5-Dollar Meal Plan: How to Feed Your Family 3 Meals on a Tight Budget

We're going to do another 5-dollar meal plan. This provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my family for a day. You may wonder, how can you feed your family three meals on this? Let me show you how.

Note: I included this 5-dollar meal plan in a pickup order, but they had to substitute something. They substituted the smoked sausage I had chosen. I opted for the John Morrell smoked sausage, which was $1.22 for 7 ounces.

They substituted it with a 14-ounce package of a different brand at no extra charge, but it's usually more expensive. That's all they had. So I'm going to calculate prices using the one I actually ordered.

Grocery list for the 5-dollar meal plan

Grocery list

  • $1.54 for 2 pounds of long-grain white rice
  • $1 for the one-pound bag of pinto beans
  • $1.38 for the seasoning blend frozen vegetables
  • $1.22 for the smoked sausage

Total: $5.14

*Grocery prices are as of October 2022 in Tennessee.

Lunch: sausage and veggie rice bowls

1. Cook the rice

First things first, I'm going to cook up some rice. I'm going to make two cups of rice in my Instant Pot. The way that I do rice in the Instant Pot, is that for each cup of rice, I put one and a quarter cups of water, cook it for ten minutes, then slowly release it naturally for ten minutes, and then pump it in. So I'm going to go ahead and do that.  

Cooking the vegetables in a wok

2. Cook the veggies

I'm putting olive oil in the bottom of my wok. I'm not going to use all of the seasoning blends because I am going to save some of this for the bean dish that I'm making for dinner, so it'll give us an extra flavor.

I'm going to add some salt to the veggies, some pepper, and garlic powder. No precise measurements, just season to taste.

You don't have to use these seasonings. Use whatever seasonings you have in your house. This is customizable to your preference and to what you have in your home. I added paprika and some onion powder. 

Cutting up the sausage

3. Cut up the sausage

Cut the sausage into slices. I'll dump them in when the vegetables are almost cooked fully. The vegetables are halfway cooked, so I'm adding my smoked sausage. I'm going to add a little bit more oil. Cook until the sausage is browned.

Emergency budget meals

4. Assemble in bowls

Rice is done so I’ll just assemble everything in bowls for everybody’s lunch today. Each bowl is two scoops of and almost two whole scoops of the sausage veggie mix each. More than enough food to keep our bellies full until dinner.  

Dinner: rice and beans

It's time for dinner. I'm going to wash my beans and pick through my beans, and then I'll show you what I'm going to do next. I usually make my rice in my Instant Pot, but not today, because I would prefer to make my beans in the Instant Pot because it's faster than on the stovetop.

So I'm going to be making my rice on the stovetop for dinner tonight. So let me tell you what we got going on.  

Sautéing the seasoning blend

1. Sauté the seasoning blend

I turn my Instant Pot on saute mode and I'll throw some butter in here. Remember that frozen seasoning blends that we saved, I poured them in there and I'm going to saute them.

Adding beans to the pot

2. Add the beans to the pot

I have my beans over here washed and ready to go. The seasonings that you add to the pot are totally optional. I'm going to start out with I would say a tablespoon of Tony's seasoning, adding some garlic powder and basic seasonings I have in my pantry.

Beans kind of need a little extra salt than most things. We're going to add some adobo seasoning in there. I added five cups of water to this and I added my beans, after I washed them, of course.

I'm gonna put a big dollop of Crisco in there but any fat will work. Set the cooker on manual for 65 minutes and do a quick release. It's a tad bit more liquidy than a like so what I'm going to do is turn it off, hit saute, no lid on for this and it will thicken up.

Cooking the remainder of the rice

3. Cook the remainder of the rice

I'll cook the rest of that rice up using the package instructions for stovetop cooking. I’ll use the leftover rice for breakfast tomorrow. 

Beans and rice

The finished beans and rice. I put parsley on top of the rice because it just makes it cute. 

Breakfast: rice pudding

Let's do our breakfast. I'm going to make some rice pudding. It's really good and it gives me an oatmeal feel. Kids love it. Super easy. I'm gonna be using some pantry items in this. 

Leftover rice

Now, I had my leftover rice. I cooked all of that yesterday, and I saved a few cups of cooked rice for this. 

Mixing the rice pudding

1. Mix the rice pudding ingredients

Add two cups of milk, one-third cup of sugar, and one-fourth cup of cornstarch. All pantry items I keep in my home, and items I advise you guys to keep in your pantry as well.  

Also, I advise you to whisk up your cornstarch and sugar, and milk together before you add it to the rice, so it doesn't stick, because it is milk, and sugar can stick and burn easily, and it'll get thicker. Kind of like oatmeal.

5-dollar meal plan

2. Serve with cinnamon and brown sugar

Top the rice pudding with a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. You don't have to do that, of course, but if you have it, it's nice to try.  

5-dollar meal plan

That was another $5 meal plan. Remember, I'm just showing you the base. If you have it in your budget to add more, to do more, to spread it out more, do whatever you feel is right for your family.

Rice can stretch your meals tremendously. So if you are tight on funds, add some rice to your menu plan. You will stay full. What do you use as a go-to meal when funds are tight? Share in the comments!

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2 of 5 comments
  • Karen Karen on Dec 13, 2022

    I use a 5 lb bag of potatoes 87cents by maki g garlic mashed potatoes. Air fryer French fries, baked potatoes, potato pancakes. Very easy and tasty.

  • Tom33995511 Tom33995511 on Dec 04, 2023

    Did. Price check. 7.07 now for the $5.00 a year ago!! Thank you Joe!