ADVERTISEMENT

According to CNBC, the cost of groceries has risen by almost 20% since 2021. But if you’re the one in charge of shopping for your family, that won’t come as a surprise to you at all. It seems like every week, milk, produce and bread prices have increased, forcing many of us to cut back.

So if you’re looking for ways to stretch your spending without having to starve, Reddit users have recently been sharing their go-to affordable yet filling meals. These suggestions might not be gourmet by any means, but they should keep your stomach full until payday. Keep reading to also find a conversation with Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN of Frugal Nutrition, and be sure to upvote the suggestions you’ll take advantage of to have a little more left in your savings at the end of the month!

We all want to make meals that keep us happy, healthy and satiated without breaking the bank, but in recent years, that seems to have become harder than ever. So to get some tips on budget and health-friendly grocery shopping, we reached out to Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN of Frugal Nutrition, who was kind enough to have a chat with Bored Panda about some of her favorite affordable meals.

"I love to cook a whole chicken and then turn it into soup with beans and veggies, which lasts several days," Caitlin shared. "I often make a large pot of my lemony lentil stew (actually making this one today!). Lentils are really affordable and are quite filling."

"One of my go-to budget friendly recipes is just canned chickpeas, canned coconut milk, canned tomatoes, frozen spinach, and whatever long noodles you've got," the nutritionist continued. "I love this one because it's budget-friendly, but it is also self-contained and pantry-friendly, so you can usually get everything you need for under $5!"

RELATED:
    #2

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Baked potato

    anon , Pixabay Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    rayceeyarayceeya avatar
    Ray Ceeya (RayCeeYa)
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I have this idea for a burger, but instead of a bun, it's two halves of a baked potato.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    #3

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Fried rice. You can use everything you have left in the fridge.

    Elena_Prefleuri , Trista Chen Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    soniborah avatar
    Howl's sleeping castle
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Sometimes if I don't have any veggies, I just add onion, garlic and cumin seeds. It is still tasty and filling

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    ADVERTISEMENT

    When it comes to getting a healthy dose of veggies, Caitlin says that cabbage is super underrated. "I love to shred it and roast it just like brussels sprouts, turn it into a slaw, or stir-fry it with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce," she explained. "Cabbage is part of the brassica family - like kale - and is a great source of vitamin K and vitamin C. If you're not sure if you like cabbage, try it roasted or fry it up with a couple of pieces of bacon or ham, or try it in a stir fry!"

    Lucky for us, Caitlin has done several meal plans and series featuring recipes for tight budgets, so you can find her latest budget-friendly meal plan with a free PDF right here!

    #4

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Peasant's pasta otherwise known as Agile e Olio- it's bloody delicious. Pasta, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese.

    Minimalist12345678 , wikipedia.org Report

    #5

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Buttered toast with cinnamon/sugar sprinkled on top

    ThoseBrightBabyBlues , Chuck_Roast1993 Report

    #6

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Beans on toast

    Beans and sausage on toast if I'm feeling flush and have an extra 20p in my pocket

    DavosLostFingers , wikipedia.org Report

    When it comes to Caitlin's top tips for eating well on a tight budget, she wanted to remind readers that, "It is easier to make good decisions when we are well fed with balanced blood sugar, so while I would shy away from foods that are super high on the glycemic index (cakes, cookies, pastries etc.) on their own, always add protein, fat, and fiber. This way you'll have better emotional regulation and mental capacity to get through each day, and be less likely to impulse splurge on cookies and convenience foods that can easily blow your budget."

    ADVERTISEMENT

    The expert explained that while packaged ramen with 1-2 eggs or some frozen vegetables might seem like an "unhealthy" choice, it is going to do wonders for your capacity to function. "Fed is always better than unfed," Caitlin says. 

    #7

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Throwing leftover anything inside a warmed up flour tortilla. Now it’s a burrito.

    LadyDreamcatcher , Nishant Aneja Report

    #8

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke The good ole rice and beans

    TheManWhoLovesCulo , Zi’s Food&NatureArt Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    soniborah avatar
    Howl's sleeping castle
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    If you ignore the overnight soaking, beans and rice can be prepared really quickly. Really hearty and comfort food.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    ADVERTISEMENT
    #9

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Spaghetti and tomato sauce.

