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13 Ideas of Really Cheap Meals for Broke People

13 Ideas of Really Cheap Meals for Broke People

We all have to eat. But it doesn’t mean you have to settle for less-than-great food if you don’t have a lot of money. Here are 13 ideas for really cheap meals for broke people:

Rubber Chicken

It isn’t called rubber chicken because it’s rubbery! But rather because it keeps bouncing back for more meals. One whole, large chicken can feed a family of four for at least four meals.

Meal 1: The Chicken Dinner

The first meal is to eat part of the chicken. It can be a rotisserie chicken, or one you cook at home either in the oven or a crock pot. Add some veggies and a starch and you have a meal. When you are done, remove all the excess chicken from the bones and put it aside. Also, save all the bones for meal number three.

Meal 2: Chicken On A Salad

The second meal will take some of the chicken from meal one and arrange it over a bed of lettuce. Add whichever veggies you have on hand, perhaps some salsa, and you have a nice, main-course salad.

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Meal 3: Chicken Soup

Take the carcass from meal one and put it in a big pot. Cover with water and add salt and pepper. You can also add any vegetables you wish, like onion or celery, for flavoring. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for a couple of hours. Strain out the solids and you have a nice chicken stock. Use the chicken stock as a basis for chicken soup: add vegetables, some pasta or rice, and you have a filling meal.

Meal 4: Chicken Burritos

The last bit of chicken can be wrapped up in tortillas with some warmed beans, leftover rice and a bit of salsa–a great quick meal!

Rubber Beef

Chicken isn’t the only meat that can bounce back. Beef can also work the same way.

Meal 5: Beef Roast

The crock pot is your best friend for cooking inexpensive cuts of beef. The long cooking time will reduce the toughest piece of beef into a tender blend of flavor. The first of the rubber beef meals is the beef roast dinner. Get a cheap roast from the store and cook it in the crock pot with a cup of cooking liquid (water, broth, or wine) and some vegetables. Save the leftover meat for meals six and seven. Or you can use recipes like this one.

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Meal 6: Beef Burritos

Much like the leftover chicken, you can combine the leftover beef into burrito filling. Add rice, a can of black beans and a dash of pepper for some nice sizzle!

Meal 7: Beef Barbecue

Shredded beef lends itself really well to barbecue sandwiches. Just add whatever sauce you wish to the meat, and serve it on a bun. Add homemade coleslaw to the sandwich for extra zing.

All Wrapped Up

Wraps are a great way to go cheap: they provide a source of carbohydrate while holding all your fillings together. We’ve already talked about beef and chicken burritos, but you can go even cheaper…

Meal 8: Bean Burritos

A very filling and inexpensive meal can be made with tortillas, refried beans and whichever toppings you prefer. Chopped tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and other shredded vegetables will round this out for a very healthy meal.

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Meal 9: Egg Wraps

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and are extremely inexpensive. Scramble up some eggs with some vegetables, and you have a great dinner (or breakfast!)

Noodles and More

When people say “cheap” and “noodles” in one sentence, they generally mean spaghetti. But this doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland.

Meal 10: Sesame Noodles

Sesame noodles can be made with long pasta, sesame paste and a bit of chili sauce, thinned with broth or water. Add a little onion, cilantro and cucumber for bursts of flavor.

Meal 11: Zippy Spaghetti

The cheapest commercial spaghetti sauces are also the most bland. Hit your dollar store for spices and give that sauce some taste! Garlic, oregano and basil are standard additions, but a zip of red pepper or chili sauce will warm your tummy.

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Catch-alls

One of the best ways to stretch your food dollar is to make sure nothing gets thrown away. That means you have to have a way to deal with little bits of leftovers that are not enough to make a full meal. Here are two catch-all ideas for using that last bit of food.

Meal 12: Fried Rice

Fried rice is extremely flexible and forgiving. Heat up whatever leftover veggies or meat you have in a bit of oil, then add leftover cooked rice. Make a well in the middle and scramble an egg, then mix it all together for fried rice.

