Thread Number: 78847  /  Tag: Recipes, Cooking Accessories
What are today's most economical foods at the store?
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Post# 1028310   3/29/2019 at 15:11 by scoots (Chattanooga TN)        

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I'd like to see what I can do to control my food costs.  Back in the day when I was first living on my own (I will let you guess the decade, but think pooka shells) , the rule of thumb was that fish, root vegetables, "greens" and beans  were valuable in stretching the food dollar, but today it doesn't seem as true... it seems like everything's expensive.


What would you all buy to build a cheap meal around twice a week?


I'm sorry if this feels like a "google it" question, but it always seems like the internet is intended to sell things, not give advice... and also I happen to be remarkably "price blind" about groceries. The prices just don't stick in my head long enough to do a multi-variable price comparison.






Post# 1028311 , Reply# 1   3/29/2019 at 15:15 by Oliger (Indianapolis, Indiana)        

Limit the amount of meat you use, and add potatoes and rice to anything that you can. When I am broke, my choice of cheap foods are:
Ground beef
Dry beans

You can add seasonings, broth etc. to make it not taste like dirt.

Post# 1028340 , Reply# 2   3/29/2019 at 20:03 by Maytagbear (N.E. Ohio)        
Get your hands

on Meditterranean Street Food by Anissa Helou. Lots of really delicious less expensive dishes.

Look at cookbooks that have "peasant" or "country" in their titles. The nearest Public Library is a great resource.

My favorite less expensive dish is Mujeddra, which is lentils, rice, a yogurt/garlic sauce finished with crisp freshly fried onions.

Remember, often times, the tradeoff is conveinience and speed for savings. However, canned beans are pretty cheap, and are precooked. NO Salt Added canned vegetables taste more like fresh vegetables, have no peeling waste...all edible portion, save for the canning liquid. The bagged frozen vegetables, like Hanover brand are also good value. Durring season, go to the nearest farmer's market.


This post was last edited 03/29/2019 at 21:38
Post# 1028348 , Reply# 3   3/29/2019 at 21:48 by IowaBear (Cedar Rapids, IA)        

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Food prices are regional.  Around here, boneless chicken breasts are regularly on sale for well under $2 a pound.  Hard to beat that for healthy meals.  The cheaper cuts of pork are also dirt-cheap here but require more creative cooking to make them palatable (at least to me.)

Post# 1028349 , Reply# 4   3/29/2019 at 22:00 by Maytagbear (N.E. Ohio)        
Homemade soups

are easy, and almost always inexpensive, and taste better the next day(s).


Post# 1028367 , Reply# 5   3/30/2019 at 03:52 by LordKenmore (The Laundry Room)        

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I'm seriously low income, and my grocery budget is tight. So keeping things cheap is day to day necessity at Lord Kenmore's manor, not just a few meals a week.

Most of my tactics have been mentioned above. Plus they may be obvious. Still, perhaps they will be of value to someone...

I don't eat meat, which is a huge savings. Even years ago, when I had a more robust grocery budget, I tended to avoid meat, noting that it wasn't cheap. Vegetarian chili, for example, was less than 1/2 the cost of chili with even cheapest possible hamburger.

Beans are cheap, even if bought canned. I've heard (here, I think) that dry beans can cook fairly fast with a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, which gives an excuse to get more appliances!

Lentils are cheap, and they cook fast, even in a regular pan.

I eat oatmeal for breakfast, which I get out of a bulk bin. I can get it for about 1/2 the cost of the store brand equivalent of Cheerios.

As mentioned above, deals probably vary by area, and even store to store in that area. Also it pays to pay attention to a store's clearance deals.

Also it pays to shop by season. Yes, we can get almost everything year round now, thanks to the wonders of stuff shipped from across the globe. But things "in season" are still cheaper--and better.

Come summer, it might pay to shop farmers' markets. One can possibly get good deals--especially as the market is closing for the day. It might be worth buying stuff to freeze.

It's also worth noting that a bunch of small numbers added up can hit a sobering total. It's too easy to grab something without thinking because "it's only a dollar." But twenty one dollar items will add $20 to the final bill.

