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Ask the Readers: What are some of your most frugal recipes?

Today’s question is from Bobbie-Jo:

In lieu of the $30 grocery budget post… I would love know what readers’ most frugal recipes are that they turn to when money is really tight. -Bobbie-Jo

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  • Kimberly says:

    We do the old standby breakfast dinner at times.. no meat involved!! (pancake breakfast or waffles/ french toast).. and we have a factory bread outlet store in town so you can get ‘real’ bread for under $1 a loaf. Or grilled cheese, or grilled pbj’s. We try and do a meatless meal at least once a week.. sometimes twice.. I sometimes will whip up some pizza dough in our bread machine and then make a cheese pizza with it. Our money tends to go towards produce.. That is one area that I have found hard to trim down on. And I make a lot of my own stuff from scratch when I can and double coupon when I can. You do the best you can- but give yourself grace as well 🙂

    • Ramie says:

      If you like grilled pbjs try pbj french toast! My teens and their friends think I am a great cook when I make these!

  • Carrie says:

    I will pull out leftovers, fruit, cheese, vegetables, crackers, etc. Anything on hand that I can use up.

    Also, whole wheat pasta with spaghetti sauce and cheese (no meat).

  • Julie says:

    Beans and rice with cheese wrapped in a tortilla. Sounds so simple, but is frugal and filling! If you have condiments on hand, spoon on some sour cream or salsa.

  • Wendy says:

    Potato Soup. Dice up potatoes and boil them in water. When the get done add milk. I usually serve with bread or fruit. You can dress up potato soup any way you like depending on how tight your budget is. I sometimes add onions or cheese. But it’s a cheap meal.

  • Jodi says:

    Try to cook from your pantry–pasta, beans, rice, etc. Eggs are cheap and a good source of protein. Also it’s good to shop with seasonal produce in mind. Veggies in season are cheaper.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have quite a few, but have to tell you my favorite BOOK is Cheap, Fast, Good and my favorite blog is and The Prudent Homemaker!

  • Jeannine says:

    Re-purpose leftovers, let nothing go to waste. Leftover spaghetti can become a bake with cheese on top. Leftover mashed potatoes can also become a bake with meat, cheese and butter on top. These are just some examples. Get creative and waste not!

    • Margaret says:

      I had to add that I the people who are consious of waste not..I grew up very poor and we had enough because my parents were recyclers and no waste long before it was fashionable or the thing to do… I love all the posts from people on your site and wish I could meet you all, and get new ideas …gods blessings

    • Amie says:

      We save all of our leftovers and they always become lunches or another meal. Sadly, it wasn’t until I met my husband and cooked with him that I saved my leftovers. Growing up, we always threw them out. So sad!

    • Katherine says:

      My husband and I never cook a whole box of pasta – with just the two of us, we would never eat it all! And pasta is something that’s just not as good the next day… I’ll cook half a box, then the other half next week. As for mashed potatoes, they make a wonderful breakfast – just form some mashed potatoes into a ball and flatten so it becomes a “potatoe pancake.” Then put some oil or butter in a pan and fry the pancakes until crispy on the outside.

    • Ellen says:

      When I worked for a cafeteria in college, the chef there would always turn the leftovers into the soup the next day. He could make a soup out of anything and they were always delicious! I have started doing that at our house (Although since my son turned 15 there have been less and less leftovers to work with 🙂 and the soups can be frozen and reheated.

  • Margaret says:

    we have an amish salvage food store close to us, I dont have a problem buying dry beans and rice and outdated items but I do watch the dates.. but they have cheap fresh meat and cheese..we love spicy beans and rice the spicey makes up for the lack of meat,we also have a bread outlet with good wholesome bread and also coupons.. we dont buy mixes and we dont eat much process food,we can do 50 dollars a week easily for 2 and mostly 35 dollars for us works..its not easy but I do consider this skill a gift from god and I enjoy making ends meet so we can donate..

    • Amanda says:

      What is your spicy beans recipe? I have tried a million recipes for spicy beans (using dried beans in a crock pot), but they always come out so bland…

      • Melanie says:

        If I’m doing healthy refried beans in the crockpot and I want them to be spiced up, I always add in a can of chopped green chilis while they’re cooking (I’m assuming this would work for keeping the beans whole too!) and if I want more heat, I add Sriracha to taste when I mash the beans… a little bit goes a long way!

        Hope that helps somewhat, even if I’m not the person you asked originally 🙂

        • Amanda says:

          Thank you… so you just put beans, a can of chopped green chilis, and water in the pot and let it go? No seasonings? Thanks again for responding…

          • Melanie says:

            I just realized I should have been more specific… I’m a seasoning addict 🙂

            What I normally do is add the beans into the crockpot (about 3 cups is what I normally do, and I have plenty of room in my 6qt), about 9 cups of water or so, a roughly chopped onion (if you’re making refried beans the onions will melt down to nothing and mash up with the beans… if you’re keeping them whole and just want the flavor you can cut the onion in half and just pull it out after the cooking process easily), about 2 tablespoons of minced garlic (more or less to taste), 3 teaspoons of salt (more or less to taste, but this was about right for me), 2 teaspoons of coarse ground black pepper, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin, and the whole can of the chopped green chilis.

            I cook on high for about 8 hours, adding a bit more water as needed if it looks like too much is cooking off. If you’re keeping the beans whole I’d check them a little sooner than that, but I found it to be perfect for mashing them up for refried beans. When they’re fork tender and taste done, they’re done 🙂 Just drain, and use them however you’d like. If you wanted more heat after the fact, I’d add some Sriracha if you’re mashing them… a little goes a long way!

            Also, if you plan on making refried beans (or if you plan on freezing some of them) be sure to retain some of the bean water when you drain them so you can thin the refried beans out as necessary, or so the beans won’t dry out when you reheat them if you’re keeping them whole.

            Hope that helps!

  • Amy says:

    Fried rice made with leftover rice, veggies, meat, an egg and soy sauce. Lentil and brown rice tacos (sounds strange, but they’re really good).
    Black bean burgers and roasted sweet potato fries.
    Frittatas that use up leftover veggies and cheese.
    Chicken salad made with the scraps leftover from buying bone in chicken breasts. I usually cut off the breast and accumulate the meaty bone pieces in the freezer until I have several and then boil them to make chicken stock and shred the meat for chicken

  • Katie D. says:

    Beans + Rice always works! I like to use leftover mashed potatoes, thined with milk (and/or water) and add some spices and it is an instant soup. Also baked potatoes topped with leftovers (1/2 jar of sauce, partial top of sour cream, the last of the broccoli, etc). Eggs, egg salad sandwiches, egg on english muffin, etc.

  • There are so many great ideas! A lot of it has to do what what I have in my stockpile at the time. My favorite is Brushetta Pasta. To keep this frugal I used canned tomatoes. However, now that it is summer use what is in the garden! Or you can most likely find produce for cheaper now at local farm stands or seasonal farmers markets.

  • Britney says:

    Rice bowls (any variation but Mexican is our favorite) –

    rice + black beans (or kidney beans) + corn + whatever else you want to add —- if you want meat, add taco seasoned gr. beef/turkey or shredded chicken —- tomatoes, cheese, sr. cream, salsa, guac (i often find wholly guac on clearance at kroger and use coupon to get for free, then freeze it).

