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6 Ways to Eat Real Food on a Beans and Rice Budget

I have a confession to make. I have been blowing my monthly food budget. Yep, it’s true.

Recently, my hubby resigned from his job for a job opportunity that didn’t quite pan out. This left us without full-time income for six months.

But I continued to cook on a “full-time” grocery budget.

6 Ways to Eat Real Food on a Beans and Rice Budget #budget #realfood

It was one of those things that just…happened. We didn’t expect to be six months (and counting!) on part-time income. And eating well is one of the most important aspects of our budget (right up there with our mortgage and chiropractic care!).

But one day David mentioned he would be ok with beans and rice since we were, essentially, on this level of a budget. It was as if a weight had been lifted! I just had it in my mind that this wasn’t sufficient and that I wouldn’t be able to provide the same level of nutrients and benefits if I weren’t putting big meals on the table.

I have also been reallyreallyreally excited to offer you, my dear readers, beautiful, new, and exciting meal plans. When I first turned to the world of eating real food, it seemed overwhelming and impossible. These meal plans are part of a larger plan to help others find it is very possible to create new and exciting dishes. In fact, there’s not a single dinner served more than once in over eight weeks (you can see them here)!

And I did all this on our modest (but full-time!) grocery budget. Which is, clearly, not possible at this point. And which brings me back to my change:

Hearing that David was ok with it – and even releasing me from any unintended pressure to serve up my aimed-for dishes, had its intended effect. I was fired-up to turn some basic, “boring” dishes into nutrient-dense meals for my family, and save money doing so! In fact, I have saved about $75 each month and we still eat raw, fresh, pastured, and unprocessed. And the hubby isn’t bored, yet! I just double-checked: nope, not bored! (Are you interested in these recipes? πŸ˜‰ )

6 Ways to Eat Real Food on a Beans and Rice Budget

Cook whole chickens. You can throw them in the crockpot (I love this crockpot) and forget about it until dinner time. Remove bones before the meat makes it to your family’s plates and no one can complain about bone-in chicken! I put a whole chicken on the menu about every 1.5 weeks. And then I use the carcass to create a quality, homemade chicken stock to make…

Beans and rice. Seriously. This dish is far from boring or nutrition-less! Cook organic rice in your homemade chicken broth and you’re now serving up a protein-rich food! Add some well-soaked beans and you have an easy dish the whole family will love. There is really no end to how you could prepare this dish: quinoa instead of rice, add salsa, on top of organic chips, lentils, etc. Use it as a jumping-off point and see how adding it into your meal plan a few times a month can create some breathing room!

Make double and freeze. In my house, I usually make double or triple (and, boy, do I make lots of triples – ha!) of recipes. I like to save time in the kitchen, so I almost always make enough for leftovers the next night. Many times I will make huge quantities of a sauce, soup, etc., in my beautiful stockpot and fill up greedy mason jars with the contents. It makes me so happy to see an army of frozen containers in my freezer!

Get creative. Why does breakfast have to be what it’s always been? I love this cookbook because it challenges America to think outside the {cereal} box. Or who says you can’t have spaghetti and honey-balsamic vinegar glazed roasted carrots? ‘Cause we did last night and it was delish! 

Never toss anything. Those veggies about to go bad? Can you toss them into the freezer to throw in the stockpot for the next stock? Fruit attracting flies? Freeze it for later for a smoothie (see Joy’s 7 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget guest post).

Breakfast for dinner. One word: eggs. Our family of five (two adults, three 2 year olds) eats one pound of meat at dinner – easy. But I could use a dozen eggs in a frittata and save about half what I would have otherwise spent! Sourdough waffles are another cheap way to (occasionally) serve a fun, easy, pull-from-the-freezer meal that is also filling and healthy! (You can read more about how to prepare sourdough waffles – as well as a ton of make-ahead Christmas breakfast recipes – right here!) 

Have you found ways to eat real food on a beans and rice budget?

photo credit: cookbookman17 via photopin cc

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  1. Great post!

  2. Yes to those ideas! As well as chili, spoons of peanut butter to curb hunger (no shame here!), drinking only water, adding an egg to oatmeal, lentils + pasta sauce + cheese casserole, fried rice, frozen veggie fritters, over-ripe (from discount bin) banana “ice cream” (frozen bananas in the food processor), and asking your hubby to choose 5 or so favorite meals to rotate (assuming you can make them frugally) so that you aren’t tempted to try anything new and expensive too often. πŸ™‚

    *hug* by the way!

