Eating for Pennies – Part V – Supper

Welcome back to my eating for pennies series of posts where I try to show how I eat on the cheap most days.  Today I’m going to look at one of the cornerstones of how I eat: supper.

Overall there are four main things that helps us east cheaper suppers:

  • Control the Plate
  • Make Leftovers
  • Use Leftovers
  • Plan for Weakness

Control the Plate

First off  I tend to plan my supper meals with three sections on my plate in mind: main dish, vegetable side dish and starch (potato, rice or pasta).  Eat part should take up about 1/3 of your plate, so with that in mind your meat content will never be that big.  This is a huge dollar savings if you think about it:  2/3 of your plate is cheap items like rice or vegetables.  Then to keep the savings rolling we often cut our chicken breasts or pork in half by thickness.  The obvious benefit is the meat cooks a lot faster, but also we often end up some some leftover meat for lunch the next day.  Obviously this won’t work on some cuts of meat (like most steaks, but I don’t usually eat steak all that often).

The other idea related to controlling the size of your main dish is to skip the meat entirely once in a while.  Eat some beans or lentils and find out what you have been missing in life.  These tasty little items are easy to cook with and you will notice you are trying new things which makes eating on the cheap fun to do rather than a chore.

Make Leftovers

Now often those expensive prepackaged food comes out when we don’t have time to cook.  So plan ahead a little bit and make sure your are making leftovers that you can freeze. This provides quick meals when you are in a rush.  Just take out the night before and let defrost in the fridge.  Then when you get home put the food in the oven or microwave to have supper ready in no time.

Also making leftovers while you cook just saves time.  Making a double batch of muffins takes perhaps an extra five minutes of my time, but I get double the product.  The same things applies to suppers.  Make extra when you cook and use it for lunches or freeze it for future suppers.

Use Leftovers

The obvious concept to making leftovers is to use them.  You should avoid throwing out food.  Just think of tossing old food like dumping cash in the garbage, because that is exactly what you are wasting.   Now it may seem a bit odd, but you don’t have to eat your leftovers in the same format as you made them.  Add some different spices or a bit of cheese on top and bake it and you can have an entirely new meal that just happens to have the same base as something else.

Eating leftovers doesn’t have to be boring with a little creative planning.  Take your leftover stir fry and toss it into a wrap with some extra ingredients or add it the leftover casserole with that cut up pork chop and a can of soup.  You might even surprise yourself with a few creations by saying: “It leftovers and tastes GOOD!”

Plan for Weakness

Now this might surprise people, but even I don’t feel like cooking some nights.  If swimming lessons are at 6pm and I have to work late and my wife was at an appointment with the kids in the late afternoon we don’t cook.  If we knew in advance this was going to happen we try to remember to pull out some leftovers from the freezer, but if it just happened we keep a few back up items to prevent us from eating out.

A couple of our favorite items are premade frozen pizza and premade chicken fingers and fries.  Just put the stuff in the oven and in 20 minutes we are eating.  But didn’t you say to avoid prefabricated food?!?  Yes, but I also know that I can buy a frozen pizza on sale for $6 that will feed my family when we are either in a hurry or just plain lazy once in a while.  After all a $6 pizza eating in is much cheaper than the $30+ to eat that out somewhere.

It’s ok to have weak moments.  We are all lazy once in a while.  As long as you don’t do it more than once a week it doesn’t have to ruin your food budget.

So how do you save on your suppers?  If you got an idea please share.

5 thoughts on “Eating for Pennies – Part V – Supper”

  1. Buy in bulk, and buy on sale. Obviously you already do this, but it amazes me how many people buy a steak/chicken breast, etc. when they need it as opposed to stocking up when they’re cheap and freeze them.

    And knowing who to combine and mix those leftovers up in new ways helps too.

    While I’m not as frugal as you when it comes to making dinners, I regularly make a complete meal that impresses people for under $5 a person and under 30 minutes of work.

    I’d be a bit concerned about cutting the meat in half though, since that seems to be a major protein source in your “thirds” method. Filling up on starches instead doesn’t seem balanced. Also, if you don’t eat enough at dinner, it can lead to snacking later on, which is often far more expensive (and unhealthy) in the long run.

