Eat Well, Spend Less: 5 Favorite Frugal Meals

This week in the Eat Well, Spend Less series, our topic is 5 favorite frugal meals.

I've found that regularly serving meals that we like that are affordable is the easiest way for me to stay within budget at the grocery store! Here are my top picks. :)

#1: Oatmeal for breakfast!

Now, before you say "Oatmeal is boring!" and skip to the next item, wait just a minute. I want to tell you how to get a good deal on oatmeal and how to serve it so your family will love it -- not just tolerate it. ;)

Where I get my oatmeal:

I buy rolled oats, and have found the best deal is to get them in a 50-pound bag. Check health food stores, bulk food stores, or a co-op for availability. (Calling the store is an easy way to find out if you can purchase in large quantities!) I also can get Quaker rolled oats at Costco for about $0.70/lb. (in a 10 pound box). I occasionally have a need for "quick oats", so I just give my "old fashioned" rolled oats a whirl in the food processor before using them as "quick oats".

Whether you buy quick oats, rolled oats, steel cut oats, or whole oats (oat groats), you can still check into bulk purchasing! They keep well in a dry, sealed bucket.

How I serve oatmeal:

Now honestly, I usually serve our oatmeal with some fruit, cinnamon, and milk. It's easy, healthy, and it's our breakfast at least 5 days a week! (Joshua takes containers of leftover oatmeal to work and re-warms them for his breakfast there.)

But we do switch things up sometimes and add nuts on top (think melty butter + chopped pecans, or apple chunks + walnut pieces)! For overnight guests (or brunch), my Easy Baked Apple Oatmeal is always well received. I've served it to guests who told me afterwards, "I don't usually like oatmeal but this is awesome!!" :)

Bonus: I've also made my own instant oatmeal packets! :)

Beans and rice

#2: Beans and Rice

Another typical penny-pinching food? Maybe, but I'm so glad I learned how to cook beans! :) Joshua, who used to tell me not to overdo it with beans, now thoroughly enjoys my cooked pinto beans and rice.

Where I buy beans:

Beans are another food that is perfect for bulk buying. Dry beans should keep for a year or so. I buy my pinto beans (and a couple other kinds) at Costco for about $0.50/lb. (25 pound bags). Again, check with bulk food stores, health food stores, and health food co-ops to see what kind of deal you can get on beans.

Pinto beans with toppings
Cooked Pinto Beans, topped with cheese, avocado, and fresh tomato salsa

What I do with beans:

Pinto beans and rice -- a simple, filling meal. My favorite way is to cook the pinto beans in my slow cooker. They are unbelievably good! (This post has lots of detailed info on how I cook my beans!)

I like to dress up pinto beans with toppings like shredded cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, or salsa. If avocados are on sale, those are great too! :)

Freezer-Friendly Bean and Rice Burritos -- an easy freezer meal that we love! I even have a video and photo tutorial for these burritos at that link. They're so delicious!

I love cooking with beans! See lots more of my bean recipes here. :)

Bonus: Remember The Everything Beans Book I reviewed a few weeks ago? Well, there's an exclusive 40% off code good through Wednesday, April 13 at midnight MST for The Everything Beans Book, making it just $6 instead of $10! Discount code: SPENDLESS

Veggie Bean Soup with Spinach recipe
Veggie Bean Soup With Spinach -- one of my favorite healthy soups!

#3: Soup!

Soup is (usually) affordable to make, can be fairly low-calorie, and doesn't take a lot of time to prepare! Click here for my soup recipes! :)

#4: Homemade bread...

...which doesn't have to be difficult. :) I have way too many favorite bread recipes, but here are some of the best:

Italian Cheese Bread -- easy and very well reviewed. I take this to potlucks.
Homemade wheat bread -- my standard loaf of bread. YUM.
Homemade unleavened bread (Matzah) -- what we'll be eating next week! :)
Quick and Easy Breadsticks -- buttery goodness. (Non-yeast)
Hearty Herb Bread -- a simple loaf that's super good with soup!
Italian Garlic Knots -- I love garlic.
Challah -- but of course. LOVE!
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls -- my very fave dinner roll, but more work than...
One Hour Dinner Rolls

#5: Homemade yogurt or kefir

Now, I am not on the homemade yogurt bandwagon. I've kept on trying, even after my post about giving up on it. Today when I tried to start some homemade yogurt, I scorched 8 cups of milk in my crock pot because I didn't watch it carefully enough. Sigh.

Last week, my yogurt was a success (!!!) but was still a lot of babysitting. (Milk at 140? Cool some more... Oh no, milk at 80 degrees! Reheat... oh, back up to 130 already? Finally, caught it at ~120 and slipped in the yogurt starter. Phew.)

But. If you're not like me, you might even have fun making yogurt and it's pretty affordable.

What I love, though, is my thick and creamy homemade kefir. It requires NO babysitting, and the culture grows so instead of buying starter from the store, I actually end up with extras to share with friends. Yay! :)

Kefir -- a quick and easy (drinkable!) breakfast food! :)

How I serve homemade yogurt or kefir:

-Sweeten with maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar and drink through a straw (or with a spoon)
-Serve with fresh or frozen fruit
-Use in cooking (How to use kefir or yogurt in recipes?)
-Serve with granola or oatmeal

Popcorn cereal
Popcorn Cereal recipe (a breakfast from my childhood)

#6 (Bonus): Homemade popcorn. :)

Whether you like it sweet, cheesy, or for breakfast, popcorn is one of the few snacks we keep on hand! :)

Tell me about your favorite frugal meal in the comments, or come back later today for links to the other participants in the Eat Well, Spend Less series! :)


Hey Tammy. If you have an oven with a light you can just set your milk with yogurt cultures in there to culture overnight. If not and you have a heat pad you can also lay the heat pad on a cookie sheet and place the yogurt in jars (glass) on the heat pad turned on high overnight cover with towels or a large blanket and it will culture. I NEVER take the temp. of my milk when heating. I heat up about a gallon of milk till almost boiling then turn off. A few hours later when it's cool enough for me to put my finger in the milk without burning me I add the yogurt starter mix and pour into jars then culture. I've tried the crock pot method a few times and burned the milk a few times. And it was a lot of work and baby sitting to me. Not worth it.

Katie @

Thanks for the tips, Katie! :)

Our oven light only comes on when the door is open (and our house is 64 degrees so not warm enough to leave the door open!). I don't have a heating pad OR a cooler! So crock pot and blankets it is... :)

I think I am just spoiled by how easy it is to make kefir!! :)

Great ideas here! Thanks for the share!

Thank you! :)

What a little cutie enjoying her kefir! =)

Great tips on sourcing these frugal staples,Tammy. Love how you've adapted their preparation to keep the whole family happy.

Thanks! :)

I love the veggie bean soup with spinach!
It was the only thing I could eat for weeks during my last pregnancy!
Thanks for sharing so many great recipes!

Thanks, Kristin! :) I like to get a big bag of fresh spinach from Costco, and that soup is one of the things I make with it! :)

Just found your site through Katie at Kitchen Stewardship! What wonderful recipes you have and I am very excited to give these recipes a try! Thank you so much! Blessings, Kelly @ The Nourishing Home

Thanks, Kelly! :) I have been a fan of your Facebook page for several weeks (before it officially launched, I think!). :)

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