Frugal Foods...thrifty cooking, budget menus, cheap eats, money saving kitchen tips, and help for cutting your grocery bill. Follow along with our everyday eating as we share how we eat well for less.
I made a quick, easy, and economical lunch today, by combining a few simple ingredients we had on hand in the house. I started by browning a pound of
Cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Tonight's frugal supper is a classic. Some thrifty meals never go out of style and this easy to fix soup and sandwich staple is one of them.
This halibut dinner includes herbed fish, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. The fish and sweet potatoes come out of the entertainment budget. From the food budget perspective, they are free food.
Pork roast and vegetables star in tonight's frugal dinner. It's especially good when the "meat and potatoes" crew is tired of casseroles. They don't need to know it is any easy to fix, one pot meal.
Enjoy a simple meal of seasonal vegetables. Sweet corn is one of our favorite garden fresh meals. Cook up some corn on the cob, add butter, and seasonings if you wish. I usually do my sweet corn on the cob the simple way -- boil it for a few minutes. You can also grill it or microwave it.
You can easily make slider buns from hot dog buns. Just cut them in half. Depending on the brand you buy, they may be somewhat oblong. They won't be perfectly round. But, that's okay. They are generally the right size. If making hamburger sliders from frozen patties, they meat may stick out a little on two sides -- that is a good thing. If you are shaping the meat patties yourself, you can choose to make them oblong to fit the buns or make them round and go for the overfilled look. With cold cuts, sliced meats, pulled pork, BBQ, sloppy Joe, mixes such as chicken or tuna salad, just pile the filling on as desired.
Eat fresh produce. Fresh fruit has the reputation for being expensive. It really is not. Compare it to other snacks. It's a nutritional bargain, of course. But, even when comparing just the monetary cost, a piece of fruit is typically less than a candy bar
Buy top quality spices. Sure, you can get cheap ones. But what do they taste like? Do some comparison. Those cheap bottles of spices may be mostly fillers or stems or something else less flavorful. The large jars of bulk spices may have been sitting on the store shelf for years, loosing flavor from light and heat. Spices are one of those things that the most value may come from spending a bit more.
There's something magical about a good chicken soup base. Well, no, not really. But it can seem like it. It can turn a ho-hum dish into something flavorful! Vegetables. Rice. Pasta. Main dishes. Gravy. Soup! If something is lacking flavor a little chicken soup base can give it just enough oomph. A basic chicken bouillon cube can help, but they tend to be very salty. It's better to use the paste or powder soup bases. It doesn't take much.
Have a few frugal, quick and easy meals that you can always fix. Keep the ingredients available. If you tend to get stuck and can't think of them, make reminder notes and keep them handy. A couple of our go-to meals are grilled cheese sandwiches and burritos.
This is a simple tip, but can really save money on breads. When your bread starts to get a little dry, toast it. Day old or older bread that is starting to get a bit stale -- just toast it.
Have a small portion of leftover rice? Plus some leftover macaroni? But, not enough for a meal of either? Combine them. It won't be quite like the box rice and skinny macaroni mixes you get in the store. But, it will be a whole bunch cheaper! Add seasonings and use it as a side dish. Or, use it as a base for fried veggies, meat and gravy, or a cheese sauce.
Raw vegetables are a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a meal. Use what is in season, what you have, or what you can get on sale. Carrots and celery sticks are the traditional veggies for orange and green. Bell peppers work great, if you can get them reasonable, and come in bright green, yellow, orange, and red. Broccoli and sugar snap peas are also good to add green color. Radishes and cherry tomatoes are good for red.
Double up on the savings! Use your manufactures cents off coupons or grocery store coupons on items that are on sale. We found sausages marked down on a clearance sale. There was a manufacturer's coupon on the package. The coupon, combined with the already low reduced price, made the sausages an exceptional bargain. We saved a bunch on meat for the freezer by doubling up on the savings.
Save those extra little packets of seasonings that come with Ramon noodles, pizza kits, some bread mixes, salad kits, etc. You may not want to use them with the item they came with, but they may be just right for something else.
Someone gifted us with a bread mix that included a packet of hot pepper and garlic seasoning. It was a quick bread mix, and I needed a quick loaf of bread. But, I just wanted plain white bread. So, I saved the little pouch of seasoning that came with it to use in chili. It will be a good substitute for chili powder.
Greet your grocery store produce workers when you see them. Get to know them. Let them know you appreciate saving money on your fruits and vegetables. They are often happy to tell you about specials and about items they are about to mark down.
