$45 Emergency Menu for 4 to 6

I’ve seen various places around the web claim that in an emergency you can feed your family for only $10 or $20 a week.  While I appreciate their intentions, I have noticed that they all assume you have certain supplies already on hand.  In my experience this isn’t always the case. Forty-five dollars will seem outrageously abundant to some, while it will seem minuscule to others.  It is the smallest amount I was able to come up with that will provide enough supplies to an empty kitchen to feed an entire family for a week.  The servings are ample and a few adjustments allow you to increase the quantities from 4 servings to 6.  Newly added nutritional information makes it clear that except for sodium, these recipes are nutritious and healthy.  They are low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and rich in fiber.  To reduce the sodium you can use half as much salt and bouillon as called for in the recipes, and purchase store-brand reduced sodium canned vegetables instead of the regular variety.

You may also want to take a look at the ebooks and resources provided by Living On A Dime – their ebooks are well worth the small fee they charge for all the money saving tips and ideas that you will get out of them. I usually make up the money I pay on the ebook within less than a week (often in one shopping trip) from purchase. Take a look and see for yourself at LivingOnADime.com.

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Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks Nutrition
Monday Pancakes; Syrup; Orange Juice; Milk; Hot Tea Lentil & Vegetable Soup  with Dumplings; Milk Pinto Beans; Onions; Hoecakes; Collard Greens; Iced Tea Cinnamon Toast; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1656 Calories; 33g Fat (17.5% calories from fat); 71g Protein; 275g Carbohydrate; 42g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 3312mg Sodium
Tuesday Oatmeal; Toast, Margarine & Jelly; Orange Juice; Milk; Hot Tea Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwiches; Macaroni & Cheese; Carrot Sticks; Milk Bean Burritos with Homemade Refried Beans & Homemade Tortillas; Fried Onions; Iced Tea Plain Muffins with Jelly; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1826 Calories; 50g Fat (24.1% calories from fat); 73g Protein; 279g Carbohydrate; 32g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 2812mg Sodium
Wednesday French Toast; Syrup; Orange Juice; Milk; Hot Tea Batter Bread; Margarine; Spinach; Milk Creamed Tuna & Peas over Rice; Garlic Toast; Iced Tea Peanut Butter Tortillas; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1771 Calories; 55g Fat (27.7% calories from fat); 76g Protein; 245g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 187mg Cholesterol; 3213mg Sodium.
Thursday Hot Rice in Milk; Toast, Margarine & Jelly; Orange Juice; Hot Tea Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwiches; Macaroni & Cheese; Carrot Sticks; Milk Black Bean Soup with Carrots, Celery & Onions; Cornmeal Muffins; Iced Tea Cinnamon Toast; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1737 Calories; 52g Fat (26.7% calories from fat); 61g Protein; 262g Carbohydrate; 20g Dietary Fiber; 51mg Cholesterol; 2631mg Sodium
Friday Oatmeal Pancakes; Syrup; Orange Juice; Milk; Hot Tea Leftover Black Bean Soup; Biscuits; Milk Hot Dog & Veggie Stir Fry over Rice; Iced Tea Peanut Butter Tortillas; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1781 Calories; 52g Fat (26.1% calories from fat); 73g Protein; 259g Carbohydrate; 20g Dietary Fiber; 140mg Cholesterol; 3202mg Sodium
Saturday Hot Rice in Milk; Toast, Margarine & Jelly; Hot Tea Ramen Noodles with Carrots; Celery & Onions; Oatmeal Muffins; Milk Butter Beans; Scalloped Tomatoes; Garlic Toast; Iced Tea Biscuits & Jelly; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1727 Calories; 52g Fat (26.6% calories from fat); 59g Protein; 261g Carbohydrate; 24g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 3281mg Sodium.
Sunday Pancakes; Syrup; Orange Juice; Milk; Hot Tea Lentil Chili; Corn Bread; Baked Custard Corn Fritters; Steamed Carrots; Macaroni & Cheese; Iced Tea Cinnamon Toast; Milk for Children; Tea for Adults 1796 Calories; 47g Fat (23.1% calories from fat); 70g Protein; 282g Carbohydrate; 28g Dietary Fiber; 247mg Cholesterol; 3527mg Sodium.
Averages for Week 1756 Calories; 29g Fat; 69g Protein; 267g Carbohydrate; 25g Fiber; 108mg Cholesterol; 3140mg Sodium.

