Eating well on a budget and keeping food frugal is on my mind … a lot … actually. Looking at our bank account and realizing that payday just doesn’t come fast enough, often enough or large enough has me understandably worried. Never mind the looming bills and the fact that every paycheck for the next several months is earmarked for one purpose or another. So, understandably, frugal foods are at the forefront of my thoughts, but here’s the catch: I’m not about to sacrifice quality or health in order to pinch a few pennies. So here’s ten meals that should serve at least four for less than a Hamilton. They’ll be the cornerstone of our dining table this June, I can promise you that. And a word of warning: before you comment about how pastured eggs aren’t cheap where you live or how raisins are too expensive, keep in mind that costs vary by region and the real mark of a good, frugal cook is creativity. In essence: do the best with what you have.
1. Stick-to-your Ribs Breakfast
- The Meal: Baked oatmeal is dish that can be remarkably nourishing, provided you soak your oats and can tolerate grain. It is also deeply satisfying in that it’s slightly sweet, and quite filling. Top a bowl of baked oats with kefir and you’ll add the probiotic goodness of those beneficial bacteria to this meals benefits.
- Shopping List: Pastured Eggs, Steel Cut Oats, Walnuts, Raisins, Maple Syrup, Sea Salt, Cinnamon, Coconut Oil and Kefir.
- The Recipes: Baked Oatmeal (1/2 Batch)
- The Cost: $9, serving 6.
2. Soup, Salad and Bread. What could be simpler?
- The Meal: Nothing is quite so warming as a bowl of good soup and a slice of whole grain sourdough bread to sop up the broth. (New to baking sourdough? Check out these sourdough tips and tricks.) The beauty of a good soup is in its broth. The benefits of bone broth are numerous: it’s rich in micronutrients – particularly minerals like calcium. Include sweet carrots, garlic and barely cooked kale and you have a delicious, savory supper for very little money.
- Shopping List: White Beans, Kale, Parmesan Cheese Rind, Bone Broth, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Bay Leaf, Unrefined Sea Salt, Ghee, Homemade Sourdough Bread, Mixed Greens, Olive Oil, Cider Vinegar, Black Pepper
- The Recipes: Roast Chicken Stock, Kale and White Bean Soup, Simple Salad
- The Cost: $8.50, Serving 4-6
3. Salmon Cakes on Greens
- The Meal: When money gets really tight, the expensive foods are among the first to go – and that usually means wild caught fish. But, fish and salmon in particular our powerful foods – rich in health fats and fat soluble vitamins. It’s important to continue eating these nourishing foods despite budget woes. Serve the cakes over greens and with grapefruit for an extra punch of vitamin C.
- The Shopping List: Canned Salmon, Coconut Oil, Garlic, Carrot, Cayenne Pepper, Pastured Eggs, Mixed Greens, Grapefruit
- The Recipes: Salmon Cakes (served without Wasabi Mayonnaise)
- The Cost: $8.50, Serving 4
4. German-style Sausages with Cabbage & Apples
- The Meal: Easy, inexpensive and perfect for a cold, rainy afternoon – Sausages with cabbage and apples is both filling and flavorful. Take care to use pastured or grassfed meat and fresh, organic vegetables.
- The Shopping List: Pastured or grassfed sausage meat, apples, ghee, carraway seeds, cabbage
- The Recipes: Sausages with Apples, Red Cabbage and Carraway
- The Cost: $9.75, Serving 4
5. Simple Lunch
- The Meal: Enjoy a nice spinach-packed quiche and a simple salad on the side for a leisurely and inexpensive weekend lunch. Omitting the chÃ¨vre, or goat cheese, drops the price point of the quiche significantly while still retaining its tasty simplicity.
