Help me eat for a month on $100

I’m doing an experiment. I have $100 in my pocket and I want to eat for a whole month on it.

Ideas, recipes, suggestions?

Portable is good for lunches. Quick is good for breakfast. I can’t think of any restrictions on dinner.

It’s just for me, as my wife is trying the same experiment independently (though she likely won’t have any issues as she gets breakfast and lunch free at work, and doesn’t eat much for dinner.)

Buy a bunch of rice - preferable at an Asian Market. By beans - preferrably dried. These are your staples. Add vegetables and spices (are you including the purchase of spices in your $100 or not) as your budget permits.

Oatmeal is good for breakfast.

Dried milk.

Good luck.

Ramen noodles are cheap and you can add anything you want to them, they are easy to fix. They make cups you just add water too and microwave, super easy for work lunch.

You could try making a pot of Vegetable soup, you could freeze some and eat on it later so you won’t get sick of it.

Try for some recipes.

Good luck, I feed 5 people on about 200-300 a month and that is hard enough. I can’t imagine 100!

any ‘dollar store’ is your friend. You know the places where everything is a dollar =)

The one in Willimantic has milk, eggs, and all kinds of canned dried and refrigerated foods. If you didnt care about your tastebuds, you could buy 90 of the $1 tv dinners and eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner…

I’d suggest a favorite cheap recipe of ours that goes a long way for the dollar - “Jewish” Chicken Noodle Soup (from my fiancee’s bubbie).

All you need are about 4 chicken thighs, buy them in bulk and you can get them for under $2 a pound.

Bay leaves - buy a jar of these and they’ll last forever.

Bag of “fine” egg noodles. We use Manscheiviz brand which can be found in the Jewish section of any grocery store. They’re about $2 a bag and will usually make two pots of soup.

Boil four chicken thighs in a pot of water w/ one bay leaf. Let it go for about 30-40 minutes until you have a real nice broth. Add salt to taste (kosher salt is best, we’ve found).

Once the broth is done, pull the thighs out and pull the meat off the bone… We let them cool first to make it easier. Either pull the meat apart by hand or use a knife to chop up the meat.

Sometimes we throw the bones back into the pot while we’re chopping the meat to get the rest of the flavor out of them…

Pull the bones out, throw the meat into the pot, bring back up to a boil and throw in half a bag of the noodles. Cook until “al dente.” Pull the bay leaves out and serve…
This is the best chicken soup I’ve ever had, honestly. It’s simple but flavorful and usually lasts us for three meals at least… Getting three meals out of $4-5 is always a good thing, and you’ll love having this recipe in your repertoire.

He’s just feeding one. Yours averages out to $60 each, at the most.

You should really consider cooking these for longer. You’ll get the best flavor out of them if you cook them for 2-4 hours. Mmmmmmmmm.

Dried beans that you cook yourself, and rice. Ramen is cheap. Buy your bread from a bakery outlet store. You aren’t going to have much room in your budget for meat of any kind so you need to get protien from a cheap source such as eggs. Buy a month’s supply of mulit-vitamin because you won’t be able to afford much produce this time of year when most everything is out of season. Don’t buy anything pre-packaged and ready to eat. You will have to cook everything yourself to keep the cost down. Drink water. Make use of any and all leftovers. Eat free at a relative’s house whenever you can. :wink:

Here is a link I think you will find valuable. It’s for a Thrifty Food Plan.

Soup is the way to go. You can make a large pot that will last you days. My dad cooks (rarely, and for good reason), but he sometimes makes soup for the family. We have leftovers throughout the week. It’s one dish that doesn’t taste half bad, either.

Peanut butter sandwiches on whole grain bread are nice & filling and pretty cheap.

In college we got through on 50-lb bags of rice. We usually made fried rice (either vegetable or chicken & vegetable). We’d buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use one for an entire large wok of fried rice. Refried beans (pinto beans soaked, cooked, and then mashed) with tortillas or chips plus some salsa and a bit of cheese makes a tasty meal.

