How to Beat the High Cost of Living – Take 2

Here are my 10 best Low Cost Dinners to try PLUS money saving tips.

Grocery prices are sky high right now.

Here are a few simple tips & great recipes that won’t bust your budget.

7 Practical Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store:

  1. Meal planningMeal Planning- Meal Planning It’s worth repeating. Meal planning is the single best way to save money. You can shop your own freezer, fridge and pantry and plan around what you already have on the shelves. Plan at least one meal a week with items you already have on hand- even if it’s eggs or pancakes for dinner. Stretch that food dollar by using up what you have.
  2. Shop with that Meal Planing list. I keep my list on my phone in the NOTES section. Then I hop online and see if my local store has any specials like Publix’ s famous BOGO. Don’t leave home without your list.
  3. Pay with Cash– Cash hurts when you spend it. What is your weekly food budget? Get that amount in cash and leave your credit cards at home. You’d be amazed how impulse purchases go away when you don’t have the money for them.
  4. Buy meat and freezer/ bulk items at Costco, BJ’s etc. I buy pretty much the same thing at Costco once a month- organic chicken, ground turkey, unsalted butter, goat cheese, and sparkling water. I save SO much buy buying these items at a big discount and keeping the in my freezer. Paper goods like TP and paper towels are also a big savings. Place a few rolls of TP under the cabinet of each bathroom and then you do not have to stock up for another month.
  5. Shop Alone– Sorry kids and Hubbie, I save so much money when I shop alone and don’t have other people adding things to the grocery cart.
  6. Skip the bakery items– Muffins, pies, cookies are SO expensive and only pennies when you bake them at home. Save up those overripe bananas, berries and whip up muffins or cakes at home and save $$$. The one exception is “The Cookie” at The Met Market in Seattle.
  7. Grow your own… Herbs, veggies – In the Winter Park kitchen, I had a little pot outside my kitchen door with basil, mint, thyme, Italian parsley, rosemary and dill. We also grow Meyer Lemons and Calamondins. In Montana, we grow tons of thyme, mint, rosemary, oregano, edible lavender, raspberries and garlic. Even if you only grow a few herbs in a pot, it will save you a small fortune (not to mention NO plastic). Packages of fresh herbs at the grocery store run $3-$5 a package and half the time you end up throwing most of them away. Consider having one or two pots of herbs and perhaps a type of lettuce you love or peppers. They are easy to grow and require little more than watering and cutting.
  8. Make your own cleaning supplies! The absolute best all purpose cleaner is 2 parts water, 2 parts white vinegar, 1 part rubbing alcohol and a few drops of essential oils like germanium or peppermint. I use it on microfiber towels to dust, clean my counters, windows, sinks- everything.
  9. Stop buying fabric softener- I follow Zapata’s Cleaning Services on Instagram and they recommend using white vinegar in your washer instead of fabric softener. Not only does it makes your clothes soft, it removes odors and keeps your washing machine running efficiently .
  10. Fix it Yourself- I began watching YouTube videos to learn how to perform basic maintenance of my dishwasher, toilets and my front loading washer and dryer. I regularly clean the filters, hoses and perform simple maintenance saving myself loads of money. Here is a video that is really helpful for maintaining your washing machine.
ingredients for homemade cleaners
I make my own cleaner with distilled water, isopropyl alcohol, vinegar and essential oils

Store Brands items that are A-OK

  • Sugar- I find store brands are perfectly fine
  • Bulk produce like onions and lemons- stock up enthuse and you will always have flavor boosters for any recipe.
  • Oats– I tend to buy Quaker Oats, but store brands are perfect in any recipe
  • Sparkling water– Pellegrino is my jam! I buy in bulk at Costco, but canned sparkling water is delicious and the cans are easier to recycle.
  • White vinegar, canola oil and most spices– store brand labels provide the same results in baking.
Throw it all in a pan and watch the magic happen. Perfect for when all you have is some pasta, chicken and …?

See below for 10 Low Cost Family Dinners and recipes for under $25- based on prices at Trader Joe’s, Publix grocery stores in Florida and Costco. I do not include the cost of an individual jar of spices, but rather an average for the amount used. See my tips for saving money at the grocery store. I typically will buy low cost or store brands when I’m watching my budget, but there are a few items I never skimp on.

10 Low Cost Family Dinners that won’t Break the Bank

  1. One Skillet Peppers and Sausage
  2. Creamy Chicken and Pasta Skillet
  3. Meggen’s Chicken Salad
  4. Turkey & Vegetable Meatloaf
  5. Slow Roasted Pork Enchiladas
  6. Ricotta, Olive and Mushroom One Pot “Creamy” Pasta
  7. The Good Stuff Turkey Chili
  8. Homemade Pizza Dough
  9. Pasta E Fagioli
  10. Pure Comfort Chicken Casserole

Ground turkey is an inexpensive alternative to beef- Don’t tell the kids- they’ll never know.

