After coming up with a list of groceries you should keep in the house so you can eat cheap and healthy on a budget, you need something more to do other than admire them in your kitchen.
Most people just have a handful of meals they make over and over. Those dishes might change over the years. You might have changed your eating habits due to health concerns. Or you decide it’s too expensive to buy meat. Your taste buds have changed as you got older.
My go-to meals over the years have been spaghetti with tomato and mushroom sauce, fried eggs or hardboiled eggs, oven baked French fries, chopstick tuna casserole, veggie chili, veggie burgers (from frozen), microwave baked potato, baked beans (from a can and homemade), grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna sandwiches. Oh sure, there were other meals rotated in there (I love seafood), but those were some of my basics.
Looking over them, they’re pretty boring. I have more variety in my homemade meals now that I’m more diligent about buying low cost groceries.
With weight loss and maintenance, I had to cut out or cut back on some of my go-to meals, mostly spaghetti, sandwiches, potatoes, and pizza. As money grew tighter, I cut back on seafood and buying frozen veggie burgers. There are times I buy them, but they’re not part of my main meals any more.
Coming up with low cost meals
Mostly I try to eat foods that are low cost and fill me up like bananas, oatmeal, apples, and pumpkin.
If you’re in a negative cash flow situation, or money is tight for whatever reason, or if you’re looking for ways to cut expenses while you save for something else, this doesn’t mean you’re always going to be in this situation. You might have to figure out ways to make homemade low cost meals and baking, but when your cash flow is better, you can go back to buying favorite foods.
I haven’t bought Nutella in awhile. Well, actually, I buy the Walmart’s Great Value brand of this product. Tastes just as good to me! It’s on the back-burner right now. It’s not a big sacrifice to me because I’ve pretty much cut back on bread, and Nutella is normally spread on toast. However, I spotted a Nutella muffin recipe, so I’m thinking of giving it a try. The problem is, I’ll use the Nutella once for the recipe and it’ll end up going stale in my cupboard.
I hate wasting food and money.
What to do with your groceries?
If you’re starting to whittle your pantry down to the items on my list for eating cheap and healthy on a budget, you’re probably trying to figure out what kind of homemade meals to put together.
The easiest meal is a spinach and mini carrot salad. I buy a bag of spinach and mini carrots at a produce store and they cost $2.29 and $1.59. That’s about a dollar cheaper – each – than what the same name brands cost at larger grocery stores. That salad will last me a week, either for lunch or dinner, sometimes both. If I have tuna, I might add it. Or maybe a handful of cashews or walnuts. I like to have a couple of pickles and maybe a handful of crackers to help fill me up.
A bunch of spinach usually lands in my easy Instant Pot vegetable barley soup. Especially if it’s getting close to the best before date.
I’ve been making more smoothies, usually for breakfast, but sometimes for lunch or dinner. If I’m really hungry, I might eat a muffin, too.
Here are the smoothie and muffin recipes I make:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Spicy Apple Greet Tea Smoothie
Quick and Easy Metamucil Smoothie
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
What else for breakfast?
If you like cold cereal or toast and a piece of fruit, those are all good low cost choices.
Oatmeal is excellent to have on hand. I keep several bags in my freezer. The quick oats can be cooked in the microwave in about 90 seconds. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon, add craisins or a banana, and pour on some milk for a filling breakfast.
In the summer I like to make Super Easy Overnight Trail Mix Oats. This is a refrigerator oats recipe, so you eat it cold.
Try some of my other favorite overnight oats recipes:
Chocolate Strawberry Overnight Oats
Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats
My Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bake is one of my favorite homemade breakfasts and makes six servings. I can eat a couple over the next two mornings and freeze the rest. If I try really hard and alternate smoothies, I might make a batch stretch a couple of weeks.
If you’re looking to cut back on your grocery spending, and you like cookies, bread, muffins, donuts or granola bars, quit spending big bucks buying them at the store. If you don’t do much baking, and you’re on a budget, now’s the time to start baking. Everything I bake, I freeze and enjoy these items over the next few weeks. Maybe months!
Homemade baking! You’ve got this!
Let’s start with my easy trail mix granola bar recipe. Start with three cups of oatmeal and a can of condensed milk. Then you mix and match another three to four cups of whatever you like in a granola bar. Own it!
The plan is to start saving money on those baked goodies you love so much. The other part of the plan is to find easy recipes.
Are you a donuts or a doughnuts person?
Either way, you can save money and calories by skipping Tim Horton’s, Krispy Kreme, or Dunkin’ Donuts and going the homemade donut route.
Don’t panic if you like donuts and don’t want to go out and buy a deep fryer and the oil to fill it. Baked donuts are healthier for you and you can buy a couple of donut pans for under $20. I haven’t seen donut pans at my dollar store, but maybe your dollar store carries them. If not, get them at Amazon. (Disclosure: I’m an Amazon associate. If you click on the links in this post and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.)
