Dollar Stretcher Tips For Grocery Budgets

I’m always looking for great dollar stretcher tips for our grocery budget and thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. These are great ways to make simple grocery items go further, therefore saving you money on your grocery budget. I love being able to feed my family great meals they love, but still stay on budget and meet our financial goals. 🙂

Dollar Stretcher Tips For Grocery Budgets

Dollar Stretcher Tips for Grocery Budgets. Grocery saving tips. Grocery budget tips.

Add powdered milk to your milk.

If you’re feeling more adventurous this idea may be for you! (However, you may find you get used to the taste pretty quickly.) Split your 4L jug of milk into two cartons. Prepare a gallon of powdered milk and divide between the two now half gallons of milk. Mix together and use as normal. Powdered milk is much less expensive and mixing like this will still taste the same while saving you money on one of the most often purchased and used items for a family budget.

Add beans to more than just soups and chili.

Dry beans are always super cheap and easy to cook in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. I love making large batches of pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans then putting them in 2-cup portion bags to use in everything from soups and chili, to mashing into my ground meat for spaghetti, tacos or casseroles. They take on most flavors they are seasoned with, and their texture is great for all kinds of dishes. This can make one pound of ground meat go twice as far in a casserole or soup!

Don’t fear using carbohydrates.

Starches and carbohydrates tend to have a bad reputation, but as long as you are including a lot of great nutrient-dense vegetables into your diet as well it’s not a bad thing to include things like rice and potatoes as a base for casseroles. Rice and potatoes are a great dollar stretcher for almost any meal. In fact, roasted potatoes, green beans, and roasted chicken is one of the easiest and cheapest meals you can make for your family. It’s healthy, satisfying and easy to manage. The potatoes add bulk to the meal without being high fat or unhealthy, and they are so cheap it makes your meal very affordable.

Batch cook your meals.

You may wonder how or why this can be considered a dollar stretcher for your grocery budget, but it really is a great way to save. When you buy larger quantities of meats and produce, you often save a significant amount of money. Next time you find chicken, pork or beef on sale in large “family sized” packages don’t hesitate to grab them, then cook in simple ways and portion to freeze. Chicken can be roasted and cubed for everything from salads and soups to casseroles or fajitas. Pork shoulders can be roasted and pulled for use in BBQ, casseroles or tacos. Batch cooking meats, produce and even whole meals and freezing for future use saves you time, money and tons of frustration each evening when you need to throw a simple meal together fast.

These are great dollar stretcher ideas for your grocery budget. Just a few simple changes can save you hundreds of dollars in grocery expenses over the course of a year.

How do you make ordinary grocery items stretch further? Let us know in the comments below!

Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Under $5

As the saying goes, ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’.  So while this is true, it can also be the least expensive and easiest meal to make of the day. With using items like sausage, veggies, eggs, and other ingredients that are easily accessible, you can easily make breakfast for the whole family for under $5.

9 Healthy breakfast ideas for under $5

Here are my favourite Healthy Breakfast Ideas for under $5:

  1. Greek Yogurt and Fruit – You can usually pick up a tub of Greek Yogurt for under $4. Use some frozen fruit and maple syrup for a topping and you have a delicious breakfast.
  2. French Toast – One of my family’s favorite meals is French toast… for breakfast or dinner ;). For some reason, we can’t get enough of it. I don’t mind because using whole wheat, I can make the French toast semi-healthy! We add fruit topping or peanut butter instead of real maple syrup sometimes.
  3. Banana with Peanut Butter – Is there anything more delicious than bananas and peanut butter? I think not! It also makes for a very filling breakfast for little ones. If your child doesn’t like bananas, try cutting up an apple for them. Delicious, healthy, and simple!
  4. Breakfast burritos – Using low carb or whole wheat tortillas, mix up eggs, salsa, and cheese to make a yummy breakfast concoction.
  5. Oatmeal – The lovely thing about oatmeal is that you can make it simple and healthy. Oatmeal is cheap and can feed a lot of people at one time. I’ve got three great recipes for oatmeal: Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal, Chunky Monkey Oatmeal or Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets.
  6. Fruit salad – One of my favorite healthy meals for under $5 is taking all the leftover fruit in the fridge and mixing it together to create a fruit salad. Sometimes I add a bit of yogurt on top. Yum!
  7. Veggie omelet – A dozen eggs can be bought for a little over $2. Make a yummy veggie omelet to feed your family a healthy meal for under $5.
  8. Sausage and Eggs – Keep breakfast simple by making sausage and eggs for your breakfast of choice. My family never complains about this meal.
  9. Homemade banana muffins – If you have old bananas in your possession, make some muffins out of them. A simple breakfast that will save you money! These are my most favourite Banana Chocolate Chip muffins.

