Rock-Bottom Meal Plan for Those Weeks When Money Is Tight

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Things are tough in America and they’re likely to get tougher. Many of us are forced to reallocate our money from one necessity to another and often, the thing that suffers first is our diets. If times are tight, you might find this article helpful.

It’s a meal plan created from recipes and strategies in my new paperback, What to Eat When You’re Broke. We released this in PDF format recently and readers loved it. We got so many requests to put it in hard copy format that we couldn’t say no! So, it’s available on Amazon now as a paperback.

The recipes in this article are all included in the book, which I’m selling just above cost. I hope you enjoy it, and please, give us a review on Amazon to help more people to see it when they’re searching for a way to feed their family during difficult times.

Flat Broke Meal Plan

This meal plan is per person per week. Multiply it by the number of people in your family. I’ve tried to make it as varied as possible, and there are a few things included that are not the cheapest on the market. They’ve been added for nutrient value.

Obviously, if there are allergies or foods that your family won’t eat, feel free to substitute.

I shouldn’t need to say this, but it’s impossible to write one meal plan that will work for every single reader. If you are vegan, gluten-free, diabetic, suffer from food allergies, eat keto, or strictly follow a particular nutritional lifestyle, this may not work for you.

With that being said, let’s look at our menu! Stars * indicate that the full recipe is available in the book and you might also have your own recipes for these items.


Day 1: Oatmeal with brown sugar and banana

Day 2: Cornbread* with butter and jam

Day 3: Leftover cornbread, sliced and heated with a butter and brown sugar drizzle

Day 4: Peanut butter and crackers, apple

Day 5: Rice cooked with milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon

Day 6: Biscuits and gravy*

Day 7: Scrambled eggs and toast OR homemade pancakes with fruit


Day 1: PB&J, apple

Day 2: Pasta salad with tuna* (or canned chicken)

Day 3: Bean burrito

Day 4: Tomato soup* and crackers

Day 5: Cold peanut butter noodles with shredded cabbage*

Day 6: Tortilla pizzas*

Day 7: Leftovers


Day 1: Beef and vegetable soup* with frybread*

Day 2: Baked beans with mac and cheese (canned and boxed easy meal for busy days)

Day 3: Fried Gnocchi* with canned marinara sauce

Day 4: Crockpot white chicken chili*

Day 5: Pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese (add ground meat if it’s in the budget)

Day 6: Homemade pizza*

Day 7: Ham (slice an inexpensive canned ham or picnic ham and use the leftover for split pea soup), scalloped potatoes*, Christmas beans*

Six quick tips

Here are some ideas to make the meals more filling if this menu leaves you feeling hungry.

1.) Just add bread – whether it’s toast from grocery-store sliced bread, fresh homemade bread, frybread, or cornbread, adding some bread for sopping up sauces and broth makes meals feel more satisfying.

2.) Add more carbs – rice or pasta makes everything go a bit further.

3.) Add beans for more protein. When you’re making soup or chili, add one more can of beans to the pot.

4.) Baked potatoes make everything better. Looking for a cheap, filling, and tasty side? You can’t beat a baked potato. Top it with butter, sour cream or plain yogurt, and chopped green onion. Eating the skin adds fiber and other nutrients to your diet.

5.) Add cheap fruit. Bananas and bagged apples tend to be the least expensive fruit. Add one serving per meal to make it more filling and finish off on a sweeter note.

6.) Focus most of your money on one meal per day. If you fill up on less expensive items for breakfast and lunch, you can swing a better and more filling dinner.

This menu assumes that you probably have the basics in your kitchen, such as seasonings, spices, sugar, and cooking oil. In fact, you probably have much more than that. When I’ve reverted to this menu I am generally able to get very minimal groceries because I have plenty of canned goods and dry goods in my pantry. This just provides me with a great way to use them!

Don’t miss out on the paperback!

Help us make it to the top of the charts on Amazon by grabbing your copy this weekend! Your purchase means so much to me!

As well, please do me a favor and leave a quick review if you feel I’ve earned five stars. Doing this ensures that people searching for a book like this are able to find mine and it makes an enormous difference in sales.

I really believe that this book can help you (or someone you know who needs it) to get through hard times. In it, I share many of the strategies that allowed me to keep my children fed when I was a flat-broke single mama. Those times were difficult indeed, but my girls actually look back on that food and consider it their comfort food today.

