HomeexpensesWe need cheap meals.

We need cheap meals.

Oh my goodness. I about had a heart attack as I looked at the categorical spending of our May monthly expenses. Mint told me we had spent $1,095 on “food and dining” last month. Are you fricken kidding me? Four figures worth of food went in to our body? I punched a baby unicorn in the face I was so angry.

But then, on closer inspection, I noticed Mint is just a crappy free budgeting tool that was duplicating a ton of my BoA credit card charges. After spending 15 minutes going through and reviewing every transaction (and marking the duplicates) we managed to get a better understanding of the damage…

Total spent on food last month: $795. 

Holy Frijoles. That just isn’t going to cut it in the Ninja household. That is entirely too much money going to one category. In San Diego, we budgeted around $400ish a month on food and seemed to do just fine, but ever since we made the move to the Pacific Northwest, we’ve struggled to stay under $500. What gives? 

As you can see, we spend a TON at the grocery store. Almost $500 last month alone. There is really only one explanation for this. We buy a lot of freakin’ groceries. These high school kids are going to bleed us dry. We’ve been entertaining like crazy having the high school kids over for game nights and bible studies, as well as hosting a few other Youth Group leaders for business-y type dinners. That crap adds up quick and we spent way too much playing host.

All the other food categories were relatively manageable. I should note that “fast food” does not mean McDonalds and Burger King, but places like Subway, Frozen Yogurt, and Teriyaki. Contrary to what you might think, I’m not pounding 43 McChickens each month.

We did great on restaurant spending, considering Girl Ninja went to a $96 bachelorette party dinner one night. Ignore that one freak of nature expense, and our total restaurant tab was only about $135, which is well below average for us.

Long story short. I want to get our grocery budget WAAAAAAAY down this month. We decided we are going to try to incorporate, at minimum, one “cheap” meal per week in our meal schedule. Last Friday that meant breakfast for dinner. I made us scrambled eggs and she made us waffles from scratch. This week we are having pasta with no meat in it (typically we put like chicken sausage in it). Next week is to be determined.

I would love you all forever if you would drop us some of your FAVORITE CHEAP MEALS that don’t suck but DO use relatively common ingredients (don’t want to have to spend $10 on some random spice I wont use for any other meal).

How do you keep your food budget low, when costs start creeping up?

Oh and I know Top Ramen and Macaroni and Cheese are cheap, but we aren’t really interested in eating cardboard, so hook us up with something with at least a hint of nutritional value.



  1. We’ve had a bit of grocery creep lately, too.

    How about fried rice / chili / chickpea and lentil dishes?

  2. Tacos…ground meat ($1.35), package of tortillas ($1.45), taco seasoning ($.50), shredded cheese (this is a staple in our fridge), salsa (this is a staple in our fridge), shredded lettuce ($1.50), sour cream (staple for us)–total cost for dinner LESS than $5!
    Baked Spaghetti…Spaghetti Noodles ($1.50), Spaghetti Sauce ($1), Spices to taste, Canned Chicken ($2), Shredded Cheese (staple in our fridge), Parm. Cheese (staple in fridge)–total cost LESS than $5!
    Nachos…Can of Refried Beans ($1.50), Tortilla Chips ($2), Tomatoes, Onion, Shredded Cheese–total cost $5 or LESS
    Meatloaf…Ground Meat ($1.35), Egg ($.12), Crackers, Spices to taste, serve with veggies and mashed potatoes—total cost LESS than $5!

  3. Hubby and I buy our meat in bulk at Costco

    we also only cook 2-3 meals that are good as leftovers per week so that we both have dinners & lunches to take. I like to eat breakfast for dinner alot bc he works nights so I usually saute veggies and cook up an egg and some turkey bacon.

    Chili is cheap and great. We use ground turkey.

    We also buy quinoa in bulk and make quinoa pilafs alot. Green beans and broccoli

    I’ll take canned tuna once a week

    Generally we keep 1-2 reheat able cooked veggies in fridge. 1-2 reheat able proteins. And 1-2 reheat able grains

    I also menu plan for the week and only buy exactly what we need. We also keep our “stocked” pantry extremely bare so that we don’t waste food.

    We also like to use our credit card points for gift certs to restaurants to keep our restaurant costs down.

    If we host people for dinner then our bill always goes up. Same for buying junk food for hubs.