    Since the base of the dish is rice and beans it doesn’t get much cheaper, and you can adjust the other toppings to fit your budget/taste.

    • Wendy says:

      This reminds me of a cheap Taco Soup I sometimes make.
      2 cans kidney beans
      2 cans of corn
      2 cans of tomatoes
      1 pkg taco seasoning mix
      1pkg powdered ranch dressing
      Mix together with a little water and heat.

      You can also add 1 pound ground beef, browned & drained. But if money is tight you can omit. I use corn I’ve frozen from my garden and 1 quart of tomatoes that I’ve canned instead of buying any. We try to put up a lot of vegetables from our garden in the summer but I realize a lot of people don’t have that option. But this is still a cheap meal.

  • Lisa says:

    I love, love, LOVE the prudent homemaker’s tuscan tomato bread soup! It’s super easy to make and very inexpensive and paired with some homemade bread makes one heck of a meal!!! 🙂

  • kristi says:

    When we only have $30 to buy food for the week, my husband and I will pick a store (usually Kroger, since we get “points” to accumulate $ off fuel) and browse the sale ad for that week. We come up with a menu based on how far we can stretch the $30 with what’s on sale, what we know (ex. our Kroger has frozen veggies for $1 a bag) and what we have. We can get pretty createive! If another store has better sale that week we go to that one. Sometimes I have a coupon for something and that helps, but I don’t spend a lot of energy trying to do coupon match ups. Then I usually send him to the store since he is Super Deal Finder Man. The weeks our grocery budget is that tight are actually my favorite weeks. It’s one of the few times my husband acts like a member of our “team.”

    • Debbie says:

      I love this! My husband doesn’t participate at all but maybe I can get my teenaged boys to help if I can make it a game. Thanks for posting your system!

      • kristi says:

        Ooh that would be fun! You can make it like on that show “Chopped” where they get a basket of “mystery ingredients” and have to come up with a dish. Hand them the sale ad and challenge them to come up with a meal for under $X….taking notes for when my kids are old enough to do that….;-)

    • Maria says:

      I thought I was married to the “Super Deal Finder Man.” LOL. My husband is so good at finding good deals. The only problem is he usually want to buy about 50 of whatever the good deal is. I do like having a well stocked pantry, but it sure can mess up my weekly budget.

  • Cindy says:

    Any soup can stretch a tight food budget. Try vegetable soup with or without meat (try a small amount of ground beef if you just have to have a little meat). I have made chicken ‘n rice soup with just two or three chicken wings. Bake the chicken covered with foil and use the “juice” left in the pan as a broth base with a little garlic, celery and onion. Cut the chicken into very small pieces and it will amaze you how far it will stretch.

    We routinely have a dinner that is all leftovers – a bit of this and a bit of that. Many times it is my kid’s favorite meal of the week because they all get to have what they like best!

  • Courtney says:

    Roasted chicken! You can roast a whole chicken and get 3-4 meals from it…and when you’re done you can make stock!
    Day one….roasted chicken and veggies
    Day two….chicken sandwiches
    Day three…chicken salad
    Day four…make stock, add carrot, celery onions and egg noodles for chicken soup (and any left over chicken if there is any….usually isn’t for us, but it’s just as good without it!)
    Also eat fro. The garden if you have one! Even planting one pot of cherry type tomatoes will give you pounds to work with!

    • Llama Momma says:

      Courtney – I miss the days when one roasted chicken lasted several meals! With a house full of hungry boys, they pick that sucker clean every time! 🙂

      • Debbie says:

        True that!

      • Trish says:

        Oh goodness! I am just waiting for the day when I have to cook two at a time to feed us…..I start panicking every time I think about what my food budget will look like 5 years from now. 🙂

        On the flip side. I should personally not have such a hard time loosing these 10lbs since I will have built in portion control AKA whatever’s happens to be left when the boys are done eating…..

  • My latest discovery for inexpensive meals is whole chickens! They sell them for about a dollar a pound in a local grocery store and I’ve become quite the magician at using the entire chicken and making 2 chickens last a full week for our family of 5 (2 parents and 3 ‘tots in tow’). Once we’ve eaten all the meat off the chicken I also slow-cook the bones in a couple quarts of water for my own home-made LOW SODIUM chicken broth for soups or stews.

  • Crumby Vegan says:

    I love this recipe for vegetarian potpie made in the slow cooker ( According to my calculations, it only costs $3.29 for 4 servings! For a great Chinese inspired dish, try this Vegetable Fried Rice ( Add some scrambled eggs to the recipe to make it even heartier for a few pennies more!

    I have an entire category on my website devoted to ‘Cheap Eats’, which I’ve tallied as <$5 per recipe! That link is:

    Hope you enjoy!
    Crumby Vegan

  • Kelly S says:

    When I was a kid, we used to eat a lot of top ramen noodles (we cooked without the seasoning so they didn’t have the sodium) and soft-boiled eggs. The soft egg yolk added some flavor/sauce to the noodles. You can get packs of those noodles for 10-25 cents, and eggs are a cheap form of protein. We never did this, but I’m sure it would be quite cheap to add some steamed veggies to the dish to make it a little healthier!

    Also, this is a good breakfast/snack – cooked brown rice with milk and a little brown sugar. Again, could certainly add some fruit to make it healthier – like oatmeal!

  • Christie says:

    You can make a chicken breast or 2 go a long way with Chicken Fried Rice or Chicken Pot Pie (bag of frozen mixed veggies, flour, a little milk. You can even cut out the pie crust and just drop biscuits over top and bake, or serve over rice or egg noodles). Tacos are one of my favorite standbys. We add a can of beans to taco meat to make it go further, season with cumin, onion powder, and a dash of chili powder, instead of buying packets, and a can of diced tomatoes.

  • Quinoa and beans! I love using quinoa instead of rice. It has more protein than rice so it fills you up for longer. I’m actually eating some leftovers from last night for lunch today, topped with a leftover white fish fillet and parmesan cheese. 🙂

  • amy says:

    Fried rice made with leftover rice, veggies, meat, an egg, and soy sauce
    Lentil and brown rice tacos (sounds strange, but they’re really good)
    Black bean burgers with roasted sweet potato fries
    Fritattas made with leftover veggies, meat, cheese, and even pasta
    Chicken salad made with the scraps of bone in chicken breasts. I cut off the breast meat and accumulate the meaty bone pieces in the freezer until I have several. I then boil them to make chicken stock and shred the meat to make chicken salad, or use it in casseroles.

  • Teria says:

    Spaghetti this year has been a frugal meal since the noodles were free with coupons and so was the sauce. So anytime I make spaghetti it doesn’t cost me Anything!!!

  • Carrie says:

    Bean soup, potato soup, lentil and vegetable soup, beans and rice – all of my favorite ultra frugal meals have been mentioned.

    If you have an ALDI nearby, definitely check them out. Shopping there can definitely keep the budget happy. I aim to eat a whole foods diet (no pre-packaged food, no iffy ingredients, only food Grandma would recognize), but it is possible to do so shopping at ALDI. I created a free ALDI meal plan and shopping list based on this principle (link above).

