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3 Tips for Frugal Meals

Grocery prices are still on the rise and it doesn’t look like they will be going back down any time soon. At the same time most of us still have the same amount of money coming in each month, and even worse, we’re spending more money on other essentials like gas. In other words, we have to make do with less each month. One of the fastest and easiest places to cut back in is the food budget. Here are three tips you can start using right now to cook more frugal meals and spend less at the store.

3 Tips for Frugal Meals

Tip #1 – Stretch That Meat

I don’t have to tell you that the price of pretty much any kind of meat has gone up. We can stretch our budget by choosing inexpensive cuts of meat like ground beef or a whole chicken and then stretching it into several meals. Start reducing the amount of ground beef you use in things like spaghetti sauce, chili and casseroles. Increase the amount of beans, pasta or rice instead. The meals will be just as tasty and filling and you can easily make two meals out of the same pack of ground beef that you used to put into one dish.

I also like to make what I lovingly call the “rubber chicken”. Get a whole chicken and cook it in some water in either a large stock pot or your crockpot. You want to cook that bird until the meat falls off the bones. Take it out and pick the meat off the bones. Discard the bones, but keep the cooking liquid. It’s a nice chicken broth by now. Add some rice and a few chunks of the meat for a delicious chicken and rice soup. Store the rest of the meat in the fridge. Over the next days you can use the chicken to make a variety of meals including chicken salad, chicken and rice, or put shredded chicken in casseroles, pasta sauces and enchiladas. You can also mix it with some barbecue sauce and put it on hamburger buns for easy chicken BBQ sandwiches.

Tip #2 – Make It from Scratch

Mixes and prepackaged meals are convenient, but you pay for that convenience. It’s actually easier than you think to make things from scratch. Let’s take biscuit mix for example. You can pay for a big box of this at the grocery store, or you can get the flour, baking powder, salt and shortening and spend about 15 minutes at home to make the same amount yourself. Just store it in a plastic container until you’re ready to use it to make anything from biscuits and dumplings to waffles and pancakes.

The same goes for various drink and soup mixes. Here is no reason to pay for a fancy hot chocolate or chai tea mix if you can just as easily make it at home from ingredients that are readily available and will cost you a lot less than the finished product.

My family loves pizza, but we hardly ever get delivery or frozen pizza anymore. Instead I make it from scratch and spend an average of $3 per large pizza instead of the $15 that my delivery guy wants. As an added bonus, it’s healthier because I have control over the ingredients, and it actually tastes better.

Ready to give this a try? Here are a bunch of homemade convenience food recipes you can make right at home.

Tip #3 – Buy Smart

It pays to be a smart shopper, literally. If you keep an eye out for good deals, sales and coupons, your grocery budget will go a lot further. One way to do this is to keep a price book. This is just a small notebook where you note down every item you buy on a regular basis along with its price. This will allow you to quickly judge if a sale or coupon is really a good deal.

A word of caution on coupons. Don’t be tempted to buy something just because you have a good coupon for it. Only buy what you actually need and can use. Otherwise those coupons will end up costing you extra money that could be better used elsewhere.

There are some food items that are almost always a good deal. I refer to them as “Best Buys For The Budget”. They include anything from meat items like chicken leg quarters and ground beef in a tube to beans, rice and bags of pasta. For a complete list of things I look for at the store that fall into this category, click the link above.

For more frugal shopping tips and recipes from Susanne, visit the Hillbilly Housewife website and join the newsletter.

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