10 Foods to Stretch Your Food Budget

10 Foods to Stretch Your Food Budget

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Are you currently in a pinch and need to find ways to save yourself and your family a little extra money each month? A handful of your monthly expenses are already locked in at a specific rate, so that’s not an option. Something’s got to give!  Check out these 10 foods to stretch your food budget. In case you missed this post, How To Make Homemade Crackers

Foods That Stretch Your Food Budget 

Your food budget is one area that you can slash, and surprisingly, you don’t have to worry about sacrificing your taste buds or appetite to do it. Your kids also don’t have to see your kitchen pantry dwindle to nothing. 

Whew! Especially if you know what foods you can do it with, you’ll have many menu options that require some strategizing. These are 10 foods that will stretch your food budget and make life a little easier for you and your family. 

10 Foods to Stretch Your Food Budget

Kitchen Equipment Items

1. Rice

I’m sure you knew that rice would end up on this list, so I’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way. To start with, rice is cheap. Super cheap! It can be purchased in bulk to save even more money while stretching out meals for your family for a long time. Besides, rice is versatile because it can be used with almost anything. 

Rice goes great with any meat or thrown in a hearty casserole and is an essential ingredient for a delicious sizzling stir fry. Properly sealed rice can even be stored in your pantry for several years without ever going bad. 

2. Beans

Ah, beans, the magical fruit. You have to have them. Beans are another filling item that’s packed full of protein and fiber. Like rice, you can find beans in bulk packaging, where you’ll spend only a few pennies per pound while stretching many meals. They are necessary for chili and can help create delicious soups and go fantastic with Mexican food.   

Read More of My Articles  How To Do Home Maintenance In Your Spare Time

3. Lentils

Lentils, like beans, also come from the legume family. They are easy to cook and can be used as a filling item for every meal you can come up with. Lentils are also packed with nutritional value, while at the same time, can save your family a bunch of money.  

4. Pasta

Pasta is another filling food that you need to think about. It comes in so many different shapes and sizes and can be used in countless dishes. It’s a filling food that will cost you a ridiculously little money. With the right seasonings and sauces poured on top, it will be like your family is eating a meal coming straight from Olive Garden. You’ll feel like a professional cook from choices like spaghetti, lasagna, homemade ravioli, chicken parmesan, Penne Ala Vodka, and so many other Italian cuisines.  

5. Oatmeal

Buying the plain version of oatmeal is one great way of finding a cheaper breakfast in the morning. All you need to mix with it is water or milk, and then add a bit of fruit or sugar to enhance the flavor. Oatmeal is only expensive when buying in smaller prepackaged boxes where the manufacturer has already done all the work by adding the sweetening ingredients.  

6. Rotisserie Chicken

Around dinner time, many local grocery stores like to grab your attention with the smell of rotisserie chicken in their deli or when you walk in their front doors. Rotisserie chicken is a fantastic deal, and you’re sure to have leftovers that you can repurpose into a chicken salad, chicken noodle soup, or use for chicken quesadillas the next day. 

7. Eggs

Even when eggs drastically fluctuate in pricing, they are still one of the cheapest ways to stretch your money further. They are packed with protein and can be used to make omelets and quiches or added alongside your favorite breakfast meats. You’ll need them for baking or to enjoy them as originally intended. You decide on whether you’d prefer them scrambled or sunny-side up.   

Read More of My Articles  Emergency Food Storage-This Is What You Need

8. Freeze “Meaty” Deals

Meat is one of the most expensive items that you will find at the grocery store. It indeed becomes harder to buy when you are on a tight budget. But this becomes tricky if your family is a lot like mine and needs a meat item on their plate at least one meal a day. You can wait for meat to go on sale, buy it in bulk, and then freeze whatever you don’t plan on using right away. It’s wise to do this when buying whole chickens, hams, and roasts.

Costco sells rotisserie chickens at cost or below to get us in the store. That’s okay with me because I LOVE them and the price, they are bigger and cheaper than any other one in my town. In case you missed this post, 5 Meals From One Rotisserie Chicken 

9. & 10. Inexpensive Fruits and Vegetables

Not every cheap food item has to come from the center aisles of your local grocery store. It would be best to consider buying nutritional “superfoods” to keep your family healthy and strong. One of the best ways of doing that is by purchasing the right (cheap) fruits and vegetables. 

