Budget Eating: Ways to Stretch a Dollar

It’s been a whirlwind of a week! The challenge is still going strong. We are eating very simply and I’m impressed at how far a dollar can stretch when you make it work for you. (baby cilantro stem from my back porch)

spicy black beans and Mexican rice

Since the challenge goes through Sunday, I’ll be posting my wrap up and thoughts next week, but wanted to share some budgeting tips I’ve learned along the way that I plan to keep using in the future:

Use juices from canned tomatoes to cook onions and potatoes in a pot instead of olive oil when making soup or chili.

veggie chili

Buy plain Greek yogurt because you can use it as sour cream or stir in a spoonful of jam to make it a snack. A large container is cheaper than buying individual servings.

plain Greek yogurt with jam

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aren’t just for kids. They’re freaking delicious.

Dried beans aren’t nearly as intimidating as I thought they’d be and soaking them overnight, then cooking them and spooning off the foam actually eliminates their flatulence tendencies. More info HERE.

foamy dried beans

Cooked brown rice freezes and reheats incredibly well. More details HERE.

Buy diced tomatoes with spices in them to eliminate the need to add spices. For my chili, I used diced tomatoes seasoned for chili and didn’t need to use any chili powder or other spices.

Frozen vegetables are a great for a quick side and for baby meals (especially frozen peas).

peas for baby blw

Boiled eggs are wonderful for a quick snack and protein boost.

These are just a few things I’ve really noticed over the past 5 days, but here are some awesome money saving and dollar stretching tips that people sent me!

Kim says: If we have any type veggies leftover, I keep a large plastic (Folger’s coffee) container in the freezer marked “Soup Bucket” and I just dump them in. When it is full, time to make soup!

Emily says: We use emeals. They are easy, cheap, delicious, and healthier than other choices we would normally select.

breakfast bagel egg and cheese

Kimberly says: Have you tried the bulk bins at a health food store for spices? I go there to get something that I don’t use often when a recipe just calls for a little bit.

“Hi” says: to check out Depression Cooking with Clara

Kay referred me to an interesting link that shows chefs putting together meals using only food items readily accessible at food banks.

veggie pizza

Blackhuff says to try: Baking your own bread instead of buying bread, buying whole wheat pasta (500g) packet and eating 2 nights in a row on it, and eating tinned tuna, tinned pillchards, tinned sardines instead of meat for a week or two.

Andrea says: Buy whole chickens. At $0.88/lb they’re a bargain because you can eat the breasts for a meal, the dark meat for another meal, and boil the carcass with some of the hard to reach meat and make a wonderful soup. And beans…dried beans, lots of them. Nutritional power-houses and cheap. But splurge on things like good Parmesan and Romano cheese because a little of each add a ton of flavor.

roasted chicken meat

Christina says: A couple of my go-to’s: chicken sausages, quiche or veggie frittata, homemade black bean burgers, pasta (usually with a dose of veggies and quesadillas with whatever leftovers I have on hand. Also anything in the crock pot! Frozen veggies are usually served on the side.

ELizabeth says to try: buying frozen vs. fresh, buying store brand, making meals that will stretch over more than one day

Erica’s family has eaten on $100 a week for years and shares her tips are: We rarely eat meat. We buy things in bulk such as dried black beans. Lots of tofu and pasta with homemade sauce. We don’t buy a lot of fancy fresh fruits, just bananas and apples. Frozen berries for smoothies. Yogurt, granola, and soy milk are staples. No cookies or crackers unless they’re on sale. I make kale chips and try to roast veggies at least 4 times a week. We also make large pots of veggie curry or refried beans. No alcohol or juice.

Links to check out:


Christina sent me this one about eating for $8

Katie said to check out The Hunger Challenge. For the past few years the SF Food Bank has challenged people to eat on $4.72 a day for a week.

Misty mentioned checking out 100 Days of Real Food

A also mentioned to check out Poor Girl Eats Well

Whew- lots of ideas for how to stretch a dollar going on over here. Like I said, I’ll be doing the total wrap up once the challenge is complete. It’s weird being Friday and knowing we’ll have tuna melts for dinner. I actually think tuna melts are delicious, but I can tell how accustomed I am to assuming we’ll go grab Mexican. Hopefully the extra time around the house will ensure we get our long list of projects done.

What are you up to this weekend?

I’m hoping to overhaul the bonus room!



  1. Katherine says

    Love cooking with dried beans! Tip: if you rinse the beans really well after soaking but before cooking then there will not be any foam to scoop :)

  2. says

    I haven’t been quite as good about budget eats lately, but eating healthy on a budget is definitely doable. I too am a big fan of boiled eggs and pb&j sandwiches… but not together. duh. 😉

  3. says

    Love this! I’ve always been a fan of frozen produce (when it doesn’t have added sugar or salt) b/c it’s picked at it’s peak of freshness and often much cheaper than the fresh stuff.

  4. says

    Love the tips! Crockpots really are amazing! I’ve made black beans in mine when I don’t have time to watch them, and also a whole chicken or bone in chicken breasts, this way I can prep ahead a little and multitask.
    I think cooking and baking from scratch is heaped, but requires a little more initial investment so I can see why it’s hard for some people. I also think meal planning for a month at a time might be helpful for those on a budget, sometimes you can get great deals in bulk or stretch a few “fun” ingredients farther.
    Can’t wait to hear your wrap up!

    • says

      I totally agree that meal planning for a month instead of a week would be easier. It’s been a pain with out oil or butter, but oh well, all part of learning :)

  5. says

    Wow, lots of awesome tips here. I agreed about buying the diced tomatoes with spices in them … they add lots of flavor very quickly and easily!

    I didn’t know that health food stores sell spices in bulk bins! I need to check that out!

  6. says

    I love a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Like I’ve mentioned before, we are on a limited grocery budget and at times it’s made me want to quit blogging because I can’t afford to buy a lot of fancy schmancy items and do my shopping at Meijer, not whole foods or trader joe’s…but I’ve learned there are others in the same situation and maybe I can help make a difference one day as well :) I bought some dried beans this week, but haven’t cooked them yet, I’m intimated by them!!!

  7. says

    One of my favorite ways to save money (and time) is by buying whole chickens (and beef) from local farms rather than the grocery store. If you find the right farm, the quality is much better! The upfront cost is higher, of course, but in the end it is a very economical choice. We invested in a small chest freezer, and now it is almost always stocked with chicken and grass-fed beef! It also provides plenty of storage for breastmilk.

  8. Sarah says

    Lots of good tips! Do you think bulgur wheat would freeze the same as brown rice? I accidentally (apparently 2 cups is about 1.5 cups too many) cooked a butt-load and there’s no way I can eat it all this week!

    • says

      Sorry I’m late responding… and with no answer at that- haha! I think bulgur would freeze just fine, but I’ve never attempted it myself. Let me know!

  9. says

    I still need to try making beans from dried beans, especially if it helps the tummy problems 😉 I love the idea to cook things in tomato juice instead of the oil. Your getting creative missy. This weekend is my friends birthday, so I have plans to enjoy myself this Saturday. Hope you have a great weekend!

  10. Mel says

    My favorite thing is that you didn’t mention anything about poor people this time. Good for you, you probably realized you can’t pretend to be them, and they don’t have cilantro growign on their porch lol. They shouldn’t be judged the way you did before. Too bad you didn’t apologize for calling them lazy.

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