Foods I Always Make Myself
- Chicken/beef broth: it’s just leftover chicken or beef bones, scrap veggies, and water. Easy. When I first got married, Chase’s best friend’s wife opened up a whole new DIY food world for me. She taught me how easy it was to make chicken broth in a crockpot, and I’ve never gone back!
- Pesto: It’s my condiment of choice, and I eat it on everything…sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, you name it. I used to think all pesto was basil-based, but you can actually make it with any leafy green. I use spinach right when it’s on the cusp of going bad.
- Salad dressing: Seriously, you can find so many easy, amazing dressing on the web today. I promise you probably already have the ingredients in your house, and it takes under 5 minutes to make. Plus, you know exactly what’s in it so that’s a major bonus.
- Pizza dough: We have flatbread every week at the Seamans’ house. Not only because it’s tasty, but because it’s cheap and easy. I use Pioneer Woman’s pizza dough recipe. It makes 4 doughs: I freeze 3, and have pizza dough ready for a month.
- Green onions: Ok, I don’t necessarily make green onions, but I do grow them. My mind was completely blown when I discovered you could take the bottoms of green onions, plant them, and they would continue to grow. And they grow like crazy. I hate buying green onions, because I only use a few and the rest go to waste. This way, you always have exactly what you need. Oh, you can also grow them in a glass of water on a window sill if planting isn’t your thing.
Food I Sometimes Make Myself
- Applesauce (when apples are in season): In the fall, nothing smells better than homemade applesauce in the crockpot. It is SO easy. Click on the link to view the post. Kid and hubby approved.
- “Creamer”: Y’all, I love creamer. I mean, I really love it…especially the holiday flavors. But when I use creamer, I use a lot of it. Sometimes in more than one cup a day. I realized I was wasting a lot of calories on creamer, so I decided I needed to do something different. A few years ago, my chicken broth pal told me about Bulletproof coffee. It’s not a special coffee you buy, more of a method of how you make your coffee. It’s whatever coffee you normally drink, plus about a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of coconut oil (both good fats). I know, gross right?! At least that was my reaction before I tried it. Once you add that in your coffee, make sure you use some way to blend it: emersion blender, bullet….something (otherwise it’s just oily). It makes your coffee super frothy, rich, and creamy….it’s just delicious! I like sweetness in my coffee, so I add some Truvia nectar (or agave nectar if you prefer).
- Spaghetti sauce: If you have any kind of canned tomatoes in your pantry, you can make your own sauce for P-E-N-N-I-E-S. (bonus points if you grow your own tomatoes!)
- Coconut milk: Chase likes coconut milk, and it can get pricey depending on the brand you buy. You can make coconut milk by blending unsweetened coconut flakes and water, and then straining the left-over flakes out. Boom, delicious. I don’t recommend the same for almond milk…. I tried it once, and spent more on the almonds than I would have on the almond milk.
- Greek Yogurt: If you use a lot of yogurt, this is a good route to go. Disclaimer: when you make it yourself the texture is way more liquidy. If you use it for smoothies or recipes, the texture doesn’t really matter. But if you’re eating it straight, you probably won’t like it. There’s lots of methods: crockpot, microwave, oven. All you need some leftover yogurt and milk to make a whole new batch of yogurt.
Cheap Foods That Go A Long Way
- Oatmeal: Almost all of our weekday breakfasts center around oatmeal or eggs. I like to make a batch of baked oatmeal at the beginning of the week, and it’s a breakfast option for the whole week. I also make Chase overnight oats at least twice a week if I’m not making a big batch of oatmeal. For extra yumminess I add frozen fruits that aren’t in season (blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc.)
- Eggs: When we’re not eating oatmeal for breakfast, it’s probably something with eggs. Eggs are essential when you’re eating on a budget! [unless you’re vegan….then definitely NOT essential] You can do SO much with eggs! What we’ve been doing a lot lately is making egg, potato, and meat hash for breakfast using leftover meat from the night before (pot roast, steak, pork tenderloin). Sometimes I’ll scramble a batch at the beginning of the week for Lincoln to have as a breakfast option. I also boil at least half a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week to have on hand for snacks or salads.
- Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes: Is there anyone out there that doesn’t love potatoes?? I buy them in the 5-10 lb. bags at Aldi, and they’re on hand whenever we need them. We use them in breakfast hash, baked potatoes, pot roast, or any other quick side.
- Beans: At least once a month I’ll cook a bag of dried beans in the crockpot: black, pinto, navy, kidney, whatever! Beans are a good source of protein, plus they’re filling! We use them in all sorts of things. After making a big batch, I usually have a recipe for dinner that night that is predominantly bean (think red beans and rice). After that, we use them in salads, breakfast burritos, a side….whatever you want! I take the leftovers and freeze them in 1-2 cup increments that way I can snag a bag from the freezer throughout the month as I need them. One bag of dried beans usually won’t last us an entire month, so I do still buy canned beans when we need them.