A bunch of bananas is a super-cheap fruit that is a powerhouse and a great snack. Vegetables, carrots, potatoes, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and collards are all cheap produce that can add to your nutrition.     

Frozen fruits and vegetables are also nutritionally comparable to fresh produce, yet they also bring you the comfort that they last much longer. Just be sure not to pick up a package with added sugar and sauces that detract from the nutrition.   

Final Word

When quality, freshness, and nutritional value are still crucial for your family, these 10 foods are where it’s at. Not only will your meals taste good, but you’ll be able to stretch your dollars without having to make the tragic mistake of your family eating things like ramen noodles every other evening.

What other food items have you come across that have not only helped you stretch your money but also tasted good? What are some foods that you use to stretch your budget? Please keep stocking up the food you and your family will eat, we must. God Bless this World, Linda.

Copyright Images: Polka Dot Apron Deposit photos_256800224_s-2019, Women Prepping Food Depositphotos_81161942_S By Undrey

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43 Comments

  1. Linda,

    If you live in an area where cattle or pigs are raised see if you can buy direct from a local rancher. Our rancher includes custom butchering in the price and since we can almost always get ground chuck cheap at a local store we have him go heavy on steaks and roasts. We go in with another family on a whole steer (grass fed) every year. Our half-beef usually ends up costing us somewhere between $5 and $6 per pound, which is very cheap for the cuts we get. We have two large freezers. One for meat and the other for veggies and bread.

  2. Not sure if every Costco does this, but ours strips the meat (white meat only, I think) from their unsold rotisserie chickens, then they repackage it for sale . I buy it, then break it up into two cup packages for freezing. It’s either six or eight cups – don’t quite remember right now!

    Great time saver!

    1. Hi Kathie, oh yeah, I should have mentioned that! I buy two or three of those and Mark and I split them up into one-cup servings. It’s so awesome that they sell those bags. Thanks for the reminder! Linda

    2. Where I live, we have 3 grocery stores (that I know of) that do this also. I asked one time at one of the stores if they could make smaller packages of 1 breast and they did for me that day and since then, they have 2 sizes to choose from. As I am single, live in an apartment with just the freezer on the top of my fridge, it saves me money/time as well as freezer space!

        1. Linda ~ I have asked for a number of things from my local grocery stores: produce – cut a head of cabbage so I don’t have to purchase a really huge one that will likely go to waste, trim the leaves and non-edible parts from carrots, radishes, cauliflower, etc. No problems! The butcher – cut a roast down to a manageable size for me, trim the fat off something, smaller packages of other things; the bakery – make small pies for 1-3 servings – now my fave store cuts and sells 1/2 pies and pie by the slice!!! Salad bar fixings for smaller quantities of prepped veggies for things like stir fries, omelets, casseroles, toppings for other things. I remarked one time to a deli worker that I wished I could buy just a really small quantity of bleu cheese – he is the one who told me to get it from the salad bar in the small containers, he weighed it and put the price on it. So very helpful.

          Also for readers to keep in mind (and I have probably already commented on this before) is that if a vegetable is sold by the pound (asparagus comes to mind), you DO NOT have to purchase the whole bundle!! You can take out what you want and put in a veggie bag. No waste.

          So, stretching your food to fit your food budget isn’t just about how to stretch with rice, beans, eggs, etc., but is also about not having food waste, or not as much food waste.

  3. My mom grew up during the depression ( I might have said this before) but she said that Grandma use to thicken everything to stretch out food she grew up on a farm and had a big garden but they stretched out everything..

    1. Hi June, I personally think our food chain is in danger, so I want to share as many tips that I can on saving money. My family loves white sauce, thank goodness because it can stretch any recipe and make so many different meals. Linda

  4. Thank you so much for this information!! I am glad you put eggs on this list. I just found out that I can substitute scrambled eggs for alot of hamburger recipes (like Hamburger Helper)! I am always on the lookout for ways to save money and this answers my prayer!!! God bless you!

    1. I started replacing my ramen last year–I had shelves full for years and since I cook, they became old.
      I started buying a 12 count pkg every week or two and mark the best by date on the box.
      Well, I stopped since the fake mess keeps us away from stores–so, I just ordered 8 boxes of 24 from walmart, free delivery @ 20 cents a package.
      I have a note in my october calendar to buy more the 15th.

