I don't know about you but as a mother I never want my children to know if our family is facing a financial struggle - it's not for them to worry about. Eating nothing but pancakes or PB&J can be a red flag for a lot of kids and I don't want them to ever wonder if they will go to bed hungry. My mother was a wonder at this. Looking back now I realize that she stretched the grocery budget pretty far and I never knew. I went to bed with a full tummy every night. My husband on the other hand was raised on pancakes, pancakes and then every once in awhile... more pancakes.
I have decided to create a series of posts specifically tailored to emergency fund menus. I'll post these menus every once in awhile and hopefully post enough weeks with enough variety that you can feed you family on a tiny grocery budget but still eat a wide range of meals. The sole purpose of these menus are to be used when funds are abnormally tight. I do not believe that these weekly meals will be of adequate nutrition to eat on a regular basis so please only use when there is a special circumstance such as a job loss or unexpected bill that leaves the grocery budget with very little funds. Or feel free to take a few meals from the menu to have on a regular basis. My family in particular eats super cheap meals like these a few times a week. The week long menu is below and you can find the recipes at the bottom of the post. Feel free to rearrange the menu as you see fit!
Please make sure that you do not over use any one item. The shopping list is only for the minimum ingredients that you will need to make 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 dinners with some snacks in between.
Now this shopping list DOES NOT include a very few KEY items that you'll need to make the week long menu work. The following shopping list is for around 90% of what you'll need but the 10% that should already be on hand are critical. I have not included these items because they are non-perishable food items that I always encourage families to keep stored in their pantry for an emergency situation. These are items such as flour, yeast and seasonings. You can find the complete list of pantry staples here. Please understand that if you do not have these key items stashed in your pantry for an emergency that there is no way to make this weekly menu work without spending more than $45.00. On the other hand, if you have some of the shopping list items already stashed in your pantry then you can feed your family of four and only spend about $26.00!
Shopping List (Prices are from Walmart May 2014, Region prices may vary):
1 lb ground beef $3.18
16 oz pkg hot dogs $1.00
18 ct eggs $2.88
16 oz spaghetti noodles $1.00
16 oz elbow macaroni $1.00
28 oz can Hunts spaghetti sauce $1.00
16 ct american cheese slices $1.25
28 oz can maple baked beans $1.48
peanut butter $1.98
2 - 16 oz pkg dried red beans $2.16 ($1.08 each)
2 - 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes $2.48 ($1.24 each)
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese $2.18
8 oz boxed Jiffy cornbread mix $.44
6 oz can tomato paste $.44
Gallon milk $3.48 (make sure at least 9 cups is reserved for cooking)
Bagged frozen green beans $.88
2 cans refried beans $1.28 ($.64 each)
10 lb bag russet potatoes $4.47
4 sticks margarine $.92
2 cans pork & beans $1.28 ($.64 each)
Pancake syrup $1.39
16 oz carrots $.86
Bunch celery $1.08
32 oz bag popcorn kernels $1.88
$40.95 + $3.83 est tax = $44.78
Items that should already be on hand in pantry:
4 lb bag granulated sugar
Two 5 lb bags of all-purpose flour
Jar of yeast (unopened)
Canola Oil (unopened)
Baking Powder (unopened)
Vanilla Extract (unopened)
Condiments: BBQ Sauce, Mustard, Ketchup, Tabasco Sauce, Honey,
Seasonings: Salt & Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Parsley Flakes, Chili Powder, Ground Cinnamon, Italian Seasoning
Recipes that you'll need:
NOTE: A lot of these recipes require prep-work ahead of time. Make sure that all beans needed that are dried are well soaked ahead of time and cooked/left ready in the fridge for the week. Make sure that you make the loaves of bread in advance around your busy schedule. It might be a good idea to make all needed tortillas for the week in large batches and store in the refrigerator so you are not taking precious time making them before each meal. A few of the meals can also be made ahead of time and reheated if necessary.
Frugal Egg-free Pancakes
Items needed: 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 cups milk, 2 tbsp water, 3 tbsp canola oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Egg & Bean Breakfast Burritos
Items needed: 4 eggs, 2 tbsp milk, 1/2 can rotel, 1 cup red beans (prepared), 2 slices american cheese, 4 Frugal Flour Tortillas
Scramble eggs with milk. Add in rotel and red beans. Season to taste with salt/pepper and heat through. Fill tortillas with egg mixture and top with a half slice of american cheese. Roll up and enjoy!
Toast w/Peanut Butter
Items needed: 8 slices of bread, smears of peanut butter
Slice a up a loaf of Basic White Bread and either brown it on the stove top or pop into the toaster. Spread on the peanut butter and maybe a tsp of honey if you've got it in your pantry! Great with warm tea or a small glass of milk.
Items needed: 12 slices of Basic White Bread, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup flour, 3 eggs, pinch salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp sugar, pancake syrup
Wisk milk with flour until smooth. Then add eggs, pinch of salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sugar. Mix until well combined. Dip each bread slice until well saturated then cook on a medium-high skillet on both sides until well browned. Serve immediately with syrup!