Shopping List
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2009 Prices 2006 Prices Items
10 lbs all purpose flour
3 pack of yeast
Baking Powder
3 lbs long grain white rice / 5 lbs rice in 2009
2 lb bag of cornmeal
5 lbs sugar
Vegetable Oil
2 cans frozen orange juice concentrate
20 quart box of instant nonfat dry milk
2 pounds lentils
2 lbs pinto beans
1 lb black beans
1 lb lima beans
3 boxes Macaroni & Cheese
3 packs of Ramen Noodles
2 dozen eggs (2.5 dozen in 2009)
2 lbs margarine
1 lb hot dogs
1 28-oz can tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomatoes
15-oz can green peas
15-oz can corn
15-oz can greens
15 oz cans spinach
5 lb bag carrots
3 lb bag onions
1 bunch celery
6-oz can tuna
18-oz jar peanut butter
Pancake Syrup
Garlic Powder
Chili Powder
Bouillon Cubes
100 Count Box of Tea Bags
$70.37 $45.16 Note: The prices were gathered in February 2006 and March 2009 from Dollar General and Walmart. Your prices may vary.


If you receive WIC, Food Stamps or have food from a local food bank, you’ll be able to do much better than this menu plan. It is based on bare minimums.

There isn’t much meat in these menus. That’s because meat is expensive and beans aren’t.  Beans provide lots of good protein for growing children and hard working adults.  When beans are combined with certain other foods their protein increases.  The amino acids in grains like flour, pasta and cornmeal or milk products cooperate with the amino acids in the beans to make an extremely high quality protein. Don’t worry about the lack of meat, there is more protein in this menu than you can shake an expensive protein bar at.

The milk may seem overpriced to some, but it is vital for growing children and mom’s who are pregnant, nursing or who may become pregnant.  It is also very high in protein especially when combined with grains or beans (see above).

Orange Juice is served every morning but Saturday.  The plan assumes 4 servings of 1/2-cup each for every morning it’s served.  Orange Juice supplies Vitamin C and Folic Acid, once again, necessary for pregnant mothers and growing children.

In the recipes that call for buttermilk use regular reconstituted milk soured with a tiny bit of vinegar.  This works just as good as buttermilk in cooking.

For the recipes that call for dried onion, substitute a small amount of finely chopped fresh onion.

For the recipes calling for fresh garlic, substitute a small amount of garlic powder instead.

To serve a hungry family of 6 you’ll need to make the following changes:

  • Increase the flour to three 5 pound bags & bake 6 loaves of bread at a time instead of 4.
  • Buy 3 cans Orange Juice Concentrate instead of 2
  • Double the Macaroni and Cheese served for lunches making 2 boxes at a time instead of 1.
  • Double the cans of Tuna, Peas, Corn, Greens & Spinach.
  • Double the recipe for Creamed Tuna & Peas.
  • Double the recipe for Corn Fritters
  • Double the recipe for Lentil Chili, adding 1 more can of tomatoes to the shopping list.
  • This will increase the total spent to approximately $51.

Daily Work

Sunday Night: Mix up the dough for Overnight Bread.  Set it aside to rise.  Mix up a gallon of milk and a gallon of Tea. Put both into the fridge to chill.  Clean the kitchen.  Go to bed.

