Recipes for the seriously poor

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    I often thought of writing a cookbook called “Kosher by Default” – not a comment on my kashrus, but a comment on how my meals are usually defined by what paltry ingredients are available in my kitchen.

    My kitchen consists of a plastic basin sink,a folding table, a fridge and a stove. The stove is a new addition (given to us)! For many months I cooked on a hotplate. There are no cupboards, just open shelves.

    I would love to hear other people’s ideas too; keep in mind each serving should be made for around a dollar or less. They should also not take more than 45 minutes to prepare from front to finish. Poor people often work from morning to night piece-mealing together part time jobs to keep afloat. Complicated meal plans are not going to happen.

    Please keep the vegetable content to a minimum. Veggies are very healthy, but very very expensive! The American Food Pyramid was made for people with money!


    Pasta a la Peas (last night’s dinner)

    1 package spaghetti (from Tomchei Shabbos)

    1/2 can peas

    1/2 can chickpeas

    garlic powder to taste

    hot pepper to taste (add after pasta taken out for kid’s servings)

    salt and pepper

    olive oil

    Cook pasta a la dente

    While hot, throw in peas and chick peas

    Add 2 TBSP olive oil

    Add garlic powder and other spices

    Season to taste




    Baked Potatoes with slices or chunks of cheese melted into them with butter as well.

    Wacky Mac with peas on the side.

    Cheese Sandwiches with sliced tomatoes on them (or on the side- nobody eats an entire tomato at once so these can easily be shared. You can use oil to grill fry the sandwiches, although that won’t be as healthy, you can get instructions for how to do that online.


    Peanut Butter and Jelly with baby carrots as a side dish.


    Rotisserie Chicken with peas as a side dish.

    *If you buy frozen vegetables, you can reheat them later when you plan on eating them.

    ** I am sure that there are some kosher protein bars you can purchase for around $1.00 to make sure you get more nutrients as well.


    Penniless Parenting people. Check it out.


    This is so great! Your recipes both sound great and cost effective. I am now craving spaghetti with chickpeas!

    I have to say though, veggies are not always that expensive. Meat and dairy are much more expensive. As someone who eats only pareve (due mainly to dairy allergies and being a vegetarian), I save lots of money. I am just out of graduate school, and am repaying my student loans, so I am very tight with my budget. My local grocery also has sales on things like chickpeas right before Shabbos of course… so you just need to know how/when to shop.

    Here are some suggestions: Frozen peas, corn, kale, and spinach have saved my life on a number of occasions – and frozen vegetables are much better for you than canned ones. Bell peppers are inexpensive, cherry tomatoes are often on sale, and lettuce is very cheap as well. Tofu is an excellent cheap option. I don’t personally like broccoli, but it is often inexpensive as well. The only thing I buy that is a little ridiculous in price is lox. I eat a lot of canned tuna, and that is often on sale too.


    Pasta is very cheap and filling and one pkg makes a lg quantity, not sure about how loaded with nutrients though.

    Canned veggies are also very cheap and make great side dishes. Such as

    1) mix of corn and pickles with mayo and garlic.

    2) Saute canned green beans with an onion soy sauce and garlic

    3) Beans are full of protien, so adding canned beans to a soup make it flavorful and full of protien.


    WOW that sounds stressful!

    Try this. Never seen leftover of it… and even better can be 2 dishes side dish + a salad but I must confess it’s pasta again.. 🙂

    1 bag spaghetti – boiled.

    1 green pepper / red / yellow

    3-4 stalks spring onion

    1/4 cup oil

    1/4 cup soy sauce

    4 tbs sugar

    2 tsp garlic powder or one clove garlic crushed

    1/4 cup sesame seeds ( roasted )

    saute the spring onion and peppers or roast in the oven.

    then mix veg with pasta add oil, sugar, soy sauce and garlic.

    – If it’s a side dish toss up in pan till hot and possible to add shredded chicken , sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds (it makes a world of a difference with taste.

    – as a salad toss all up in a bowl with sauce ing. add sesame seeds.

    (to roast sesame seeds place in oven for about 5 mins till dark brown and roasted. can be stored for a month in a cool place.

