How to Eat Cheaply and Still Eat Well

by Katy on August 29, 2012 · 51 comments

There is one category of budgeting that can make a huge difference in your spending, and that (no surprise here) is food.

Of course, food is not simply an expenditure. Food physically fuels us and is also one of life’s greatest pleasures. From preparation to consumption to clean up, food defines our days and nourishes our souls.

But that doesn’t mean we should just eat whatever we want whenever we want. Not only would that method clog our arteries, but it would also drain our bank accounts. But does a commitment to cheap eating relegate us to nothing but bland lentils and oatmeal? (Not to malign lentils, as one of my favorite dishes is red lentil soup!)

So is there a sweet spot of spending less on money on food without sacrificing the joys of food? I say yes, and here’s how.

How to eat cheaply:

  • Cook at home. I cannot emphasize this enough, as a single meal in an expensive restaurant can pay for entire week of groceries.
  • If you are eating out, save it for a special occasion. Also, drink the water and forgo the appetizers and dessert. Restaurant servings are usually plenty big enough.
  • Save eating out for food you don’t know how to prepare at home. So forget eating hamburgers at Applebee’s, and instead head for ethnic restaurants like Indian, Thai and Japanese.
  • Eat seasonally. This means strawberries in summer, asparagus in spring and pears in the autumn. Not only will you take advantage of sales, but the produce is most likely fresher.
  • Keep a few frozen meals stashed aside for those inevitable crazy evenings. This will save you from pizza delivery and MSG-laden takeout Chinese.
  • Buy your spices in bulk. And if it’s something you use irregularly, just buy a small amount.
  • Buy in bulk, but only if it’s food you eat regularly and can use up before it goes bad. A 50 pound bag of oatmeal is only a bargain if you eat it up before the moths do.
  • Teach yourself to cook. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to research recipes without the necessity of a cookbook library. Want to make chicken enchiladas for dinner? Great, just look it up on Allrecipes.com or a similar site.
  • Allow that not every meal has to be a Julia Child masterpiece. Nothing wrong with omelets for dinner, a homemade salad and store brand ice cream for dessert.
  • Don’t pay other people to chop your lettuce, peel your carrots and mix your salad dressing. These convenience foods cost more, add chemicals and age your food. It only takes a few minutes to wash and chop a head of lettuce, and your product is superior in the end.
  • Don’t overbuy to the point where you end up wasting food. Be realistic about how your family eats and shop accordingly . Yes, spinach is good for you, but if it always ends up as slime, switch over to what your family actually eats.
  • Grow your own food. If you have soil and sun, you can grow some of your own food. Even if it’s just a tomato plant in a 5-gallon bucket, you can still play farmer.
  • Store your leftovers in clear containers. This one is huge for me. If I can’t see it, I forget it’s there. Invest in a set of Pyrex lidded containers and actually see the treasures that lie within your refrigerator.
  • Pack your own school and work lunches. Not only will you save money, but it’s a perfect way to use up small amounts of leftovers and your lunch hour will no longer be spent buying food. (More time for reading blogs!)
  • Talk to your friends and families about their go-to frugal recipes. Everyone has their own favorite cheap meals, and is usually happy to share.
  • Replace expensive ingredients with cheaper options.
  • Tuck leftover bits of perishables into soups, pasta salad, fritattas and salad.
  • Eat less. Easier said than done, but always a admirable goal.
  • Either work with a meal plan or practice the pantry principle. Either way, you’re able to pull dinner together without drawing a blank at 5 P.M.
  • Keep inexpensive snacks on hand both for both kids and adults.

I’m sure there are methods for cheap eating that didn’t make it into the list, so it’s now your turn. What do you do to keep control of the food budget? Please share your ideas (or even a recipe!) in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda in Indiana August 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

We grow lots of our own food and preserve extras and share any excess with friends and neighbors. They in turn share with us. I shop the specials and only use coupons for things that I would normally buy. I make sure leftovers become “planned overs” and either serve again or transform into something else. We like to potluck for fun and get to eat other people’s wonderful dishes while sharing our dish. Nice cheap entertainment that way. I keep a jar in the freezer for little “dabs” of vegetables that don’t get eaten and when full, they are added to either vegetable soup, shepherd’s pie or stew. My husband and son hunt and the meat stretches our food supply. We buy a part of a beef from a neighbor who raises them…so we know what we are getting and help support his farm venture. We have our own chickens and therefore our own eggs. We sometimes trade the eggs for other produce. I grow and dry lots of my own herbs…in pots by the back door. Easy and handy. I pack a lunch if heading to town…most of the time:) as we live in a rural area and it is a good drive there. I love to cook from scratch and am always looking for recipes from others when I taste their good homemade dishes. Nothing like getting to sample it before I make it. I try to make it a challenge to myself to spend as little and get as much for my dollar while feeding us healthy and delicious meals.

