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A Week's Worth of Food for Less Than $50

Sassy is Cherokee Indian, born and raised on the reservation. College educated. Professional. Currently urbanized.

Paycheck to Paycheck

Like many others these days, I live paycheck to paycheck. I find myself scraping up pennies at the beginning of the month, when my rent is due. Although I don't live alone, my paycheck is the only one coming in.

My son just turned 15, so it is just he and I. My rent is paid online, and unfortunately, one can only make one payment per household at the online site. For someone like me, who needs to make two separate payments, that proves to be a bigger issue than it seems. It sounds easy as you are sitting there thinking, "why not just save half of your check from the second payday of the month and add it to the first of the next month and voila rent is paid." Wrong. It seems there is always something comes up. Namely Mr. Power, Ms. Cable, and Mr. and Mrs. Cell Phone. Or Miss School Clothes or Mister Baseball League Fees. All other bills eat that check up so there is usually nothing to save. Or if your family is like mine, something always comes up. Always.

The one plus going on for me at the moment is that I am driving an automobile that is paid off, so thankfully, no car note. But there is still a minor insurance payment and of course the biggie, gasoline. This vehicle is an SUV, and it burns the gas leaving me with yet another expense although it isn't as high as a loan payment itself. But it's close.

Making it Work for Two

Now, enough of my whining. Let me explain how amid all of these expenses, I manage to somehow spend money on, you know, food. We still have to eat. And he is, you know, 15. And growing. If it were just me, this would be much simpler because I know what I am up against and what exactly my money goes toward. He isn't fully aware. I try not to burden him with anything as he has the rest of his life to struggle. It is difficult, but I do the best I can, without breaking it down that we cannot do certain things or go out to eat because we simply cannot afford to. And away we go!

Shopping for the Week

For the purposes of this article, I am going to start our week off on Friday, because it was my last work day, I would stop for groceries on the way home, and I had to get exactly what I needed to last us until the next payday, which would be the following Friday. I had $80.00 in cash to my name and $15.00 on my debit card. Facing a weekend at home with a growing teenager is not fun realizing you have to feed you both all weekend. No school meals to help (which he doesn't eat anyway) but still, you know that the option is available.

Having been a single mother for some time, this is not unfamiliar territory to me. So I had some general idea of what I was going to buy at the store. These days, I have two stores which I frequent. One is Aldi and the other is the Dollar Tree. Both of which I love, mostly for two main reasons.

  1. Price
  2. Familiarity

Considering that one is called the Dollar Tree, I am sure anyone can figure out why I like the prices, but the less than obvious choice Aldi, has genuinely become my best friend. I now carry a quarter in my purse at all times, and if like a fool I have spent it, I can be found digging under the seats in the old SUV. No shame in my game, I get down and dirty. Lesser known brands, for lower cost. Great stuff there folks. If you don't have one nearby, I hate it for you. Fresh meats, dairy, WINE. Need I say more.

Day 1: Friday

Spread a little butter on the edge to crisp it up!

Spread a little butter on the edge to crisp it up!

Friday Dinner

Every kid loves pizza right? And hey, it's Friday. Let's have a treat. The bonus is, with these little crusts, the kiddos can make their own. Hee hee. We keep it simple, pepperoni and cheese.


  • Pepperoni 6 oz. $2.19
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese 4 cups $4.99

Dollar Tree

  • Pizza Crusts (2) packs of two 7" pizza crusts $2.00
  • Pizza Sauce 8 oz. $1.00

Basically, a Friday night dinner for $10.18. Technically, less because all of the cheese isn't used up on this meal and can be reserved for future meals, as well as the sauce. I am not a huge fan of pizza sauce.

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Day 2: Saturday

First full day of the weekend; first full day of providing three meals for two. At my Aldi stop on Friday, I picked up many pantry and dairy staples that I used over many meals. Therefore, they will be listed numerous times, but their cost will only be listed once and added to the tally then.

Great quality eggs, for a super low price!

Great quality eggs, for a super low price!

Saturday Breakfast

Breakfast is typically one of my favorite meals to prepare although it requires some effort to maintain a variety. My son absolutely loves french toast. I am not that crazy about it, but that morning I was not feeling like cooking all that much either. So I scrolled Pinterest and checked out a few ideas. I decided on a french toast-ish bake using many things I had on hand already.

On hand items

  • Leftover hot dog and hamburger buns
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Imitation Vanilla
  • Syrup


  • Eggs (4 of 12 @$.69) $.23
  • Milk (splash of gallon @$1.79) $.11

Breakfast for fractions of $2.48. But, I am not teaching math here. I am teaching how to not starve to death living paycheck to paycheck and be able to eat more than ramen.