    .98 cents for a pack of spaghetti noodles and 1.18 for a can of hunts spaghetti sauce, feeds about 6. Add a loaf of bread for 1.48 and some butter for .98 cents and some 1.18 garlic powder and you're set for a meal for a family or easy dinner for a week.

    Musikaravaa , wikipedia.org Report

    Caitlin also recommends replacing half of the ground meat in your recipes with cooked beans, as beans are full of fiber and much more affordable. "They don't pack quite as much protein, but they do provide fiber and other nutrients such as folate," she explained.

    "Stock up on frozen vegetables when they're on sale," the frugal nutritionist continued. "Many people don't realize that frozen vegetables have been shown in studies to be as nutrient-dense as fresh! I love keeping frozen spinach and frozen broccoli in my freezer for an affordable way to add nutrition and fiber to my meals."

    ADVERTISEMENT

    "Buy bone-in meat when you can," Caitlin added. "This is often cheaper per pound, and you actually get a higher concentration of certain amino acids - glutamine and glycine - when you cook meat on the bone. You can then save the bones to make a flavorful and nutrient-rich broth!"

    #11

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Mujadara! It’s literally just crispy fried onions, lentils, and rice, but it’s so damn good! You can keep it simple if you want, but I really like it with some spices like ras el hanout, cumin, and cinnamon. I made a big batch a few days ago and froze most of it in single servings. It’s also a really delicious filling for stuffed flatbread, which I also make in large batches and then freeze.

    NenyaAdfiel , Mujaddara Report

    #12

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke A peanut butter sandwich with banana mixed in

    wheresmychin , Karolina Grabowska Report

    Caitlin also warns that purchasing convenience foods can be one of the fastest ways to run out of money on your food budget. "What is cheaper in the moment ends up costing more in the long run," she explained. "If you only have $3 to spend, beans, a jar of salsa, and some corn tortillas from the dollar store will be more satisfying and more nutrient-dense than a $3 frozen meal."

    ADVERTISEMENT

    "If possible, split the costs of larger portions of food with another family, or if you have the funds, buy larger packages and freeze some for later. This is especially great for meat and can work for spices as well," Caitlin continued.

    She also recommends making your own bread and tortillas to cut costs. "Of course this requires some time, but you can make no-knead overnight bread with just flour, yeast, water, and salt. It's a delicious option! Corn tortillas can be made with just masa harina (a type of corn flour), salt, and water."

    And if possible, Caitlin says a visit to your local international markets can help save money as well. "I have seen much better prices on many foods at large Asian stores, especially rice, seasonings, and green vegetables," she noted.

    #13

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Two fried eggs and toast. Awesome meal

    massatronics , Krisztina Papp Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    sergyyeltsen avatar
    Sergy Yeltsen
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    BP, I think your "author" misread the caption when searching for stock images.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    #14

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke One I love making is shepherd’s pie (but I think it’s technically cottage pie when you use ground beef). You cook the beef and onions in the same pot, turn it into a bit of a stew/gravy by adding tomato paste, beef broth, and flour. Add salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce for flavor, add frozen peas and carrots. Put it all in a casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes, and bake. Always creates a lot of servings, super comforting, inexpensive, and tastes better the next day.

    verytinytim , wikipedia.org Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    rayceeyarayceeya avatar
    Ray Ceeya (RayCeeYa)
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Curse any "Irish" pub/bar/restaurant that doesn't use lamb in their "Shepards Pie". Seen it too many times.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    ADVERTISEMENT
    #15

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Cheese sandwich. Many years this simple meal sustained me

    AccomplishedWinter41 , Pixzolo Photography Report

    When it comes to what we should be prioritizing when grocery shopping without having much to spend, Caitlin recommends that we make protein, fat, and fiber the foundational pieces of our diets. "Of course foods like avocado, kale, and colorful berries are wonderfully healthy, but they're more expensive and may not leave you feeling as satiated and energized," she noted.

