Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
Adding inexpensive meals to your meal planning is a great way to stretch your food budget.
You don’t have to wait until you’re struggling to buy groceries to build a box of inexpensive meals.
Today, I will share some of our favourite meals in our recipe box.
Remember that the prices reflected in this blog post are from 2016.
Cook Inexpensive Meals In Bulk
I often get emails from fans who want to know how to create inexpensive meals on a very tight food budget.
Another concern is stretching recipes so they last for a few meals, which gives you a better bang.
One of the biggest budget busters in the food department begins when you eat outside the home.
When you decide to eat out, whether inexpensive meals or not, you more than likely can always make it at home for less.
Think fresh food; you know what you put into your food when making it yourself.
You can’t put a price on that, my friends.
To limit the temptations of the outside world, you must prepare meals beforehand.
I eat out occasionally but don’t make it a daily or weekly occurrence.
The answer is to arm yourself with a meal plan and a grocery list that suits your tastes and food budget.
Not everyone knows product prices at the grocery store industry level, which is the number one factor in meal costing and what meals to make with the ingredients purchased.
It’s difficult for some consumers to set aside traditional recipes to look for something new, so they stick with what they know.
Life in the kitchen doesn’t need to be boring, and adding new ingredients can be fun.
I will address how we create inexpensive meals on our $ 235-a-month food budget for two adults and one toddler.
Creating recipes that can stretch meals beyond one meal would be best.
What Is Comfort Food?
People often think of “Comfort Food” when they want to stretch a meal so they don’t have to cook the next day.
Comfort food typically hits the spot and includes minced beef, eggs, vegetables, and beans.
Create A Recipe Index of Inexpensive Meals
One of the biggest challenges my wife and I have is creating healthy, inexpensive meals that both of us can eat, especially since she’s eating a low-carb, keto diet.
Most often, I think about meals I can create for the three of us, which include all the food groups or what is allowable for my wife.
Over the years, we’ve created plenty of budget-friendly recipes that our family would eat over a few days.
Being busy parents with a toddler, we must be on top of the meals or end up not sticking to our meal plan.
I am the first to admit that there are weeks when our meal plan is pretty dull or repetitive because, like many others, we go with what is familiar.
If I have time off from work, I create new meals to add to our recipe box so we don’t stay in boring food mode.
Over the years, we’ve created a recipe index for inexpensive meals we can make any night of the week without spending hours in the kitchen.
Sometimes we boil up a dozen eggs and make egg salad as a side dish to a meatless meal.
Eggs are inexpensive and a great way to get protein into your diet, which keeps you full longer.
CBB fan Lisa C told us that the best part about making inexpensive meals in bulk is that “You only have to clean up once,” which is ideal for many families.
You will have a general clean-up the rest of the week but nothing like batch-cooking night.
Inexpensive Meals Turned Into Soup
Soup will always go a long way; you can bulk it with various proteins, vegetables, and legumes.
Some of our favourite homemade soups;
- Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
- Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Italian Meatballs
- Fire-roasted red pepper with tomato and fennel
- Cheesy Ricotta Ball Soup
- Rustic Country Ham and Vegetable Soup
- Tomato Minestrone Soup
- Easy Chicken Bone Broth (Keto)
- Slow Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup (Keto)
- Easy Egg Drop Soup In Chicken Bone Broth (Keto)
- West African Peanut Soup (Keto)
- Lazy Man Cabbage Roll Soup (Keto)
Whether you make soup in the crock pot, instant pot, or stovetop, it’s easy to make a large portion.
I know the struggle, but the leftovers are perfect for lunch or dinner throughout the week, especially in winter.
Inexpensive Meals That Include Meat
When I go to work, I always take hot meals with me, which means I must batch cook at least once a week since I work seven days a week.
Eating comfort food at work makes me feel like I’m eating dinner with my family.
Being away from home for such long hours can make dinner time lonely.
Typically, I don’t want to eat what I’m batch cooking for dinner that night for work, so I prepare an easy meal that includes ground beef or other mince in the freezer.
We can make ground beef recipes quickly, provided we remember to defrost the beef.
I’m horrible at remembering, and my wife is no better.
Related: How to save money buying meat
Ground Beef Recipes
What can I make with ground beef?
Whether you like ground beef, lamb, pork, turkey, or chicken, they can all be a favourite family recipe.
Ground beef has been pricey the past year, but that’s changing as prices have slowly declined.