Meal 13: Magic Casserole

If you’re more in the mood for comfort food, you can make Magic Casserole. Take one leftover meat or protein, add one leftover starch (noodles, rice, or potatoes), one binder (a can of ‘cream-of-something’ soup, leftover gravy or sauce), a vegetable (whatever is available) and a crunchy topping (crushed potato or tortilla chips, fried onions or nuts). Mix everything but the topping together, put it in a casserole dish, add the topping, and bake until heated through.

Cheap meals don’t have to be unhealthy, bland or pre-prepared. Cooking from scratch and using every bit of food is the best way to stretch your food dollar.

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Last Updated on June 26, 2020

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

“How to save money fast?” This is the question asked by all of us not in the top 1% of rich people.

If you are looking for ways to drastically reduce your expenses immediately, first look at what you need to spend money on every week. And I mean really need.

You don’t really need to order in food. You don’t really need to buy expensive perfume.

Building from that, you can work out how your regular expenses can be reduced.

As for irregular expenses, they can also be deceptively costly in the long run. Once-off buys can also be tackled with some prudent planning and a little extra research.

And remember: a budgeted lifestyle does not mean a bad or boring one!

But first, understand what budget you can cut down on daily:

  • Regular expenses for the average adult (can be trimmed but not eliminated):
    • food
    • rent/mortgage
    • cell phone
    • insurance
    • socializing/entertainment
    • transportation
    • hygiene products
    • household bills
  • Irregular expenses for the average adult (can be eliminated or cut down a lot):
    • travel
    • clothing
    • medication (*depends)
    • grooming (hair, nails etc.)
    • gifts

Now, let’s dive right into the 25 ways to save money fast:

Save Money on Food

1. Bring a stock of food to the office/work

Instead of popping out for an overpriced salad and a smoothie, leave a set of basic utensils at the office as well as a stock of non-perishable goods such as tinned fruit, tuna, rice crackers and so on (try to avoid the junk food and this can turn into a pretty great diet!).

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Stocking up means you won’t forget or say “I didn’t have the time” when you rushed out to work in the morning.

2. Buy the store-brand version

Many basic foods, such as bread and milk, will taste exactly the same as their branded alternatives. Go for stuff with minimal additives and preservatives. Meat in a tube is probably insanely unhealthy!

3. Eat cheaper cuts of meat

Learn how to tenderize and flavour cheaper meat and fish, and save on the (typically) most expensive item on your grocery bill.

4. Have group dinners

If 10 friends put $5 each in the kitty, it’s pretty easy to make a giant lasagne and get refreshments, as well as hang out with your favourite people.

Save Money in Transport

5. Get a bicycle

Save on gas money and bus/metro fares with this underrated mode of transport.

6. Use public transport and/or don’t get taxis

Some places can only be reached by car. But as a good practise, check your public transport website and see if any routes pass nearby where you need to get to. Walk as much as you can.

7. Find the cheapest gas

Regularly check out where the cheapest gas can be bought.

Save Money in General Shopping

8. Shop online

Not only will you save on the gas or transport fares from going to the shopping mall but you will also find better deals

9. Sell your old stuff

Get your unwanted belongings up on eBay ASAP and earn a few dollars.

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Here’re more ideas for you: 25 Things to Sell to Make a Lot of Money

10. Bulk buying stores

For regular non-perishable/slow perishable purchases such as toilet paper, cat food, pasta, washing powder and so on, do an epic stocking-up trip to a co-op or equivalent (my mum used to go to a place that restaurants buy from).

Be wary of supermarket “deals”, as some have been found to be fraudulent after working out a simple calculation.

11. Become a flea market/car boot sale/street market guru

You can find original gifts and develop good negotiation skills at these places.

12. Generic brand medication

More often than not, the generic version of paracetamol and other basics work the same as the branded version.

