View Full Version : Help with some budget dinner ideas!

09-01-2004, 01:20 PM
We are desperately trying to cut our grocery bill down. Our family of 4 spends about $500-$600 per month on groceries! We have an unexpected trip to Disney World coming up (my dd's soccer team was accepted into the Disney showcase tournament) so I need to cut some corners to help pay for our trip.

I have read through some of the hints offered on this board, but am looking for some ideas on what to serve. Honestly, I am sick and tired of our "same ole, same ole" meals anyway, LOL.

Hubby is pretty much a "meat and potatoes" kinda guy as are the kids. The kids are always on the go so "quick" is important.

If you have any ideas or know of any websites that offer receipes for people on a budget, I would greatly appreciate it :)

09-01-2004, 01:47 PM
Here is a website that someone recommended to me. I hope this will help.

I'm just getting started w/ trying to cut our food bill as well. It's the one thing I can control right?

Anyway the website is called Budget 101.com (http://www.budget101.com/) and some of the ideas seem far out but some might be relevant.

I've done searches on Frugal Living and I've had some pretty good results with that as well.

Good Luck

tar heel
09-01-2004, 02:50 PM
I've been working on cutting our grocery bill, too. Most weeks I can keep it under $100, which is good considering I have a HUNGRY TEENAGER and an almost adolescent. It's much more difficult when my oldest is home from college b/c not only are we a family of 5, but he drinks almost a gallon of milk a day!

The best advice I can give you is to plan your meals around the grocery store's loss leaders that week. We eat very well, but a lot of our favorite foods I absolutely would not buy at regular price. I stock up when there's a good sale. Right now, in my freezer, I have a pork tenderloin that was $2.99 a pound (less than half price), some boneless chicken breasts that were $1.88 (again, less than half price) and a London Broil tha was buy one, get one free. Add that to the 15 pounds of potatoes I just bought for $1.50 and I've got several inexpensive meals once I add a veggie here and there. I also always wait to buy cereal, toilet paper, wash powder, etc., when they're on special -- I ususally have a coupon, too. Treats are strictly stuff I can get a good deal on.

I sit down with the grocery store newspaper inserts each week and plan my attack. I'm lucky in that I have two stores across the road from each other, so I can go to both without driving all over the place. If it is possible, shop without your kids and -- if he is an impulse shopper like mine -- your dh.

If you don't already, get familiar with what things you normally buy cost. If not, you won't know when something is a good buy.

Also, always keep the makings for a quick meal available. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to eat out on that night when everything runs late. At our house, I usually have ingredients for tacos.

09-01-2004, 08:02 PM
You have to keep total cost per meal or per person in mind. Even T-bone steak on sale for $2.99/lb isn't really a great deal when you consider that you can get the same protein with chicken leg quarters for .59/lb (or even .29/lb around here occasionally). Yes, I know that chicken gets boring.... but if you are really trying to keep the grocery bill low you have to think this way. The London broil that the previous poster mentioned for B1G1 free sounds great.... unless the one she had to buy cost $5.99/lb. Even with getting one free, that is still almost $3/lb for meat. You see?

You kind of have to think "outside of the box" when trying to really lower your food bill. Eggs are a very cheap source of protein in most areas, as is rice and beans. Even your meat and taters husband could probably agree to this once a week or so! And you don't necessarily have to make the meat/protein the main part of the meal. Consider making the veggies or starch the "big portion". A large baked potatoe topped with cheese and broccoli or chili has meat and protein, but it is a low cost meal. Or pasta with meat sauce or just a few meatballs.... you don't necessarily have to have 5-10 meatballs per person to fill up. Spaghetti is cheap (but look around for sales.... I have found pasta of all sorts as low as .25/lb around here.... I refuse to pay $1/lb for pasta anymore!!)

Use a price book and keep records of what good sales are. That way when you find a "sale" you can verify that the price really IS good and you can feel free to stock up!.

Anyhow, sorry to ramble.........HTH..................P

09-01-2004, 09:01 PM
Originally posted by pjlla
Use a price book and keep records of what good sales are. That way when you find a "sale" you can verify that the price really IS good and you can feel free to stock up!.

What is a price book?

