I am looking for cheap meals please. With the economy the way it is, and my husband and I both on a Pension I'm having a bit of struggle to be inventive and frugal as well. Help!
By Leah Jones from Bauple, Australia
What great meal ideas! There are also a lot of good meals, menus, and tips on hillbillyhousewife.com. I love saving money and this is a good site for information.
I belong to Sparkpeople.com It's a site for living a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of meals serving 4 that are under $10 (US).
I make what's called Pho' it's a Viet soup that is very easy to make. Just find Pho seasoning, make the broth with that add 1 chunked up chicken breast, rice noodles and green onion. Once it's done you add bean sprouts and Thai basil. It's a lovely soup and very filling.
Fresh vegetables are less expensive if you can garden them, get them from a local farmer or farmer's market, or buy at a store that stocks only locally produced vegetables and fruit. Fresh vegetables and fruits are also what people need the most, and miss the most when they don't get them for a while.
Liven them up by varying your cooking method (boil, bake, roast, steam, stir-fry, soup, stew, slice, dice, whole), and by spending your money intelligently on spices -- even better if you can keep an herb garden in a window box or pots in the house.
Use meat as a flavoring for the vegetables, rather than as a full 1/3 of the plateful. Ground meats, or whole meats diced finely, can be spread throughout a large vegetable dish, satisfying a whole family on just half a pound. The same can be done with just a sprinkling of cheese; be sure to use a strongly flavored cheese, so that the flavor goes further and you won't need as much, parmesan and cheddar rather than mozzarella, for example.
Fiber makes you feel fuller, faster. Go for whole grains like brown rice instead of white, whole wheat instead of white bread.
Fruits are cheaper, healthier, and more satisfying than most prepared desserts, so fill your kids' lunchboxes with fruit snacks instead of cookies or muffins. I highly recommend getting a bento box from http://www.ichibankanusa.com (most are around $1.50 to $2.00 per single-tier box) and filling it in bento style: 2 ounces of protein/meat, 1/2 C starch such as rice or potato, and the rest with fresh fruit and vegetable. That's the proper proportion for a child's meal, and the proper amount as well. For an adult, pack two bento boxes, one just like the child's and the other with more fruit, for a healthy, weight-controlling lunch and snack, since adults need more food than children. In fact, do a net search on bento and see the creative, fun, healthy ways that people eat very cheaply when making bento.
Remember too that variety is the spice of life. You can serve cabbage four nights in the same week and no one will really complain, as long as you make very different meals with it. Cabbage soup, cabbage in your stir-fry or egg rolls, cabbage stuffed with rice and sauce and a little ground lamb or beef, cabbage cole slaw. Put leftovers in the freezer, or put the tiny portions in the kids' lunches, since tiny leftover portions are perfect for bento.
www.sparkpeople.com/10recipes.pdf There are 10 meals that serve 4 people for under $10.00 per person and the nutritional info with each recipe.
Go to http://www.budget101.com for great recipes, convenience recipes and ideas for inexpensive meal preparation. I think meals made at home for $10 per person is an outrageous price and does not merit the word frugal to be attached to it. At budget101, you'll find out how to stretch every penny of your food budget while feeding your family very well and having enough leftovers for another day or seconds all around the table.
Buy generic or store brands when shopping. The savings will soothe the overstretched budget no matter what it is. Try to plant some seeds for your own garden and bring the cost of vegetables way, way down for your own use. Remember that herbs and many small plant vegetables like many pepper varieties will grow nicely in window boxes and flower pots. Save here by planting seeds rather than buying started plants. Support for your tomatoes can be as simple as a branch clipped off a tree and some old stockings to tie the stalk to the branch stuck in the ground near the tomato plant, Include a packet of seeds in every trip for groceries and keep the garden going. That will be your greatest success to bring the price of food down.
One thing I like to make is called Texas Hash. Saute a chopped bell pepper and some onion; brown some diced ham. Pour into the pan some beaten eggs and scramble everything together until set. Put into hogie rolls with some cheese. Amounts don't matter, and you can add whatever you have on hand: diced zucchini, sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Sometimes I put sliced cheese on the roll, other times I use shredded cheese on top.
I shop at a store called ALDI's and it saves me a lot of money. Their stores are clean and they have a double guarentee on thier products. If your not 100% happy they'll refund you and replace the product. Google ALDI's and search for a location near you, if you'd like.
I also have a couple of cheap meals.
1. Chili with a lid
4 cans of chili poured into a 9x13 pan, then mix up two boxes of jiffy corn bread and pour over the chili, bake on 350 until corn bread is brown and done. You can top with a little cheese if you'd like. Cost is under $5.00 (using Aldi's brands) serves 4-6
2. Ham Hash
1 bag of frozen hashbrowns partially defrosted, 8 small cans of ham spread (deviled ham?), 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbl melted butter, 1 tbl mustard, chopped onion to taste, 1 tsp horseradish to taste, salt/pepper to taste. Combine all and pour into 9x13 pan. Press down and bake uncovered at 350 for 35 min. top with cheeses of your choice. serves 4-6 Cost under $10.00
3. Taco noodle bake
1 bag egg noodles or pasta of choice cooked. 1/2 lb.- 1 lb. browned grown beef. 2 cans of tomatoe sauce. 1 packet taco seasoning. 1 lg container sour cream OR 2 packages of cream cheese (you can even use 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 cream cheese). 16 oz of shredded cheese (divided- save half for later) Mix and place in 9x13 dish. Bake for about 25 min at 325. Top w/remaining cheese and bake 5 min. serves 4-6 You can also add lettuce, olives, and tomatoes if you'd like.