- Rice: Like beans, you can do alot with rice…and you can get a whole bag for under $1. I use it in casseroles, fried rice, chicken and rice, red beans and rice, or a side. To see how I batch cook rice to save time (and money) in the kitchen, click here!
Go-to MealsI do my meal planning on Sunday (or Monday morning), and I always have a few cheap go-to meals that I use every few weeks.
- Stuffed baked potatoes: We always have potatoes, and we just use whatever we have in the fridge to fix them up: chicken, beef, pork, and sometimes veggies. You can see all that under the mountain of cheese on mine if you look really hard. Oh, and if you haven’t eaten a fried egg on top of your baked potato, you haven’t lived.
- Burrito bowls: That’s what I call them anyway…although it’s not really a burrito. I guess it’s more like a taco salad without the taco shell (think Chipotle bowls). Basically it’s whatever meat you have on hand (we usually have some kind of leftover meat), lettuce or spinach, tomato, rice or quinoa, beans, avocado, plus whatever else you want to put in there. We always have those things in our kitchen, so it’s a good meal in a pinch.
- Spaghetti: You can make your own sauce really easily, and you probably have some sort of noodle in your pantry. Boom. Done. If you keep ground beef or turkey stocked up in your freezer, you can also whip up a quick batch of meatballs.
- Flatbread/pizza: I’ll take a dough that I’ve frozen, and use whatever we have at home to “decorate” it. Sometimes we follow a recipe, and sometimes we don’t. Chase and I have been making pizzas together since we got married, and it’s kind of our thing now. We rarely make the same one twice! This was a taco pizza we made (clearly my side is the left side).
Other TipsOk, now these things are just personal preference. We do make tiny sacrifices here and there to stay within our budget, but I don’t mind! Here’s a few other things I try to do to stay under $300:
- I buy seasonally. For example: I will never pay $4 for a pint of blueberries. But you better believe I’ll stock up when they’re 99 cents! If I need them for a recipe, I buy frozen.
- I plan my meals around the ads, not the other way around. Let’s say asparagus is on sale, then we’re having something with asparagus that week.
- Who doesn’t love cheese? I love cheese sticks, and so does Lincoln. But they are kind of on the pricey side, so I just buy a block of cheese and cut my own. Way cheaper.
- I’d say “who doesn’t love olives?”, but I know there are some olive haters out there! I love olive slices in my salads or burrito bowls, but slices are more expensive than buying them whole. I just buy a can/jar of whole olives and slice them myself as I need them.
- Cherry tomatoes in my salad are my jam, but again they are more expensive than regular tomatoes. Unless I can get them super on sale (like when Aldi has them for 69 cents), I just buy roma tomatoes and use those instead.
- When I buy chicken, I buy whole leg quarters. I get them for 89 cents a pound at Aldi, so I pay less than $4 for 4 big leg quarters. I freeze them and use them in meals as I need them. They work amazingly in crockpot meals, because you can literally just throw the whole leg quarter in there and be done. If I want chicken breast, I buy the bag of frozen breasts. Buying a whole chicken and cutting it yourself is also a cheaper route to go. (It’s not hard to do…I just watched a YouTube video). OR, my new favorite thing is buying Aldi’s whole chicken ($5 for a 5 pound chicken) and cooking it in the pressure cooker to have chicken ready to go for the rest of the week. To read how it has made my life SO much easier, click here!
- Don’t buy what you can make at home. Especially if you only have like one recipe you need it for. Example: a few months ago I made a recipe that called for crunchy tortilla strips (like in tortilla soup). I’m not sure how much they are at the store, but I wasn’t willing to buy them since that was the only thing I needed them for. I got on good ol’ Google and found how I could just cut up and bake tortillas I already had. Before I buy something that I feel like will go to waste, I always Google first to see if I can make it (or substitute) myself.
- Speaking of substitutions, a lot of stuff you buy can be substituted for other ingredients. It never fails: we buy sour cream for a recipe, and half of it goes to waste. We use greek yogurt or cottage cheese as a substitute most of the time now.
- I buy most of my paper goods and cleaners at Dollar Tree. Most of the time they’re cheaper than the grocery store. You can also make your own cleaner if you’re into that kind of thing (which, every now and then I decide that I am) out of stuff you probably have at home, but I find that it’s still almost cheaper to go the dollar store route. Here are some of my other favorite things to get at the dollar store.
- Finally, if there is something I really want at the grocery store, I use that as motivation and buy it at the end of the month. I love love LOVE HEB’s whole bean Snickernut coffee, but I won’t buy it for myself because I don’t need it…. I just want it! So I tell myself if I can stay under $300 for the whole month, then I can use what is leftover of our grocery money to buy myself a treat. It may sound silly, but it’s a good motivator!