13. Choose deodorant, not perfume

It blows my mind when someone drops $70 on a bottle of spray. Stick with a nice deodorant, and not only will you smell just fine but you’ll be sweat-free as well!

Cut Down on Household Expenses

14. Printing

Ink is one of the most expensive substances in the office and coloured ink is doubly so. B

e more efficient and choose black and white, and if your printer doesn’t have a print-both-sides options, just print odd pages first, re-insert the paper and print even pages.

Expand the margins of what you are printing as often as you can to save on paper.

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15. Minimize SMS and phone calls

A combination of a free chat service such as WhatsApp and a free call service such as Skype can reduce your bill to nothing (so long as you have a decent Wifi connection).

16. Shop around for insurance

Most people don’t spend enough time searching for the best insurance deal.

Keep a watchful eye out for deals and new competitors in the market.

17. Try re-negotiating your rent/mortgage

If you have built up a good credit history or a good rapport with your landlord, then chances are a frank chat about needing to tighten your spending could result in lowering your payments. You’ve nothing to lose from trying.

18. Don’t get a TV

Invest in a computer/laptop and an internet-only package. You can watch more (and often better) entertainment on the web, and skip the advertisements as well.

19. Pool your internet bill with a neighbour

My apartment building is basically a big old house split into three apartments. There are five of us in total. We pool the internet bill, making it crazy cheap.

Save Money in Socializing, Entertainment And Travel

20. Have house parties

Instead of paying for overpriced drinks, set up a series of in-house get-togethers with your friends. Everyone takes a turn, so it’s not always your house that needs cleaning.

For sound insulation, hang heavy drapes on the walls and windows. For music, invest in a good second-hand set of speakers which you can connect to your computer. Let Spotify or Grooveshark playlists do the rest.

21. Open festivals, meetups and events

It never fails to surprise me how much underground stuff goes on around me for free or for very cheap. Find out who runs the blogs and websites that list all the less well-known cultural activities.

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22. Volunteer

If you can’t pay for a ticket, volunteer and get to be there anyway.

23. Housesit

There are multiple housesitting websites offering you the possibility to avoid paying hotels and skip the discomfort of crummy hostels.

Save Money on Hygiene and Beauty

24. DIY beauty

French manicures, pedicures, waxing, eyebrows… pretty much all of these can be achieved at home (and done well) with some practise. There are plenty excellent blogs and YouTube tutorials to help.

25. Fewer haircuts/volunteer at a trainee hairdresser

If you can’t bear the risk of a trainee touching your locks, learn more ways to manipulate your hair as it grows and get haircuts sparingly. Women’s haircuts are outrageously priced in many cities.

Bonus: Effective Money-Saving Tips for Everything

Here’s a summary of what you can generally do to save more money:

  • Share/pool resources. Organize a neighbourhood sharing scheme, common resources for your apartment block or with your friends. Not everybody needs an individual lawnmower.
  • Buy energy-saving everything. The easiest way to lower your bills – replace those lightbulbs!
  • Buy in bulk. Be sensible about it (i.e. make sure you have space!), and drastically reduce weekly expenditure.
  • DIY. Skill up using YouTube tutorials on plumbing and many other essential services so you never have to pay for simple problems again.
  • Research a lot before making a decision. Most money-wasting is the result of poor preparation and planning. Don’t shirk this part just because you don’t like it!
  • Use your network. Your network is full of resources that can ease the pain of budgeting. Ask for help.
  • Stop and think. Do I really need it?

Unfortunately, there are some things that require plain ol’ giving up for the time being. This can include high-cost sports such as skiing, the latest versions of some technologies, the finest brands of food/drinks, premier seats at the opera and most other indulgences.

What is important to remember during lean times is that when you look back on your life, it will be the experiences that stand out, not the extra comforts.

Living on a budget can teach you a lot about how much you can really get out of your paycheck. We only live one life, so make the most of every penny you earn!

More Tips for Personal Finance Management

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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