20 Frugal Food Hacks


$65 ALDI run.

How does our family of four stick to a $300 a month food budget while eating healthy? I’ve already shared the important principles of grocery savings: shopping at discount stores, menu planning, shopping with a list, and cooking from scratch. Remembering that not everything has to be your favorite also goes a long way. And here I share my nitty-gritty little tricks, including recipes and pantry list, that help us keep costs down. So feast your eyes on my frugal food hacks.

  1. Buy full fat coconut milk and cut with 1 can of water to make 2 cans of light coconut milk.
  2. Stir a little flavored yogurt into homemade plain yogurt (recipe below) for a healthier, cheaper snack.
  3. Zest lemons before juicing them to extract more lemon flavor.
  4. Cottage cheese is the old-fashioned, less expensive Greek yogurt (26g protein/cup).
  5. Grow lettuce. $1 of seeds fed us salad most days for 3 months. “Salad bowl” variety is our favorite.

    Unlimited salad.

    Unlimited salad.

  6. Popcorn (stove-top) is the cheapest snack food. We like butter & salt or kettle corn.
  7. Keep a well-stocked pantry. Sign up for our email updates on the right sidebar and I’ll send you my pantry list.
  8. Cook dry beans in the slow cooker; freeze in jars (saved from spaghetti, salsa, etc.)
    • I cook 2 lbs with 10-12 cups of water for 6-8 hours on high.
    • Cheaper and healthier than canned beans.
    • Make your own hummus, refried beans, or baked beans. Add to soup, chili, salads, etc.
  9. Whole chickens or thighs instead of boneless, skinless chicken breast. Less than half the price per pound.
  10. Make chicken stock from the bones.
  11. Make bread (in 5 minutes a day). Great fresh from the oven; toast the leftovers, or use for grilled cheese, garlic bread, crostini, French toast, or French bread pizzas.
  12. Make yogurt for basically the cost of milk. It’s so easy! I can’t find a site that doesn’t over-complicate it, so here’s the process:
    • Heat a gallon of milk (anything but skim) to scald it (not quite boiling).
    • Transfer to a large bowl (I use my crockpot stoneware) & cool to 110 degrees, or when you can stand to put both pinkie fingers in for 10 seconds.
    • Stir in 1 Tablespoon of plain yogurt (the starter), from the store or your last batch.
    • Cover & place in the oven with the light on, or in a cooler with hot water bottles for 8-16 hours, until set. Strain if you want it thicker (I don’t). Then refrigerate.
  13. Homemade granola bars—cheaper, and more filling and nutritious. (I use half the sugar in the linked recipe.)
  14. Buy one: one snack food, or juice, or whatever treat that isn’t necessary but is fun to have in moderation. When it’s gone, it’s gone, till next week.
  15. Stock up on marked down meat. I recently purchased 100 pounds of chicken for 33-50 cents per pound, and 20 pounds of pork chops for $1 per pound.


    48 cent pork chops!

  16. Buy soda in 2-liters.
  17. Drink (homemade) iced tea instead of soda.
  18. Candy instead of fruit snacks. I’d rather give my kids 1 or 2 gummy bears than a whole, over-priced bag of fruit snacks. The piece of candy has less sugar than a pouch of “fruit snacks.”
  19. Peanuts are the cheapest nut.
  20. Cut kids’ juice with half water (or more). Or serve kids iced herbal tea with a little honey or just a splash of juice for a flavorful, healthier, and thriftier alterative to juice.

Chew on this principle: try to find the cheapest way you can live with to meet your nutritional needs. Think twice about all the marketing ploys to buy “super-foods” or specialty items when there are cheaper, healthier alternatives right under your nose.

What are you frugal food hacks? And what splurges are worth it to you?

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21 Responses to “20 Frugal Food Hacks”

  1. Adam says :

    We’ve just started growing more of our own produce. Granted it’s only a small endeavor, with a few herbs and veggies but we’re hoping to do more of it in future. Thanks for the other great tips too!

    • Kalie says :

      Gardening is great. We’ve slowly added more variety to our garden over the years. Once you realize how good it tastes you’ll want to do more and more.

  2. Hannah says :

    I do love the aldi Meat clearance! A few weeks back, I bought 12 pounds of ground beef (organic, grass fed) for $3 per pound!

    If you are looking for another fun way to make chicken (Chicken quarters rather than whole chicken) I would recommend Tandoori Chicken- it’s quite simple and very delicious!

  3. Hannah says :

    http://crowdsourcemydinner.blogspot.com/2014/03/tandoori-chicken.html – this is from the back up version of my old blog- it’s one of my favorite recipes, but there are other great ones.

    To the modern American cook, tandoori can probably be translated as hot oven.

  4. SavvyJames says :

    Great shares. The name of the blog reminds of the Pablo Picasso quote, “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”

    • Kalie says :

      I never heard that quote but it’s fitting. We got our title from the proverb that says “There is one who pretends to be rich but has nothing; Another pretends to be poor but has great wealth.”

  5. Petrish says :

    i look forward to the day when I can garden and eat more organically. Only $300 a month for four is so impressive and those pork chops look so good.

    • Kalie says :

      We definitely enjoy eating from the garden. Tastes so much better. I’m not sure what the grocery bill will look like as the kids get older but it’s nice to keep it low for now.

  6. Jen Atkinson says :

    Due to my husband’s dietary needs, we tend to spend way more on eating low-carb but to balance that, we’ve stopped eating out so much. We plan our menus, and schedule one night a week at a brew pub with friends. It’s a bit extravagant, but it helps us not feel “deprived.”

    • Kalie says :

      I’m all about planned splurges. If you decide what’s worth it to you then they can help you stay motivated for the long haul.

  7. Forticus says :

    strange feeling to read about ALDI outside of Germany 😉 In the 1960s there was about 1 ALDI per 200000 city over here. Once per month we drove some 30 miles to the state’s capital and overloaded 2 to 3 trolleys. Only bread, milk, butter was bought fresh in the village. ALDI is still my family’s most important supermarket, one of them on our half mile between house and work (density is now ca 1/15000).

    Food hack1: (by family tradition: flavored yogurt is considered advertisement scam). Get jam, marmelade or liquid honey and mix it into plain yogurt
    Food hack1a: produce jam/marmelade from fruits yourself (bought or self grown).
    The latter is still on my list to learn before my mother is gone for go(o)d.

    • Forticus says :

      2. basic muesli: cook favored season fruit in the evening (kompot), add plain yogurt and self rolled oats in the morning. Over day mix fruit(ed) water with mineral water to drinks.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for the tips! I just made my first jam from our homegrown black raspberries. I was recently wondering why no one here puts jam in yogurt, because it’s similar to what is in some yogurts here but those cost much more. “Overnight oats” are very popular here now.

  8. Anne says :

    Freezing beans is such a fabulous idea. Adding that one to my frugal kitchen hacks! I cook a chicken in the crock pot overnight each week and then separate the dark meat from the light and use for meals throughout the week or freeze. Way less expensive than buying precut pieces and only takes a bit of time to separate. Not to mention the chicken broth. I have enough chicken broth frozen at all times to share with whoever needs it. I am the “go to” chicken broth lady. I have family stopping by to pick up bread and broth regularly 🙂 That feels pretty awesome!

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, I’ve found it a big time and money saver. Stay tuned next week; I’ll be comparing price per serving of protein from lots of different sources including canned & dry beans, and whole and pieced chicken.

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  1. You Might Need a Budget If… | Pretend to Be Poor - January 11, 2016
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