Saving Money on Dinner

Category Saving Money
Your biggest meal of the day does not have to be expensive and you can save a lot, by making food from scratch. This is a page about saving money on dinner.


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June 10, 2009

When I was growing up, most moms were stay at home moms. We were a family of six, my dad sold insurance on commission so mom had to be creative when it came to making a little meat 'stretch'. When we started having Navy beans and potatoes every day, us kids knew our folks were going through a rough patch.

Mom invented a dish we never bothered to name. She'd cook hamburger, onion and green pepper, drain it, then throw in a can of tomatoes, can of red beans and some cooked spaghetti. When she made vegetable soup, she always had a pot of cooked, drained spaghetti on the side. We'd heap spaghetti in our bowl, then ladle hot soup over it. Great stuff!

Mom made these two dishes to make the meat go farther, pasta is a great meat extender, and I did the same thing when my kids were home, but now I make these dishes because I love them.


I have never served vegetable soup without that bowl of spaghetti on the side, and sometimes my sister and I get cravings for 'nameless', so I'm glad it's quick and easy to make. Talk about comfort food! In this case it isn't at all painful to be frugal.

Amuck from Fairview Heights, IL

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April 17, 2009

Here are tips and strategies for Saving Money on Dinner as suggested by the ThriftyFun community.

Cook on the Weekends

I usually "Power Cook" on the weekends. Our schedules change all the time, and we get tired of fast food. So I just cook up 2/3 meals. And I'm not spending a lot of time in my kitchen - cooking and cleaning.

By Jenny

Step By Step Ways to Save

By Kim

Just Say No to Meat

Cut out the meat! I've been a vegetarian for 30 years and I can tell you that you can make pretty much any meal you like without meat. Everyone (in the US) seams to think "it's not a real meal without meat". This is not true and if you think you really need the texture of meat to "fool" your hubby into thinking it's a "real" meal, then you can use a bit of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) or you can add grated carrots to spaghetti or anything with tomato sauce (like casseroles) and the grated carrots look like meat and have nearly the same texture.

You can get your protein from egg-whites, peanut butter and a glass of milk, beans, dairy, etc, etc. You can make meatless casseroles, quiches, soups & there are many wonderful vegetarian recipe books out there. (PLUS, you'll be healthier too!)

After holiday meat sales: If you must have meat, buy what's leftover after the big barbecue, 3 day weekend holidays (like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day) because most barbecue meat (like chicken and hamburger) that's left over in the stores the day after these holidays gets drastically marked down to half price or less! It's worth buying a freezer to stock up on meat after holidays! (Be at the store early the day after the holiday!)

Use coupons on top of more coupons!

By Cyinda

Shop from Your Pantry First

Once a week, sit down with grocery ads and a list of what you already have on hand in your pantry. Buy what is on sale that will go with what you already have and plan a week's worth of menus. I have been doing this for a long time and not only does it save money, it makes the old question, "What's for dinner?" a lot less stressful to hear!

By Lisa

Rotate Through Your Dinners

Our trick is to have a few popular series of meals that rotate - no wasted ingredients or time and energy spent cooking the same ingredients multiple nights.

Series One

Dinner 1: baked chicken with potatoes and green beans
Lunch 1:
chicken salad sandwiches
Dinner 2:
leftover chicken curry with more rice and peas than you need (same night boil eggs)
Lunch 2:
salad nicoise with green beans, potatoes and eggs, etc and tuna if you have it
Dinner 3:
fried rice with any chicken you still have

We have another series that also starts with chicken and is followed by beans and rice and eventually ends up as enchiladas. We always make extra pasta and use it for the base of pasta salads that make use of extras from the earlier meals -or- serves as the base for a frittata that can be eaten for breakfast/lunch/dinner.



Stretch Your Food Budget

  1. Cook at home from scratch. It doesn't need to take a lot of time or effort, just focus on basics. Keeping processed foods to a bare minimum saves a lot of money. Things like pasta sauce are a waste of cash and can be much more cheaply (and healthily) made at home with little effort. Frozen vegetables are generally cheaper than fresh, though. So many foods freeze well and can be made in bulk. Same goes with baking, avoid mixes like the plague.

  2. Pick cuts of meat that can make easy leftovers. Roasts or ham can stretch for days, turned into soups, casseroles, etc. Chicken on the bone costs less than breast meat.

  3. Make meatless or meat-reduced meals a couple days a week. Beans and lentils are good, inexpensive sources of protein and are healthy, too.

