Eating healthful foods can sometimes put a strain on a family's grocery
budget. Buying food in bulk, joining food co-ops, and shopping
strategically all help, for sure. In addition, our family has found
another strategy for bringing down our weekly budget: our family has committed to have a Frugal Food Night every Wednesday.
Of course, we try to be frugal all week. But, we see our Frugal Food Wednesdays
as an opportunity to save big! I try to prepare a meal for my family of
six for about $1.50. Our goal with
this extra budget-cruncher is to free up some money for the more
pricey, nutrient-dense foods we want to include in our diet the rest of the week.
Take a two-pound bag of pinto beans and sort the beans for any stones or bad beans. (These around $2 at the grocery store and less than $1 per pound if you buy it in bulk.)
the beans overnight in a crock pot turned off by covering the beans
with plenty of water and stirring in about 2 tablespoons of plain
yogurt. The yogurt will begin to break down some of the amino acids
that cause our digestive systems some difficulty. This process will
also make the beans' nutrients more bioavailable (ready for our body to
next morning, rinse the beans and refill the crock pot with fresh, pure
water. Let the beans cook on low for most of the day. I start mine
first thing in the morning. In the early afternoon, add 2 cups of brown
rice ($0.50), 2 Tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt and
pepper to taste. (Since I purchase my seasonings in bulk these
spices only add up to costing about 5 cents.)
serves about 12 for less than $3.
look like magazine cover-food. However, the seasonings make this dish
Here is the cost breakdown: $2 of beans, $0.50 of
rice, and let's say $0.10 of spices. That is a total of $2.60. This
meal will serve 12, so divide that figure in half for my family of six,
and we have a complete meal for $1.30. (It will even be less if you buy your beans and
rice in bulk.)
- Adding a can or two of petite diced tomatoes gives this meal a fuller flavor. Two cans will add about $0.50 per meal.
- At times, we will often omit the rice and serve plain chili beans
with corn muffins. My children really enjoy this variation. Simple corn
muffins are very frugal!
- Our favorite variation is Black Bean soup. Start with just one
pound of black beans instead of two pounds of pinto beans. Still fill
the crock pot up with water and cook as normal, adding the rice,
seasonings and 2 cans of tomato paste. Black Beans sell here for $1.15,
plus the two cans of tomato paste for $1.10 and rice for $0.50. Since
this soup will also serve two complete meals, the cost is still less
than $1.50 per meal.
- Leftovers freeze well for the next Wednesday. Or they are great
layered with whole wheat tortillas, salsa and cheese for a quick
Saturday night supper–which makes for another very frugal meal.
- When reheating the rice and beans, spread a thin layer of salsa over the top to prevent drying out in the oven.
- If your children are new to this type of food, cheese sprinkled on the top might make the meal more exciting.
- Our family eats an enormous amount of fresh foods throughout the
week. We feel one night with all cooked food is not tremendously
harmful to our health. If you can't skip vegetables once a week, you
can always steam broccoli or another sale-priced vegetable. This would
increase the cost of the meal by at least $1.
Amy Ellen is a homeschooling mother of a third-grader, a
first-grader, a preschooler, and a nineteen-month-old-tagalong. She has
a vision to help moms who want to be healthy but don't know where to
start… and moms who know where to start but need some encouragement
along the way. She blogs at HealthBeginsWithMom.com and is a Wellness Consultant in her "free time".