Thursday, August 23

Extreme Frugality Meal Plan

The food pyramidThough I've posted an individual meal idea here and there I thought I'd try to organize various money saving meal ideas into a meal plan guide. These meals are for a single individual so adjust as needed. However, before providing the meal guide, I wanted to point out that when following an extremely frugal diet you must be aware of and manage various health issues. Due to their importance I am listing health issues first but you can always scroll down for the general meal guide.

Rice Issues
If you are going to get a large portion of your calories from rice, because it is so absolutely cheap, then it is imperative that you use long grain brown rice. Polished white rice has the external bran portion removed and thus it does not contain several vital nutrients. If you are simply adding rice to your diet several times a week, then it shouldn't be an issue of concern.

Also, if you do cook large batches of rice, then you must store it properly. After cooking, the unused portion should promptly be refrigerated in a sealed container. If it, the rest of the batch, is left to sit around while you prepare or eat dinner you greatly increase the risk of mold growth. Handled and stored properly your rice can last in the fridge for up to a week.

I've developed a passion for rice. Read more details about keeping rice from going bad and how I selected a rice cooker.

Oatmeal Issues
Oatmeal is generally pretty simple to deal with. You buy it, put it in a sealed container, and use it when you want it. However, the common oatmeal that is sold in many supermarkets is instant or quick cooking oatmeal. This is not the oatmeal you want. Your oatmeal should be as unprocessed as possible. You want the large flaked slow cooking variety. This gives you more nutrient value and a slower release of carbohydrates during digestion.

Protein Issues
Protein can be expensive. This is especially true if you are buying meat, cheese and milk to supply proteins. While I am not an advocate of vegetarian diets you can take steps to get complete proteins from most of your meals. For example, simply add some beans to your rice dishes. A good source of cheap beans might be a sack of dried kidney beans. However, there are many tasty bean varieties available.

Fruits and Vegetables
You simply must include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet in order to be healthy. Luckily, we don't need all that many, and they are conveniently available in mixed varieties from the frozen foods section. Use a little bit with most of your meals and try to buy different variations if possible.

Basic Supplements
This may be a bit more controversial, but I'd recommend taking two supplements when you are following a strict and possibly not varied enough meal plan. First, a general once a day multi supplement with vitamins and minerals. Second, a basic fish oil capsule so that you get your omega-3 oils. Now, if you are following the ideas above and taking these supplements you could very well be eating healthier on a frugal diet than some who frequently eat fast food.

Basic Frugal Meal Plan
You may as well start your day off with your supplements. Then, for breakfast, put a spoonful or two of frozen fruit into a bowl of oatmeal. Add milk and let sit. The oatmeal will soak up the milk and soften up. If you prefer, you could prepare this dish before going to sleep, so that you don't have to wait for the frozen fruit to thaw. Perhaps add a sprinkle of cinnamon if you like the effect. Pumpkin pie spice has also been suggested for oatmeal.

Here is a post about oatmeal being healthy and cheap.

If you need a snack before lunch, perhaps a piece of fruit or some peanuts. As long as you eat them sparingly a bag of apples or a jar of peanuts will last quite a few days.

For lunch it will be a plate of rice and beans with mixed vegetables. Obviously, if you are buying dried beans they will have to be soaked and cooked before you can use them for lunch. Generally, the weekend is a good time to prepare foods for use during the rest of the week. This is incredibly cheap and healthy, but admittedly boring. Look to spices, a slice of cheese, an egg, or perhaps some kind of soup or sauce to add flavor and variety.

If you need a snack before dinner, then again some fruit, nuts or a salad should suffice. It's also okay to have some leftovers from a previous meal if appropriate. The idea is to avoid buying expensive junk food or convenience snacks.

An example frugal snack food is roasted green peas.

Dinner will involve cooking up some meat such as chicken, beef, ground turkey or sausages. Basically, whatever was on sale for the cheapest price or left over from a recent meal. Because we are making sure to eat complete proteins by adding beans to our rice meals we can use very small portions of meat and save a lot of expense. Fry or otherwise heat up some rice, serve with beans, meat and a small portion of mixed vegetables. Spices and sauces are vital for keeping dinner interesting if you are using the same basic ingredients repeatedly.

Here are some previous meal ideas and recipes: rice recipe variations, frugal meal ideas, making chili in a 12 quart stock pot, a date worthy budget meal and making three meals for five dollars.

At first glance these ideas may seem a bit plain. However, honestly, with a bit of inspiration you can mix and match ideas to come up with a large variety of healthy and cheap meals. For example, I love leftover chili piled up on top of a piece of buttered whole grain toast! It's great for a snack or a meal.

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Jayne d'Arcy said...