Post# 1029437 , Reply# 6   4/10/2019 at 08:31 by dermacie (my forever home (Glenshaw, PA))        

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I look at the food advertisements every week for my local grocery stores and build my meals around what is on sale. I also shop at Sam's club and Aldi.

Post# 1029471 , Reply# 7   4/10/2019 at 12:32 by philcobendixduo (San Jose)        

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......and Pasta Roni at 99 cents a box (or less) are VERY economical and tasty. I mix in some vegetables (frozen) or sometimes canned chicken. A box with the "add-ins" makes three meals for me. They have a large variety of flavors so I stock up on 1 or 2 of each. These are also good "emergency rations" as most only require water and butter to make (some DO need milk...).

I also enjoy pasta (any kind) with jarred tomato sauce. Buy on sale and it's VERY cost-effective!

Post# 1029514 , Reply# 8   4/10/2019 at 17:52 by stricklybojack (San Diego, CA)        

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Plain pasta and canned sauce.
Progresso soup on sale.

Post# 1029520 , Reply# 9   4/10/2019 at 18:22 by stainfighter (Columbia, SC)        
Aldi -Greek Yogurt...

stainfighter's profile picture
Friendly Farms’ Greek plain yogurt.
Mix with your favorite Mustard, Ranch dressing or Mayo....
About a 1:3 ratio. I’m a Mayo-holic. If I mix in a heavy tablespoon
with still is Mayo-ie...and I am not gorging in it,
plus some protein in the final result...even if you cannot stand yogurt
give it a try !!!

Post# 1029639 , Reply# 10   4/12/2019 at 04:29 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

If you eat meat chicken is quite affordable - at least around here.  I can pick up a pack of chicken thighs, usually 10 in a pack for $4-5 at Aldi.  Kroger has 10 LB bags of chicken leg quarters for $7-8.  I also buy salmon at Aldi, odd cuts, but 2LB for $8 is great for me.  Also pick up tilapia at Aldi often at good prices.  Hams are often $.83 lb around here --a 10lb ham will last me a long time.  I freeze in in various sized packages to use for dinner or sandwiches.

Post# 1029642 , Reply# 11   4/12/2019 at 05:25 by askolover (South of Nash Vegas, TN)        

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When I was newly single and inherited all the bills after my ex left, I just stuck with beans & taters and cornbread.  My cats ate better than I did!  At least they got the brand name stuff ;-)  I'd buy stuff at Sam's and put it in the deep freezer.  Bought a huge amount of fresh green beans from the Amish near us...canned them.  Of course, there's always Ramen pasta.

Post# 1029659 , Reply# 12   4/12/2019 at 09:15 by perc-o-prince (Southboro, Mass)        

Hey Bill,

I hear ya! Fish, greens and other things that used to be cheap eats have become "healthy" or "trendy," therefore no longer cheap. Look at ground beef- it used to be a great bargain and filler. Now, it's more expensive than chicken breast, which used to be more premium as far as pricing!

I love my vac sealer! I buy things like country-style pork ribs for $1.49/lb, chicken thighs for $0.69/lb, butt strip steak for $2.99/lb, boneless/skinless chix breast for 1.69/lb when on sale. I portion them out and vac seal them for the freezer- they last a l-o-n-g time!!

When I can get to one of the cheap, discount stores like Price Rite, I stock up on broth, canned beans, and the like cheaper than the cheapest "regular" market here, Market Basket.

Believe it or not, Dollar Tree is sometimes a pretty good place! Rich buys frozen tilapia and salmon there for... $1. Each $1 package is a healthy portion, and he'll have it with salad, rice, vegetable, or something to make it a meal. Heck, at that price you could even eat two if you were that hungry! Per pound it's not the best value, but it's portion control and you're less likely to cook up an 8oz portion and leave part of it on the plate (waste).

Gotta s-t-r-e-t-c-h those food dollars!!


Post# 1029665 , Reply# 13   4/12/2019 at 10:09 by ea56 (Sonoma Co.,CA)        

ea56's profile picture
All of the suggestions in previous posts on this thread are excellent.