Saturday Lunch

We went with an old standby but mixed it up a little with the bread. A couple of mini-subs for him and a mini-philly for me. I did have a bag of frozen peppers and onions, a box of steak-ums, and a couple of slices of provolone on hand already, luckily enough. But he is a pretty basic eater so he like a cold cut sub.

On-hand items

  • Steak-ums
  • peppers and onions
  • provolone


  • Lunchmate for subs—ham and turkey—(1/4 of whole pack @ $4.69) $1.17
  • Club rolls (3 of 8 @ $1.99) $.75

Lunch for 2, for less than $2!




Saturday Dinner

We went fairly light Saturday evening, having sloppy joes and tater tots. I wanted to use the remainder of the hamburger buns as they were on their last legs.

On-hand items

  • Hamburger buns


  • Frozen turkey roll (1/2 of 16oz @$1.89) $.95
  • Frozen beef roll (1/2 of 16oz @$2.99) $1.50
  • Sloppy joe sauce $.79
  • Frozen potato puffs (1/2 bag @$1.65) $.83

Low-key dinner with enough meat and tater tots left over for another meal or snack. As you can tell, eating cheap is not always eating healthy. Adding frozen turkey when I can instead of beef not only lowers cost, it lowers fat. If it were just me, I could bypass the beef altogether, but my son notices, quickly.


Day 3: Sunday

On Sundays, I like to do most of my 'for real' cooking. When my older children were still in the nest, one of my most favorite things to do was to whip up a big ol' southern breakfast from scratch and drag them all out of bed with it. It was the one day and time we were all together, and they were still groggy so they didn't fight it that much, and the bonus was they didn't have time to get ready and run off elsewhere.

Sunday Breakfast

Our typical Sunday breakfast is very, very heavy so we tend to just go with two meals on Sunday. I made biscuits, sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, fried bologna and fried potatoes. Yikes, I know. But, we love it, and my boys all love it.

On hand items

  • Milk (from earlier Aldi list)
  • Butter
  • Sausage roll (half leftover from last weekend)
  • Eggs (from earlier Aldi list, used 4 more)
  • Potatoes (1/4 5lb bag leftover from last weekend)


  • Flour (5lb bag @$2.99) $.19
  • Bologna (4 slices of pack at $.95) $.24

Lots of food, for little cost.


Makes great mac and cheese!

Makes great mac and cheese!

Sunday Dinner

As I said, we have a tendency to have only two meals on Sunday. Breakfast is usually more of a brunch, then we may nibble a chip or two but breakfast sits so heavy on ya, there really isn't much going on and then a big dinner. I had picked up a whole chicken to bake on Friday so we added mashed potatoes, peas, and macaroni and cheese.

On hand items

  • Milk (from earlier Aldi list)
  • Potatoes (1/4 remainder of 5lb bag from last weekend)


  • Whole chicken (3.5 - 4.5 lbs) $5.48
  • Peas, canned $.65
  • Elbows (1/3 of 24oz box @$1.45) $.48
  • Cheese melt (1/4 of 32oz block @$3.69) $.92
  • Stuffing $.79

So we splurged. For a wonderful Sunday dinner. With leftover chicken, elbows and cheese to spare, wink wink.


Day 4: Monday

Hi-ho hi-ho, back to school and work we go. Weekday meals are lighter and less work of course, but most times spending less effort and time can have an adverse effect on the cost. Quick and cheap, or better quality but more time. Pay for what you get. Rush jobs always have an extra fee so keep an extra eye open.

Monday Breakfast

Pressed for time most days, we usually both stick to cereal.

On-hand items

  • Milk (from earlier Aldi list)


  • Cocoa Rice cereal (1/8 of box) $1.39


Two breakfasts for less than $1.39, not too shabby.



Monday Lunch

The boy has lunch at school, when he chooses to eat. I take my lunch to work most days. Today, I made a sandwich out of some breast slices of yesterday's baked chicken and had a simple salad.

On-hand items

  • Whole chicken (from earlier Aldi list)
  • mayo
  • Ranch dressing


  • Bread (2 slices of bag @$.85) $.08
  • Salad mix (1/4 bag @$.99) $.25

A fairly wholesome lunch, and quite tasty, for little. While having salad and bread remaining.


Monday Dinner

I used up the remaining frozen turkey and beef rolls, and whipped up some cheeseburger hamburger helper. Well not that brand, but it was just as tasty!

On-hand items

  • Frozen turkey roll (1/2)
  • Frozen beef roll (1/2)
  • Milk (from earlier Aldi list)


  • Cheeseburger Dinner $.79

Less than a dollar, folks. Can't beat that.


Day 5: Tuesday

Everybody gets sick of leftovers. Myself included. So, it is important to learn different methods to use the cheapest versions of foods; sometimes that involves canned meats. A little of that comes out on this day.

Tuesday Breakfast

Typical cold cereal for breakfast. I will show an alternate cereal just for shifts and giggles.