    Very filling dish! (i.e. the pasta salad 🙂 )

    I pray that hashem showers you with much shefa!


    Soup. soup and soup.

    I know how you feel, I’ve been on very tight budget most of my married life, after coming from a very rich family and it was hard to get used to.

    green pea soup, lentil soup, vegtable soup with beans with whole wheat rolls are very filling.

    I give my kids soup almost every day and it’s healthy full of vitamins! For the picky ones, add kneidlach or lokshon or a little sugar, soup nuts etc. . . .


    There is a story in the Gemara (or maybe Midrash) about a man who would say he wants peas for dinner, but his son would tell his mother the father wanted lentils, and when the man would tell his son he wanted lentils, his son would tell his mother that the father wanted peas.

    This probably indicates that (dried split) peas or lentils were common dinner dishes. Dried peas and lentils are extremely cheap, nutritious and easy to cook. They are very high in protein and iron, and other important vitamins and minerals. Our ancestors probably only ate meat once a week on Shabbos (given statements about the frequency of meat eating in the Gemara, many people probably ate it much less frequenlty).

    I like to make soups with some kind of lentils and some kind of grain (brown rice, buckwheat, couscous), and add vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots. It can be seasoned simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, or other spices if desired, and it’s good to add lemon juice to each person’s bowl just before serving. A big bowl of hot soup like this can even make good breakfast food (studies show people do better in terms of energy and weight gain when eating a big meal for breakfast).

    I can’t get my small children to eat such food, but I know of an Israeli who feeds her whole family lentil vegetable soup nearly every day.


    I hope your luck will turn around. I really feel for you and IH’ your current situation.


    Wow! So many great ideas!! If I ever do get around to writing a cookbook…do I have permission to use them?

    Tonight was really hard. I sent both my kids off to playdates so that they would have dinner by other homes. My husband won’t be back from work til late, and he usually subsides on matza broken up in a bowl with milk.

    Someone left a package in my car by mistake…it was bread. I don’t know who it was or how long it had been there. I do a lot of schlepping for people. I asked a shei’la and was told I could eat from it, so I had four bilkes for dinner.

    I often make pea, lentil soup with alphabet noodles for my kids to eat at breakfast and then the leftovers I give them for lunch. My son’s cheder serves lunch, Baruch HsShem!, but my daughter goes to a school for “special” kids. Their diets are all quirky, hers included, so they don’t get hot lunch. I have to provide for her daily, so soup it is. She loves it!

    Snacks are really hard, cause at my son’s cheder they are all bringing “snack packs”. He turns his nose up at my cheapo versions stuck in sandwich bags. Oh well!

    One of my favorite dinners is:

    Curried farfel

    1 onion

    oil to fry onion



    1 chopped pepper

    lots of curry powder


    Fry onion and pepper. Throw in spices and farfel. Fry up a minute or so more. Add water to cover farfel. Cover tight and keep on low til water evaporates.



    I just spent the last 20 minutes reading the Penniless Parenting blog. Very interesting stuff! I’m going to try her vegan Parmesan cheese recipe. Thanks for the lead!


    downandin: You’re in the U.S. or Israel?

    Thank you for the delicious recipes!


    I use vegan Parmesan all the time in Italian meat dishes.


    there are restaurants that will give away food close to shabbos or before a yom tov. there are also gemach’s that collect food from a chasana and other simcha’s and give out to families in need. I think the Hamodia has a list of gemachs. Good luck.


    there are a lot of chessed organizations that can help with feeding your family. Children shouldn’t have to eat like paupers. farfel and broken matzah isn’t a meal for children. I feel for you with all of my heart, but you must ask for help. We are a great nation and so kind.


    Great recipes, and I love the name for such a cookbook!


    I live over an hour from the closest Tomchei Shabbos. Our local community Rav has been very kind, but our small community just can’t support the number of needy. Tomchei Shabbos has been amazing to us, and many of the meals during the week I make are from them.

    Because I don’t live in a major city; when I approach a lot of the organizations they refuse help based on the fact that we are not local. It is also $30 in gas to go back and forth – I do borrow a car,but I pay for the gas – that’s a lot of grocery money!!

