Frugal Foods: Cheap Eats, Thrifty Menus, Cost Cutting Cooking Tips

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.

Dec 05, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

You can sometimes get extra points on your grocery store loyalty card by doing the survey. Look on the bottom of your receipts. The grocery store here offers 50 bonus points when we do the survey—sometimes! We have to check each receipt, as some times the offer is there, and sometimes it is not.

Dec 04, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

70. When there is a problem at the grocery store, politely let them know. The cashier may be able to correct it. If not, the person working the customer service counter can likely help. Another option is fill out the customer survey mentioned on the bottom of many grocery store receipts. Or, just contact the store manager by email or phone.

Dec 03, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

When I cook pasta, I cook a large batch. It is then ready to have for salads, to use as a side dish, to add to soup, or to turn into a main dish. I do the same thing with white rice and brown rice.

Dec 03, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

When ground beef is on sale for a reasonable price, we buy a large package. I cook up the entire thing into sloppy Joes. I then freeze it in Tupperware containers. Besides using it for sloppy Joes—barbeques, as we called them when I was a kid—that mix is good for all sorts of things: tacos, spaghetti, chile, burritos, stuffed peppers, goulash, Spanish rice, nachos, etc.

Dec 02, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

We’ve found the secret to making homemade bread light and fluffy! Homemade bread is so much less expensive than store bought bread. (The exception is if we are buying it from a thrift or day-old bakery.) But, sometimes, homemade bread just doesn’t come out as light and airy as we like. If we are making rye bread or corn flour bread, it is especially hard to get a loaf to raise high. But, there’s a simple cure for heavy loaves! Gluten. In the flour aisle at the grocery store, you should be able to find little boxes of gluten. We paid about a dollar for a box that has enough for many loaves of bread. Adding a teaspoon or so to a loaf of bread makes a huge difference in the texture.

Dec 01, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

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.

Nov 30, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Menu planning—it’s something I usually don’t do. However, when I have an excess of perishables, menu plans help me prevent waste. Once in a while I find myself with lots of bread products. Other times, it’s produce. Sometimes, it’s just an accumulation of things gathering in the refrigerator. Writing out menus helps me prioritize what I need to use first.

Nov 29, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Make homemade bread! We’ve done the math, and it costs us less than 30 cents a loaf! That’s for a basic, all-purpose loaf of bread that is excellent for sandwiches, toast, or just eating plain with a little butter. It’s quick and easy to make using a bread machine that we bought at a thrift store for $1.00.

Nov 28, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Leftover pork loin is good for all sorts of quick meals. Slice, cube, or shred it. It’s excellent for making burritos and BBQ pork sandwiches. It makes a great addition to quiche, frittatas, and egg bakes. Add it to spaghetti or rice casseroles. Make a pork and stuffing main dish with it, or add to tamale pie.

Nov 27, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Leftover meatloaf? Crumble it into bite size pieces. Add it to pasta sauce and serve over spaghetti or other pasta. Add in leftover vegetables, too.

Nov 26, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

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.

Nov 25, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Label Your Frozen Foods: Label the containers you put into your freezer with the date and contents. I use a white board erasable marker. It washes off when I wash the container.

Nov 24, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Flip through cooking magazines as a reminder that most foods can be combined. And, as a reminder that dishes don’t need to include traditional ingredients. I just saw a recipe for a slow cooked, soupy concoction with turkey, lima beans, and sweet potatoes—that they called “chili.” That’s quite a stretch from the spicy stew with ground beef, red beans, and tomatoes that comes to mind when I think of “chili.”

Nov 23, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

You know how fast food hamburgers feature a special sauce? Your sandwiches at home can do the same thing. It’s easy. It’s thrifty—downright cheap. A spicy-sweet sauce, with a bit of tang graced today’s pork loin sandwiches. It made them moist and delicious! I started with about a tablespoon of hot pepper jelly that was left in the jar. To that, I added about a teaspoon of plain yellow mustard, a tablespoon of mayo, and a tablespoon of steak sauce—those are guestimates, not actual measurements. I stirred it all together, and slathered it on the bread.

Nov 22, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

You can sometimes get extra points on your grocery store loyalty card by doing the survey. Look on the bottom of your receipts. The grocery store here offers 50 bonus points when we do the survey—sometimes! We have to check each receipt, as some times the offer is there, and sometimes it is not.

