5 Budget-Friendly Things To Eat When You’re Broke

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budget friendly meals when broke

Rich or poor, you need to eat to survive. A tight budget makes meal planning a challenge but it’s something that you can overcome. Financial hardships happen to people at any age: students subsisting on a meager allowance, employees living paycheck to paycheck, and retirees stretching a small pension.

Many have gone through these situations and still managed to eat well. You, too, can whip up tasty meals in the kitchen with a bit of creativity, discipline, and positivity.

Below are 5 budget-friendly things to eat when you’re broke. When looking for recipe ideas, a good place to start is Pinterest.

1. Burrito Bowls

You don’t have to go to a fancy Mexican restaurant just to eat a burrito bowl. Raid your fridge to look for leftover meats and veggies. Virtually anything will do but ideal items include onions, bell peppers, frozen corn, tomatoes, herbs, and cheese. Cut and heat these up along with any meats you found. Cook rice and beans, then place the mixture on top for a hearty meal. You can even make enough that will last you a couple of days. Leftovers never tasted so good.

2. Simple Pasta Dishes

budget friendly meals broke pasta

Dried pasta is cheap and versatile. Even novices in the kitchen can whip up something nice in just a few minutes. Boil the noodles and remove the water. Add butter, garlic, and chopped herbs for a basic meal. Toss in leftover meats if you have them. You can also create a red sauce using chopped tomatoes, canned tomato paste, ketchup, pepper, salt, sugar, and spices. If you would like to make white sauce, then mix milk, cream, flour, and butter for the base. Top everything with whatever cheese you have lying around.

3. Anything Rice

Rice is the staple food of many cultures, particularly in Asia. Billions of people eat rice several times a day every day because it’s cheap and filling, It can easily be paired with a wide variety of dishes for added flavor. You can still feel satiated even with small cuts of meat as long as you add a lot of rice and seasonings. You could also cook simple rice-based dishes like Spanish rice, risotto, congee, or arroz caldo. They require few ingredients but they taste absolutely delicious.

4. Sandwiches

budget friendly meals brokes sandwich

If you need to eat meals on the go, then sandwiches are hard to beat. You can get bread relatively cheap. Slather it with your favorite spreads. Popular options include peanut butter and jelly, cheese spreads, mayonnaise, and hazelnut spreads. You could use ground meat patties or ham slices with tomato and cheese for lunch.

For breakfast and brunch options, you could also make toasts using bread and butter or add in an egg for a tasty egg sandwich. Then enjoy with coffee or tea.

5. Soups

budget friendly meals broke soup

The great thing about soups is that you can make a big batch without spending a lot. You can get cans of soup quite cheaply. Just add water, heat things up, and you’re good to go. You can also use broth cubes, milk, meat bones, and other flavor enhancers. Leftover veggies can be chopped and added for more nutrients. You can also check out in-season vegetables as they tend to be cheap and plentiful. Read different recipes online for ideas.

Where to Shop for Food When Low on Funds

1. Farmers Market

Most places have a local farmer’s market. It’s where you can get the freshest produce directly from the farm owners. By cutting out the middle men, they are able to offer the goods at low prices. You might even see items selling at a discount because they have a few spots and other blemishes that make them unappealing. Most of the time, these blemishes don’t affect the taste of the food as they are purely superficial. Some supermarkets may also have similar offers. Grab these deals when you find them.

2. Local Food Bank

Local food banks exist to help people dealing with financial hardships. They rely on donations so they can sell items at very low prices. They might even give away certain things if they have an oversupply thanks to generous donors. Just keep in mind that these probably have limited selections due to their constrained resources. Be thankful that they can continue to serve the underprivileged. Try to give back once you’ve become financially secure again.

3. Dollar Store / 99 Cents Store

Most dollar stores sell a mix of household items and personal effects but they sometimes carry food as well. Check out these shops near you. Perhaps you can discover fantastic finds such as canned soups, condiments, canned vegetables, coffee, and snacks at low prices. Look for the expiration date to make sure that you aren’t buying something that is already spoiled. Grocery stores may also sell items for sale at prices similar to what dollar stores offer.

Want More Money Saving Tips?


Ibotta is one of my favorite free apps that I use regularly. It pays you cash on items you buy at the grocery store like fruits, milk, bread, toothpaste and even over-the-counter medicines.

Before your next grocery store run, sign up for Ibotta so you can save money and get some cash back! When you join, you’ll receive a $10 welcome bonus.

The $5 Meal Plan

To cut down on your food spending habits, I highly recommend the $5 Meal Plan. I signed up for the $5 Meal Plan so I can eat more at home especially during the busy weeks. 

For just $5 a month, you’ll get weekly budget meal plans with the exact shopping list you need to create the meals. Each meal cost about $2 per person or $5 per family. I thought this would be great to help you save money and time.

When you sign up through my link, you’ll receive a 14-day free trial.

Ready To Make These Budget Friendly Meals?

Finding budget friendly foods get easier as you become aware of more discount shops and low-cost recipes. Don’t be afraid to try things you never had. You might be surprised with how well you and your family can eat without spending a fortune.

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