  2. Astin,

    I understand your concern about balance meals that why I suggest a third of vegatables/starch/protein. That seems to provide a nice balance which leaves me full until bedtime.

    At the same time I usually notice most people are so used to over eating they don’t understand how much they really need to be full. So if you are in the habit of overeating cutting back can seem odd until you are used to it.


    Ok the noodles are cheap, but the sodium in the mix is a killer. Ick! I usually only eat those as I forgot to plan my lunch and I need something quick. I would guess I eat them no more than 2 times in a month at most.


  3. Hey Tim,

    As I told you before, I’m vegan. Although not eating eggs, meat, chicken, fish saves lots of money, here are some other ways I save:

    1) I make my own milk. I bought a milk maker which is Canadian, called the Soyquick and you can make nut milks, rice, bean or oat milk. It works out to about ten cents a gallon for milk. The unit only costs $100 and it paid for itself very quickly.

    2) I have a bread maker and bake my own bread. Store bought bread is not only unhealthy because of preservatives, but it is expensive. Besides with a b.m. you can wake to fresh bread in the morning. Yum!

    3) I make my own soy yogurt…at $ 4 a container, I save by doing my own.

    4) I buy in bulk, and here in our town there is only one main ‘cheap’ store, called Superstore. They offer 10-15% cash back cards when you spend $200, so we stock up during those promotions and save the cash. We only shop for a bigger order, sometimes every two weeks, and just get favorite fruits or veggies that might have run out.

    5) I make lots of soups and stews. I do this because we like them but it also is a great way to whip everything together and make it go farther.

    6) I use a slow cooker and an electric pressure cooker. The slow cooker allows you to put food in to cook all day slowly, and then you don’t have to worry about the supper rush. The electric pressure cook is essentially like a slow cooker, great for soups, veggies, beans, and for you carnivores, your meat…the pressure cooker also has a keep warm function so it is ready when you come home.

    7) When I did eat meat, we hunted once a year, killed a moose or some caribou, and we fished. Buying animal protein in the store is expensive and you don’t know what kinds of fiddling happened in the way of hormones, handling of the meat, etc.

    8) I bought a water filter to put on the house to remove chlorine and to soften the water. For those of you drinking bottled H20, get a filter.

    9) I also freeze a lot of items so I can pull them out for those lazy nights. I buy stuff on sale..

    By the way, I asked you about your real estate investments before. We did go ahead and purchase that property I asked you about. We have a few properties for renting and this is a very good way to invest your money and let it grow. We just had some really nice people move into one of the houses so the social aspect is fun too. My husband will retire at 48 years old, based on our real estate investments and because I’m younger by a bit, I’ll keep working, at least part time after he retires.

  4. 3 for 1 meal
    Meal # 1 Buy a whole chicken bake it with veggies and potatoes. This is all done in the same roasting pan and requires very little prep. Make a cup or two extra Potatoes. (Cube the potatoes Don’t mash them.)
    Make gravy right in the baking pan so you get all the lovely drippings. Save all remaining Chicken meat, Carcass, veggies, potatoes and Gravy
    Meal #2 In the next day or two completely cover the chicken carcass in water and simmer for a few hours to get all leftover meat and flavor This can all be done in a slow cooker and again requires very little prep. (you can add an onion or spices if you like) Remove bones and add left over gravy, potatoes, chicken meat and any veggies. If you have no left over veggies just through a handful of mix frozen veggies in. To make it stretch even further you add chicken stock. This makes a lot of soup and freezes very nicely so the following week pull it out heat it up and you have fantastic homemade soup. (I like to make biscuits with this and if you double the recipe and refrigerate half the dough it comes in handy for the next meal)
    Meal #3 Take any leftover soup and add either cream of mushroom, chicken or potato soup (or you can just use flour to thicken it) and you have a filling for a pot pie. You can make pie shells or buy them premade but I find just adding it to a casserole dish and putting biscuit mix on the top and baking till golden brown is nice. This again freeze well so you can have it the following week.

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