Don't waste anything. Re-write your recipes for two if you don't like leftovers. Ask your store for a package of meat just the right size, and don't make it the star of the show.
Don't use expensive ingredients. Instead, ask yourself what the ingredient is there for. A chopped, sauteed onion and a beef bouillon cube taste better than onion soup. I immediately pass over any recipe with too much butter or any cream unless I think I can substitute milk.
Breakfast for dinner is always cheap and good. Biscuits and gravy with an egg, pancakes with eggs and bacon, waffles with fruit and milk. Just add a dish of fruit (a banana and canned mandarin oranges is a good cheap combo) and you have a fine meal.
Canned salmon makes the best croquettes. I take the skin out and mash the bones with my fingers. Add an egg, some oatmeal, and a sauteed chopped onion. If you can give the mixture a few minutes to set it will hold together better. Fry in a little oil and serve with noodles and canned peas. Leftovers make a great sandwich the second day, warmed up.
I buy the salmon on sale. My stock-up price is $1.29 or less for the large can.
Start a small price book and stock up on staples when on sale.
Try lentil soup or bean soup with corn bread. Don't buy "9 bean soup mix" just make it from navy beans.
Make it a challenge and acknowledge yourself often. It isn't hard to eat on very little money, but it only works if you feel good about it. I feel smart when I eat a delicious meal that only cost a dollar per person. I do it often.
Make homemade as much as possible. I make homemade bread, coffee creamer, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, Pizza dough, spaghetti sauce, etc.
Don't pay more for convenience, do it yourself. Lunch meat; buy a whole packed ham and have it sliced for free a the deli. You'll get more than twice the amount of the prepackaged, pre sliced stuff. Freeze what you wont use right away. Buy block cheese and shred it yourself. Shred it all at once and put it in a zip loc so you have it ready when you need it. Block cheese is always cheaper per oz than pre shreded.
If you don't like left overs or hate eating the same thing twice in a row, the freezer is your friend. Freeze left overs to eat later in the week so you don't get sick of the same thing.
Beans, Rice, Noodles are great cheap staples for meal planning.
Shop around. Sometimes bag your own discount stores like Aldi aren't always the cheapest. Some store brands like Walmarts 'great value' can be cheaper than Aldi. Take a day and just price shop with a notebook. Also Dollar General has food now to and often beats out Aldi and Walmart.
Consider drinking powder milk and Ice Tea instead of soda's. Walmart has an off brand of sugar free water flavoring at less than $2.00 a box, in Apple, Orange and Cherry. I have a plastic jug I fill up and use 4 packages to make enough for a couple day's. I make 3 large jugs of 'Juice' for under $2.00 and it's sugar free! Also frozen concentrate juice is cheaper too! Buy cereal in the bulk bags and consider oatmeal for any meal. It's filling and cheap!
I have a family of 6 in OC, CA o I know a few things about eating on a budget. These are some of my families faves:
Easy black bean chili
1 large can blackbeans
1 can corn
1 jar salsa
You just pour it all in a pot & cook through. You can also add any kind of meat (great for using up leftover meat).
1 bag lentils...cook according to package, but add:
1 can diced or stewed tomatoes
2 chopped carrots
1 diced onion
Salt & pepper to taste
Meat & potatoes:
1/2 lb ground beef or turkey
1 diced onion
1 can tomatoes
1/2 pkg frozen mixed veggies
1 pkg taco seasoning
Poke potatoes with fork & pop in microwave for 3 minutes. Let cool enough to handle...then dice
brown the meat with the onion. Drain & add potatoes, tomatoes and veggies...add taco seasoning & cup water...simmer for 10 minutes.
Here is one of my favorite recipe sites. Just remember that you can always substitute less expensive produce & meat...I am always substituting meat with beans or lentils. www.kraftfoods.com
Thank you so much for this website and all the wonderful recipes. We recently started the Dave Ramsey program to eliminate our debt and I realized (after making my budget and importing my expenses) that I was spending about $900 a month on groceries. That may not sound like much to some of you with children but it is just my husband and I. I realized that I had to cut my budget down to at least $400 per month and went on a search. When I found your website I realized that we could still have wonderful tasting meals for 1/2 the cost. Thank you so much! Our goal is to get out of debt and for us to start my husbands dream business. Thank you again! You are all wonderful! God Bless You all!
Also, I will be experimenting from all your great ideas and hopefully posting some new items of my own! :-)
Don't forget about "brenner" (breakfast for dinner)! We love biscuits and sausage gravy or scrambled eggs with pancakes and bacon for dinner sometimes! Serve pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream for something different. One fabulous-tasting meal I always forget about is ham and beans with cornbread. We use ham steaks sometimes instead of ham hocks just to make it quick and easy (and they are cheap too). Jiffy mix is less than $1 a box!
