Low Cost Basic Foods to Lower the Grocery Budget


The best way I know how to reduce the amount of money I spend on groceries and still feed my family healthy meals is to utilize low cost basic foods.  Those basic foods are typically beans and grains.   

When I plan a meal I think grains and/or beans first, not meat.  The grains and beans are full of nutrition and the meat adds flavor to the meal.   

Last nights dinner is an example.  I made tuna patties.  I used brown rice instead of bread crumbs(as I usually do) because I had cooked rice in the frig.  On Wednesday night I made a big batch of brown rice.  For dinner on Wednesday I combined some leftover meatballs (leftover in the freezer from the wedding) and added cooked rice and homemade bbq sauce with them.  I put them in a 9x13 pan and sprinkled with a little bit of cheese and baked this until everything was hot.  I served the meal with a salad. 

Last night I took about 3 cups of leftover rice and combined this with 4 cans of tuna fish (drained).  I added 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk, and about 1 cup of flour.  I also added salt, pepper, seasoning salt, dried onions and a little soy sauce to season.  I fried about ¼ cup of the mixture per patty in olive oil.   

This meal was very inexpensive.  The tuna was about .45 cents a can ($2.00 rounded up), and the rice was about .20 cents and then there were eggs and milk.  I think $3.00 or less would cover the whole meal, depending on how much you spend for eggs and milk. 

I served this meal with corn on the cob and green beans (from my garden.. had it in the freezer).  This meal could also be served with a salad or canned green beans.   

  Now onto breakfast! This morning’s breakfast at my house prompted me to share this with you.  

 Oats are another low cost basic food, and the cheapest breakfast I know is oatmeal.  I serve it a lot.  The one thing that bugs me is leftover oatmeal.  I usually end up making more than we need.  Sometimes I make the leftover oatmeal into muffins.  Sometimes I put in the fridge and the next morning heat it up in the microwave and serve it again.  I really hate wasting it.  I have come up with another way to use it that is super easy…  I make fried oatmeal mush.  I take the leftover oatmeal and while it is still warm I put it in a loaf pan (I spray with Pam first).  Then cover it and put it in the fridge.  The next morning remove the loaf from the pan and slice it.  Fry it in butter and serve with a bit of maple syrup (homemade syrup is another way to cut costs).  

The price on this breakfast will vary depending on how much you pay for oats.  I buy my oats from my health food co-op Azure Standard.  Currently organic quick oats are costing me .16 cents a cup (that is $16.40 for a 25# bag.  The non organic oats are $10.45 making the cost per cup of dry oats about 10 cents a cup).  If I make my kids oatmeal using 4 to 5 cups - dry - of oats the cost is .80 cents for the organic oats, and it stretches over two mornings that is .40 cents a morning in oats that are filling and nutritional.   I call that a very healthy and inexpensive budget trimmer! 


  1. I glad this is your topic! I am normally quite frugal, but I am challenging myself to do even better this year. Your site always inspires me.

    Thank you for shipping out my order of the shaving lotion and brush so quickly. It came in the day before my son's birthday. Perfect, since it was his gift!



  2. Thank you so much for sharing this Crystal. Great article. I just called Azure yesterday and awaiting a call to see where the nearest drop point is!!

    God's Blessings,

    Amy Jo

  3. Great ideas!

    Crispe ;o)

  4. Thank you. We really need to cut back on finances. I'm going grocery shopping today and this was so helpful.

    ~Kelly In TX

  5. The Prudent HomemakerJanuary 17, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    This sounds like how we cook! I have been buying oats for $7.50 for a 25lbs bag (non-organic) (though the price went up yesterday, and I don't know how much they will be). We also cook 4-5 cups per morning, and SOMETIMES there are leftovers, but not usually. I add powdered milk (bought in bulk), as we are living from our pantry and not shopping, brown sugar, and usually a little butter (if we have it). This means I feed 6 of us for less than $1 (my husband eats leftovers or potatoes for breakfast most days and doesn't have oatmeal, so I'll need to add a little more for his breakfast).

    I knew oats were one of our least expensive breakfasts, but I never broke it down by cups before. We usually have oatmeal 2-3 times a week.

    And unlike cold cereal (to which I won't go back!) my children are full for a while after having oatmeal, insead of asking for more food before I've finished the breakfast dishes!

  6. Crystal--

    I need to know what beans have the thinnest shell? My husband cannot eat a lot of things that have shells on them so no corn, no peas, no tomato skins, no raw peppers. He does sneak a few and gets in trouble when digesting. He has an ileostomy so foods don't process through the large intestine. He can eat beans but I have to put them through a blender but some beans still come out "shelly". What's your opinion on the softest shell possible?


  7. Crystal,

    I was wondering what size the cans of tuna you used are? It sounds like a delicious meal!



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