Monday, January 7, 2013

Frugality Tip #7: Eat Cheap {$0.75 Meals & $0.25 Snacks}

FIRST of all... when I say "eat cheap," I do not mean "eat ramen, mac 'n cheese, hamburger helper, and hotdogs."

Eating cheap doesn't have to mean sacrificing good nutrition.

When my husband and I married, we were both full-time college students and he was preparing to enter medical school. Tuition was expensive. Books were expensive. Rent was expensive. Gas was expensive. Insurances. Utilities. FOOD. It all added up quickly, but we were determined not to incur any debt until medical school began, at which point debt would be inevitable.

Luckily, we had a small combined income to meet our needs: He had a part-time job working on campus in the Career and Academic Advising Center as a peer advisor. I worked as an advisor as well, and held another part-time job working as a personal trainer at the campus fitness center. We also took on the job of managing some campus-approved student housing.

To stretch our pennies as far as possible, we washed all our clothes in cold water. We washed all our dishes by hand. We bought our books used. We walked, or car-pooled. We kept the apartment cool in the winter, and sweated it out in the summer. We instituted $5 (or less) date night, because date night was, and is, a MUST. He cut his own hair. My mom cut mine when we visited my parents. So, we had income sufficient for our needs... but no wiggle room in our budget once the basic necessities were taken care of.

...That may sound like an awful way to live to some, but we were very happy, and I can't adequately convey to you how wonderful it felt to be fully self-reliant and independent. We worked hard. We went without the "extras," and it was a great time in our lives!

So, one day after getting home from classes and work, I sat down on our (somewhat hideous) hand-me-down couch with a pen and a spiral-bound notebook half-filled with notes from my Sports Conditioning class, and brainstormed some meal and snack ideas that were as inexpensive as possible without compromising on nutrition, in an attempt to get our down-to-the-very-last-penny-selves a little financial wiggle room. It was a good (short) list, and it has grown as I've developed my cooking skills and have more time to prepare food.

I haven't included an exact cost breakdown or exact serving sizes for the list below, but be assured that I researched the costs. Everything on the list below, consumed in a modest serving size, is right at or below the price points given.

Complete Meals for $0.75 {or less}

BREAKFAST - (always served with milk - $0.24 per 8 oz.)
  1. Breakfast burrito ~ Simple Flour Tortilla filled with a scrambled egg cooked with diced bell pepper, and sausage
  2. Scrambled egg, toast (homemade bread) with Strawberry Freezer Jam, 1/2 cup fruit
  3. Apple-cinnamon oatmeal ~ diced apples and cinnamon cooked in the oatmeal
  4. Peanut butter maple oatmeal ~ peanut butter and homemade syrup cooked in the oatmeal
  5. Cream of wheat topped with a few blueberries, 1/2 cup fruit
  6. Homemade bran muffin, 1/2 cup fruit
  7. Ham and veggie omelet, toast ~ egg, ham, tomato, pepper, onion in omelet
  8. Maple pecan oatmeal, 1/2 cup fruit ~ Maple & Honey Syrup and chopped pecans cooked in the oatmeal 
  9. German pancakes with homemade syrup or jam, 1/2 cup fruit
  10. Homemade pancakes with homemade syrup or jam, scrambled egg
  11. Homemade waffle with homemade syrup or jam, scrambled egg, 
  12. Generic cheerios (or other whole grain) cereal with 1/2 sliced banana and milk
  13. Crockpot Yogurt parfait with fruit and homemade granola
  14. Homemade bagel with 1 Tbsp reduced-fat cream cheese
  15. Homemade hashbrowns, scrambled egg, 1/2 cup fruit
  16. Slice of french toast (homemade french bread) with homemade syrup and 1/2 cup fruit

