Home » The Joy of a Simple Meal

The Joy of a Simple Meal

Feeding a family of six on less than $450 dollars a month means, at least for us, that we’ve had to get used to the fact that we can’t have anything we want to eat, whenever we want it.ย  In our prior, financially irresponsible life, if we wanted steak for dinner, we’d run up to the store and get some steak.ย  If we wanted chicken breasts, we’d simply go to the store and buy them (could this possibly be part of the reason we exceeded last year’s grocery budget by an easy $300 a month? ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

But since we’ve chosen to live a more frugal lifestyle, in order to to get ourselves out of debt, those types of “treats” aren’t an option much anymore.ย  Instead, our meal budget is carefully planned out, 1 month at a time.ย  Also, we often end up eating “simple” meals, like the one pictured below.


This simple meal of rice and beans cost our family of six less than $3:

1 large and 1 regular sized can of generic refriend beans:ย  $2.26

Big box club rice, 6 cups, cooked: 24 cents

Misc spices for the rice (chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin), sour cream, cheese, hot sauce: 35 cents

Total spent: $2.85

It’s meals like this that allow us to feed our family on such a small amount.ย  But the really great thing about living on a small grocery budget is that it’s really caused us to appreciate food, in general.

The sad fact is that not everybody on earth gets to eat 3 meals a day, every day.ย  Although there is enough food on earth for every single person to eat roughly 2700 calories per day, government ransoming of food and a lack of giving on the part of many make food shortages rampant in third world countries.ย  There are also many food shortages right here in the U.S. due to the fact that people often mismanage the funds they are given, or they simply aren’t aware of or able to get to places that offer free food.ย  I’ve seen these scenarios first-hand in my many years of volunteering in different capacities to help feed the hungry, as well as experienced it myself during the years after my parents’ divorce, and let me tell you,ย it’s not a pretty place to be when you can’t feed your children.

Since we’ve chosen to place ourselves on a strict food budget, obviously we do have the option of spending more (although that wouldn’t be wise given our current situation), but placing ourselves on a limited budget where food is concerned has given us two blessings:

1.ย  We’ve tricked our minds into believing that “this is all there is”, helping us to be able to stay within the limits we’ve set.

2.ย  We’ve become extra grateful for every single meal we eat.ย  We find joy in the simplest of meals.

When you first set out to feed your family on less, it can feel a bit depressing.ย  The though of eating beans and rice or ramen noodles for the next year or more can convince you to throw a pity party real quick.ย  But keep in mind that if you commit to getting your finances in order now, the day will soon come when you’ll be able to go to the grocery store without having to stick to a budget.ย  But by that time, of course, you’ll have fallen in love with frugality and probably willย still feed your family rice and beans on occasion. ๐Ÿ™‚





  1. I can so relate Laurie. We used to be very similar, but that all adds up very quickly. We budget $475 for 5, but usually end up with $50-75 leftover at the end of each month. It has really helped us cut down on food waste. There are so many without food that it feels almost criminal to willingly just waste food.

    • Laurie says:

      Wow – you’re doing really well too on your food budget! I get what you’re saying about the waste – it just feels wrong!

  2. I think the meal looks really good! And Iยดm in awe that you manage to feed your family with $450 a month! If you want to try another frugal meal, you`d might consider Norwegian Stew, which consists of potatoes, carrots, rutabaga (swedish turnip, turnip, swede: so many names!), and some broth. It`s usually made with some kind of salty meat, but you could just drop that, and instead just use some beef broth. Itยดs usually served with Norwegian flatbread. In general, a very frugal and still nourishing meal:-) Send me an email if you want a recipe:-)

    • Laurie says:

      Norwegian stew sounds right up our alley, and we have some beef broth in the freezer, ironically! Thanks, NG! I’ll email you about the recipe!

  3. AverageJoe says:

    Your dinner would have been my father in law’s favorite! He loved rice and beans dinners so much that my kids got a real appreciation for my stir fry vegetables….only to avoid three days in a row of rice and beans!

    We also find that when we have a simple meal it’s fun to throw in a poem or short story to read and discuss. We don’t focus on the food. We focus on the discussion and everyone’s participation.

  4. Laurie says:

    You’ll get there Alan. It’s all a work of process. Let me know if you want budget help, as I do some consulting on the side. Also, there is some info available on my site as well!

