Frugal Food Prep

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

February 1, 2009


Categories: Family, Food

With the advent of social networking, I’ve been able to keep in touch with some high school friends.  One friend, Mackenna, wanted to contribute some ideas to the frugal side of life.  Here are some tried-and-true tips she uses or has gathered from the wisdom of her parents and grandparents.  Visit her blog at

  • Buy meat from local farmers.  You can get half a cow, etc. this way and many farms are organic nowadays.
  • When you have a turkey roast or ham roast or whole chicken, use the remainder of meat by making soup or stew with it.  I use the ham-bone and 4-6 red potatoes and a little milk, garlic, salt, pepper, minced onion and parsley (along with a few dashes of flour) to make a mean pot of ham & potato cream soup that will feed my family for 2 more meals than just tossing the bone. When I’m done with that I take the bone and give it to the dog. I do the same with chicken and add some egg noodles and canned carrots if I am out of fresh.  I make turkey soup with whatever veggies I have lying around or in the freezer (frozen veggies are great for soup).  Well, all of it but give to the dog. They can’t have poultry bones.
  • If you make dinner from 1.5 pounds of burger and only need >1 lb, cook up the rest separately, mark and freeze it, and use it later for a fast dinner.  Saves you on prep time when you only need enough meat for spaghetti sauce, etc.
  • Enter into a ‘food trade’ with friends or family occasionally.  You know that stuff that is in your pantry but seldom used?  I will clean it out every 3 months or so and swap food items with my mom.  “We just haven’t been eating x,y or z thing lately… want to trade it for anything you aren’t eating there?”
  • Use dried beans, legumes and barley to compliment your soups.  They cook up fresh and go a long way in filling up your family, so you can get farther for your buck.  Even adding 1 cup of dry barley into my soup makes it go so much farther.
  • Stir fries are a great way to throw everything into a pot and go.  You have lots of misc. leftover little baggies of frozen veggies, you can combine them all this way.
  • Create a list of every single thing you can cook that your family likes.  Then, make a menu plan for 2 weeks based on how frugal you need to be (some times are more strained than others), what you have in the house, what you have for coupons, etc.   I fed my entire family (WELL) for the last 2 weeks and I only spent $140 at the grocery store.  That included 2 cans of formula, a huge box of diapers, wipes, and baby food (I tried making my own but  my kid won’t eat most of it, so I have to supplement it with store-bought).  That included making a dish to pass at a family event and lunch and dinner on both sets of weekend days.
  • Make your own French fries with oil and potatoes.  If you can grow your potatoes, it’s even cheaper, but I can buy a huge bag of potatoes for $2.50.  I plan for them in my meals and separate them out over the 2 weeks and usually have some leftover at the end.  This time I made soup, fries, baked potatoes and still have 4 left.  I make my own French fries in a frying pan with a thin layer of oil and a dash of salt.  My family likes them better than the Ore-Ida kind anyway.
  • As I said before, canning is a limitless opportunity to save money.  While I haven’t’ canned in some time, I am going to get on that bandwagon this year without a doubt.  It means 3 busy weeks in the fall, but an entire year of lovingly cooked food for my family and a huge cost savings.
  • Refill your water bottles [use something sturdier than #1 plastic from the store for health reasons].  Many people buy distilled water jugs at the store.  The stores will let you refill them.  It costs less and it is more environmentally sound.  Also, with little to go bottles, do the same.  Refill them from your tap.  It’s just water – it’s not like you’re going to get Ecol-i from it or anything if you re-use them.  We can make a case of 12 waters last a month or more by just refilling them.

Check out my green guide for the next two weeks to see a day-at-a-time installment of some green cleaning tips, also from Mackenna.

1 Comment

  1. Mackenna

    Pssht, don’t listen to her. Dat Mackenna Girl Crayzee.

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