  1. Tuna fish sandwich on Best Wheat Bread, small green salad and light dressing
  2. PB & J on Grandma's Country White Bread, 8 oz. milk, carrot and celery sticks
  3. Lunch meat sandwich, 1/2 apple ~ light mustard, cheese slice, lettuce, tomato slice on homemade bread
  4. Veggie quesadilla ~ on homemade tortilla, sauteed onion, tomato, bell pepper, and cheese
  5. PB-banana sandwich, 8 oz. milk~ 2 Tbsp. PB on homemade bread with 1/2 banana sliced inside
  6. Cheese quesadilla on a homemade tortilla, small green salad and light dressing
  7. Grilled cheese on homemade bread, 1/2 cup fruit
  8. Egg salad sandwich on homemade bread, small green salad and light dressing
  9. Crockpot "Refried" Bean burrito on a homemade tortilla, small green salad with light dressing, 1/2 cup fruit
  10. Homemade minestrone soup, homemade bread stick, small green salad with light dressing

  1. Loaded baked potato, small green salad with light dressing
  2. Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup, homemade roll, 1/2 cup fruit or small salad
  3. Amazing Fried Rice, clementine orange
  4. Best Crockpot Chili, homemade roll
  5. Homemade potato broccoli soup, small salad with light dressing, Grandma Benson's Dinner Roll
  6. Homemade spicy chicken and rice skillet, roll, small salad with light dressing
  7. Homemade lentil soup, homemade bread stick, small salad with light dressing
  8. Tuna noodle casserole, 1/2 cup fruit ~ homemade Egg Noodles
  9. Pasta, a red meat sauce, small green salad, homemade bread stick
  10. Chicken and veggie stir-fry, rice
  11. Vegetable beef soup, homemade bread stick, small salad with light dressing
  12. Homemade Fish Sticks, Healthy Oven Steak Fries, 1/2 cup fruit
  13. Homemade ham and veggie pizza, bread stick, small green salad with light dressing
  14. Bean tostada (homemade fried corn tortilla) topped w/lettuce, tomato, and cheese, 1/2 cup fruit
Snacks for $0.25 {or less}
  1. Cheese stick
  2. Craisins (1/4 cup)
  3. Raisins (1/4 cup)
  4. Carrot and celery sticks
  5. Whole wheat crackers, 1 Tbsp PB
  6. 1/2 apple
  7. Banana
  8. Hard-boiled egg
  9. 1/2 orange
  10. 1 large graham cracker, 1/2 cup milk
  11. No-bake "Food Storage" Granola Bars
  12. Olive Oil Microwave Popcorn
  13. PB toast ~ homemade bread and 1 Tbsp PB
  14. 1/2 cup crockpot yogurt
Some notes about this list:
1.) These are not giant servings. A teenage boy would laugh his head off at this list while consuming an entire loaf of bread slathered in peanut butter... on the other hand, a 2-year old is going to think it's a feast.

2.) I make nearly everything on this list from scratch: bread, tortillas, rolls, bread sticks, pizza crust, sauces, muffins, syrup, jam... you get the idea. It's more nutritious and it's cheaper. I go through a lot of wheat that I grind into flour at home.

3.) If you were to ONLY eat what I have on this list, you may not meet your recommended intake of fruits and veggies. These ideas are meant to help lower the cost of your healthy meals and snacks, and not necessarily to be the only things you eat... though you could pull it off for a short period of time. In my family, we all take a multivitamin ($0.03 - $0.04 each... since you were wondering) and eat other things along with the ideas mentioned on this list.

4.) Some of these ideas contain only my very best guess on prices based: i.e. Bananas are $0.52/lb where I live, with about 3 medium-sized banana's per pound, making 1 banana approximately $0.17. If you live in Los Angeles or New York City, or any number of other places, you might expect to pay more.

5.) The small green salads are SMALL and use inexpensive greens (mostly romaine and little to no iceberg lettuce).

6.) The 1/2 cup serving of fruit is for fruit that is in season (therefore priced at it's lowest) and costs about $0.25 or less (but does not include things like raspberries or blackberries. Those little babies are pricey even when they are in season). Like I said... this list is meant to supplement your meal plans to save you money, and not limit you entirely from the wonderful world of more expensive produce like asparagus, green peas, cherries, and apricots.

