No Food? What to Eat When You're Broke!
What to Eat When You're Hungry and Broke
Okay, so most of us who have been really poor have hit the moment when there's nothing to eat. Well, here are some ideas for how to get full.
I know when you have only $3 left to your name, and you are hungry, it can be very easy to pull up to that dollar menu and get a quick fix. That is fine as long as you don't have electricity or running water. If you do, however, have bills to pay and mouths to feed, think in terms of the long run, not a quick fix, and go to the grocery store.
Most Filling Foods
When looking for the cheapest foods, you will also want to consider the foods that will fill you up the most. Foods high in satiety, or the feeling of fullness after a meal, are the ones you want to focus in on. Fortunately, many of the cheap foods that you can buy have high levels of satiety, such as potatoes and beans.
Another thing to consider is the protein content of the food. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, meaning you can feel full eating less of a high-protein food.
Foods High in Protein:
- Greek Yogurt (especially 0% fat)
- Lean Meat
- Cottage Cheese
According to the US Department of Agriculture's annual hunger report, more than 17 million American households don’t have enough food for an active, healthy life.
Grocery Stores Are Cheaper Than Drive-Thrus
Yes, it's true, you can get a cheap meal at McDonalds, but it's sometimes cheaper and always healthier to cook yourself.
And most grocery stores sell good ole meat, right? What's better than a good steak or a nice hamburger? (Good luck finding a cheap vegetarian meal at McDonald's.) If you are just feeding yourself or you and one other person, then go to the meat market. They will cut or weigh out exactly how much you want. If ground beef is on sale for $2.99 a pound, get 1/2 a pound and grab some $1 buns. Or you can buy a $1 pack of hot dogs and a $1 pack of buns along with a cheap can of chili. There are so many cheap options at the grocery store that will feed you for longer than that tiny burger at the drive through would. Remember these guidelines:
- Always look at the house brand, which is usually cheaper.
- Compare the unit price to see if buying in bulk is cheaper.
- Watch for items that are on sale!
Free Stuff at the Grocery Store
If you live near a Whole Foods Market you need to make a trip in there. Not to buy food (they are notoriously overpriced) but because they have enough samples to fill anyone. Take several tasting tours around the store if you need to. Most grocery stores offer free cookies near the bakery. If you happen to have children, make a snack time trip to every grocery store around your town. If you have an Ingles in your area, they have free popcorn for kids at the movie department.
Do you only eat healthy food? Good for you. Bags of carrots, kiwis, potatoes, and other fruits and veggies are affordable. A bag of dried beans can feed a family for days.
Below, you'll find a shopping list of cheap foods. Not all of us only eat perfectly healthy food, so I have included many options, including some healthy ones, on this list.
I've also included some cheap meal ideas that are great to use for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
35 Cheap Foods to Eat When You're Broke
- Bread (full loaf under $2 in most places)
- Sliced cheese (not Kraft)
- Noodles (5 packs $1 Dollar Tree)
- Rice ($1 or less for a bag in many places)
- Vienna sausages
- Peanut butter
- Beans or lentils
- Pork 'n' beans
- Canned chili
- Carrots (great with ranch dressing)
- Cucumbers (great with Italian dressing: $1 at Dollar Tree)
- Potatoes (sweet or regular)
- Frozen vegetables
- Eggs (mmmm protein)
- Canned salmon (add an egg and some bread crumbs to make cheap salmon patty burgers)
- Yogurt (3 for $1 at my local Walmart)
- Spaghetti (a 16 oz. box of noodles and $2 can of sauce is enough to feed a family)
- Onions (add flavor)
- Garlic (add flavor)
- Tomatoes (better price if you buy local)
- Protein bars
- Cereal ($1 at Dollar Tree)
- Pecans (in season, you can find trees that drop these in public places, meaning free!)
Cheapest Foods to Live on
Here are some meal ideas that are cheap, healthy, and filling. Many of these meals consist of foods I already listed above. If you really want to cut down on the cost of food, try buying wholesale or in bulk. You can check around your local area and see if there are any wholesale grocery stores or stores that sell things in bulk. Making your own meals with this in mind will cut down costs.
Cheap Breakfast: Oatmeal With Banana
This is a breakfast staple for a reason: oatmeal has high fiber content, and it is one of the most filling foods out there. Try to avoid instant oatmeal and get your own oats. Adding a banana adds some extra nutritional value as well.