Many vegetables can be eaten either raw or cooked. What surprises many people is how differently the two taste, as well as how the texture changes. We often start with eating the veggies raw, when they are at their best. Then, we move on to cooking them. If I see they are starting to wilt a bit, I will cook up what is left. Cooked, they'll keep fine in the fridge for another couple days, or we freeze the extra cooked vegetables.
Cook up a pot of pasta and keep it in the refrigerator, ready for a quick meal starter. It's a side. It's a salad. It's a main dish. Depends on what you add to it or top it with, it can be the basis of the meal or that something extra to complete the meal.
If you have an extra coupon for a restaurant that you aren't using, share it with another customer. We went out for a celebration dinner this evening. The lady sitting at the table across from us gave us a coupon she'd cut from the newspaper for a free dessert. We would not have ordered dessert otherwise. Thank you kind stranger!
When someone gives you a food item for a gift, eat it. It is easy to keep them for some special time. Don't! Eat them now, while they are fresh. Eat them now, before you forget about them. If it is a food you've never tried before, now is the time to try it!
Add leftover beans to soup inexpensively up the protein content. Try this with minestrone, chili, or vegetable soups, or those with other beans in them.
Crumble it into bite size pieces. Add it to pasta sauce and serve over spaghetti or other pasta. Add in leftover vegetables, too. Crumble and use for pizza topping. Dice it and use for filling in burritos or tacos. Cube it and mix with cooked rice, then use to stuff green peppers or zucchini boats.
Recipes from the Great Depression are typically made with less expensive ingredients. You may find them with names such as "Depression Cake" or "Dirty 30's Casserole." Cooks back in those days were creative and made up dishes using common and inexpensive foods.
Leftover meatloaf? Cut it into smallish chunks. Add it to gravy -- either homemade or canned. Beef, mushroom, and brown gravy all work well. So does canned cream of mushroom soup, thinned to gravy consistency. Serve over potatoes, rice, or egg noodles.
Casseroles are an excellent way to make a pound of meat stretch to feed a large family or a group of people. The meat can be more of a flavoring, rather than the bulk of the dish. Fill out the dish with noodles and vegetables. In some parts of the country, casseroles are called "hot dishes."
Leftover baked beans? Add to chile con carne, use for fillings in enchiladas, burritos, and tacos, add to casseroles, or add to soups. You can also add them to sloppy joe or barbecue sandwich meat. Mash and season to make a for dip for crackers or chips or vegetables. Or, heat and mix with melted cheese or cheese sauce for a nacho dip.
Too many apples or apples that are starting to go bad. Fry them. Quarter them and take out the seeds and core. Cut off any bruised or bad spots. Slice them into a frying pan with just a little coconut oil (or other vegetable oil). Let them cook until they start to brown. Flip them over to brown the other side. After you've turned the apples, sprinkle them with cinnamon and drizzle them with maple syrup (or pancake syrup). Fried apples are an excellent side dish with pork chops or pork roast. They are also good served as a breakfast fruit.
If you add too much salad dressing to your coleslaw and you don't have any more cabbage to add to it to correct it, add other vegetables. Shred or chop the vegetables into small pieces. Here are some to try: broccoli (including the stems), cauliflower, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, sweet green bell peppers.
When shopping for meat, look for special packages of mixed cuts. I recently bought a package of boneless pork that was labeled as being a "Three Meal Deal." It had two boneless pork roasts and a half dozen or so thick strips of boneless pork meat. I thought the strips were boneless pork ribs and cooked them accordingly. A friend who bought a similar assortment thought the slices were extra thick boneless pork chops, and she fried them as she normally does chops. The per pound price of this package was less than the price for chops, roasts, or ribs -- and it was a very good deal. I divided the package into three portions and froze them, so I don't need to use them all at once. I've also seen similar packages of chicken and beef, where they have assorted cuts in one larger package at a reduced price per pound.
Spend less on ground meat by substituting a less expensive kind in your recipes. In our area, ground pork is considerably cheaper than ground beef, so I use ground pork in spaghetti sauce, on pizza, in casseroles, etc., that call for ground beef (or hamburger). You may find ground chicken or ground turkey is your cheapest ground meat.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Even though the cost per pound is often more than the per pound cost of whole chickens, we find them a more frugal choice. There is almost no waste. Compare that to the waste you get when you buy the cheap bags of chicken legs or chicken thighs. Look at cost per serving, not cost per pound.
Compare the cost of bagged, ready to eat salad greens with head lettuce and greens that come banded into bunches. Traditional wisdom says the frugal thing to do is to skip the ready to eat bags. However, if you only eat a small amount of salad within a day or two, you may have less waste and therefore save money buying a small bag instead of an arm full of greens.