These 9 healthy breakfast ideas for under $5 will help you stay on budget and keep you feeling great all day long. It’s easy to swing through the drive thru and get caught up in a $20 breakfast for the family. But instead, it’s just as easy to make your own breakfast at home for $5 (and stay in your pajamas!).

What healthy breakfast ideas do you have for under $5?

How to Make an Inexpensive Healthy Meal Plan

Are you trying to ensure your family is eating healthy? A meal plan is the best way to plan your meals and keep everything as healthy as possible. Many people can attest to the fact that healthy meals can seem way more expensive to make than regular meals. Today, I’d love to show you how to make an inexpensive healthy meal plan.

How to Make an Inexpensive Healthy Meal Plan

How to make a healthy meal plan

 

Buy or make a cheap calendar

First of all, the best plan of action is to write your meal plan down. It’s nearly impossible to stick with a plan unless it’s written down. I like to use a traditional calendar to write out what we will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you have a place to write down what you will make, you can move on to the next step.

Make a list of healthy foods your family likes

I have learned (by trial and error :)) that you will save money by buying what you know your family will eat. If your family loves bananas, apples and carrots, then spend your money buying those delicious fruits and vegetables. You can always try adding one new fruit or vegetable a week in small quantities.

Create a list of healthy meals that are inexpensive

The only way to create an inexpensive healthy meal plan is to make a list. Make a list of all the healthy meals you can think of that keep you on a budget. You may want to put google or Pinterest to use helping you find ideas. I also really like Budget Bytes for recipes! In my household, we try to stick to a main dish, veggie side, and rice/potato side. This helps keep things on budget and simple. For example, barbecued chicken with a side of mixed veggies and baked potato.

Make a shopping list

When you are meal planning healthy meals, you need a shopping list. You don’t want to forget what you need to buy and it helps keep you accountable to eat the healthy meals that you’re planning. A shopping list will help you save your sanity. Write a note in your phone or jot it down on a piece of paper. Depending on the store you shop at, you can even make a shopping list in the store app.

Stay on budget

When you’re planning an inexpensive healthy meal, try to stay on budget. You can do the math of what a meal will cost before you even head to the store. This will help you know how much you need to spend before you even spend it. For example, chicken is $3.99 a pound and you need 3 pounds to make this week’s meals. That’s rounded to $12, which can make about 2 meals for a family of 4.

There you have it, the steps to making an inexpensive healthy meal plan for your family. Take your time, create a budget, and plan each meal out. The most important part is sticking to the meal plan that you took the time to create.

If you really struggle with the idea of creating a meal plan, try out $5 Meal Plan. It happens to be my favorite meal planning service. It’s just $5 a month (the first two weeks are free!), and you get menu plans sent straight to your email along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This service allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well! If you are interested in joining for free, click here.

Do you have any tips to add? Let me know all your inexpensive meal plan secrets in the comments below!

6 Dinner Classics Perfect For Preparing in an Instant Pot

Not only is owning an Instant Pot going to save you money, you should know that some well-loved dinner classics are perfect for whipping up in a jiffy in the machine. Not all Instant Pot recipes need to be fancy, in fact some of the best Instant Pot recipes are comfort food classics that will soon become family favorites. Look at these 6 dinner classics perfect for preparing in an Instant Pot, and be prepared to wow your family and their taste buds!