I do this out of necessity a lot of times, so have lots of experience.

When you go to the store, look at the unit price. Sometimes the $2 can of soup is NOT actually cheaper than the $3 when you look at the price per ounce. Most stores I find list it on the label, next to the actual price.

Fruits, veggies: fresh can be cheap if you find them on sale, but DO NOT buy them if you think there’s any possibility of them spoiling before you get to eat them. Canned is usually cheaper than frozen. Dried is sometimes economical for fruits.

Grains: plain white rice, plain pasta, white potatoes. They are cheap and if you take some effort you can make them taste like just about anything.

Meats: some of the cheapest meats I find in my area are ground turkey and stew meat. Stew meat is chopped beef from whatever the butcher may have had leftover, it isn’t always very tender but usually works pretty well in stir frys and sometimes fajitas, in addition to stews. Chicken is almost always cheaper than beef, but the most expensive (and popular) parts are breasts… (there’s a gem). Look for thighs, legs, and sometimes wings. Use leftover meats on sandwiches, because deli meat is REALLY overpriced.

Dairy/other: I also use dried milk, especially in the very lean months. It doesn’t taste TOO bad to drink, and I find that it works just fine in recipes. Just follow the directions on the box and make sure you refrigerate it in an air-tight cointainer, because if you leave it open in the refrigerator it starts to taste weird. Also, eggs are really a pretty decent price for what you get. If you scramble two each morning, you are looking at six breakfasts for about $3, not bad at all. Drinks are a surprisingly expensive “hidden” expense. If you can’t stand the idea of tap water, buy a box of tea bags and, if you like, a bag of sugar and you have the makings of many pitchers of iced tea. Kool-aid, while nutritiously void, is not bad for the price either.

The only other thing I can think of is to remember you pay for convenience. For example, buy the block of cheese and shred it yourself, it saves money over the bag of pre-shredded cheese.

Get a big container of 1-minute oatmeal. If you’re like me, and work in an office, you can put 1/2 cup of oatmeal into a bowl, use the hot-water spigot from the office cooler, and raid the office coffee supplies for a sugar packet. I carry my oatmeal to work in a Ziploc bag. 150 calories (plus sugar).

If you want chicken, you can sometimes find whole chickens for about half the cost of chicken breasts. It’s more work — you must debone the chicken, and often skin it as well, but it’s much cheaper.

Find a grocery store with a good bulk section. The grains you can buy there are a good source of vitamins, especially the B vitamins, fiber, and some protein. We’ve found that we really like porridge made out of wheat berries instead of oats. Just a personal preference.

I second Dangerosa’s suggestion of finding an Asian market. They definitely have rice cheaper than the regular grocery store, and around here at least, they have spices and fresh veggies cheaper than other stores.

Homemade spaghetti sauce is cheap, easy and filling. Look for sales on either bulk sausage or ground beef (or both) and canned tomatoes. Cook the meat with some garlic and onion powder. Add in the tomatoes (I like a mix of diced and crushed tomatoes but see what’s available and cheap.) and add salt & pepper to taste. If you have it or can afford it one or more of the following spices are good: oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram. This freezes really well (but freeze the sauce alone and cook up spaghetti when you want to serve it. The pasta doesn’t generally freeze very well.) and reheats really quickly.

Homemade chili. I don’t have a recipe, but again, find ground beef and canned tomatoes on sale. Beans are cheap and a good source of protein and fiber. Plus chili is usually filling/satisfying, especially during the winter.

Homemade soups. They’re a great way to use frozen/canned vegetables, which are generally cheaper than fresh and sometimes have more vitamins (because they’re picked when they’re ripe, not picked while they’re green and forced to “ripen” on a truck. Plus they’re immediately frozen or canned so they retain more vitamins than those that have to travel a long distance to get to a store. I don’t have a cite at the moment but I could find one if you want.). And soup can stretch a small amount of meat over many meals.

