Planning meals for less than $50 a month isn’t too hard, but it does take some work. The key to doing this successfully is to plan meals around several basic meals that feature in season produce and items that are on sale. Of course, having a well-stocked pantry can be helpful, but it is possible to eat healthy and cheaply without one.
To plan your budget, break your fifty dollars into four categories; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. While your preferences on how to eat might vary, one of the simplest ways to start is to budget $5 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, $20 for dinner, and $10 for snacks.
Because of the low budget, make breakfast as simple as possible. By purchasing store brands or combining sales and coupons, it is possible to buy a month’s worth of cereal for $5 or less. It’s also possible to buy a few loaves of whole grain bread to make toast. If you can find a good sale, it is possible to supplement the bread with eggs.
A $15 monthly budget for lunch gives a person about fifty cents per day for each meal. While this doesn’t leave a lot of room for luxury food, it can provide a lot of well-balanced meals. Lunch meat sandwiches can be made fairly cheaply as long as a person can choose cheap meats. Avoid roast beef, and choose ham, bologna, or turkey instead. When sandwiches get tiresome, chop up the meat and add it to a bed of lettuce. Add in season vegetables to make a salad. If you prefer small lunches, try eating a snack lunch of crackers, a small amount of cheese and meat, and vegetables or fruit.
Dinners have the most money budgeted, so it makes sense to make this meal as hearty as possible. Start by finding recipes for soups and chilies that can be eaten as a meal. Make these meals in bulk, and freeze several portions for other nights. By selecting foods that are in season and/or on sale, it is possible to make these meals fairly cheaply and spread the cost out over several nights.
Soup has traditionally been a cheap meal and it is very healthy, so it should be easy to find several recipes that are cheap and easy to make. Beyond this, look for meals that incorporate ingredients that are on sale and use ingredients you may already have on hand from other meals. Tacos or enchiladas, for example, can be made using whatever meat is on sale, and a variety of vegetables can be used in this meal.
Finally, save a small portion of the food budget for snacks and beverages. While drinking water is the cheapest options, many people like to splurge a little and purchase something to flavor their water with. In addition to drink mixes, try sliced or squeezed fruit. Fruit is also great to use as a snack. If you want something a little less healthy, look for snack foods that are on sale, and limit your portion sizes.