7.) A no-brainer, but if you have a garden, raise your own livestock for food purposes (milk, eggs, meat, etc.), or grind bulk wheat into flour, the ideas on this list become cheaper, AND a whole new realm of possibilities opens up for meals and snacks that meet the parameters of the list above. 


Wouldn't it be great to collaborate on more healthy in-expensive meal and snack ideas? I know there are more options than the ones listed above, and I'd love to hear some of your ideas!


  1. One way I know my family and I could really stretch our budget is to eat leftovers. For me it gets boring to eat the same thing all week long, so I try to freeze portions of leftovers as soon as the meal is over and enjoy them a week or so down the road. Also, about once every couple of months I'll try to make a week's worth of meals only from what's left in the fridge and pantry. Creativity at it's finest!

  2. My husband has recently declared that we are now to eat plant based foods. Our grocery bill for this week alone went up about $50 and the week's not over. All of my frugal food ideas are currently out the window.

    I'm feeling a bit panicked abut it, but I'm trying to trust God and my husband in the meantime.

    1. I know you wrote this a while ago... How's the new eating style going? I know how hard it can be to live on a budget and still eat healthy. I just wanted you to know that you're not alone, and I'm thinking of you and cheering you on!

    2. See if you can find a bountiful baskets or other co-op site nearby. Between that and Azure Standard, my family has figured out ways to eat frugal and healthy. Hope that helps!

    3. I think that eating a plant-based diet actually made things cheaper. I buy bulk foods a lot and whenever possible and make everything homemade. Keep looking at frugal meal sites and gather ideas. I think it's so much healthier and in the long run (and once you learn all the ins and outs) it's a lot cheaper to make plant-based homemade. Grow some veggies if you can in your own yard or on your patio. We do and it really helps too! Even now you can plant collards and swiss chard and kale and have an abundant fall crop. Actually collards and swiss chard keep us with greens practically all winter! They are just wonderful! (We're in NJ).

    4. You can try going freegan and going through farmers markets trash. There is a surprising amount of perfect food that is thrown out because they are getting new shipments and need to make room. I try to go at least once a week.

  3. I love this list! I really don't have anything to add to your list but I am so grateful for yours! Love love love how you break down the prices.

  4. I found your site through Pinterest the other day and absolutely love it! I made your Grandma's Country Bread and my family loves it! :) So I was reading through this post and you mentioned homemade bagels in the breakfast section. Do you have a recipe you use? (I looked through your recipe index and didn't see one.) If you don't mind sharing, I'd love to give it a go! :)

    1. Hi Tanya,
      I'm glad you found my site and that you and your family enjoyed the bread. :) I do have a homemade bagel recipe that I will put up at some point. This website is definitely a once-or-twice a week hobby than a full-time gig for me. I love sharing frugal recipes and money-saving ideas, but I also have three little girls and a hubby that I adore. Most of my time is devoted to them and other "life" stuff. BUT I promise I'll get my bagel recipe put up soon-ish. :)

    2. Tanya,
      In the mean time, try searching for King Arthur Flour Bagel recipe. That's the one I use and we love them.

      I look forward to trying yours when you post it!

  5. How do you grind your own flour? Where do you get the wheat for it?

    1. I grind my own flour with a wheat grinder. Mine is a very old Blendtec Kitchen Mill (You can find it on Amazon). It's easy to use and take a matter of minutes to grind plenty of flour.

      I get my wheat from the LDS Bishop's Storehouse. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). It is the cheapest place to find wheat anywhere. Even if you don't go to the Mormon church, if you know someone who is, or even if you contact a storehouse near you, you would be able to get your hands on some.

      If you don't live near an LDS Bishop's Storehouse, or aren't comfortable with getting wheat there, you can find wheat online or at Sam's Club for a slightly higher price.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions.

  6. Amish/Mennonite stores often have wheat, too.

    I LOVE my WonderMill. :)

    1. Rachel, do you mind sharing with us what you love about your WonderMill? My (very old, very used, very loved) mill is going to go caput in the near future, and I'm trying to figure out what to get next. :)

  7. Thank you for your wonderful list!! I am always looking for more ways to make simple frugal meals. It's fun to see the different ideas and tastes we all come up with.

