Thursday, April 5, 2018

Eating For Less

We all love eating and we like good food, but I think we all dread the expense of such.  One doesn't have to spend a fortune to eat well.
I have taken the food stamp challenges several times over the years and proved that EVEN on those limited funds, I could buy a decent amount of healthy food to survive on. (I have walked the stores and added up what I would buy if on those funds).  NO I didn't get steak and lobster - but I don't buy that any way!!  I got good wholesome basic foods.  I am so over hearing the nay-sayers say it can't be done.  IT CAN - it just takes a little effort.

It is the same with every household.  Inexpensive groceries/food can be had with a little effort, thought and creativity!
I realize many have special restrictions to diet - but those can be over come and things can be substituted.  There are many options today for organic foods, gluten free foods, non GMO, etc.
I am going to try to give some basic rules to follow and some ideas of lowering that food budget - then I will list a variety of meal ideas.

1.  Look for CLEARANCE and MANAGER'S SPECIALS - FIRST!!!!!!!!  The first place I go in the store is to each sections mark-downs and then to the big clearance section.  Produce in my stores have either marked down item throughout the produce department and Kroger has the .99 section (bags of less than perfect produce).  Meat. bread, deli, dairy - they all have markdowns.  REMEMBER items are good for many days/weeks past dates!!!  I then go to the major clearance section and find lots of canned or bottled goods.  I DON'T pay full price at the store for hardly anything!

2.  Garden - fresh is always best.  Eat what is in season.  Learn to at least do basic water bath canning - you don't really need any special equipment for that (just a big pot and lid & jars).  Freeze produce if you can't can.  It can be used in many ways later on.  Plan for the future.  REMEMBER even folks in apartments can garden a little in pots!

3.  Barter/trade - with family, friends, neighbors.  Exchange garden goodies, eggs, canning, baked goods, etc.  One person may be good at one thing and another person is good at something else - do some trade-offs.  It helps both families.

4.  DON'T EAT OUT - cook from scratch.  Plain and simple logic - if you have little funds - stay home!

5.  Explore your library or the internet.  There are so many books and sites that have fantastic, low cost food ideas.  READ a cookbook and try new things.

You don't have to be stuck eating beans and rice when funds are low.  If you plan ahead, watch the clearance sales, and do some of the other things listed above - you can eat great.  A little added every week, could make a huge difference.   Get a few items - maybe spend $5 or $10 extra a couple times a month will help you tremendously.  Don't forget about dollar stores and ethnic stores (you can get lots of goodies cheaper).

Mix ground beef with pork or turkey to expand for burgers or meatloaf.  Add lots of seasonings and it tastes great.  Mix cooked lentils or beans or oats with meat to make burgers and extend the meat.

Hotdogs may not be the best selections (unless buying whole meat), but they are cheap.  Load up a sandwich with other stuff.  Don't think just condiments - dice tomatoes, shred carrots/lettuce, kraut, chili, salsa, pickles, cukes, you name it!

Mexican can be made very cheaply.  Mix seasoned meat with beans to expend (or rice).  Burritos are fast and easy - wraps can be purchased for 8/10 $1 or better yet, flour tortillas can be made for pennies at home (super easy).  Make taco, Mexican pizza, quesadillas, taco salad (add lots of veggies to extend).  Casseroles are an easy spicy way to have Mexican as well.

Pizza or any Italian dishes.  Make your own crust at home.  You can even get .59/mix (just add water).  Top with whatever you have - can be veggies, leftover meats, cream sauces, tomato sauces, etc.  Mix some meat and cheese with pastas for easy and cheap dishes.

Loaded baked potatoes are a great budget extender.  Top with whatever is left around from the frig.  Get creative.

Soups (no limit to combos), stews, casseroles, quiches (great way to extend eggs with leftovers).  Leftover veggies can be added to soups or casseroles or you can make a 'cream of' soup.

Large cuts of meat can be divided into many, many meals,  Meat can be used in soups, as roast, pulled meat, BBQ, sandwiches, etc.  Buy larger cuts when there is a super sale.

Veggies - think coated and fried, roasted, steamed, mashed - they can even be added to sweet/savory breads
SALADS - potato, egg, meat, pasta, broccoli or cauliflower salad, slaw, chef, regular, fruit.  Salads can be hot or cold.  A salad can consist of anything - meat can even be added for a one dish meal.  We do that often!

Sandwiches of any kind.  Grilled sammies are always good with a bowl of soup.  Open face sandwiches are yummy - top with gravy or cheese.

Make homemade noodles or dumplings and serve with smaller portion of leftover meat.
Calzones (basically stuffed pie crust) can be loaded with leftovers and baked.  Very filling.
Stroganoff can be made with leftover eat - serve over cheap noodles.