6 Dinner Classics Perfect For Preparing in an Instant Pot

6 Dinner Classics Perfect For Preparing in an Instant Pot

1. Instant Pot Beef Stew.

What is more comforting than beef stew? Your Instant Pot is perfect for beef stew with all the fixings, including tender beef and fresh vegetables. You can even freeze your beef stew for later or keep it for several days worth of meals. No matter what time of year it is, Instant Pot beef stew can fit the bill when you need some savory and filling comfort food.

2. Instant Pot Spaghetti

Kids love spaghetti, and your Instant Pot can whip it up in no time. Consider using an assortment of fresh herbs, various pastas, and even fresh meat. With your Instant Pot you can experiment with ingredients to create your own unique spaghetti dish. Spaghetti will never be boring again, and you might just create a famous family recipe!

3. Instant Pot Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs make the perfect side dish or appetizer. Having a party? Consider making Swedish Meatballs in your Instant Pot! You can whip up this comfort food classic fast, and in no time have an appetizer or side dish everyone will love. Just grab the toothpicks!

4. Instant Pot Orange Chicken

Ready for some Asian flare? Then Instant Pot Orange Chicken it is! Forget paying big bucks to get this dish via carry out. Instead, make your own in  your Instant Pot. Orange Chicken can be whipped up quickly, and all you need to do is add a side of rice. Delish!

5. Instant Pot BBQ Ribs

Do you think you need to spend all afternoon at the grill to get yummy BBQ ribs? Not with an Instant Pot! You can make your own BBQ ribs in your Instant Pot in no time, using a savory, spicy, or sweet sauce of your choice to get the perfect rib flavor.

6. Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

What kid doesn’t like mac and cheese? There are hundreds of Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipes out there perfect for your evening meal. You can experiment with various kinds of pasta, and even use an assortment of cheeses for a rich, cheesy flavor.

Are you ready to get dinner on the table fast? Then consider these 6 dinner classics perfect for preparing in an Instant Pot and get a tasty dinner classic on the table fast. You will find that the internet is full of tried and true recipes (especially Pinterest!), perfect for a newbie or even the most experienced Instant Pot user to explore. So go ahead and grab an Instant Potand give these classics a try!

11 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

With a little creativity and some smart shopping, it’s possible to reduce food waste at home quite easily.  If you find yourself  throwing out rotten food on a regular basis, you’re also throwing away the money you used to purchase the food.  And that’s not good for the grocery budget!

Here are 11 ways to Reduce Food Waste and save money:

11 Ways to reduce food waste at home. Grocery saving tips.

 

Create a Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan is a crucial step to help you spend less and waste less. When you know what you’re going to eat every day of the week, you ideally will only purchase the foods you need at the grocery store.  Without a meal plan and a grocery list based on your plan, you’ll most likely find yourself wandering the aisles grabbing whatever looks good to you.  That’s fun, but you’ll most likely end up with not enough or not the right groceries for a week’s worth of meals.

If you really struggle with menu planning, then try out $5 Meal Plan. It happens to be my favorite meal planning service. It’s just $5 a month (the first two weeks are free!), and you get menu plans sent straight to your email along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This service allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well! If you are interested in joining for free, click here.

Account for Leftovers

If you find you usually have quite a few leftovers, account for the leftovers in your meal plan.  Maybe set aside one or two nights that you devote to eating up those leftovers.  Or, turn those leftovers into another meal.  Perhaps all that leftover spaghetti sauce will create a wonderful chili, as an example.

Buy Less

If your pantry and freezer are quite well stocked, start your “shopping” there.  By using what you have on hand already, will ensure you don’t buy more than you need and will help prevent food waste on the products you’ve already purchased.

Also, something I’ve learned about our family is, while buying a big package of celery (for example) may be cheaper in the long run than buying individual stalks, most of it goes to waste!  We’re not big celery eaters so purchasing individual stalks is actually cheaper for us because I only buy what we will use.  This same principle can apply to many different items in the grocery store.