    • Lisa says:

      I will have to second Aldi being a great budget helper! When I go there and stock up on fruit, veggies, oatmeal, tortilla chips-I get an entire cart for usually about $35! I feel so good when I leave knowing that would have cost a fortune at the standard store across the street. This month is tight already and that helps my kids continue to eat fresh-we don’t make anything packaged either. It can be time consuming to also make from scratch-but so worth it-and lots of things you can freeze. Could you please re-post your link I don’t see it and would love to look at it.

  • Maria says:

    Soup! A can of tomato soup concentrate is cheap and goes far. Or a vegetable soup. I save the “ugly” or “old” veggies in the freezer and throw those into a soup later, or a stir fry. (Which is also cheap.)

  • Llama Momma says:

    I’m also a big fan of using everything up! Sometimes, we have a “leftover restaurant” night. I pull out all of our random leftovers, cut up some fresh veggies…whatever I’ve got. I make a list of all the dishes and side dishes, and everyone gets to “order” what they’d like to be reheated. It sounds weird, but it’s kind of fun and the kids love it. Sometimes I only have one or two servings of any given thing, and this way we can all sit down for a meal together…just not the same one! When my kids were younger, I used to let them make the menu.

    Another frugal favorite is quesedillas. Tortillas, cheese, black beans, grilled onions and peppers…cooked to order. Super fast, too, for those nights when we’ve stayed at the pool too long! 🙂

    • jeannine says:

      We used to do this also. We call it mixer meal. And like you said you can add small things to it like chopped fruit, cheese, eggs, whatever you have on hand.

    • Jenny in UT says:

      Instead of leftover restaurant, we call it “Venegas Buffet” (from our name. I put everything out on the counter, and family members can stroll by and pick what they want from the leftovers. The little ones like the choice option, though I do require that everyone eats as least one fruit or vegetable.

    • Stacey says:

      My family loves these leftover nights, too! We call it CORD (Clean Out Refrigerator Day). The kids love to put in their order for what they would like reheated. It all gets rounded out with home canned applesauce or veggies.

    • Brighid says:

      We call this “Mom’s Buffet”. 🙂 Seems like a pretty popular choice.

  • Lisa says:

    Eggs-in a quiche with left over whatever, breakfast for dinner, we make “mexi mix”-I stretch ground beef by using 1/2 or 1/4lb, with a can or 2 of blended black beans (my kids don’t like them whole) and brown rice and taco seasoning-sometimes using a can of diced tomatoes as the water portion to add extra veggies and flavor. When I buy meat on sale I make a big batch and then freeze in flattened gallon bags for tacos, enchiladas, nachos. Sometimes if we are pressed for time and don’t want to grab something out on the run we will do oatmeal with diced fruit in it for dinner-cheap, fast, and easy. Our kids love peanut butter and banana sandwiches as a really quick meal after church (also avoids take out) since it is so quick to make. You really get creative when the budget is tight and eating out is not an option.

  • Bobbie-Jo,
    Money has been REALLY tight for us for the last 5 1/2 years. We’ve changed what we eat to make things cheaper, and some things we used to eat we don’t eat anymore.

    Here’s what we did to really cut our expenses down:

    Here’s what we do when we don’t have money to buy food:

    We eat a lot of soups; minestrone is my children’s favorite:


    bean and rice burritos and we eat from the garden.

    Here is my summer menu with lots of ideas that you can use now:

    And here’s my pantry menu when you need to eat from your pantry:

  • I have several, but here are a few of my favorite—easy and very inexpensive! 🙂

    Breakfast Casserole for lunch or dinner–cost unser $4 to make.

    Calico Bean Bake: super cheap to make, less than $5

    Frugal Dessert Recipes:
    Homemade Brownies: super easy and you probably already have these ingredients in your pantry….so free! 🙂

    Crockpot Apple Pie dessert—only takes 3 ingredients ( I usually stock up on the canned apples during the holidays when they are on sale)

    • Jessica says:

      I also make a breakfast casserole, but instead of using hash browns, I freeze the ends of bread or any roll that has gone stale. Since no one would have eaten that bread, it’s practically free to me!

  • Our family of 5 eaters (the baby would make, but she just started eating table food) eats for about $60 a week. We have lots of fresh (mostly organic) produce, but we eat very simply to make this possible.

    Here’s what our simple meal plan looks like right now.

  • JRFrugalMom says:

    Cook rice with black beans as a side, and it will help fill up everyone at the table. It is definitely my go to side, and I usually use it with grilled cheese tortillas, which makes it extremely cheap if you use ALDI ingredients.

  • Amie says:

    Well, this week I wanted to eat from my pantry and freezer as much as possible since I spent a lot on diapers and took my dogs to the vet. I pulled a 9 lb turkey that I’d purchased when it was 59 cents per pound. I had a a Thanksgiving style dinner on Monday, Tuesday was my son’s birthday so I pulled some chicken and made fried chicken, today I am making turkey club sandwiches with turkey chili, tomorrow will be a turkey and rice casserole and Friday I will make burgers from previously purchased ground beef. It is a lot of turkey, but will be used so many different ways that we won’t mind. I will be freezing extra turkey, extra casserole, and extra chili for meals later on. By pulling that turkey, I was able to buy cheese, milk, eggs, and produce with the remaining portion of my grocery budget and keep us on track. I also bake from scratch and use my bread machine a lot. Honestly, I use quite a few recipes from this blog.

  • Amy says:

    This post is ever so timely!! I was just sitting down looking through some recipes online and thinking about my menu for next week and there are so many good posts here I think I’ve figured it out…just when I thought “I don’t know what to cook this coming week.” Thanks!!

  • angel says:

    Keilbasa is usually about $2 at our local store, and we dont eat it often, so it tends to help make “cheap” meals more exciting!

  • Stephanie says:

    Lentil sloppy joes, black bean burgers, and chickpea burgers are our favorite cheap (but very filling and satisfying meals).

  • Kim says:

    I love all these great ideas!!.. This is wonderful. We have a very tight budget as well, 3 of us in the house (1 being a teenage boy). I will be copying these down and using these ideas.. 🙂

  • Christine says:

    We eat a lot of different soups. It’s always filling if you at potatoes and/or barley. Our standby is usually noodles with spaghetti sauce, with extras if we have it. Also, quesedillas with some black beans and taco seasoning are great and filling. We don’t like beans too much but love these!

  • Liz says:

    French onion soup! It is only slightly more expensive than rock soup, and a great way to use up stale bread.

    I eat a lot of bean, brown rice, and cheese burritos in corn tortillas. The tortillas are about 35 cents for a pack of 12 at the Aldi by me.

  • Jennifer says:

    Check out a recipe for the somewhat inappropriately named dish, Moors and Christians, its a delicious spicy/orange-y beans and rice dish I adore!

  • Jennifer says:

    Or spaghetti with chickpeas instead of meat. Yum!

  • Melanie says:

    We either do black bean burritos (I buy the beans dried, cook, then freeze in “can” portions for recipes, so I always have them on hand), or this recipe from $5 dinners, which hubby loves: , or we make simple curried lentils. When we’re *really* broke, it’s onion soup and homemade bread or biscuits 🙂

  • Lana says:

    We try to eat a raw food or big green salad with every meal and it helps to fill us up on good for us, cheaper foods than filling up on the main dish.

