Trim the Budget: Calculating the Cost


 After making tonight’s low cost meal I thought I would share how you calculate the cost of food items that are a little trickier to figure out.  I am referring to things like pasta, rice, beans, etc..  how do you determine what a cup of pasta or beans cost?  You will need a small scale to do this.  Having a scale in the kitchen is very handy.  I bought a small postal scale from ebay years ago and have put to good use! 

The first thing you need to know is the price you paid for your item and how much it weighs.  Let’s use pasta for this example (I had to do this today to calculate how much I spent on my dinner, so it is an easy one for me to share).   I bought a 10lb box of whole wheat elbow macaroni from my food co-op Azure Standard.  I paid $21.35 for it.   The next step is to find out is what 1 cup of dry elbow macaroni weighs.  I put it on my scale and it weighed 5.4oz. 

There are 16 ounces in one pound so I multiplied 10 pounds by 16 which is 160 ounces in 10 pounds.

Next, I take the price I paid of $21.35 and divide by 160.

This gives a price of 13.3 cents per ounce.

Now I weighed 1 cup of elbow macaroni and it weighed 5.4 oz.  So, I take 13.3 cents per ounce and multiply it by 5.4  and this gives me 71.82 cents which I round to 72 cents per cup.

There you have it!!  You can calculate the cost of basic food items easily to help you determine what you are paying for each meal.  This really allows you to “know” how much you are spending on a meal and if it’s a frugal meal.  I remember looking at a website of “frugal recipes” and was surprised to find how many of the recipes were not frugal at all, at least in my budget.  Knowing what you pay can vary greatly from what you “think” you are paying. 

Every frugal meal you can make for your family will have a big impact on your monthly food budget. 

Now for tonight’s dinner…

I made Quick Beef Stroganoff.  This meal is easy to make and tastes delicious!!  My family really likes it.  The recipe made one pot of stroganoff that was enough to feed us for dinner, but did not leave much in the way of leftovers for my family size and appetite.  But, it was very budget friendly and that is the goal.  If you have a large family you may want to double it.  It fed 6 of us (one of my daughters was not home).  I served it with green beans (from last summer’s garden) and buttered homemade bread. 

Quick Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. Ground beef
½ cup chopped onions, opt.
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked—whole wheat if possible
Liquid mixture ( These ingredients need to come to a total of 4 cups):

½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
Beef broth (or bouillon and water), filled up to the 4 cup mark
1 T. Italian seasonings
Salt, pepper

Brown the ground beef in large cooking pot, adding onions if desired. Drain beef and return to pan. Layer uncooked elbow macaroni over beef. Pour liquid mixture over beef and macaroni. DO NOT STIR Bring to boil and cover. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add green beans or salad and bread for a complete meal. This goes together very quickly and tastes very good!


Cost for beef stroganoff  

2.79 ground beef
1.08 for pasta

.275 yogurt

.80 for one can organic tomato sauce

$4.95 total

You could round this up to $5.50 account for the cost of the spices, onions and so forth.








  1. Yummy!! We will have this next Monday!! Thank you, Kelley

  2. I really like the way you calculate your meals. I think I will try this. I do have a question. We use lots of home canned food. How do you calculate a price for your home canned items or do you count a price for them?

  3. One quick question. Do you use ground beef or ground chuck? Im never sure if it matters health wise if you drain your meat. I do occasionally buy ground turkey when it cheaper also, but some things I like the tast of beef better.

  4. Great tips on measuring and figuring food costs. Thanks. And the recipe sounds quick and easy as well.

    God's Blessings,

    Amy Jo

  5. Making this for dinner tonight. I have to tweak the recipe a bit....but it'll work!...............Teresa

  6. Find your nearest LDS church Cannery. I buy a lot of bulk items there. I know they have a few in Washington. I buy 20lbs of macaroni for like $13.00! That would even cut that in half.

  7. I love making this recipe for my family. We tend to use brown rice pasta and it comes out great. Super easy and tasty. Thanks for sharing it!


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