YOU ONLY HAVE TO CLEAN UP ONCE
I often get emails from fans who want to know how they can create inexpensive meals on a very tight budget. Another concern is how to stretch recipes so they last for a few meals which amounts to a better bang for your buck.
One of the biggest budget busters in the food department begins when you eat outside of the home. When you decide to eat out whether they are inexpensive meals or not you more than likely can always make it at home for less. Think fresh food, plus you know what you are putting into the food you eat when you make it yourself. You can’t put a price on that my friends.
If you want to limit the temptations of the outside world you must be prepared ahead of time. I eat out from time to time but I certainly 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 fits your food budget.
Not everyone knows product prices of the grocery store industry which is a number one factor when it comes to meal costing but also what meals to make with the ingredients they buy. It’s difficult for some people 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 that boring though.
Today I’m going to address how we create inexpensive meals on our $235 a month food budget for two adults and one toddler. If you want to stretch meals you have to create recipes that can go a bit further than one meal.
Most often people think “Comfort Food” when they want to stretch a meal so they don’t have to cook the next day. Comfort food is food that typically hits the spot and includes fillings such as mince meat, eggs, vegetables and beans.
One of the biggest challenges my wife and I have is creating healthy inexpensive meals that the both of us can eat, especially since she’s eating a low-carb diet. Most often I find that I’m thinking 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 recipes that are budget-friendly meals which our family would eat over the course of a few days. Being a busy parents with a toddler we have to be on top of the meals or we end up not sticking to our meal plan.
I am the first to admit that there are weeks where our meal plan is pretty boring or repetitive because like many others we go with what is familiar. If I have time off from work though this is when I try to create new meals to add to our recipe box so we don’t stay in boring food mode.
Over time we build up a stash of recipes of inexpensive meals that 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 to go along as a side dish to a meatless meal. Eggs are inexpensive and a great way to get protein into your diet.
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. She’s right! The rest of the week you will have general clean-up but nothing like batch-cooking night.
Our go-to inexpensive meals that are easy to stretch always revert back to casserole type dishes and soups galore. Soup will always go a long way and you can bulk it out with a variety of 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
Whether you make soup in the crock-pot or on the stove-top you know that it’s difficult to make a small pot. I know I struggle but the leftovers are perfect for lunch or dinner throughout the week especially during the winter.
Where’s the Beef?
When I go to work I always take hot meals with me which means at least once a week I need to batch cook since I work 7 days a week. There’s something about eating comfort food at work rather than a sandwich that makes me feel that I’m still 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 for dinner that night what I’m batch cooking for work so I try to prepare a meal that is easy that includes ground beef or other mince that we have in the freezer.
I find that there are so many ground beef recipes that we can whip up in a flash provided we remember to defrost the beef. I’m horrible at remembering and my wife is no better.
What can I make with ground beef?
Whether you like ground beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken any one of these mince meats can be turned into inexpensive meals that will stretch your food dollars.
Ground beef has been pricey the past year but that’s changing as prices have slowly been coming down. I also notice that grocery store butchers are packaging beef and pork mince together. This is a great option for those who want to make meatballs of any kind and it costs less.
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 both pork mince and ground beef. The best part about using ground beef or other mince meats in bulk cooking is the option to add vegetables and other legumes to stretch the meal. Another trick we do is we batch cook pasta sauce which can later be used for chili, stew and even as pizza sauce for our homemade pizza pies.
If you’ve got a load of peppers from your garden or you’ve found a great price at the grocery store stock-up and make a quick meal such as stuffed peppers which are delicious served with pasta sauce and dripping with cheese.
If you go to Costco you can buy stuffed peppers pre-made for MUCH more than you would pay to make them yourself. If convenience is what you are after you may struggle to find meals that are pre-made that will last you more than a day or so before the texture and taste goes off. I’m not a fan of pre-made but I have had some good homemade foods from specialty shops and the grocery store. $$$
One of our favourite meals is shepherd’s pie which is traditionally made with lamb. Lamb mince is very pricey in Canada to buy unless we can find it reduced which isn’t too often so we opt for using ground beef. We can typically pick up a pack of ground beef between $4-7 or even less if we were to buy a family pack of ground beef. I always run the numbers when deciding on what size package to buy because buying in bulk does have advantages most times.