- The Shopping List: Pastured Eggs, Spinach, Potatoes, Onion, Mixed Greens, Olive Oil, Cider Vinegar, Unrefined Salt, Pepper, Cream
- The Recipes: Spinach & Caramelized Onion Quiche (exclude chÃ¨vre), Simple Salad
- The Cost: $10, Serving 6
6. Get Those Omega-3s
- The Meal: You might scoff at the idea of anchovies playing centerpiece at a meal, but they’re remarkably good for you: packed with omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. They’re inexpensive, powerfully flavorful (okay … okay … that might be a detriment for those of you who are faint of palate) and deeply nourishing. This meal is strikingly simple and easy prepare: perfect for a light lunch. Just make anchovy toasts on sourdough bread and serve them with a nice green salad.
- The Shopping List: Whole Grain Flour, Anchovies, Garlic, Parsley, Oregano, Ghee, Parmesan Cheese, Mixed Greens, Olive oil, Cider Vinegar
- The Recipes: Anchovy Toasts, Simple Salad
- The Cost: $10, Serving 4
7. Eggs and Greens
- The Meal: We eat greens at nearly every meal and like them particularly well when served for breakfast. They’re a remarkable source of vitamin K, carotenoids, dietary fiber and other good-for-you essentials. Couple them with farm fresh, pastured eggs which are replete with vitamin A, lecithin and other goodies and you have a nutritionally sound breakfast. By using tender greens reserved from a bunch or two of beets, you can reduce the cost of this meal’s preparation significantly as beet (and turnip and radish) greens are often unfortunately discarded rather than being wisely used.
- The Shopping List: Pastured Eggs, Beet Greens, Mixed Dried Herbs, Ghee or Coconut Oil, Red Pepper
- The Recipes: Herb Baked Eggs, SautÃ©ed Greens with Garlic
- The Cost: $7.50, Serving 4
8. Humble Broth & Bread
- The Meal: Broth is strikingly inexpensive and deeply nutrient-dense which is why the soup and bread combination makes it on this list threet times. It’s remarkably rich in glucosamin chondroitin which is good for your joints, collagen and a slew of minerals. Add a nice sourdough bread and some real sauerkraut and you have a classic, humble meal that nourished the peasant class for ages in Europe. Take care to top your bread with a hefty slice of fresh butter as this meal is otherwise low in fat, and you need fat to better absorb the nutrients it contains. You can even splurge a little and buy some pears or apples as a special dessert.
- The Shopping List: Homemade Beef Stock, Real Sauerkraut, Turnips, Patty Pan Squash, Unrefined Sea Salt, Whole Grain Flour and Sourdough Starter or Sourdough Bread, Fresh Butter
- The Recipes: Beef ConsommÃ© with Autumn Vegetables, Real Sauerkraut
- The Cost: $6.75, Serving 4
9. Make Use of that Leftover Chicken
- The Meal: We roast a chicken just about every week. While pastured chicken is decidedly expensive by comparison to conventional chicken. A pastured chicken, for example, may set you back as much as $20 while a conventional chicken will usually ring in under $5, but the price tag is worth it as it yields meals over and over and over again. This dish makes use of leftover roast chicken and seasons it nicely with ginger, garlic scapes and coconut oil. Don’t have garlic scapes? Just use plain garlic or scallions.
- The Shopping List: Leftover Roast Chicken, Garlic Scapes, Coconut Oil, Ginger, Carrots, Cilantro, Leaf Lettuce, Sesame Seeds, Basil, Tamari and Fish Sauce
- The Recipes: Asian Lettuce Wraps with Garlic Scapes
- The Cost: $10, Serving 4-6
10.Entertain a Crowd
- The Meal: Throw a soup party. Woeful economics is no excuse to stop entertaining friends and celebrating the community around you. A soup party is a simple idea. The host provides a pot of boiling stock and a loaf or two of fresh baked breads while the guests bring something simple to add to the pot. There’s only one rule: nothing can be purchased specifically for the party; rather, each guest must offer the pot something she or he already has: leftover roast chicken, a wrinkly potato, a vegetable lurking in the crisper drawer. The party is simple, humble and frugal for everyone involved. Check out my latest soup party: the Recession-proof Supper Party.
- The Shopping List: Whole Grain Flour for Bread Baking, Unrefined Salt
- The Recipes: Roast Chicken Stock
- The Cost: $1, Serving 6-8