How to Eat for a Week With Little Money

Pasta makes a family-friendly, meat-free meal.
Pasta makes a family-friendly, meat-free meal. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If money is extremely tight, but you have kids to feed, don't lose heart. You can feed your family for a week on much less money than you might think. Plan before you purchase and make wise nutritional choices. Here is a sample of a bare-bones weekly plan. These suggestions may not be your first choice, but they work if times are tough. You may already have some of the ingredients. If not, look for the best price or a coupon to help you keep costs down.

Plan breakfasts for a week. Put a dozen eggs on your grocery list. They are affordable and high in protein. Eggs can be used for dinners too, so add them to your cart. If you have a large family, buy two dozen. Also, add a loaf or two of the cheapest bread you can find, whole wheat if possible. Add generic jelly to your shopping list if you don't already have some at home. The bread and jelly can be used for lunches as well as breakfast.

Buy the largest canister of store-brand instant oatmeal. Flavor it with things you already have on hand: sugar, vanilla, molasses and brown sugar all taste great. Oakmeal is nutritious ultra frugal. Also, buy a box of store-brand cold cereal. Pick something the kids like.

You now have three things you can serve for breakfast: oatmeal, cold cereal, or eggs and toast. The oatmeal will probably last for several weeks, so you won't need to buy it every week.

Buy a few extra ingredients for lunches for a week. Since you already have bread in the cart, add the store-brand American cheese slices in the largest size. Pick up a large box of the cheapest macaroni on the shelf. Now you can make macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

Plan dinners for the week. Start with ingredients for spaghetti. Buy a jar of the cheapest sauce and a box of generic spaghetti. Serve with buttered bread sprinkled with garlic powder and toasted in the oven. Next, make a pot of potato soup. Buy a 10-pound bag of potatoes and use them for this soup and other meals as well. Make the soup with potatoes, milk, onions and butter. Serve with corn bread. Buy a corn bread mix you can make with water.

Fish sticks and fries are usually popular with the kids. Make a chicken stir-fry with chicken tenders and frozen vegetables and soy sauce. Serve with minute rice. A bag of frozen chicken tenders should last for at least two meals.

Combine broccoli, cheese and rice into a soup. Buy frozen broccoli. You have the rice and cheese already. Go back to your frozen chicken tenders; serve them with baked potatoes and frozen corn.

Everyone loves pizza: You'll need a jar of pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and a pack of pepperoni. Buy frozen pizza dough.

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