  3. JulieBeth Lamb says

    I raised five active children on a beans and rice budget. I think people need to be reminded they can eat simply, healthy, and deliciously. As adults they are all healthy and frugal. I did all these things and many more.

    I wanted to share that I put freezer meals in gallon ziplocks standing in boxes file style to make best use of space and allow ease of finding things. Having food in the freezer allowed us to invite people for dinner unexpectedly or give food to someone.

    Also I suggest you check out the best use of your chicken dollars. When my kids were growing up a whole chicken was at least 40 cents/lb and boneless, skinless breasts or thighs went on sale for $1/lb. So I bought the same number of pounds and cooked/boned them and weighed the meat. I found I got more meat (and less work) per dollar with the boneless.

    Don’t forget to grow what you can, trade with those who have gardens, look at food co-ops, farmers markets, and other alternative shopping options. God bless your family in these tough financial times. He is SO faithful and will provide miraculously in sales, coupons, ideas, and even people giving you food.

  4. Years ago we shopped once a week. The pickings were getting pretty slim by then. Everyone cleaned their refrigerator out the day before they shopped. A very dear friend made “garbage” soup. She put all the left overs in a pot….added water, spices…and cooked it….adding rice or noodles! One time she brought it to my house…It had brocolli in it and smelled. I said, I doubt my girls will eat that… They not only ate it..but went back for seconds!!! We enjoyed a tasty lunch…and I learned a good lesson!!!
    I would suggest knowing when the store you shop at tends to mark things down and shopping then! Just got some chicken marked down. Made dinner and then soup that we used for a week for lunch!

  5. Jane of all trades says

    I am trying to cook real food for one on a budget and that has a long list of challenges all its own. I am lucky enough to be able to buy raw milk I trust by the 1/2 gallon and pasture raised eggs at a store near work. I was elated to find a farm that would sell me 30 lbs of both 100% grass fed beef and pasture raised heritage breed pork ( I had previously only been able to find 1/4 cow as the smallest amount I could get from anyone.) the meat came to $6 a lb. Which sounds expensive but if you look at the price of grass fed / pasture raised ( and humanely raised and slaughtered ) meats you’ll see its a bargain. I grow as much fresh food as I can in 2 small garden boxes in the backyard of my rental house.
    I buy cheeses and some meats from the deli as I can get smaller amount for the same bulk price, and I get some veggies from the salad bar when I know I wont be able to eat a full package of something like cherry tomatoes by myself.

    I also have a agreement with the deli at my local health food store, They sell rotisserie chickens ( not organic but non GMO fed and they claim to be raised humanely at least) and any they don’t sell get turned into their prepared foods for the next day, But they throw the bones away so whenever I ask they save the bones for me to make chicken stock from. Most of the time there is quite I bit of dark meat left when I get them. It just dosent make sence for me to cook a whole chicken as I can’t eat the whole thing before it would go bad. I know I could freeze the extra meat but really it’s the bone broth I crave and being able to make it for almost free is such a blessing.

    I have found that wide mouth 1/2 pint jars are perfect for making and freezing single portions of Mac and Cheese, lasagna, Chocolate Lava Cake, casseroles and more. Plus they can go into the toaster oven for reheating ( I avoid microwaves whenever I can.) I also use wide mouth pint jars for soups.

  6. Love this post! Thank you for sharing! Amazing, the timing reading this… my husband is inbetween jobs right now, so this post is a blessing and an answer πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  7. this is how I raised my 3 daughters, all grown now. Shoestring was our budget, but creative was our game! Left over veggies from meals went into a jar in the freezer. When I had 3-4 jars I made soup out of them. Depending on what veggies were in there, it was usually beefless beef (using beans for protien) or chicken, both using bone broth. My daughters are all very frugal now due to how I taught them as kids. Rice (brown) can freeze, can be added to tuna and a thick white sauce – this is not THM – and browned. wonderful patties!! Your blog is great, thanks for sharing

  8. We’ve never had a large food budget, and it’s hardly increased at all since having 2 children. We’re learning to like beans! I tend to cut chicken , etc into pieces instead of leaving them as whole pieces-then bulking up the meals with loads of extra frozen veg, thus turning one meal for 4 into about 3 meals for 4.


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