Nov 21, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

When there is a problem at the grocery store, politely let them know. The cashier may be able to correct it. If not, the person working the customer service counter can likely help. Another option is fill out the customer survey mentioned on the bottom of many grocery store receipts. Or, just contact the store manager by email or phone.

Nov 20, 2019

Watkins Gourmet Food Winners for October

The winners of the Watkins prize package for October were...Karen P. from Lore City, Ohio, and Ciara K. from Hopewell, Virginia! Each received an assortment of Watkins food products valued at about $100.00. If you'd like to be in the drawing this month, be sure to enter!

Continue reading "Watkins Gourmet Food Winners for October"

Nov 19, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

What’s faster than fast food, and frugal, too? Pressure cooker one-pot meals. A cup of liquid, a cup of rice, and whatever vegetables and/or cooked meat are handy, plus some spices go into my electric pressure cooker. I push the rice button, and let it do its thing. A half hour later, I have a hot meal, ready to eat. I don’t have to watch it, or worry about it – during that cook time, I can be relaxing or getting done something else that I need to do. And, unlike getting meals at fast food restaurants, there’s no going out to get it, no waiting in line, no wrong orders, and no cold food by the time I get home. What’s more, I can limit the salt.

Nov 18, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Use digital coupons. No smartphone required—at least not for the stores we’ve used. You do need to register on the store’s website or get a loyalty card. The store’s website shows coupons—often hundreds. You click on each one that you want to add to your card. At checkout, the coupon is automatically applied. If you want to do the whole smartphone app thing, that’s usually an option.

Nov 17, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Turn leftover pasta into a thrifty main dish casserole by adding leftover protein and vegetables. Bind it together with some sort of sauce. Season to taste. A recent creation was spaghetti, Italian sausage crumbles, and green beans. For the sauce, I used shredded mozzarella cheese and sour cream. I seasoned with garlic powder, black pepper, and Italian herbs.

Nov 12, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Kroger grocery stores sometimes have great deals on reduced price produce. There’s usually a special stand at the end of an aisle in the produce department. They have special red mesh bags for this, each bag priced the same amount. Currently, it’s 99 cents a bag. It doesn’t matter if the bag has a few apples or is stuffed with hot pepper—it’s all the same price per bag. They’ll sometimes have mixed bags, for example last week the bag had nine yellow squash and an eggplant.

Nov 11, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

It takes a lot longer to cook rice casserole in the Crock Pot Express electric pressure cooker than it does to cook plain rice. Plain rice, I simply hit the Rice button, which is 12 minutes on low pressure. For a rice, chicken, and tomatoes casserole, I upped it to 15 minutes—and the rice was still hard. (I started with cooked chicken, so raw chicken wasn’t an issue.) The Stew button gives a much better result, cooking it on high pressure for about 25 minutes.

Nov 10, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Is it cheaper to buy already made chip dip or to make it yourself? If you buy the large, economy size carton of sour cream, and add in some chopped veggies or seasonings that you already have on hand, it can be cheaper to make your own. However, if you are buying expensive powdered dip mixes to use, it’s likely cheaper to buy the already made kind. Compare the price of store-bought dip with plain sour cream (or whatever you would use as the dip base), and the cost of any add-ins you’d use.

Nov 09, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

If you are making potato salad or macaroni salad, and run out of salad dressing, substitute tarter sauce. It has a lively, tangy flavor. It often already has dill weed, pickle relish, or minced pickles in it.

Nov 08, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

I try to keep hard boiled eggs, peeled and ready to eat, in the fridge. They are perfect for those mornings we need a quick breakfast. With a piece of toast or a granola bar, a piece of fresh fruit, and a cup of milk, a complete breakfast is on the table in a jiff. And, if we are extremely rushed, they can be eaten on the go.

Nov 07, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

High quality protein. Cheap. Easy to make. Versatile to use for any meal. I’m talking about beans—pinto beans to be exact. I cook them up in large batches, usually in the slow cooker or the electric pressure cooker. I prefer to soak them, because it is supposed to make them easier to digest, but it is not necessary. I’ve been known to cook them just in plain water. Usually, though, I add onion, garlic, peppers, cumin, coriander, and bay leaf in some combination.