    Two go to, fill up the kids dishes I made when I needed to fill out a skimpy meal with 5 kids at home were homemade biscuits and a cheaper version of chicken ramen which is just cooked thin spaghetti dressed with a little butter and Magi chicken bouillion granules. Magi brand tastes similar to the ramen seasoning and you can buy it cheaply at Wal Mart in the Hispanic foods section. Having a Spanish label on it makes it alot cheaper and is the same product. My 3 boys could really pack away the fresh biscuits when they were teenagers and no one complained about leftover bits and ends meals if there were biscuits on the table. 🙂

  • Joyce says:

    I like to do homemade chicken and noodles with leftover chicken…whatever is left of any kind of chicken (can be stretched farther by shredding or cutting in very small cubes), an egg or two, some flour, maybe a carrot or celery stalk, and you can stretch it farther by adding more broth or water depending on how tight things are, plus maybe a tablespoon or two of butter to make it a bit more creamy, occasionally served with mashed potatoes…it’s a very inexpensive meal and one of the few my family doesn’t seem to mind eating as leftovers!

  • Breakfast is either Smoothies or Amish Baked Oatmeal-

    Lunches are always ‘planned leftovers’. We try to have zero food waste. Notice I said try lol

    Dinners are usually simple with meat being a side, not the main course

    Plus I try to keep the ingredients down to a minimum to keep cost down. Like these Peanut Butter Cookie

    or Kale and Tomato Pasta

  • Stephanie says:

    Anything goes! I like serving breakfast for dinner too! And sandwiches are always a hit like BLTs. And then there is always the standby quesodilla’s or taquitos. I love taquitos since I can hide vegis in them with cheese and a little meat – it only takes 1-2 chicken breasts to fill enough for 1 meal and a few leftovers.

  • Faith says:

    Rice and Bean Soup
    Cook small red beans in plenty of water until soft. Add diced onion and garlic. Simmer. Add cilantro, salt and black pepper to taste. Beans should have enough water to be soupy. Serve over cooked rice. Top with hard boiled eggs or shredded cheese. You can also make this with pinto beans, but I prefer the small red beans.

  • Jamie says:

    Loaded Potatoes (Twice-Baked Potatoes). You can even adapt a Pioneer Woman version on the cheap. 🙂

  • Natalie says:

    This may sound weird… but it is cheap and easy! We make Chili Burritos. We used canned chili, because our store regularly sells them for under a buck. You just warm up chili and burrito size tortillas… add cheese, sour cream and any sauces & veggies you like… and tada! Takes less than 15 minutes start to finish… great when time and money are tight! You can also use homemade chili that you have in the freezer if you want!

  • Anna says:

    Eggs are super cheap right now – just bought 18 ct. for 88 cents. Great source of protein and can be used any meal, in so many different ways – pasta carbonara, deviled, egg salad, just to name a few.

  • bridget says:

    reguardless of the meal make homemade bread. with coupons or a costco card you can make tons of bread or crackers a fraction of what it is at stores.

    • bridget says:

      also, i find that if i buy the cheapest meat i can find usually i can save on the rest of the meal. i buy boston butt roast and will use it for many meals! chili, which also becomes chili nachos and chili dogs, tacos, enchiladas

  • Esther a homeschool mom in Mid-Michigan says:

    I love Clara from Depression Era cooking on YouTube 🙂
    Her first recipe that my family tried was the Poorman’s Supper and the (3) men in my life just love it! It’s cubed potatoes, chopped onions, chopped hot dogs. Fry the potatoes, then add the onions, then add the hot dogs and heat through! This lovely lady grew up in the Depression Era and knows how to cook frugally! Go check out her video channel on YouTube and get some frugal cooking inspiration! Bonus, you’ll be entertained as well 🙂

    • Jenny in UT says:

      YUM! YUM! My mom used to fix this meal all the time and it is still one of our favorites. One can also use shredded or cubed (cooked) roast with the potatoes and onions–though it is not as cheap.

    • Bobbie-Jo says:

      this was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for – thanks for introducing me to Clara 🙂

    • Kristin says:

      I love Clara! And I had forgotten all about her videos! Thanks for the reminder. Crystal, you should post some of these!!!

  • Amber says:

    I regularly get pasta & sauce for free, or for 50 cents each. So then I will add a vegetable, and a bit of meat (sausage, ground beef) for flavor and protein. We don’t have it too often, though…don’t want to get sick of it.

  • Brittany says:

    Is it too obvious to say–whatever we find for really cheap with coupons? I stocked up on cans of chili when they were a 20c moneymaker… i add in macaroni noodles and top with a little cheese and crushed ritz–cheap and DELICIOUS!

    also stocked up on knorr pasta when it was 25c. Add a little leftover chicken, a handful of frozen peas… yum

    There was just a coupon for 2$ off birdseye voila meals. some are better than others but 1.88 for dinner for a family of 3 works for me. not every day of course, but it is cheap and easy.

    got a bag of salad this morning at kroger for 88c. Leftover chicken, oscar meyer deli meat was just on sale a while back for really cheap, and i like a few crushed ritz crackers instead of croutons…

    We are just starting to try our hand at gardening, so that should really help! Fresh tomatoes, green beans, carrots, corn…

    When I am making a recipe I often substitute or omit ingredients I don’t have on hand.

    It’s really not hard to eat for cheap. You just have to plan your menu based on what is on sale and what you have already stocked in your pantry for dirt cheap.

  • Meredith says:

    Ive read a lot on here about using up a chicken. More than anything, a frugal lesson is to learn how to de-bone a bird (turkeys last twice as long). If you don’t know how, look it up online, it’s not that difficult. You can stretch that thing for ages. When I buy my fresh chickens, first, I take off the wings and put them in a freezer bag. In a month, we have enough wings to make buffalo wings for dinner. I also do this with the tenderloins too and after the bag fills, I’ll make chicken fingers with the tenderloins. Of course, I’ll use the breast or thighs for stir fry, sandwiches, casseroles, etc. I will also use the thighs and legs for fresh chicken sausage. I have a sausage grinder and will add fresh sage and spices to make a yummy breakfast. If I don’t feel like grinding sausage, I will boil those extra pieces and freeze for a later casserole. The carcass snd neck,as many have mentioned can be used to make a TON of stock for soup. Also, the extra gizzards and such, can be panned up with some butter, flour, and milk for some gravy! (yes, I’m from the south)

  • Marie says:

    We do lots of Mexican-inspired dishes with beans, rice, cheese, salsa, corn, lettuce, whatever’s on hand. Crush up some chips and have taco salad, put it in a burrito, layer it and make a casserole, or add tomato sauce and water to make a soup. I make huge batches of homemade taco seasoning with bulk spices and keep it in a gallon size bag in the freezer.

    My other advice is to get ahead when you can and pay attention to deals (you don’t have to be a couponer to make this work). Stock up on cheap/free items and marked down meat and produce for when the budget is tight! This week I’m getting $60 of free groceries without using coupons just by buying gift cards to Lowe’s at the grocery store right next door and then using them for our project materials.

