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ShawnG MegaDork
12/1/22 8:49 p.m.

A couple posts on here about saving money, food scarcity and being broke / poor got me thinking about cheap meals.

My wife and I do date night regularly and treat ourselves to a good restaurant about once a month but I do most of the cooking at home.

My mom was always stretching a dollar when I was a kid. I won't drink powdered milk anymore but I still hate wasting food. Some stuff I still make because I love it and it's cheap as can be.

So, post your ultra cheap, tasty recipes here. 

I'll go first.


Fried potato peel:

Starving peasant food but super tasty.

Save the peels when you're making mashed potatoes. While you're cooking the main meal, let them soak in cold water to get the starch out.

Once the real food is on the go, put enough oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom and set it on medium high heat.

Drain the peels and put them in a clean tea towel. Squeeze gently to get the water out, then fry the peels a handful at a time in the oil until crispy.

Place on paper towel to drain. Salt and pepper to taste.

Makes a crunchy snack that tastes like pub potato skins.

Cost: Almost nothing, you were going to throw those peels in the compost.

barefootcyborg5000 PowerDork
12/1/22 9:13 p.m.
M2Pilot Dork
12/1/22 11:09 p.m.

The Frugal Gourmet was a show on PBS many years ago. The chef, Jeff Smith, also published several cookbooks.  I haven't looked at mine for years but there were some good, inexpensive recipes in them. 

914Driver MegaDork
12/3/22 6:35 p.m.

In a bowl stir 1 cup cooked chicken (3/8" cubes)

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

10 - 12oz. Frozen mixed veggies


1 tube of Pillsbury  Original Grands Biscuits. Mush each biscuit to a 5" circle and center it in a greased or oiled cupcake tin.

Spoon veggie mix into the cup to almost fill.   Bake @ 400* until brown.

Stampie GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/3/22 7:06 p.m.

My Papa on my mom's side grew up in the Great Depression.  I spent a lot of time with him when I was young and his ways rubbed off on me.  After Thanksgiving I had a large onion left over.  I knew it would go to waste.  Last night I had caramelized onion for a snack.


Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
12/3/22 7:45 p.m.

Having grown up poor, and being familiar with food insecurity, this is a subject that I can comment on.

Number one, the most effective way to limit your food budget is Eat your leftovers! Don't throw food away if it's still good! Still good does not mean that you're not tired of it, it means that you haven't let it spoil. 

We've got it down to an art, where we often use our leftovers as an ingredient to make other stuff.

Now, a recipe (of sorts, really more of a template).

Years ago I came up with something I called Goop. I was living alone, so it didn't need a name, but when I started making it for other people, I had to call it something.

In a large sauce pan, with a lid, heat to boiling 2 cups of water or broth. When it reaches a boil, add 1 cup brown rice. A bit of butter, olive oil, or bacon grease can be added if you choose. Minced garlic too. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low.

As the rice cooks, dump some veggies in on top. Dense ones like carrots and broccoli stems go in first, since they need the most cooking. Over the years, I've gotten a pretty good handle on when to add specific vegetables, so that they're done, but not over done. Onions are added late as a matter of preference.

As the rice and veggies finish cooking, mix in a can of cream of whatever soup you choose, then you can decide whether to add some canned tuna or canned chicken. I like to use some quality soy sauce when I serve it, or mixed in with the whole batch. You do have to be careful how much sodium you add because of the high sodium contact in the cream soups.

Eat it off a plate, out of a bowl, or wrap the whole thing up in a tortilla. For the tortilla, I'll heat the tortilla in the microwave with some sliced cheese on it, then make my wrap with that. 

When you're done, put the lid on the pot, and set it in the refrigerator. One of the best things about this is that it's never the same twice. You can also use leftovers from the Chinese restaurant, or whatever you wish.

Now, back to the wraps. I keep some large tortillas around all the time so that I can wrap up leftovers and eat them that way. It's a really effective way to stretch your food.


Datsun310Guy MegaDork
12/3/22 8:22 p.m.

Pasta Fazool from Grandma Soda Pop. 

One strip bacon + clove garlic + onion + salt/pepper - chop up and fry up in pan.  Chop fried bacon into little pieces.

2# box elbow noodles cooked + drain water

2 cans Great Northern Beans + drain + rinse

1 can of tomato paste 

combine all in big pot, add water to make it close to soup and eat with grated cheese on top.  Need bread too.