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Jennifer B. August 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Consider going meatless or meat-less.

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Lilypad August 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I was going to say the same thing. I’m a vegetarian ( 95% vegan actually, so no milk/eggs/ and only the occasional bit of cheese) and my husband eats meat, if he prepares it himself. Dang, that stuff is expensive! (And cruel, and unhealthy, and bad for the environment …whoops, there I go again. )

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Karen August 29, 2012 at 12:44 pm

One thing I just heard this morning while watching in the news in Central Oregon, that I didn’t know was that you can freeze tofu and when it comes out it makes crumbles that are perfect for sauces, etc. I do freeze a lot, but I just never thought about this.

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Kristen | The Frugal Girl August 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Your first point is such a good one…it’s almost scary how many groceries can be had for the price of a good restaurant meal (especially when there are six mouths to feed, like in our family). Even fast food is crazy expensive for us.

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Missy August 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Anyone have any of those “pull it out of the freezer” recipes to share?
My hubs just started working later in the evening, and nights he works my girls and I no longer have dinner waiting for us when we get home (we were spoiled!)

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Lesley August 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I use up sad-looking vegetables by making ratatouille, which freezes beautifully! Saute an onion and a clove or two of garlic in a heavy stockpot. Then dice your sad veggies and throw them in. This is great for using up tomatoes that are too mealy or about to go off. Peppers, carrots, eggplant, green beans, that zucchini the neighbors gave you a ton of–they’re all good! The only thing that doesn’t work well is more delicate greens, like lettuce.

You could probably also add cooked leftover meat–I’m a vegetarian so I don’t know how well that works! 🙂

Once the sad veggies are in there, add a cup or so of water into which you’ve dissolved a bouillon cube. At this point you can add a can of tomato paste if you like your ratatouille tomatoey, or if you didn’t have that many tomatoes to use up.

Bring it to a boil and then simmer partially covered on low heat (or use a slow cooker!). Cook until the veggies are very soft and mushy. Check occasionally to see if it might need more water. Cooking time depends on how crispy your veg were to start with. Serve as a stew, or over pasta.

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Reese August 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

This stuffed shell recipe from The Pioneer Woman freezes great! http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/10/three-cheese-stuffed-shells-with-meaty-tomato-sauce/

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Missy August 30, 2012 at 7:25 am

Yummy! I’ll have to try both of these. Thank you!

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patti August 31, 2012 at 5:36 am

Money Saving Mom does freezer cooking regularly and has great recipes. Other bloggers do the same. Just google “freezer cooking” and I am sure you will find tons of recipes to make and freeze. Good luck!

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Claudia August 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Prepare less. I found that we always had a lot of leftovers. Nothing wrong with that if they get used, but we’d typically have more than one serving left over and would seldom eat more than one additional serving. I’ve started making smaller portions of main dishes. Most of the time they’re plenty satisfying. On the rare occasion that someone is still hungry, I offer produce, healthy snacks, or leftovers from another meal. Also, try offering smaller portions to young children. If they finish what you put before them, you can always give them more, but young children have a tendency to render food remains unappetizing for the next person…

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Ann Penhallow August 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I meal plan and shop carefully from a list I’ve made, but I cook loads of recipes from a book called the $21 Challenge http://www.simplesavings.com.au/21dollarchallenge/, which has saved me heaps.
The book makes lots of suggestions about creating meals from odd ingredients in the pantry, so that you don’t resort takeaway or another shopping trip.
It’s useful having the recipes there in front of me, but it’s also made me look at what’s in our fridge/cupboards in a different way. Yes, I can make a meal out of a potato, tin of soup and an egg!

