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meals for when poor is an understatement..?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
We've been hit really hard the last 2 months with some huge unforeseen expenses and are living off of credit cards for a while.

So, I am looking for super cheap meal ideas.

The catch is we live in an area outside of the US where things which are cheap in the US are $$$ here.

For example, 10 eggs here run you about 5-6$, chicken is very hard to find, tofu is priced like fine wine and beans are not cheap... indian/chinese food here cost 4x what it does in the US.

What is inexpensive?
-potatoes, onions, zucchini
-Most any veggie that is canned

Most other things have a similar prices as the states.

SO- My question is-

Any suggestion for me? We need decent meals now but quick/easy prep meals come December when we have a newborn to juggle too..

The final catch is WE HAVE NO FREEZER. So it basically needs to be able to be stored in a pantry or keep for long periods in a refrigerator.
post #2 of 16
What do the locals eat?
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
sausage, butter and potatoes.
post #4 of 16
post #5 of 16
I would make stews using a very small amount of meal, cut into small cubes to help it seem like more, with plenty of potatoes and onions in it.

Goulash over rice or noodles is a tasty meal.

I know that Hungarians make a tasty meal out of egg noodles topped with a mixture of sour cream and cottage cheese, plus a teeny tiny bit of bacon and it's really yummy (mix it all together).

Spaghetti made with canned tomatoes and add in canned peas for extra flavor/vitamins.

You can make a very tasty onion spread out of equal parts butter/cream cheese, chopped white onion, some green onion, paprika and some caraway seed. Add that to bread and very yummy.

Soups, soups and more soups....served with bread, perhaps?
post #6 of 16
I know what you mean about canned being cheaper, it is where we sometimes live too. To make canned veggies more palatable, I add something (green beans, drain, rinse, and fry in a tiny drop of oil or butter and add some crushed garlic cloves; for peas fry a small piece of onion, add peas with liquid and add a tsp of sugar and a tsp of flour- none of this ups the health factor, I just don't like the taste of normal canned veggies). Dh likes canned beets in vinaigrette sauce, or canned asparagus the same way.
Like pps have said, stews etc usually go a long way too, especially if you have those heavier European breads with them. (Don't mean to generalise all European bread but Canadian bread is like eating cake compared!)
I have made stew with a TINY bit of meat cut into tiny pieces, a bit of onion for taste, fried, add 1 can of tomato concentrate or tomatoes or whatever. Cook for a long time. At end of cooking, add some uncooked rice (add water as needed). When rice is cooked, add can of peas with or without liquid. Not my favourite meal, but works out really cheap.
Don't know how long you've been living where you are, but also shop around. I assume they have the store "LIDL" where you are, it's pretty cheap (but avoid their prepared food it's filled with... colours and artificial thing).
Do you have an oven, electric or gas, and do you pay your own electric/gas?
Baking is not even an option for us when in europe due to the price we pay for electric, it's cheaper to buy prepared! If not though you could make baked oatmeal, oatmeal muffins, cookies with oatmeal etc.
post #7 of 16
What about shepherds pie. Brown some hamburger with onion and garlic, add a can of pasta sauce, top that with canned veggies, top with mashed potatoes, pop in the oven?

Vegetarian loaf made with oats. My kids LOVE it and we are meat eaters.

-meat loaf
-spaghetti and meatballs

Will think some more, just have to go tend to my sick kiddos
post #8 of 16
Well, you can grate the potatoes, onions and zucchini and make latkes - or potato pancakes - you can do just potato and onion, but it is also yummy if you put in a little grated zucchini too - grate it, drain it, mush it to squeeze out all the water, add an egg and some salt and pepper and fry it in oil like pancakes - you can add in a little flour too if you like to help hold it together.

Are the oats in all forms - steel cut, rolled and instant?
You can do lots of oatmeal and use oat flour to make bread - just grind up the oats into flour.