    I always thought that if I ever got in a jam like this that our extended families would help us out. For one reason or another – mostly physical illness; our parents are not able to help us. I have a very good friend from childhood who is very well off. I approached her about helping me with a $300 very over due food bill at our local store. She gave me such a lecture – gave me the money begrudgingly and then asked me not do ask her ever again for money.

    Because both my husband and I work – several jobs each, in fact; no one can understand how we never have money. It is very difficult to explain to people all of our cheshbonos, humiliating, and assumes that we have somehow squandered our funds. I can assure you we spend every single penny on the very necessities.

    Government programs are not in our reach. I tried. The problem lays in our background as business owners. After we went bankrupt we put every penny we earned into starting over. We invested in commercial equipment and continue to build our business back up literally one brick at a time. It is the only way we can see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel – unless my cook book is a big success 🙂 The state we live in denies us benefits based on the fact that we are asset rich by their standards. We refuse to sell our last vestige of hope – hence the catch 22.

    Anyways! Matzah has been a meal for children for about 3000 years – my kids like it with eggs and a bit of jam!

    Kol Tuv;


    We grew up on rice. Easy to make and so easy to vary. We’d have rice with tuna (buy up when it’s on sale), rice with curry, rice with peas, corn and carrots–the options are pretty endless.


    Check out Depression Cooking on Youtube. A very old woman named Clara gives recipes that her family used during the depression. We just had her “Poor Man’s Dinner” tonight (cut up hot dogs with potatoes, onions, and tomato sauce).


    One food which is really healthy, filling and inexpensive (I think so at least, I live in Israel so I’m not sure how much it is by you). (and all my kids love it) is Oatmeal. We can eat it every day. You don’t need to eat it with milk; you can cook it with just water + flavors. Or bake the whole oats into granola (I can give you a recipe).

    I wish you much hatzlacha in your current matzav and hope the future holds good things for you and your family.


    I am surprised no one mentioned quinoa. Cheap, filling, easy to prepare, and extremely nutritional. Lots of fiber, protein, and even calcium. Make a sauce to add flavor.


    I would love the oatmeal recipe and a child friendly quinoa. I love the stuff. Now that I have a milchig oven, granola would be great. I get my kids to eat bean and grain soups by making them in more of a tomato base with alphabet noodles. They can’t seem to resist the alphabets and put up with the beans!

    Anyone got good crock pot recipes? I leave the house super early and return at 6. If dinner isn’t already brewing, my family doesn’t eat til the earliest 7:30. I make chicken, chickpeas and potato in a tomato base in the crock pot, but everything else I try turns out like cholent. I like to save cholent for Shabbos. Any suggestions?


    Try brown rice. The longer cooking time vs. white should help in a slow cooker. And no beans, so no chulent similarity.

    I’ll let you design a recipe based on what you have, but I’d try either olive oil with vegetables (I know you “prefer” canned) or if you’re going with chicken that’s even better. And of course spices and water.


    Black beans: dry black beans, 1 large can tomatoes (diced/crushed/whatever, or use fresh tomatoes), salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic, cumin, basil and/or oregano.

    Lentils can be made with the same seasonings as black beans, or you could cook the lentils with chopped tomatoes, sliced carrots, garlic and thyme for a different flavor profile.


    I also work full days so what I often do is cook supper the night before. For example, I’ll prepare Monday’s supper on Sunday. Monday evening, after we’ve eaten, done homework, etc., I’ll put up Tuesday’s supper. Reheating is quick and I’m not limited to things that don’t take long to cook.

    I’m a huge proponent of cook once, eat twice. You can either freeze half of what you’ve made or just serve it a couple of days later – depends how picky your family is about planned-overs, aka leftovers.


    Some stuff we make because it’s easy to take with us when we’re out is breadcrumbs flour and canned fish of different kinds, and also rice. You can fry breadcrumbs in oil and make cakes out of them. Breadcrumbs don’t go bad like bread they keep fairly well. Canned fish can be expensive so we’re not real choosy and get what we can when we see a good deal in town. Rice makes you feel like you ate something and it’s healthy enough you can live without bread. If you can find some eggs then hardboiled eggs are good with boiled rice and you can also scramble the eggs and throw them in rice. And coffee. You must have coffee. Those are the staples. We go for months or a good half year on that stuff.