I also notice that grocery store butchers are packaging beef and pork mince.
Using the mixed pack of pork and beef is an excellent option for making meatballs and costs less.
Vegetables and Legumes Bulk Up Inexpensive Meals
Stretch your meals using vegetables and legumes
Any time we make meatballs, whether for pasta sauce or in the crock-pot with a tangy sauce, we use pork mince and ground beef.
The best part about using ground beef or other minced meats in bulk cooking is the option to add vegetables and other legumes to stretch the meal.
Common vegetables such as corn, onions, celery, carrots, and peas are five produce items that help to bulk out a shepherd’s pie.
Adding legumes, black beans, kidney beans, white beans, or chickpeas is cheaper to buy dry and in bulk.
You can rehydrate the beans in the crock pot overnight, which is the easiest method we’ve found.
If you’ve got a load of peppers from your garden or found a great price at the grocery store, stock up and make a quick meal such as stuffed peppers.
When shopping at Costco, you can buy stuffed peppers pre-made for far more than you would pay to make them yourself.
If convenience is what you are after, you may struggle to find pre-made meals that last you more than a day before the texture and taste go off.
I’m not a fan of pre-made, but I have had some good homemade foods from specialty shops and the grocery store.
Use The FlashFood App For Inexpensive Meals
Also, if you want to save money on fresh vegetables, I urge you to sign up for the FlashFoodApp (See link below).
Well, Loblaws stores across Canada will list almost everything in their store near expiry on the app.
You’ll find exclusive deals at 50% off or more, which you can purchase online and then go and pick up.
I’ve seen boxes of fresh produce posted for only $5. Trust me, we use the FlashFood app and save money almost weekly on our food budget.
Flashfood app Canada – Save 50% off food products close to expiry from participating Loblaws Stores such as RCSS, Zehrs, Dominion, and Loblaws.
Inexpensive Meals To Fit Your Food Budget
Lamb mince is pricey in Canada unless we find it reduced, which isn’t too often, so we opt for ground beef.
We can typically pick up a pack of ground beef for $9 or less if we buy a family pack.
I always run the numbers when deciding what size package to buy because buying in bulk has advantages.
The grocery store knows that ground beef is a staple in most families so you might find it on sale at least once each month.
That is when you want to stock up so you are ready to create bulk recipes that can be frozen or eaten for a few days.
Stop buying packets of spice mixes to make your one-pot meals, and I promise you’ll save some money.
When we make shepherd’s pie, we add spices that will bring out the flavour in the ground beef.
Our pantry always includes spices such as garlic, onion powder, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary.
We use flour, water, ketchup, or tomato paste as a thickener for an additional tangy flavour.
It turns out delicious every time!
Compare Prices And Read Food Labels
Over the years, we’ve compared sale prices and read food labels.
You’ll be surprised that the family-size package is cheaper than the smaller pack on sale.
I priced a 1kg shepherd’s pie for $13.99 from the frozen food section at the grocery store.
You can make a shepherd’s pie at home for half that price if you bulk it with vegetables.
Making a pan of shepherd’s pie will last for all of my lunch meals for the week.
I will switch up the recipe and make meatless sloppy lentil joes in bulk next month.
Anytime Sausage And Egg Pie
Cauliflower Rice With Broccoli and Sausage
Drop Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
Baked Loaded Cauliflower Pizza
Easy British Sausage Rolls
Creamy Potato and Leek Soup
Potato and Leek soup is a simple and cheap comfort meal full of nutrition.
Sausage Potato Tomato, Cabbage Stew
Lentil Soup With Italian Sausage
Inexpensive Meals That Are Meatless
Growing up in the United Kingdom, seeing Traditional British Cucumber Sandwiches for lunch was common.
Many people laugh about eating such a boring sandwich, but they are delicious, light, and straightforward.
My mum is very frugal and cuts food costs by keeping recipes simple.
Going meatless is a great way to stick to a food budget, but not everyone likes meatless meals.
I’ve often mentioned meatless, and friends say there is no way their spouse or kids would eat a meal without meat.
Fair enough, but if you want to stretch meals without the cost of meat, go meatless.
Meatless Lentil Sloppy Joe
You will love this meatless lentil sloppy joe option we created to see if we’d miss the beef.
Guess what? The sloppy joe lentil did not disappoint and hit all of the flavours we expected that it would.
If you don’t mind them, this is a great way to reduce expenses and try new recipes.
