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.

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.

Sep 18, 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.

Sep 17, 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.

Sep 16, 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.

Sep 15, 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.

Sep 14, 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.

Sep 13, 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.

Sep 12, 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.”

Sep 11, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Parmesan cheese can take a ho-hum entree or side-dish up a level. A generous sprinkle amps the eye appeal—and flavor--of leftover casseroles, salads, soups. or vegetable dishes. It only takes a little, so even using fresh Parmesan, it is pretty frugal. But, for convenience sake, we usually use the dried parm that comes in a green shaker-top canister. By the way, some of that in the shaker canisters is real, 100 percent cheese. But, some of the shaker canisters have a Parmesan cheese topping that also works fine.

Sep 10, 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.

Sep 09, 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.

Sep 08, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Eggs! One of the best frugal food around. High in protein. Inexpensive. Versatile. Easy to cook. I like to keep hard cooked eggs in the fridge for snacks and for making egg salad sandwiches. We also sometimes use the egg salad as a dip for chips or raw veggies.

Sep 07, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Easiest way I’ve found to make hard boiled eggs is to use my electric pressure cooker. Technically, they are hard cooked eggs or hard steamed eggs. Whatever you want to call them…. Doing them in the electric pressure cooker makes them easy to peel—I think that’s the main advantage. But, it is overall easy. I put a trivet in the electric pressure cooker, add the eggs, and add a cup of water. I cook them on high pressure for five minutes and let do a natural release for about 15 minutes.

Sep 06, 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.

Sep 05, 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.

Sep 04, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Cook up a large batch of potatoes. Use them throughout the week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We slice or cube them to fry for breakfast, or grate for hash browns. They are the staple side dish with most any meat and vegetables meal. I also use them in soups, burrito fillings, and salads.

Sep 03, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Chicken legs are cheap! Here’s how I fixed a large package of them, with great success. I put the frozen drumsticks in my electric pressure cooker. Next went in one cup of water. I then generously sprinkled them with poultry seasoning. I set it to cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. It did a natural release and sat for about half an hour. After they cooled, I removed the meat from the drumsticks. That gave me a container of picked chicken meat to use for sandwiches, casseroles, or other dishes. The bones, skin, and cartilage went back in to the pressure cooker. I covered them with water, and again cooked on high pressure for 30 minutes. So, in addition to the boneless, skinless pieces of chicken, I now have rich, flavorful chicken stock.

Sep 02, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Check out the smaller, local grocery stores! They can have surprisingly good deals. We find meats are oftentimes better at the smaller grocery store than the big supermarkets. They often have a good selection of regional or ethnic foods, as well. And, shopping at the local store is an experience unlike shopping the mega markets.

Sep 01, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Canned food to the rescue, again. The gnocchi failed. Big time. Not sure what went wrong, but I ended up with a pan of paste. I’ve made them before—well, not really made, but cooked the packaged kind—and they turned our great. They’re usually a quick to fix, inexpensive side dish. This flop could have been a lunch disaster. But, because we keep an assortment of canned foods on hand, it wasn’t a big deal. I opened a can of potatoes to go with the meat and vegetables we were having for dinner, and all was good.

Aug 31, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Canned convenience food to the rescue! A change in work schedule meant my husband was home a half hour before I expected him home for lunch. So much for ham and vegetable stir fry I was planning to fix for lunch. Instead, I opened up canned ravioli. While the ravioli was heating in the microwave, I made some quick garlic toast. We most always have a basket of fresh fruit on the table, and that worked just fine for a side dish. With a mug of cold milk, we had a fast and frugal, reasonably healthy lunch. We keep some store brand canned convenience meals in the larder, for just such occasions. They are considerably cheaper than purchased frozen meals.

Aug 21, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Parmesan cheese can take a ho-hum entree or side-dish up a level. A generous sprinkle amps the eye appeal—and flavor--of leftover casseroles, salads, soups. or vegetable dishes. It only takes a little, so even using fresh Parmesan, it is pretty frugal. But, for convenience sake, we usually use the dried parm that comes in a green shaker-top canister. By the way, some of that in the shaker cannisters is real, 100 percent cheese. But, some of the shaker cannisters have a Parmesan cheese topping that also works fine.

Aug 20, 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.”

Aug 19, 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.

Aug 18, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Leftover baked beans? 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.

Aug 17, 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.

Aug 16, 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.

Aug 15, 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.

Aug 14, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Update on the tip for freezing gallon jugs of milk! We've recently noticed that when we put a full, unopened gallon of milk in the freezer, the jug springs a leak in the handle. It doesn't happen with all brands. They have apparently redesigned the plastic gallon milk bottles, using thinner plastic or another change that weakens them. The solution is to open the jug and take out about a cup full of milk, before putting the jug in the freezer.

Aug 13, 2019

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Aug 12, 2019

Frugal Foods Quote of the Day

Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~ Hyppocrates

Aug 11, 2019

Frugal Foods Tip of the Day

Morning Mix Cereal: "Morning Mix" -- another name for corn flakes, o's of oats, cinnamon flavored squares, and a few granola clusters all dumped into a large glass jar when the boxes are close to empty. Of course, you can use whatever dry cereals you have. We keep a jar going all the time, adding to it whenever we get close to finishing the box or bag of cereal. When the jar starts to get full, we eat this custom mix instead of opening a new package.

Aug 10, 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.

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