  5. I have another idea people might not know about, my mom use to can her own Apple pie filling. I grew up with 3 or 4 apple trees so we had apples. If you have extra apples you want to do something different with, you can make your own pie filling and can it. I’m doing it this year too.

    1. My mom did this as well! She also took the apple (and pear when that was in season) peels and cores and cooked them down, put all through a food mill and had enough to make a few jars of apple (or pear) butter for the shelf! So what she did: peel and core the apples (or pears), slice and can for apple pie filling (I don’t recall exactly how she did the pie filling – I just can apples in water then when I want pie, I dump a whole jar into a pan, heat, adding sugar and spices to taste, then thicken with cornstarch/water mix) then placed all the peels and cores in a large stock pot with enough water to keep from burning. Put that on a very low heat and cooked for several hours, adding more water as needed. When it was cooked to her satisfaction, she put all of it through her food mill, added sugar and spices for apple (or pear) butter and cooked it down further; placed in jars and water bath canned. OH so good.

      1. I also cooked pears and apple and made applesauce/pear sauce one year and canned it. Also mix together and made a apple,pear pie. You really can’t tell the difference. Yep, with us all working
        together we can help each other out and stretch what little we have.

  6. My parents also grew up during the Great Depression. We raised our own veggies (huge garden) and meat (beef, pork, lamb/mutton, rabbits and chickens) so we were never without plenty of food. But, that being said, Mom could stretch a little meat to feed a crowd by serving it in gravy on toast, biscuits, mashed potatoes or rice. We didn’t eat much rice though as it just wasn’t a staple that was common in my area. I remember hamburger gravy, tuna gravy, creamed peas/potatoes (still my fave), creamed asparagus. You could say I grew up on gravy and love it to this day (unfortunately for my weight!)!!

    I love to make stir fry because you can add in so many different veggies, meat if you have it and want to, serve over rice; take left over rice and make fried rice with veggies, egg, rice. All sorts of ways to stretch it out for very little money.

    1. Left over rice don’t forget rice pudding. Oh you had to mention mutton. I love it but it is so hard
      to find. Some of the little German towns around here have mutton suppers. I get to go sometimes. It
      is so good. City folks have no idea what they miss ( which can be good, cause it will get to be popular
      and cost to us will go up). You sound like me with the gravy, I always say if you took my blood it would come out as pure gravy. Love a good gravy but my weight says other wise.

      1. June –
        I remember mom making rice pudding – I never cared for it!! But what she also did with leftover rice was just serve it cold with milk and cinnamon and sugar. Again, I didn’t care for that but most likely because I am lactose intolerant and cannot drink milk. I can use dairy products occasionally.

        Mutton! I remember my Dad ordering lamb chops one time in a restaurant and being served mutton! He refused the meal though as he wanted lamb chops and actually knew the difference!

        I do love gravy! It is so hard though being single and very little freezer space! Gravy is just one of those things that is very difficult to cut down to 1-2 servings!!

        1. Not sure what part of the country your in but I assume most stores carry the same items. I am also by myself now but if I don’t want to make homemade gravy I use Best Choice gravy mix. It makes 1 cup and thats better than having so much left. Its not as good as homemade but to me actually not bad.

          1. I am in the Pacific Northwest (Western Washington). I also use a gravy mix – Southeastern Mills. Love their country gravy and pepper gravy mixes. What I have found is that a really good kitchen scale is impossible to live without!! OH and my little Pampered Chef measuring cup – measures in liquid and dry – down to ounces, tablespoons and teaspoons as well as millilitres. I can break down the gravy mix to 1/2 which then takes 7 ounces of water! With the scale to break down the mix and the little measuring cup to measure out 7 ounces – I am set. I just try not to eat too much gravy!! I don’t want to “waist” it!! LOL!

  7. I really like having jerky on hand and since discovering ground beef jerky I buy up cheaper discount “cook it quick” steaks when they’re on sale and freeze them until I have enough to grind up and make a big batch. I don’t use nitrates so freeze it in small vacuum packed batches and keep one package at a time in the fridge. It will keep for quite a while without refrigeration but I figure best to be safe. I’ve used jerky to add flavour to soups and sauces but mostly just like the occasional nibble. I also make fruit leather, especially if there’s a discounted bag of apples or whatever in the “use it quick” bin at the grocery store. I’ve gotten cauliflowers for 99 cents out of the cheap bins that had almost nothing to trim off. Well worth a look. Also buy marked down almost stale bread to pop in the freezer for when I’m too lazy to bake. May not be best for a nice egg salad sandwich but definitely good for grilled cheese or anything toasted.