And potato bread is good too.
post #9 of 16
Can you buy bags of rice and your favourite kind of dried beans? How about some spices and dried herbs from a bulk type store? We ate a lot of rice and beans with various seasonings and canned tomoatoes for a long time early in our marriage. I would soak and cook the beans and freeze or refrigerate enough for a few days at a time. Then I would saute a chopped onion and any other vegetables I had along with the spices, stir in the canned tomatoes and beans and let it simmer awhile. We ate this over rice most days of the week. I had a variety of beans and that helped, as long as different spice and vegetable combinations. You can add little bits of meat to make it go further and vary the flavours too.
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Stews are a great idea, esp for winter! I also love the Vegetarian loaf (thanks for the link!!)

Does anyone have a favorite stew recipes?

I was considering trying to find a cheap crock pot/slow cooker to make meals in for the winter since having one in college about saved my life.

We do have a CSA membership which comes weekly but trying to meal plan until it shows up is often impossible..
post #11 of 16
Spanish rice with beef
Dirty rice with zucchini
pasta tossed with olive oil, parmesan and garlic
loaf of day old bread. cut in thick slices, can of tomatoes and 2 eggs mixed well, refrigerated overnight then topped with cheese and baked
bread pudding
pork w/ sage stuffing
mashed potatoes
mashed potato patties w/ onion and maybe some cheese
potatoes au gratin w/ bacon
peroghies ?
Mennonite meatballs: blend until pureed 2 onions and 4 potatoes (alternatively, cook, mash and cool). add 1 pound ground beef and 2 cups oat flour, salt and pepper to taste. form into balls and fry. serve with tomatoes over pasta. also good cold.
beef fried rice
sausage and potato hash
pasta w/ canned tomatoes and zucchini, cheese for protein
gnocchi ?
oat based desserts- crisps, cookies, date squares
blender pancakes using oats and rice
salisbury steaks, meatballs,meatloaves- all extended with oats, maybe shredded potato and onions
real mac and cheese
zucchini bread, muffins, cakes

i can think of a million more probably given a little more time... it's been over a year since i cooked like this but it's what i grew up with in my teen years.
post #12 of 16
Something I like will use sausages and potatoes - and not much sausage (one per person.) Cut into bite size pieces, or remove casing and make meatballs, brown in skillet on range top, or roasting pan in oven. When about half cooked, add onion and potatoes cut to a size you like, and toss a little to coat with the drippings - pour off excess, but the potatoes just won't be right without some. Cover and cook until potatoes are done. I can't think how long because it's been a while. DH likes this one with some bell pepper added, but I'm happy without it. Also good with a can of cheap pasta sauce added.
post #13 of 16

I live in a place with a similar cheap food selection and this is a very interesting thread to me too! What great suggestions so far!

-Pea soup from dried peas. Cheapest thing ever. If you are in northern Europe (which it looks like you are from what's cheap) they are less than a euro a bag and you can usually get at least a couple soups out of that bag. Soak the peas overnight, boil until done with onions and a few potatoes and carrots if you have them. Salt. If mustard isn't out of your budget it really adds a lot of taste to squirt some in your bowl of soup. Serve with bread. This bread is delicious and easy to make. I use 1 cup whole grain plus 2 cups white - a big bag of white flour and a smaller bag of whole rye, wheat or barley should be very cheap and you can make many loaves with them. You can also use one packet of dry yeast for ages because it only takes 1/4 tsp per loaf.
BTW both pea soup and this bread last the better part of a week in the fridge.

-Macaroni and tuna. Boil macaroni, drain, mix in a can of drained tuna (the cheap darker kind) and some olive oil, salt, pepper and dried basil. And some canned peas if you want to add more nutrients.

-Eggs are 6 bucks a dozen here too, but if you scramble them with zucchini or leftover potatoes they go a lot further. I still consider them cheap food. One egg has a good 6-7 grams of protein, lots of vitamins, and still only costs about 50 cents.

-Sausage and red cabbage. In a pot saute onions, a small red cabbage, an apple, some pepper, salt and a bit of vinegar until soft. Add sausage (cook it first if it's raw sausage, then cut up into little pieces).

-Borsch. Boil beets, carrots, onions, tomatoes (can be canned) cabbage (optional) with a piece of soup meat until done. Cut up meat and return to soup. Season with dill, parsley, salt and a dash of vinegar. Keeps well in the fridge.

-"Meat soup". Boil potatoes, carrots, rutabaga (whatever root veggies available). Add ground beef sauteed with onion. Season with salt and pepper, dill and parsley. A broth cube helps. Plain but nourishing.

