Frugal Meals & The Ten Stages To Going Frugal

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Welcome to frugal meals and the ten stages to going frugal.

For the month of May we have decided to show what it is like to go frugal in your grocery shopping and how to save money in the right areas. It is May so soon it will be the summer and you will want that extra money for your summer spending or you might have things very tough at the moment and just want ideas to save as much as you possibly could.

I dedicate this month to my dad Tom. He is frugal in a lot of ways. If my mum buys a new top (or goes to buy if he is there) he will always ask her if she really needs it and if it is a waste of money or not. I wonder if this is because his dad (my late Grandad) was one of those that liked to keep up with the Jones’ and in my mind was careless with his money. He was never ever in debt but he lived to his means.

So as a result (especially in my teens) I have always asked my dad if he was tight and his answer was always “I am tight in the right areas”. He enjoys fillet steak quite a lot, eats out at least twice a week, but I have never noticed him to have food waste or spend money on brands just because they cost more like a lot of people do.

So even if you don’t have money problems why continue to over spend on your groceries to just line the pockets of big brands when you can save yourself a small fortune and it can be going to something better/nicer.

I have put together my top 10 stages to going frugal and having delicious frugal meals. If you have not yet read my journey into going more frugal then you can read week 1 and week 2 and then come back to the party!

Stage 1 – Portion Control

I remember going to Dominic’s grandma’s house for Saturday lunch in the early 00’s and I remember looking down and thinking it was the smallest portion I had seen in my life. In reality it was a perfectly normal portion and I was just been greedy and was going through a fat phase at the time.

On a Sunday when you have a roast dinner as a family you don’t need to have that extra leg of chicken. A family of four that is eating a Sunday roast (unless it is a very small cut) should never actually finish it.

We would probably have on the dining table:

  • Whole chicken
  • Roast potatoes
  • Vegetable bake
  • Gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Pigs wrapped in blankets

And we will go through just 1 sausage and 3 rashers of bacon for the pigs in blankets, rather than over catering. We will probably end with a quarter of the chicken and about ½ the vegetable bake leftover and this will then be rolled over to make a meal with the next day. So when you do a big meal imagine that this should be doing two days!

Stage 2 – Coupons & Discounts

Now this is a universal thing. No matter where you live there will always be some sort of coupon deals or supermarket offers. This is how supermarkets entice you to buy products that you wouldn’t normally buy and they use it as a way to get you buying products that they have too much of.

I remember when we lived in England Tesco had a deal where you got X amount of vouchers per month to spend on grocery shopping that you had built up over a few months. It was a pretty terrible deal for what you spent but at the time you thought it was amazing.

Asda on the other hand would have a lot of deals on buy one get one free and it was great for stocking up on things that didn’t need eating straight away.

Yet here in Portugal it is all about the weekly supermarket leaflets with the deals of the week.

At Continente we follow the deals in the weekly leaflet and this can save a small fortune on our shopping bill. Going to the till last week the total cost was 98€ but once the deals had been taken off it was down to 88€. On top of this you will also get a 10% coupon to use on your shopping once a month. So as we used that as well this week our 88€ shop turned into a 80€ one.

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This then allows you to either reduce your grocery bill or to use that saved money on luxuries that you might not be able to afford otherwise such as fresh salmon, fillet steak etc.

Stage 3 – Avoid Certain Foods

There are certain foods that are always going to stop you from being frugal. In my mind I get some meat and it does two meals, I get a large broccoli and it will do four meals, I buy a big pack of sausages and I know I can bag it up and I will still be eating it in a month’s time.

But at the same time there is food that is just a waste of money and that I tend to avoid:

  • Asparagus = the most over priced vegetable I have ever seen!
  • Mashed Potato = I love mashed potato but when you see how many potatoes you peel for a small portion of mash is unbelievable. You’re much better off having fries, roast potatoes or jacket potatoes.
  • Lettuce = I don’t know about you but lettuce is never going to be one of my favourite foods. It is boring and I am never going to be a big fan. It is better to spiralize your cucumber as a lettuce alternative instead.
  • Celery = keeping in with the salad thing celery is something else that often ends up with lots leftover. Or even worse, you can end up with loads of leaves attached and then get very little celery for your money.
  • Butternut Squash = I love a butternut squash but it is like buying blind. You don’t know how much is going to be good until you chop it up so swap it for a pumpkin instead!

Stage 4 – Drop A Brand Challenge

This is probably what started us on saving money on our shopping bill a decade ago. This guy was on television and he pointed out how much money we could save just by dropping a brand in our shopping. So if you normally buy the branded crisps you get the supermarket premium one instead. If you would normally get the premium one you get their lower grade one.