By the way, these suggestions are great. As I stated earlier I'm trying to lower our grocery bills as well. And this coming from a person who is kitchen impaired!;)

I'm getting better at it though.

tar heel
09-01-2004, 10:37 PM
Very true pjilla. If I cooked chicken legs, they would not be popular but, but one of my stores recently had them for 19 cents a pound and I was tempted! I often buy whole chickens for 39 or 49 cents a pound and make chicken and dumplings. I sneak some of the dark meat in, too!

While London broil or pork tenderloin is more expensive than chicken legs, you can't compare $3 a pound and 59 cents a pound without considering that there is NO waste in the broil and tenderloin. I also don't serve those meats every day -- that's weekend stuff to keep my dh from wanting to go out to eat. Let's say he's not quite as in to economizing as I am.

09-02-2004, 08:46 AM
Originally posted by ForTheLoveofDisney
What is a price book?

By the way, these suggestions are great. As I stated earlier I'm trying to lower our grocery bills as well. And this coming from a person who is kitchen impaired!;)

I'm getting better at it though.

YOu make a price book up yourself.... use an old three ring binder or even something smaller.... I divided mine into sections alphabetically. I recorded the prices of things as I bought them (I used the store fliers and my receipts to write down the prices). THen, when I found the price lower, I recorded that and so on. That way I have found out that while pasta can be as high as $1/lb around here, it also goes on sale frequently for .44/lb and a few times a year as low as .25/lb. Since I know that .25/lb is the lowest price I have ever found, I can feel comfortable buy LOTS of it and not worry that I will find a lower price tomorrow. Same with chicken.... leg quarters will go on sale frequently around here for .69 and.59/lb.....but I have found it as low as .39/lb and .29/lb.... then I really stock up and buy 30 + pounds at a time. (I have an upright freezer in the basement).

May I recommend the "Tightwad Gazette" book series (there are 3). They are TERRIFIC if you are looking for ways to save $$ on almost anything. I have all three volumes (they are compilations of her newsletter). I know that some libraries have the three volumes bound together. I HIGHLY recommend reading these. Very enlightening. Even if you don't "need" to save lots of money, these books are a great eye opener. I keep them in the kitchen with my cookbookss (they do have a few recipes, but not many) and when I feel like the budget is getting out of control, I re-read them for inspiration!.....................P

09-02-2004, 09:02 AM
I second the "Tightwad Gazette" advice. I used to subscribe to her newsletter when it was still being published. Now all of the newsletter info has been compiled into book form.

As for cutting the food budget, remember the more processed and prepared a food is when you purchase it, the more expensive it generally is. Do your own baking. Cook meals from scratch. Use more fresh fruits and veggies and less meat. Drink tap water.

Please try, however, to remember health and nutrition needs along with financial needs. Dark meat chicken may be cheaper than white meat but it is also much higher in fat. Same for the lower grades of ground beef. Brown rice is better than white rice. Whole wheat bread is better than white bread. So always buy the healthiest level you can afford.

09-02-2004, 09:32 AM
I agree with buying meat on sale. At least once or twice a month, either Kroger or Publix will have their meat on sale. When b/s chicken hits $1.99/lb, I buy at least 8 packages (3 breasts). Same for ground beef (although lately, that's hard to get cheap unless you want high fat). Ground turkey is an alternative and isn't too bad! Use it in meals where there is lots of flavor like tacos or chili.

So I buy meat once a month and that runs me and my fiance about $50-75. Then when I hit the store, I can get away with spending about $50/week to get breads, potatoes, veggies and fruits. I always go over though...you know what they say about good intentions. ;)

This is a budget meal thread (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=508723) I started a few months back. Meals that feed a family of 4 for $5-7! Maybe you'll get some good ideas in there. Make friends with coupons! I love them and can't shop without them!

Also, if you want to go out, get some hotwire cards for Outback or whoever else you like. At least you can save 20%. Or check out restaraunt.com...they have cheap prices for gift certificates (like pay $5 and get a $25 off certificate).

09-02-2004, 02:32 PM
Thanks so much for the ideas everyone :) I need to cut off about $200 a month in groceries so I can pay for our annual passes which are now getting 5 months ahead of schedule!!!

