Favorite Frugal Meals-Please Add On!

This weekend I had a phone call from my sister, Victoria (you may have seen her posting recently) also known affectionately by the kiddos as Aunt “Bick“. She is the one person in the family who I have fully converted to my frugal ways! (not that anyone is a spendthrift-she is just my “little grasshopper”)

She is recently returned from a 1 year tour of duty in Iraq with her Army Reserve Unit, and is going to spend a few months staying at home full time (no kids) and working on her writing career. She and her husband have been spending the weekend on a frank discussion of finances (which makes me so proud) and she had called me for advice on frugal meals. To quote her “I used to know all this, but after a year away I’m having a hard time thinking of some good frugal meals”.

I thought that we could all help her out! After all I have wonderful friends and readers with really great ideas. Here are some of my own favorite frugal meals, with links where appropriate. Please feel free to add on more ideas in the comments-and if you feel moved to write a post of your own I will give you plenty of link love here by adding in a link to your article on the bottom.

Frugal Meals

Note: Assumptions are that meat is bought on sale and used in moderate portions.
Note: Remember that starches always stretch out a meal. Potatoes, rice, and breads (biscuits are my favorite-yum) add a lot of bulk to a meal.
Note: Veggies in season are much cheaper than buying out of season veggies. Bick is in Alabama, so I am assuming that the early gardening season is well underway there-salad greens etc are probably not that expensive right now.

Biscuits and Gravy-Homemade biscuits, homemade gravy or little packets for gravy, 1 cup or so of chicken. Alternately use a cookbook and make a basic white sauce, add browned/boiled ground beef and some powdered beef bullion, salt pepper. (This particular article explains how to make just about any kind of gravy you could want!)

Fried Rice-Usually can be made from leftovers of all sorts of “widowed” veggies in the fridge.

Curry-Uses up leftovers, can be bulked up with whatever veggies or beans you have on hand, and only requires the addition of those little cubes from the store. (if I knew how to do the spices by themselves it would be even cheaper. I buy a jar of cilantro mild curry paste every couple of months for about $2 and probably get about 5 or 6 batches of curry out of it.)

Baked Beans-Homemade from dried beans done in the crockpot are cheap and easy. Add on homemade biscuits and a salad and you are golden. Baked Beans also freeze very well, so one can make a huge crockpot full and then freeze in baggies.

Beans and Rice-Again, using dried beans makes this even less expensive, and you can use either homemade biscuits or homemade cornbread. Using sausage is of course the yummiest, but you can always use just a link or two for flavor, or use ground beef, or leave it out!

Homemade Pizza-Yummy. Frugal. More healthy than the delivery stuff, better tasting than the cheap cardboard ones you buy in the freezer section. You can make crusts ahead and freeze them for future use, and with the addition of a bread machine even EASY. Need I say more?

Spaghetti-an oldie but goodie. You can add whatever is on sale-browned ground beef, leftover shredded chicken, pork or beef (from another meal of course!) meatballs you made ahead and froze. Even TVP. Or you can leave it plain. Throw in a couple of chicken wings or thighs while it’s cooking and you can call it Chicken Cachitorri (or however you spell it-I’m so far off even spell check can’t help me)

Spaghetti Pie-can be made with leftover spaghetti. Personally I like to mix the spaghetti with the egg, butter, parm. cheese, press it into the pie plate, and then bake it on it’s own for a bit so it forms more of a “Crust”. Then I layer the other stuff on top and cook again. To me that gives it a different flavor than other pasta dishes.

Burritos/Quesedillas/tacos-If you fill with mostly beans and go light on the cheese and meat they can be very frugal. Some people even make their own tortillas, but I haven’t gotten around to trying that yet.

Breakfast for Dinner-Scrambled eggs, omelets, pancakes and sausage or bacon, french toast. Biscuits and sausage gravy. All of these are pretty darn inexpensive and a yummy treat-especially if you don’t ever actually make these things for breakfast.