    Caitlin says many of us also make the mistake of loading up on grains. "While grains do have nutrients, carbs, and sometimes fiber, they're not balanced on their own and need lots of fat, fiber, and protein to help you stay satiated and energized," the nutritionist says. "Instead, I would load up more on beans, which are one of the few foods that provide carbs, fiber, protein, and are super budget-friendly."

    #16

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Go to aldi and get a pack of hot dogs and buns, it's like $2 for a weeks worth of meals. Sure you're probably going to get scurvy but, you won't starve to death.

    crabbyass2023 , Daisy Anderson Report

    #17

    Chili is great and filling. Really anything with beans or lentils. Vegetarian meals are generally cheaper since meat can be expensive.

    ar0827 Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    debbykeir avatar
    Debby Keir
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Vegetarian meals are only cheaper when you don't use pseudo-chicken, -burger or -bacon type abominations. Vegetables rool.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    #18

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke When I was a kid in a family of nine, we had an oatmeal dinner once a week. It was served with brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk. I loved it, and I'm sure it helped with the family budget. I'm sure there are other things that can be added to make it healthier, too. Nowadays, I add toasted nuts and maple syrup. Honey and dried fruit are other good options. Just try to buy on sale when you can.

    trexartist , MART PRODUCTION Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    mikedelancey avatar
    Two_rolling_black_eyes
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I was one of seven. Once a week we had a "meatloaf". Its still my favorite meatloaf because of the nostalgia. It was 4 cups of quick oats, 1lb of ground meat, 2 eggs, onions, water, ketchup, and spices. It was drier than the Sahara but I loved it.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu

    Caitlin also recommends avoiding items with multiple layers of packaging. "Individually packaged applesauce is always going to be more expensive than buying the whole jar," she noted. "Individually packed snacks like chips and muffins are always going to be more expensive and relatively low in nutrition."

    "Make more things at home - especially snacks, which tend to be a costly item on grocery receipts," Caitlin suggests. "Learn a couple of go-to recipes for cakes, muffins, or brownies that only have a few ingredients. Flour, butter, sugar, and eggs can go a long way in the kitchen! I also love using rolled oats to make muffins and peanut butter to make cookies. Not only will these be more affordable, but they'll also be much more nutritious!"

    #19

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Asian poor kid meal. Complete with white rice and choice of fried egg or fried spam.

    KCN2017 , makafood Report

    #21

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Boiled Potatoes with Seasoning

    zipzap21 , sq lim Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    karmore333 avatar
    Jane No Dough
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Baked or boiled potatoes with creamed corn, super inexpensive, fast, and filling. Not very nutritious though, more like a dessert potato!

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu

    "Always, always look at the unit cost for foods!" Caitlin says. "This is going to be a small number, usually represented as a 'per ounce' price. With inflation and changing packages, you can purchase a bigger box of something, only to find it's 50% air. The unit price will let you know how much that product is per unit of the food itself. You may find that your favorite brands are now twice the cost of the store brand."

    Always remember to check the expiration date on discounted foods as well. "It is great to snag a deal, but only if you're actually going to use up the food within the timeline of safety," Caitlin pointed out. "This is especially true for meat. I recommend buying it on sale, cooking it the same day, and then freezing it in smaller portions, so you can safely enjoy it for the next 1-3 months." 

    #22

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Chicken tortilla soup. Dump in one big can of kidney beans, one small can of black beans, one small can of corn, one large can of petite diced tomatoes, two packs of taco seasoning, four or five boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and chicken broth. Cook all day in the crockpot on low. Shred chicken when done and return to crockpot. We eat it for two days with tortilla chips and cheese. We are a family of four.

    Single-Fox-6532 , wsox74 Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    karmore333 avatar
    Jane No Dough
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    It sounds tasty! The problem with a group of people and pots of soup is that there is always that one person who picks the good stuff out and leaves the last person nothing but broth and a bean.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    #23

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke I've been known to make what we call dirty mashed potatoes. Brown up some hamburger meat, crumble it up small, with some onions if ya have 'em, add salt and pepper or whatever spices you enjoy. Then, mix the meat in with some mashed potatoes, either instant or real, depending what you have on hand. The offspring love it and eat that up.