If you have one, pull out you crock pot/slow cooker. The tougher cuts of meat tend to be cheaper, and if you cook them all day in the slow cooker, they turn out falling-off-the-bone tender. Pot roast and stew are great. Note though that it’s generally cheaper to buy a roast and cut it into stew-sized chunks than to buy the pre-cut “stew beef” but check the store and see what’s a good deal. Again, these are hearty meals that keep you full.

It takes time and effort, but the best way to cut spending is to price compare. Look through the ads, look in the stores. Keep a list of what costs what so you know when something’s a good deal. (I can’t keep the prices for everything we buy in my head, but if you can, you don’t have to have a list.) Just because it’s a store brand doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cheap. Look at the prices, especially the unit price. Similarly, just because it’s on “sale” doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. This is where having a list of the things you frequently buy and their normal prices really comes in handy.

Oh and this reminds me of something I just learned… the exactly-8-oz blocks of cheese that are on the eye-level shelves actually cost more (per lb) than the not-perfectly-sized blocks that are in the bottom of the fridge case. I had no idea, but I looked recently and it’s true!

Some stores around here drastically mark down meat on the last day they can sell it. It’s usually marked “Manager’s Special.” All the times I’ve bought things, they’ve been perfectly good.

Some supermarkets have a rack for ‘dented’ or not-so-pretty but perfectly edible produce. Might be a little limp but still nutritionally sound. Likewise the meat case - a couple times a week they’ll mark down meats to move them before expiry. Load up your cart & stash them in the freezer. Day old bread, slightly damaged packages…all super cheap and perfectly good if you’re not hung up on brand loyalty or looks.
Don’t forget store brands over name brands.

Look around for cheap chicken. The grocery stores around here sometimes have 5 or 10 pound sacks of thighs and legs for something like 69 cents a pound. That’ll go a long way. Any kind of stew will keep you fed for awhile. You can quite often find pork shoulder for 0.99 to 1.29 a pound. Make big piles of food and freeze them, so you’re not stuck eating the same stew for a whole week. $25/week is cutting it pretty slim, but I think you can do it without having to resort to ramen every day of the week.

Here are my recommendations for purchases:

Beans (assuming 2 bags w/approx 2 cups each)
Several pounds of acorn, butternut or pumpkin squash (in season now; you can often get them very cheaply at a farmer’s market)
Bulk canned diced tomatoes
Bulk potatoes
Two whole chickens (you can freeze one, roast one now)
Bulk carrots
Bulk apples
Bulk spices from an international market (usually $3.99 a pop) like cinnamon, clove, cumin seed, mustard seed

You can make any of the following in addition to things like beans & rice, eggs, etc.:
Bean cakes w/stir-fried carrots or carrot & cinnamon puree (can also use bean cakes as a burger if you have sandwich bread or buns)
Steamed rice cakes (idli) w/ sambhar
Chicken-based soup (like chicken chili mentioned earlier, with beans, or chicken noodle; you can also make chicken & dumplings if you have flour)
Spanish tortilla with tomatoes
Oatmeal w/ cinnamon & apples
Poached or baked apples if you need a sweet
Fried chicken & biscuits w/ mashed potatoes or squash & cinnamon puree
Squash & potato soup w/biscuits

If you happen to get spaghetti squash, you can also substitute that for noodles and have a really high-fiber version of spaghetti. Or if you have money left over, you can get Romain leaves and use the rice, tomatoes and some spices to make modified dolmades. And regardless of the type of flour you have, you can usually make an unleavened bread (though I’m not 100% sure about the taste if you try to make something like chapatis with, say, unbleached all purpose). God, I’m hungry.

If you can use existing staples - making sourdough bread is a cheap bread source. If you can’t use existing staples to play this game, the staples might set you back too far to get a start.