Buy What you Love

You may have had some moments where you think you should eat more quinoa/fish/whatever, as you’re strolling through the grocery store.  I’ve had plenty of those nutritional guilt trips, but this inevitably leads to unplanned purchases for items your family may not be too excited about yet.  Focus on the foods your family enjoys, and add new ones gradually, after you’ve found recipes worth trying.

Buy Local

In all honesty, I never understood how buying local produce could save you money since the price I was looking at paying was more expensive than something I could purchase from a regular grocery store.  But then I realized that local produce travels way less than anything purchased from most grocery stores.  Because local produce travels less, you’re paying for a fresher item that will have a much longer life span!  Makes sense, right?  An obvious reason to support our local farmers.

Take Smaller Portions

Before you dish out another big portion, ask yourself if you really will finish what’s on your plate. Since it’s not likely you’ll save that little piece of chicken you couldn’t finish, stick to smaller portions. You can always get seconds!

Freeze Leftovers

Rather than scraping your leftovers into the garbage or if you don’t feel like eating them before they go to waste, put them in the freezer!  This makes for a great way to reduce waste and creates an easy meal for a busy night.

Store Produce Properly

Not all produce should be stored the same way.  Here’s a great guide on Design Mom with 6 Secrets to Properly Washed & Stored Produce.

Learn to read the labels

Take some time to learn what “Sell-by” or “use-by” dates actually mean.  The sell-by date is the last recommended day you should buy a product from the store, but you can still eat it several days to a week after. “Use-by” is the date through which the item will be top-quality.  But, if stored properly, most foods will stay fresh a few days longer than the use-by date!  Of course, if you note any weird odors, textures, or colors, throw it out.

Overlook Imperfections

Whether it’s soft spots in apples, bruises on bananas or dark spots on potatoes, all produce will develop imperfections. With produce that is past its prime, simply cut around the “bad” parts before you eat or throw veggies into a stock pot for soup, or make a smoothie with the less pristine fruits.  Just because something isn’t in perfect condition doesn’t mean it’s inedible!

If you’re dealing with mold, though, it’s time for the garbage.  Unless it’s cheese.  You can cut around the mold to salvage the rest.

Save it for the compost

Some food waste is unavoidable, so why not set up a compost bin for fruit and vegetable pieces and peelings? In a few months you’ll end up with nutrient-rich compost for your garden!

How do you reduce food waste in your home?

How to Buy in Bulk to Save Money

We all know buying in bulk is a great way to save money for our families. When you buy larger quantities you pay less for each ounce, serving, or piece. Sadly sometimes our best intentions to save money by purchasing in bulk, costs us more money than we intended. The good news is, all of those great intentions can pay off and you can buy in bulk to save money with a little planning and know-how.

Use the tips below to help you learn how to buy in bulk to save money.

How to Buy in Bulk to Actually Save Money

Decide if bulk is worth it for your family.

Smaller families do not need to buy everything in bulk because when food goes bad you are not truly saving anything. Some things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies are great to buy in bulk for everyone. They will never go bad and you can get your money’s worth from a purchase like that. However, in most cases, a small family may find it challenging to go through large quantities of perishable items before they go bad.

Compare bulk price to the regular price.

Sometimes buying in bulk is not as good of a deal as may sound. Take the time to divide the price by ounces, servings, or pieces so that you can see how much you are really paying. When sales hit it can often be better to buy the smaller packages than to purchase the bulk one, not on sale.

Check expiration dates and rotate your stock.

It is really easy for things to be forgotten in the back of the pantry or freezer for a long period of time. Only to be discovered when it is too late. Grab a sharpie and put dates in large print on everything. Move new items to the back when putting your groceries away to avoid using the newest items before the old.

Store items well to make them last longer.

Airtight containers can keep your bulk supplies fresh longer. A vacuum sealer can keep that fresh meat you found a great deal on from being freezer burnt before you can use it, and storing produce like carrots in water will keep them fresh longer giving you time to use them.

Plan your menu to use up fresh items before they go bad.

