Dirt Cheap Eating

Cheap meal ideas and nutrition information

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spaghetti! Family Spaghetti night = cheaper monthly food costs

Spaghetti is an awesome meal for the food budget conscious.  It is low cost, filling, and can feel like a nice family meal.  (something hot dogs and ramen lack)

It is easy to get 4 or 5 meals out of just a single pack of noodles and a single can of sauce. 

You can cut up veggies or add mushrooms or meat to make the sauce even more nutritious. ( Adding extras brings the price up significantly)

As for the noodles and sauce themselves they can sit in your cupboard for months before you prepare them. It is a great meal to have sitting around in case of an emergency meal.

By having a family spaghetti night you can significantly reduce the cost of monthly groceries. Feeding 5 people for two dollars!  You can add a simple side salad or frozen vegetables for more variety.

When adding meat to spaghetti remember that it is usually the most expensive part. Instead of using a whole pound of beef in the spaghetti try using only half a pound. You will still be able to taste the beef but you will be cutting your costs significantly.

Nutrition Information: Spaghetti
Nutrition Info : Hunts Spaghetti sauce

Calories (Noodles+ Sauce) = approx. 260
Price (per serving)= Approx $ 0.50

Friday, May 27, 2011

Poporn! Low calorie AND low Cost!

About to pop in a movie with the boyfriend? Looking for a cheap snack for the kids? Need to budget a bit tighter this month and don't want to spend all your money on cookies, candies, and chips? What about POPCORN?

Popcorn doesn't have to be that buttery salty gooy microwave popcorn you buy (although it can be if you like that). There are many cost effective ways to get light fluffy air popped popcorn which you can add toppings to yourself if you choose. Or munch on plain for a low calorie and low cost snack!

You can buy air popping microwave bowls at stores such as Target and Walmart for a low price. All you add are the seeds and watch it pop in the microwave! No need to buy an air popper, no need to have all the salt and butter (unless you like it).

I own a  Nordic Wear popcorn popper bowl which you can buy on Amazon for 8.89. It has worked for me many years without problems. All you do is add the seeds and microwave! The best part about this is that popcorn kernels are insanely cheap. A two dollar bag of popcorn seeds can last you a very very long time. This makes each serving of this snack mere pennies! You can snack to your hearts content without feeling too bad about price or even calories. 31 calories a cup!!! 

Next time you are budgeting your food costs if you are looking for a fun low calorie snack alternative look no further. :)

Affordable Meals?

Affordable Meals?  Can eating be that cheap? Can you still eat healthy on a budget?

Yes, Yes, and Yes!

The idea behind two dollar meals is to maximize your meal value and minimize the price. There are several ways to do this.

One major way to maximize your meal value is to make a list and buy in bulk. Never buy in bulk just because it is on sale, make sure that what you are buying will be used and use everything you buy. For  example buying a larger pack of spaghetti noodles will get you more noodles for a lower cost. If you plan on cooking spaghetti and other pastas a lot than this can be a very good buy. You don't have to cook the entire box at once.  The noodles will have a higher shelf life if they are cooked as needed and not sitting soggy in your fridge.

Another way to maximize your meal size is portion control make sure you are reading the box labels and nutrition guides. Don't over stuff yourself on expensive things like meats. A good way to make your meal seem more filling and reduce cost is to add something like potatoes or rice to it. Sides can cost significantly less than a main course and can be healthy for you too. Frozen vegetables tend to be low cost, healthy, and quick/easy to prepare! When going back for seconds load up on the sides first.

Drinking Water rather than sodas is a much cheaper and healthier alternative also. Sodas have a lot of calories and cost a lot more than filtered tap water. Investing in a water filter if you feel you need one can be a much cheaper and actually cleaner alternative to bottled water. Did you know that you are supposed to have eight 8ounce glasses of water a day? That is a LOT of water! Drinking water will keep you hydrated and healthy and may be even feeling a tad bit more full.

Most importantly plan ahead plan ahead! Write down meal ideas for the weak. Pick a couple of low cost meals and let your family pick a few to do a couple nights a week. Doing Spaghetti, or hot dogs on the grill one night may not be the healthiest option, but at less than a dollar a meal these family meal nights can save you enough money to have a nicer meal another day. Stay away from impulse buys and know what you want and about what it will cost per person before you buy it. Remember that meats and cheeses can add a lot to the price.  Portion size and adding the meat to the meal rather than having it alone as a course can help lower prices on meats. (example..think chicken pasta rather than chicken AND pasta. Cutting up one or two chicken breasts and mixing it in with your pasta can be cheaper than giving everyone their own breast)

Planning ahead allows you to buy only what you need and not waste money on things that may look good but will end up sitting in your cupboard because you have nothing that goes with it.

Avoid heavy snacking. Avoid sitting on the couch with a bag full of chips. Avoid purchasing expensive snacks. Invest in some plastic ziplock bags and divide up portion sizes for your snacks. Don't over eat and fill up on snacks. If you don't think one snack will fill you, then eat a small/cheap meal instead. Eating your three meals a day is more cost effective than mindlessly munching. Sometimes four small meals can be cheaper than multiple snacks.  Make sure that you budget in snacks to your food costs but don't go overboard!

Generics? Some generics are worth buying and some are not. The best advice I can give is don't be afraid to try a generic once. If it doesn't compare than you will have learned your lesson and if it does than it can save you a lot of money in the future! A lot of generics are made of the same materials and even by the same companies. Just because you saw the name brand on TV does not mean that it is always worth the extra price. Remember they have to pay for advertising and design which gives them a higher overhead which they pass on to you. Buying generic can sometimes get you the same type of food for a much better price!

There are many other methods to cutting food costs. Subscribe and keep reading for more.

What are some ways you reduce food cost?

First Post


My goal with this blog is to help others find low cost meal alternatives in this economy. Groceries can be a major household expense and by doing a little extra planning before heading to the store a person can save themselves hundreds.

My theory is that buy finding low cost meals to eat some days will free up money to have a really nice meal once and a while too, or may be help free up some spending cash.

Make sure when planning your meal you follow the basic food pyramid and include something from each food group whenever possible. Fruits and veggies are good for you!