  4. I follow a similar plan to Sarah with the meal planning and buying only what we need (with the exception of things that are on crazy sale that we will need soon, I go ahead and buy those items while they are on sale). A couple of meals that we try to incorporate that are cheap are baked potatoes (with salsa or with just butter and cheese) or grilled cheese sandwiches. For breakfasts I will make a big batch of baked oatmeal on Sunday (so so cheap and so so good!), freeze some individual servings and eat the rest during the week.

  5. Potato pancakes are good, but you’ll need a food processor. For 2 people, shred 2-3 potatoes in the processor and squeeze out excess water. Add S+P, a finely chopped onion, and 2 eggs. Add a little flour if the mixture seems runny. Shape into patties and cook slowly in a frying pan (or two pans) with a little oil until crisp. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

    Spaghetti with garlic and oil is also good. Chop up a lot of garlic and parsley. Cook the garlic slowly in olive oil, don’t let it take on color. Meanwhile boil the spaghetti. Mix the spaghetti with the other ingredients. Add Parmesan cheese. (And here I would not hold back on the expense: the only Parmesan cheese worth getting is a real Parmigiano Reggiano; it’ll cost you, but a little goes a long way, and the cheaper stuff is not even an acceptable substitute.)

    If you look at Thousandaire’s site, a few months ago I also posted a number of cheap recipes. The meat sauce for pasta I wrote about there is very economical.

  6. I had this EXACT conversation with Hubby last night; we typically spend about $175/week of groceries, but he’s been taken to stopping off at a specialty food shop 2-3 times a week to buy lunch; those lunch runs end up costing an additional $30/week! We get an allowance every week to spend on whatever we want; if he doesn’t want to eat leftovers or make himself a meal for lunch, that’s fine, but his gourmet lunches need to be paid with his allowance… he’s agreed (yeah me!!)

    Breakfast for dinner is our favourite cheap meal; shepherd’s pie’s also a favourite (ground meat, mash potatoes, 1 can each of nibblet and cream corn, pack of shepher’s pie seasoning = 4 large or 6 regular portions for about $5.00 to $6.00).

  7. We spend way too much on food every month. This is something that I need to work on also! I’ll be looking forward to the comments 🙂

  8. Popcorn made on the stove is a super cheap snack – might be good for your youth group visits?

    Watermelon and cut up apples also seem to satisfy hungry teens.

    I know most people hate the word coupon, but have you tried limited coupon use? I save about $25 a week using them (grocery budget of $125 a week for myself, hubby and two hungry teenagers – so I stretch and get about $150 worth of groceries for $125 – savings of $100 a month!)….and I especially save money on toiletry items. I look at a $1 coupon off something I’m going to buy anyway as a $1 bill!!!

  9. Taco night at home is easy and cheap.

    Also, we make our own mini pizzas. Buy pitas from the store, get some delicious sauce, mozzarella and then load them up with whatever we feel like (peppers, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc). When you have kids, this will be the highlight of their week to load up their own pizzas with the ingredients!

  10. My two favorite relatively cheap and easy meals for at home that make lots of leftovers:

    Baked Ziti: Take a box of your pasta of choice, pasta sauce of choice, ricotta cheese (about a cup, can cut this if you use more mozz), mozz (about a half cup, see previous note), and a meat of your choice (totally optional). Cook up the pasta and mix the cheeses together. If you’re adding meat, cook that as well. When everything is cooked, combine the pasta, cheese, sauce, and meat in an 8×10 or comparable size pan and bake it for 30-45 minutes. The top should be a bit bubbly when it’s done.

    Shepherd’s pie: Somebody else already touched on this one so I’m seconding it! I like to make it with sweet potatoes as the mashed potato top, just heat them in the microwave for 10 minutes and mash them up.

  11. I know I saved a lot on our grocery budget (feeding a family of 7) by changing where we shopped. We save over 20% on our grocery bill by shopping at Winco’s instead of going to the Albertsons or QFC by my house. They just opened a new one close by, you should check it out if you haven’t already.

  12. Veggie tacos: tortillas (less than $2), black beans (less than $1), minute brown rice (staple) and then whatever you like on your tacos (salsa, sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.). Most of this we typically have on hand anyway, and on top of being cheap it’s super quick.