09-03-2004, 01:54 AM
i'm moving to where some of these posters live since a cheap cheap cheap sale for leg quarters here is $.79, average sale price $.99-1.09 ( this week they were $1.49!) ( did see them once for .49 at a Kmart a few years ago but they were really gross, broken legs,lots of blood clots and odd looking discoloration of their skin ewwwh!) so for me if bonless skinless are less than $3 a lb, i buy them since the skin and bone makes up about 1/2 the weight...also be careful of whole or cut up chickens..some times they add a few extra packs of gizzards which the cats like but I don't
i feed us all ( 5 adults) 3 meals a day plus kitty food, litter ,tp , cleaning stuff , health and beauty,paper goods,ect. for about 400 a month ( depending on sales, sometimes i stock up more so i guess it would average 400)
(i cook 99% of our meals from scratch since i don't want all the preservatives, make a"dinner" every night of entree, veggies, salad,( unless it's spaghetti or something similar). brakfast is usually cereal or bagels or emuffins with Pbj or something similar. lunch is sandwiches/fruit/sometimes cookies or sweets/sometimes chips/yougurt ect.)
i only buy what's on sale for meat and don't use a lot of hamburger since it doesn't go that far...(it's on sale for $2.79 for 92% this week but the 85% is over $3..) a lb of meat can make a stir fry or casserole for us ( 5 adults) but a 1/5 lb burger is pretty skimpy! also check out boneless cuts of bone in sale meats ( like western ribs) around here often the boneless is only $.10 or more a lb so a better buy even though technically it is not the "sale" item...also see if and when your grocery store marks meat down close to it's sell by date and go to the store then and get it/freeze it since you would have bought the same thing that morning for full price ( our stores put a coupon on it and usually have it sat night or after the weekend) however look at the ads for the next week if possible cause sometime they are going to have it on sale the next week for less than the marked down price. and a round here the buy one get one sales are almost always a good deal..if it's 6 a lb it's still cheaper than most other meats since it's really 1/2 the price.
same with pasta...where in the world do you get .29 pasta..it does not exist here unless it is an open bug infested bag!:) the cheapest i have ever seen it is .59 and that is the cheap stuff that gets too starchy for me...i always wait till barilla goes on for .79( rarely as in almost never less) and buy a bunch. personally i want good tasting food not just cheap food!
same with breads, you might be able to find it for .99 a loaf but it's that white pasty junk! if you have an entertainment book see if it has coupons for bakery outlets and you can get some good buys there on bread items... just check the dates so they are not too old.
we have double coupons at our stores so i use them for cleaning stuff ect when the item is on sale or if i have to have it..sometimes they are stuff i use like veggies, sometimes not so just cause i have one i don['t always use it. i have registered at some free sample sites and got some really good coupons that way ( like free items, or over $1 off)

09-03-2004, 12:09 PM
Do you have a warehouse place--you know, Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's--nearby? They have great prices on the staples--meat, paper goods, etc. For instance, we belong to Costco. We get lean ground beef (I think it's 81 percent lean) for $1.99 a pound. It is for a 6 lb or more pack, but I shape about half into hamburger patties, and break the rest up into 1 lb packages. (I have a scale). I freeze it all, so we always have a quick dinner of hamburger or tacos available. The meat is always fresh and really good. I also use the meat when I make spagetthi sauce. And I freeze that also so we can always have that for a last minute dinner.

09-03-2004, 01:00 PM
Jan1033 reminded me also.... check for bread outlets. I have a great one that has fresh bread (sometimes even still warm!!) The exact same brand/type loaf I can get there for .85 is $2.29 up the road at Hannaford and Shaws! Actually I was there this morning. We are having a church event at our house this weekend and I have to feed upwards to 40+ people. I got french sticks (long loaves of french bread) for .85 each! Still nice and soft and fresh! I bought six and will cut it into pieces to go along with the meal.................P

edited to add.... To Jan1033... the best sale prices around here are actually at a little local market, not the big chains. That is where I can get the chicken leg quarters for .29/lb sometimes (maybe two or three times a years) and the pasta on sale for.25/lb. I will admit that the pasta is not always name brand....they usually advertise the store brand for that price, but if they run out they will sell you the Mueller's brand for the same price. I personally have never found much difference, so I don't mind buying the cheaper stuff...............P

09-03-2004, 08:39 PM
I just have one itty bitty tip--A sirloin tip! :p

We are pretty picky about hamburger. A friend told me about buying a whole sirloin tip roast (on a great sale-of course. A great price is $1.39/lb). Hand it over to the meat guy and get it ground (trim the fat-even nicer). You have ground sirloin for a little bit more than $1.50/lb (because of trimming the fat). They will package it up for you into smaller chunks and freeze 'em. There is no waste and it tastes great.

