Cheap Can Be Good: Fantastic Frugal Meal Ideas

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Rising costs have everyone buckling their belt and pinching pennies when they can and the food budget can be one place to save money- if you plan it right.

Here’s a sample menu for a week’s worth of food that not only frugal but fantastic too!

Meatless Monday: Beans!

Lots of people are cutting down on eating meat not just for the cost but health reasons as well.

Beans are a great source of protein. You can add seasoning to spice it up and even carrot coins or chopped celery to give it a little texture.

Cornbread goes great as a side and pre-made mixes are fairly cheap, usually two for $1 in most stores.

Make a big pot while you’re at it. Beans freeze well, plus you’ll need them for later this menu.

Taco Tuesday!

The trick on keeping this one cheap is to find good lean hamburger meat at its lowest possible price. It’s generally cheaper in ‘family’ or multiple pound packages. Avoid ‘rolled’ burger whenever possible as the meat has a weird consistency and you can see the quality until you open it at home.

Discount grocery chains such as Aldi’s have everything you need for a cheaper taco night.

Tortillas, refried beans, salsa, sliced jalapenos and chips are all available for less. They even carry lettuce and tomatoes in their fresh produce section. With the exception of the meat you should be able to get everything for less than $20.

Brown the burger meat, plain, then drain well.  Cook an extra pound or so and save it- we’ll use it later in the week too.

Assemble tacos and top with salsa or picante to spice it up.

Spaghetti Wednesday!

Remember that burger meat we cooked yesterday?

We’re going to add it to 2 cans tomato sauce, 2 cans tomato paste, 2 cans diced small tomatoes, diced onion, minced garlic, and salt to taste in a slow cooker early in the day, stir in the meat and leave it to come together to form spaghetti sauce. You can also add sliced mushrooms or zucchini to give it a little flair.

Or you can start with an already prepared jar of spaghetti sauce and add the meat in.

Spaghetti noodles are super cheap and a box can make multiple servings. Cook the noodles and serve separately from the sauce. (in other words, don’t smoosh them all together in one big pot- we got plans for that left over sauce later!)

Garlic bread makes a great side and it’s usually available in the fresh bakery section, already buttered and garlicked and ready for oven toasting at under $2 a loaf.

Throwback Thursday Chili!

Remember the beans from Monday, the taco meat from Tuesday -that went in Wednesday’s spaghetti sauce? Yeah? Here’s what we’re gonna do:

Dump them all in a pot (slow cooker works well for this one too) and add chili powder, chopped onions or even chopped peppers then let them all come together to make chili.

Serve with crackers or, if there’s any left from Monday, cornbread on the side.

Top with shredded cheese or sour creme for even more flavor!

Friday Fun: Pizza!

Pizza crust comes in several varieties from ready to top and bake to refrigerated dough in a can to flour mix in a box. Whatever your budget allows, that’s what you use. Start with your dough laid out.

Same with pizza topping- there are many canned or jar versions ready to be spooned on. Look for the best quality and the best buy. Top prepped dough with as little or as much sauce as you wish.

Topping time! This is where you have the most fun- and the potential or rack up the cost. Try a mix of fresh and frozen or canned ingredients such as basil leaves, garlic, mushrooms, peppers, olives – even pineapple!

Don’t forget the cheese! Bake until crust is crispy and cheese is melty. Enjoy!

It’s Saturday! Wake up to dinner!

Breakfast, when done right, can be one of the least expensive meals.

Eggs, bacon or ham, potatoes for home fries or hash browns and toast is just as filling for dinner as it is for the first meal of the day.

An occasional splurge on a fancy butter or jam will last a while and make the breakfast extravagant!

Another frugal breakfast: all you can eat pancakes! Pancake mixes make multiple stack of cakes that can be served with butter and sweet syrup.

Sunday savings day!

You’ve worked hard, saved all week and now you deserve a night out!

Many restaurants offer specials and deals to help you continue watching your budget while having a treat. Check your local paper or head online to find deals right for you and the family!

Remember: Eat frugal, fantastic and save!