Nothing can ruin a great deal like not using what you bought before it begins to rot. When purchasing produce in bulk you really want to be sure you have a plan to use it. When we find a really good deal we plan to use it in every meal and snack we can to be sure it gets used.

Compare prices and selections at your local wholesale clubs BEFORE buying a membership.

Often places like Costco will let you in to check out the selection before you buy a membership. Compare the prices of the top ten things your family will be buying in bulk and go with the club membership if that will give you the best deal on these items.

Look for bulk in unexpected places.

Often supermarkets will have bulk basics like flour in 25-pound sacks available. Your local farmer’s market is a great place to find a deal on bulk produce from local farmers looking to clear out stock by the end of the day. You do not have to purchase a wholesale club membership to buy in bulk if you take the time to shop around helping you save a bit more money when buying in bulk.

Do you find buying in bulk is worth it for your family? What things do you most often buy in bulk? From where?

Canadian Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)

Have you heard of the Canadian Scanning Code of Practice? It could be very valuable to you!

Most Canadian retailers take part in this practice. In Quebec it’s the law and in other provinces, it’s voluntary. Basically, if you purchase an item believing it to be a certain price but the item actually scans at a higher price then advertised, you receive the item free up to a $10 value! If the item is priced more than $10, then the retailer will give you a discount of $10 off the corrected price.

The code applies to all UPC, bar coded, and/or Price Look Up (PLU) merchandise sold in stores, with the exception of goods not easily accessible to the public (example: prescription drugs and behind the counter cosmetics), and individually price-ticketed items.

To be eligible for the Item Free Scanner Policy, the item must match the product description on the corresponding shelf tag.

Does that make sense?

Quite often the cashier won’t give you the product free without you mentioning the Scanning Code of Practice. So if you notice a wrong price, speak up!

At participating retailers you should see a sign on the entrance doors and at the till that reads:

Scanning Code of Practice: If the scanned price of a non-price item is higher than the shelf price or any other displayed price, the customer is entitled to receive the first item free, up to a $10 maximum. If a Code of Practice problem cannot be resolved at the store level, please call 1-866-499-4599 to register your complaint.

If you would like more information, visit this site: Retail Council of Canada

Here is a list of participating retailers:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • The Groupe Jean Coutu (NB and Ont only)
  • Lawton Drug Stores
  • London Drugs
  • Lovell Drugs
  • Pharma-save (BC and Sask)
  • Canada Safeway Limited
  • The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company of Canada Limited
  • Loblaw Companies Limited
  • Sobeys Inc.
  • Metro Inc.
  • Thrifty Foods
  • Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd.
  • Co-op Atlantic
  • Federated Co-operatives Limited
  • Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd.
  • The Home Depot Canada
  • Canadian Tire Corporation Ltd.
  • Toys r Us
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Wal*Mart Canada Corp.
  • Giant Tiger Stores Ltd.
  • The North West Company
  • Best Buy/Future Shop
  • Home Hardware franchisees
  • Thrifty Foods
  • Overwaitea Food Group
  • The Harry Watson Group
  • Longos Brothers Fruit Markets

12 Tips to a No Waste Kitchen

Homes in general create a large amount of waste. However, I happen to think the kitchen is the biggest offender of all the rooms in the house. From rotten produce to packaging, there’s almost an endless amount of waste coming from this one room! If you have been considering a no waste kitchen there’s no better time than now and I’ve got some tips to help you get started.

Twelve tips to a no waste kitchen

12 tips to help you get started with a no waste kitchen.

The first step to reducing kitchen waste is to reduce and reuse packaging. Be mindful when buying packaged items. Jars and containers can be reused for other reasons. Visit your local farmer’s market to buy fresh produce and bring a basket so you do not need to take plastic grocery bags. Not only are these foods better for you, they have a lower impact on the earth. I’ve also learned that Bulk Barn will be introducing a reusable container program at all Bulk Barn locations starting February 24!

Regrow produce from leftovers. Yes, it’s true! Several produce items can be regrown using the ends! From celery to pineapples to green onions and more, you are bound to find a favorite thing your family can regrow.