    Growing up, we had NO money, we were refugees. One of the suppers I remember my mother making was paprikash potatoes with cut up frankfurters. She’d saute onions, add potatoes, cut up lengthwise, salt, pepper & paprika & cook covered on a very low flame till potatoes are halfway done, adding water as needed. She also added caraway seeds which I don’t think kids will like. Then add cut-up frankfurters & cook till potatoes are done. If it’s too watery, cook uncovered until water evaporates. It is really very tasty & filling.

    Also, if your kids don’t like beans or anything else in the soup, use an immersion blender to blend it. I use this method to make a cream of vegetable soup from all the vegetables from my chicken soup. I also use this method to hide all the veggies that everyone refuses to eat.

    A delicious soup I make is zucchini soup. It is a Yomtov and Pesach staple. Make when zucchini is on sale, it freezes very well.

    Saute an onion till translucent, don’t brown. Clean 3-4 ribs of celery, getting rid of strings. Cut up, (neatness doesn’t count as the whole thing will be pureed) add to onions. Saute for another 5-10 minutes. Scrub zucchini well, DON’T peel, and cut it in chunks. Add to pot and saute for another 5-10 minutes. Peel & chunk 2 large potatoes and add to pot. Add water and consomme soup mix to taste. Cover & cook until very soft. Let cool and puree till smooth. taste & adjust seasoning and thickness as it might be too thick. It will have a lovely green color. This recipe doubles & triples very well.


    Fabulous recipe, thanks! I made this salad for lunch today – cheap and gourmet. The only problem is that it doesn’t take 15 minutes – in fact it takes 4 days from front to finish!

    Sprouts and grapefruit salad

    Day 1 – soak broccoli seeds, mung beans and Fenugreek seeds overnight in a glass jar with a lid.

    Day 2 to 4 – swap the lid out for a piece of cheesecloth tightly pulled over the mouth of jar and fasten with a rubber band. I use unbleached cotton fabric from my sewing stuff too. Rinse seeds well and leave on counter turned on an angle so the excess water can drain out overnight.

    Repeat and rinse once a day.

    Day 4 – your seeds will slowly sprout little white tails. You want to refrigerate the sprouts when the tail is about double the length of the seed.

    For the salad:

    Cut up one grapefruit in bite size pieces.

    Add handful of raisins

    Mix with sprouts


    chopped up fresh ginger – about the size of a quarter

    olive oil – 1/4 cup

    apple cider vinegar – splash

    pinch of salt and pepper

    pinch of sugar

    squeeze of grapefruit juice

    drop of orange juice

    Mix well and toss salad with dressing. Let it sit for an hour or so before you serve it. The dressing will soften the sprouts up.

    Anyone ever try making their own apple cider vinegar? I’d like to try that. I’m also going to try growing garlic this summer.I want to have more control over my food production so I can have highly nutritional food and be able to afford it.


    There is a lot of leeway in this recipe. The basis is the oats, but all the extras are optional.


    3 c oats (whole oats)

    1/2 c coconut (if you don’t like coconut can leave this out)

    1 c (100g) nuts/seeds of your choice (can do without this too)

    1/2 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp salt

    2 Tbsp oil

    1/4-1/2 C honey/maple syrup (i personally put in 1/3 of a cup and usually use either maple syrup – the cheap kind, or date honey because its cheaper than real honey. not sure what is cheaper by you)

    1 c dried fruit (optional. raisins/dates whatever, or, you can chop up an apple and it dries up nicely in the oven)

    you can throw in some flax seed or wheat germ if you like it.

    mix e/t and bake 25-30 minutes on 300 degrees F stirring periodically



    While quinoa is yummy and nutritious, there’s no way it’s cheap, at least compared to other grains. The lowest I’ve seen it is close to $4 a pound.


    Dinner was super yum!