Totally fills you up - eat 1-2 days. 

Duke MegaDork
12/3/22 9:44 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

I'm a fan of Frankie Celenza's "Struggle Meals" cooking show.



Antihero GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
12/3/22 10:56 p.m.

Baked potatoes.


You can do damn near anything with baked potatoes from super simple to deluxe crazy. Potatoes aren't as cheap as they used to be but they are still cheap

914Driver MegaDork
12/4/22 9:33 a.m.

I get a lot of mileage out of soup.  Not in the mood for chicken noodle?  Hit it hard with an immersion blender and it becomes like a cream soup.

Two bags of Black Beans and some bones = 20 bowls of soup?

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
12/4/22 1:27 p.m.

I sometimes make fried rice in a way that's pretty much Floating Doc's Goop recipe with an egg instead of soup.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
12/4/22 1:34 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

I sometimes make fried rice in a way that's pretty much Floating Doc's Goop recipe with an egg instead of soup.

Me too!

RozCougarMorbidcamp HalfDork
12/4/22 3:31 p.m.

When.we we're newly married and living.on one $11/hour income with two kids and a mortgage (I still don't know how we made it work) my go-to was a 'beef stew' that I just kind of tossed together one night. 


1 pkg cubed steak (because stew meat is fatty and expensive), chopped and cooked through. Set aside. I've also used frozen burger patties, which are basically the same thing. 

In your soup pot mix one envelope beef stew mix, 1 envelope brown gravy mix to package directions, subbing beef stock (or bullion broth) in place of the water. Add whatever canned vegetables you like, drained. If you add canned potatoes, do not drain them as the starchy liquid will help thicken the stew. 

If you like the flavor onion and garlic add, brown those in the same pan you cooked the steak in and then add them to the stew with the beef stock. 

After the vegetables, add in the cooked cubed steak and simmer until heated through and thicked. Serve with toast, biscuits, rolls, cornbread, whatever you have on hand. 

If you want pasta, add cooked pasta (a bit of the cooking water will help thicken the stew, too). If you want rice, add cooked rice. Beans? Toss them in. 


Anything I could stretch by adding rice or pasta became staples. Broccoli cheese soup? Soup tonight, broccoli cheese pasta tomorrow. 


Another main that doesn't look appetizing in the least, but young kids seem to LOVE is a chicken bake that a friend taught me. 

In an 8x8 baking dish mix 2 cups uncooked instant rice, 1 can chicken, 1 can cream of something soup, 1 can corn/carrots/peas/whatever (or frozen veggies) and 2 cups liquid (water, chicken stock, milk, I've seen several friends make it differently, I generally used chicken stock, though). Season with whatever you like, give it a very careful stir as your dish will be pretty full, then toss it in the oven on 350 for 15 minutes until the rice has soaked up the liquid and it has formed a golden crust on top. If you like cheese, add cheese on top and cook for another 5 minutes. It's beige in a pan, but doesn't taste too bad and, like I said, kids seem to love it. 


Somewhere I have a binder of cheap meals, I'll have to see if I can find it. 





vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/4/22 3:40 p.m.

Want to save some money? Don't buy premix seasonings. I make all my own from the herbs and spices rack. Just look at the ingredients list on the package. You probably have most in the pantry (minus the sodium dioxide and other additives used to prevent caking). Haven't bought taco seasoning in decades.

Easy cheap meal? Save any chopped veggies, soy crumbles or other leftovers from taco night and make a nice omelette the next day.

z31maniac MegaDork
12/4/22 5:32 p.m.

I like to make "fancy" ramen at home.

When done throw some soy, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, top with chives(scallions would be better), a fried egg and a healthy drizzle of Sriracha. Add some kimchi if you have it.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/4/22 6:09 p.m.

I buy flour tortillas and make skillet pizzas.  A little spray of olive oil, add sauce, cheese, and toppings.  Cover it and use medium heat.  Cook until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melted.  Fills the tummy without emptying the wallet.

Very easy to adapt to quesadilla-type things which can be filled with nearly anything.  I've done peanut butter and apples, leftover chicken and bbq sauce, corn and beans, nutella and marshmallows, cheese and chili, even baloney and cheese.