Leftover rice or stale bread can be turned into rice pudding or bread pudding for a great and inexpensive additive to a meal or dessert.

THINK cereal or oats (can add all kinds of things) for a quick breakfast.  Breakfast or dinner - biscuits and gravy.
Make you own breakfast sandwiches with homemade biscuits (easy) and egg and any kind of meat.  Wrap and freeze till needed.  Make breakfast burritos - with tortillas and scrambled eggs, veggies, whatever you want!  Same with them - wrap and freeze till needed.
Homemade pancakes or waffles - breakfast or dinner.

SNACKS - homemade salsa or hummus or dip (can use bottled dressing as well) with veggie sticks.  Homemade chips.  Popcorn or crisp chick peas (easy-peasy).  Drain, season, bake at 400 for 20 minutes!
Fruit, sliced, plain, as salad, grilled, make a crisp or pie, add to muffins or over homemade ice cream/ice milk.  Fruit is yummy in a smoothie as well, and can be a substitute for a meal.
Basic homemade cookies, cupcakes, brownies or sweet breads.


Gang, there just isn't ANY reason that a person can not eat well on a limited budgets.  I have read article after article and book after book about eating on $3 or $4 a day (per person).  It sounds impossible - but it ISN'T!!!!!!
I know there are many days that I don't spend that amount of food for the both of us for 3 meals in a day.  We utilize everything - either into a new dish or we eat the leftovers as is.



  1. I do almost all of the things that you do. I really believe you can eat well for very little.

    1. So glad to hear it. There is no reason we can't have a great meal plan for pennies!

    2. Please join me today as I make impact, as you are planning for Christmas don't forget that their kids outside who are homeless that need help, I'm soliciting for your assistance today to join me as I plan to feed five children for this Christmas and I want to also send them back to school your support is needed nothing is too small nothing is too big for this purpose, if you are interested in joining me, email me at

  2. Great article. I used to work with a women that worked part-time, and smoked 2 packs a day as did her husband. She received over $1000 from SNAP a month. She had 4 kids and her and her husband. She used to complain that it wasn't enough money. I would try to talk to her about cooking(too busy with 4 kids she would say), gardening(rents so can't), bring your own lunch(always in a rush.) It was useless. I had another lady(single mom) who would get $200 a month with 1 kid and she always had plenty of food. She even managed to make a nice pantry. We also would talk about the above topics. He daughter didn't like school lunches but got them free. She would bring them home and my coworker would eat them. If you want to make it work you can always find a way. Look at Prudent Homemaker.

    1. Absolutely right!!!! Years ago I started writing a newsletter at my job, trying to help people save money. I too sat and watched them walk across to the Village Pantry at lunch and get chips and a big gulp and of course their cigarettes.
      Then they would hit me up about Tuesday for a loan!!!

      No matter how much talking I did, they just didn't get it. The wall understood the concept better.
      There is just no helping some people - to many excuses and they are NOT responsible at all.

      I just love finding groups of folks that get it, and offer to share new ideas and support each other.
      Thanks for being here!!!

  3. Great advice!
    I do many of the things that you suggest.
    Have you seen the USDA food plan charts? It says that on the thrifty plan, that I should spend $156 per week for my family of 4. Guess I am thriftier than that. :D

    1. WOW that sounds like a lot of money to me. I guess maybe many of us are thriftier than the GOVERNMENT!! Imagine that?

  4. If there is a will there is a way. Great tips Cheryl!

  5. Some great ideas Cheryl. You're right about eating out. It's a big waste of money.

    1. Home cooking just tastes so much better and you get such a better value.

  6. I use some gluten free mixes. They are great when I am too tired to make from scratch. We make lots of mistakes over the years but am thankful that the Lord gave me the knowledge he has about money. Nancy

    1. I think we all learn each and every day. I know I have made my share of mistakes.
      God gave you the capability to learn!

  7. I do most of what you do Cheryl. I do it because this is what we need to do to be able to live well and to pay our bills. One thing that I do to add to my pantry, that you have not mentioned, is I fish. I try and go fishing off the beach at least once or twice a week. I generally add a meat meal to each week. I barter with a widower neighbour. He goes fishing on a boat regularly, and brings home prawns(shrimp), crabs and various reef fish. He swaps these for my home made cakes and cookies or for me taking up the hem on his trousers.
    I dont purchase coffee or take away when out and about. If I have a lot to do, or am travelling a distance I pop the thermos into the car. I always have a small bottle of water in my bag. These habits save hundreds of dollars over a year.
    I dont meet friends out for coffee in cafes, I invite them here. I pull out the pretty china and serve up home made cakes, scones, jam and cream, pots of coffee and tea. Save me a lot of money and they have discovered it to be a great way to get together. We now meet at each others homes and have a wonderful time.
    Living well does not have to cost a lot of money. It does take a bit of thought and planning.
    I love what you have written. It makes me realise that I am not the only one who thinks and lives this way.

