Struggle Meals: Filling Meals When Funds Are Low

Y’all, it never fails.  At least once each season I find myself out of groceries and zero desire to make those groceries into something edible for the fam.  I get real tired of a full course meal not just appearing in my kitchen each night.  So what’s a gal to do when she has no food, just ingredients to make food?

Enter the struggle meal.

Now, Julia Child would be rolling over in her grave right now if she saw how I handled the art of cooking.  But, I haven’t killed a person yet and ranch dressing can fix anything.  I typically shop at Aldi (seriously y’all, don’t sleep on Aldi) and got the ingredients for these meals for around $22 and change, along with a few pantry staples and seasonings.  Plus, there are leftover ingredients to up your side dish game in future recipes.  Prices paid are full for the whole recipe, not just per serving.  Math is hard.

Here are three family-favorite struggle meals:

Struggle Meal #1- Vegetarian ChiliVegetarian Chili: $5.06

2 cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted are awesome, but are seasonal)

1 can crushed tomatoes

3 cans beans of choice (kidney, chili, black, white)

1 packet chili seasoning

1 onion, diced

1 cup water

Sauté onion (with garlic, if desired) until translucent and fragrant.  Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes.  Top with cheese, sour cream, or serve with a .47 side of cornbread.

Struggle Meal #2- Baked Potato Soup (copycat Panera!)Baked Potato Soup (copycat Panera!) $4.67

4 cups peeled, diced potatoes

32 oz chicken or vegetable broth

Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and chives (fresh or dried)

8 oz cream cheese

Placed diced, peeled potatoes in a large pot with broth and boil until fork-tender; about 25 minutes.  Use a potato masher (or immersion blender) to mash potatoes.  The starch released when potatoes are mashed will act as a thickening agent.  Season broth with desired seasonings to taste.  Add cream cheese and stir until melted and soup is heated through.  Serve

Struggle Meal #3 Chicken Broccoli Quinoa SkilletChicken Broccoli Quinoa Skillet: $12.52

[disclaimer: you can use either canned or fresh/frozen chicken to bring the price down.  If you go to Aldi on a Tuesday their meat is marked down.  I got a solid 2 lbs of chicken for about $2.50 this way!]

1 onion, diced

2 (15 oz) canned chicken, or two cups cooked, diced chicken

1 (15 oz) can chicken (drained and rinsed well) or vegetable broth (sometimes I can find it by the can, other times I have to buy a full 32oz container and freeze the leftovers.  More on that in a minute!)

1 bag steamable broccoli

1 cup quinoa or rice

Seasonings of choice

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Sauté onion (and garlic if desired) until fragrant.  Add chicken and season with salt and pepper and cook until heated through.  This step is key to removing the “canned chicken” taste.

Rinse quinoa/rice (for the love of all things holy, rinse your grains) and add to skillet along with broth and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes until quinoa is cooked.  Add steamed broccoli and stir.  Add cheese on top and cover for an additional 5 minutes to melt cheese.  Serve.

Now, you’ll notice you probably have some leftovers from each recipe.  I like to freeze leftover broth in a Ziploc bag and use it to cook quinoa in for another recipe for extra flavor.  Also, cheese can be added to both the chili and potato soup.  Because, cheese.

There you have it, friends.  With Mother Nature needing to take her meds and it being so bloody cold right now, we could all use a cozy dinner at home, even if it’s a “struggle meal”.

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Missy is an Arizona native who migrated to Iowa on a whim and fell in love. She is a social worker by profession but stepped away from her career to be a pseudo-SAHM to her two girls: 8 year-old Selah and 2 year-old Mercy. She has been married for 10 wonderful years to her TV man husband, Andy, and Bo, the black lab pound puppy completes their family. Most days you’ll find Missy working part-time at a local non-profit, leading worship, and chasing after her children. In her spare time, she enjoys writing/composing music, connecting with other women who are also in the trenches of life, and finding time to get to the giant pile of laundry in the basement. Missy loves a good laugh, crime documentaries, coffee, and naps. She also writes about overcoming strongholds on her blog: Inching Toward Freedom


  1. Everyone needs some “Struggle Meals” in their arsenal. For me, I always have everything for chili too, as well as beef/pork stroganoff and I will do breakfast for supper – pancakes, eggs, bacon/sausage, loaded hash browns – whatever I have on hand. I’ll have to try your struggle meals!

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