    • chris says:

      I am really curious about this since I am in the middle of renovating a 130 year old house that nobody has done much with since 1950. Also the Lowe in my area is right next door to one of the largest stores in the largest grocery chain (maybe we are talking about the same thing?)

  • Missy says:

    -Fried potatoes and eggs
    -Pancakes or Waffles
    -Pasta with stewed tomatoes and pepperoni
    -Fried rice with eggs, onions and peas
    -Beans and Cornbread (my husbands favorite meal)

    I try and go meatless as much as I can get away with and when I do use meat it’s usually chopped up and mixed in, instead of as the main dish.

  • Suzanne says:

    Cheap enchiladas/burritos – you can use ground meat (any kind) or not; add some taco seasoning (or cumin, onion powder and chili powder), beans (refried, canned, soaked dried, any kind), then add rice or quinoa or lentils, cheese (any kind) shredded, veggies – wilted spinach, kale or just about any greens, tomatoes (fresh or canned), corn, onions, peppers, olives, sauteed mushrooms, etc. We get a box of fresh produce from a local co-op during the spring/summer so we are generally over run with greens, mushrooms and onions. I chop up whatever is on hand (I’ve even put in some sauteed zucchini). I can usually get taco seasoning, canned tomatoes, refried beans and rice cheap or free with coupons so they really help keep the cost down. I cook everything, mix together and wrap in tortillas (also something I can usually get with a coupon). I generally cover with enchilada sauce and/or salsa, sprinkle with cheese and bake and serve over lettuce with tomatoes or avocados, salsa, sour cream or not – again, whatever I have on hand! Also, if I don’t have extra cheese or enchilada sauce, I will serve the burritos wrapped without anything over them. They are also very freezer friendly!

  • Katherine says:

    I don’t buy a lot of canned or packaged food, but I do buy pantry staples like canned tomatoes, tomatoe puree, jarred tomato sauce, beans, rice, lentils, broth, and a few packages of frozen vegetables and frozen ravioli. I keep these on hand just in case I’m not able to visit the grocery store (like last weekend when I had to travel out of state a few days for a wedding). Using items from the pantry, you can actually come up with very tasty, low-budget meals. For example:

    Stuffed cabbage. This is now a favorite! You boil the cabbage and remove the larger, outer leaves. I stuff it with rice and pretty much whatever veggies I have on hand – like green or yellow squash, peppers, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. If you’re low on fresh veggies, try frozen peppers and onions with canned mushrooms. I’ve also added leftover chicken. You roll up the leaves and cover them with tomatoe sauce and place them on the stove over medium heat for about an hour and a half. The leftover cabbage can be used as cabbage salad or placed in potatoe soup. There are TONS of recipes online for stuffed cabbage.

    Ravioli soup. You chop up some veggies – I’ve used green and yellow squash, onion, diced tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, carrots, etc. Cook them until they’re almost done, then add a can of diced tomatoes (with the water!) and a can of vegetable broth + 1 can water if there’s not enough liquid. I usually add a pinch of red pepper flakes and if I have cooking wine, I’ll add that too for some extra flavor. Once that comes to a boil, add frozen ravioli and let the soup continue to boil until the pasta’s done. I’ve also used gnocchi and it turned out awesome 🙂

    Home-made hummus – 1 can chick peas, 3 table spoons olive oil, 3 table spoons lemon juice, black pepper, 4 table spoons peanut butter. Put everything in a blender and add water as it blends until it reaches desired thickness. This is great in a tortilla with spinach!

  • FrugalJD says:

    I was going to post the Poorman’s supper (I did not know it had a name). Add other leftover veggies or cheese and it is the most delicious thing going.

    Omelets. Add whatever you have on hand, salt and pepper and enjoy.

    Rice and protein (beans, eggs, meat).

  • K says:

    I’ve been on the look out for frugal recipes too. We got a 25 lb of dried pinto beans from Costco and we have been going through it like mad. I’ve been trying to add in more whole grains (like brown rice), legumes, and veggies into our meals to keep us healthier and feeling fuller longer. I’m also using less cheese and meat in general — if a recipe calls for it, I can either eliminate it or try to use half the amount. Some recipes you find can become more frugal if you simply exchange some ingredients for less expensive ones or change the amounts of the ingredients.

    Some recipes we love:
    -Bean and Cheese Enchiladas found here:

    -Baked Sweet Potatoes with Toppings:

    -Mexican Rice Casserole (delicious without the meat):

    -Pasta e Fagioli

    -Crockpot Pinto Beans (simple way to cook dried beans):

    For organization — I keep a binder just for recipes (all in page protectors so it keeps the pages clean while I cook). I also have two new reference pages I added, titled “Vegetarian Recipes” and “Bean Recipes.” On these pages I write down all the recipes I already have in the binder that would go under those headings. My goal is to have a month’s worth of meals on each page. These then become my frugal go-to recipes. Hope that helps.

  • Patty says:

    I got this from Lynne Rosetto Kasper, host of public radio’s The Splendid Table. I call it “Bean Mélange.” Super yummy and super frugal and super nutritious!

    –dice an onion and saute with diced garlic
    –drain and rinse a can of black beans and a can of garbanzos; add to the onion and heat
    –add a can of seasoned tomatoes to the onion mixture and heat
    –serve over brown rice

  • Dana says:

    Crockpot Black beans with fried tortillas and fried eggs. Put the egg inside the tortilla with the beans on top, fold over, and enjoy. My kids especially enjoy this meal. It is really quick to make too.

  • Stacey says:

    Lots of good ideas here! (I like this better than the $30 posts…not everyone is able to do that, no matter how hard they try.)

    I do many of the same things others have posted. Some of my standbys for lower meal costs are
    – Fruit in season only (or home canned)
    – Home canned applesauce “fills the cracks” for any meal (although this year our state’s apple crop was pretty much wiped out by a freeze so apples will be pricey)
    – Potatoes fixed a variety of ways
    – Pasta (not the boxed mixes kind though…to much salt and other ingredients)
    – Long storage vegetables purchased when cheap can be used when other vegetables are pricey (stock up on cabbage, carrots, etc. when on sale). I like to buy the big bags of whole organic carrots at Costco…we eat them cooked, as carrot sticks, shredded into all kinds of meals, etc.
    – Anything thats a *healthy* good deal I purchase as much of as I can and then do whatever prepwork is needed to preserve it for future use (when a certain meat is on sale I will purchase a large quantity and then make freezer meals just with that kind of meat, similar to the previous poster who mentioned cooking a turkey this week). When potatoes are on sale I will buy quite a bit and some will get stored in a cool, dark place for future use as fresh potatoes but I’ll also make up several batches of make-ahead mashed potatoes for the freezer.

    I try really hard to never pay regular price for anything. With the exception of milk which I’ll stock up on when I’m at Aldi, if it’s not a sale (and by on sale it needs to be at least 35% off, preferrably more), most likely it is not in my cart.

    • Andrea says:

      How long will cabbage stay fresh in the fridge? It isn’t something we have very often, so I have no idea. Thanks 🙂

      • Stacey says:

        Yes, over a month. If the outer leaves get gray or brown spots, just peel those leaves off. What is underneath is just fine! Once you cut the cabbage ,the cut edges will turn brown or gray, but just cut that edge off the next time you use the cabbage.

