12-13 years ago, I was working at a group home full-time, but earning peanuts. We're talking a gross income of $11,000/year- $9000ish after taxes- in an area where fair-market rent was more expensive than I could truly afford.
I had a tiny, tiny food budget of $10/week. This was before the era of couponing and frugality blogs, and my only resources were my vegetarianism, the library, and my own ingenuity.
I owned a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette, and religiously used my price book. At the time, I could stock up on store-brand pasta and mac 'n cheese when it was on sale for $0.20/box.
I made this recipe for Cuban Bread (a quick version of yeast bread) and every morning I would have a slice with margarine for breakfast, or oatmeal made with powdered milk, a slice or two with peanut butter for lunch, and pasta, mac 'n cheese, or lentils and rice for dinner. I can't say it was a varied diet, and I couldn't afford more than canned veggies and fruit or fresh potatoes, but my caloric needs were met.
I never want to eat mac 'n cheese again, and my kids happen to be allergic, so we don't eat that, but rice and lentils (in the form of Mujadarrah) is still part of our dinner repertoire.
In that vein, I thought I would share a list of some of my favorite low-cost meals:
Eggs and Toast. I can get a dozen organic eggs using a bonus points system at a local store for $1.49. That's about 12.5 cents per egg. A slice of Ezekial Bread is $0.36/each. (Homemade is cheaper- still working on perfecting that.) A meal of two eggs for each adult, one egg for each of our two children, a slice of toast each, and half a sliced apple is about $3.19 for my family.
Mujadarrah. This requires a couple TB of olive oil, a cup of lentils, a large onion, and a cup of brown rice. I cook my lentils in frozen veggie or chicken stock that I've made myself and frozen. This recipe serves 4 people a decent serving. I can make a batch for less than $2 on average.
Falafel: I make my chickpeas in the slow cooker and then freeze. I keep a bag of bread ends/crusts in the freezer to make breadcrumbs in the food processor as needed. I can make a large batch of this for less than $2, depending on the price of the dried chickpeas.
Boston Baked Beans: I used navy beans from dried, and trim the bacon amount to 3 slices. This can make a big pot for under $2. This can feed us easily for 2 days.
Homemade Pizza: I can make a large pizza for $1 or less. We don't use cheese due to allergies, which brings the cost down. I buy a cheap can of store brand tomato sauce and add in dried Italian seasoning and garlic powder to make the sauce. We typically only have veggies, such as bell pepper, onion, and tomato on ours. Even if you like cheese on your pizza, sale priced mozzarella shouldn't make this more than $2 to make.