Save money with cheap meals you can make and suggestions for dishes you can cook at home and enjoy.
When you cook at home and dine in house, you’ll typically save more money than if you eat out. Recently, I’ve tried cutting the cost of eating out, and have ventured into organic food territory. Now seems like a good time to go through the menus and recipes I’ve been using, to find out what we can fill up on for less.
Cheap Meals You Can Cook At Home To Save Money
Image by Mikes Journal.
The Breakfast Clubber
Some people like to skip breakfast, but I need it to maintain the energy to keep moving. However, rather than relying a lot on convenience foods that can hit me hard in sodium and price, I look for low-cost options. Since I’m not a fan of eggs, I tend to gravitate toward the simple, quick choices such as toast, fruit, or yogurt.
If I have the time, I’ll upgrade the toast into grilled cheese or have a bowl of cereal. When the weather turns colder, I sometimes enjoy oatmeal with fruit and nuts; considering my desire to lose weight, it’s a healthier choice than the sausage biscuits and hash browns at the fast food place.
During the weekends, I might want to bust out the waffle iron and prepare goodies to store in the freezer. A waffle with peanut butter and a pear could keep me going until lunchtime.
Keep Your Lunch Money
I’ve worked at places where everyone would go out to lunch. However, while I wanted to allocate my lunch bucks to other funds (like my high yield savings account in EverBank), I didn’t want to schlep pbjs all the time, either. When I had leftovers to spare, I brought them for lunch to heat up in the microwave. I also made salads and sandwiches that were interesting enough to keep me from wandering into an expensive deli.
How about tuna salad in a whole wheat pita? Or a wrap with veggies and cheese? I could trade in that brown bag for a reusable lunch tote and I could add a piece of fruit or another low-cost treat for dessert.
And let me note that I love ramen every so often, but not its sodium or preservatives. I tend to add veggies and some slices of chicken breast to the noodles, if I have them, and I remind myself that I don’t have to consume everything in the bowl to feel full.
For Whom the Dinner Bell Tolls
Like a lot of home cooks, I tend to rely on a well-stocked pantry to prepare meals. Therefore, I tend to keep chicken in the freezer, potatoes and onions on hand, as well as dry milk and a wide variety of seasonings. In addition, I keep flour and other baking ingredients ready for bread, wraps, and other goodies.
Soups and Stews
When a crowd comes over for dinner, I prefer to make soups or stews. One time, I noticed that frozen ground turkey cost about half of what ground beef does in my area, so I brought out the chili recipe from Better Homes & Gardens and gave the chili a makeover. Add in the pinto beans, canned tomatoes, onion, green pepper, herbs, and spices, and you’ve got a tasty meal for about $6. To save some effort, I like to use my slow cooker. You can read more about my techniques in my piece on quality cookware.
Beans and Lentils
Like Wise Bread and Hillbilly Housewife, I’m a fan of lentils. By itself, this legume can scare off picky eaters, but if you add in some flavorings, you might be able to make some converts. Lentils, rice, broth, and your favorite combination of seasonings can fill you up throughout the year. If you’re unable to bring lentils into your meals, then give red beans and rice a try, or black bean soup. Beans provide protein and other benefits for a lower price than large cuts of beef, chicken, or pork.
Another staple I turn to for cheap meals is pasta. Barilla and DaVinci have some pretty good whole multigrain choices. I’ve tried rolling my own dough, but the process is kind of time-consuming when you want dinner right now. In the past, I’ve made spaghetti, baked penne, and stuffed shells. To keep my costs down, I don’t go for the recipes that require a ton of ingredients like lasagna.
When I’m in the mood for a fancy meal for a lower price, I bring on the roast chicken and veggies. Add in a nice beverage and candlelight, and I’ve got a meal that can impress my loved ones for less than a meal out on the town. Or I could try a turkey breast, which can be good even when it’s not Thanksgiving. I can hear the cranberries crackling already.
So do you have a favorite home-cooked meal that’s low-cost and tasty? Do share!