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denise August 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

One major thing we do is prepare everything from scratch and buy the items in bulk that we can. I make my own foods like take out nights, including chinese, pizza, wings etc. For the price of one take out meal i can cook for us for close to a week or even a week. Sure it takes prep time, but when you buy your veggies and fruits prepare them when you get home from shopping. Freeze what you can so they do not spoil. Another tip is learn how to make desserts from scratch they are so much cheaper and you can control the amount of sugar going into the product that way. If we cannot cook it at home we take the time to learn the recipes online and make them ourselves eventually. Eating out is nice yes but it is such a high cost today it really does not fit into what i call a budget. Another idea would be to prepare some meals and freeze them for nights when it is crazy. Take a couple hours every couple of weeks and cook many items you think can be reheated quickly and you have dinner on the table in no time on those busy nights. I actually love cooking and trying new things you would be surprised at how much your kids will actually eat.
One more thing i do is i prepared a master shopping list, took all the meals we usually eat in a month and this way i can figure out how much approx. of each item i will need in a month and this allows me to buy flour, sugar, baking products in larger quantities when i can find them on sale and save in the long run. It allows me the freedom of giving my family healthy meals at a fraction of the cost. Also, avoid prefab foods if possible as they usually do not save you any. Just check the prices be mindful as to how much it would cost you to make a product compared to how much it costs in the freezer section. For example I make homemade pizzas and let each person put on their own toppings. My crust and sauce are both homemade and very easy to make if you would like the recipe let me know ill email it to you. My family loves them and they taste just as good if not better then takeout. We almost never have leftovers when i make them and everyone is happy and full and i have spent less then a quarter of what the pizza takeout in my area would cost for us. There are always ways to cut corners just watch what is out there, also use those sales and coupons together you can save yourself a lot of headache this way.

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Jennifer August 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

I would love the crust and sauce recipe!!!

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AFS August 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

me too. My address is sweetmem@juno.com

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denise August 30, 2012 at 4:46 am

will send it out today ladies!

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denise August 30, 2012 at 4:49 am

Jennifer how do i find your email address? mine is snugglemouse@yahoo.com. Please let me know that you want this in the subject line of any emails.

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Denise August 30, 2012 at 5:17 pm
Tina August 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Learn to use a pressure cooker. A good friend gave me a used pressure cooker and a cookbook >20 years ago and I have used it at least once a week since then. I see these pop up at garage sales and thrift stores pretty frequently (see http://voices.yahoo.com/how-buy-used-pressure-cooker-5644252.html). They aren’t hard to use and can make meal preparation really much faster. Good for making fast soup at the last minute that tastes like you worked on it all day, making less expensive cuts of meat fork-tender, and for stuff like dried beans too– which are cheap to eat but slow to cook!

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Rosa August 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Yes! My pressure cooker paid for itself in one fall, because I could buy mutton stew meat instead of lamb, and cook it tender.

I just made 4 quarts of refried beans, stuck 3 in the freezer, we had homemade burritos twice this week with the other quart. I can’t even cost it out, really, but it had a pound of dried pintos in it (about $1.25) and tomatos that had to be used quick because they had bruises (uh…$3? I bought a crate for $17 and this was a small portion of the crate) plus a few onions and some spices.

Also Lorna Sass’s Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure is consistently really, really good (the recipes are vegan).

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Kris Kyle August 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Something that works for us is to mix up our meals: we have some meat heavy ‘extravagant’ meals at home, but we are no stranger to bean and rice dishes with lots of seasonal veggies. Also, giving up flavored beverages is a HUGE budget saver. There is nothing wrong with water, even for children. Milk, juice, and (for us forbidden) soda, are treats in themselves, saving us lots of money and calories.

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betsyohs August 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Lots of great thoughts here. We do many of the things everyone has mentioned. I’m really lucky in that my husband and I both love leftovers – that makes it easy to not let things go to waste. It might change when kids come along, but maybe not, too!

I was surprised that you didn’t have eat less meat on your list. Dry beans are a bazillion times cheaper than meat. So are mushrooms (and you can add a handful of dried fancy mushrooms to punch up the taste even more) and roasted eggplant, both of which can taste very “meaty”. I think about using meat as flavoring, rather than the main course.

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Katy August 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I meant to put that on there, but it slipped my mind.

Katy

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betsyohs August 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm

oops – forgot to add – cook your own bread. Google the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey if you’re intimidated by kneading or want the flexibility of a 12-18 hour rise.

