culinary review

How a Couple Can Eat Well on a $50 Week Menu

Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:24 pm
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Comments: 24 Views: 102745

The purpose of this menu

The goal of this menu is to prove that you can live very well and healthy on a $50 a week budgetpotato sausage stew for two people. Sure, $25 per person (or $100 for 4 people), isn't as cheap as you could possibly go, many people survive on much less than that. But with this menu we are not trying to eat rice and beans every day (even if that is served a couple of times) - we are trying to enjoy a varied diet with legumes, vegetables as well as meat and fish. And yes, it can be done, the key here is planning your meals in advance and actually cooking/preparing all your meals in the kitchen, no take-out or restaurant visits.

Meals Breakdown

For breakfast in this menu we feature filling meals that keep you full for a long period of time. We alternate between oatmeal with milk, and eggs and toast for breakfast, with the Saturday pancake exception. If you don't like regular oatmeal, you could easily substitute old fashioned oats for steel cut oats. They take a little longer to cook, but if you have the time (most of us don't), then they provide an even tastier and healthier alternative.

For lunch, we try to prepare food that is easy to bring along whether to work or school. Sandwiches play an important part here, as do beans and rice. Another important aspect of lunch is ease of preparation. You don't really want to be cooking when lunch comes around, that's impractical for most of us.

For dinner, we try to provide a varied diet that includes budget alternatives such as lentils and polenta and garbanzo bean soup. But when you're eating on $50 a week, you can actually afford meats as well as the occasional fish. For meats, we use chicken thighs which provide excellent flavor for a good price, as well as sausage and bacon. On Friday, we feast on salmon.

We have not accounted for drinks in this menu, other than a glass of orange juice each morning for breakfast.

We have attempted to make a practical menu. For example, we allocate a pack of bacon overrefried beans two days: pasta carbonara one day, and BLT sandwiches for lunch the next. We make a double batch of soup, so that the other half can be enjoyed for lunch the next day.

Cost Calculation

All of these meals are priced with the accrual method. That means, that we only calculate the cost of as much as you need. In other words, if a recipe calls for 1/2 pound of bacon - we only calculate the cost of 1/2 a pound, even though you might need to buy a one pound package. That means, that it might cost more than $50 to purchase the ingredients for these recipes, however if you already have staples, it might cost less. Overall, the difference in price averages out over time: the price calculated for these dishes is exact.

Many of the recipes listed, calls for making more than 2 servings. Either scale down the recipe to fit your needs, or make a larger batch and freeze for another day. If you have leftover sausage for example or if you need to buy a larger pack of salmon - then freeze the individual filets or sausage links and use at another time. Sure, the price will be slightly higher one week, but next week it might be lower.

The prices of these ingredients reflect an average across the country. Sure, some people in some areas of the United States will be able to make this food at a lower cost.

$50 Weekly Menue (2 people)

Each meal is priced for two servings (two bowls of oatmeal, two sandwiches, two servings of each dish...)

Monday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $6.11

When making tonight's dinner - spaghetti carbonara , save half the bacon back for tomorrow.

Breakfast - Oatmeal with milk and raisins
Total: $1.76

Lunch - Beans & rice with salsa

Total: $1.49

Dinner - Italian Spaghetti Carbonara with Cabbage Salad

Total: $2.86


Tuesday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $7.24
With leftover bacon, make BLT's for lunch

Breakfast- Scrambled eggs & toast
Total: $1.5

Lunch - BLT sandwiches and carrot sticks

Total: $2.86

Dinner - Polenta with lentils

Total: $2.88


Wednesday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $6.50
Make a double amount of soup for dinner - it will be tomorrow's lunch.

Breakfast - Oatmeal with milk and banana
Total: $1.62

Lunch - Tuna salad sandwiches

Total: $2.86

Dinner - Chickpeas soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

Total: $2.02


Thursday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $7.60
Tonight's dinner - chicken cacciatore is made with chicken thighs which is a great cut with lots of flavor for a low cost.

Breakfast - Softboiled eggs with toast

Total: $1.38

Lunch - Garbanzo bean soup & fruit salad

Total: $2.42

Dinner - Italian Chicken Cacciatore

Total: $3.80


Friday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $9.01
On Friday's, a festive meal is in order and tonights dinner - salmon with baked potatoes is slightly expensive, but so tasty and healthy.

