Fabulously Frugal: Save money with meal ideas at $1 per serving

Photo by Engin Akyurt.

Hello Frugalists!

Recently, I’ve noticed posts on various social media sites about the cost of one simple meal at a well-known burger chain. Shockingly, a cheeseburger, fries, and a drink — a single meal for one person — comes to $24.10! The late, great Jimmy Buffett did sing that a cheeseburger in paradise is some kind of sensuous treat, but that seems ridiculous.

It got me thinking: what could be cooked at home for that money? Rounding it up to $25, how many meals/servings could $25 stretch to feed? Could we make a meal for $1 per serving?

Yes, frugalists, yes! We can make meals for $1 per serving or less… Heck, we can make 25 meals for $25!

These are some of my favourite loonie-a-serving recipes based on six servings. I used regular pricing, so if you find a deal on any of the ingredients or have stocked up on some of the ingredients when they were on sale and have them in your pantry, you’ll have even more savings!

Photo by Zi’s Food&NatureArt.

Rice and beans

Rice and beans have a long history together and trace their roots back to many corners of the world, from Brazil to West Africa. Together in one dish or served separately with other complementary ingredients, the options are endless. From New Orleans’s red beans and rice, to China’s tofu and rice bowls, rice and beans in a variety of forms are a staple in many areas of the planet. And don’t worry about not having adequate nutrition without meat: a legume and a grain together form a complete protein!

Vegetarian chili served over rice:

Simply make your usual chili recipe and eliminate the meat. Add a can of beans that you don’t usually use (black beans are fabulous!) and serve over long grain rice you’ve prepped from scratch (the directions are on the bag of rice).

Tofu and rice bowls:

Cube a block of tofu and fry it. Add rice, grated carrots, a sliced cucumber, and some tasty homemade honey hot sauce*, and it’s a warm and filling meal for the damp nights of March.

*Simply mix an equal amount of honey and any hot sauce you have, and thin it with a bit of warm water.

Black Bean burritos and lime rice:

Mash one can of drained black beans with 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp chili powder. Heat in oil over low heat. Add 1 cup of frozen corn (it’s cheaper than canned) and cook until heated through. Spread in a flour tortilla and serve with lime rice. Lime Rice: Make rice as usual, but substitute ¼ cup of lime juice and 1 tsp of sugar for ¼ cup of the water.

Some staples steeped in savings

Some ingredients just give you more bang for your buck, so to speak — you can use them in an infinite number of different combinations and flavours, they offer nutritious and delicious snacks or meals, and you go back to them again and again for some of your favourite dishes. And some of those ingredients are just better value for money in terms of how far they stretch and their multiple uses. Here are some of my favourite frugal staples:

Chicken:

Chicken legs with the backs attached or drumsticks or thighs are routinely the least expensive cuts. A chicken drumstick usually runs about $0.50, leaving you $0.50 cents for potatoes and vegetables. Adding baked potatoes and frozen California vegetables to this meal rounds it out on a tight budget.

Eggs:

A frittata using frozen vegetables (or wilted ones from the crisper — I’m looking at you, soggy celery and half an onion) is super cheap, fast and easy. Large eggs are regularly about 32 cents each, and this recipe calls for just six eggs. It serves six people if a side dish is added, or four hearty servings on its own. Recipe here: https://www.eggs.ca/recipes/cheese-and-vegetable-frittata

Photo by Shameel Mukkath.

Soup:

Who doesn’t love a bowl of rich, thick, heart-warming potato soup? Using broth cubes from the dollar store and a shake of dollar store dried chives or other Italian seasoning instead of fresh green onions brings this soup in on budget. If you don’t have a half cup of coffee cream in the fridge, just use milk. Recipe here:   https://www.budgetbytes.com/slow-cooker-potato-soup/

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie:

Using your regular shepherd’s pie recipe, substitute two cups of dry brown lentils for the 1 lb of ground beef. It’s lentils on the bottom with frozen veggies, some gravy, and homemade mashed potatoes on the top. The directions for cooking the lentils are on the bag. They require no soaking and cook up in about the same time as ground beef does. Drain and add a cube or two of dollar store beef broth, half a cup of water, and a couple of tablespoons of flour to make a gravy. The difference isn’t noticeable except in your wallet.