        Cabbages purchased in bulk when at a low price can be stored and used for all kinds of things: cole slaw, soups, cabbage rolls, cabbage roll casserole, stir fries, steamed and seasoned, etc. Used a number a ways, it doesn’t get tiresome to eat this thrifty vegetable.

  • Lisa says:

    I try to make things with eggs. They can usually be found very cheap with sales or at places like Walgreens. They are a great source of protein and can be used in many different ways (a great alternative to meat too!). I make breakfast burritos (cheese, scrambled eggs, salsa, and/or any leftover meat I may have rolled in a tortilla), fried rice (white rice, egg, veggies–so good and filling!), breakfast bakes with scrambled eggs, veggies, cheese, diced onion and potatoes, omelets, hole-in-the-bread (fried egg inside a piece of bread), or breakfast for lunch (pancakes and eggs are cheap, filling, and delicious!).

    • Sarah says:

      I agree. I also like hard boiled eggs for a picnicky type lunch or high protein snack on the go. And we do baked eggs for dinner all the time. Heat a low ramekin with a pat of butter at 425. When melted add an egg or two. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Bake until set. Top with fresh herbs and serve with toast points. It’s so good and kind of fancy and costs less than $1 a person.

  • Lori C. says:

    Breakfast for dinner is always a good, quick, cheap meal at our house. We love this recipe for “fake” buttermilk pancakes:

  • Shoegirl says:

    My favorite frugal meals are:
    -Navy Bean or Black Bean Soup
    -Baked Ziti
    -Scalloped Potatoes with a little leftover ham or ground beef mixed in to make it a main course
    -Creamed Chicken over Biscuits (this is not very healthy, but a great way to use a small amount of leftover chicken, and it tastes like chicken pot pie.)

  • Kara says:

    I totally understand budgeting! My food budget when I was single was $20 a week, and I usually tried to go under that so that I could save some money for other things. Anyway, now that I’m married we spend about $50 a week and I still try to go under that. I post a weekly grocery list and menu on my blog that shows what we eat and what we buy to keep within that and as a vegetarian we do buy quite a bit of fruits and veggies, so it is mostly healthy (we do eat processed foods too though like cereal and sweet potato chips) Anyway, ALDI is my key to getting the most for my money!

  • erica says:

    A lot of people have been saying soup, but to make a can of veg soup go even farther, cook 1/2lb of pasta or more and ix it together with the heated can of soup. Add spices as you like (garlic, italian, etc)

  • Sandy says:

    I have to say, when I was a child, my mom would make pancakes or waffles and we all thought it was such a treat! Our family would also enjoy 2-3 ears each of corn-on-the-cob during the summer months and we all walked away from the table happy and full!

  • Heather says:

    Cheap AND Healthy: If you have a good source of inexpensive quinoa – don’t buy it in the tiny boxes at the grocery store, try the bulk bins or I get 4 pounds for $10 at Costco – there are lots of ways you can use it. It’s a whole grain and a complete protein, gluten free, and healthier than rice. I eat it cold with tomatoes & cucumbers & herbs & dressing, or warm with cheese and black beans. You can also eat it like oatmeal with milk, honey, butter, and toppings. If I have leftover scrambled eggs I stir them into some quinoa and cheese. It’s SO healthy for you and quite cheap IF you can find it in bulk!

  • Kelly says:

    Get to love beans! A can of white beans works really well with tomatoes as a pasta topping. Stretch ground meats by using half meat, half beans (works great for tacos and such). Make your own baked beans as a filling and cheap side dish.

    Combine cheap staples- my husband LOVES when I’m lazy and throw together pasta/rice, a can of cream soup, a frozen veggie, and a minimal amount of ground beef or chicken. I call it “noodles and slop” lol! I look for those things to be on sale (including buying sale meat at must-sell-today discount!).

    Make your own bread/rolls/biscuits. If you can’t, try to find a store that will sell day-old bread for cheap. Same goes for oatmeal, rice, meats, etc.- Buy it in bulk, do the prep yourself, save a lot of money. Almost anything can be freezer-friendly if you find the right way to prepare it!

  • Joanna says:

    Black beans, sweet potatoes (optional chicken) stewed over rice ; lentil carrot soup with fresh bread; broccoli and potato soup; chicken and pastry; three bean chili; quiche; Chick pea meatballs for starters

  • Nancy says:

    When my daughter was little and I had evening meetings I would have my husband make them dinner and tell him to just cook some spaghetti, pour in Ragu and shred cheddar cheese over it, stirring in till it melted.

    They LOVED it and ate it all the time. So when Brittany’s kindergarten class did a cookbook where they all brought in a favorite family recipe she brought in “Dad’s Spaghetti” (After all the meals I cooked for them!!)

    Here are also 3 that are cheap but nice enough for company:

  • Ana says:

    We don’t eat much pasta or rice in our house, so that eliminates a lot of “frugal” meals for us.

    One of my favorites is “Fast and Easy Tofu Lo-Mein” from the allrecipes site. (don’t run away because it has tofu! My former tofu-hating husband loves it, just cut the cubes small). Without using any coupons for the ingredients, it costs less than $3.

    We’re also big fans of breakfast for dinner, but don’t do it often because the nutritional value just isn’t there compared to other meals.

  • Jennifer says:

    I live in Australia, where food prices are incredibly high. Here’s my latest weekly menu feature: I slice an onion, three-four carrots and 3-4 celery stalks, throw them in the slow cooker. Stick a whole chicken (can be frozen) on top. Season and set on low all day. We eat roast chicken and veg (I add another veg or two on the side to the carrots and celery) for dinner than night. I keep the carcass in the slow cooker and add a bunch of water, poultry seasoning and a bay leaf – then the next day set it on high for 4-5 hours and make a stock. Then the next day I use the stock as a soup base (my recipes vary). Its making meal planning, and making, much easier and we’re all loving it. Especially since its now winter down here!

  • April says:

    We don’t eat processed foods in our house, so most of our meals are fairly frugal and have basic ingredients. One of our favorites is homemade pasta, for which you only need flour, eggs, salt, and water. Homemade pasta is cheap, much easier to make than you think, and tastes much better than pasta out of the box. We serve it with sauce made with veggies from our garden, a fresh pesto, or sautéed veggies. I can do this meal for my family of 5 for less than 50 cents per person!

  • Emma K says:

    One recipe that my mom used to make and we still make because it’s easy is: Rice, cooked ground turkey and green beans. Mix them all together.

    • Heidi says:

      White rice, ground turkey, and green beans? Is there anything else?

      • Emma K says:

        That’s all there is to it. I cook the rice, brown the turkey, combine together in a saucepan and add canned green beans. You can always add seasonings.

        • Carrie says:

          I make something like this but I also add in pink beans. When I cook the turkey I don’t drain of the juices and mix it all together – yummy!

  • Chris says:

    My wife and I love all sorts of frugal meals and came up with over 150 recipes under $1 per serving for our book, Eating Well For Only $2 A Day.

    However, our favorite staple is soup. The varieties are endless, it’s super easy to prepare, and a cinch to freeze for later. Some of our favorite soup recipes from the book are:

    Parmesan Pasta Soup
    Cajun Chicken Soup
    and Cheeseburger Soup

    There are plenty more, but that’s a good start!