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, we are eating healthier now, which is nice. I can’t wait till the garden takes off – then we’ll really be downing the veggies and fruits, for free! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Pauline says:

    We eat pretty simply and almost everything from scratch. We also have one big lunch around 2pm and just snack at night, rarely do we have dinner. Which would be impossible with kids!

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, that’s much different than here in America, where often dinner is the biggest meal of the day. Your way of life is MUCH healthier, that’s for sure!

  6. eemusings says:

    We don’t eat out very often, but I would say our tastes are a little extravagant! We really appreciate good ingredients, which don’t come cheap, but those have to be an occasional splurge ๐Ÿ™‚ I definitely eat a lot of carbs … I have a real weakness for potatoes, pasta and bread.

    • Laurie says:

      Rick is the same way – loves his carbs. I try and stay with more fresh veggies and lean meats, but we do load up on carbs a bit, for cost purposes….

  7. Justin says:

    I’d rather have a simple meal than something extravagant. I could eat the same thing day in and out without getting bored of it. The problem is finding a balance with my wife who has opposite tastes than me.
    You’re right though. You become more thankful when meals are thoughtfully planned out rather than just a carry out.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s funny, Justin. I don’t know many people who could live on the same thing day in and day out and not get sick of it real quick. At least your wife knows that if she has a busy week she can serve you mac and cheese all week and you’ll be good with that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. michelle says:

    to ‘kick it up’ a notch without blowing you budget, take leftover bacon grease (never ever EVER throw it down the drain, it has TONS of flavor) and RE-fry those beans. Heat the fat up, throw the can in and heat the beans up in the fat. my grandmother also added mozzerella cheese.

    better yet, make those pinto beans from scratch (pennies instead of dollars) and use the cooking liquid to thin the beans as you re-fry them. my family is mexican, that is the way we do it.

    for the rice, a little fresh cilantro added at the end, some sauteed onions to start with will make a simple meal taste decadent.

    Better yet, make a true spanish rice like my grandma. use a can of tomato paste with enough water for your amount, simmer with some olive oil, salt & pepper, onions until the water is nearly evaporated but not gone. cover with tin foil really REALLY tight, turn to lowest setting and steam for the rest of the cooking time. add the cilantro. You will have happy tummies.

  9. In a way you are right, it’s like tricking the mind into believing that is all there is. If we believe we have more to spend than we actually do we will spend it if the means are available. Live like you need to live doing the best you can do and you’ll get there. We enjoy a nice meal of beans and rice as well, infact it’s a staple in our diet and cost effective for the budget. Cheers

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, we’ve got some steaks in the freezer too, Glen. We just need to have a few nights in a row of cheap stuff in order to fit them in with the budget, so we save them for special occasions. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Jose says:

    Hi Laurie, you can’t beat the cost on that meal and it looks pretty yummy too! I would have to add a bit of ground beef to the mix though ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Laurie says:

      Funny, Rick isn’t a big meat eater, so we’re good with the rice and beans. He’s a rarity in guy world, I know, but it is good for the pocketbook. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Laurie, I honestly used to go to the grocery 3-4 times a week and pick up whatever we decided to have for dinner. That’s almost as bad as getting take out! A little planning goes a long way. We do eat steak, but only steak from the clearance bin when I happen upon it at the right time. It actually is a great surprise when it happens.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s exactly what helped us get into the mess we’re in right now, is the spending a bit here and there. I’m so with you on the clearance rack meat too: we got a prime rib roast one time for $13 from the clearance bin – what a treat! That’s something we wouldn’t have purchased otherwise.

  12. David says:

    The meal seems simple but it looks delectable as well. All these for the price of $2.85. Thanks for the advice. It really does not matter if the meals are frugal provided everyone in the family enjoys eating and the food contains the correct nutrients.

  13. We budget $240 per 4-week month for 4.75 (due this month!!!) and usually fall well under. All our dinners have meat, though. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t think my husband would sign onto any dinner that didn’t!

  14. Laurie says:

    I love homemade refried beans! For some reason, when #3 was little, she’d get sick when I made them, so now we’re afraid to try again. I’m sure it was just coincidence, since the canned stuff doesn’t bother her, but we’ve all got some traumatic memories from those days and are a bit weary of homemade refrieds. ๐Ÿ™‚

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