Most of the recipes require little in the way of hands-on time, because, in addition to being broke, I was also working full time, then chauffeuring my daughters to various places after I got off work.  I had a household to manage alone, laundry to do, and other requirements on my time so spending hours in the kitchen simply wasn’t an option. If you have more time, you can cut even more money off these recipes by making each component from scratch.

Here’s the table of contents. I tried to make the book a lot of fun!

  • Introduction
  • Frugalicious Philosophies
  • Flat Broke Grocery Shopping
  • Basic Batches
  • Ultimate Frugal Formulas
  • Cheap Eats
  • Pantry Raid
  • What a Crock
  • Food with a Future
  • Love Your Leftovers
  • Seasonal Savings
  • Lazy ala Daisy
  • About the Author

I hope you enjoy What to Eat When You’re Broke! Thank you so very much for your support.

What about you?

What do you eat when money is tight? Share your tastiest and most frugal meal ideas in the comments!

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • When all 5 of my kids were living at home, I used to make a bunch of different casseroles with rice, pasta or potatoes as the base to help make them more filling.

    • Me too. Fed our four and thier friends, since they were here anyway. They cleaned the house 10 minutes before they ate, if they wanted to eat, the friends. Or, the door beckoned. My kids always helped. Often, chopped veggies, noodles, a piece of chicken or two, two $1 breads at Walmart as garlic bread. 4-8 kids and me.

    • I rem. cassaroles (oldest of four), moms made lots cassaroles, larger families back then too. We don’t eat them now. Another low cost meal is veg. soup (no meat) with cornbread.

  • Honestly, we usually don’t need to eat 3 meals a day as adults (unless diabetic, etc.), you’d be surprised. Bulk up at ‘dinch’ (lunch/dinner) & do a light snack later. That’ll save some money.

    • I agree with you completely! Plus who has this much food or money to purchase all of it when you’re tight on money (article topic)??

      • The food listed in the article are among the best bang for your buck at the grocery store. Oatmeal is cheap. Beans are cheap. Cornmeal/flour are cheap. Sausage and ham are the highest cost but are not that expensive when it comes to meat protein that can be used sparingly and what is not used can be canned or frozen. Canned soups can be used as a base with leftover dribs and drabs of veggies/meat protein/beans.

  • Personally, I think that there are even cheaper ways of feeding your family. First, have a garden and second learn about foraging foods. We have saved a lot of money at our house by adding these skills to our lifestyle.

  • I used to have rice, brown sugar, cinnamon, and milk as listed in the article all the time. Been years now, but it tastes great. Thanks for reminding me of that one, I’ll definitely be adding that back as a staple!

  • We’ve had baked potatoes as our main dish for dinner. I pick the largest out of the bag and bake. They’re good with some canned chili or baked beans spooned over top or broccoli and cheese. We then have a simple salad as our side dish. Just some chopped tomato and lettuce, sometimes with onion or cucumbers.

  • If you learn how to cook over rising steam you can benefit in many ways — including in disaster circumstances where you can’t take advantage of your food shopping and recipe planning skills because you may lack electric power, natural gas, or whatever. If you have different foods that cook best with different times over your steam you can stack multiple steaming pots with the shortest time requirement on top so it can be removed first while leaving the sequenced stack underneath fpr similar removal when your timer clock tells you. Farberware makes some good stackable steel steamer pots so I haven’t needed to check out other brands.

    Some non-obvious benefits include the ability to re-heat leftovers toward the top of such a stack while steaming fresh goodies underneath that likely would need more steaming time. Another benefit is the ability to get most of your cooking done over just one burner (whether electric, gas, propane, butane, etc., or even a portable camping cooker such as duel fuel Coleman or GasOne burners — or a campfire) no matter if it’s at home or out traveling. If you choose your bottom steel pot that strongly attracts a magnet on its bottom it can work well even over an induction burner (as long as that bottom pot’s diameter falls within the allowable sizes that your induction burner’s user manual specifies.

    I see no obstacle if you paint that bottom pot with flat black paint (often used for barbeque equipment) … you could even do your steam cooking with solar heat if you can rig your sufficiently large solar reflector or Fresnel lense to point to that bottom steam-generating pot — without compromising all the other ways of heating as previously described here

    Another location benefit is heating your bottom pot of water over even a campfire during travel or a long term power outage.While not obvious … such steaming can let you cook over mystery water where unknown contamination may be a risk. In such cases any contamination that matters can boil off in the first few minutes before it’s safe to add your stack of food pots above the bottom water pot.

    I’ve even drilled steaming holes in smaller Farberware pots so I could stack smaller diameter pots from them.

