You know when you’re at the point where the idea of going grocery shopping seems like a bit of a luxury, and instead you’re just trying to get by and eat when you don’t have any money? Most of us have been there at some point. Whether we’ve had a bunch of bills that needed to be paid, or we’re trying to be super frugal while working towards our financial goal, or things are just tight and there’s no wiggle room in the budget, at some point we feel the pinch and know that we have to get creative.
The thing is, you still have to eat. Starving yourself isn’t the answer. You’ll be amazed at the types of budget friendly things you can eat when you have no money, or when you’re on your last few dollars, and just how far they can stretch.
So here’s a few ideas to get you through and maybe even spark a bit of creativity for you with your meals. Even if you’re just looking for more ways to save money on groceries, here’s how you can still eat well and not pay a fortune for it:
Shop Your Pantry
The best place to start is with your own pantry. Often we store things in there that we didn’t even realise we had, and these can form the base for some good, hearty meals. Stock cubes, cans of soup, pureed tomatoes or even lentils are all great bases to start a meal from.
Not feeling inspired by what you have? Check out Superfood, pop in your ingredients into the site and it will give you options for what you can make.
Use our free Meal Planning printable to help you plan out some meals based on what you have in your pantry:
Shop The Markets
Your local farmer’s markets are a great place to grab some fresh fruit and vegetables for a fraction of the price. Some sellers even offer boxes of marked fruit and vegetables for much lower prices because they simply don’t look as appealing to the customers.
You can use vegetables to bulk up meals, fruits as great snacks to get you through and you can even freeze or preserve any excess you may have that you can’t eat for another time.
Shop Late At Night
Supermarkets will often mark down their fresh produce and meat late at night because they need to sell it before closing the store. You can also find bread or hot meats at reduced prices at these times too. Check out your local stores and see what times they mark their produce down and try to shop around these times.
Visit A Food Bank
Most towns and cities have local food banks that can help you get by. Some charge by the box of random items, others may ask what you need. Depending on their supply and what they can offer you, you may find you can use what you get from here in conjunction with your other cost-saving methods to get you through.
Keep in mind, food banks rely on donations and therefore you can’t be fussy about what you’re given. You just have to roll with what is served up.
5 Cheap Meals You Can Make
1 – Pirate Savory Beef
Ground Beef + Rice + Frozen Veggies + Spices
Why ‘Pirate Savory Beef’? Because it’s made from anything you can find and usually you can make a batch that will make up a whole heap of meals for you.
Use the mince/ground beef (or any meat) and you can bulk it up with rice or lentils. Then add some vegetables so you’re still getting good nutrients (frozen vegetables are often cheap and just as nutritious as fresh) and add a can of tomato soup or stock to add a bit more flavour.
2 – Spaghetti Bolognese
Cheap and simple to make, and it goes a long way. You can often find a packet of pasta for less than a dollar, and use cheaper cuts of mince/ground that usually have more fat in them and just drain off the excess fat as you cook the meat. Add some tomato soup, or tinned tomatoes and some spices and you’ve got yourself a flavoursome meal that will keep you full.
3 – Everything Pasta
Go meat free with this one and just throw every left over bit and everything you have into this dish. Again, pasta can be found for quite cheap if you buy the dried versions and not fresh. Raid your fridge, pantry and freezer, add whatever bits you can to bulk it up.
Or, simply go with buttered pasta by cooking the pasta then tossing it in some melted butter (and crushed garlic for some extra flavour if you like).
4 – Sandwiches
Bread is relatively inexpensive, and if you can’t afford butter that’s okay. Grab some PB&J or your favourite sandwich filling and enjoy.
5 – Soup
Soup can be made from any leftover vegetables you have, or cheap in-season vegetables you can find, and you can add meat bones for flavour, which are usually fairly inexpensive.
Alternatively, cans of soup are often quite cheap and you may be able to find some change to grab a few to get you by.
Whether you’re going super frugal and wanting to cut back significantly on your grocery bill, trying a ‘no spend’ or ‘limited spend’ challenge for yourself, or if money is really tight and you can’t afford a full grocery shop (or any grocery shop), these are just a few budget-friendly things you can eat when you don’t have any money to ensure you’re still eating well and still being nourished.