Food is often the largest flexible expense you probably have, especially if you have kids at home. I struggled for years to keep our food bill down. I searched the weekly sales. I tried to find great deals and checked all the in-store coupons. (I tried and epically failed at clipping coupons…a few times!)
Now our food bill is almost effortlessly low. The method is simple. I wrote about our $1 a pound food rule, but that is just step one to keeping our food bill low.
The second step is that we have an arsenal of meals costing around $1 per person. And even less for breakfast. Sometimes we splurge and make something more expensive, but when we have a whole stack of easy, healthy meals we love that are affordable, keeping our grocery bill low is easy. When your easiest and tastiest meals are also the most affordable, your food bill easily stays low!
If all the meals you love to make, your go-to meals, are expensive to make, you will always struggle with your food bill. No amount of weekly sales and coupons can fully compensate for expensive meals.
Even adding 5 or 10 super affordable meals will give your food budget the room it needs to make space for the more expensive meals.
If 10 or 15 meals a week out of your 21 costs under $1 a person, your food bill will naturally go down. Then, if you happen to find a great sale, you can stock up, and it helps to drop your food bill even lower.
When you sign up for my email list, I have a great resource page with all my best free guides, including this post as a printable menu!
Under $1 Breakfast Ideas
Scrambled Eggs and Tortillas: We toast the corn tortillas in a pan with a bit of salt and seasoning.
Pancakes: (scratch or Krusteze bag from Costco) I mix it 70% mix, 30% uncooked oatmeal, and add some frozen fruit.
Oatmeal: I cook it on the stove for 5 minutes and add some frozen cherries (we pick ourselves) or frozen strawberries.
$1 Lunch Ideas
Black bean salad: 1 can of seasoned black beans, diced tomato, and canned corn with a bit of olive oil and seasoning or Italian dressing.
Mexi Bowl: Mexican Style rice ( I make a big batch in my rice cooker with canned tomatoes, onions, and seasoning), corn, salsa, cheese, and black beans.
Protein Smoothie: We buy protein powder when it goes on sale at Costco. One scoop of that plus a few frozen berries and maybe a banana.
Peanut Butter Wrap: Our go-to lunch when we are traveling. Peanut butter in a flour tortilla.
Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Protein bars: A few times a year, protein bars go on sale at Costco, and we stock up. These are my go-to lunch if I happen to be out and about instead of stopping for fast food.
$1 Dinner Ideas
Roasted Potatoes, Onions, Carrots and Pork Roast
Bean soup: We have a large variety of bean soups from minestrone style, ham, and white bean, or chili.
White bean and Chicken Chili: Seasoned white beans, chicken thighs, canned seasoned tomatoes cooked together in a crockpot. Plus a bit of sour cream and cheese. I love this served with tortilla chips!
Three bean enchiladas: Layer corn tortillas smeared with refried beans, seasoned black beans, and red beans. Add in whatever you have found on sale: canned corn, olives, chopped onions, salsa or enchilada sauce, and some cheese. If we have some affordable ground meat or chicken thighs, we’ll precook that and add 1-2 pounds for 7-10 servings.
Tostadas: Corn tortillas skillet cooked with refried beans and optional toppings: diced tomatoes, cheese, salsa, sour cream, onions, corn, sauteed peppers, zucchini, or ground meat.
Chicken Noodle Soup: I use whole wheat pasta, soup stock, carrots, onions, chicken thighs, and some seasoning.
Mash Potato Bowls: From the bottom – layer up Homemade mashed potatoes, canned corn, Grilled chicken thighs sliced thin, and brown gravy.
Pasta Salad: Whole wheat pasta, olives, tomatoes, chopped onions, Italian dressing, maybe a bit of feta cheese.
Spaghetti: I buy whole wheat pasta in bulk, and we serve it with white or red sauce (or both!) This is our easy go-to after a long day hiking or at the lake.
French Toast: I don’t know why, but I only make this for dinner! We often add a side of eggs.
Asian Noodles: I use romaine noodles and add in some frozen Asian veg or if the kale is going gangbusters in the garden, a big batch of kale. (This is literally the only way I can get my kids to eat kale!)
Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwiches: I don’t know why these taste so good grilled. I add a bit of honey and sometimes sliced banana. It’s amazing.
Grilled Burritos: This is a camping favorite. I use refried beans or black beans and some cheese in jumbo tortillas with salsa and cook them on the grill.
Popcorn: Most Friday nights (our family fun night), I make batch after batch of popcorn in our air popper, and we eat while we play games or watch a movie.
These are most of our go-to meals. Adding a few more low-cost meals that are easy and healthy will keep your food bill low without constant fretting.
Each week we stock up on fresh produce that happens to be on sale that week to add to these dishes. For example, when avocados go on sale for .60 each, I’ll buy 8 and add them to everything! I stick to the $1 rule for fresh produce, and we add about 20-30 lbs of fresh produce a week to our meals.
But none of the dishes are dependent on items that might not be affordable that given week. Instead, they are based on foods that are always affordable or easy to stock up on and store.
What are your easy and affordable go-to meals?