There is often not much difference from brand to non-brand and you will be amazed by how much money you can save. The average family can expect to drop 30% of their weekly grocery shop.

These days we get very little branded goods and even though we spend a lot more on fresh produce or grocery shopping has dropped in half since our branded days!

Stage 5 – A Menu Of Coupons

In the old days they would say the best way to save money on your grocery shopping was to pre-plan your meals and then only buy what you need. But now wit the world of coupons taking over this has now changed.

If you buy x amount of fruit and vegetables per week you should tailor this around what is on offer. One week this might be cauliflower and carrots and another week it could be pineapple and strawberries. Then you do the same with meat, fish and whatever else you normally buy.

Then plan your meals for the week around it and also plan to eat all your leftovers so that you have zero food waste.

Stage 6 – What Is Cheap In YOUR Country

I live in Portugal so organic fruit and vegetables is probably the best for us. Everyone I know has an orange tree in their garden and as a result you can get away with paying just 0.10€ an orange.

Plus fruit and vegetables over all are rather cheap and from getting it from local farmers it allows you to pay less than you do in the supermarket and end up with them organic.

We also have very cheap pork. It is the meat of choice for the Portuguese and it often feels like there is more pork than people. I see a lot of healthy recipes using pork chops well I just can’t seem to locate them here, instead you have pork steaks at just 0.27€ each. When you factor in that a portion of fries is just 0.20€ a portion you could have steak and chips everyday!

Look at what is cheap in your country and make sure you eat it regularly so that you can save money on your grocery shopping.

Stage 7 – Grow Your Own!

Whether fruit and vegetables are cheap in your country or not, it is always worth growing your own. Even by just having a windowsill collection of your favourite herbs and spices could save you quite a bit of money.

If you do have gardens make it your mission to learn how to grow your own vegetables and make it your plan of action for 2016. Making your own can save you a small fortune and you could always aim for the produce that costs you the most and then get the cheaper fresh produce from the supermarket.

For example if I had the space I would want to grown my own asparagus instead of the lemon tree I currently have!

Stage 8 – Help Out A Farmer

When farmers have big land it often costs them more money to pick up the leftover fruit and vegetable that has been fallen and it often gets mass collected and placed in a landfill. This especially applies to root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, leeks, parsnips and onions.

Offer two hours of labour in exchange for a box of fruit and vegetables and you will struggle to find a farmer that will say no!

Stage 9 – Just Add Extras

Normally the food on your plate that costs the most is the meat or fish. When you cook a meal think about the extras you’re going to have with it.

Pair up a bolognese with a jacket potato or pasta, or serve a tuna steak with vegetables. Use the expensive part of the meal to become 20% of what you eat and when you bulk it up with other things you will fill yourself up without it costing you a lot.

When you do a pasta dish (with pasta being so cheap) you can use extra pasta and extra vegetables in the dish and you will be amazed by how many freezer portions you will have. When I make our favourite tuna pasta I will bulk it up and fill at least 3 freezer portions and that is after feeding it to the three of us.

Stage 10 – Zero Food Waste

The worst thing you can do is buy all this food and then end up throwing some of it away. We never throw food away and always make sure it lasts.

Start by checking what your bad food waste areas are and starting buying less of it. If you always have spare bread freeze the leftovers before it gets bad or buy less of it. If you eat out a lot then there is no point buying in for eating at home 7 days a week. Instead plan for 4 days and then have some extra food in the freezer as a back up for when you run out of food.

Here are some more frugal meals tips:

After number 10 I realised there was just so many frugal meals tips that I could give you that I decided not to stop there. Here is some more. These are all things we regularly do and we hope it helps you with planning your frugal meals.

Use big occasions to make freezer meals – at Christmas & Thanksgiving we will cook a huge turkey and have all the extras. But we will also plan around freezer meals and will often get 30 meals out of one turkey.


Further Reading

Frugal Recipes:

During our frugal meals that we did during our two meal experiment we created a few meals that we consider to be particularly frugal and we wanted to share them with you. Here they are for quick reference:

And we have also put together a month of frugal inspired recipes this month and you can access them all here.

The Weeks:

We have completed two weeks of going frugal and enjoying frugal meals and here they are for you to read through. We share what we ate, infographics, diaries, meal plans, grocery suggestions and so much more.

Meet The Milners

Samantha and Dominic
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Dominic & Samantha Milner are the founders of RecipeThis.com. They love cooking, blogging and being full time parents to their three food obsessed kids. They cook with their kitchen gadgets everyday and love sharing their homemade recipes. Their favourite foods include chocolate, air fryer burgers and macaroni cheese. You can learn more about them here or you can sign up for their free newsletter here.

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