  13. Homemade Sloppy Joes:
    Ground beef, garlic, finely chopped onion and red pepper, 1 cup of ketchup, 1-2 tsp mustard. Brown meat with garlic onion and pepper. Add ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer together and serve on buns.
    Total cost for two people about $4 per meal

  14. To save money on meat, we buy whole chickens and cut them into the pieces (or cook them whole) rather than buying a pack of thighs or breasts or whatever. Plus then the left overs can be used for other dishes. For instance, last night we grilled a spatch-cocked chicken (cut out the back bone and break the rib bones with the palm of your hand so it lays flat– the whole thing will cook in about 30 min) and we can use the left over meat for pasta salad, tacos, or whatever.

    Also, we buy certain things at certain grocery stores. Trader Joe’s almost always has the best prices on dairy and some produce, so I always buy milk, yogurt, eggs, spinach, Laughing Cow cheese, butter, and bananas there. The key is to not buy anything else that isn’t on your list or you’ll wind up spending much more than you intended.

    This may not be what you’re looking for, but if you have the time/desire, you can also make a lot of stuff at home that you would normally buy pre-made (like bread, pizza crust, tortillas), although that takes time and some effort. However, homemade tortillas are really easy to make and taste so much better than the store-bought ones.

    Hope that helps!

  15. Huevos Rancheros: Heat up a can of black beans, throw in some corn or peppers or any random veggies or spices you want to use up. I like to add cilantro or cumin. Fry a couple of eggs. put it all on top of a tortilla. Serve w cheese or salsa if desired.

  16. We eat vegetarian three nights a week at least – often more. Meat is expensive and for the price of chicken breasts you can get a ton of veggies. But honestly, I dont think healthy food is an area people should cut back too much. I’d much rather eat vegetarian chili, burritos, stuffed peppers, homemade pizza or something like that than more spaghetti or pasta. I second the meal planning comments, but usually I’ll go to Farmer’s market, get super cheap produce and then plan around what I bought and follow up with a grocery store. We also do a pantry challenge a couple times each month, where we each cook a meal from the feezer or pantry – nothing can be purchased at the store.

  17. Breakfast for dinner! Pancakes or Waffles! Mix up a double batch and freeze the left overs. Now you have a yummy, homemade breakfast during the week without the cooking! Just heat them up!

    Egg Burritos, Tortillas, Eggs, Veggies.

    Homemade pizza. Whip up some dough, mix tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil & garlic together for the sauce. Top with cheese and whatever other toppings you like. I always buy cheese when it’s cheap and then freeze it for when we need it! Or you can use English muffins or bagels instead of making dough. Look in the bakery for the close to expire discount breads for super cheap options!

    Teriyaki bowls – Rice, broccoli, 1 chicken breast, teriyaki sauce & any other veggies you like. When you load it up with veggies you can make one chicken breast stretch to two bowls. Or skip the chicken all together.

  18. I too spend too much on food. I need to meal plan but I’m just so lazy about it!

  19. I meal plan once a week and make a specific grocery list and only purchase what’s on the list. I’d say I cook about 4x per week, and the rest of the nights are for leftovers, eating on the run, frozen taquitos, etc. I’ve been pretty pleased with this; since I started meal planning, I’ve been able to keep our weekly grocery bill to around $50-$60.

    Know what you have, know what you’ll use again and don’t eat lobster for every meal, and this method works pretty well for eating cheaply!

    • Oh, forgot to add, every time I cook I try to make sure there’s enough for at least one meal of leftovers so we can take lunch to work the next day. Not eating out at lunch = HUGE money saver!

  20. my food budget is unreal high – i have no idea how anyone can spend 50 bucks a week on groceries and prepare healthy food. More power to anyone who can do it, i cant. i spend probably 600 a month for one person… i will read through all of your ideas here but am not hopeful. i dont eat anything frozen unless its a vegetable and eat super clean (no processed carbs, very little dairy, lots of fruits and vegetables, good quality meats and protiens, whole grain carbs) i also have little time to make meals because of my job and other obligations so eating out (salads mostly) is a regular. Thanks for the ideas.

  21. Ooh I like this topic.

    #1: Brown Rice and Black beans: You can make a big batch for the week with a bag of rice and two cans of bean. If that’s too boring, mix in a bit of taco seasoning from a 79 cent package. Serve with: a handful of cheese, avocado and/or sour cream. If I have onions, mushrooms or peppers around I will cook those up in a pan and mix them in. You can use this as a base for tacos too.

