Frugal Meals For Under $2 Per Portion
Wow, inflation is certainly snowballing with no sign of slowing down. As a result, food is expensive and will continue to become even more costly, making feeding a family of five on a budget challenging. Not to worry! With with a few tricks like looking for sales and focusing on nutrient-dense foods and fibers that fill you up, you can feed your family and stick to your budget.
Tricks for Lowering your Food Bills
Make a budget and stick to it. I have given our family a budget of $800 per month, including occasionally eating out. Setting a firm budget is a game changer! It encourages me to buy only what we need and to comparison shop to find the best deals.
Use dried beans instead of canned. I don’t buy very many canned foods, but being vegetarian, beans are the staple of our diet. The good news is dried beans are budget-friendly!
A pound of dried beans yields a lot of cooked beans and typically costs around $2 or less. Alternatively, canned beans cost about $1-2 per 16oz can, and I would need two cans per meal for my family.
I cook dried beans in large quantities in a crockpot, then freeze smaller portions in recycled glass jars.
Skip prepackaged foods and go for bulk. Pre-packaged food might be convenient, but it’s usually more expensive and not very good for the planet. At our co-op, we buy lots of snacks in bulk and dried staple foods like flour, pasta, rice, beans, lentils, and oats. We can even order 20 or 40-pound bags of foods we eat a lot of, like flour, pasta, lentils, and oats, which saves us money and reduces waste.
You can also create a batch cooking plan to save on time throughout the week. On Sundays, I bake all of our bread, breakfast cookies, and crackers for the week and freeze them.
Reduce food waste. Half of all trash in landfills is food! We tend to waste food by forgetting what is in our fridge or freezer. Before our budget changed, we often threw away food that had spoiled by the end of the week. If we ran out of something—well, we simply went to the store and bought more. Nowadays, I make meals from the food we have available at home. I always use fresh food first. At the end of the week, I use the vegetables that are getting soft or limp for stir-fries and soups.
Sign up for a CSA box. CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes are packed with local, seasonal, organic produce—and usually at an affordable price.
Look out for sales. When our local grocery store had a sale on organic bananas, we loaded up and froze a ton for smoothies, ice cream, and banana bread. Many markets offer discounted food products, so make sure you don’t miss out!
Eat in season. We eat local food as much as possible, and we eat for the season. For example, during the winter we eat mostly oranges and apples. We used to eat kiwi and strawberries and anything else we fancied even though they weren’t “winter foods.” Now, we think of them as treats when they appear at the farmers’ markets during the summer months.
It’s good to have a few recipes on hand that are filling, nutritional, and dirt cheap. Here are my five favorite meals for less than $2:
White Beans in Tomato Sauce
Forget canned white beans in tomato sauce and say hello to my healthier version. This super simple dish is oh so good. It’s one of my kid’s favorite dishes, so I like to have it on hand in the fridge. We enjoy it with rice, roasted vegetables or even just on toast.
· 3 cups white beans, cooked
· 5 large, ripe tomatoes, diced
· 1 yellow onion, minced
· 1 tsp fresh red jalapeno pepper, minced
· 1 tsp garlic powder
· 1 tbsp. tomato paste
· 2 garlic cloves, grated
· ½ cup vegetable broth
· 1 tsp agave nectar or sugar
· salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic with a bit of broth in a pot on medium heat. Add tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic powder, tomato paste, broth, agave, beans, salt, and pepper. Cook and cover with a lid for 10 minutes on low heat. Serve warm with pasta or roasted potatoes.
Broccoli Stem Soup
Soup is so comforting and easy to make on a dime. This soup uses the typically discarded stems of the broccoli plant. Broccoli stems have wonderful mild flavor and are delicious.
· 2 cup broccoli stems, diced
· 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
· 6 cups water or vegetable broth
· Salt and pepper to taste
Bring broccoli, water, salt, and pepper to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until lentils and broccoli are soft. Puree in a blender until creamy, and add more salt or pepper if needed.
Bean Tostadas — This is my kids’ absolute favorite meal. We occasionally change it up and eat the beans with rice as rice and beans.
Lentil Loaf — Filling comfort food thanks to budget-friendly lentils
Yellow Dal-Lentils — Packed with nutrients, easy to cook, and extremely budget friendly, this dahl can easily be made in a crockpot.