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Holly August 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Shop at the dollar type stores: see what they have and then plan your meals around it. In spring and summer: fresh produce and fruit(basket of raspberries for $1 would be $4 in graocery), in winter: eggplant, squash, peppers. Freeze what you don’t use right away and it will be handy in the off season. Make sure you check prices based on weight. It may be only $1 for 2 oz. of meat, but that makes it $8 lb. Once you find something you like, buy it in multiples because I guarantee it won’t be there next time. Then use it to make multiples of what you like and freeze. Ex: at the $1 store, premade pie crust, 1 dz. eggs, ham slices, fresh mushrooms, whipping cream, cheese. Made 2 quiches that night w/o cream and eggs. Put one in freezer, one in frig. In the morning finished the one in the frig, baked. Served with fruit. Later on, pull out the freezer one, finish it, add salad and serve for dinner. When I bake, I immediately freeze half or more of the item or divide into 2 pans and freeze one. Much better than eating the item for meal after meal and getting bored with it. Dollar stores also allow you to try something new for cheap without much risk. Use a slow cooker with cheaper meats and meals are ready when you get home. Cobb or chopped salad is great for using up small portions of meats and veggies. Make anti-pasta salad with leftover coldcuts, olives, etc.

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Susan Robinson August 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I live alone now, but when my boys were small, I usually had a small amount of food left over after each supper—not enough for all four of us to have leftovers the next night, but too much just to toss. So, once a week, we would have “grabbit night”….it was everyone for himself and you could choose which left over you wanted. It made for some interesting dinners, but if there was nothing you wanted, you could have grilled cheese, etc.

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Kim August 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

One family favorite food saver is to freeze home foods from the garden. We all get together and cook and bake during the harvest season. We freeze many batches of spaghetti sauce and use it through out the year as base for any number of dishes – easier than canning and just as good. It’s so popular with friends and family we give it out as inexpensive hostess gifts around the holiday. Same with zuchini breads and soups. We’ve saved a small fortune over the years and you’re never without a home made spaghetti supper on hand or sweet treat for drop in company. I’ve also save a small fortune since refridgerating my left over coffee from my morning pot for my favorite iced coffee treat. You can flavor it to your liking and it’s always on hand. I have a rule that I won’t waste food or throw anything out. Since I began this intentional mind set years ago it’s amazing how creative I’ve become in the kitchen. Stale bagels become seasoned croutons, stale crackers are baked with semi sweet chocolate for an after school treat… I’ve had great fun with the daily challenge and even surprise myself sometimes.

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Lesley August 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm

All these are great tips! We used to eat out all the time, especially lunches, but cooking at home has really helped our wallets. You’re correct that anybody can learn to cook–if I can, ANYBODY can. Seriously. I still don’t enjoy it that much, but I started listening to an audiobook while cooking. It makes the time go a lot faster (your library will have tons of great audiobooks!)

I confess that I often pay other people to wash my lettuce 🙂 However, I’ve found that it’s usually just me eating salad. Buying a bag is actually cheaper–I get more kinds of greens that keep longer and take less prep time this way. With a head of lettuce, I get only lettuce, and I’m under pressure to use it up.

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Madeline August 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm

It’s all about perspective! A few years ago my stay at home sis in law was complaining that they were “kinda broke.” “We are eating al lot of beans.No money for meat, ” She was unhappy.

Me: I was working full time, we LOVE beans and grains.. I felt I had NO TIME to soak and cook the BEAN MEALS we loved..

Perspective: TIME to cook vs. money for burgers and barbecue beef.

I’ll take the BEANS!!!!!!!!

I’m retired now so we eat a lot of BEANS (HAPPILY!!!!!!!)

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Lois August 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Eating out. First I hate to eat out. I would rather eat at home and with family or friends. We can have any kind of conversation we want without stopping to think whether we should have this conversation in public. The last time I went out it was a spur of the moment thing. My son wanted to treat his wife, and asked me to baby sit their 2 small children. I agreed, then he changed his mind and decided to take me out as well to thank me for all I do for them. We went to a chain Italian restaurant. The cost of dinner for 3 adults and two 3 year olds came to $130 plus the tip. I nearly fell over. I don’t spend that much on myself in an entire month!