A cheap an easy meal I like to make is: take 1 lb of hamburger meat and cook it on a skillet until brown. Then I added Broccoli florets and a can of cream of mushroom and let it cook until broccoli is warm. Then I serve over white rice. Delicious! Another family favorite Enchilada Casserole. Brown Hamburger meat, add 1 can of rotel, Cream of mushroom, cream of chicken and I can of enchilada sauce. (all cans under a $1) Then in a baking dish layer corn tortillas, hamburger meat fixture and then pour some shredded cheese on top. Keep layering until your at the top of the pan. Place in oven at 350 F. for about 15 minutes or until cheese in melted. Enjoy!
A really good and cheap meal is chicken and gravy. Just take some cooked chicken ( i use chicken tenders) with 1 can cream of mushroom and 1 can cream of chicken. Dice the chicken, put in skillet and add canned soups. Let it cook for about 20 minutes and then serve over rice. I have had the most compliments on this cheap and easy meal!
I have developed a method that works great for my husband and I. Especially for me, since he's gone 3-4 weeks at a time and then it's just me here, and when he's home it's just the 2 of us.
What I do tho, is whenever I cook, I cook the amount that the recipe calls for, whether it's 2, 4, 6, or 8 (I don't go above 8). Then I divide it up onto individual portion size microwavable/freezable dishes. I pop them into the freezer. Then when it's close to time to eat, I just bring out one or two and pop them into the microwave for however long it takes to heat them up. I've been doing this for years and it's saved us a lot of time and money.
I posted this one on another thread. It goes a long way and can be served with pasta! I freeze what I don't use for another day.
Another relatively cheap meal is to brown, then stew chicken thighs in gravy with onion, carrot and turnip or any other veg. Serve with potatoes and peas or beans. Healthy home-cooked food:-))
This meal is cheap and even yummier the next day.
French onion casserole.
-500g chicken thigh fillets
-no name brand pkt french onion soup mix
-tablespoon plain flour
-3 rashers bacon chopped
-1 onion chopped
-1 1/2cups water
-1 tablespoon sour cream
-1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Put soup mix and flour in a bag place chicken in bag shake to coat.heat oil and butter in pan brown chicken 5mins put in casserole dish.cook onion and bacon, add water and left over soup mix together add to pan scrap bottom, pour over chicken place lid ontop.put in oven on 180c for 1hr or so. when ready to serve take chicken out stir through sour cream and parsley spoon over the top.YUMMY.serve with mash and vege.
If using chicken with bones don't cook for as long the bones get soft and there is nothing worse then trying to sift through your dinner for meat.
Leah, You're the reason I started a blog that offers ideas for cheap meals. Having six children it feels like I have been living on a pension my whole life. There are so many bloggers on the web that have great ideas.
What an inventive and ingenious group. I am very glad there are so many who are eager to share their ideas. I hope the ideas in my blog and the other very helpful writers you find will give you many great, inventive and fun ideas to draw from.
Here's an idea, how about a steak dinner for $1.66 a plate.
Russ Rock from Dunnellon, FL.
Please pull up the web site angel food ministries.com. There is no agreement to sign or income restrictions. You will be glad you did. Anyone can take advantage of this program. You will be happy and the host sites are just around the corner from you home.
My bf is very picky and won't eat a lot of things but here is one thing he loves:
Mix a box or two of velveeta shells and cheese with a pound or two of hamburger and you are done! You can add onions or peppers or whatever you like to this, but he just eats it plain or with broccoli mixed in. It's good and really cheap!
If possible, buy meat, vegetables or fruits in bulk, divide into storage containers and freeze for use in soups, and stews, etc.
Dry beans and rice, when cooked properly, can be filling and are often a good bargain. Ramen noodles can be the basis of many recipes. And they are cheap. Pasta is generally cheap and you can make your own sauce if you like. I bought a large crock pot and make stew that will feed a family of 5 for 2 or 3 days. Hamburger Helper can be made with less than the pound of ground beef called for, ground pork sausage can be used as the meat, or make without meat if you desire. Many times these items are offered with coupons or sales.
Go to www.hillbillyhousewife.com and look for her $45 emergency menu for feeding a family of 4-6. You may not want to make those meals, but it will give you ideas. This is a great site in general, and it's linked everywhere.
Growing up my mom would buy two of those Lipton noodle packets (now named Knorr) like butter and herb and add a can of peas to it. She found a way to add peas to everything. You can add hamburger too.
I like to brown a pound of hamburger in a big skillet, drain, then add a can of diced tomatos. Add the noodles from a box of mac-and-cheese, add water, milk and butter to barely cover. I never measure, it doesn't have to be precise. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are done and add the cheese packet and two or three slices of american cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. For big families, use two boxes of mac-and-cheese.
Another meal is a pack of bratswurst, head of cabbage, an onion and a few potatoes. Cut everthing up, cover with water and boil everything until brats are cooked and potatoes are tender. Season to taste. Soup can last days. To stretch it more, add more potatoes. Can make it in a crockpot too.