you have to get down to the bare bones):
Pasta- several different sizes and shapes all bought on sale
Ground turkey chubs (we got for 79 cents a pound and stocked up)
Bacon – we bought a huge box and separated
Pasta mixes- bought at deep discount and can be used as a complete meal just adding a little butter or margarine, oil or milk
Tuna – excellent protein and again bought on sale
Canned veggies and fruits bought on sale
Canned spaghetti sauce- you can get this for under a dollar even without coupons and it is good when you don’t have the time or ingredients to make your own and is much cheaper than jarred.
Ramen- ‘nuff said
Hot dogs (the cheap ones especially Bar S work and can be bought for under a dollar even when not on sale and 50 to 69 cents on sale)
Bulk sausage- the cheap ones are under $1 a chub and biscuits and gravy are super-cheap and filling as well as tasty
Flour (self-rising eliminates the need for soda or powder so at this time is a good deal unless you’ve got the other)
Onions (for flavor)
Salt and pepper (other spices and seasonings if you can- and when you are broke the ones that cost 50 or 59 cents from the discount store like Big Lots are a good way to start)
Canned soups
Jiffy corn muffin mix

Be sure to check out my post entitled Desperate times- slashing your grocery bill to the bare bones.

Actually, some of these meals we really like and make regularly even when we have plenty. We are just able to have a wider variety in our diet.

Without further ado, here are our cheapest recipes/meals.

PASTA & CABBAGE – serves 4 for just a bit over $2 at full price so 50 cents a serving
Cook and drain a package of mini noodles up (we likes stars best and can get for 39 cents in the ethnic aisle)
Fry up one package coleslaw blend – shredded cabbage and carrots ($1 on sale, $1.50 regular price) in ½ stick of butter. (25 cents I never pay more than $2 for a pound of butter and freeze when I get great deals) You can make this even cheaper using a 79 cent package of margarine but I don’t use it.
Add the noodles and plenty of salt & pepper and you have probably the cheapest meal I know how to make.

TUNA MAC– serves 4-6 Under $3 and if you add corn muffins or marked down rolls you are feeding 6 people for under $4 so about 75 cents a serving.
1 package smallish pasta- shells, elbows, whatever (usually 50 cents to a dollar)
1 can tuna, drained (69 cents)
Sweet pickles ½ small jar, chopped and a splash of the juice (the jar costs a dollar, so 50 cents worth)
Mayo enough to moisten a couple big spoonfuls maybe 50 cents worth or make your own for even less.
Salt & pepper
Cook and drain pasta, rinse in cold water
Add in tuna and pickles
Mix a splash of the pickle juice into some of the mayo- I use a couple of big spoonfuls, maybe a half a cup and dump it on the noodles. Be generous with the salt and pepper and mix it all together. You can eat right away but it is better if it sits for an hour or so.

BISCUITS & GRAVY- serves 4 for under $3 so less than 75 cents a serving
1 package of the cheapest canned biscuits 8 count is 79 cents for generic (it is cheaper to make your own but I’ll go with this since not everyone has the time or inclination)
Bake according to package directions.
1 lb sausage roll the cheaper ones are always under $1
1/4 cup all-purpose flour maybe 25 cents
2 cups milk at most 50 cents
Salt & pepper

CREAMED CHIPPED BEEF- serves 6 for $3 to $4.50 or 50 to 75 cents a serving depending what you serve it over.
Along the same lines as Biscuits and Gravy you can make SOS, which you can buy the jar but the little packets for 59 cents back in the lunchmeat section. Make a cream gravy which I like to do in the microwave.
Melt 3 Tbsp butter or margarine on high about 60 seconds in large glass measuring cup or bowl (I use an 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup that I love)
Whisk in 3 Tbsp flour, salt and pepper
Microwave on high for 45 seconds
Whisk in 3 cups of milk and microwave for 2 minutes, whisk, microwave for 2 minutes etc til it is a nice thick gravy.
Serve over bread, potatoes, rice, noodles, rolls, etc.

SOUP OVER RICE OR PASTA- serves 6 for about $4 or 67 cents a serving
3 cups rice or 1 package medium noodles, cooked- $1 or less
2 cans chunky style soup- there is always some type on sale for 2/$3 so $3
Super simple for busy days- hearty and filling. Just heat the soup and dump over the rice or pasta. You can also serve on baked potatoes if desired.

BAKED POTATOES W/CHILI & CHEESE serves 6 for $4.28 or less than 75 cents a serving
6 large potatoes baked or nuked, split $1.50 at most, usually cheaper if you buy the bigger bags on sale
2 cans chili with beans 79 cents each so $1.58
Small amount of shredded cheddar 50 cents or less
Small dollops of sour cream, 50 cents or less
Very small amount of diced onion, 20 cents or less
BAKED POTATOES WITH BROCCOLI & CHEESE- serves 6 for $4.50 so 75 cents a serving
6 large potatoes baked or nuked, split again $1.50 at most
3 boxes frozen broccoli with low-fat cheese sauce $1 a box so $3 for all (I get either Kroger or Green Giant when Kroger has the 10 for $10 sale and stock up.

BEANIE WEENIE serves 6 Way less than $3 even being generous so 50 cents a serving, less than $4 or 67 cents a serving if you add jiffy corn muffins or some other cheap bread or rolls
3 cans pork and beans 59 cents a can (not on sale- Showboat brand)
Squirt of ketchup
Squirt of mustard
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
Small handful brown sugar
¼ diced onion
1 package hot dogs, sliced 79 cents usual not sale price Bar S brand
Mix everything together and put in casserole bake 350 for 45 minutes or nuke for 10.

SPAGHETTI & GARLIC ROLLS serves 8 for $4 so 50 cents a serving
1 pk thin spaghetti $1 or less
2 cans Hunts spaghetti sauce- we like to mix 2, 4 cheese and mushroom or chunky vegetable $1 each (can find sometimes for 79 cents a can stock up then) so $2
1 package hot dog or hamburger buns 8 count bought on sale 79 cents
1/4 stick butter 25 cents or margarine is even cheaper
Sprinkle garlic powder less than 20 cents

Make pasta according to package directions.
Heat the sauce with tiny pinch of sugar.
Mix together.
While pasta is cooking split the buns and butter each half sprinkle with garlic powder or salt
Broil on low for 4 minutes or until lightly browned.

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