Yes, we all know that things like fresh fruits and veggies, lean cuts of meat, and organic ANTHING is what we are “supposed” to be eating. But, here in the real world we know that these things are not always practical, available, or within budget. So the question becomes, how can you feed your family healthy, delicious food on a shoe-string budget? It can be done!
First things first. When your family has a limited about of money to spend on food, whether by choice or by circumstance you must get your mind set right. Spending less on groceries isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it is very possible!
Shopping cheap will sacrifice on convenience. That doesn’t mean that the meals you prepare will be hard, only that you are less likely to be buying things like bagged salads, frozen pizzas, or lunchables. There are a TON of recipes out there for making your own frozen meals (a series of posts on frozen meals will be up soon!) that can help you with convenience but you do need to consider the initial prep time.
What is cheap AND healthy? We all know that fresh vegetables are packed with the most vitamins and minerals but they often come with a hefty price tag. So, don’t discount the canned and frozen options! These are still healthy, hearty, and keep for a lot longer than the fresh varieties.
Be willing to prepare what you can from scratch! When you are looking for recipes to make for your family begin by deciding what you will have on your shelves and what you can make from scratch. Things like tortillas, bread, and pizza crusts are easy and cheap to make from scratch. You may even get inspired and want to branch out! Try homemade noodles, hotdog buns, or corn chips!
Spending less on food isn’t always easy, or fun. You can be easily frustrated when you have had a stressful day and more than anything want to order a pizza “like everyone else!” But, when you put your family first and chose to stick to the means that God has provided, you will have a sense of accomplishment. Jumping one difficult hurtle gives you momentum to continue on to another. I am the worlds worst at buying all of our groceries for the month and then eating dinner out because I am “too tired” from shopping. We are all a work in progress! When you fail, try again. Your budget and life will reflect your perseverance!
To help you get started, here are some of my favorite recipes that are cheap to make! Don’t forget, make what you can from scratch and don’t be afraid to change ingredients to match what you have on hand! Be creative and experiment! One not-so-great meal won’t kill your family! (Mine ate an interesting mush that was supposed to be soup not once but twice last week, because I WAY over cooked the rice in the recipe… they didn’t die, they didn’t even complain! I guess they are used to me making mistakes. hehe.)
Black Bean Quesadilla – These are so good, and can be filled with whatever you may have on hand! Just beans, corn, and a little cheese on a homemade tortilla would be great! Don’t have shredded cheese? Use sliced. It is all about being versatile.
Sausage Cheese and Grit Casserole – What is cheaper than grits and eggs?! Don’t have sausage? Use ground beef or turkey and season well. Or you can even use left over steak, ham, even chicken! Chop it up and add it to the recipe. Casseroles are very forgiving so don’t stress if you don’t have a full 2 lbs. of meat. Pair this hearty meal with some canned green beans (we like ours with garlic salt and chili powder) or use it as a breakfast with some applesauce on the side.
(not) Refried Beans – These are great to use as a side dish or in homemade bean burritos (using your homemade tortillas of coarse)!
Bean Chili – This recipe has very few ingredients which is a must when trying to save money! Don’t have ground beef? Leave it out and add more beans! We eat “bean-only” chili all the time. This recipe uses canned beans but if all you have is dry then by all means use what you have.
Corn Casserole – This is more of a side dish but it is pretty cheap and VERY tasty! If you don’t want to buy a dry corn bread mix you can make your own (recipe here) but the jiffy packages are super cheap!
Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup – This recipe may be a little more pricy depending on what you already have on hand. Feel free to make substitutions or leave out what you don’t have. We don’t use beer so any recipes that calls for it I substitute beef broth.
Beans and Rice Soft Tacos – There are several bean recipe on this site, this recipe is #5. Sometimes you will be surprised what you can make meatless! It’s not exactly the same as when you have meat but sometimes you just have to learn to love what you can afford.
Applesauce is pretty inexpensive and if you are on any sort of government assistants program for food, the odds are you have it coming out of your ears! If your kids are sick of just plain applesauce try changing it up a bit. Here are two recipes for homemade fruit roll ups! (Recipe 1 – Recipe 2 is made with baby food!)
How about canned or frozen fruit?
A Very Intense Fruit Smoothie – If you only have canned fruit, substitute a canned variety for the frozen and add ice, OR open a can of fruit and freeze it the day before you want to prepare the smoothie.
Pancakes and fruit are a forever favorite! Here is my family’s Vanilla Cinnamon pancake recipe!
We all have those times when we want a sweet or need to take something to a party or potluck. Sweets can be made very cheaply!
Million Dollar Pie – This recipe has few ingredients. You may already have canned pineapple on hand!
Fruit Cobbler – This particular recipe calls for fresh blackberries but I use canned fruits in my cobblers and they turn out great.
Most of these recipes haven’t been “low-cal” per say but when making due with what you have AND trying to lose weight, sometimes you just have to choose to eat less. On the bright side, that will stretch your food farther. LOL
When we were first married we had no choice but to live on $10 a week for groceries, even that was a stretch! When you don’t have more than that, you need to realize that some meals may end up being ramen or mac and cheese and that is OK! Do your best with what God has given you, and don’t feel guilty when you aren’t able to keep up with the Jones’.