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Healthy Budget Meals ; How to feed a family (With Recipes)

Updated on August 20, 2013

This is geared toward those really struggling financially with food and food costs, or those who REALLY need to save money with food costs. This is not about saving money on cooking with expensive imported ingredients or all organic food. These tips are for people and families who are having a hard time making ends meet. The prices and much of the information is in regards to the state of California, but there are ideas here that will work all over.

There are many things you can do to offset food related spending and really cut your bills while having 3 meals a day. This will require some regular prep work, and cooking. There is no way around it.
I will list some ways to cut cooking time as well for those working individuals who don't have a lot of time to cook. This still will require some prep work.

Have a budget

This is how you will determine how much you are allowed to spend on your meals for the week or month. This is what you will plan your meals around, and what you are able to spend. If you have less to spend on food that month, than your recipes will be will have to be with cheaper ingredients and created in a way to make them go farther. YOU MUST have a budget

Plan your meals before you go shopping.

Planning your meals in advance will help you to plan to buy only what you're going to use, and prevent any excuse for impulse shopping because you're missing an ingredient. You must plan your meals before shopping.

Say goodbye to most prepacked snack food, and prepared anything. Learn to make your own.

Prepackaged individual serving snacks, which are usually junk anyway, are also expensive when you judge them by their fill you up ability, and nutritional value. Try to cut these purchases as much as possible. Often, a few hours of cooking for one day a week or month will allow you to create a variety of snacks that are not only healthier, but cheaper. Some examples are chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, Home made fruit roll ups, fruit salad cups, chicken nuggets, popcorn, veggie platters, salsa, hummus and granola bars. Do not buy any pre-made meals or mixed unless it is in your budget which you planned. Buy, wash and chop your own salad, not the ready made packages. Chop your own veggies and fruit. Not only will the be fresher, but they will cost less. Grate your own cheese and keep in zip lock bag.

Cook around these staples: Rice, Beans, Potatoes, Pasta

These are filling, nutritious, and inexpensive. (Yes, un-fried potatoes are nutritious) Of course, potatoes are high glycemic, but this is not really an issue if you are in good health and not required to watch your glycemic response.
Buy the dried versions of rice and beans. Sure, it takes a bit longer to prepare, but the idea is to save money, and you get more for your money. You have to soak the beans overnight, and the rice takes an hour to cook, but with planning, you can make it work. For really busy people, you can still get canned if your pressed for time, you can pre-cook, or you can use a slow cooker (Throw it all in the cooker in the morning, have nutritious delicious meal ready by the time you get home)


For WIC:

If you have school aged children, you may qualify for free or reduced pay lunches (NSLP). For more information see:

QUICK FACT: 1 large potato contains 7.5 grams of protein, 1600 MG of potassium, 44 mg of calcium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, iron, and trace amount of other minerals.

What about you

What is your weekly food budget

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How to save

Have a fully stocked spice rack; Use it

Instead of buying expensive and sodium laden sauces to douse your food in, get a spice rack and use it. It will open your mind and palate to an array of flavors for traditionally "boring" food like vegetables, at a fraction of the cost. Google spice mixes, buy spices in bulk, and make your own!

Check out the frozen section

If you're going to serve it cooked, by all means, buy frozen. If you're going to serve it frozen (Smoothie) by all means, buy it frozen. It is cheap, lasts longer, and still nutrient rich. You can usually get out of season produce for cheaper in the frozen section. If you ever overbuy and veggies or fruit, freeze them! Without fruit you can make smoothies and fruit leathers, veggies can be tossed into dishes quickly if you ever need some.

Do not underestimate the love everybody has for SALADS!!

Who can turn down a well made delicious salad? If made correctly (It is not difficult)
salads are filling, inexpensive, and PACKED with nutrients, while exceptionally low on calories.

Whole wheat pasta is a winner as well

Filling, and loved by almost everybody. It has so much potential aside from spaghetti and marinara sauce. In fact, you don't even have to use marinara sauce. You can make a delicious cold pasta salad the whole family will love for lunch or dinner served with a salad, while also providing those complex carbs that are known to keep you fuller and satisfied longer. If you like marinara sauce, mix it up a bit and make a casserole. The possibilities are endless.

How to save

Make VEGGIES the star of the show

Meat is great and all, but I think we can all agree now that less is better for our health in the long run. That is wonderful news considering it is also much more expensive and less filling than vegetables. I'm in no way telling you to not eat meat, but I am telling you to make dishes where there are more veggies than meat in them on a regular basis, while meat centered meals should be only a couple days a week, or when there is a nice meat sale. If you cut down on your meat based meals, you will cut down on your food bill significantly.

Coupon clip and look at the circulars.

If you can, check out the deals from the circulars at more than one store. This way, your dollar goes the farthest and you can feed your family for another day. Coupons are a great idea, and some stores even have a way to save by choosing what you're going to buy online and loading the coupon onto your rewards card number (Vons).
Make sure if your store has a rewards card that you have one, because many stores do not allow you the discounts without one. Be wary however, that fruits and veggies rarely have coupons, but meats and cheeses, and bread often do. You will have to calculate and compare the weight and quantities of the food to be sure it is the best price.
Be sure you scope out your local discount stores. You can often get frozen veggies, frozen chicken and meat, bread, tortillas, flour, beans, rice, milk, peanut butter, nutella, and other staples for much cheaper at the 99 cent store and Walmart than the regular grocery stores.