Baked Chocolate Peanut Butter Donuts
Let’s move on to bread. No bread machine required, but you can use one if you like. After owning a bread machine for several years, I got tired of it. Or mostly I got tired of the paddle losing its non-stick coating and tearing apart the loaves. I sold it at a garage sale over 10 years ago.
Have you ever walked into a house and smelled the wonderful aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven? Well, you can have that too!
An issue that seems to scare people off from baking their own bread is kneading the dough. If you’ve got strong hands, this is not going to be a problem for you. If your fingers are getting arthritic, kneading dough is no fun.
KitchenAid mixer to the rescue!
I’ve had a KitchenAid mixer for a long time. Must be coming up 20 years. It’s a wonderful appliance. Worth every penny. And it has a dough hook attachment – perfect for kneading bread!
I can bake my own bread, but I’ve really cut back on eating bread. I find bread is a big culprit in my weight gain. Sigh. I love sandwiches.
If I’m going to bake bread, here are the easy recipes I use:
Let’s not forget pizza! Usually my pizza is the frozen variety, though on Survivor finale night I might spring for my favorite veggie taco pizza.
Pizza dough is easier to make than you’d think. It’s harder to figure out low cost toppings.
Look for cans of pizza sauce in the pasta aisle next to canned tomatoes. I prefer to use tomato paste instead of sauce. It’s thick and doesn’t run off the pizza while it’s baking in the oven. Taste is subjective. You might prefer the thinner sauce.
The last time I made pizza a few weeks ago, the cost of tomatoes at my produce store was horrendous! Double the usual price. About $2/pound! They cost even more at the grocery store, so, I nixed the tomatoes. I bought an orange pepper that cost about 30¢ and mushrooms. If I’d had black olives in the house I would have put them on my pizza, but unfortunately I didn’t plan that far ahead. I had shredded cheese in my freezer so that’s how I topped it.
The Parmesan Pizza Dough from the Kraft Canada Kitchen I’ve made many times over the years. The directions don’t say how long to cook it, but one of the reviewers says 400 degrees for 15 minutes. I put the extra pizza dough balls into individual freezer bags and make a pizza every couple of weeks or so.
I’ve also had my eye on this Multigrain Pizza Dough, but haven’t made it yet.
The single girl and pizza
I’m a single so I don’t usually need a larger pizza or I’ll be eating it for a few days. Plus I’m always on the lookout for low-calorie meals. Hungry-Girl has a three ingredient dough that is pretty good for a single serving pizza. It doesn’t get much easier than whole wheat flour, baking powder, and plain Greek yogurt. The toughest part of this recipe was I had to go to the store and buy the Greek yogurt. And then I had to find other recipes to use it up! Well, I made pizza a couple of times until I ran out of shredded cheese.
Keep ’em coming!
Here are some more easy recipes I like.
This easy tuna cake recipe calls for 3 cans of tuna, but I use one can, half the other ingredients, and make four patties. For dinner, I eat two patties with corn, peas, and rice. But … I double the side dishes so I can eat them the next night with the two remaining tuna patties.
If you like tuna, you need to make my Chopstick Tuna Casserole.
Whether it’s to accompany my baked beans in tomato sauce or veggie barley soup, I like Golden Sweet Cornbread. I make it in a round cake pan. When baked, I cut it into quarters. Then I cut each quarter into threes, so that gives me twelve slices. This corn bread freezes really well, but I try to consume it within a couple of months before it starts tasting kind of funny. Sort of like how I’d imagine paint tastes.
The same produce store where I buy my spinach sells bagged coleslaw for $1.59. Sometimes I’ll make this noodle salad recipe, but I have to cut back on the ingredients to make it for one person. I buy veggie flavor instant noodles, and not ramen. I buy Mr. Noodles or the store’s name brand. I’ll use about half of one package for the recipe and then quarter most of the other ingredients. If you’re feeding more people, stick with the recipe as is.
Have you ever made fudge? Just a word of caution. Avoid making any fudge that has the words “never fail” in the title. In my experience, never fail fudge usually fails! This peanut butter fudge is my absolute favorite even though I haven’t made it in a long time. It is so sweet and filling, and freezes really well.
I make these melt in your mouth Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies around Christmas, but they’re good any time of the year! This recipe is the main reason I keep corn starch in the freezer!
If you remember my post 7 Money Saving Grocery Secrets You Need to Try, I talked about foraging for blackberries? One of the things I make with them is this Wild Blackberry Pie. Yummy! This pie is worth getting stuck with a few thorns. I’ve used the pastry in this recipe and I’ve also used a pastry that I prefer that uses Crisco shortening instead of butter. I use the Golden Crisco, but it’s not called that in the states. I think it’s called Butter Crisco in America. Here’s a hint if you don’t have any experience rolling out pie pastry and don’t own a rolling pin – use a can of pop. Just wipe down the can to make sure it’s clean and use it to roll out the dough. Easy peasy!
When you were growing up, did your mother ever make apple crisp and a chocolate pudding cake that made its own sauce? Check out these recipes:
Drum roll please!
It’s time to get baking and cooking!