    Reinventing_Wheels , Gio Bartlett Report

    #24

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Cauliflower can be added to pretty much any kind of dish to bulk it out. For example, with any recipe with ground meat, you can add riced cauliflower to stretch it out, and you will barely notice it if cooked right.

    EnviroTron , Karolina Grabowska Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    laura_ketteridge avatar
    arthbach
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Red lentils are a good substitute. Add in a handful, and double the volume of water/stock. They bulk up the dish without any major flavour changes.

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    See Also on Bored Panda

    As far as where we should splurge in the kitchen, Caitlin recommends spending a little bit more on flavor boosters. "Plain chicken is boring, but tossing it with even just a teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce, pesto, or mayonnaise can transform it into something much more enjoyable," she noted. "Don't be afraid to keep some budget-friendly flavor boosters on hand, and go for options that will last several weeks, rather than those that will go bad quickly."

    #25

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Random charcuterie: bits and pieces of this and that/whatever is in the fridge or cabinet.

    AmnesticSingularity , Karolina Grabowska Report

    #26

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Beans on or in a tortilla. You can have it so many different ways that it doesn't feel like eating the same thing over and over again.

    Wenuwayker , swagginpoop Report

    #27

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Rice, runny egg, soy sauce, seaweed and whatever protein I have left over.

    Extreme_Muscle_7024 Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    sharonlafantastica avatar
    Weasel Wise
    Community Member
    9 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    Sounds like what the Circle K's in Vietnam serve up all day, every day...and sounds pretty dàmn tasty.

    To prevent food waste, Caitlin recommends planning to use up any perishable foods in the first 2-3 days of the week, then using frozen, pantry, and longer-lasting produce the rest of the week. "Cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes will last weeks in the fridge, while fresh spinach may start to wilt in 2-3 days," she noted.

    "If you don't know how to cook, choose a free online resource and cook through their database of recipes," Caitlin says. "Start with recipes that have lots of ratings and comments, so you're likely to have a good result. Online blogs provide free recipes, and budget TikTokers have lots of tips, or you can check out a cookbook from the library. Start with simple dishes like homemade mac and cheese or bean and vegetable soups and chilis. As you get better at cooking and you learn to be more creative, you'll discover ways to recreate some of your favorite meals at home."

    To get even more tips and mouthwatering recipes from Caitlin, be sure to visit her blog Frugal Nutrition, or find her on YouTube and Instagram!

    #28

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Cream of mushroom soup with crackers to thicken it up. YUM. Only costs like 50 cents.

    Jazzlike_Grab_7228 , Anna Pyshniuk Report

    #29

    30 People Share What Cheap Meals They Make To Stay Full When They're Broke Sausage and sauerkraut. (Yes, my family is German). It's cheap, has plenty of protein, is very filling, and lasts quite a while. The trick to the sauerkraut is to rinse it well in cold water first, drain it, and cook it with the sausage. Start with around 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar and a liberal dose of vinegar. I use red wine vinegar, but any type except balsamic should work. Also add a healthy amount of caraway seeds. Add a cup or so of water to the pot, stir, and let it cook on low heat for 30–45 minutes, stirring occasionally

    Unique_Football_8839 , mischievous_kea Report

    Add photo comments
    POST
    feuerrabe avatar
    VioletHunter
    Community Member
    9 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

    I'm German and this person's idea to rinse sauerkraut in water before cooking needs to die the slow, horrible death it deserves. WTF!

    View More Replies...
    View more commentsArrow down menu
    #30

    Try cooking chicken/pork adobo. It’s a really easy Filipino recipe that requires only a few ingredients. This saved my ass in college whenever I felt like my monthly budget was starting to run dry. Some chicken/pork, soy sauce, vinegar, water, oil, garlic, onion, and peppercorn. Optional but wonderful: laurel or bay leaf, chicken/pork broth or bouillon cube, and potato. There are lots of recipes online and different variations. Pair it with rice, and you’re bound to be really full!

    mynameismaria Report

    Note: this post originally had 37 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.