Inexpensive meals such as my Lentil Sloppy Joe recipe is a hit with many of my readers.
Lentils are inexpensive, and you can use them in various dishes.
Other inexpensive meals that are meatless will stretch your food budget.
Easy Cheesy Rice Pie
Keto Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers
Stuff peppers with flavourful cauliflower rice and keep it vegetarian, or add bacon or beef mince.
Italian Pasta Frittata
Although my Italian Pasta, Frittata, has sausage, you can eliminate it and add vegetables for a meatless meal.
Inexpensive Meals From Our CBB Fans
I have some awesome fans at Canadian Budget Binder, and when I ask them for feedback, they deliver.
You heard it here first from the What’s For Dinner Gang!!
Soup For All Occasions
- Mary C- We only cook 2-3 dinners a week and eat leftovers the remainder of the week. Soup is a great budget stretcher, as are eggs, beans, and lentils.
- Chandra– I stretch when making a roast, turkey, or chicken; they go into stews, casseroles, and soups. I made homemade slow cooker Swiss Chalet-style chicken noodle soup that tastes just like the restaurant. Lastly, eat leftover homemade ground-up portobello/black bean/broccoli burgers.
Batch Cooking Saves Time and Money
- Nicola D–Making big batches always help to save time and stretch the dollars when needed. For example, I made a considerable taco tortilla lasagna yesterday, and we will have the rest tonight with fries and a salad!
- Della F- One way I stretch my meals is to take the leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Pam W- Soups and stews are a great way to stretch meals. Unfortunately, I’m the only one here who enjoys them.
- I buy pork roast and whole chicken, which I can stretch to make two or three meals.
- Christine M- I cook a whole chicken for dinner, and then the leftovers are used too – bones & meat for soup – I use the meat for sandwiches, or tacos, wraps, etc. – I do the same for roast beef and ham. Also, with leftovers, I make a dinner plate of food and freeze it, so when I’m in a hurry, I take the dinner out of the freezer – pop it in the microwave, and have a healthy meal in no time.
- Donna M- I do not throw out any poultry carcass; I freeze it for soups later.
Stretch Meals and Using Leftovers
- Mary D– I make leftovers which are great for lunches. I cook roasts; you can use the leftover meat for tacos, fajitas, or sandwiches. Making a pot of spaghetti sauce goes a long way, and easy enough to turn it into a pot of chili throughout the week if you freeze a container of it. If you buy bone-in chicken, you can use the bones to make your chicken stock for soups.
- Colleen K– I still use a tip my mother used when there were six mouths to feed and insufficient potatoes left from the night before. She would cube up a couple of slices of bread and fry them with the potatoes in bacon grease.
- Heather O– We stretch meals or create cheaper meals by price-matching produce and stocking up on sales. Also, by making simple meals like veggies and potatoes or veggies and rice, pasta without “meat,” or in our case, the vegetarian version of the meat.
- Beth Anne- I’m the leftover queen and plan for leftovers and use them to make new dishes later in the week. I also stretch meals by including more vegetarian meals in my menu plan. I try to use less meat and more grains, legumes, and vegetables in meals that are not meatless. Also, I make stock every week, and if I’ve made many dishes, I either freeze some or later. That way, I don’t get too bored with it.
- Christine W– I try to stretch any meat we have. If it’s a small roast, I try to get 2-3 meals for the 4 of us out of that roast! I work to use any leftovers for lunch, dinner, or part of the next meal. Meat is expensive, so I don’t serve much of it; we have more potatoes and veggies than meat!
- Judy C– To stretch meals, I try not to throw anything out and make leftovers into something new, hubby takes bits for work lunches, and we’ll have soup more often. It goes better if I write out a menu for the week.
- Pat C– To stretch the meals when I am home, I cook a big dinner like a roast chicken or roast beef, ham, etc. Then I de-bone and divide it into portions for future meals. Then boil the bones to make a homemade bone broth. The leftover veggies go into the soup. I also make extra foods that freeze well, like rice and beans, then portion them.
Take Control Of Your Meal Plan
Finally, I want to add that if you decide to make a large batch of food, leave yourself enough time, so you’re not rushing.
If you enjoy the process of cooking, you are likely to repeat it, which means more savings for your grocery budget.
Discussion: What other ways can you stretch inexpensive meals to last longer?
Please leave me your comments below, and I’ll be sure to reply.