Top 10 Ingredients for Making Frugal Family Meals

Top 10 Ingredients for making frugal (& delicious!) meals

Saving money on groceries can be as easy as choosing the right ingredients. Here is my list of top ten go-to frugal foods that keep our budget in check (without resorting to processed foods).

Whole chicken is still one of the most affordable proteins on the market. If you’re a strictly-organic shopper, head over to Costco where you will find two whole chickens for around the same price as one from Whole Foods. My favorite stress-free way to prepare one is straight in the slow cooker, covered in water, carrots, onion and celery. It goes overnight, and I awaken to a rich, flavorful broth, and easy-to-shred meat. I have a collection of 40 Shredded Chicken Recipes if you’re looking for meal ideas.

Bake ’em, mash ’em or roast ’em. No matter how you prepare them, you’re bound to have a crowd pleaser. This vegetable is good for you in moderation, is inexpensive and has a long shelf life.  I love that they help fill up my hungry teenagers.  Head over to Huffington Post for the top 18 ways to prepare them.

Even on a budget, carrots are an affordable vegetable to buy in organic form. I love to slice them up and serve them as a mid-day snack. I have even been known to sneak them into soups and stews, and occasionally shred them into meatballs!  The Whole Foods Newsletter contains 10 ideas for adding more carrots to your diet.

If you’ve never used dried beans, head over to The Kitchn for an easy how-to. They’re one of the most affordable ingredients you can find, and super easy to make once you know how. Mix them in with ground beef to stretch your servings, make a sauce, or delicious side. The folks over at have hundreds of recipes for using them in a slow cooker.

For just a few cents more per pound, go for brown rice over white whenever you can. It has a nuttier flavor, and three times the fiber. Makes a perfect side dish, or add it to meatballs or meatloaf to make it stretch.  You can get the perfect brown rice recipe from

In Season Fruits & Vegetables
Hit up your local farmers market each week to peruse the freshest (and often cheapest) produce available. I like knowing my money is supporting a local family, and I love feeding my family food that was grown with love!  You can search for a farmers market in your area HERE.

You can often find pasta on sale for under $1. We love it in cold salads, as well as Italian casseroles.  For the super adventurous, you can save even more by making your own.

Canned Tomatoes
This is another of my go-to pantry staples, and something I buy in bulk when it’s on sale. I can use it to whip up a sauce, or make a killer homemade salsa.  Visit The Kitchn to find her top five favorite recipes using canned tomatoes.

Pork Shoulder
This makes our meal rotation at least once a month. I love it, because I can find a roast big enough for my family of 7 for around $10. Of all the recipes I’ve tried, we love THIS one because it has just four ingredients, and comes out of the Crock Pot cooked perfectly every time.

We enjoy a good brinner (breakfast for dinner) at least once a week. It’s a filling crowd pleaser that can be served for under $1 per person.  Martha Stewart has a list of 40 affordable eggs-for-dinner recipes.

How about YOU?  What are your favorite frugal ingredients?


  1. Great post, great resources. Thanks Lori!

  2. Sandy Manning says:

    I recently priced whole organic chickens at Costco and they are a great deal. I am in the Dallas, TX area and they are $1.49/lb. I would make bone broth with the leftover carcasses to make it even more worthwhile. I would prefer to make bone broth from organic chicken to try to make it healthier. I agree that you get a lot of mileage out of a whole chicken. They come out great cooked in a slow cooker. I have a couple of recipes that are so good.

  3. Went to your shredded chicken recipes but are a little confused with making the stock. The broth you get from cooking the chicken do you get rid of that and the veggies or add it to the new broth that you make with the carcass.? Do you use new veggies or the the veggies from the cooked chicken.? Sorry wasn’t clear to me.

    • Hi Peggy – I strain the broth from cooking the chicken to remove all veggies, etc. Then I put the carcass back in with some fresh veggies for another round of cooking. I do this extra step so I can have the most nutrient-rich broth possible.

      When pinched for time though, I just use the strained broth from the first round of cooking – it’s plenty flavorful too!