My secret to economizing on groceries is that I only shop once a week, plan the meals of the week ahead and make a list. I buy store brands whenever they are just as good as the name brands, and today most of them are. I buy items that we use regularly an sale and always have a backup on hand, like mayonnaise, peanut butter, tomato sauce, canned pinto beans, pasta, ect.

And we never throw food away. I only buy fresh fruit, vegetables and meat that we will be able to consume before it spoils.

I make casseroles, soups and other large meals and we will either eat leftovers for 2-4 days, or I’ll freeze portions for later consumption.

And I buy very little preprepared food, I make most of everything we eat from scratch.


Post# 1029679 , Reply# 14   4/12/2019 at 12:51 by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

Broths: use the soup bases rather than purchasing canned broth (way better than boullion cubes, about an eighth the price of canned broth). Waste is expensive, there's no other way to say it!

Post# 1029693 , Reply# 15   4/12/2019 at 17:14 by appnut (TX)        

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Eddie, my approach is almost exactly the same, except I shop every other week, not once a week.  

Post# 1029698 , Reply# 16   4/12/2019 at 19:04 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
All great responses thus far

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Mine in no particular order:

Find and use coupons, both online and paper versions.

Check weekly store circulars for sales and stock up.

Get said weekly circular early in week or check online, then go through and mark or make a list.

*NEVER* grocery shop on an empty stomach.

Stock up on staples when they are on sale; rice, pasta, canned goods (soups, tomatoes, tomato paste, tuna fish, etc). These things last forever when stored properly and are the basis for many inexpensive meals.

Check vintage cookbooks, online, or ask older family members for recipes using cheaper/inexpensive cuts of meat. Many a housewife had to feed a large family when things were tight, and thus learned a thing or two on how to stretch her grocery budget.

Ditto for learning to use some of the tools of our mothers, grandmothers days. Pressure cookers, slow cookers, slow roasting and so forth can make great meals out of cheap cuts of meat.

Then there is offal; something one does not particularly care for but for those that do things like souse, scrapple, and other "ahem" things often are cheap but can make very tasty meals. Again if one is up to that sort of thing.

Cannot be stressed enough to "WATCH For SALES". Learn how to properly freeze meats (maybe invest in a vacuum sealer or something) so you can stock up on things when cheap.

If you don't know how learn to cut up a chicken; whole birds most always are cheaper than parts. At least for the better quality chicken we find anyway. That "yellow" stuff which is largely water may be another matter. Don't know because never buy.

Finally again think like our mothers/grandmothers and learn to love/use leftovers. If you splurge out on a roast for Sunday, remains can be made into other dishes for rest of week. Carcass from roast chicken, and or otherwise bones can be used to make stock.

Also learn what expiration/sell by dates truly mean. For instance contrary to what some may believe things like yoghurt last far longer than date stamped on carton. Have personally consumed yoghurt months after sell by date without any ill effects. Your nose and eyes are excellent judges of when something is "off".

Make the basics ahead of time in bulk and freeze. When there is a sale on for say canned tomatoes and paste, make up a nice big pot of sauce. Keep some aside for immediate use, then freeze the rest in pint or quart containers. One likes to think of tomato sauce as instant dinner in a container. You only need to add some sort of carb (pasta, noodles, potatoes), maybe meat, fish or poultry and bam! You've got dinner.

Post# 1029719 , Reply# 17   4/12/2019 at 21:51 by Kate1 (Idaho)        

My suggestions would depend on whether you’re looking for long term frugal food budgeting or are currently strapped for cash and need suggestions just to get by. If it’s the first scenario, I cannot stress home cooking and buying in bulk enough. Things like rice, dried beans, potatoes, canned tomatoes, whole chickens (which you can cook, save some of the meat for later, even use some as lunch meat, and then make stock from the bones and carcass which is essentially a free bonus since most people toss all that), and frozen veggies can be combined into very tasty and healthy dishes. Buy bulk oats for breakfasts, you can also make yogurt in a crockpot with nothing but milk and a small amount of store bought yogurt as your starter (which you only need to buy once if you’re careful to save enough from each batch you make for your next one), I actually combine oats and homemade yogurt with fruit (frozen is fine and much cheaper to buy).