  • Wendy says:

    Chicken & Dumplings are a staple here in the south. If you have 2 bone-in chicken breasts, cook them in the crock pot until done with lots of water. When done, debone chicken & transfer the chicken & broth to a soup pot with approx 8-10 cups of broth. Bring to a boil. Make up dumpling dough:
    2 cups plain flour
    3 tsp baking powder
    3/4 cup milk
    6 Tlbsp cooking oil
    Mix all together and roll out (thinly). Cut into squares and drop into boiling broth. Cook covered for 10 min and uncover and cook for 10 more min. This is a cheap meal if you can get chicken breasts for 99 cents per pound, which you can lots of times.

  • Michele says:

    Pasta ceci (pasta with chickpeas). My Italian grandmother used to say if you’ve got a box of pasta in the house, you’ve got a meal.

    Saute a large diced onion and a few cloves of diced garlic in olive oil. Add a large can of chickpeas and saute until hot throughout. Cook a pound of pasta (I like this with double elbows – celentani) and drain, reserving some of the pasta water.

    Toss the cooked pasta with the chickpea/onion misture, add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add enough of the pasta cooking water so the pasta isn’t too dry.

    A delicious, healthy, economical meal.

  • Lori says:

    I don`t have a go too cheap recipe ( other than the obvious beans and cornbread). My tips would be to use a tight budget as an opportunity to clean out the fridge/freezer. Use what you have on hand. Also remember that not every meal has to include meat. From time to time we have meatless spaghetti, I am sure there are a lot of other recipes that can be modified to be meat free.

    Pre plan your meals to stretch. Don`t simply use your left overs but plan to have left overs to create a second meal.

  • Andrea says:

    When money is tight, I don’t risk trying new recipes that might be a flop. Instead, I go for old stand-bys from my recipe file that I know my family likes and that can usually be made with what I have on hand (or with just a few extra ingredients).

    My suggestion would be to look through your recipes and come up with a list of things your family enjoys and then pick the least expensive options from that list.

    • Ellen says:

      I’m so shocked others haven’t praised this comment, Andrea! I definitely think this is one of the BEST suggestions anyone can make to someone struggling with planning a menu on a budget. There’s no sense in making new/different things or treading into unchartered recipe territory if you have a picky eater in the home or a recipe uses ingredients that you might not like. There’s nothing more discouraging as a home cook than making a meal that your family won’t eat… especially when money is tight! Yes, some things like cabbage and dry pinto beans are economical, filling, and nutritious, but not everyone likes them. My husband has actually started keeping a log of family meals that we like, and if I’m stumped for ideas when meal planning, we’ll go to that list. Stick to what you know and like— sometimes tweaking just a few things, like cooking dry beans instead of buying canned, or using a whole chicken instead of buying frozen breasts can make a HUGE difference in your budget. Good luck!

  • margie says:

    I try to use what is on hand- I find one key ingredient and build around that with my staples- tonight I used canned biscuits and filled with BBQ, topped with cheese and popped in oven. I know sort of fatty so I served with carrots and fruit for dessert.

  • Debra says:

    Two of my favorites are my Knock-off Stroganoff and my Hamburger and Rice. For the stroganoff I use thinly sliced shadow steaks (kind of like what you would use for stir-fry, but thinner) and a pack usually costs me $1.70. I brown it with an onion finely diced, then add a can of mushrooms to heat through. I add a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of water, and mix well. I serve it over rice (my favorite) or noodles. I make more rice (or noodles) and add more water if I really need to stretch it further. For the hamburger and rice, I brown a pound of ground beef with diced onion and green peppers. I add 2 cups (or more) of cooked rice and mix it all together with soy sauce. It’s kind of like a poor man’s Chinese.

  • Mariposa says:


    This recipe only has 4 ingredients, all of which I usually have on hand thanks to my stockpile. It’s also GLUTEN-FREE! Not only does this recipe save me $$$ but it also saves me time! Love my slow cooker…

  • Chelsea says:

    Our family loves this recipe for crock pot pulled chicken. 6 chicken breasts can yield 12 servings. It’s super simple and easy. Mix chicken, taco seasoning (we make our own), salsa, and some sort of creaminess (cream soup, cream cheese, Velveeta, whatever you have.) You can put the chicken in taco soup, in enchiladas, on tacos, nachos, etc. Our family loves it. Here’s a link to how we make it if you want to check it out.

    We also make a lot of things from scratch. Especially convenience foods. Corndogs, seasoning packets, breakfast burritos, pizza etc. Often times, it saves a lot to make it yourself versus buying it.

  • Sherri says:

    Two of our favorite and cheap meals are fried potatoes, ham, and green beans; and fried rice.

    Fry the potatoes with lots of onion, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Cook your green beans separately, seasoning with salt, pepper, and goya ham seasoning (if you can find it (hispanic section) and can add in your budget — only around a dollar a box – makes green beans wonderful!). Add chopped ham — a little or a lot depending on what you have. Even left over deli meat works. Continue to cook for a few minutes, then add drained green beans. Gently mix and heat through. A real comfort meal.

    Fried rice is also great — cook up a large amount of rice, cool and refrigerate overnight. Saute chopped onion (if you like it) and a little garlic if you have it, in a little butter, margarine or whatever you have in a large fry pan or wok. Add a few tablespoons of oil – canola if you have it and throw in the rice. I usually add about 6+ cups of rice to pan. Season with some salt, pepper and soy sauce. As this is “frying,” scramble a few eggs and cook just till done. This is where you can use leftover meats and peas and carrots. Add chopped cooked chicken or pork, cooked peas and carrots or whatever you have and heat through. Add scrambled eggs. Heat gently until warmed through – taste and adjust seasonings. Makes a ton! Great warmed up for lunch or leftover night. My garden this year is full of onions, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and green peppers. I’ve added basil, chives, oregano, cilantro in pots. A big pot of vegetable soup or stew would be wonderful too!

  • Sarah says:

    Lentil soup is really inexpensive and can be served as a main course with cheese.

    My Mother used to cook cheese potato which was mashed potato with a cheese topping plus a few halved tomatoes, browned under the grill. It was served with baked beans to add some extra protein.

  • The best and cheapest meal:
    Ingredients – one can of sardines in tomato sauce (36pence), one slice of bread (5pence), some lemon juice (negligible if its from a bottle).
    Method – put bread in over and lightly toast both sides. Take bread out (now toast) and mash on the sardines and grill. Take off the grill and add lemon juice to taste.
    Total cost: 41pence for a whole lunch.

  • Faith Still says:

    My husband is a PhD student/teaching assistant and I am a SAHM so we are eating frugally as a lifestyle. I did teach Home Economics for 10 years before staying home so I have some background in cooking which helps.

    We love many inexpensive meals like omelettes, fried rice, Cuban black beans, split pea soup, etc.

    Here are a few of my favorite frugal recipes from my blog The Home Economist on my site Home Ec @ Home.

    Cuban Black Beans

    Easy Grilled Sausage with Mushrooms and Onions

    Simple Autumn Skillet

    Chicken Noodle Soup

    Southern Style Black-eye Peas

    Split Pea and Ham Soup

    Eggplant Parmesan

    American Chop Suey and Buttered Green Beans

  • CJ says:

    My chili is fast, easy and inexpensive. Just a can of kidney beans, a small can of tomato sauce, a pound of ground turkey, an onion, water, and a few spices. 2-3 servings for around $2.

