Broke? Try This One-Week Meal Plan for a $20 Budget


Peeples is a mortgage inspector small business owner with over 10 years experience in real estate and housing.

Learn how to plan meals for an entire week for under $20.

Learn how to plan meals for an entire week for under $20.

No Point in Starving Even if You Are Broke!

So you have $20 to feed yourself with for the next week? Head to your local Walmart or discount store and go shopping. All the prices I have listed were at either Walmart or my local meat shop that quite often has drumsticks on sale anywhere from $0.99 to $1.99 per pound. Usually I get about four or five for a pound. You can always shred up one to use it in spaghetti or a salad.

There is never an excuse to starve yourself. Even when you're broke, you need to eat. While my meal plan may not use high-quality products, they will keep you full when you don't have many other options. I promote growing your own veggies if possible, that way you know you have good-quality produce always available.

For the record, this is not going to be the best eating out there. This is a cheap noodles, beans, and rice type plan. Also, I live in the Southeast of the United States, so my costs are going to be cheaper than they are in say, California. The items I listed would be bought on sale or at a Dollar Tree. The Dollar Tree in my area sells everything except the meats I listed. The meats I would buy on sale at these prices at Bi-Lo, FoodLion, Publix, or Ingles.

Are there healthier options? I'm sure there are, but I'm a born and raised Southern chick. These are the types of things I actually like eating. Beans, rice, some Shepard's pie, or some fried chicken make meals complete. So this meal plan is based on things I would actually eat to get me as close to 2000 calories a day. Also I am assuming you have some odds and ends at your home to eat. Most of us who cook on a regular basis, no matter poor or not, have things like butter, drinks (sweet tea in the south), seasonings, dressings, and such. So I write this assuming you can easily find ways to make these things taste a bit better or add a few more calories. Like adding jelly to toast.

So use whatever you have on hand to make things better and visit the cheapest stores as possible.

Shopping List for $20 Broke-Person Meal Plan

  • 1 loaf of bread, $1
  • 1 (16-slice) pack cheese, $1
  • 1 (16-oz) pack spaghetti noodles, $1
  • 1 head Iceberg lettuce, $1
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, $1
  • 1 lb ground beef, $3
  • 1/4 lb thin-sliced deli ham, $2
  • 1 box mashed potato flakes, $1
  • 1 lb chicken drumsticks, $2
  • 1 jar peanut butter, $1
  • 1 dozen eggs, $2
  • 1 lb bagged rice, $1
  • 1 lb bagged beans, $1
  • 1/2 gallon milk, $2

Cheap One-Week Meal Plan

Day 1

  • 2 slices toast with 1 tablespoon peanut butter on each slice with 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. This leaves you 22 slices of bread, 10 eggs, and 7 cups of milk.
  • 2 grilled cheese sandwiches. This leaves you 18,
  • Spaghetti. Only cook half the noodles, use half the sauce, and freeze the unused portion for later in the week. This will be basic spaghetti sauce and noodles. The sauce at Walmart can be picked out in many different flavors. So you can get the meat kind to add a little extra flavor. Also using any spices you may already have can improve flavor. Always remember this is a broke diet. Half the box should be enough for one main meal and a second small meal so keep the leftovers. Half the box with half the sauce is right at 1200 calories.

Day 2

  • 2 eggs with 1 cup of milk and 1 slice of peanut butter toast. This leaves you with 8 eggs, 6 cups of milk, and 16 slices of bread.
  • Leftover spaghetti
  • 1/4 lb hamburger with a slice of tomato and lettuce on 2 toasted pieces of bread. If you like you can add in some extra calories by serving the boxed mashed potatoes. Leaves most of lettuce and tomato and 3/4 lb Hamburger.

Day 3

  • 2 cheese toasts and 1 cup of milk. This leaves you 12 slices of bread and 5 cups of milk.
  • Ham and cheese sandwich
  • Mini shepherd's pie. For the mini shepherd's pie just boil your potato and brown your ground beef with a little onion. Place beef in a muffin pan, lay a half slice of cheese over the beef mixture, spoon prepared mashed potatoes on top of the cheese. There should be leftovers considering there will be about 1500 calories in this dish.

Day 4

  • Cheese omelet with a small amount of the ham and tomato, 1 cup of milk. This leaves 5 eggs and 4 cups of milk.
  • 2 peanut butter sandwiches. 8 slices left.
  • 2 drumsticks (add bbq sauce if you have some), rice, and salad. You should have some leftover tomato. Boil 1 egg to dice over it, toast a piece of bread to make croutons add whatever dressing you have in the fridge. Leaves you 4 eggs.