    1. Aawww thanks Jane. I am in good company.
      Fishing and hunting can be huge helps to the food budget. Many of us don't live in an area good for either - but for those tat do it is great.
      Gleaning can be a huge money saver. whether it be meat, fruit, nuts, berries, etc.

      I love that you barter with the neighbor and that you love having private and lovely get togethers at your home. So intimate.

      Thank you for acknowledging that living well can be low cost with thought and planning.

  8. This is terrific blog post, Cheryl. One thing we do to stretch taco meat is add a small, cooked diced potato as it extends the meat even farther. And like you, I always checked the reduced bins when I go to the grocery store. So many good deals can be found there.

    1. I never thought about adding potato to taco meat. Good idea. I have always added beans or rice.

      Love the clearance and produce bins!

  9. Very much agree. I spend, on average, $2-$3 dollars a day per person by using these strategies. We eat VERY well. I can cut the cost more if ever needed. It just takes some time and practice.

    1. You go girl!!!! Great job. We eat well as well, and I spend very little considering what many spend. Like you I think I could cut it down further.
      Maybe we should give lessons!!!!!!

  10. Love your post today and all the comments from others. I cook to have leftovers and if there is some left from dinner, I can use it for lunch. I've had some weird combinations for lunch but, hey, it fills the tummy and saves money. We eat out occasionally but it is a treat and we enjoy the special occasion. Thanks for all your tips and encouragement. Sharon D.

    1. Well thank you for your comments and you are so welcome!
      Must husband swears I MAKE 'leftovers'. It seems we are always having them for lunch and yes, sometimes for breakfast. They get remade into new things as well.
      We eat out on a special occasion - but generally with a gift card - so it costs nothing. Those are indeed treats.

      Thanks for contributing - we just all need that from others.

  11. For several years our son in law was an outreach pastor and worked with those who had not. What he found was that many on food stamps do not have the equipment or the means to purchase it so that they can cook with those basic ingredients. So if you live in an apartment without a stove and you do not own pots and pans you have few options since any income is spent just to survive. He also found that many just do not know how to cook since those skills often pass down in families. That gave me new understanding for those in line at the grocery store with a cart full of frozen dinners who paid with food stamps. It is all they can manage with possibly only a microwave oven. Our daughter and son in law worked with an organization who were setting up a location and classes to teach those skills and help with getting basic equipment in place in homes where people wanted to be able to cook. My husband and I easily eat for $150 a month but I do have the skills and equipment to do so. This is not meant to be argumentative but just to inform because I did not know about this situation either and thought that those on food stamps could surely do better when it is often just not possible.

    1. Lana bless your son-in-law for helping. What a wonderful thing.

      I totally understand that there are situations that we may not be aware of. Every story is different.
      Many folks were not taught at home how to cook - but my theory is, if you can read, you can earn to cook. it isn't rocket science.

      I am NOT so much talking about those getting benefits to help them survive, but those folks I saw daily (and knew) at work, and folks I see on FB, who blatantly talk about their bad habits and waste of money - then can't understand how anyone could eat well for less. Those folks really don't want to change in my opinion. I have to believe that, because it is sad to think that they are so clueless.

      There are many who have needed help in the past and many that still do and I am glad it is there for them. No one knows what could happen to them.

      I love that we are able to give many different views on the same subject here. Thank you for your enlightened words and please thank you SIL for the good works he has done!

  12. I thought your post was very good. Perhaps it will help some who want to learn. There are those who won't or can't help themselves. In our small town there was a bench for retirees to sit and pass the time across the street from a daycare. They would comment that the young mothers would bring their kids in expensive mini vans that their jobs couldn't possibly justify. The mothers could have stayed home, had a modest car and been better off financially.

    1. Carole you are so correct. Some can't - some won't.
      Wouldn't it be nice if there were facilities where capable elderly and young children could come together. Kind of a senior/child daycare.
      The kids would lighten the moods of the elderly. The kids could learn from elderly. WIN - WIN.

      It seems folks want it ALL - NOW! It took our parents years and years to get nice things , but so many don't want to wait. The things they sacrifice to have money and nice things is really sad!

  13. Please join me today as I make impact, as you are planning for Christmas don't forget that their kids outside who are homeless that need help, I'm soliciting for your assistance today to join me as I plan to feed five children for this Christmas and I want to also send them back to school your support is needed nothing is too small nothing is too big for this purpose, if you are interested in joining me, email me at