-Cream of whatever soup. Boil your veggie of choice (roots and greens work esp well, can use frozen/canned spinach) with onions or leeks and broth powder/cube if you have it. Puree with liquid in pot and add about 1-2 dl of cream. Salt/pepper/whatever spice sounds good and you have on hand.

-Oatmeal for breakfast, leftovers for lunch.

Also, do you have any ethnic stores around? I find that beans are usually much cheaper at Asian/Indian/African stores and you can buy them in larger amounts.
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Also, do you have any ethnic stores around? I find that beans are usually much cheaper at Asian/Indian/African stores and you can buy them in larger amounts.
we have one Asian store in town but the prices are insane. I did find a 'wholesale' like place in town which is better, you can get 5kg bags dried for much cheaper there..
post #15 of 16
What is inexpensive?

Oatmeal, baked oatmeal, oatmeal cookies for treats.


Cheese makes everything better!

-potatoes, onions, zucchini

spicy zucchini fries, zucchini goat cheese (or cream cheese) pizza, fried zucchini, zucchini cake, zucchini muffins.

Potatoes (We are a potato family!)

Simple gratin potatoes (Slice potatoes, mix up cream cheese, sour cream, garlic and onion slices, salt pepper and cayenne. Spread a thin layer on the bottom of baking dish, lay down a layer of potato slices, more sauce, more potatoes, cover with grated cheese, bake at 350 for 45-55 min. Poke with a fork to check if potatoes are done.)

Rosemary pan fried potatoes (Olive oil, cubed potatoes, onions, garlic. Sautee and add spices, fresh or dried rosemary.)

Spicy potato wedges, baked potatoes, twice baked potatoes, baked fries, potato salads of all sorts, muffin tin scallopped potatoes (grease a muffin tin, slice potatoes really thin, stack in muffin tin holes, pour some cream into each, salt, pepper, top with cheese. Bake.)

Baked potato soup. Yum.


Again, a million varieties.

Fried rice (I have a good easy recipe if you need one), baked rice, spinach alfredo rice, paella, spicy rice, risotto, stir fry (with the pork) etc.


Pp have suggested stews. Soups are a great way to stretch your money too. Make beef stock from bones. Italian wedding soup (meatball soup), beef soup with canned veggies, beef soup with potato dumplings etc.

Chili is a good meat stretcher too.

Pork is great for stir fries, pulled pork sandwiches, check out this website! http://www.porkrecipes.org/


Sandwiches, monte cristo sandwiches (pretty much grilled cheese and meat dipped in egg (you don't need much egg and you can add milk/cream to the mixture to stretch your eggs) like french toast and grilled. ) Pulled pork sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches.

-Most any veggie that is canned

We don't eat much pasta, but you can add pasta to soups, beef stroganoff, stir fries (check out these super easy noodles http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kit...esame-noodles/) left over beef gravy, veg and noodles would make a lunch that my ds would LOVE.

Also, casseroles with pasta/potatoes or rice, meat, canned veg and cheese (all on the cheap list). Sauces can vary based on your craving that day. Creamy? Asian? Mexican? Italian? All very easy to do in a casserole, and great to be able to just throw everything into a baking dish and put it into the oven when you're dealing with a newborn.

post #16 of 16
That's a real bummer about not having a freezer. I lived in Ireland for a while and noticed that things like freecycle and craigslist hadn't taken off there as much as here in the US, but maybe there's somewhere you can score a free or near-free freezer. Is there some kind of expat noticeboard? Maybe you can get one from someone who is moving away? Being able to use frozen vegs and meat will really open things up for you, and I remember getting some very good deals on frozen meat/veg at Aldi and Lidl when I was over there.

Also, if your CSA is based nearby you could ask if they have any surplus. Ours here is a pick-up CSA, and they often have a crate or two of "seconds" which are free for the taking.

The high price of eggs is a bummer, but at least with cheap milk and cheese, mac'n'cheese is the low-budget food it was meant to be!

Also, there are a million-and-one sausage, pasta, beans, and greens combinations, with and without cheese sprinkled on top. They're not the most convenient meals but they're good.
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