  4. Soup is a great budget food! Homemade soup is easy to load up with veggies and is a good use for those leftover bits of meat. I make a big pot of soup for dinner then save the rest for lunches.

  5. After you've gone through the supermarket have a good look at your basket and see if there's anything you can do without. I tend to grab items without even thinking about them, and putting them back saves. If you have kids, try not to bring them with you shopping if you can. Saves on 'pester power'!

By Tapestry Lady

Cook and Bake!

If you do not know how to cook, look for a good basic cookbook like Betty Crocker or the Joy of Cooking. Sometimes you can find these at used bookstores or at yard sales.

I make a lot of chicken, beans or ground turkey for dinner. Very inexpensive and good. For a family of 4, I only cook 4 pieces of chicken for dinner. I then fill in with frozen or less expensive vegetables and a starch (potatoes, pasta or rice). If my family is really hungry, they will have more vegetables or starch. I only buy meat when it is on sale. If there is no meat we like at a good price, I don't buy it that week. I use what is in my freezer.

Make fast dinners from scratch. Stirfry with a little meat, frozen vegetables and rice make a great inexpensive dinner. I hope this helps!

By Linda

Look for Old Fashioned Recipes

"Be willing to eat, or at least try, anything that is edible"
With enough Tabasco sauce, anything is edible... ;)

Try looking for "old fashioned" recipes, either in libraries, or the internet. By old fashioned, I mean, cook how they used to cook in less affluent days. For example, when roasting meat, it was often cooked just on the oven shelf with a Yorkshire pudding on the shelf beneath it. The meat juices would drip into the pudding. Then large portions of vegetables and pudding would be served first, then when that was eaten, the meat would be served.

A while back, I was looking through a recipe book of my mother's. It was printed in the late 1940s, when Britain still had rationing. It was full of cakes, breads and other stuff, using what was cheap and available. I still remember "mock cream" in cakes (margarine, sugar, milk and corn flour), and I am not even from that era!

Start asking your grandparents how they lived. Be willing to eat, or at least try, anything that is edible.

By Rob

Tips For Affording Dinner

I agree with yarnlady wholeheartedly! When my husband and I met 10 years ago, the only things I wouldn't eat were dark meat chicken, sausage and a few veggies. He had a long list of dislikes: no dark meat chicken, no bone in chicken, no pork chops or roasts, no baked chicken, only veggies were corn, green beans, onions, mushrooms and broccoli, no cooked carrots or celery, no rice, no Asian food, no Mexican food, and absolutely no leftovers.

I got over dark meat chicken (49 cents a pound versus $2.00 a pound) and I like breakfast sausage and a bratwurst every once in awhile. I'll eat any veggie except okra (allergy).

And Hubby? Decided that a lot of the things he didn't like were due to bad cooking methods. He still doesn't like dark meat chicken (he just doesn't know I hide it in casseroles and soups!).

Here are tips to affording dinner:

  1. You don't need as much meat as you think you do. For a ground beef dish I use 1/4 pound for two people. For chicken dishes one breast or one thigh plus one drumstick.

  2. Dried beans are a cheap meat alternative. Cook a whole bag at a time, label and freeze. Add to soups, casseroles or puree and use in tacos, enchiladas, on nachos.

  3. Make sure 1/4 of your meal is protein (meat, beans, TVP), 1/4 is starch (potato, rice, pasta), and 1/2 is veg. It's not that hard to do. A little bit of meat in tomato sauce with onions, green peppers, zucchini and carrot over whole grain pasta is a healthy and satisfying meal.

  4. Try different cooking methods: braising, slow roasting, pan frying, baking, oven frying, poaching, etc. Try the different spices that other cuisines offer: Asian, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Greek, Italian, French, etc.

  5. Casseroles and soups are the answer to everything. Layer meat, a veg and mashed potatoes for shepherd's pie. Mix beans, tomato juice, chopped veg, pasta and Parmesan cheese for minestrone. Rice, chicken, onions, bell pepper and some milk makes a nice casserole. Check out some books from the library or look right here on TF!

  6. Have Leftover Nights. This is where you take all the leftovers from the fridge or freezer. Everyone heats their own, perhaps adding a baked potato or cooked pasta or rice, cheese, salsa, etc. and makes their own meal. Does you son want refried beans on a waffle? Is your hubby craving sloppy joe meat on top of mashed potatoes? Let them have at it.

By samaree

Feel free to share your own advice below.

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