Shop dollar stores. (My favorite is Dollar Tree.) We've found excellent bargains there. One of the most recent is pinto beans, a two pound bag for $1.00. For comparison, the bulk price for them at the local grocery store is 88 cents per pound. The packaged price at the grocery store is over $1.00 for just one pound, making the dollar store beans less than half price.
You should always buy the biggest container of something, right? Wrong! The price per unit may actually be less on the smaller packages. This is especially true if you are using coupons, as the coupon is worth the same regardless of how big or how expensive the package. Also consider whether or not you will use a large container before it goes bad.
Recreate your restaurant favorite dishes. It is often just the little touches that make the difference. A pat of butter added on top. A sprinkling of sea salt. A splash of balsamic vinegar. For us, our favorite breakfast sandwiches come with a few sauted fresh greens -- something I can do at home.
A popular woman's magazine has an article about simple ways to save money. The article, it says, is about little things you can do every day. One of the tips they give is canning excess vegetables. Huh? Who has time to can vegetables every day? If you've canned, you know that both hot water bath canning and pressure canning require special canners, jars, seals and rings, and other equipment. The process takes hours! Be aware of some tips that may or may not actually save you money, and that are not practical to do on a daily basis.
Eat from the grocery store. Restaurants can be great for the social experience and for having local foods prepared in local ways. But, restaurants are expensive. You can save a bunch by hitting the grocery store instead of a restaurant. Pick ready made from the deli. Or, have a simple meal of raw fruit, yogurt, and cheese. Or, get some sandwich fixings. You'll save a bundle over eating at fast food places.
Freeze bread and just take out as many slices as you need at one time. There's no need to thaw an entire loaf. A couple slices thaw quickly. If you need them even faster, run them through a very quick toast cycle. The natural breads without preservatives go bad quickly if left at room temperature. Freezing them keeps them for a long time.
Want to spend more on groceries? Here's how: Make out a list of what you'd like to eat for the next week, then go to the store and buy what is on that list. Don't stray from it, even if what you want is expensive and something else is a bargain. Don't buy anything extra, not even if it is on a great sale and you know you'll need it next week. Don't make substitutions, not even if the fruit on your list is out of season and expensive and in-season fruit is much cheaper.
Potatoes are potatoes are potatoes. You'll find articles telling you that you need a certain kind of potato for baking, a particular kind for making potato salad, and another for mashing. Certain kinds may be ideal for certain purposes. But, I buy one kind of potato (what kind depends on price and quality) and use them for baking, boiling, mashing, and frying -- and that one kind works just fine for all purposes.
I think I'd be lost without my CrockPot. Several times a week, I fill mine with meat and veggies, or beans, or bones, or something and let it cook for the day. Cheap cuts of meat get tender. Sauces simmer and the flavors blend. Beans cook without pre-soaking. Bones, water, and spices become a delicious and oh-so-frugal broth.
Yesterday's pot roast with potatoes, onions, and carrots becomes today's soup. I cooked a pork roast with veggies in a mushroom gravy for dinner. Last night, I diced the leftovers and made them into a cream based vegetable stew or soup. We'll have it for lunch today, along with homemade bread, red bell pepper strips, fruit, and milk.
Sea Stick Scampi starred as last night's frugal main dish. With leftover pasta, this one comes together in a jiff. It's one of my favorite ways to use imitation crab legs.
Enchilada Salad Plate started with one of those bagged, ready to eat salad kits. We made the most of it by adding Mexican restaurant dinner leftovers. Frugal to the core! Tasty and super healthy, too.
Corn chowder. Tonight's frugal supper was steaming hot, richly satisfying chowder. I asked my husband what he'd like that included bacon. I knew before he answered. It's his favorite hearty soup.
Ask Here. Get Answers. Go ahead and ask your questions about frugal foods, cheap eats, spending less on groceries, cooking inexpensive (and yummy!) foods, and feeding your family for less.
Chicken Melt Sandwiches were the mainstay of today's frugal lunch. Grilled and gooey with cheese, they didn't taste frugal or like leftovers. This whole menu was cheap and easy -- and good!
Chicken breasts are one of those foods that look expensive at first glance, but are actually thrifty. Buy a family size bag of them and cook them all up at once. And there you have convenience food!
Frozen pizza is a menu staple for weekend suppers. We buy the cheap kind or what's on sale, and add toppings. It's a tasty, frugal alternative to take out or delivery pizza, and just as fast and easy.