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10 Great Tasting Meals for Five Dollars a Day

October 17th, 2008

cheap-meal-ideas.jpgWith limited incomes and recent increases in food prices, many of us are faced with the challenge of coming up with ideas for meals that are relatively inexpensive but still taste good enough for us enjoy eating them. This article by Spring Stillman lists ten such ideas, many of which can be adapted to your own tastes by adding or substituting various ingredients.

Last year I had managed to develop a quick meal similar to the “Egg Fried Rice” one listed here. I wound up using cubed Spam (yes, the actual edible kind, not the email variety) as the meat and added a spicy fried rice seasoning package (can be purchased for less than a dollar in most areas) for flavoring along with the other ingredients mentioned by the author. The final product was quite tasty, and after adding up the cost, I arrived at a figure between four and five dollars. Considering the fact that the quantity of food was enough to feed four people, it easily ranks as one of my least expensive meal ideas. Eventually I’m planning to post this one as a full-fledged recipe along with an appropriate picture after we have the chance to make it again.


How to live on five dollars a day? How many different kinds of meals can you make on a five dollar budget?

If you wish to add variety to your meal plan, check out this list of suggested dishes which can be easily prepared with for less than five dollars. Based on these ideas, you can create your own menus and choose your own ingredients. Each of these meals feeds at least one to two people at a cost of no more than five dollars per person.

1. Egg Fried Rice

This is a favorite home style quick meal. Cook scrambled eggs, add pieces of ham, chicken or other meats of your choice, and lightly fry with cooled steamed rice. For greens, toss in chopped scallion or bell pepper toward the end of the cooking process. Add salt, pepper, and the one-dish dinner is ready. Serve warm with hot tea as beverage.

2. Spaghetti with Easy Sauce

Cook spaghetti (or fettuccine, angel hair, or ziti) in boiling water till done, but noodles should remain slightly firm. Drain. Open a jar of your favorite pasta sauce (tomato based red sauce or cream based white sauce) and heat in sauce pan. Add olive oil, or ground meat as desired. Pour sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.

3. Hot Chili

Fry half a pound of ground meat (beef or turkey) in pan; add cooked beans, salt, hot chili powder and tomato sauce. Add chopped fresh onion. Simmer till ready. Served with hot bread, this meal warms your body and your soul. Serve with cornbread or sourdough bread.

4. Burritos

Make a simple tossed salad with your favorite ingredients. Cut up some left over chicken or freshly prepared ham. Bring out the salsa jar. Get some shredded cheese. Spread a layer of heated refried beans (canned version) on the corn or flour pancake wrap. Mix whatever you like and wrap it up in a soft pancake. Burrito! You are ready to go!

5. Mu Shu Pork

In shallow corn oil, lightly fry some bean sprouts and shredded cabbage; add bamboo shoots if you have them. Add pieces of cooked shredded pork. Mix. Warm the flour based tortillas pancakes and spread a small amount of Chinese Hoisin sauce (Hoisin sauce can be omitted if you don’t have it) at the center. Add the meat-vegetable mix, wrap in the form of Mu Shu Pork rolls. Serve warm.

6. Beef Noodle Soup

This is a classic and nutritious soup noodle dish that pleases the young and old alike. Make a big pot of beef stew with fresh beef, boiling water, salt, pepper, soy sauce, a little brown sugar. Simmer. Make sure there is plenty of broth in the soup. Add spicy hot pepper as an optional ingredient if you wish. Cook your favorite pasta in plain water till done but still firm. Now you can make your own bowl of Beef Noodle Soup by mixing the noodles in the soup with stewed beef. Serve with a spinach side dish or salad. The economy of this dish is in its scale. One big pot of stewed beef soup that costs under ten dollars can serve two people for two days.

7. Turkey Legs

Certain supermarkets sell fresh turkey wings and legs at bargain prices. These quality meat parts are tender to eat when baked or cooked in proper seasoning. With the money saved you can add a side dish of fried leeks. Serve with baked sweet potatoes.

8. Ma Po Bean Curd

A spicy hot dish that goes well with steamed rice. Cook a three quarter pound of ground pork. Add salt, spicy hot pepper sauce to simmer a few minutes. Mix in cubes of bean curd and cook till done. Serve with a side vegetable dish.

9. Cashew Chicken

Cut half a pound of chicken breast meat into slices. Coat with small amount of cornstarch (add a little water to the cornstarch first). Prepare fresh pea pods or broccoli and quickly cook in boiling water for a couple minutes. Cook chicken in shallow oil till done. Mix in vegetable pieces. Add small amount of salt to taste. Add cashews on top of the dish.

10. Meat Loaf

In a large bowl, mix two pounds of fresh ground beef with chopped onion, green pepper, and half a cup of raw oatmeal. Add seasoning and mix in 16 ounces of tomato sauce. Blend till sauce is evenly distributed. Bake covered in 325-350 degree oven for an hour. Serve with hot bread or steamed rice. This meat loaf will serve at least two people.

Have fun and enjoy your delicious dinners for Five Dollars a Day!



4 Responses to “10 Great Tasting Meals for Five Dollars a Day”

  1. comment number 1 by: frugalfergie

    Great list. I’m always looking to save money on groceries, and you’ve given me some new meal ideas!

  2. comment number 2 by: Jordan

    May I suggest mirepoix for your spaghetti and even turkey sausage. Use any leftovers for a spaghetti omelet.

    One of each: carrot, onion, celery dice them all up so you have enough to add to the chili or beef noodle soup too.

  3. comment number 3 by: Kelly

    There are some great ideas here. I especially like the “cashew chicken” — for some reason I had never considered making that myself before… maybe I’ll give it a try!

  4. comment number 4 by: suechefg

    great article thanks alot

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