How to Eat for Less Than $5 a Day (Even in a High Cost of Living City!)

If you are low on money, I spend around $200 a month on food in a high cost of living area. I also eat out around 4 times a week. However, when forced to, I am able to lower that to less than $30 a month.

While it is challenging, it is pretty easy to do once you start. I also follow a gluten free diet due to having Celiac Disease–so no, I don’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal like all the other guides like this. Here’s how it’s done.

Cost of Food and Nutrition Facts (estimates):

FoodPriceQuantityServingsFatCarbsProteinCalories
Rice920 lbs2020363156
Potatoes410 lbs200.548.56222.5
Oatmeal11 lbs113275155
Chicken Thigh (Boneless)1.31 lbs413030237
Ground Beef2.191 lbs428018324
Tilapia6.752 lbs8162212280
Eggs112 eggs1250.6671.4
Spinach1.350.5 lbs20.444.123.2433.4
Broccoli1.651 lbs20.8415.066.493.4
Pinto Beans (Dry)11 lbs131217121
Lentil (Dry)11 lbs130.5238128.5
Garlic1.553 heads320.020.990.194.9
Yellow Onion1.353 lbs120.0911.461.0450.81
Banana0.21 banana10.4271.3116.8
Apple11 lbs30.2419.150.3680.2
Protein Powder54.511 lbs2001.5319101.5
Extra Virgin Olive Oil1167.63 oz1331400126
Peanut Butter2.452.5 lbs351587195
Whole Milk3.19128 oz169138165

Sample Meal Schedule

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You can eat the same thing for lunch and dinner and then switch up the recipe the next day (I do this very often). This is much better than just eating ramen, rice and beans, or PB&Js everyday. I at least offer some diversity with a balance of starches, meats, and veggies. Also if you aren’t gluten free, go ahead and add bread and other gluten products to your meal plan. For the haters that say “wow, you only eat the same thing every week? that isn’t realistic!” Well genius, if you change up your spices, you can have drastically different cuisines with these base ingredients. There are different types of oils, different cuts of chicken, and different types of seasonings. This isn’t a cooking article, this is a finance article. I will share some of my recipes in the future like my beef chili, bulgogi style ground beef, and ‘any spice’ chicken thighs!

I can add more, but this isn’t a cooking article–just a way to get you started and think about calories and costs. But yes, you may need to repeat some meals. This isn’t an issue for me at all, and if you have any desire to save money, this shouldn’t be an issue for you either. I’ve heard so many stories of people only eating ramen everyday, and this hastily strung together meal plan heavily trumps that by offering many types of meals. For example, potatoes can be baked, mashed, smashed, or you can make fries, hash browns, and many more! Eggs can be fried, scrambled, or eaten raw in shakes or over rice.

I am not a dietician, this is not diet advice

Eating on $1 a day and $5 a day

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