    Polenta and chicken with peanut sauce:

    2 or more chicken legs

    1 C Corn meal

    Salt 1 tsp

    3 C water

    Follow directions on cornmeal package- after making the “mush”, put in fridge to solidify, cut into pieces and fry lightly to crisp up.

    Peanut sauce for chicken

    1/2 cup peanut butter

    1/4 cup tamari sauce

    garlic powder to taste

    1 tsp lemon juice

    salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

    enough water to make sauce – 1 cup or so

    Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl and let sit while the onions cook.

    1 onion sliced – start by putting onion and a bit of oil in a pan and cooking til soft.

    Place chicken fatty side down on top of onions. Braise chicken and flip over to do other side. Add sauce. Invert another heavy pan on top of first to create a “dutch oven”. Tricky part is to constantly watch – adding a bit of water at a time and scrapping the bottom of the pan so nothing burns. Keep on medium low flame.

    This takes about an hour, but it is worth it! If I am in a hurry, I cut the meat off of the bone. It’ll cook faster like that.

    Serve with polenta on bottom, chicken and peanut sauce on top.

    My kids don’t touch the polenta, but they LOVED the chicken. So did my husband!

    I made this recipe with one leg of chicken. It really only fed two of us – I really needed two legs to make it go for all of us, just didn’t have it.


    Instead of corn meal, your children might like farina, cooked like polenta with a little sugar and maybe some cinnamon, better. The farina should go well with the peanut chicken. You might also serve the chicken over rice.


    I’ve never had farina…I’ll try that. Tonight’s dinner:


    Veggies and mild curry sauce

    2 bell peppers

    2 celery

    1 onion

    3 cooking tomatoes

    2 TBSP olive oil

    mild curry powder to taste

    salt, pepper to taste

    ginger (I had a frozen cube in the fridge)

    just enough water to keep everything from sticking.

    This dinner was super frugal, cause the veggies were in the too ripe bin at the market, so were next to nothing to purchase. Even my kids loved this one. I also served sliced cucumbers to the kids.

    I am experimenting with sauerkraut making for the first time. I’m a bit nervous, cause it was a lot of veggies used (cabbage, carrots, onion, rutabaga). Hope it turns out!


    Peanut butter isn’t so cheap these days, sadly.

    A favorite supper of mine is potatoes and eggs. I take 2 potatoes, peel them and boil them, and chop them into chunks once cooked.

    I fry the potato with onion, margarine (butter, if you’re milchig), and many spices- onion powder, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, salt. Once the potato has some color, I add 2 beaten eggs and I eat this with ketchup and some toast with margarine.

    Another thrifty meal I like are pierogies. Mrs. T perogen are a lifesaver to me since I can get them in any “stam” supermarket, and they have one parve variety and the rest are OU-D.

    For about $3.99 a box, I am satisfied with about half the box and I eat them in the following derech: I boil them, and in a pan, chop an onion and fry it with butter or margarine and a little sugar. Once they get crispy, I eat with sour cream (either dairy or parve sour cream).


    Yehudayona, but see how far a pound goes and you may agree its worthwhile.


    I second farina. It is delicious, very filling, and SO CHEAP. You get dozens of serving from one little two dollar box.


    This is a really good breakfast meal ( very low in ww points so that’s a plus)

    1 cup dry oats ( Quaker ridge very cheap) 1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp hot water

    Mix together and fry like a pan cake. So good and so filling. Enjoy!


    Veggie Tacos:

    All measurements are approximate.

    Fry 1 large onion

    cook 1 cup of dry lentils and drain

    Add lentils to onion and 1 tsp of: cumin, chili powder, and salt

    Add some tomatoes (canned tomatoes are good)

    Simmer all that for a short time.

    I get flat tortillas – 80 for $3

    Each person gets 5 (which is ample) and freeze the rest.

    Put tortillas on oven rack to toast at 200 degrees – 15 minutes or so.

    I position them so that, down the middle, each tortilla is supported but the sides are not.

    They are floppy to start and bend as they heat up, and they end up as a U shape to hold the stuff.

    Make a “taco bar” with taco shells, chili, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, cheese (if possible), etc.

    Last week, I used leftover cholent (which had had meat) and added some lentils and spices. No cheese possible.