The grocery store knows that ground beef is a staple in most families so you will find meat and pork on the cover on at least one grocery flyer every other week or so. That is the time you will want to stock up so you are ready to create recipes that can take you through a few days without cooking again.
A 10 pound bag of potatoes can cost around $2 when on sale which seems to be at least once a month or every other month. If you stock up with a couple of bags you’re good until the next sale cycle. Another great topping for this type of pie is low-carb cauliflower mash or sweet potato mash if you want to switch it up the flavours.
Common vegetables such as corn, onions, celery, carrots and peas are five produce items that help to bulk out a shepherd’s pie. You can even add black beans or chickpeas which are inexpensive to buy in bulk when dry. You can re-hydrate the beans in the crock-pot overnight without fuss which is what we do.
Stop buying packets of spice mixes to make your one pot meals and I promise you’ll save some money there too. It’s so easy to make your own homemade taco seasoning, shepherd’s pie seasoning, sloppy Joe mix and so on with the ingredients you have in your pantry and spice cabinet.
When we make shepherd’s pie we add spices that will bring out the flavour in the ground beef such as garlic, onion powder, thyme, sage, salt, pepper, bay leaf and Rosemary. As a thickener we use a bit of flour and water along with either ketchup or tomato paste for additional tangy flavour. It turns out great every time!
I priced a shepherd’s pie for $13.99 at the grocery store but it’s basic on all levels and remember it’s not homemade. You can make a shepherd’s pie at home for half that price if you bulk it out with vegetables and use your own spices.
Homemade is best.
When I make a pan of shepherd’s pie it will last for all of my lunch meals for the week or I divide it up with another batch meal that I make so I don’t get bored with my lunches.
Other great inexpensive meals with sausage:
We all know that going meatless is a great way to stick to a food budget but not everyone likes meatless meals. Many times I’ve mentioned meatless and friends say that 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.
If you don’t mind them this is a great way to cut back on expenses and try new recipes that you may not have thought of such as my Lentil Sloppy Joe recipe which is a hit with many of my readers. Lentils are inexpensive to buy and you can use them in a variety of dishes.
Other inexpensive meals that are meatless that will stretch your food budget
Inexpensive Meals and Tips
What the fans say….
I really do have some awesome fans at Canadian Budget Binder and when I ask them for feedback, they deliver. I appreciate the time they take to tell me what they do to create inexpensive meals which they can stretch over the week or even month when frozen.
You heard it here first…. from the What’s For Dinner Gang!!
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 or turkey or chicken, they go into stews, casseroles, soups. I made homemade slow cooker Swiss Chalet style chicken noodle soup tastes just like restaurant. And eating leftover homemade ground up portobello/black bean/broccoli burgers.
Nicola D–Making big batches always helps. Stretches the pennies when needed. For example I made a huge taco tortilla lasagna yesterday and we will have the rest tonight with fries and a salad!
Della F– One way that 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 roasts and whole chickens which I can usually stretch each 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 a roast beef and a 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 I have a healthy meal in no time.
Donna M– I do not throw out any poultry carcass, I freeze for soups later on.
Mary D– I make leftovers which are great for lunches. I cook roasts which you can use the leftover meat for tacos, fajitas or sandwiches. Make a pot of spaghetti sauce it goes a long way, and easy enough to turn it into a pot of chili thru the week if you freeze a container of it. If you buy bone-in chicken you can use the bones to make your own chicken stock for soups.
Colleen K- I still use a tip my mother used when there was 6 mouths to feed and not quite enough potatoes leftover from the night before she would cube up a couple of slices of bread and fry along with the potatoes in bacon grease of course. Before draining turnips stir in 1/2 tsp baking soda to help remove some of the gas…drain and rinse and mash as usual.
Heather O- How we stretch meals or create cheaper meals is : a) price matching – even produce, and stocking up on sales b)creating simple meals like veggies and potatoes or veggies and rice, pasta without “meat” or in our case the vegetarian version of the meat, Also making a large batch of something for either leftovers or next freezing some if possible for another time, Also if you have leftovers creating something new from it – for instance tonight we are having chili – with our leftovers, we could put the chili in tacos or potatoes ~
Beth Anne- I’m the leftover queen. I plan leftovers and use them to make new dishes later in the week Other ways I stretch meals are by including more vegetarian meals in my menu plan and by using less meat and more grains, legumes, and vegetables in the meals that are not meatless. I also make stock every week and, if I’ve made a large quantity of any dish, I either freeze some of it or can it for later use. 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 up any leftovers somehow as a lunch or another dinner or part of the next meal. Meat is expensive so I don’t serve a lot of it, more potatoes and veggies than meat for us!