On-hand items

  • Milk (from earlier Aldi list)


  • Honey puffs cereal (1/8 box) $1.79

Another breakfast, for less than a fraction of total cost.



Tuesday Lunch

Lunch for me at work. I took a frozen entree and a salad.

On-hand items

  • Salad mix (another 1/4 bag, from ealier Aldi list)
  • Ranch dressing


  • Fit & Active chicken alfredo florentine $.99

Lunch for a whopping $.99. You're welcome.


Tuesday Dinner

We were feeling an itch from something Asian. I had a pack of fried rice which nabbed at Aldi on Friday. I sauteed a can of chicken, which I had also grabbed on Friday, and we were set.

On-hand items

  • Soy sauce


  • Fried Rice bag $.79
  • Canned chicken breast pieces (12.5 oz) $1.69

Chicken fried rice on a budget.


Day 6: Wednesday

I know, I know no more leftovers. But, hey that chicken is sitting in the fridge and I hate to waste things. He gets used up today then we can say goodbye to him forever.

Wednesday Breakfast

Cereal, duh. Just kidding, I mixed it up today. Toast, wooo!

On-hand items

  • Bread (2 slices of previous loaf from Aldi list)
  • Peanut butter

No money spent on breakfast this day.

It's cheap.

It's cheap.

Wednesday Lunch

Work lunch again, salad and frozen entree.

On hand items

  • Ranch dressing, although it is less than half
  • Salad mix (next to last 1/4 of bag from earlier Aldi list)


  • Frozen lasagna $.99

We don't need to beat this horse to death. We know the good deal here.



Wednesday Dinner

As much as I cook chicken, one would think it is one of my favorite things under the sun. One would be so wrong. But, hey it is cheap. Still having some of that chicken left on the bones, I chopped it off and went for a quickie version of chicken and dumplings. Worked like a charm!

Chicken and dumplings. The quick and dirty way, using that leftover bird in the fridge and another can of chicken breast pieces. Chop leftover bird, sautee with canned meat. Add broth, bouillon, water and a splash of milk, bring to a boil and you're in business. Just drop in dumpling mix and viola.

On hand items

  • Whole chicken (from previous Aldi list)
  • Flour (from previous Aldi list)
  • Milk (from previous Aldi list)
  • Bouillion


  • Canned chicken breast pieces (12.5 oz) $1.69
  • Chicken broth 2lbs (1/2 box @$1.79) $.90

Tasty, warm gooeyness. Yessir. Use your leftovers people. Every little bit helps. Dinner, boom.


Day 7: Thursday

Almost there. Payday is around the corner and although it isn't like hitting the lottery, to this momma it is a relief to see that oasis looming out there: a reassurance that this week of stretching my dollars is worth it.

Thursday Breakfast

Cereal, schmereal.

On-hand items

  • Milk (previous Aldi gallon)
  • Cereal (previous Aldi score)

No extra money spent on breakfast this morning.

Thursday Lunch

So, my kid ate the remaining salad when he returned home from school yesterday. Wrecked the last bit of salad. Leaving me to invade his stash as well. Noodle city. Of course, I keep the place stocked with miscellaneous goodies he hits as soon as he gets home from school. Bulk noodles are the primary staple.


  • Box of cup o noodles (1 of 6) $1.55

I didn't eat all six boxes, but still looking at $1.55 for lunch isn't bad. My share of that was more like a quarter, but who's counting? Me! That's who.


Thursday Dinner

What's a week without some spaghetti? Horrid. Spaghetti and meatballs.

On-hand items

  • Texas toast with cheese

Dollar Tree

  • Thin spaghetti (24oz) $1.00
  • Hunt's Meat Sauce (24oz) - 2 - $2.00


  • Frozen turkey meatballs $2.39

Spaghetti and meatballs isn't typically a high dollar meal, but this version is not bad either. A ton, with plenty left over for lunch tomorrow for less than six bucks. But of course, I didn't cook all of that! There is plenty left for next week, or whenever, as well.


I Did It

Forcing our dollars to stretch as far as we need them to can be done. We just have to buckle down and get it done. Shop with the foresight of the week coming up, stick to staples that can get you a long way with little and stick to the plan. I had $80 in cash, my total bill was $63.35 before tax. Of that amount, what we actually used, or ate, was $42.26 worth of those groceries. I pocketed the change. When my gas tank got low, I used the debit card and put a little bit in. We scratched and clawed our way through that week, but we made it. I fed us for a whole week on less than $50.00. The bonus was we had some to spare and to fall back on the next week.

I must note that the prices at Aldi vary by location and by week. Knowing what you can get, for what price, and where really and truly can be your best weapon.

© 2016 SJohnson


SJohnson (author) from North Carolina on September 09, 2016:


Kyriaki Chatzi on September 09, 2016:

Great Hub! Very practical and useful! I might stick with it.

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