Cheap Recipes and Ideas to Save on Groceries

These are times when a lot more of us have to start thinking like penny pinchers. Fortunately, there is a lot of sage advice stored up to help us.

Ways to Save

    · Stock up on bargains

    Taking advantage of the deals that are already there will stretch your food budget, but it is also a good way to have extra food on hand if global pandemic breaks out, and it protects against inflation. Be sure to buy things you will actually eat. Check high and low on the shelves as cheaper products are more likely to be placed there. Don’t necessarily believe that an item is a good deal because the sign says it is on sale. Check the unit price of the product. You can do this with a calculator or an app. Also be familiar with the price for that item over time.

    · Don’t shop hungry

    Your head is often kinder to your wallet and your heath than your stomach is.

    · Have a meal plan

    Make sure you are buying everything you will need, and not necessarily the things you do not.

    · Coupons

    You can find coupons in newspaper adds, online at places like, or with apps.

    · Price match

    Some shopping centers have policies that if you can show them another store is selling the same product for a lower price, they will match that price. (US/CA)

    · Buy from Salvage or Scratch and Dent stores

    These are stores that take the food products that were discarded by the grocery stores and resell them for a fraction of the cost. The products should be safe as long as you follow a few rules. You can find a directory of salvage stores in the US here.

    · Buy in bulk

    Often you will find that the unit price is lower when you purchase larger quantities. You can buy in bulk at grocery stores like Costco or Sam’s Club and online at websites like

    · Buy in bulk with other families

    A group of people can agree to purchase bulk products together and split them among themselves through buying clubs like

    · Freeze

    Having a chest freezer adds lots of space to store food in an energy efficient way for a long time. This allows you to take more advantage of bulk purchases, and also prepare many meals in advance. Instead of cooking a meal for only that day, you can multiply the recipe and freeze the rest, saving you lots of time and effort. Here is a guide for beginners to freezing meals.

    · Grind your own grain

    Not only is it cheaper to grind grain yourself, it is also much healthier. Most of the vitamins and nutrients are lost in the processing of flour.

    · Grow your food and eat from your garden

    This can provide inexpensive and nutrient dense foods. Check out my articles on sprouting and hydroponics.

    · Use leftovers

    Be sure you aren’t wasting the food that you’ve paid for. Apps like BigOven help you create meal plans out of the ingredients that you have. You can save peels from vegetables like onion, potato, and carrot to make a vegetable broth. Meat drippings can become gravy. Save leftovers for meals like soups, casseroles, fried rice, and mini pies. Anything organic you can’t eat can probably be composted for your garden.


    · Buy cheaper meats at bargain prices

    Keep an eye out for deals. It doesn’t hurt to ask over the deli counter if there are any discounted meats. You can also buy first thing in the morning when meats should be set out to sell before they expire. Buy multiple turkeys before Thanksgiving and freeze them.

    · Hunt, fish, or raise animals

    Hunting and fishing were common skills in the past, and still feed many rural people today. I have heard stories of making the rounds to check leaning poles with snares to catch squirrels. Tilapia is a hardy and delicious fish that can be grown at home, as well as many other species of fish. Fish can also be added to an aquaponics system to fertilize a garden. Rabbits reproduce quickly and provide lean meat. Chickens are a popular choice for meat grown at home. Meat can be canned, vacuum sealed, smoked, dried, and frozen.

    · Add fillings

    Add beans, rice, or eggs to taco meat, and oatmeal to hamburger meat. Mix in cheaper meats as well.

    · Use meat juices to make gravy

    You can add the gravy to your meat servings, which is more filling and stretches the servings.

    · Make stock for soup by boiling bones

Cheap Meal Ideas


    · Fill up on grains, noodles, rice, and potatoes

    · Pasta with olive oil and garlic

    · Goulash: elbow macaroni, seasoned hamburger, onion, tomatoes

    · Add Ramen noodles to soups

    · Soups

    · Split pea soup

    · Lentil soup

    · Egg drop soup

    · Beans and rice

    · Red beans and rice: bag of beans, bag of rice, tomatoes, onions, sausage

    · Navy beans with ham, onions, celery, carrots

    · Black bean sandwich

    · Turcky BLT

    · Fried potatoes and onions

    · Porridge

    · Potatoes with onions, garlic, turkey bacon, cheese

    · Baked potato with chili

    · Cream of wheat

    · Cornmeal with sugar and milk

    · Fried rice: leftover rice cooked in bacon drippings and leftover veggies

    · Mini pies: corn flour mixed with water or broth, pushed into muffin tins, filled with whatever leftovers and cheese

    · Lentil patties: lentils mashed up with seasoning and onion, shape and fry or bake

    · Fish patties: salmon or tuna, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, mustard, onion, egg. Shape and fry up

    · Meatballs: 1-part ground meat, 1-part bread (stale, crackers, cereals…), 1-part ground vegetables, egg. Shape and boil, then freeze for later or fry. Use the broth for soups.

    · Fried egg sandwich

    · 110 more frugal and healthy meal ideas that cost less than $1:

    · 15 Easy, Cheap Meals you can make for Pennies

Some of My Favorites

If the embedded page does not show up, you can follow this link to view. You can click on the cards to see more. Enjoy!

Recipes from the Great Depression and Pioneers

These people went through some hard times, so these 57 recipes offer insight into how they were able to do it. I compiled the recipes on a searchable and sortable database called airtable. Click on this link if the embedded page does not show.

If you like the software I used and want to try it out yourself, you can sign up for a free account here.
If you would like to download a copy of the database, click on the three dots and select “Download CVS.” You can upload it to your own airtable account and add your own recipes. You should also be able to use the file on excel or open office software.

Great Depression Cooking with Clara

Another wonderful source for vintage wisdom is Great Depression Cooking with Clara, which is a classic and charming youtube channel where Clara shows us how to cook what she ate when she lived through the Great Depression.

Despite being poor, people going through these times still had a lot of heart and enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. I hope you enjoyed these tips and recipes. If you have any more to add, please leave a comment!



Many great ideas for this article were inspired by the contributor comments found at:

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