Day 5

  • 2 eggs, 2 toasts with peanut butter, 1 cup of milk. Leaves 5 slices bread, 2 eggs, 3 cups of milk.
  • Leftover shepherd's pie. You should have 2 of these left from a Day 3.
  • 2 drumsticks (add Italian dressing or breadcrumbs if you have them or just fry after dredging in some flour and seasoning), rice, and a side salad

Day 6

  • 2 peanut butter toasts and 1 cup of milk. Leaves 3 slices of bread and 2 cups of milk.
  • Rice and beans (about 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • Spaghetti

Day 7

Leftover day! Whatever you have left from the week use today, there should be more than enough. You should have leftover spaghetti, 2 cups of milk, 3 slices of bread, some lettuce, beans, rice, and 2 eggs. If it were me, I would do a grilled cheese for breakfast with some milk, some leftover spaghetti for lunch, and I would make some fried rice for dinner.






















Fin from Barstow on November 26, 2017:

okay some good ideas there...yes it can be done....

you won't go gourmet but you will eat. ham sandwiches are delicious....but $2 is a good price

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on January 22, 2017:

I am in the south east and can still get "cheese" slices for $1 at dollar tree, and kraft slices for $1.89 at my local grocery store. This is about surviving, not eating tasty.

Joy on January 22, 2017:

Even if 4 years ago cheese was just a dollar I can garentee the cheese was oil and wasn't actual real cheese. I remember in my early twenties trying to make it and learning how cheap cheese is usually not real or even tasty cheese.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 11, 2015:

clever ideas, no wonder teens are good at budgets, better than moms

IonistLit on November 19, 2013:

You made some decent factors there. I looked on the internet for the difficulty and found most people will associate with your website.


Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 24, 2012:

Up, Useful, and Interesting. Thanks for the good suggestions. In Kalamazoo, I shop and find good deals at Meijers and Dollar Tree. Meijers usually has clearance shelves for fresh produce and for bread. That is how I sometimes can afford sweet red peppers and whole grain artisan bread. I slice and freeze the bread to keep it fresh. I buy healthy fresh produce in season. Cabbage is often a good deal. I bought a head recently for $.25 a pound. Meijers brand bite-size shredded wheat and pretzels from Dollar Tree eaten together are my substitute for Triscuits. Staples include brown rice, a variety of beans, oatmeal or steel cut oats, etc. Soup, such as tomato, on sale is a handy start for making "leftovers soup".

Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on November 11, 2012:

This sounds like it could be healthy meals but in my area it would cost a lot more than $20 -- maybe around $30. Great hub, thank you for sharing, voted up.

Brandon E Newman from North Texas on May 03, 2012:

Really- excellent meal plan for a pygmy marmoset- I would just take that $20, and buy some beerz, then hit the dollar menu at some drive-thru. I wrote one like this a few years ago on squidoo squidoo.com/howtosurviveuntilpayday

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on May 02, 2012:

Excellent Hub and information. As you said, this is a almost broke approach, but we could all learn an awful ot about how to make do with less. And I agree with some of the other comments, with just a couple of very inexpensive additions,this could be a reasonably balanced and nutritious diet. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on April 30, 2012:

In this day and age people need to know how to survive on less. Great info here and love the plug for growing your own food. Swap the meat for beans and tofu and this would work for a vegetarian as well.

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on April 24, 2012:

I agree Sid rice and beans can be a great and can be stretched by mixing in with multiple different type meals! Thanks for visiting!

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on April 22, 2012:

If you have time for a bit more cooking, you can buy raw rice and beans for a very low price (Goya brand is good for beans) and cook them up and refrigerate for a few days. This will add fiber and a good balance of carbohydrates with some protein to your diet.

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on April 18, 2012:

Thanks. Clear Value and family pantry brands both have peanut butter and sliced cheese for $1. The store Dollar General is big here in South Eastern USA. Unsure if it is everywhere. They have tons of food items for $1. So does Walmart and Dollar tree. The peanut butter is only the 18 oz size though so really not good for a family. I should add these are generic brands. Thanks for visiting my hub!

Heidi from Gulf Coast, USA on April 17, 2012:

Where in the world do you find a jar of peanut butter for $1, and what is its weight? The smallest jars of peanut butter sell for $3 here -- I always buy larger bc of my family size. Also, cheese for $1? Wow. Please share the market & brand names. :)

Interesting hub, and you are right -- when availing oneself to sales & coupons, anyone should be able to eat! Voted up & interesting.

CapstoneTrends from Outside Boston, Massachusetts, USA on April 16, 2012:

very cool!

Peeples (author) from South Carolina on April 13, 2012:

Thanks for visiting!

SuffolkJason from Ipswich, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom on April 13, 2012:

Useful hub. I also think that diet would be healthy. There are very few added sugars.

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