Judy C– To stretch meals I try not to throw anything out, make leftovers into something new, hubby takes leftovers for work lunches, and we’ll have soup more often. I also find 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 into portions for future meals. Then boil the bones to make broth. The leftover veggies go into the soup. I also make extra of foods that freeze well like rice and beans and portion them as well.
Finally, I just want to add don’t if you do decide to make a large batch of food do 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.
What other ways can you think of to stretch inexpensive meals so they last a bit longer?
Please leave a comment below.
February Grocery Game Challenge posts 2016
Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy. Thanks to Mary for putting this together for us again this year. If you need any help please let me know.
New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.
- 5 Ways to Slash Binge Shopping From Your Grocery Budget– #1 February
- Should you buy into the Costco Membership Hype?- #2 February
- 10 Smart Ways to Trim Travel Expenses on Travel Food – #3 February
- 8 Gross Things That Turn People Off From Your Food- #4 February
Free Money Saving Tools 2016
I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.
You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.
CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016
The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.
Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.
Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.
The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
2016 Grocery Shop Results
Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $217.05
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $50
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 106779
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)to date $0
- Shoppers Optimum: Over 700,000 points (I will update this twice a year)
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to cash out: $6.50
- Zweet to cash out : $18.25
- Checkout51 to cash out : $7.00
Grocery Shop This Week
- Beatrice 2L Homo Milk $4.29-50%= $2.15 (cheaper than buying a 4L bag $5.27)
- 3 x Free Range Eggs Reg $6.99 reduced $3.29=$9.87
- Iceberg lettuce $0.97
- McIntosh Apples 3lb $1.97
- 2 x avocado bags of 5 sale $5.00 for 2
- 2 hothouse tomatoes $1.01
- 1 seedless cucumber $1.50
Total Out-of-Pocket: $22.47
- Danone cream blue yogurt reduced to $2.00-50% = $1.00
- 3 x Philadelphia cream cheese Reg $3.29 marked $0.99 each
- Fresh ground lamb $7.02-50% = $3.51
- Tomato Basil Pork Sausages Fresh $7.37-50%=$3.69
- Cauliflower Sale $2.00
- Reduced oranges $1.49
Total Out-of-Pocket: $14.66
- Total to spend this month $235.00-$17.95 over Jan = $217.05
- Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00):$25.00
- Stockpile budget used this month: $26.00 (over by $1.00 to carry over March)
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $4
- Total in-store discounts this week:$27.87
- Total in-store discounts to date: $155.97
- Total spent this week: $37.13
- Total spent so far this month: $249.46
- Total over/Under spend this shop:over budget
- Total over/Under spend for the month:- over budget $217.05-$249.46=$32.41 over yikes!!
- Total left to spend for the month: -$32.41 carry over to March
- Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95+ Feb $249.46+March $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
Wishful thinking that we would come under budget this month and we would have if not for some amazing sales and that we roamed around the store. We were trying to waste time before our sons vaccination appointment so he wouldn’t fall asleep, of all places.
In doing so we found some great 50% off deals which saved us $27.87 had we paid full-price. All of the items we bought are typical of our grocery budget or foods we would only buy on sale.
I was particularly happy to find the lamb mince, Homo Milk, yogurt and free range eggs for reduced prices. We would never spend $6.99 to buy a dozen but for $3.29 we’ll give it a go. Why not, they taste better.
Overall, we have a carry over for next month. Avoidable-probably. Although we are still buying reduced items as much as we can we will re-evaluate our grocery budget come the middle of the year to see if it’s US who is being naughty or the grocery prices. Time will tell.
How was your grocery shopping week?
Coupons and Coupon Apps 2016
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!
Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!
- Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
- Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
- Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
- MySavings.com Printable Smart Source Coupons
- Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
- Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
- Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from Save.ca, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.
Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
- Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
- Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site Save.ca that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do. This is why the grocery game challenge was created back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.
If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to look at your grocery budget by learning…
- Where you are spending money
- How much money you are spending
- How much money you are saving every month
If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!
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