Nov 06, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Hang on to that pickle juice! The pickles are gone, but that doesn’t mean you should toss that jar of pickle liquid. Use it in all sorts of salads, as part of the salad dressing: coleslaw, potato salad, egg salad, chicken salad or tuna salad for sandwiches, pasta salad, vegetables salads, etc. We especially like the sweet tang that comes from sweet pickle juice, but I use the liquid from bread and butter pickles and dill pickles, too.

Nov 05, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Graciously accept and use gifts of food. We were recently gifted the makings for breakfast: pancake mix, butter, syrup, eggs, and milk—and even canned whipped cream for a special topping.

Nov 04, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Frugal Foods from Baked Sales: Sometimes it makes more sense to buy something already made than it does to make it yourself. Case in point are the baked goods from fund raiser bake sales.

Nov 03, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Freeze extra milk. When we have freezer space, and milk is on sale, we buy extra. If the jugs are filled way to the top, we may open them and take out about a cup. But, most of the time, we just put the unopened gallon or half-gallon plastic jugs straight into the freezer. I try to give the jug an occasional shake during the thawing process. I’ve heard that milk can’t be frozen, but we’ve never had a problem with it.

Nov 02, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Franks to the rescue! Keep a package of wieners handy in the freezer. They can fill in for breakfast sausage, a quick snack, or meat with a meal. While not the best nutritionally, they get points for being cheap, easy, quick to fix, versatile, keep well in fridge or freezer, and most people like them.

Oct 06, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Is it cheaper to buy already made chip dip or to make it yourself? If you buy the large, economy size carton of sour cream, and add in some chopped veggies or seasonings that you already have on hand, it can be cheaper to make your own. However, if you are buying expensive powdered dip mixes to use, it’s likely cheaper to buy the already made kind. Compare the price of store-bought dip with plain sour cream (or whatever you would use as the dip base), and the cost of any add-ins you’d use.

Oct 05, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Extra zucchini? Dry them for snacks. Wash zucchini or other summer squash. Slice thinly and spread out on your dehydrator trays. We dry them overnight, with the dehydrator set on a low setting. Sometimes, we dry them until they are leathery and chewy. Other times, we dry them until crispy and crunchy. We eat them as a low salt, healthy alternative to potato chips and other store-bought salty snacks. You can dry sweet peas, green beans, bell peppers, and assorted other vegetables for snacking, too.

Oct 04, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Custom blend your very own all-purpose seasoning! Instead of buying the expensive premade seasoning mixes, make them yourself. Use salt, if you want seasoning salt. Don’t use salt, if you want salt-free seasoning. Use your favorite herbs and spices that you already have on hand. And, if you have a seasoning that you don’t care for by itself, you may find it works well in a seasoning blend. Our custom blended all-purpose seasoning differs each time I make it. When I get close to the end of a jar of spices or herbs, I add them to the seasoning blend, making room for a new, replacement jar in the cabinet.

Oct 03, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Dehydrate those extra veggies! We sometimes end up with a surplus of fresh vegetables. Freezing and canning them are two good ways to preserve them to enjoy later. But, I don’t always have the freezer space. And, I don’t always have the time to can them. So, we dehydrate them. It can be done in the oven at low temperatures. However, I find it worthwhile to have an electric dehydrator. We wash the vegetables, slice them, and spread them out in single layers on the dryer trays. It can then be a “set and forget” process for the next twelve or so hours.

Oct 02, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

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.

Oct 01, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Mix cultures and call it fusion! Here’s an example from a recent lunch: Indian rice, Chinese General Tso’s chicken, and Honduran pastelitos. The chicken and pastelitos were leftovers from lunches out the previous days. The rice, I cooked from scratch. Not the most frugal way to create a meal, but certainly thriftier than not using those restaurant leftovers.

Sep 30, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Prep your vegetables for the week with a stir fry pan at hand! I clean and cut celery, carrots, bell peppers, and other vegetables for eating as raw snacks. The not-so-pretty pieces go into the frying pan for a vegetable stir fry. There’s nothing wrong with these vegetables. What I’m talking about are the parts that just don’t cut into nice sticks, strips, or slices. The celery leaves. The zucchini ends. That extra curved part of the bell pepper. The green onion tops. They make a great stir fry. And, they leave me with neat containers of veggies ready for snacking or quick side dishes for the week.