Wow! Some fascinating information here. I had to bookmark that roasted peas link. Sounds too intriguing not to try. I've recently gotten a new appreciation for the oft despised veggie, the pea. I'm a nut for sugar snap peas and sweet peas - both grown in our own backyard.

Frugal Guy said...

Hi Jayne, thanks for the note. I agree about the sugar snaps and sweet peas, they are great fresh out of the garden, but I haven't had them that way in years.

Anonymous said...

If it is'nt fresh it's not for me!! Wow excellent advice again. Some people hunt too for fresher meat. Venison (if I spelled it right ha ha) is better for you than other meats I was told. Have a great weekend!!! Annette

Frugal Guy said...

Hi Annette, thanks for the note. I think I had venison jerky once, but it's not really something I have access to.

Debt Secrets (John Dean) said...

Protein doesn't have to be expensive! For those in the UK get supermarket bargains! You can have your meat and eat it! From as little as .20p (0.40c) for some duck fillets!

Frugal Guy said...

John, sounds like a great deal, though I've never seen them on this side of the pond. Thanks.

mommamu said...

Good point FG, I haven't been making my rounds in awhile I forgot how much i enjoyed your blog! :)

Frugal Guy said...

Hi Mommamu, welcome back! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great ideas. I like rice also because it lasts long, you can buy the largest bag when on sale and keep it almost forever.
One thing you did not mention about protein is fish: there are many varieties that go on sale a lot as well as caned varieties like tuna or salmon.
Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

This is my first post to your great blog! My Dad made these when we were young and I loved them and they are extremely cheap and easy!

Mack's Cheap Meal:
One egg
One long package of crackers, crushed
one can of cream of soup try these varieties: (mushroom, celery, chicken)

Mix all ingredients together.
Take a few tablespoons of oil and place in a pan, heat the oil and drop the mix into the heated oil.

You can make all different sizes. It fries up quickly just flip once. Try it! You'll Love it!

One egg is about twenty cents,
One package of crackers is about fifty cents and one can of soup is about a dollar.

So for less these two dollars you can have a great meal or snack!

Frugal Guy said...

Anon x2,

Thanks for the ideas concerning fish and "Mack's Cheap Meal".

Those are great suggestions!

Tuna will last nearly forever and you are right -- I do see cheap fish from time to time (frozen in these parts).

rlaird4649 said...

Thank you so much for these extreme frugal meal plan tips. I especially need money saving ideas now at holiday time. Money is tight as it was! God bless you!

Anonymous said...

i also suggest stove-cooked popcorn as a great cheap snack

Viviana said...

Great blog! It is so refreshing to see a man doing a frugality blog. I wish I could get the roasted peas over here in the UK.

Frugal Guy said...

Anon, Viviana,

Thanks for leaving a note. Popcorn is something I've been eating a fair amount lately.

CPL said...

For meat, or in this case "meat". You might want to try out TVP. Textured Veg Protein. Per pound it's around .50 a pound. It picks up flavors really well and has the texture of ground beef.

If looking for cost reduction mix it in with the ground beef. Personally I find eating it straight is disgusting. I still like the animal protein flavor. If I get a family pack of ground meat I'll mix it in as a 1 to 1 ratio so my five pounds of ground chuck turns into 10 pounds.

As I mentioned it's cheap (and healthy). Another product, If you can find it, is "Soy So Good". It a great chicken stretcher and it's in chunks. Great for stirfrys.

Frugal Guy said...


Thanks for the note.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of soy products, but I can certainly see that it would be a great way to add low cost protein.

CPL said...

As I mentioned it's disgusting all by itself. Kinda like eating dirt flavored sawdust. It's having the real meat mixed in that makes the difference.

Another type of meat which is over looked is rabbit. In the ottawa valley I wouldn't recommend eating the wild variety unless you find a warren in a forest. But a lot of farmers hutch raise them. I pick them up for a twoonie a rabbit.

Mike said...

I've been using an inexpensive rice cooker ($14) and it is working great. I have cooked through a bag of white rice, brown rice, and am now working through a bag (5#) of jasmine rice. My only issue with the brown rice is the more cleanup required because of the greater mess made from the brown rice. I've taken to draping a paper towel above the lid vent hole to catch and contain the vented and eventually congealed matter.

I will eventually be more frugal than I am now. I'm slowly working into the more frugalnes (yeah, not really a word). I cook a pot of rice then pour a can of soup over the rice. I stir in the soup (whatever flavor I've selected), have a few bites, then save the rest for the next day's lunch. I do the mixing in the same Rubbermaid container I do the storing, so I have only one thing, a spoon, and the rice cooker to clean.

I want to branch out to using spices, canned chicken, canned tuna, etc., for a greater variety, lower cost, and better per meal nutritional meal (but I'm not there yet).