Put overripe fruit to use by making bread, muffins, and other fun treats. We are all familiar with treats like banana bread but you can do this with nearly any overripe fruit in your fridge.

A great way work towards a zero waste kitchen is to compost and boost your garden nutrients at the same time. Instead of throwing out what your family does not eat, use it to build up your garden and feed your family again. Banana peels and eggshells are great to toss right into your garden beds.

Invest in storage that makes food last longer. Produce can go bad fast but with the right storage, you can make it last longer than ever. Washing fruits in a bit of Apple Cider Vinegar will kill off mold spores that make them go bad faster. Storing carrots and celery in water can make them last weeks at a time.

Related: The large container in this set is great for storing produce!

Ditch the sponge for a washable dishcloth that lasts longer and cuts down on bacteria that can make your family sick.

Ditch the paper towels for a washable option like reusable towels or microfiber cloths. Reuse cans for draining things that cannot be washed down the drain, like bacon grease.

Make eggs last longer. When storing store bought eggs put them directly into a sealed container in the fridge. These eggs no longer have the protective coating the chicken leaves on the eggs so they can absorb odors, flavors, and bacteria from your fridge. If you have your own chickens don’t wash the eggs. Slightly dust off feathers and bedding that may be on them and store on the counter. Do not WASH until you go to use them.

Shop with reusable supplies like cloth grocery and produce bags. One trick you may enjoy is bringing laundry baskets or big storage containers when you go shopping. Have the cashiers toss everything into the baskets instead of bags. Move the basket to your car and from your car to your home. It cuts down on waste and makes getting everything in easier. You may want to separate refrigerated and pantry goods in these baskets to make putting everything away easy.

Don’t buy more than you need. So often we see a sale and buy more than our families can use before it goes bad. If you do not have a deep freezer, control the impulse to buy out that clearance meat. The same goes for buying produce, milk, eggs and even pantry goods that can go stale.

Go homemade.  To cut down on packaging waste for convenience items like cookies, granola bars, apple sauce cups or even frozen entrees, start making those items at home and storing in reusable containers or your baking ware.

I can’t write anything relating to food without mentioning the importance of menu planning. Menu planning is especially vital to reducing food waste and lowering your grocery bill. If you really struggle with menu planning, then try out $5 Meal Plan. It happens to be my favorite meal planning service. It’s just $5 a month (the first two weeks are free!), and you get menu plans sent straight to your email along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This service allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well! If you are interested in joining for free, click here.

Armed with these tips, you should be able to make little steps towards a no waste kitchen. Changing one thing at a time will enable you to keep more money in your pocket too!

I’d love to know how you reduce food and packaging waste in your home. Please share in the comments below!

No Spend Challenge: Brainstorm Meal Ideas

A No Spend Challenge: 28 Days of Being Simply Frugal.

Ready, set, go!  The No Spend Challenge is officially underway!  So far, we’re off to a great start! 😉

Truthfully, I’m winging this challenge. 🙂 In the morning of December 29, I had fully intended on doing a month of organizing here on Simply Frugal for January. But come the afternoon of December 29, I realized that that would be silly of me to do personally because I should be packing up to move instead of organizing things! So, the No Spend Challenge just made more sense since we could really do with a lot less spending.

It appears as though many of you agree because so many of you have joined me over at the Simply Frugal Community on Facebook! Yay!

Before we get started with today’s post, I thought it would be important to think about why you are taking the No Spend Challenge and what you hope to achieve. It’s important to always keep your reason(s) in mind as the challenge goes along because this month isn’t just about saving money, it’s about changing your mentality as it relates to shopping, your needs, and what a good life is all about.

Throughout the next 28 days I’ll be touching on some of the most common ways we like to spend money and suggesting some solutions or ideas to help us all start to think differently about how we spend money on those things. There won’t be daily posts, but I will provide the occasional task to complete. Not only to help get your mind off the fact that you’re not spending money, but also to help you get into the habit of using what you have, rather than buying more. Another perk to the No Spend Challenge is to realize and appreciate all that we do have. 🙂

Today, we’re going to spend some time thinking about our menu for the month. (Or start with a week and go from there.) Food can be a huge area of the budget. Especially if we’re used to eating out regularly. Let’s see if we can learn to use what we have and cook more often at home by planning some meals.