7 Things that are costing you money:

  1. Paper napkins and paper plates. A 100 count package of paper plates ( least expensive brand) is around $9/100. If you have a family of 4 eating 3 meals a day on paper plates (plus snacks), you’ll burn through through that pack of 100 in about 11 days. That’s a minimum $318 per year just on paper plates. A 500 count of cheap paper napkins is $4.09. Let’s just say you use up one package per month. $4.09 x 12= $49.08 (napkins)+ $318 (plates) =$367.08 down the drain And in the landfill! I always use my china and linen napkins at every meal. Throw the linen napkins in the washer every night with other towels. Doesn’t cost me anything extra.
  2. Buying items in small packages is one way to say goodbye to savings. Pretzels, chips, snacks are best bought in large boxes and stored in airtight containers. I know it’s so easy to throw those little bags into lunch boxes, but swap out to reusable containers to save $$$.
  3. Multiple trips to the store. Do you really need that one item? It might cause you to spend a little extra by picking up a few more things. Not to mention the fuel costs.
  4. Not storing food properly- be certain to store food in the right containers as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Bananas going bad after 2 days? Peel them and pop them in the freezer in an air tight container for smoothies or homemade muffins.
  5. Brown bag your lunch– It’s so easy it seem silly to mention, but packing your own lunch, coffee and snacks can save you so much money on dining out near the office.
  6. Maybe just skip dinner– I know- sounds crazy. But maybe instead of ordering that pizza or Chinese take out when you are too tired to cook, consider just having a cup of tea and skipping dinner. Fasting is a great way to boost your metabolism and decrease inflammation. Americans tend to overeat by about 631 calories per day. This, of course, does not apply to children, pregnant or nursing mother’s.
  7. Line your trash bin with paper bags from the grocery store and not plastic. Paper bags are FREE and decompose faster than plastic. Just place a piece of cardboard at the bottom of your trash bin for leaks. Line the recycling bin with a plastic bag and fit the inside with paper. Use the plastic bag over and over again.
While this recipe is not fast, it is fueling and takes advantage of pantry staples. Leftovers for days!

Healthy Habits to Save at Home

  1. Add 1 whole chopped onion to any recipe with ground beef or turkey. This bulks up the amount you can serve without adding much cost.
  2. Add cooked lentils to dishes. Lentils provide the double benefit of being rich in fiber and protein. Perfect that they are filling and good for you.
  3. Eat more whole grains and less processed carbohydrates like chips or white bread. Simple carbohydrates produce spikes in your glucose which tell your brain, “you’re hungry.” Eating foods dense in fiber and protein mean you need to eat less.
  4. Substitute sparkling water for sugary cocktails or soda. It fills you up without causing you to become dehydrated.
I love “Throw it in a Pot” kind of cooking- This recipe is perfect for when you just have a few things in the fridge.

Where NOT to cut costs:

  • Flour– I use either King Arthur, White Lilly or Wheat Montana Brand flours
  • Yeast– I prefer Red Star Platinum yeast
  • Sausage– I really prefer to buy locally made sausages at shops like Perfect Cuts (Columbia Falls) or Orlando Meats (Winter Park) .
  • Vegetables– I rarely buy bagged produce- I prefer loose greens and vegetables. Never wrapped in plastic or Styrofoam if I can avoid it.
  • Canned beans– watch for the sugar & sodium amount on cans and buy the healthiest. You’d be amazed how the sugar and salt levels differ between brands
  • Parmesan, Romano or Pecorino cheese– If a recipe calls for good Italian cheese, I’ll never skimp on this ingredient.
This turkey chili packed with healthy beans and vegetables is award winning for a reason
Skip delivery- for just a few dollars you can make pizza and be eating it in about an hour.

My homemade pizza dough is only 5 ingredients and takes just an hour to make. Top with whatever you have in the vegetable drawer.

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of hearty soup?
Pure Comfort Chicken Casserole just takes the blues away

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  1. These are all excellent suggestions, thank you. I can make so many meals so reasonably. I go to grocery store on Sunday evening. They have meat and chicken 50,% off. I cook some the next day and freeze the rest. Friday is soup day. Casual Friday supper, lunch on Saturday,
    maybe a bowl left for Sunday brunch.

    1. Meggen Wilson says:

      Thank you Ellen. Meal planning and smart shopping is everything.