Sep 29, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Recrisp potato chips, tortilla chips, corn chips, crackers, pretzels, and similar snacks in the microwave. Spread about two cups of chips onto a plate or shallow dish. Microwave for about one minute. Let them cool for a couple minutes before eating. Microwaves differ a lot, so check the time after about 30 seconds to make sure they aren’t starting to burn. If your microwave doesn’t have a rotating plate, when you check them at 30 seconds, give the dish half a turn.

Sep 28, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Save Money When Buying Meat: Split up "Family Size" or "Economy Size" packages of meat for different uses. Buy the large, family packs of pork chops. Most stores put the pretty ones on top and the not-so-pretty ones underneath. Use those top ones to fry and have with a pork chop dinner. Cook the others in a slow cooker with BBQ sauce or with sauerkraut as you would pork hocks. Or, just cook them and then take the bones and fat out, leaving nice little pieces of great pork that you can use in chile verde, cook with rice, add to casseroles or baked beans, etc.

Sep 27, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Save your coffee cans. They can be used for all sorts of things, especially the metal and plastic ones. But, save one for coffee. Bricks of ground coffee are sometimes less expensive than ground coffee that comes in cans or canisters. An easy way to deal with an open brick is to pour it into a coffee can. Also, we sometimes find dented cans of coffee, which are sealed and fine until opened. But, the plastic cover may be cracked or the can may be bent in a way that doesn’t allow the lid to fit correctly. Again, just transfer that coffee into one of those saved cans.

Sep 26, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Smorgasbords are a thrifty option, especially if eaten at home. I don’t mean going to the buffet and getting an order to go. I mean serving a smorgasbord of leftovers. We pick and choose, depending on our personal preferences, from what’s set out for the meal.

Sep 25, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Sour grapes! They looked so plump and pretty, but, oh, those green grapes were sour. I saved them by adding them to a fruit salad. Mixed in with bites of sweet, fresh pineapple and chunks of crisp apple, the grapes were fine. I didn’t use a sauce or dressing on the salad. It was simply the fresh fruit stirred together and chilled. What’s more, it made a colorful—red, green, and yellow--side dish to the sandwiches we had for lunch.

Sep 24, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Sun Tea! Make iced tea easy and cheap. Fill a half gallon jar with water and add four tea bags. Set it outside for a few hours, preferably in the sun. Chill or serve over ice. If you are serving over ice, you may want to add another tea bag to the jar, as the ice will dilute it. Use generic or store brand tea bags, and this costs just a few pennies per jar. If you like if flavored, you can add lemon or lime juice, a little flavoring extract or syrup, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Sep 23, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Sweet deal! We save on honey by buying a large container. I then refill a small bottle that we have. It cuts the price per ounce of the honey by a considerable amount. I have not found a consistently best place to buy honey. We have gotten it online, at the regular grocery store, and at farmers markets.

Sep 22, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Sweet potatoes. I think of them as a fall vegetable, but the grocery store here had them on sale in July. They were a manager’s special, priced for clearance. I’m talking whole sweet potatoes from the produce department, not the canned kind. At a dollar a bag, we bought several bags full. Some of them were perfect, and I saved them for baking. But some were rather odd, uneven shapes, and a few were starting to shrivel at the end. I tossed all of these less than perfect ones into my electric pressure cooker and steamed them. When they were done and cool, the skins slipped right off. I packaged the cooked sweet potato meat into Tupperware containers and froze it. It is now ready to use in casseroles, stews, and pies, or to heat and serve with a pat of butter and a shake of cinnamon.

Sep 21, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Thrifty Ground Beef: Get the family pack of ground beef. Fry up hamburgers patties one night for dinner. Fry the rest of the burger, breaking it up into pieces as you do. You can keep clean-up to a minimum by using the same pan for both. The scrambled beef is good to use casseroles, tacos, chili, etc.

Sep 20, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Turn leftover pasta into a thrifty main dish casserole by adding leftover protein and vegetables. Bind it together with some sort of sauce. Season to taste. A recent creation was spaghetti, Italian sausage crumbles, and green beans. For the sauce, I used shredded mozzarella cheese and sour cream. I seasoned with garlic powder, black pepper, and Italian herbs.

Sep 19, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Use digital coupons. No smartphone required—at least not for the stores we’ve used. You do need to register on the store’s website or get a loyalty card. The store’s website shows coupons—often hundreds. You click on each one that you want to add to your card. At checkout, the coupon is automatically applied. If you want to do the whole smartphone app thing, that’s usually an option.

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