Poverty Finance: Best Foods for Poor People

As a poor person, how should you approach food? You're mainly trying to spend as little money as possible to keep from going hungry. This means calories, but it also means nutrition. You likely don't have a lot of time or energy to prep.

After some thought, I have decided that there are four main criteria to choosing foods as a poor person:

Calories per Dollar (CPD)
Per dollar spent, how much energy (calories) will this give me?
Nutrition per Dollar (NPD)
Per dollar spent, how much essential nutrition will this give me?
The Satiety Factor (SF)
Will this food keep me full for a while? Sugary foods score low on this- your body burns the sugar all at once and then crashes soon after. On the other hand, protein, fiber, and healthy fat keep you full all day on less food, saving you money.
Ease of Prep (EOP)
It's not worth spending a whole day prepping a meal to save 20 cents. Also included in this score is whether the food keeps well or not.

Best Foods for Poor People


Potatoes



CPD: 10/10
Calories per dollar, this is one of the best foods you can buy. Buy in 5 or 10 lb bags at Aldi to maximize this.
NPD: 9/10
Potatoes are surprisingly nutritious. High in vitamin C and B6, they also have good effects on skin and sleep. They are a whole food. Some of the nutrition is in the peel, so scrub your potatoes, don't peel them.
SF: 8/10
They're starchy and don't have a lot of protein, but they are substantial, have fiber, and will usually keep you full for a while. Adding some kind of fat helps, like canola oil, corn oil, margarine, or, if you can afford it, olive oil.
EOP: 8/10
Worst case scenario, microwave it and go. Have a little more time? Boil em, mash em, stick em in a stew. Hash browns, home fries, and roasted potatoes are also possibilities

Oatmeal

CPD: 7/10: Oatmeal hasn't got as many calories for your buck as other options, but the other factors make up for this pretty well.
NPD: 7/10: Iron, fiber, and many vitamins are in oatmeal.
SF: 10/10: Need to stay full all day? Oatmeal is a winner.
EOP: 9/10: You usually need a microwave, but have made instant oatmeal packets with only a hot water kettle in the past.

If you're not a big egg fan, try making French Toast to turn regular bread into a warm, filling meal.

Eggs

CPD: 7/10: Eggs are fairly cheap right now, and each egg has about 70 calories.
NPD: 9/10 Eggs are highly nutritious! Omega 3s are pretty expensive to get from other sources like salmon, and they're high in other vitamins too.
SF: 8/10 The protein keeps you full!
EOP: 9/10 Hardboiled eggs are ready in 15 minutes, and easy to transport. Scrambled eggs take about 7 minutes to make. If you don't have a stove, microwave eggs are possible in about 2 minutes.

Egg Ideas:

Besides your usual scrambled and hard boiled variants, try poached eggs on toast with a side of baked beans for the ultimate British-style comfort food.
If you're not a big egg fan, try making French Toast to turn regular bread into a warm, filling meal.

Pasta with Oil

CPD: 8/10: A filler food.
NPD: 4/10: Not really a lot of nutrients in there, sorry.
SF: 7/10: With the oil, you can stay full longer, but the starchy pasta will have you hungry again soon.
EOP: 8/10: If you can boil water, you can make this. You do, however, need a strainer or at least the skill to strain the pasta with the pot lid.

Overall Score: 7/10

Peanut Butter


CPD: 9/10 Two tablespoons is 220 calories.
NPD: 7/10 There's some nutrition in peanut butter, but I wouldn't call it a complete meal.
SF: 9/10 Lots of satiating fat. Studies show that nuts are great for keeping people fuller longer.
EOP: 10/10 Stick spoon in. Pull spoon out. Lick spoon. Repeat. No need for a microwave, fridge, oven, etc. If you are literally homeless, this is the best thing to keep you from starving.
Overall score: 9/10


These are only a few of several foods which score high on the scale. Other favorites are:


  • Beans (canned, or save cash by soaking dried ones)
  • Rice
  • Pancakes (make your own pancake mix by pre-mixing flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and baking soda)
  • Cornbread
  • Chili (make once and freeze in individual containers to save time)
  • Soups
What are your favorite frugal foods? Do you have a story about feeding yourself on a shoestring budget? Let me know in the comments!


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