OK, I’m sure there are tons more ideas that just haven’t popped into my head yet. Let’s all help Bick out and post some more! Remember, if you decided to write about some more ideas, just post a comment and I’ll give you some link love right here at the bottom of the article.

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  1. ~~Midnight Raider~~ says

    Stir fry: Like fried rice, it can use up leftover veggies/meat. Can be served over rice, noodles, or even those crispy chow mein noodles.

    Pot pie: Another leftover veggie/meat dish. Toss it all in a pan with some gravy, and top with pie crust or even biscuit dough.

    Soup: Oldie but goodie! Can be made cheap and easy with can of beans, can of diced tomatoes and a bag of frozen soup veggies. Or use leftovers (again)!

    Sandwiches: I read an article that said sandwiches are the new “dinner” meal. Quick and easy. Make ’em submarine style for a heartier meal.

    Stuffed baked potatoes: Another great use for leftover veggies. Just top baked potatoes with things like broccoli, chicken chunks and maybe a slice of cheese.

    Crockpot: It can be your best friend! Cheaper cuts of meat end up tender and juicy in a crockpot. Just toss in some veggies (whatever’s on sale), plus some chunks of potato for an easy meal!

    Meatloaf: Although not traditionally inexpensive, you can stretch the meat with the addition of “fillers” like TVP, oatmeal or even black beans.

    Salmon cakes: Again, another main dish that can be stretched with some interesting fillers. Try oatmeal, white beans or mashed sweet potato. 1 can of salmon ($2 on sale) can easily feed 4 people if stretched.

    Noodle casserole: My take on the tuna casserole… basically noodles tossed with a white sauce and whatever veggies/meat you want. Great for using up sale meats no one really wants to eat, hiding almost-too-old broccoli, etc.

  2. Emily C says

    One of my favorite side dishes that’s fairly cheap is zucchini and onions. Sauté the onions until they’re soft but not too brown, then toss in the zucchini and sauté until it’s as soft as you like it. Add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and pasta if you want to make it a full meal.

    Another favorite around here is tuna sandwiches. I spice it up by using re-hydrated diced onion, curry powder, and soy sauce. A can of tuna, if on sale, can be less than 40 cents.

    To mix it up, we do sandwich roll-ups–like the kind you get at Costco for parties. Just put all your sandwich ingredients on a tortilla, roll it up, slice, voila!

    If you like meatballs, get your ground beef on sale (I got it for $1.19/lb. last week!), add several handfuls of oatmeal or use bread crumbs made out of the heels on a loaf of bread nobody eats, a few eggs, a little bit of milk, and whatever seasonings you like. Bake a whole lot at once (foil makes for easier cleanup) and freeze some for later. We’ve already had 5 meatball meals, and have enough for 3 or 4 more with about $3 of ground beef.

    Also, I love googling whatever ingredients I have on hand, or using allrecipes.com ingredient search, to find new things for no extra money.

    As for baked potatoes–if you drink milk with it and eat the skin you have most of the nutrients the human body needs.

  3. Jinxy & Me says

    These are all great suggestions so far. You can make a lot of meals by starting with rice or pasta and then adding in whatever meat or veggies you have on hand – just make sure to add in some spices so that it tastes good! There is no reason to by Hamburger Helper, etc., when it is basically just noodles with a little bit of seasoning you could put in yourself. One thing I have been making a lot lately that is tasty and really (if you like cabbage) is to shred some fresh cabbage, a little onion, some carrot and celery if you have it. Then sautee in a tiny bit of oil adding garlic near the end and salt to taste. Then I make a package or two of ramen noodles and serve it either on the side or mix it all together.

    I also find that we save a LOT of money by making our own bread and baked goods. No-Knead bread is super easy to make and SO cheap!

    I also just put a recipe we use quite often on my blog last week – it is a sandwich filler with boiled eggs and just a little meat (ham or turkey) and cheese. We eat this a lot (on homemade rolls of course).

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