Cheap Lunch: PB&J Sandwich
Another classic that is both cheap and filling. Considering you can get whole grain bread for relatively cheap, this is a great lunch option, particularly if you are packing lunches for yourself and your family. The high fiber content of the bread and the protein from the peanut butter make for a winning combination.
Cheap Dinner: Rice and Beans With Eggs or Lean Meat
With rice and beans as the foundation, you can add some lean protein on top for a super filling meal. You can also utilize some spices as well to make the whole thing a bit tastier. With the high fiber and protein content of the meal, you can make some hearty servings for cheap and still have plenty of leftovers.
8 Cheap and Healthy Meals for When You're Broke
- Lentil Soup: Buy a big bag of lentils and slow cook them, adding in various veggies and spices. The cooked lentils are very filling and you can make enough to last you several days.
- Chili: Get a bag of beans, soak them for a couple of days, and then make your own chili. Add in some cheap ground beef and veggies along with some spices for a tasty meal.
- Mac and Cheese: An old classic that never disappoints. Grab a bunch of pasta and a bunch of cheese. I suggest adding some spices to the mix as well just to open the flavor up a bit.
- Breakfast Burrito: Get some cheap tortillas, scramble some eggs, cook some beans, and throw some cheese in and you'll have a tasty burrito that will fill you up.
- Baked Potato With Cheese and Veggies: Cook a potato, cut it open, and throw some cheese and cooked vegetables in it. Broccoli and cauliflower work quite well here but you can try some more exotic veggies if you want.
- Ramen With Egg: Instead of feeling sad eating some cheap instant ramen, throw a cooked egg and some spices on top. The egg will make you more full and help add some flavor along with whatever type of spice you want to put over all of it.
- Grilled Cheese: While it may seem simple, it takes some skill to get everything just right. I suggest using a firmer bread and turning the stove temperature down on the stove. Throw in some cheese and some veggies and you'll have a tasty meal ready to go in no time. Adding in tomatoes or jalapenos is a good idea if you want to change things up.
- Bagel With Cheese and Eggs: Toast the bagel and then slap on some scrambled eggs with cheese. The crunchiness of the bagel works well with the smooth texture of the eggs and cheese.
I Need Food but I Don't Have Any Money, What Are My Options?
If you're struggling to make ends meet and you don't have any funds (or very limited), there are a couple of options out there for you.
I am an avid couponer! I can walk in a store and buy $150 worth of food for $35-$50! Get into couponing! It is so worth the time and effort. Stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons to get the best deals. If you have a printer at home, you can print all types of coupons to get yourself started. We feed a family of 5 for $50 a week. It takes work, but it can be done!
Going to a Food Bank
Your next option is the food bank. Usually, every town has at least one. You can dial 211 from any phone and ask them where the local food bank is. I know, I know, no one wants to stand in a line for two hours to get a bunch of rice and beans. But if you are broke and hungry, suck it up! Sometimes you luck up and get something good. Anything free is better than nothing.
Also you can go to multiple food banks. This way you may be able to get more to last you and you won't have to go again too soon. This also gives you a chance to check out multiple food banks to figure out which ones give out the best food.
Is Dumpster Diving a Healthy Option?
Dumpster diving, also known as Freeganism, has been gaining popularity. In fact, it's not just for poor people anymore. Many people go out late at night to check the dumpsters behind their favorite stores to see what there is. Stores throw away all kinds of edible, delicious, fresh, healthy food and other usable items. Yes, it might be embarrassing if someone catches you, but it's better than starving or stealing.
While the video above may be jarring for some of you, the amount of food that is wasted in the US is quite staggering. According to the USDA, the amount of food waste is around 30-40% of the total food supply in the country. This is due to the amount of commercial food that is thrown out due to blemishes and imperfections at retail outlets. The vast majority of the food that these retailers throw out is perfectly safe to eat, and most of it does not get donated to a local food bank, it merely gets tossed in the dumpster at the end of the day.
Is It Okay to Steal Food If You're Hungry?
Refrain from stealing food: the fact that you were hungry won't reduce your jail time if you are caught. Stores have gotten much smarter these days. They are putting theft sensors in meat packs and all sorts of other containers now. Jail will feed you well though, so if you really are desperate, I guess that could be a good idea for you.
Do you know of other ways to get cheap food? Comment and let us know!
Would You Go to a Food Bank?
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Peeples