I also live alone, but found a way to take advantage of things like Costco cheapness.  I asked for a vacuum food saver for Christmas one year.  Now I can buy super cheap meats in bulk and I separate them out into single servings and freeze.

Soups are a good way to stretch things.  I will often make some weird soups with leftovers.  I had half a can of pumpkin leftover from Thanksgiving as well as a smoked bird carcass.  Boil to make broth, throw in the leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, then toss in the rest of the pumpkin with some sage I have growing out front.  Really yummy.  Ate a bunch, froze the rest.  I probably have a gallon in the freezer.

STM317 PowerDork
12/4/22 6:25 p.m.

Didn't we have a decent sized "ghetto cooking" thread or some such that had a bunch of similar suggestions? I couldn't find it in a quick search, but I definitely remember it.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
12/4/22 9:19 p.m.

As far as foods - potatoes, beans, eggs - these three staples are inexpensive and nutritious. Rice, pasta and vegetables also are relatively inexpensive, too. Mix and match the aforementioned and you're probably on to something.

Generally speaking, anything that reduces food waste gets you more bang for your buck. That's what makes soup great.

84FSP UberDork
3/22/23 6:28 a.m.
Lobsterpennies Reader
3/22/23 9:03 p.m.

I grew up dirt poor, not quite there at the moment but getting close some days. 

Ramen, still love ramen but now I add any frozen or canned veggies I have around, any form of meat chopped from leftovers, add and egg and cook an extra minute, it's filling, watch the salt tho. I have even bought a whole chicken, shredded it and froze in one cup containers for this.

Pancakes,easy, low count of ingredients.

Always have flour and water and at least you won't starve.

Wienie Tetrazzini, spaghetti, sauce, and hot dogs sliced thinly, brown the slices first for best taste.

Desert from the the old days, white bread butter sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, don't eat this anymore, too much in my youth. 







johndej SuperDork
3/22/23 10:04 p.m.
Lobsterpennies Reader
3/22/23 10:23 p.m.

Ha! Good one and you're dead on

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/23/23 12:27 p.m.

Like many others, I grew up poor and pennyless.  Here's my contribution to this thread:  Save your jars!!!!!!  Save your containers, wash and re-use ziplocks.  But most of all, save your dang jars!

Like 914driver, I got TONS of mileage out of soup.  Here's my bean soup recipe:

2lbs dry pinto beans

1 package of bacon

1 jar of sliced jalapenos

chicken bullion cubes and black pepper to taste

Soak the beans for a day, rinse, and refill with water.  heat the beans to a slow boil and while they're cooking in a slice up the bacon and toss it in.  Dump the jalapenos and cook it until the beans are soft.  Add black pepper and chicken bullion along the way until you like the taste. 

Remember those jars you saved (jam jars, spaghetti sauce jars, every jar).  Fill them up with soup (leaving a little head space) and toss em in the freezer.  When you're hungry, take the lid off the jar, and toss it in the microwave for 5 or 10 minutes (however long it takes to thaw).  Pour it in a bowl and eat it.

This saved my skin so many times.  This whole thing used to cost me less than $5.  To this day I still have bean soup in the freezer.  And depending on jar size, you should get about 6 meals out of this one.

Running behind for work?  don't have time to cook?  Nothing in the house to eat?  Someone visit unexpectedly for lunch? Grab a jar and go.

But seriously.  You can keep so much food for so dang long if you just have some jars and a freezer.  And like Roz said pour your soup over noodles or rice and you can stretch the heck out of it! (I thicken them up with corn-starch first).

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/23/23 1:25 p.m.

I cannot claim to have grown up scratching in the dirt for dinner, but I'm gonna echo Floating Doc's comment about don't waste food. My wife and I generate almost no food trash, it all gets eaten or used for something. Not because we're necessarily trying to save every penny but because neither of us like the idea of throwing away food.

I can tell you that baking your own bread is cheap. Flour, salt, yeast, water and time. Even the time isn't that much, it's more a matter of having to do a few things that are widely spread out instead of working for a long time. 

When I was in school, I'd make a big pot of pasta sauce over the weekend and then eat it with different shapes of pasta over the week. It was not expensive but it was tasty and everyone knows that rotini is totally different from spaghetti so I was totally eating something different.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/23/23 2:22 p.m.

This is the traditional (pre-refrigeration) method of stretching the food budget. 

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