First of all, start by making a list of all your favourite recipes and your family’s favourite meals.  Feel free to ask them for input!  Don’t worry about the ingredients, it’s important to just write as many ideas as possible. Here’s a free meal ideas printable to help you out:

No spend meal ideas

Next, take a quick inventory of what you have on hand already by taking a look in your pantry and fridge/freezer. Here are some handy freezer and pantry inventory checklists for you to print:

 Get the Pantry Inventory worksheet here.

Get the Freezer Inventory worksheet here.

Now, take a look at your pantry and freezer inventory lists and think of one meal that corresponds with each ingredient.  For example, if tomato sauce is on your list, you could write spaghetti, sloppy joes or lasagna.

Finally, find more ideas by getting inspired by taking a look though cookbooks, magazines or browsing the web!  Pinterest is a great way to find recipes as well.

Try to have at least 28 meals on your list. One for each day of the challenge. More if you need to plan breakfasts and lunches. (I tend to rotate through the same few meals for these, but I think it’s still important to write down.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with my list of No Spend Month Meals.

I’d love it if you left a comment listing at least one meal idea from the list you just made!  Be sure to join the Simply Frugal Community on Facebook for the discussion we will be having about this.

How to Make a Meal With What’s Left in Your Pantry

We all find ourselves in a pinch from time to time. Things get tough and we don’t have enough money to go around. When this happens you may find yourself looking at the pantry wondering how you will make a meal out of what is left so you can get through to pay day. You will be proud of yourself when you serve that meal knowing you did it with what you had in the pantry.

Here’s how to make a meal with what’s left in the pantry:

How to Make a Meal With What's Left in Your Pantry. Grocery saving tips.

Strive for balance.

When it comes to tossing a meal together out of the blue, you want to look for ingredients to make a balanced and filling meal. This means you want to search for a protein, some fruit/veggies and a carbohydrate to create your meal. Canned meats or beans will give you a protein, while rice, pasta, and potatoes for your carbohydrate, are found in nearly any pantry.

Mix it together to have enough to fill you up.

If you find you do not have enough of something for a meal, you could try mixing two things together to make enough to feed your family. For example, you could mix rice and potatoes together in a casserole or add beans to ground beef to make tacos stretch further.

Give your meal a flavor boost.

When it comes to making a meal from very little, the best trick you can use is your spice cabinet. Adding flavor to your mystery dish can make the plainest foods feel like a gourmet meal. Some cooked pasta with butter, spices, and whatever protein and veggie you have in your fridge or pantry can become a new family favorite. When in doubt use garlic, basil, and oregano for a foolproof flavor combination.

Add a Carbohydrate.

Any bread in the house will do. It adds a filling element to your meal making it go further. If all else fails mix 2 cups flour, a pinch of salt, your favorite herbs (basil and oregano for the win again), 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and enough milk or water to create a pancake-like batter. Fry up like a pancake and serve with butter for a filling side to any meal.

Put ramen noodles to good use.

Any college kid will tell you that ramen noodles can be made into a pretty tasty meal. Add some chopped veggies, a scrambled egg or leftover meat out of the fridge. While high in calories and salt the occasional pack won’t hurt you. Or you could omit the packet all together and add some teriyaki sauce.

Cheese goes with nearly anything.

If you’re truly low on food but are lucky enough to have some cheese in the fridge, you can turn nearly anything into a cheesy filling casserole.

Need a little bit more help getting started with a meal idea? MyFridgeFood is made just for people like you. Select the random things running around in your pantry and fridge, hit select and get instant inspiration.

I’d love to know some of your ideas for pulling together a meal with the bare minimum. Let me know in the comments!

Related: Basic Pantry Staples List and a Free Printable Checklist.