09-03-2004, 09:30 PM
Interesting how many of your tips revolve around finding cheaper prices for meat. I have a far better, cheaper and healthier tip. Stop eating so much meat. We eat no red meat. DW is allergic to seafood so we buy none of that. We have some chicken less than once a week on average. The rest of our meals are vegetable, grain and dairy based. We do it for health reasons, not cost reasons, but it does save money to not buy meat regularly.

09-03-2004, 09:50 PM
Something I try to do every once in a while is a grocery exile---you just do not go to the grocery store and use up what is stockpiling in your fridge/freezer/pantry. I make it a game to see how long we can go--it really helps to clear out the excess and I usually make it 10 days or so.

*****We do go buy any essentials--milk, bread, fresh fruit*****

Get creative---breakfast for dinner once a week is something my family loves and it is cheap!!! Eggs, pancakes, sausage and fruit.

If you want specific cheap dinner ideas, how about:

soup and sandwich night (my kids love grilled cheese)

baked potatoes with all the trimmings

bean burritos

try using 1/4 less meat in whatever casseroles you make--I bet you won't miss it!!

are there convenience foods you can cut out??? Switch from soda to iced tea??? Frozen pizzas instead of take out??? Every little bit adds up.

09-03-2004, 10:35 PM
Ooh, one good tip to add: Do *not* go grocery shopping on an empty tummy! You'd be surprised at how much extra stuff ends up in your cart ;)

Also, we love hitting up the local farmer's markets once a week. It seems like the produce is nicer there, too! :D

09-04-2004, 06:41 PM
1) Buy whole chickens /turkeys on sale for the hungry teens & college student Turkeys go a long way for sandwiches too. T

2) Make a menu & shop from it. I can nolonger control our food budget as I would like to. (Dh on low carb diet) I generally do this: Monday: pasta night: Spagetti & Italian sausage or ground beef, ravioli, mostaccioli or stouffer's lasagna etc..Tuesday: Ground beef: burgers, or tacos, meatloaf (use lots of stuffing or breadcrumbs) Wednesday: Chicken: baked, Chinese Chicken Salad or another type of Chicken Salad, or broccoli chicken, braised chicken thighs Thursday: Beef: top round cubed w/ vegetables, chuck roast (sometimes find them at great prices) cook in crock pot (saves time), or bake on low wrapped in foil other cuts of beef (sale prices) Friday: Pizza night: Can buy pre-made dough or pizza crusts from bakery outlet, use spagetti sauce and shredded cheese (shred block cheese if cheaper) Order out if it's in your budget (some local pizza places have great 2 for 1 deals during the week. Weekend: ribs, roast, soup & sandwiches not really as planned.

3) Plan night for eating out once a month according to your budget. I try to hit restaurant that has a child eat free night or significant discount with paid adult meal. This usually happens during a week night.

4) If you must drink soda, purchase liter bottles on sale.

5) Snack foods: find big bags of chips on sale, can break them down into large baggies. Trail mix**Popcorn etc...

6) I also find great deals on veggies and fruit at the Farmer's market. Try to limit to what you will use though.

7) Pinto beans (soaked in water overnight) then cooked in a crock pot with cubes of steak or ham and seasoning & chicken broth is wonderful with cornbread** I don't make chili, but I'm sure it's the same type of meal.

8) Try different types of roast: pork (sometimes great prices) look on recipe.com for recipe
9) Buy cereal on sale: don't be tempted to get the high sugar content ones though. Try Oatmeal for breakfast occasionally. hearty type like Quaker Add cinnamon or pieces of fruit for variety
You'll find that one container will go a long way.

10) Stay organized, and you'll find time to make these
foods. For me, having a day of the week for a type of meat helped me stay with the menu. I try and shop monthly with a list & make shorter trips to the grocery store for fresh veggies and perishables. This is really my least favorite type of shopping!

Best Wishes!!