    The last time I made gingerbread (from freshly ground ginger) I steamed it instead of oven baking it. Absolutely delicious. No need to drag along an oven while traveling or camping. I even thin-slice sweet potatoes to make steaming them very efficient — and delicious.

    Another benefit is that steaming does not leave the mess to clean up like frying or other scorching methods do.


  • Great ideas. Can I ask, what the asterisks are for? I could find no reference for them at the end of the article. Thanks Daisy! I love your writing!

    • Oh sorry – I put that at the beginning of the list. It’s for recipes included in the book! 🙂 And thank you for the kind words!

  • Fried potatoes with sliced hot dogs was a staple my kids loved when times were tight. I still make it today!

  • Thanks Daisy, looking forward to getting the hard copy, although Amazon is showing it’s out of stock ATM (at least from here in Aus). The cost of living and inflation is making most folk cut back on the groceries and cook smarter. I do a lot of big batch slow cooker meals, then portion them out with rice or pasta – nice!! One of my favourite books is ‘The Hard Times Handbook’ by Keith and Irene Smith. Tons of great tips and hacks, and some fantastic recipes. Well worth a look ;-D

  • I love to “invent” in the kitchen using things on-hand. One thing that I’m happy turned out so well is a quick an inexpensive Tetrazini.
    1 pkg of Ramen soup noodles
    1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
    Left over Chicken or Turkey
    Onion, celery, and grated cheese.

    Boil the ramen noodles until tender and strain.
    (reserve the broth packet for future use)
    Chop onion and celery and add to noodles along with 1/2 of the cream of mushroom soup and Turkey or Chicken. Add 1 cup of grated cheese, and stir until all ingredients are equally distributed in baking dish.
    Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

    I have gotten 4 meals for less than $5 expense, and still have half the cream of mushroom soup and the broth packet leftover, which presumably is another 2 meals. There’s no reason that frugal meals can’t taste good.

  • I’ll take 5 or 6 packs of Chicken Ramen, add a can of chicken, chopped up or shredded, a can of sliced or diced carrots (corn works too), some chopped onion, and set it all boiling.
    Once a full rolling boil is achieved, I’ll add 3 to 4 beaten eggs drizzled in a little at a time.
    When it’s done, there’s a very filling Egg Drop Noodle Soup the Grandkids love, and it feeds the extra mouth or two that seems to show up at supportive. Since we raise our own eggs, the biggest cost is the canned chicken meat.
    I reckon you could do the same with pork or beef Ramen, I’ve not tried it as the kiddos love the chicken flavor, so we stick with it.

  • Not sure if this tip will work, but…coffee and intermittent fasting! Saves me a lot.
    I used to eat breakfast religiously, but I feel better and save money if I have a black coffee instead. It staves off hunger for many hours.

  • I can vaguely recall the late 70s, early 80s: Casseroles!
    Hated them as a kid, but I can now appreciate them, especially the tuna casserole.

    The wife and I do weekly menu planning. Keeps us focused at the grocery store and less of the “So . . . what do you want for dinner?”

  • I’m going to buy this book for my 2 brothers, Dumb & Dumber (which one is which?? It’s interchangeable.) Both are Veterans. One is currently unemployed and the other is a disabled Vet (Gulf War I & II, Bosnia, Afghanistan) unable to work and gets VA Benefits. They live together because if live by themselves it would be dangerous for themselves and others around them. For them, money is ALWAYS tight. The disabled Vet thinks cooking is calling Pizza Hut and he looks like Jabba The Hut. The other can cook without burning the apartment down……most of the time.

  • Rather than make specific lunch items, most of the time we have dinner leftovers for the next day. As for cheap fruit, an apple costs over twice the price of a single banana. If you can find grapes on sale (like below a dollar a pound) they’re a great option. We buy bananas and a fruit that’s on sale (and a few apples) each week.

    There are cheap ways to “punch up” your evening meal. A jalapeño costs about 10 cents and can be used to add a kick to two dinners (it complements the mean, it doesn’t define it). Ditto with garlic. A head of garlic costs about a quarter.

  • I find that making a plan ahead of time saves money. If I am planning a bean recipe I will cook them in the crock pot the day before from dried beans. You can buy a lb of dried beans for the same as 1 can of beans usually. And make recipes for a month. You can precook and then freeze the beans too of you get tired of those.
    Making things from scratch is almost always cheaper too.
    Look at the cost though, because bread isn’t always cheaper. Depends on what you have in the house too.

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