  • This is one of my favorite ethnic frugal recipes…”Mashe” (pronounced Ma-shee) a.k.a “Assyrian Bean Soup”

    They also make a version with white beans simmered with ox tails. Rich and good for winter…non-meat version is good too.

    MASHEE (Red Kidney Beans) – Mary Shiemon

    1 pound dried red kidney beans or 2-3 cans of kidney or pinto beans

    1(16-ounce.) can crushed tomatoes

    2 cloves garlic, chopped

    1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

    3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour mixed with 1/2 cup water

    1 large onion, chopped

    1 medium pepper, chopped (optional)

    1 teaspoon black pepper

    1 tablespoon paprika

    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili powder or cayenne (optional)

    Salt to taste

    Wash and soak beans in clear water overnight. Drain and cover beans with fresh water. Cook in a 5-quart saucepan, adding water from time to time as needed (boiled water). When half cooked add crushed tomatoes and garlic. Continue cook­ing until beans are fully cooked.

    If using canned cook them with the crushed tomatoes, garlic and some chopped onion.

    In a separate frying pan sauté chopped onion and green pepper with 1 tbsp. oil until only glossy. Add tomato paste, black pepper, paprika and salt, cornstarch or flour, saute a few more minutes. Pour into beans and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Variations: LENTILS made same way as above. PINTO BEANS made same way as above. Serves 4-6. Top with olive oil, vinegar or yogurt. Eat with plain rice.

  • Heidi says:

    There have been so many great suggestions about meals that I thought I’d just write about how we save on seasonings.

    Email all your friends or Craig’s list and see if anyone can give you starts on fresh herbs and garlic. Google your zone to see when to plant garlic. (Don’t use garlic that is from the grocery store as it is usually sprayed with growth inhibitor.)
    I just plant most of these right outside my front door and I can grab them to make plain meals much more interesting. I have oregano, parsley, lemon balm, cat nip, garlic chives, regular chives, horehound, johnny jump-ups (edible flowers), and mint, and 3 varieties of garlic.

    It will save you on spices, not to mention they will be organic and not irradiated.

    For winter use, I dry many of these on a cookie sheet placed in my car window on a sunny day. It works great. I just chop up the chives and freeze them.

  • Bobbie-Jo says:

    I love all the ideas and ESPECIALLY the recipe ideas! Thank You!!!!

  • lisa says:

    We have few meals with meat, which helps a lot.

    Breakfast…homemade pancakes/waffles, eggs and homemade hashbrowns
    Nest eggs(egg cooked in the center of a slice of bread)
    Garic butter noodlez(literally melted butter, garlic, and whatever other seasoning you like with tossed noodles)
    grilled cheese and veggies
    Meatless burritos
    Beef/bean/cheese burritos
    Chicken /rice/bean burritos
    Veggie night(in general)
    Fried rice(rice/eggs/onions/veggies/soy sauce)

    There are others but those are staples for us.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Pinto beans and cornbread
    Kraut and weiners with cornbread
    A great big pot of homemade vegetable soup (with or without beef)
    Omelets with in season veggies (with or without ham or bacon)
    Egg salad sandwiches with raw veggies
    Tuna salad on bread or crackers or a bed of lettuce
    Chicken and dumplings made with the leftover bits of a roasted chicken
    Chicken salad made from leftover chicken

    The last week of the month I make a point to inventory my freezer, fridge, and pantry and plan as many meals as possible with whatever I have on hand. Sometimes I have to buy a few things to fill in or to add to a recipe, but it’s not like buying a whole week’s worth of groceries. I also let friends and family know that I’ll gladly take any surplus garden produce they don’t need. My mother-in-law has laying hens so we eat lots of free eggs in the spring and summer. The most important things are to menu plan, watch your grocery sale flyers, and eat seasonally.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I forgot to add that lately we’ve been eating a lot of fresh fish my boys are catching from a nearby farm pond, yum!

  • Karen says:

    Spicy Thai Sesame Noodles is our go-to for on the cheap.

    Rice noodles (super cheap from our local asian market. I’ve also used fettuccine)
    crushed red pepper (from our garden (I dry the chilis every year)
    sesame oil
    soy sauce
    sesame seeds
    green onions (usually from the garden)
    shredded carrots (I buy carrots when they are on sale and shred them and then freeze in individual portions)

    Makes a great pasta dish hot or cold. I’ve also added leftover shredded chicken to make it more filling for my husband.

  • Karen says:

    Of course, it’s cheapest to use what’s already in the house, so if I’m at a loss as to how to use up what I’ve got, I go to I can enter what I have, and it links to all the different recipe sites so that you get recipes you actually have all the ingredients for.

    I like “universal” or “whatchagot” recipes like The Complete Tightwad Gazette was famous for–she had recipes for muffins, casseroles, quiches, pilafs, etc. that you just plugged what you have into a formula. The formulas were so comprehensive that I made muffins without flour one morning for breakfast. 🙂

    Lentils work for us if we’re really desperate for cheap and filling. My husband won’t eat beans, but he will eat lentils. I’ve made sweet and sour lentils with rice and kusherie (both recipes in the cookbook More-With-Less), and I make a lentil tacos recipe that I found here:
    I use homemade chicken stock instead of the bouillon.

  • Danell says:

    1 C lentils
    2 C water
    1-2 pieces bacon
    salt (optional)
    carrots (optional
    chopped onion (optional)
    Cook bacon in a skillet and chop into small pieces. add everything to a small crockpot and cook on high for two hours.
    I just make this recipe with whatever I have, but its good even if all I have is lentils and bacon. less than 1$ serves 3-4.

  • Bean noodle casserole

    Brown ground turkey or beef ~1 or so (if you like onions and/or garlic, brown those first then pitch in the meat)
    Meanwhile cook a package of egg noodles (or homemade if you can)
    Mix together:
    green beans (cooked or canned, about a grocery store can amount)
    can cream of mushroom soup
    salt and pepper to taste

    Even better the second day

    Sauerkraut is very cheap to make and stretches sausage and hotdog meals.

    Brown onions and garlic
    add diced potatoes until soft (parboil first to speed up)
    add sliced hotdogs cook til browned
    mix in a handfull of sauerkraut and remove from heat

    Confetti rice

    Put a couple cups of leftover rice in a pan with 1/2 cup or so of water or broth
    Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is hot
    add can (undrained) diced tomatoes (spiced or not)
    add can (undrained) corn
    add can (undrained) black beans (or other)
    pinch cayenne
    cook until hot

    Add diced chicken or pork for an extra boost

  • A good one to bring to a potluck and still be frugal.

    Slice kielbasa or smoked sausage links into coins.
    Put in crockpot.
    half a handfull of brown sugar
    cook on low 6-8 hours

    May not look the prettiest, but once someone takes a piece and tries it, they will go MMMMM and the crockpot will soon be empty.

  • Emily says:

    Left over rice – heat in skillet, scramble in an egg, add whatever frozen, canned or leftover veggies you have. Pretty much add whatever you want to taste.

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