Extreme Budget Meal Plan For the Week: 26 Servings for Just $36

Leanne's Life
by Leanne's Life

​​I have an extreme budget meal plan that allows me to stretch $36 into a full week of meals, plus dessert. That is over 26 servings for the whole week at just $1.38 per serving. I’m including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert!

Note: I came up with the $1.38 per serving based on my local Walmart's prices in Pennsylvania as of October 2022. I am sure that it will be different throughout the country, but this will give you a general idea of how much it costs.

Egg McMuffins – 6 sandwiches

I'm starting by showing you some breakfast ideas. This is a knockoff of McDonald's Egg McMuffin.

Egg McMuffin dupe recipe

I have six large white eggs, sliced gouda, some muffins, cheese slices, and three avocados with lime. 

I am going to make the knockoff version of the Egg McMuffin from McDonald's. 

I have a nonstick pan that I sprayed with some olive oil. I added an egg to the pan and cooked it until done. I seasoned the egg with some salt and pepper. I kind of made a mess of it, but it still tasted delicious. 

Budget Egg McMuffin recipe

I split a muffin in half then I added my cheese and my egg, and then I just sliced up half of an avocado, put some lime juice over top, and added some seasoning. 

Breakfast on an extreme budget

This is what I had for breakfast for six days.  

Tuna melts – 4 sandwiches

Next is lunch option one. I'm going to be making some tuna melts. 

Ingredients for tuna melts
  • Hamburger Buns
  • Tuna – 3 cans
  • Mayo, salt/pepper/garlic
  • ¼ onion
  • Tomato – 1 slice for each sandwich
  • Cheese slices

Also, this is a quick and easy meal prep idea. I'm just going to season it with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. 

Greek yogurt dip

Then I'm going to be making a Greek yogurt dip along with the carrots as a side dish for the entire week. 

Making a Greek yogurt dip
  • 3 cartons of single-serve plain Greek yogurt
  • Pepper/garlic powder
  • 1lb carrots – sliced into sticks

I also grated just a little piece of the onion in there to give it some onion flavor. 

Cutting up carrots into sticks

I used one pound of carrots, sliced into sticks.

To toast up the tuna melts I am just going to put a little bit of butter onto the buns. 

Making a tuna melt

Then I am going to add the tuna, then the cheese, and the tomato. 

Tuna melt with carrot sticks

I am just going to place it in my air fryer for probably about five to seven minutes until the cheese is melted.

Ham and cheese crescent bites - 4 servings

Next, I'm going to be making some ham and cheese crescent bites. 

  • 1 tub of crescent rolls – 8
  • Cheese slices – 8
Ingredients for the ham and cheese crescent bites

We have eight crescent rolls, so you would have two per serving, and all you need is lunch meat ham and 8 cheese slices. 

For another crescent rolls recipe, check out my previous tutorial on what to do with your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers.

Making ham and cheese crescent bites

This is super simple. You just open up the crescents, place ham and cheese inside and roll it up and bake it per the instructions on the crescent roll package. 

Extreme budget meals

I paired this with the carrots and dip.   

Italian-style meatballs soup - 6 servings 

Next is a dinner idea. I am going to be making an Italian-style meatball soup. Soups are a great budget-friendly meal. 

  • 1 pound meatballs 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (28 fluid ounce) can of crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1½ cups pasta – (I used less)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese (for serving) optional, to taste
Ingredients for the Italian-style meatballs soup

All you're going to need are some frozen meatballs, some seasoning, some garlic, onion, and some crushed tomato. 

I have this Better Than Bouillon beef base that I had on hand so I was going to use that. I also used olive oil and the pasta I used is super cheap. It is in the Hispanic section, I believe, of Walmart and it is under $0.50 for a bag of pasta. I am going to start by adding some olive oil to a pot. 

Sautéing the onions

I'm going to place my onions in there to get them sauteed up and soft.

Adding ingredients to the pan

Next, you just add in all your ingredients. Listed down below are the measurements that I have for all of these recipes. Again, customize it, and make it your own, it is your kitchen. 

How to make Italian-style meatballs soup

Let your soup simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, just until the meatballs are cooked and warmed through. 

Italian-style meatballs soup recipe

This makes a delicious soup that you can prepare and it will last a week. The only thing I would do differently is to cook the pasta separately and store it separately because the pasta did absorb most of the liquid. 

White bean vegetable broth soup - 6 servings 

The next dinner idea is another soup. As I said, soups are very economical and I'm going to be making a white bean soup along with 4 cups of my homemade vegetable broth. 

  • White beans – 2 cans
  • Corn – 1 can
  • Salt/pepper/garlic powder/Italian seasoning
  • ½ onion
  • 4 cups broth
  • Optional: cheese and avocado slices to top
Ingredients for the white bean vegetable broth soup

All you're going to need is 2 cans of white beans, 1 can of corn, some garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper for seasoning. I have an extra avocado that I'm going to place on top too. 

Sautéing onions

Start by sautéing up your onions and then once they are translucent, then add in your broth. 

The broth that I'm adding equals four cups. I am going to top my soup off with some avocado and the leftover gouda that I have. 

Adding broth to the pan

After adding all the ingredients, I will let it simmer for a while. 

I'm using a potato masher to mash up some of those beans, just to give more body to the soup, and create some thickness. 

Extreme budget meal ideas

I'm just topping it off with some avocado and some leftover cheese that I had from the previous recipe in the week. 


The dessert that I had was basic drop chocolate chip cookies from Walmart.

Extreme budget meal plan

That completes my extreme budget meal plan that will give you filling meals for very little money. What is your favorite extreme-budget meal? Share in the comments, we love hearing from you!

Join the conversation
3 of 13 comments
  • Debbie Baez Debbie Baez on Nov 19, 2022

    You did a great job. I like fresh food and yes it's healthier but expensive!

    • Leanne's Life Leanne's Life on Nov 21, 2022

      I have more options on my YouTube Channel for budgets friendly meal ideas that are not all like this. 🙃 Leannes Life on YouTube!

  • Cso51108026 Cso51108026 on Nov 28, 2022

    One of my top suggestions for folks doing extreme budgets for meals is to mix up the flavor profiles of your "leftovers" so it DOESN'T feel like you're eating the same thing every day. Tuna salad can be divided into 3 parts, one regular, one with a splash of lemon and oregano to read "Greek/Mediterranean," and one with a little chili powder and cayenne, perhaps chipotle, to read "Mexican/Latin." Same with soups. Make it Italian (as a batch, with oregano and basil, or Italian seasoning). Then, for round 2, add Mexican/Latin spices to flavor it another way. Last, you could add some of the cannelini beans and make a meatball "chili" of sorts with the last of the Mexican-flavored soup. If you keep the pasta separate, it can be paired with some tuna and a bit of cheese to make a small tuna noodle "casserole" bake.

    I give all my leftovers "the treatment," so my husband never feels like he's eating the same thing, for dinner, lunch, another dinner... 1 dinner and 1 lunch per profile is my rule of thumb. He'd never complain, but I care enough about him to want to keep things interesting!! It's all about how you can switch it up so it's not boring!!! And, once you start the switching, it's so easy!!! Great post, terrific ideas!!! ~Chrissie PS if you use 1/2 a slice of cheese on the tuna melts, and 1/2 a slice of cheese in the roll-ups, it's less messy (!) and stretches a single package of cheese twice as far!!! :)