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.
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.
Take advantage of the end of the season vegetables that are available now. Extras can be dehydrated, frozen, or canned for later. Mixed lots often make excellent pickles, relishes, and chow chows.
There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will. ~ Robert Frost
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise ~ Henry David Thoreau
Go to the farmers market and buy food there. You'll get something that's delicious. It's discouraging that this seems like such an elitist thing. It's not. ~ Alice Waters
Food is not just eating energy. It's an experience. ~ Guy Fieri
Food is not about impressing people, it’s about making them feel comfortable. ~ Ina Garten
To me, breakfast is my most important meal. It's often the meal you play a game on. I make sure I have oatmeal, milk, and fruit. It's the fuel you use to hopefully do your best, so eating right is a big part of being a professional athlete. I wish I paid more attention to it earlier in my life. ~ Andrew Luck
I don’t like gourmet cooking or “this” cooking or “that” cooking. I like good cooking” ~ James Beard
I'm frugal. I'm not a very acquisitive woman. I never waste food. If you prepare your own food, you engage with the world, it tastes alive. It tastes good. ~ Vivienne Westwood
Put a thrifty food tip to use and watch your food savings grow. The money you save being frugal in the kitchen can be buy other things you need -- or want. Free up those dollars for something else.
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.
Use what's left of one thing to make another. Example: The horseradish and cream cheese spread you used along with thin sliced ham to make roll ups for appetizers. Add some crumbled bacon or bacon bits to what is left. Then, use it to stuff celery logs.
Grab a couple handfuls of dry cereal to eat first thing in the morning. Or, for a mid-afternoon snack. There's no prep. There are no dishes or other clean-up. It's quick and easy -- and nutritious. We usually opt for Cheerios-style Os or Chex-type squares. Their larger size makes them easy finger foods.
One way to make your food dollars go further is to stock up on groceries that are on sale. If you are barely getting by, try squeezing in even one or two extra items, such as an extra can of vegetables when they are on sale. If your budget allows, buy an extra case if it is a good sale -- and if it is an item you will use before it goes bad.
Watch for specially marked packages. These are the ones that have a lower than normal or special price printed right on the package. Or, they may be a special size, where it is printed on the package that you get an extra amount free.
End the quandary of not knowing what is stashed in those Tupperware containers in the freezer. Use a white board marker to label them. Write right on the lid, noting what is inside and the date. For example: Chile 8/22/18. The marking will wash off the lid when you do dishes.
Eating leftovers doesn't mean you have to eat the same thing two days in a row. We routinely cook something today, take a break from it tomorrow, and then eat it again the day.
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!
Save parts of food items that you don't eat for other uses -- feeding birds, pet treats, compost pile, or potpourri (citrus rinds, apple peels).
One of the joys of homemade bread is that it has no artificial preservatives. That, however, means it will get moldy quickly if left at room temperature. Putting it in the refrigerator will keep it fresh longer -- but it will also dry it out. Bread a little on the dry side is okay for toast, but not so good for sandwiches. The answer is to freeze it overnight, the first day you bake it. Remove it from the freezer the next morning. It will thaw and taste fresh. And, it won't mold nearly as quickly.
Use buy-one-get-one-free coupons. These are also known as "two-for-one" coupons. You pay for one restaurant meal and get the second one free. Sometimes the meals must both be the same. Otherwise, you pay for the most expensive one of the two.
Each week, plan one day's meals around canned or packaged foods. That way, if you have leftovers to eat, or you go out to eat, or for some other reason skip a meal, you can eat your perishables, and easily save those canned and packaged items. This has two main advantages: You won't waste leftovers and perishables. You'll gradually build up an emergency supply of extra groceries.
If you have garlic that is starting to sprout, plant it. Separate it into cloves. Each clove should produce a head of garlic. In the spring and early summer, I plant them outside, and even here in Alaska, they are ready to harvest in the fall. In the fall and winter, they can be planted and kept inside.
Have the ingredients for "go-to" meals in your cupboard. These are the meals you go to when plans go astray. When you are too busy or too tired to fix what's on the menu, use these as fall-back meals. These meals should be quick and easy to fix, and be meals your family likes. Examples: Mac and cheese and tuna casserole. Canned tomato soup and chicken salad sandwiches.
