Broke Meal Plans
If you’ve recently found yourself without a job and where your resources are severely limited, you’re probably worried about what to do as far as feeding the family. Take a deep breath and relax for a minute.
There are ways that you can pull meals together even when you don’t have an income. Here are some tips to help you eat better and reduce at least one big stress in this situation – how can I feed my family? Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Accept help from your state or local food pantry – There’s a lot of stigma surrounding accepting help from your state, so I know that this might not be something you want to consider.
There are a lot of programs available for you if you are without an income, and they were designed to help you get through tough times. You’ve paid into your state with every paycheck, and programs like SNAP (formerly known as the food stamps program) are funded using the taxes you and others have paid.
Contact your local Family Social Services to get information on how to sign up. (Google “Family Social Services” along with your state). You can always opt out of the program when you no longer need it, but it is there to help feed you and your family.
You can also search for local food pantries here. While you’re doing that (or when you’re back on your feet), consider donating time to a charity or food pantry so that you can reciprocate and give back.
2. WIC – This stands for “Women, Infants and Children.” This is another program to help mothers with children who need extra resources for meals. You can go online to find your local WIC office and get information on how to sign up.
3. Plan ahead – When making meals, planning goes a long way. Plan (weekly or monthly) meals ahead of time so that you are spending less time traveling to the store.
The fastest way to burn through your food budget is actually to buy per meal. You always end up spending more than you intended to and it’s usually not on the healthiest items since you’re often buying on a whim.
The most cost effective time frame to plan your meals is usually by the month. It may seem like a huge task, but it can cut your food expenses in half if you do it right! Plus, you can stretch things like ground turkey or beef into two or three meals if you freeze what you have left – not to mention leftovers for lunch.
4. Make freezer meals – This does not mean buying pre-made frozen foods from the grocery store. Pre-made freezer meals are meals that you put together and freeze ahead of time. This goes along with planning ahead. There are a ton of resources available online to help you with figuring out meals for you and your family and it saves a lot of money.
Making chili or soup? Double the recipe and freeze half of it for later. You can even freeze them into portion sizes (I do this with storage containers and stack them in my freezer) so that you can easily pull out what you need for the specific number of people eating. (My favorite recipe to freeze is this taco soup. Very hearty, cheap to make and freezes well. You can also make it meatless so that it costs less.)
5. Buy groceries in bulk – If you have access to warehouse stores where they sell in bulk, it can really help with reducing the cost of your meals. Not everything at a warehouse store is lower in cost than your grocery store, so be sure that you are aware of what the best prices are while shopping.
These are great places to look for large bags of frozen fruit, string cheese (usually a better price than the grocery store), eggs, pasta, grains and dry beans. Again, these prices aren’t always better, but they often are for specific items. If you don’t have a membership to any of the warehouse stores, ask a friend if you can tag along and get familiar with the pricing.
6. Invest in a slow cooker – Having a slow cooker is especially handy if you decide to pre-cook your meals. Investing in a slow cooker saves time and helps you stick to meal plans.
Dump all of your ingredients in, turn it on for the recommended time frame and enjoy a great meal without too much hassle. Again, you can double the recipe (often cheaper than making the same meal twice) and freeze the leftovers.
7. Get creative – Find some tutorials online – it’s really simple! Get creative with the food you have on hand.
Learn how to use spices (which can be bought cheap at local dollar stores) and know how to use different staple items to create new meals out of the few things you have available. Just because your financial resources are limited doesn’t mean you have to rely solely on hot dogs, Ramen noodles and cheese sandwiches (although it can’t hurt to go with those once or twice per week when you’re really stretching).
Find out all of the things that you can do with potatoes and spices. Make a baked potato bar for dinner with cheese, spices, veggies (from frozen bags if need be) and sour cream from the dollar store. Look for new recipes for beans and/or rice. There really are some delicious things that you can try as long as you are up to looking.
The internet is your friend when it comes to food. If you have frozen chicken, and orange and some cheese in the fridge, search to see what recipes are out there. Reap the benefits of someone else’s time creating recipes.
Cooking great meals shouldn’t be limited to a large budget. The best way to pull meals together when you don’t have an income is to use every resource that you have available. It takes a little bit of work, but it pays off when you see just how much you’re able to put together with much less money.
Do you have other ideas on how to pull meals together when you don’t have an income? Share your knowledge and let us all know!