    The kids liked making their own tacos their way. I like how they ate their veggies on the tacos, but they don’t eat salad. Marketing !


    We had a really great Shabbos. Our local Rebbetzin baked challos for us, another family brought over fish, and another gave us potato kugal. I made chicken in a pan with onions, honey, tamari, a bit of water, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I invert a pan for a lid and make a dutch oven. The sauce gets really thick and coats the chicken.

    I splurged and bought kishke for the cholent. I cut it in half, and will save the other half for next week. I’ve made kishke, but I really like Mealmart – my recipe is paerve, and I like the fleish better. Anyone have a recipe that would be close to Mealmart kishke?


    I haven’t tasted meal mart in a while, but I think the trick to make it more coarse is to add bread (soaked and squeezed) to the flour. I use 3 slices whole wheat bread to 3 cups flour — for about a month’s worth of kishke, I freeze it rolled in foil. You can also try subbing corn meal for part of the flour. Good luck!


    I second the recommendation of soup. Soups are tasty and can be very inexpensive to make. I eat a lot of split pea and lentil veggie soup. Also, bean chili has a ton of protein and although most chilis are very spicy you can spice it to taste.

    I lived like a pauper in college, but instead of using packaged processed food like most I stretched healthy food. Tip: Try to find a shop that sells vegetables more cheaply than the grocery store. The vegetables will probably be fresher too.

    Let’s see…what else. Bananas and oatmeal is a fantastic, cheap, filling and healthy breakfast. Also, eggs are a fantastic cheap source of protein and nutrients. But generally, rice and beans, beans and rice, and more rice and beans.

    It helps a lot to invest in good, fresh spices.


    You can also do a lot with cabbage. Cabbage soup is a hearty meal, when paired with some brown bread. You can add rice, raisins, brown sugar, vinegar, and tomatoes and water to make it like an “unstuffed cabbage” soup.

    See if you can get Fould’s macaroni and cheese where you live. Often, it’s like 99 cents a box. If you live down South, Winn-Dixie Mac and Cheese is OU-D and usually very cheap per box.


    downandin, how are you doing? Please give us an update.


    ain’t it a hoot? Downandin, I know what you’re talking about. As a self-employed head of household, I’m stuck. I can’t collect unemployment because i’m technically employed (by myself) even if I have no income,

    Downandin, don’t worry! you’ll make it. I, Redleg, give you a beracha, not only for parnassa but also for yishuv hadaas, children who are shomrei mittza, and long and happy life.


    People who are poor cannot usually invest.

    Great thread.


    Hope life has turned around for the better for you. We’ve had more than one cereal night for dinner, as I recall.


    Torah613Torah, when I say invest I mean like $20 to buy high quality spices. Even at my poorest moments I was able to scrape that together. It was the one thing I splurged on, and it was well worth it.


    If you’re looking for tips, there’s a Permaculture magazine online for free with some great ideas and tips for saving money.


    I am truly enjoying this thread — gives me the true flavor (no pun intended) of frum life.

    As one of those nursing nickels (and working 2 jobs), I can honestly say that this would be the basis of a GREAT cookbook. Call if “Real Cooking for Real Frum People.”

    Seriously. Looking at all the “gourmet” kosher cookbooks that are out, I often wondered — who ARE these people? How do they have the money, let alone the time, to concoct these elegant meals? What do they do — just float around the room?

    A cookbook like this would fly off the shelves.


    There are quite a few frugal cookbooks out that have recipes for hearty cooking.

    I’ve fed myself for $25 a week (excluding shabbos). Not that this is healthy or balanced, but I’ve purchased day-to-day cheap bags of produce for $1, rice, beans, potatoes, eggs, onions, 50 cent yogurt, and soup powder. In NYC, they also sell $2.19 big loaves of rye bread, OK-Pas Yisroel! (May be Stern’s, but I see it sold in ShopRite and Russian stores).

    Also, this is l’toelet harabbim- ShopRite in Brooklyn has Manischewitz Matzos, KOSHER FOR PASSOVER, as well as Yehuda matzos, KOSHER FOR PASSOVER, on sale for 99 cents. I purchased some already for Pesach.

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