And finally, while it’s not quite a dollar meal, the cost of making your own cheeseburger and fries with a soft drink is pretty reasonable.

Cheeseburgers:

Frozen hamburger is less expensive than fresh. Thaw in the fridge overnight and it’s about $1 per “quarter-pounder” burger. Buns come in at about $0.30 each. Add frozen fries at $0.50 for 200 g, a slice of processed cheese ($0.17), and a bottle of cola ($0.75 each) for a total of less than $3! Even with toppings, it’s about $20 less than going to a burger joint.

Photo by Foodie Factor.

Flyer deals of the week

Loblaws has some ‘loss leaders’ on sale this week. These are JUST to get you in the store to spend more on the expensive stuff. Don’t fall for it! Get your deals and get out — or price match at No Frills. Here are some good deals, though:

  • Pork Loin chops, centre cut, in-store butcher: $2.99/lb
  • Dish detergent, President’s Choice brand, assorted varieties: $1 per 638 to 739 mL bottle

No Frills:

  • Chicken drumsticks, in-store butcher: $1.77/lb
    This is a stock-up price, and useful for one of the super cheap meals mentioned above!
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.88/lb
  • English cucumbers: $0.88 each
  • Asparagus: $1.44/bunch
  • Navel oranges: $5.44/8 lb case
  • Plums: $2.88/2 lb bag
  • Cantaloupe: $2.88 each
  • Fresh whole pineapples: $2.77 each
  • Cream of Mushroom soup, No Name brand: $0.50 per can
  • Sunlight 100-load or Purex 110-load laundry detergent: $8.88 each
    (get two, they’ll keep!)
  • Pork, lean ground, in-store butcher: $3.22/lb
  • Frozen meat pies, Swanson brand, $1.55 each
  • Frozen entrees, Michelina’s brand: $1.55 each
  • Half and half creamer, Neilson brand: $2.88/473 mL
Beware the loss leader — A loss leader pricing strategy involves selling a product or service at a price that is not profitable but is sold to attract new customers or to sell additional products and services to those customers. Photo by Eduardo Soares.

Food Basics:

  • Peanut butter, Selection brand: $4.44/kg jar
  • Hot dogs, Schneider’s brand Red Hots: $2.88/package
  • Hot dog buns, Selection brand: $2.88/package
  • Cheese, Black Diamond brand, shredded or blocks: $4.88/320-400 g
  • Chopped salads, Dole brand: $2.88/package
  • Frozen pizzas, Irresistibles brand: $3.97 each
  • Flour, Robin Hood or Five Roses brands: $4.88/2.5 kg bag

Metro: Two loss leader deals this week and both staples!

  • Toilet Tissue, Cashmere brand: 8 rolls for $3.99
  • Eggs, tray of 30: $7.99 (26 cents each!)
  • Apples, Gala or Honey Crisp: $2.99/3 lbs

Happy Frugality!


Kingston resident Sarah Cronk offers tips on money-saving strategies and the best deals to be found in local grocery stores in her bi-weekly Kingstonist column, Fabulously Frugal. Have any questions for Sarah or things you’d like her to investigate in terms of cost savings? Let us know! Email Kingstonist Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

6 thoughts on “Fabulously Frugal: Save money with meal ideas at $1 per serving

  • I love these articles but would like to know if the people that really need this do they have a Subscription to this so that they can access this valuable information?

    • Hi Alicia, thanks for your comment! We fully agree that all readers should have access to valuable information about their community, which is why we make all of our articles, even our premium articles, freely available to read after a time. Premium subscribers make our work possible, so we think it’s right that they should have earliest access to all of the articles we produce, but if someone is not financially able to subscribe, that’s no problem as all of our articles (like this one) open up to all readers after a brief period, usually within 24-48 hours.

  • Fabulous has outdone herself this time. A treasure trove of savings, with recipes.love it.

  • I save my chicken bones in the freezer and when I have enough I boil them up to make broth, which can also be frozen. It’s much better than the dry cubes, and costs nothing!

  • I absolutely love Everything about Kingstonist. It’s so informative on everything that is going on in our community. It covers all major aspects from foods to funerals!

    So worth every penny.

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