10 Foods to Stretch Your Food Budget

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Are you currently in a pinch and in need of finding ways to save you and your family a little extra money each month? A handful of your monthly expenses are already locked in at a certain 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 down to nothing. 

Whew! Especially if you know what foods you can do it with, you’ll have a host of menu options that just need a little strategizing on your part. 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 off, rice is cheap to buy. Super cheap! It can be bought in bulk so you can save even more money while stretching out meals for your family for a long time. But besides that, rice is versatile in the fact that it can go with almost anything. 

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

2. Beans

Ah, beans, the magical fruit. You gotta have em’. Beans are another filling item that’s packed full of protein and fiber. Just like rice, you can find beans in bulk packaging, where you’ll spend only a few pennies per pound while stretching many meals. Not only are they necessary for chili, but can help create delicious soups, and go amazing with Mexican food.   

3. Lentils

Lentils, like beans, also come from the legume family. They are easy to cook, and also can be used as a filling item for every meal that 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 a countless number of different dishes. It’s certainly a filling food that will cost you a ridiculously little amount of money. With the right seasonings and sauces poured on top, it will be like your family is eating a meal that’s coming straight from Olive Garden. From choices like spaghetti, lasagna, homemade ravioli, chicken parmesan, Penne Ala Vodka, and so many other Italian cuisines, you’ll feel like a professional cook.  

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 it 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 as soon as 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 their pricing, they are still one of the cheapest ways to stretch your money further. They are packed full of protein and can be used to make omelets, quiches, or added alongside your favorite breakfast meats. You’ll need them for your baking purposes, or simply to enjoy as they were originally intended. You decide on whether you’d prefer them scrambled or sunny-side up.   

8. Freeze “Meaty” Deals

Meat is one of the most expensive items that you will find at the grocery store. It certainly becomes harder to buy when you are on a tight budget. But if your family is a lot like mine and needs a meat item on their plate at least one meal a day, this becomes tricky. What you can do is 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 smart to do this when you are buying whole chickens, hams, and roasts.

Costco sells their rotisserie chickens at cost or below just 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. You also need to think about buying nutritional “superfoods” to keep your family healthy and strong. One of the best ways of doing that is by buying the right (cheap) fruits and vegetables. 

A bunch of bananas is one of those super-cheap fruits that work as a powerhouse, and a great snack item to turn to. As far as vegetables are concerned, carrots, potatoes, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards are all cheap produce items that can add to your nutrition.     

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

Final Word

When quality, freshness, and nutritional value are still important for your family, these 10 foods are where it’s at. Not only will your meals continue to 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 are other food items that you’ve come across that have not only helped you stretch your money but have tasted good too? What are some foods to stretch your budget that you use? 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

39 thoughts on “10 Foods to Stretch Your Food Budget

  • September 16, 2020 at 8:22 am
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    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.

    Reply
    • September 16, 2020 at 9:07 am
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      Hi Ray, I used to buy a 1/2 beef when we raised our daughters. I need to look into buying another grass-fed one as you said. Great reminder, Linda

      Reply
  • September 16, 2020 at 8:52 am
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    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!

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    • September 16, 2020 at 9:05 am
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      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

      Reply
    • September 16, 2020 at 12:24 pm
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      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!

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      • September 16, 2020 at 1:29 pm
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        Hi Leanne, great comment, just ask and they will deliver what we want. Linda

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        • September 16, 2020 at 1:47 pm
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          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.

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          • September 16, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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            Hi Leanne, great comment! We just need to ask our grocery store workers. Great ideas to use, thank you! Linda

  • September 16, 2020 at 8:54 am
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    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..

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    • September 16, 2020 at 9:03 am
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      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

      Reply
  • September 16, 2020 at 8:55 am
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    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!

    Reply
    • September 16, 2020 at 9:01 am
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      Hi Connie, I hear you on saving money. I’m so glad this post will help you, we all learn from each other. God bless you, Linda

      Reply
  • September 16, 2020 at 8:56 am
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    Ramen and you name it mixed in

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    • September 16, 2020 at 11:33 am
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      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.

      Reply
  • September 16, 2020 at 9:50 am
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    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.

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    • September 16, 2020 at 10:10 am
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      Hi June, oh my goodness, I love homemade apple pie filling. When my girls were growing up we made it every year. I need to find my recipe. I love to make it and can it! Linda

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    • September 16, 2020 at 1:53 pm
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      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.

      Reply
      • September 17, 2020 at 7:40 am
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        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.

        Reply
  • September 16, 2020 at 12:30 pm
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    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.

    Reply
    • September 16, 2020 at 1:30 pm
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      Hi Leanne, I love gravy, and I mean LOVE gravy. I grew up with all the ones you did! I love it! Linda

      Reply
    • September 17, 2020 at 7:46 am
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      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.

      Reply
      • September 17, 2020 at 10:13 am
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        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!!

        Reply
        • September 17, 2020 at 11:07 am
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          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.

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          • September 17, 2020 at 11:34 am
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            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!

          • September 17, 2020 at 11:51 am
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            Hi June, I think you told me about that gravy mix from Costco and I have some in the freezer in the dry form!! Linda

  • September 16, 2020 at 12:47 pm
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    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.

    Reply
    • September 16, 2020 at 1:55 pm
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      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.

      Reply
      • September 16, 2020 at 5:17 pm
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        Great idea! I’m doing that next time.

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    • September 16, 2020 at 2:01 pm
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      Hi Alice, great comment! I have made hamburger jerky, it’s yummy! I love the tips you shared, thank you! Linda

      Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 5:53 am
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    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!

    Reply
    • September 17, 2020 at 7:08 am
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      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

      Reply
  • September 18, 2020 at 1:14 am
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    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.

    Reply
      • September 19, 2020 at 12:49 am
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        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.

        Reply
        • September 19, 2020 at 7:35 am
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          Hi Pat, have fun and bring on the whipping cream for the pies!! Linda

          Reply

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