    1. I make jerky 2 ways – flavored and non-flavored. The flavored is like you might purchase at the store but the non-flavored is just dried beef and can be easily used in casseroles, soups and stews.

  8. Hey Linda-Greetings from the Philippines! One thing I have been doing here is to use my instant pot to cook up some large batches of beans (single type or mixture of two or three varieties,) rice, or lentils. I will freeze them in individual serving sizes. Later if I need rice for a stir fry, or beans for chili, or lentils for soup, I have what I need without having to take so much time to get it ready. Sometimes when we are out all day working with the missionaries and we get home too late to make dinner, these ready to eat staples are just the ticket. In addition to being great “fast food” when pre-prepared, they can be added to any meal to stretch it out. Love these foods for flavor and variety!

    1. Hi Deb, oh it’s so good to hear from you!!! I love this idea, I just purchased some silicone deals with four sections of one cup serving. It’s funny you shared this, this one of the reasons I bought them. I also like making large batches and freezing some for another day. It’s so fun to learn how people cook from scratch and saving some for another day. It’s a win-win! Stay safe, Linda

      1. I put those food molds after they are frozen in seal a meal bags. Just boil them for 15-20 minutes in the bag and it keeps the integrity of the food intact. Better than microwaving. It’s great for 1-2 people. Also comes in handy for unexpected guests who happen to drop by.

  9. Hi Linda,
    Can someone please tell me how to make hamburger jerky? Apart from very small packets of (very expensive!) jerky at the supermarket the only kind I’ve seen is the South African version, called Biltong. It’s also quite expensive to buy, and I’d love to try making my own at home. This is such a great site, and always full of interesting ideas. Thanks.

      1. Thanks so much for this Linda. Looks like I’ll be spending this wet and windy weekend in the kitchen making jerky – and your cookie sheet pies! I love trying new (to me) recipes. Thanks again.

  10. Yikes! I am 150 miles from the nearest Costco for a “frugal” rotisserie chicken at a “frugal” cost! So, yesterday, I purchased a chicken from my local Safeway – $8.99! I saw 4 rotisserie chickens on the rack, and one looked like an overgrown Cornish game hen!! Then I spotted one that was a bit larger. So, I compared the weights. The one I chose was over a pound heavier than the “overgrown game hen aka chicken”!! As a single person, I will get several meals from this one bird but still, the cost is a concern.

    With the price of groceries, rice, beans and pasta meals are the ticket! I don’t know how families do it! For example, my daughter’s family, with a teen son and 4 other kids along with mom and dad, spend well over $1,000 a month on groceries. They have chickens for eggs, and they processed 35 meat birds but still, the cost of the birds and feed doesn’t offset what they get in product. My daughter is a pretty frugal cook and one bird made into chicken and rice, fried rice, etc., still costs a lot of money.

    I recently saw a YouTube video of a guy who took a Kroger order that he had done on-line in 2020 for just over $200 and purchased the same exact order which came to over $450 (I think it was $457). Double the prices in 4 years. I know my daughter said that even traveling the 150 miles to the nearest Costco, the prices are so much higher, and they need to figure in the cost of gas to get there and back. She is thinking they need to up their food budget by about $400-$500 a month AND she grows a garden as well as the eggs and meat birds they have.

    This is exactly WHY I prepare! It is not only insurance in the case of supply chain issues but also insurance against the rising cost of food in general!

    1. HI Leanne, oh my gosh, yeah I would NOT drive 150 miles for a rotisserie chicken from Costco! No way! When I lived in Southern Utah I complained about the 10-12 miles to get to Costco! I totally agree I do not know how people are feeding their families. Something has to give the prices keeping going up. I posted some rice recipes a couple days ago and the email failed to go out. We will be eating a lot of rice or pasta recipes. It’s life right now. We moved into our small home and some of my #10 cans of meat (so expensive NOW) but no one got hurt moving the food storage. We will be living off of it for sure. Everything is so expensive, I love the YouTube comparison of food 4 years later. I think I saw something similar. Hang on for the ride at least we know how to cook. Linda

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