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Stephanie August 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I try to make it 3-4 weeks between grocery store visits. I freeze my milk in order to make it longer between visits. I serve the longer shelf life produce nearer to the end of the month. I got the idea from the economedes book and it really works for me. If you aren’t at the store a lot you aren’t spending money there. I also cook from scratch so I don’t ‘need’ things from the store that frequently either because I can usually make it myself.

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Elaine in Ark August 30, 2012 at 9:39 am

I’ve been doing grocery shopping every other week instead of every week, and I’m saving money that way. That really did surprise me!

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Lou Rodriguez August 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Katy, since I found out about you and your blog, I swear we’re kindred spirits 🙂 The only one we haven’t done on that list is grow our own food. We started a conversation on your Facebook page today about this very topic.

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kalynbrooke | Creative Savings August 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I definitely need to do the eat out thing a lot less. Both hubby and I work full time and its so easy to order takeout because we are exhausted after work.

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Namastemama August 29, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Have a plan for leftovers. If I bake a chicken I make Thai chicken salad or , in the winter, a pot pie on leftover night.
Stretch your meals. I’ve aLways put diced potatoes in my taco filling. This is a regional way of making some Mexican dishes but it makes one lb of meat go much farther. My mother always made lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

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Jenny August 29, 2012 at 10:08 pm

All great ideas–I found it worth investing in a Thai cooking class years ago since we love Thai food and now can make our own. The recipes from that class are better than much of the Thia restaurant food I’ve had.
Since we are a two person household, I like to make a different soup every week in the winter and freeze a couple of portions. We don’t get too tired of eating the same soup and there is a variety in the freezer for lunches or meals when we get home late and don’t feel like cooking.

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Allyson August 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm

homemade popcorn – made on the stove or a hot air popper. fairly nutritious snack. Economical to purchase kernels, a lot goes a long way and kids LOVE it. we have it several times a week as an afternoon snack!
Love your blog and do a lot of what you say already. And I challenge myself to find free activites for our family – read the local paper! There’s at least one, but usually many more free activities available each week.

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pat August 30, 2012 at 2:56 am

Plan out your meals. I’ve been doing this since 2008 and have very little food waste. I mentioned it at lunch one day to a coworker and it really blew him away. He does it now and is really surprised how much money he has been able to save and how much easier it is to grocery shop.

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PQ August 30, 2012 at 6:19 am

My biggest change was learning the best way to store each refrigeration-neecessary vegetable. It’s just my DH and myself and he doesn’t eat large portions of vegetables so we had a lot going to waste. Between the book: Vegetables by James Peterson and some experimentation, I’ve been able to store vegetables for much longer by knowing which to leave open and loose in a drawer, which to put in brown paper bags, and which do best by sealing in glass containers (a head of lettuce does very well in a glass pot with good fitting but not airtight lid [I use a bean pot], with the cut side of the lettuce turned down).

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Alexandra August 30, 2012 at 6:35 am

I love all these great ideas flying on this blog!
A couple I have to add:
Jacques Pepin, renowned chef, says he likes mushrooms that are starting to “turn” for cooking as they have more flavor. I can get these at a discount at the store and he is right! They do taste more “mushroomy” when roasted in the oven with a little olive oil. Great addition to stews, omelets, etc.

One person wrote in about not enough time for making beans from scratch. I soak mine in the morning before work, rinse when I get home and cook on low in the crock pot when I go to bed. Done in the morning!

I work in a cooperative grocery store and we are allowed to take home expired food for free! (FYI, this is almost unheard of in regular grocery stores. Some donate, most simply throw away. A sin if you ask me…) I often get milk and have learned to make ricotta cheese. Super easy. One half gallon milk in a large sauce pan. Slowly bring to almost a boil (it will start to foam, but not bubble). Stir OFTEN. Turn off heat. Add 2 Tbsp lemon juice or cider vinegar. Stir. Leave to sit 30 min. Strain through cheesecloth. You have r icotta. SAVE the whey!
Use your whey: I bring whey to a boil, cook macaroni noodles in it. Then once again, save the whey and make a white sauce (equal parts butter and flour cooked together 2 min – whisk in 1.5 cups whey) cook until thick. If too thick, add more whey. Add 1 cup grated cheese. Mix until melted. Combine with macaroni, bake 30 min 350 oven. VERY good, tangy mac n cheese!