    1. You're welcome, Janet! I hope it's helpful. :)

  8. I just wanted to say I love your site, you have some great tips and recipes. I try to eat more meatless meals to save money. My husband refuses to eat meatless meals, but we do alot of them at lunch time. Egg salad sandwiches, pb and j, lentil rice casserole, tuna sandwiches, black bean burgers, are some cheap easy meals that we have at lunchtime. I will also make sloppy joes in the crockpot using lentils,and cook some with ground beef for my husband/kids. Then we eat the leftover lentil sloppy joes at lunch. For sides, some cheap ones that we do are carrot raisin salad, coleslaw, baked beans(made from cooked dried beans), and baked potatoes. I am going to make your crockpot refried beans, I saw it posted on Money saving mom, and they look so good and easy!!

  9. I just found your website and this is an EXCELLENT post! I'm definitely going to be reading more...thanks!

  10. Ohhhh, thank you for this great list! I am single and my brain does not like cooking big meals. The list will give me variety and no second guessing about what to make. One super cheap meal I've made is lentil tacos.

  11. This is not accurate - you can't purchase snacks or items by a single serving. Saying that snacks are only 25 cents is completely misleading considering that's not the way you purchase them.

    How much do you pay for all of this TOTAL? THEN you can say how much it costs PER CENT.


    1. There's no need to be nasty. If you don't like her style of blogging, try finding another blog! Pinterest if FULL of other options.

  12. Well I would have to agree, that I like the suggestions, but I find the pricing way off. Granted i don't ground my own flour, I typically buy Gold Medal All Purpose, but that ingredient alone would cost $0.65 for the loaf of bread.

    1. That's correct and then how many servings do you get from a loaf of bread. My 9" pan is 10-12 servings.

    2. Thanks for both your comments, and I'm sorry to be so slow to reply! Anonymous, you are right about the pricing using store-bought flour. In fact, it comes out to $0.69 for me if I use flour from the store... when I posted my two bread recipes and priced them, I did it with store-bought flour, because I understand that not many people grind their own wheat. You can check out the pricing on my recipes if you go to the recipe index. Lori, I suppose it depends on what you consider a serving. My 9" pan yields 18-20 slices... my kidlets like thinner slices for sandwiches... it it's being slathered in honey butter or jam, that's a different story. :) Hope this clarifies things a bit for you both!
      ~ Andrea

  13. We always only shop sale, and plan from there. Or, I live near my mother who has a hard time not buying anything that's on sale, but never eats it before it expires- I trade coupons i find with her for food...and I usually go with her to Sams Club(she has a Sams membership, but I can get into the commisary- we switch). We buy in bulk, then split it up at home. and most people in my family hunt, so there's always enough meat- with the way i add little amounts, it lasts awhile everytime they offer up some free stuff.
    Anyways, if you can make whatever you buy stretch- it works THE very best. For instance: we bought Hunt's spaghetti sauce when it was on sale for 2/$1. Made a pizza with homemade dough, lots of veggies from bountiful baskets, and a small, on-sale pack of pepperoni. With the leftovers, I made mini pizza bites, and used the sauce and veggies for spaghetti a few nights later.

  14. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Have you ever read something someone else wrote even though you have never met before and felt as though they were talking directly to you, like they know you (ok that sounds a little bit creepy, though not meant that way, sorry)? That is how I felt when I read this.

    1. Not creepy at all. :) I'm glad you felt like it was relatable to your life.

  16. LOL on the teenager eating bread and peanut butter :) We have one of those at home. I usually make a big bowl of oatmeal and serve it with lots of toast and fruit, because that boy can eat :) I call those foods "Belly fillers" because they are great for huge appetites :)

  17. The way you've broken down the meals is VERY helpful!!!

  18. I would LOVE to know your tortilla recipe!

    1. Sure thing! Here it is:


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