Eat at home, not out
Cooking food at home really is cheaper than eating out. It is also better for you. You know this. Put it into play. Make your kids lunches, and bring yours to work with you.
If you are really struggling with putting food on the table, you may qualify for WIC, or SNAP. For more information please see


For WIC:

If you have school aged children, you may qualify for free or reduced pay lunches (NSLP). For more information see:

QUICK FACT: 1 large potato contains 7.5 grams of protein, 1600 MG of potassium, 44 mg of calcium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, iron, and trace amount of other minerals.

What about you

Do you more often eat out, or at home

See results


If you are a busy person and don't have much time to cook, you can set aside on day a week to do all of or most of your meal preparation, you will make the rest of the weeks cooking exceptionally easier. All you will have to do is throw everything in the pan!

Since you should already have all of your meals planned....

Chop and dice all of your veggies for the week, freeze any you do not use.
(Except potatoes as they will turn brown if cut to early, and they are not freezable unless they are cooked)

Want to freeze potatoes? Cut em up, and boil them for a few minutes, or shred and boil etc. Whatever your doing to them, just cook them. Then dry and freeze them. (If you don't dry them, you will have a big potato ice cube )Then you have quick potatoes you can cook for a bit more for mashed potatoes, or to toss in the pan for quick breakfast potatoes, or add to your dishes.

Wash and prepare all of your fruit and veggie cups and plates, and place in single serve reusable Tupperware containers if you have them, or small plastic bags if you don't. Use these for snacks, and place them in lunches. (Preparing fresh food in an appetizing and fun to eat way will encourage youngsters and teenagers alike to try them!)

Salad lettuce can be washed, dried and cut (Nutrition tip: Romain Lettuce or Spinach has more nutrients than Iceberg)

A large bag of chopped onions, and a separate bag of chopped bellpeppers put in the freezer has been tremendously helpful in many instances

Prepare any marinades

Soak any beans that need to be soaked. (Why?)

If the recipe will allow for early put together before cooking, like pasta salads and casseroles, then prepare these as well

Mix your veggies for any vegetable dishes you may be making, so you can just toss them all into the pot when you are ready.

Cook your snacks you have chosen for the week as well as your dessert

You can freeze pancakes. Make enough for the week, let them cool, and freeze them in a ziplock bag. When they are ready to be eaten, just pop em in the microwave.

Make breakfast easier than ever and make a huge batch of your breakfast sandwiches, enough for the week, and freeze em!

Make your own bread!

Recipes: Breakfasts

Apple & Peanut Butter
Egg scramble & Toast
Home made muffin
Fruit and Yogurt
Your premade frozen breakfast sandwiches


Classic Sandwich
Fruit cups/Apple & peanut butter, cut orange
Celery & Peanut butter
Pasta Salad
Sandwich wrap
Veggie platter with dip (Ranch or blue cheese dressing, Seasoned sour cream dip, hummus)
Fruit platter with dip (Nutella, yogurt)

Hot: (Either you can insulate long enough to keep warm, or you have access to microwave)
Any soup or stew will work in a thermos, or bowl if you have access to a microwave
Pasta Casseroles double points for using leftovers!
Panini sandwiches for a twist

*How to make Panini sandwiches without a Panini press*

Recipes: Dinners

Soups and Stews
Black bean and Sausage soup
Bean soup
Crockpot Chicken Soup

Other Dinners
Red beans and rice (Use brown rice for extra nutrition and satisfying hunger longer)
Chickpea/veggie curry (Or chicken if you want to spend a bit more)
Veggie Stir Fry
Vietnam Fried Rice
Almost Lasagna
Chicken and Vegetable Primavera
Slow cooker Turkey Chili
Oatmeal crusted chicken tenders (These chicken tenders freeze well for heating up again later! Cut tenders into nuggets if you prefer)

Freezing any leftovers you can or eating them for lunch the next day, or even purposely making a bigger batch for this reason will save you even more money. Do this as often as you can.


Rice ideas
Steamed or baked broccoli/ OR vegetables
Potato casserole Use a ranch seasoning packet instead of dressing if it is cheaper
Sauteed green beans and mushrooms

Corn Bread

How often do you cook your meals or bring your meals from home?

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Home made fruit leather
Healthy oatmeal cookie Add chocolate chips, or dried fruit for extra
Turkey or beef jerkey
Granola bars
Home made dried Fruit (Use dehydrator or oven)
Peanut butter and bread
Fruit or veggie salad

If you want a food dehydrator, this one will work. You don't need to worry about temperature thermometers unless you need it for raw food "cooking" (Because it


Water. It is cheap, good for you and easily attainable. If you are able, a filter for tap water is highly recommended.


Home made Iced Tea
Home made Iced Tea Lemonade

Fruit Spritzers
You can make your own citrus and fruit spritzers with some fruit juice and some spritzer water, Fruit juice already contains sugar, so this does not need any,

Agua De Frescas : These mexican drinks are refreshing, easy to make, and delicious
Strawberry Freshwater
Tamarind Freshwater
Watermelon Freshwater

Have you ever tried Aqua De Frescas?

See results


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