    #2: Frozen veggies and eggs. I will just buy whatever frozen veggie mixtures are on sale for $1.00 a piece. Something with broccoli and peppers. Heat them up in a pan and throw some stirred up eggs (or egg whites) on top. Sprinkle with whatever cheese I have around.

    #3. This isn’t a recipe, but I split my grocery shopping into two places. The bulk of my shopping I do at the “regular” grocery store. Then I go to the hippie co-op and go to the bulk section only and get all sorts of delicious snacks for dirt cheap. Like dark chocolate covered almonds, nuts, cereal, granola, etc. I’ll do a quick check for sales too, because co-op sales are always dirt cheap, since they don’t have much refrigerated space–no room to keep what they don’t need.

    End! Long comment.

  22. Stop eating meat. Or at least, cut back on it significantly. Meat is definitely the biggest money suck in a grocery budget. You can get pretty creative with meat substitutes, too, without getting into fake meat (which is no cheaper). For instance, a half-cup of rice and a half-cup of lentils cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning make pretty delicious taco filling. You probably won’t notice the lack of ground beef.

    Quesadillas with black beans, tomatoes and roasted sweet potato are pretty much the best thing ever. (Can you tell I like tex mex?)

    Make big batches of soup or chili and freeze the extra for lunches. You can usually get about 16 or 18 servings out of a $10 recipe.

    Eat a lot of salad. It’s summer, and lettuce and veggies are cheap.

    The other biggest thing is just to put more planning into your grocery shopping, and shop the sales, and get to know sale cycles. For instance, in my hood, a block of cheese is about $12, which is outrageous, but they frequently go on sale for as low as $3.50. It just depends on the grocery store. So I keep an eye out for it, and buy it when it’s cheap. Usually happens once every two or three weeks, but it requires me to keep an eye on the flyers for about five different stores.

    Anyway, good luck!

  23. My first thought about your grocery expenditure is what is purchased with your grocery budget? For simplification of my household budget, I clump into that budget the soaps, detergents, toilet papers and other “non-grocery” items. Realize that there is almost a 10% tax on those non-food items. So basically you’re handing the government 10% of the price to wipe your tushy. That may be part of the problem. Unless, of course, toilet paper is included in your rent.

  24. Lentil pasta-chop an onion and garlic, saute in olive oil. Add a can of diced tomatoes and some sage/thyme/oregano (whatever you’ve got on hand), some hot sauce (I like Frank’s Red Hot, but whatever you’ve got) to taste, and simmer until the tomatoes cook down a bit (about 10-15 min, until you can scrape the mixture away and it doesn’t instantly “refill” the spot you moved it away from-means that it’s thickened a bit).Add the can of rinsed lentils and just heat through (a couple minjutes) Salt and pepper to taste. Add parm if you have it. Toss with cooked pasta-penne is my fave, but other shapes are fine. If it seems a bit dry, save some pasta water to mix with it. Totally filing, comforting, and cheap. There’s always more for lunch (and arguably, it tastes better the next day!) I always have these items in the pantry (bought whenever on sale) so I can make this whenever fresh veggies are low.

  25. We eat a lot of frugal meals each week. Breakfast for dinner is always a great idea.
    Another good thing is to make a homemade version of Hamburger Helper. It tastes better and fills you up more than the boxed version. This website has a ton of different recipes using pretty basic ingredients Paired with a salad or a veggie and it is a quick, easy, cheap meal.
    Good luck!

  26. We have mastered eating cheaply! The trick is to think like a college student again. We cooked a lot of cheap and easy meals during college and we still use those ideas today –

    French bread pizza
    Chicken with veggies – marinate in anything really…different spices, lemon, garlic, teriyaki
    Fried rice
    Breakfast burritos

    Also do you have a crockpot? You can make food for the week or even freeze the meat for later.

  27. My budget friendly meals focus on using up random ingredients I might have purchased for a more elaborate meal (or random on sale items). I really like frittatas (eggs, milk, and cheese combined with whatever leftover ingredients I have on hand (veggies, meats, whatever) and then baked until the eggs are set). As previously mentioned, veggies tacos are also good (I like zucchini and black beans with a bit of lime juice and cumin myself). Stir fry is also a good way to use up random veggies and meats (just stir fry in some oil and add soy sauce or teriyaki sauce and serve with rice).

  28. I’d take a look at this website: With its help, as well as shopping sales for produce and meat and occasionally clipping a coupon or two, I eat for less than $25 a week per person. We’re not talking Ramen and Blue Box, all my meals are homecooked and very healthy/veggie packed.