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.
Skip the $4.00 a cup coffee. Make your own that is better. Brew up a batch of regular coffee. Add a touch of extract flavoring. Add cream or milk. You have rich tasting cup of joe at a pauper's price.
Five frugal-foods snacks
1. Homemade soup
3. Saltine crackers spread with peanut butter
4. Carrot sticks
5. Toast with fruit spread
Simple foods are just fine. People tend to complicate things, spending more time and money than necessary. Case in point: We were heading off to the car races and I took along sandwiches for the pit crew. Those that I made in a hurry, with a dab of mustard and a slice of bologna on a hamburger bun, were chosen before the more elaborate ones.
Don't believe everything you read on a website. Just today, I read that you should never eat leftovers that are more than 24 hours old. I think that is plain and simple nonsense, though it was a good reminder that anyone can post most anything to a website, even if they have no idea what they are talking about.
Hobbies and entertainment can supply you with free food. My husband likes fishing, a past-time that puts fish in our freezer. I like decorating for fall – using brightly colored squash, which we later eat. You may like gardening or hunting. While these activities are certainly not free, the cost of doing them comes out of the entertainment budget, not the food budget.
Recycle your dinner. Funny how much difference the term we use makes. A friend won't serve "leftovers." But, she excitedly told me her new strategy for spending less on groceries. She is now recycling in the kitchen and she doesn't mean reusing the grocery bags. She now takes the meatloaf that remains after dinner, cuts it up into chunks, adds a can of spaghetti sauce, and serves it over pasta for the next day's dinner. If she cooks too much pasta, she takes what they don't eat for dinner, adds a can of tuna, sweet pickle relish, and salad dressing -- and has just recycled it into tuna salad for the next day's lunch.
Check your grocery store receipt to see that you are being charged the correct prices -- before you leave the store. Mistakes are common. The store may have the wrong price entered into the computer. Or, they may have forgotten to input the sale prices. If the item needed to be hand entered the cashier could have hit a wrong number. And, in the case of produce, she may mistake one kind of produce for another.
Do you sometimes make the mistake of grabbing the wrong food item? Our local Fred Meyer had Fred Meyer canned vegetables on sale a couple weeks ago. As the receipt was being processed, I noticed that I didn't get the sale price on two of them. Well, it turns out the mistake was mine. I'd grabbed two cans of Green Giant vegetables instead of the store brand. Those two cans were each $1.00 more than the ones I meant to get. I took them to the service desk to exchange them, saving over two dollars. Pay attention to what you actually put into your grocery cart.
Packaging – compare costs of bagged produce to that loose in bins, compare boxed cereal to that in bags, compare bulk oatmeal to that in a canister.
Shop various sources – supermarket, wholesale club, farmer’s market, flea market, dollar stores, large discount box stores, neighborhood grocery stores, meat markets, roadside product stands, u-pick orchards, hunting, fishing, gardening, gleaning from fields, bulk food stores, health food stores, bakeries, bakery thrift shops, party plan food lines such as Watkins, fundraising bake sales.
Use coupons if it makes the product the same or less costly as what you’d otherwise buy in its place.
Use leftovers in different ways – roast beef: cooked as pot roast, slice and brown with onion and peppers, grind and mix with mayo, chunk and add gravy.
The last few crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips, popcorn, or other salty snacks, along with non-sweetened cereals, can go together to make a Chex Mix style snack.
Start grocery shopping with a basic list, then substitute according to what is on sale.
Make ham and cheese sandwiches to freeze - get flats of inexpensive hamburger buns at the thrift (day-old) bakery, or use other bread of your choice.
Keep a list of frugal meals that you can fix in a hurry so when you can't think of anything to cook you don't have to rely on going out or eating expensive convenience foods.
Ways to make use of ham leftovers: ham and cheese omelets, ham and cheese sandwiches, split pea soup, ham and bean soup, ham and eggs, pot pies or quiche, pizza topping, grind into a sandwich spread, ham and vegetable stir fry, ham fried rice, mix with BBQ sauce for BBQ ham sandwiches.
Portion control! Don’t give kids more than they need to eat – it just wastes food. Serve moderate size servings to adults. If you aren't sure of what is "reasonable," check food guides, and then measure.
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!
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.
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.
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.