When you’re strapped for cash, the task of cooking delicious, nutritious meals can be daunting. Healthy ingredients have a reputation for being outrageously expensive (Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck, right?)—but it’s simply not the case. Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a steady diet of ramen and PB&J.
For inspiration ways to get the biggest bang for your buck in the kitchen, we’ve consulted one of our favorite frugal bloggers—Haley of Cheap Recipe Blog. On Cheap Recipe Blog, Haley offers budget-friendly recipes, money saving tips, and an amazing series called “$10 Food Day” (our personal favorite) in which she outlines daily meal plans that will feed a family of four for, you guessed it—under $10 a day. Here, Haley shares some of her tried-and-true tips for eating well on a tight budget.
Smarty Cents: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the creation of Cheap Recipe Blog?
Haley: I’m a passionate bargain hunter who loves to cook, write, take photos, and share tips and information. Starting a blog seemed like a natural way to combine all of my interests, while creating something useful for people looking to save money and live frugally.
SC: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered as you develop recipes for the blog? How do you cook inexpensively without sacrificing taste?
Haley: This may surprise some people, but it isn’t difficult at all! Some of my favorite recipes are the cheapest on my blog: black bean soup, banana-oat pancakes, teriyaki chicken sushi rolls, Indian-spiced chickpea and peanut salad. The trick is to start out with basic, inexpensive ingredients (beans, oats, rice, etc.) and add fresh ingredients and spices to make the dish soar.
The biggest challenge for me is coming up with recipes that don’t take a lot of time to make. Like a lot of people, I struggle to find enough time to create healthy, homemade meals. While I strive to share easy recipes that come together quickly, sometimes it’s hard to cook from-scratch when you have limited time.
SC: We’re so impressed by your $10 Food Day series—do you have any advice for people feeding a family on a tight budget?
Haley: Thanks! I kind of surprised myself with the $10 Food Day series. I knew it would be possible to create a one-day menu to feed four people, but I didn’t know how easy it would be. I think the biggest takeaways are to shop at discount grocery stores (I love ALDI!) and to use really cheap food items as the base of your meal and go from there. If you’re on a strict food budget, dried beans, lentils, oats, polenta, and pasta are your best food friends.
SC: What’s one of your go-to weeknight dinners?
Haley: Tortilla shell pizzas. I make my own tortilla shells (which are only five cents each!) and top them with whatever ingredients I happen to have on hand in my fridge or freezer: chicken sausage, peppers, onions, frozen corn, tomato sauce, sweet chili sauce—the possibilities are endless! These pizzas are completely customizable. I typically use a little cheese and a lot of veggies, so I don’t feel too guilty about having pizza more than once a week.
SC: What are some of the must-have ingredients that you always keep in your fridge and your pantry?
Haley: I always have the following food items on hand, which serve as the base for many meals: onions, eggs, canned tomatoes, canned beans, frozen corn, frozen chicken sausages, frozen fruit, oatmeal, and all kinds of nuts (I keep them in the freezer to stay fresh longer).
I also keep baking ingredients (flours, sugars, cocoa, etc.) on hand.
SC: Do you have any favorite sources for money-saving tips or recipe inspiration?
Haley: I get ideas all over the place. I love AllYou, Real Simple, and Every Day With Rachael Ray magazines. Some frugal-focused blogs that I follow are Living Well Spending Less, Nellie Bellie, Budget Bytes, and Feast On The Cheap. I have also started making my own beauty and home cleaning products at home (which can help save lots of money!), and get inspiration from Hello Natural and Humblebee and Me.
For more of Haley, check out Cheap Recipe Blog.