  29. Aside from meal planning and using a list. We mix vegetarian, salads chicken and fish in a week. Portion size is important and using leftovers for lunches.

  30. Sandwiches are pretty cheap.
    loaf of bread: $6
    tub o meat: $6
    cheese, the good stuff: $4
    That’s $26 bucks for something that could last you an entire week! You can also throw in a spring mix salad for some greens and of course whatever condiments are ALREADY in your fridge (cause those last FOREVA!)

    New site update: Budgets Suck will be moving over to a new site where my true identity will be revealed in August!

  31. Need a reason to give Adaptu a try?

    Also, I signed up for a CSA and a share of beef. Helps support the local community, I get healthy veggies and protein.

  32. Just made this for friends last week… so simple and freaking delicious!
    We did use homemade pasta, which is cheap but labour intensive.

    Also – make a quiche but use brown rice, cooked with a tad extra water so it’s more sticky, as the crust. Just push it into the pan, then dump your sauteed veggies and egg/milk mixture over top, with a bit of cheese on the top.

  33. Tuna patties w/ vegetables & Rice
    * Mix can of drained tuna w/ one egg, 7-8 crackers, salt, pepper, onion powder, & garlic powder (if you like spicy, hot sauce makes a good edition). Cook on medium hot skillet a couple minutes on each side.
    Steam vegetables or use a stir fry mix, and cook rice substituting chicken broth for the water. Ends up fairly tasty & still healthy.

    Baked potatoes & eggs are also good if you don’t want to take the time to make hashbrowns (and a 5# bag of potatoes is very frugal).

    I also look at the store ads each week & plan around what’s on sale. So if chicken breasts are on sale, I find a couple recipes for chicken that sound good- maybe grilled chicken one night with baked potatoes & vegetables & shredded/bbq’d chicken sandwhiches for lunch/dinner later in the week.

    Popcorn can be jazzed up with a little drizzled chocolate & peanuts for youth group. Maybe consider making cookies or inviting people to come early to help make cookies or something like that- might be fun. If you have a membership to a warehouse store, consider buying the big boxes (2 3lb bags) of tortilla chips & the gallon of salsa- less expensive than doritos & more filling.

  34. Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s. How about fresh, local, organic produce? We pay $20/week for all the vegetables we can eat. We have to be creative with recipes, because when the kale comes in, there’s a lot of it. But it’s a great adventure and a good CSA will have a cook book or even weekly recipe suggestions. Just Google your city/area and CSA and you should come up with some good hits. But be forewarned: you might have to join a waiting list to get into one!

  35. Falafel is easy and cheap. In a processor, chop fine some garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Add S+P, a little ground cumin and coriander, and a can of drained chickpeas to form a thick puree..If the mixture appears dry, add some of the liquid from the can. And don’t worry about the spices; you can leave out the coriander if necessary, and cumin can be used with all kinds of other things.

    Form the mixture into small patties and fry in a little vegetable oil until hot and crisp. Serve with pita and a little tahini or plain yogurt on the side for dipping; also some vegetables like tomato, shredded lettuce, and cucumber.

    • I have been scouring the web for more thoughts on making the falafel mix, and have found some ideas that should produce a better and more authentic result. And possibly a cheaper one since the dried chickpeas are cheaper than canned. So there.

      First, instead of using canned garbanzos (chickpeas), which can get mushy, use about 2 cups dried and soak them in water for a full day, in the fridge or not as you prefer. Then chop all your remaining ingredients in the processor – garlic, parsley, cilantro (quantities are up to you), possibly a small onion; and add seasonings like ground cumin, ground coriander, S+P, maybe a little lemon juice, maybe some paprika. You’ll have to season to taste and see what you like. Drain the chickpeas and chop in the processor until you get a coarse mash but not a puree. You can add a little baking soda to lighten the mixture and a little of the soaking water if the processor clogs, but you want a thick paste that holds its shape. Now either deep-fry at 350 degrees (personally I never deep-fry at home) or shallow fry in a little neutral oil.

      Can’t wait to try this tomorrow.

      • Not that I expect anyone cares at this point, but I’ve found the biggest difficulty is getting the mix to hold together. If you add an egg, that solves the problem.

        Another good cheap recipe is eggplant parmigiana. Just slice some eggplant, dredge in a little flour, and cook on both sides in olive oil. Then top with tomato sauce and mozzarella and bake. Very inexpensive.

