One obstacle that people often face when beginning to eat a healthier diet, is the ever growing grocery budget.  I know I did!  A few years ago when we first started eating an unprocessed diet, I shopped mainly at Whole Foods because many of the ingredients that I was needing to purchase, I could not find in my regular grocery store.  Sprouted breads and grains, grass-fed meats, raw honey, grass fed dairy, organic produce, chia seeds, flax seeds, an array of nuts, yada yada yada.  You get my drift…PRICEY!  My eager beaver self would be so proud as I would fill my shopping cart with such healthy food.  When I would reach the check out lane though, I would feel like a deflated balloon as the total on the register would climb higher and higher and higher.

Ummmm….I CAN’T AFFORD TO EAT LIKE THIS!  Talk about defeating.

Since my early days of eating well, I have made it my mission to make this lifestyle change a sustainable one and one that I think most families can afford.  I wrote an entire post earlier in the year of my best money saving tips to make real food affordable.  One of the tips I talked about in that post was heavily relying on inexpensive healthy foods and minimizing or stretching the more pricey items.  For example, I buy bulk grass fed beef and whole chickens which are cheaper than individual cuts, but it’s still a significant cost, so I have learned to stretch my meat and protein to last several meals.  In my money saving post, I did not go into great detail or give examples of frugal meals you could make with these more inexpensive ingredients, so today I thought I would get down to the nitty gritty with you.

Basically you want to pretend like you live on a farm and cook for a large family.  Think soups, homemade stocks, big pots of greens and beans, hearty dishes and casseroles that will fill the belly and warm the soul.  The more uncomplicated you can use the simple inexpensive ingredients, the better for the budget.  Some of my favorite meals that my grandma makes are big pots of beans and greens with cornbread on the side.  She can feed our entire family for super cheap with a meal like that!

Using this technique doesn’t have to be implemented all of the time, but when you find yourself needing to squeeze the grocery budget a little tighter, I highly recommend going simple with these inexpensive ingredients.  Simple and humble meals are where it’s at when it comes to winning the food budget game.

These are some of my favorite inexpensive real food ingredients.  I’ve included what I believe to be the most frugal and simple way to prepare them as well as other delicious recipes using these ingredients as the star of the show.

sweet potatoes

Most frugal and simple option:  Baked sweet potatoes or a hash with some type of meat with roasted sweet potatoes.

Maple roasted sweet potatoes

Sweet potato spaghetti spirals

Sweet potato poblano pepper soup

Sweet potato and apple pancetta hash


Most frugal and simple option:  Roast or sautee with butter, olive oil, or leftover animal fat and salt.

Butternut squash soup

Carrot Squash Hash

Roasted Squash

Stuffed acorn squash

Spaghetti squash spaghetti


Most frugal and simple option:  Cut up and boil with some salt and meat like ham or bacon from healthy pigs or no meat at all.

Smothered Cabbage

Ten easy cabbage recipes

Italian ground beef and cabbage skillet


Most frugal and simple option:  Soak beans overnight in warm water.  Rinse and cover with water or broth the next day and slowly simmer until beans are tender.  Season with salt, pepper and any desired fat.  This is my crockpot pinto bean recipe

Beans and greens soup

Kale and white bean soup

Black bean and vegetable soup

Burrito bowls (can be made with or without rice)

Homemade refried beans


Most frugal and simple option:  Sautee onions, garlic, and carrots.  Add lentils and simmer in water or broth until tender.  This is a good basic simple lentils dish.

Winter lentil soup

Creamy lentil coconut curry

25 ways to use lentils

sloppy lentil recipe


 Most frugal and simple option: Basic soaked oatmeal. This makes a big pot and will fill a lot of bellies.

Soaked waffles

Peaches and cream oatmeal

Baked apple oatmeal

Easy oat flour crackers


Most frugal and simple option:  buttered peas (frozen peas, steamed or boiled with butter):  a super quick and easy side dish

Simple pea salad

Split pea soup

In a quick fried rice


 Most frugal and simple option:  Steam or boil until tender.  Top with butter.

Honey glazed carrots

Roasted carrots

Carrot and leek soup

Whipped carrots

Mashed carrots


Most frugal and simple option:  Simmer 2 cups rice with 4 cups water or broth for about 20 minutes or until tender.  Season with salt and pepper and top with butter.

Simple chicken and rice

Dirty rice

Chicken fried rice

Spanish rice

Vegan red beans and rice

Canned Salmon

Most frugal and simple option:  Drained salmon, seasoned with salt and pepper on crackers or wrapped in lettuce.  Mix with mayo if desired.

Salmon patties

Salmon salad


Most simple and frugal options:  Hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, or scrambled in butter.  A super quick source of protein that can be served for breakfast lunch or dinner.

BLT breakfast bake

Parmesan frittata with fresh rosemary and greens

Eggs poached in spiced tomato sauce- Shakshouka

Egg drop soup

Garden vegetable frittata



Most frugal and simple option:  Baked potatoes topped with your choice of toppings:  chili, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, bbq.  You can even bake potatoes in the crockpot!

Shepherd’s pie

Potato soup

Garlic mashed potatoes

Potatoes with bacon and liver


Sausage, potatoes, and cabbage bake

leafy greens2

Most frugal and simple option: Sautee chopped greens, onions, and garlic in a skillet with butter, animal fat, or olive oil.

Grandma’s southern collard greens

Roasted chicken legs with potatoes, kale and lemon

Kale and white bean soup


brothMost frugal and simple option:  Everything in this category is going to be frugal. Leftover bones, vegetable scraps, and using the entire animal head to tail, is not only a frugal way to cook, but deeply nourishing.

How to make crockpot chicken stock

Cheap vegetable stock

Beef stock

Poor man’s chicken noodle soup


This one is controversially healthy, but if you aren’t sensitive/reactive to wheat, corn, and other whole grains, they can be an excellent source of frugal nourishment.  

Most frugal option:  Buying bulk whole grains, grinding them yourself, and soaking them to make bread products will be your least expensive option.  If you don’t have a grinder, soaking whole grain flours will be your next most frugal option.

Soaked whole wheat bread

Homemade pancakes

Homemade whole wheat tortillas

Homemade skillet cornbread

Homemade corn tortillas

BONUS:  Apples and Bananas

Frugal and incredibly versatile fruit options, these are on my grocery list every week.  Great eaten alone, with nut/seed butter, in oatmeal, or as dessert options.

Those are my favorite cheap eats.  What are yours?  What is your favorite inexpensive real food ingredient and how do you like to prepare it?  Share with us so we can benefit from your great ideas!