Monday: Begin the week with a hearty breakfast.  After the breakfast dishes are done, prepare the vegetables for Lentil Soup, and put the Lentils on to cook. Soak 2lbs of pinto beans in boiling water to cover for 1 or 2 hours.  Half of them are for supper tonight and the other half for supper tomorrow.  Punch down your bread dough which should be nicely risen by now.  Divide it into 4 loaves.  Allow it to rise for 1 or 2 hours and then bake.  After soaking the pinto beans, boil them until tender and refrigerate.  Reheat half of them for dinner and use the other half for tomorrow.  Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Tuesday: After breakfast prepare enough tortillas for dinner tonight and for 2 snacks during the week; 16 to 20 tortillas should be enough.  Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Prepare a dozen Muffins for snacks later in the day. Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Wednesday: When preparing the rice, make enough for dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning.  2-cups dry rice, cooked in 4-cups of water should be enough. Prepare the dough for Overnight bread before going to bed. Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Thursday: Soak the beans in boiling water to cover for about an hour or two.  Simmer until tender.  Prepare the soup as directed and chill until supper time.  Divide the bread dough into 4 loaves and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk.  Bake as directed. Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Friday: Make enough rice for supper tonight and leftovers for breakfast in the morning.  2-cups dry rice cooked in 4-cups of water should be enough. Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Saturday: Soak the lima beans in boiling water to cover for about an hour or 2.  Simmer until tender and season as directed.  Chill until supper time.  Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.

Sunday: Put the lentil chili on to cook and prepare the custard and cornbread to bake at the same time.  Check the milk & iced tea supply, prepare more as necessary.


Breads & Cereals

Old-Fashioned Low-Yeast Bread Biscuits use margarine instead of shortening
Homemade Tortillas Hoe Cakes
Pancakes French Toast
Oatmeal Pancakes Basic Muffins
Oatmeal Muffins Batter Bread
Cornmeal Muffins Corn Bread
Cooked Rice Hot Rice Cereal

Main Dishes

Lentil & Vegetable Soup with Dumplings Black Bean Soup from Dried Beans
Pinto Beans make a double batch Refried Beans
Butter Beans (Lima Beans) Lentil Chili
Creamed Tuna & Peas Hot Dog & Veggie Stir Fry


Corn Fritters Scalloped Tomatoes
Collard Greens


Classic Baked Custard Snickerdoodles
Perfect Iced Tea Reconstituting Milk

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  1. Bett says

    The thing is that you didn’t pay per week, you bought in bulk. If someone only has $45 for groceries for a week, they can’t buy in bulk and spread it out over the month. I am looking for someone that did this by the week, and without using up a kitchen’s worth of staples they already had. Each site says it is possible and that they did it but you look and see they didn’t. I have yet seen one that does.

  2. Angel says

    I found your website when we were in a budget crunch YEARS ago, and here I am again, a baby in the mix, reminding myself of how to make things stretch. Thank you for taking the time to share your emergency meal plan.

  3. Jaylah says

    I’ve had this website bookmarked for years. At one time, I’d even printed out the menu and all the recipes and had them in plastic document protectors attached with a metal (key-ring type) ring. That way I could just flip to the next day’s menu and recipes.

    The money situation has gotten better since I first found this site, but there are still occasional months (like in the hot summer when the electricity bill goes crazy from the air-conditioning) that I need to tighten my belt a bit, and I come back to this.

    And even when money isn’t quite so much of an issue, some of the recipes here are really good and I eat them regardless of financial situation.

    I do, however, make a few changes. I’m pre-diabetic, so all the bread and rice and sugar have to be cut way down for me.

  4. Cynthia Heimsoth says

    I’m still tweaking this a bit, because I want to be able to offer it to my charity group as a proposal for families in crisis — the idea being that the volunteers would round up the parts, bag them, and present them with a printout of the menu and recipes to the family. I haven’t had the $45 menu be less than $80 yet, but I could see that once the group does it they could have economies of bulk. Also, most of us have some of these things in our houses already and could have more.

    Thoughts regarding using canned beans vs dry? I read somewhere that 1 lb dry is roughly 4 cans. I know the dry is cheaper but the canned is less frightening. ;-)

    I also want to work out how much of the supplies go toward bread making as generally we can get good stable supplies of bread from donations.

  5. mum of 5 says

    Thank you for taking the time to put together this terrific resource! I appreciate the fact that you added all the details necessary to implement the budget and especially appreciate the info on how to expand it for a larger family. Great job!

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