  36. I agree. Its necessary to plan a low food budget as well having nutritious and tasty meals. Top Ramen, pancakes, chicken roast, home made burger etc. all can be got in a low price as well are mouth watering. Personally me and my family always prefer home made food over eating in restaurants or in expensive shops. Nice content to look forward. I have already bookmarked it for future reading.

  37. Tacos are a staple in our house. Super cheap and super tasty. We use what we have on hand – beans, vegetables, leftovers and just put it in a taco shell. You can come up with some pretty interesting combinations.

    Have you tried shopping seasonally and at Farmers’ Markets? We found that our grocery bill went down and the quality of our food went up when we stopped buying most of our food from the grocery store. Really, just cutting out most pre-processed food will help will too.

  38. The best “cheap” idea is to make pulled pork on Sunday — and then make 3 other “leftover” meals out of it during the week: omelets, soft tacos, quesadillas, stew, more sandwiches. It’s brilliant!

  39. One of my favorite cheap meals is black beans and rice. I always add a little bit of queso fresco (Moist, Mexican cheese), but you don’t have to go out to buy that because the black beans and rice are good enough alone. You can also eat it with a tortilla or two.

    My mom loves to make scrambled eggs with onions and whatever other veggies she has on hand for dinner and sometimes will throw in tortilla chips or tortilla strips for an added crunch. You could also throw in some deli meat or salsa to make it heartier.

  40. Cornbread casserole. Our family of four get two full nights of dinner out of it

    Cook and drain 1lb ground meat ( whatever u have). Drain
    Add 1 can rotel, I can black beans, and 1 can of corn ( u can use frozen)
    Put aside
    Prepare a cornbread recipe
    Pour prepared cornbread mix ( from box or homemade) into greased 9×13 pan
    Pour meat mix over cornbread
    Top with a little cheese
    Bake according to cornbread directions–enjoy

  41. hot dogs and baked beans
    grilled cheese and soup
    hamburger helpers
    roast beef crescent rolls (wrap lunch meat roast beef in crescent rolls with cheese and cook) or ham
    Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole (recipe below)
    You Need:
    4-6 chicken breasts cubed and cooked
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 cup sour cream
    1 full roll of ritz crackers
    1 stick of melted butter
    2 tablespoons poppy seeds
    1 can of peas (optional)
    Now do:
    Mix your cubed and cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream and poppy seeds (Add optional pees). Pour mixture into 9 x13 glass pan. Take ritz crackers and melted butter and combine in a sealed bag crushing crackers. Add the crackers mix on top of chicken mix. Bake at 350 until heated though.

    I love to cook! Hope that helps…

  42. Roast a chicken, with plenty of roast veggies. Eat and enjoy.

    With the left over chicken and vegies and a bit of gravy, and using pastry make up small pies. I have a pie maker, but if you don’t cook in the oven. Pies can then go into the freezer as an option for the I can’t be bothered cooking. Our fave is pies, bakes potatoes in the micro wave, and tinned beetroot – quick, easy and reasonably healthy as these things go.

    Depending on the size of your chicken and how many people you are feeding, there will probably be still some meat left. Shred this and put in the freezer. It can then be used for salads, sandwiches, chicken curry, add to rice, whatever.

    Save the bones, and make stock. This can then be used as the base for a chicken vegie soup. I just freeze the bones until I’m ready to make stock. I also save vegie “scraps” – celery leaves, tops of leeks and carrots, broccoli stalks in the freezer and add to the stock for extra flavour.

    Any roast vegies left – roast pumpkin makes a great pasta sauce, roast beetroot makes a great salad when mixed with fetta, walnuts, spring onions, balsamic and olive oil (guess what I had for lunch!) If you are roasting beetroot, chop up the leaves, and cook up with some stock – when cooked, pulse up in the food processer. -then add cream – that another soup for you. Freeze in suitable portions.

    But menu planning is the key if you really want to save money.

  43. Believe it or not, food at the grocery store is taxed at 10% in my town. Not just cleaning and paper products but FOOD!

  44. One of my favorite cheap meals is Dal. Dal (split lentils) comes in different colors and textures. If you have an Indian grocer you’ll find that it’s much cheaper buying dried beans and rice there, and they will have more dals than you could try in a year! Rice, beans and vegetables are traditional Indian staples. If you don’t mind making a big batch and eating it for several days, you have a really inexpensive way to eat!