If you just need some cheap eats to get by, ramen is pretty high on the list. Boxed macaroni and cheese is also dirt cheap. Rice A Roni, canned soup or chili, and bagged cereal (in my area the Malt O Meal knockoff Cheerios are the cheapest). The McDonald’s dollar menu and dollar store grocery sections can also be of use.

The reason my suggestions are different depending on the scenario btw are because the first set, while undoubtedly the healthier (significantly so) and more affordable plan in the long run, it can require a slightly higher initial cost and there’s a trade off in how much time it takes you to prepare your food. The second set are more useful if you’re looking at only having whatever amount of money to get by on until the next paycheck and you’re just looking to not starve to death. It’s not a healthy diet, it’s not even that affordable compared to home cooking long term, but god knows there were times when I was in college and only had $20 to feed myself on for two weeks and that was how I did it (though I did also do things like buy dried beans and rice and maybe a bag of frozen peas to break up the nonstop ramen).

Post# 1029727 , Reply# 18   4/13/2019 at 01:15 by robbinsandmyers (Hamden CT)        
Whatever you do........

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Dont sacrifice healthy for cheap. Those chemicals and preservatives are very bad for you. If done right you can still eat healthy and cheap.

Post# 1030155 , Reply# 19   4/17/2019 at 21:17 by warmsecondrinse (Fort Lee, NJ)        

All good advice. But as stated sometimes you need to make compromises, particularly if time/energy are concerns.

If you don't already have some, do some thrifting and invest some 2-3 qt. Pyrex casserole dishes with refrigerator lids. Browse through Lean Cuisine, Atkins, Weight Watchers, etc. prepared meals. Some meals have only recognisable food ingredients in them. On sale they can be under $2.00 each.

-Hannover frozen vegetables are dirt cheap; I but them in massive quantities.
-Canned fish if you like can be a source of cheap, tasty protein.
-Canned legumes.... chick peas and lentils are my favorites

Typical meal for me: Lean Cuisine Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo w/ziti, can of chick peas, package of chopped broccoli. Dump all into a Pyrex dish, add a splash of water and desired seasonings. Microwave 1 min @ 100%, 2 min @ 90, 3 @ 80. Stir then 4 min @ 70 and 5 min @ 60%. I've found that descending power makes the cooking more even. YMMV.

I'm also fond of Tabatchnik soups. I take one of their soups, a bag of Hannover Soup Vegetables and cook as above. If I want to stretch it, I first halfway cook a cup of whatever grain is on sale, then dump the half-cooked grain into a Pyrex dish along with the frozen soup and veggies.

Kasha (or kasza) is cheap when on sale. It makes for a nice variety.

I cook tons of oatmeal and add a cup of pasturized egg whites. That makes them more filling and adds protein while keeping calories and cholesterol low. The internet has a whole slew of SAVORY oatmeal recipes. One of my favourites is plain oatmeal with curry, dill, and cheddar cheese added.

Just an FYI, I've found that I prefer most grains cooked with half again as much water and 5-10 minutes longer than what the directions state.

Hope this helps.


Post# 1030408 , Reply# 20   4/21/2019 at 09:04 by Helicaldrive (St. Louis)        
Cabbage and stewed tomatoes

When funds were low I used to braise a head of green cabbage (chopped into 1-2” pieces) with canned stewed tomatoes, especially when stewed tomatoes were on sale. I added canned drained kidney beans for protein. If I had a lemon, some lemon juice brightened it up nicely. A splash of plain white vinegar (not enough that anybody would know it was there) will do so also. If I had more money I would buy polish sausage, cut it into coins, and brown it first. Deglazing the pan with the stewed tomatoes added a lot of flavor. Okra is also good in this. Of course you can begin by sautéing more onion and bell pepper if desired. Or you could season it Cajun style too.

Indian buffets often have shredded cabbage braised with onions and curry.

It doesn’t get any cheaper than cabbage.

The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine has the most amazing cabbage soup recipe which includes white wine and paprika. It is SO good. Best cabbage soup ever. I have made it for Sunday night soup parties.

A teaspoon or two of vinegar or lemon juice, or a couple drops of hot sauce, will disguise that awful canned taste that canned soups have.

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