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Melissa August 31, 2012 at 8:13 am

These all sound great!

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Elaine in Ark August 30, 2012 at 9:37 am

I’m frugal in so many ways, but if I had enough money, I’d eat out all the time. Probably more than once a day. I can cook (sort of), but I don’t like to unless I’m having company. Unfortunately, the cost of dining out is getting completely out of control, and I just can’t afford it more than once a week. Actually, all the food prices have gone up, so I’ll probably be eating oatmeal (with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and topped with soy milk) a lot more often.

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lili August 30, 2012 at 9:50 am

Using coupons, grocery store weekly sales, meal planning and eating leftovers has worked to lower our food costs.

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Emily August 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

Can I add one more? Set up a network of your neighbors on Facebook and when you have garden excess share it with them and they’ll do the same in return. I just bottled 7 quarts and 13 pints of salsa with my neighbors’ extra tomatoes she couldn’t use!

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Constance August 30, 2012 at 10:46 am

Breakfast: Oatmeal + fruit
Lunch: salad + grain + homemade dressing
Dinner: whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, pasta, etc) + (veggie thai curry, veggie chili, ratatouille with red beans, lentil-split pea-veggie stew, veggie sausage pasta sauce — all done in huge batches for the freezer) or mashed potato bowl (mash + beans + veg + sauce) or kale, black bean, and rice enchilada bake or hearty veggie soup and whole grain homemade bread.

We never eat out (ever), eat like kings and spend very little money each week (no animal products, very little processed food) I spend very little time cooking each day since when I do cook it is in huge batches for the freezer. I buy veg/fruit in bulk when it is in season and freeze. I never come home from work and have to think of something to cook.

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patti August 31, 2012 at 5:47 am

My favorite cookbook of all is ” The Use It Up Cookbook” by Lois Carlson Willand. It is out of print but you may run across it at a thrift store or yard sale. It can also be found on Amazon or eBay. ( I know you don’t “buy” but this might be an exception because it will save tons of money in the end). This book gives great ideas for leftovers or extra foods (like when you have too many tomatoes or cucumbers). I used it last night to make a casserole out of cabbage, black beans (in place of hamburger in the recipe), rice, and spaghetti sauce. It ended up with too much liquid and was more like a thick soup which we enjoyed even more!! I am trying not to waste food after reading that Americans waste 40% of their food and food dollar. Ouch!!

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Melissa August 31, 2012 at 8:22 am

Now that we can compost all food here in Portland, I’ve been really struck by how much we waste. Depressing. Using things up is definitely a money-saver! For me, the number one way to save money on food (besides not eat out), is to menu plan. Having that plan, and making a very specific shopping list, translates into saving money compared to winging it (which I’m doing this week and it’s stressful and requires too many trips to the store).
I’ve always found that when I eat out too often (like on a vacation), I feel sort of gross after a few days. Anyone else feel that way?

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Rachel in Portland August 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Cooking at home and planning your meals are the two most important practices. We do both, all the time. Yet we are also a ‘restaurant’ family (husband works in the industry) and we do like to go out. Professionally, he *must* go out. That’s why we like happy hour: all over town (Portland, OR), there are delightful and delicious meals to be had for very cheap. We also used this approach when we were in Hawaii last spring–excellent meals for a tenth of the price.

Cooking and planning are still more frugal, of course.

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tna September 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Great post and comments! I read this while eating a light supper of egg salad (2 eggs, mayo, mustard, and pickle juice smushed with fork) on homemade bread wedges and a some black grapes…..whole meal cost me less than 50 cents. nom-nom-nom.

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Melissa September 6, 2012 at 5:01 am

If eating out of ethnic foods is your downfall in the food $$ department you can find convince a friend who know how to cook that cuisine well to tutor you…I did that with Indian food and now we only eat out to get on particular item that I can’t make at home as it requires a special piece of equipment.

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Isabel November 25, 2015 at 4:31 am

I like to grow herbs, vegies, lemons in pots and among the flowers in my very small garden! Think the things I grow are very tasty and special!
Cook simple foods from scratch! Make out flexible menus and shop with a list!
Love the internet for looking up recipes and household hints!
Was brought up in a frugal age! Love to read this blog and all the great posts!

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