    You can substitute lentils found in conventional grocery stores, but as they’re not split the cooking time reflected in Indian cookbooks will be insufficient, so roughly double the cook time for that.

    I learned to cook dal from a very old cookbook (published in 1971) called The Vegetarian Gourmet. There’s a recipe for Amti Dal on pg 107, that’s my favorite. I think the book’s out of print, but it looks like you can get a used copy on Amazon for about $2 plus shipping. It’s full of international vegetarian cuisine, and if you can handle some meals without meat it will definitely bring your food costs down!

    I would share the recipe for Amti Dal but don’t know if there are copyright issues with doing that. You can probably find lots of good dal recipes online if you’re interested.

  45. Not that we’re real health food nuts, but we’ve started making large batches of quinoa salad with beans, corn and pretty much whatever other veggies we need to clean out of the crisper (carrots, celery, onions, peppers, etc.). Add in a little fresh or pureed cilantro for some zing. $10 of salad provides 3-4 days worth of salad, either as a dinner side or on its own as lunch.

    Also, eliminating snack/junk food takes a huge chunk out of weekly grocery runs.

    One of the things I generally do is to try to make it so that 80% or more of what I buy at the grocery store is on special, outside of a few staples. Then I wing meals from there.

  46. I’m commenting late, but this topic is a favorite of mine. These are tried and true favorites, both for my family’s pocketbook, tummy, calendar, and the cook. Because these meals rely on the same staple ingredients (flour, dried beans, potatoes), the planning and toppings bar are the keys to making these meals a success.

    Side note: If you have a crock pot, that also reduces most of the work for these meals!

    Meal 1: Bean and rice bowls
    -use a crockpot to boil large batch of beans–using dried beans saves tons of $, not to mention its better than sodium packed canned beans
    -rice can be white rice (e.g., cilantro lime rice like Chipotle), mexican rice, brown rice, wild rice, whatever is preferred
    -toppings bar (fresh chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, green onion, cilantro, lime wedges, cheese, olives, mushrooms, peppers, cheese, sour cream, cabbage, radishes, basically whatever is in your fridge. You’ll want to prep a large amount to make Meal 2 & 3 a breeze)

    Meal 2 (ideally, the next day):
    -stretch beans and rice further by using them as the main ingredient for tostadas (or tacos, or burritos)
    -bring the cost down even lower if you buy a bag of maseca and make your own corn tortillas, tostadas, sopes, chips, taco shells, etc. (this is also a fun date activity)
    -use your toppings bar again
    -at the end of this meal, we usually package the rest of the beans into containers and put into the freezer for the next time we do bean and rice dishes (usually 1-2x per week, and we usually make beans once a month–so this is not only a money saver, but time saver as well!)

    Meal 3:
    -crock pot baked potatoes with toppings bar
    -we like doing this meal after the previous two, because we can finish up any fresh toppings without having things sit in the fridge too long
    -if there are any toppings left, we usually finish them the next morning with a scramble, hash, or breakfast burritos

    Meal 4:
    -oven roasted potatoes
    -we cube potatoes and roast them simply dressed in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then use them as we want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (e.g., hash, eggs, enchilada filling, side dish for larger meal, use as an alternative to baked potatoes for a potato bar, etc.)

    Meal 5:
    -homemade pizza (fun for date night too)
    -key is to make your own pizza dough (flour, water, yeast, seasonings, honey, etc.).
    -use whatever toppings you want (e.g., have on hand), but you will not want to go back to store bought once you find a dough recipe you like!
    -fun tip–the same dough can also be used to make calzones, homemade pita pockets (which can be used to make your own pita chips), and breadsticks (which can be used to make croutons for salad, and then bread crumbs for meat loaf, macaroni & cheese, breading, etc.)

    Meal 6:
    -homemade pasta (also fun for date night)
    -key is to make your own pasta (e.g., flour and egg), and then use whatever you want (can go meatless, or use less meat)

  47. Cash. We do groceries entirely in cash, which successfully limits us to $300-$500/month (technically it’s $300/month for groceries and $200/month for lunch, but I really don’t care how it’s divided). Given that budget, we do some serious meal planning, particularly in casseroles, so we can freeze a portion of it and eat it later (costs much less per meal). Anything with pasta and rice helps, as does slow cooking (the types of meats that are ideal for slow cooking are much less expensive per ounce than regular).

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