ALTERNATIVE BREAKFAST ITEM: If you have a packet or two of white gravy mix in your pantry then you can add gravy over toast to give a little more variety! Yum!
Grilled Cheese with Celery and Peanut Butter
Items needed: 8 slices bread, 4 slices american cheese, 2 tbsp margarine or butter, celery, peanut butter.
Slice up some Basic White Bread and lightly spread with margarine or butter. Warm a skillet over medium-high heat and place one slice buttered side down. Place a single slice of american cheese on the bread and then top the sandwich with the second slice with butter side up. Flip once bottom is browned and cook until top side is also browned. Clean and cut up a celery stalk and spread with peanut butter. Serve with hot grilled cheese sandwich!
Items needed: Potatoes, margarine or butter, salt and pepper
Run desired number of russet potatoes under water to clean and then dry. Use a fork to poke holes throughout the potato. Rub potato skin with canola oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the potato. You can also bake potatoes in the microwave. If you use the microwave simply poke with a fork, brush the skins with canola oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. DO NOT WRAP IN ALUMINUM FOIL if you are cooking in the microwave. Cook for 3-5 minutes then turn over and poke with a fork to test tenderness. Cook another 3 minutes or until the potato is soft in the middle when poked. Cut open and top with margarine or butter and season as desired.
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Items needed: 8 slices bread, peanut butter, carrots.
Slice up your Basic White Bread and spread on the peanut butter! Add some honey or jelly if you have some in your pantry. Clean and peel some carrots for a crunchy, fresh side dish!
Cheap Cheesy Mac
Items needed: 2 cups elbow macaroni, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tbsp margarine or butter, 4 slices of american cheese, seasonings.
Cook up some green beans for a great side to this comforting lunch dish!
Red Bean Chili w/Cornbread cakes
Items needed: 8 cups cooked red beans, 2 cans crushed tomatoes, seasonings, corn bread mix, 1 egg, milk.
Simmer crushed tomatoes with red beans and season with chili powder and other desired seasonings to taste. Prepare corn bread as box mix suggests. You can either make cornbread muffins or cook them like you would pancakes (we call these corncakes!). Makes 8 one cup servings... reserve up to 4 cups for leftovers for lunch another day.
Homemade Cheese Pizza
Items needed: 1 cup warm water, 2.25 tsp yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp canola oil, 3 cups flour, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, tomato paste, seasonings, 4 oz water, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce.
Use the link above. Substitute the bread flour for all-purpose and make the pizza sauce as directed using 1/8 tsp garlic powder instead of garlic clove and omitting Worcestershire sauce. Top the sauced pizza dough with mozzarella cheese and bake at 425 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until the crust edges are golden brown.
BBQ Beef & Beans
Items needed: 28 oz can Maple baked beans, 8 oz ground beef, 2 tbsp bbq sauce, 3 tsp mustard, potatoes, seasonings, 1 tbsp canola oil. Note: You will only use 8 oz beef, not 12 oz as recipe originally states.
Use link above. Take 3-4 good sized russet potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Season as desired and roast at 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are bite tender. Serve on the side or use the BBQ Beef & Beans as a topping!
Potato & Egg Casserole
Items needed: 3 good sized potatoes, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, seasonings, 1 tbsp canola oil, 2 slices american cheese.
Serve with a side of green beans.
Spaghetti w/ meat sauce
Items needed: 1 lb spaghetti, 1 can Hunts pasta sauce, 8 oz (1/2 lb) ground beef, seasonings.
Cook pasta as directed. Brown ground beef in hot skillet and add pasta sauce. Heat through seasoning as desired. Serve with Basic White Bread and butter or margarine.
Pork & Beans with Hot Dogs
Items needed: 2 can pork & beans, 16 oz package hot dogs, ketchup, potatoes.
Boil hot dogs until heated all the way through. Slice into bite size pieces. Add sliced hot dogs and pork & beans to pot and heat over medium, season as desired. Dice 3-4 potatoes and season as desired. Roast potatoes at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes or saute in pan with 1 tbsp canola oil. Serve with ketchup!
Bean and Cheese Burritos w/ Homemade Tortilla Chips
Items needed: 12 Frugal Flour Tortillas, 2 cans refried beans, 2 slices american cheese, canola oil, seasonings.
Use 8 tortillas for the chips. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut each tortilla into 8 triangles. Brush each triangle with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until chips are browned. Prepare refried beans in pot over medium heat seasoning as desired. Cooked until heated through. Add beans to each of the 4 remaining tortillas and top with half slice of american cheese on each and roll up. Serve with homemade chips and any leftover beans on the side!
Items needed: 1/2 cup popcorn, 3 tbsp canola oil, margarine or butter, salt
On your stove top, place a pot with oil and popcorn. Cover pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Shake the pot side to side keeping kernels in constant motion. Cook for about 3 minutes until the kernels quit popping constantly. Drizzle with melted margarine and sprinkle desired amount of salt.
Celery with Peanut Butter
Items needed: Celery stalks, peanut butter.
Make sure that you have reserved enough of each ingredient for lunches and then eat the remaining as a snack once or twice during the week.