Breakfast - Oatmeal with milk and raisins

Total: $1.76

Lunch - Beans & rice with salsa

Total: $1.49

Dinner - Salmon with baked potatoes

Total: $5.76


Saturday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $8.40
On Saturday's, you have time to enjoy a leisurely pancake breakfast and a creamy butternut squash risotto makes a great dinner.

Breakfast - Pancakes with maple syrup

Total: $1.6

Lunch - Eggsalad sandwiches and carrot sticks

Total: $1.3

Dinner - Butternut squash risotto

Total: $5.5


Sunday - Total cost breakfast, lunch and dinner: $5.16
On Sunday morning, take your time and make hashbrowns for breakfast. Country sausage stew is both tasty and cheap.

Breakfast - Scrambled eggs with hashbrowns

Total: $1.62

Lunch - Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches with carrot sticks

Total: $0.86

Dinner - Country sausage stew

Total: $2.68

Total cost for the whole week: $50.02

Wed Oct 15, 2008 7:17 pm
Name: SHon | Comment: Americans are too gluttonous to limit their diet so drastically. The major difficulty in the believability of this whole menu is that WAS NO OTHER FOOD EATEN? Nothing else drank? I have to call shenanigans.

This illustration does, however, show how much money is wasted on take-out and how much (more importantly) can be saved by eating in.

Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:01 pm
Name: Doug M | Comment: Being the Chief Cook and Only Bottle Washer, my target budget has been $100 per week. I used to be able to hit that regularly. But it's getting harder.
That said, I would suggest looking at Asian and Indian cooking. I've gotten a fusion thing going one with the spices and cooking methods. They go a long way to working with the cheap cuts of meat, frozen and canned veggies, and of course rice.

Some of us don't have a choice in the matter, $100 is what I have to work with. You have to be a little inventive.

Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:36 am
Name: emma W., Vancouver Island | Comment: Our target is $100 per week, and our grocery costs are much higher due to living on an island. I include many fruit juices and fruit in our budget. Freezing the left overs in 1 portion size containers has really helped stretch the budget. I love what Doug M. said about Indian cooking, it is so economical and delicious. I also do lots of crock pot cooking, great for cheaper cuts of meat. Thanks so much for reminding me about soup is a wonderful way to fill out a meal.

Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:46 am
Name: Judy | Comment: Where do you live and shop? Here in the middle of the prairies, grocery costs are higher than your estimated costs. The cheapest bread here is almost double your cost/slice, and being cheap, the only food benefit is plain carbohydrates. Also, what about dairy calcium? The Canada Food Guide suggests certain amounts/day to stay healthy.

Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:16 am
Name: Chez US | Comment: Where might this be from? As in San Francisco, I do not see this happening?

Fri Nov 14, 2008 8:51 am
Name: jen | Comment: I am a mother of three healthy eaters and we live in a very remote part of B.C where are food is freighted in on a 6-17 hr drive, depending on were it is coming from, the cost of goods has a 35 % fuel surcharge added on to it, I have managed to live on a $200.00 a month budget very simply, taking out meat as a regular part of your diet is not only important to the environment, easier on our digestive systems but also easy on the pocket, we have the exception of locally caught salmon or halibut, I make all of our bread, snacks and goodies from scratch and buy local produce as much as possible to help in making were we live more sustainable, eating this way in not difficult, eating out is not missed, and we have a very nice variety of good food!!! i am a chef and baker of 14 years, so it may come a bit easier in creating different ethnic food choices but really most of the time our diet is very simple and that being said we hardly ever get sick, feel energetic and are not overweight.

Fri Nov 14, 2008 9:48 am
Name: Olga | Comment: This strikes me as one of the most unhealthy and unbalanced meal plans that I have seen in a while. It may be cheap, but you know what? Going to the doctor ain't cheap either. I cook for 1 1/2 people (myself and a toddler) and we average at about $70 a week, with much greater emphasis on veggies and dairy. Jeez, the thought of eating that many eggs and that many frozen peas makes me ill. If you buy veggies that are in season (and I know that this can mean cabbage, carrots, cabbage, carrots!), you'll be healthier and still be able to stick to your budget.

Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:28 pm
Name: abbeegiggles | Comment: Studies are showing that frozen foods may hold more nutritional value than fresh. Why? Because who knows how long that fresh produce has been sitting on the shelf, in the shipping crate from where ever, and how long it spent laying out in the field before going to the packing house. Just food for thought, pun intended.

Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:12 pm
Name: Christine | Comment: This diet is almost completely devoid of fruit. Not at all healthy!

Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:24 am
Name: Mary in Camden, MI. | Comment: The menu looks fine as a base menu. It would only cost a few extra dollars to keep in season fresh fruit on hand as snacks throughout the day.

Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:51 am
Name: Marie | Comment: It's nice to see that others can eat on $50 a week for two also. We live in western Canada where food can be expensive but we do it also. Our menu difference is that we have soups and simple pastas for dinner and buy more fruit and veggies for snacks. Thanks for writing this article!!

Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:35 pm
Name: Lynn | Comment: I think that it menu plan is far better than the Standard American Diet that most families eat. Like Mary pointed out, the addition of just a few dollars worth of in season fruit would make this diet quite healthy.

Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:46 pm
Name: Dale | Comment: heck a can of pears is $1.37 this is a great idea but I would switch it up variety is good because otherwise you get bored of the food i suggest you only buy things like that fish once a month or in my case a $4 steak.

but yeah you may not eat healthy every meal but as long as you drink good fluids and dont eat out as much and excersize

Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:04 pm
Name: dale | Comment: I work with 160 a month and their no going beyond that so trust me you learn how to choose food and you learn to eat as little as you can

Wed Dec 03, 2008 4:45 am
Name: Kari | Comment: Thank you for posting this article. Some people may not feel this is as healthy or as tasty as they might want, but you could use this as an example and would come in handy for those rough times. Maybe an unexpected bill arose and you just don't have as much this payday (for those of us that live paycheck to paycheck) and this would help you out until the following payday. They aren't suggesting you eat this every week, it's just an example to help those that need a break. Any help is greatly appreciated and everyone should look at it that way.

Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:42 pm
Name: Dan | Comment: I've got to say I use a lot of these types of foods to cut down on the cost of food for my girl and I. But I notice a decided lack of vegetables. And I feel this type of menu gets old after a couple of weeks. (I don't mind it by my girl does.)

Wed Jan 13, 2010 6:53 pm
Name: Cheryl | Comment: Please tell me where you get these numbers from? Cuz last time I checked, bread is $2 a loaf, and one sandwich would equal to about 50 cents, not including the penut butter and jelly, which is a couple dollars each.

Oh, and your saying you get a meal for $5 does that include all ingredients? Honestly, i'm just trying to find out how to survive and eat off of $50 aweek, and this doesn't help me.

Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:47 am
Name: Emily | Comment: I do like seeing how easy it can be to live on only $25/person for a week, but your meals are not nearly as healthy as they could be! Where are the fruits and vegetables?! If its a matter of price, cutting out meat from one or two dinners each week would easily allow you more money for fresh fruit. Purchasing only frozen fruits and veggies is not a bad idea either - you would save even more, without sacrificing the benefits you cannot get from proteins and grains alone.

Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:57 pm
Name: Kat | Comment: Not nearly enough vegetables! Even the US govt recommends 8-10 daily servings of veg. You could add more fruit like frozen blueberries to oatmeal; have a cabbage salad with every dinner as well as a vegetable and substantially up the fruit/veg without a great deal of additional cost.

Sun Mar 28, 2010 8:13 am
Name: Susan | Comment: I would die of starvation and neglect if that's all I ate (on those menus)....and I'm only a 118 pound woman! I suppose if you didn't expend any of your calories (no exercise) it might work?

Mon May 23, 2011 1:58 pm
Name: Tina | Comment: Americans are to spoiled and are used to eating glutton amounts for their food portions, this will NEVER WORK. And then they wonder why their a nation of lard butts.

Sun Jul 31, 2011 12:57 pm
Name: snookie | Comment: Dear Tina: it takes a lard butt to know a lard butt. Keep those kind of comments to yourself.

Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:38 pm
Name: Kelly | Comment: CHERYL: If one loaf of bread equals $2, last time I checked, there's a bit more than 4 pieces of bread in 1 loaf. LOL

Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:24 pm
Name: Oz | Comment: Until just recently (the birth of a baby), I fed my husband, toddler and I on a $200 a month budget. We eat meat at least three times a week. Since the baby was born, I haven't been as crazy with hitting sales, but I'm about to get back to it. I'm not an extreme couponer, I hardly use coupons at all. That $200 also included diapers, and toiletries. This menu would never work for us, because, for one, my husband wouldn't be able to work his 12+ hours a day on it. It's very interesting to see how the meal breaks down, cost wise.

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