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

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Peeples is a mortgage inspector and small business owner with over ten years of 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.