Survival Shopping: 8 Tasty Recipes

Be willing to experiment with food.  The possibilities are endless.

Do you love to eat tasty meals with ample portions, yet prefer to spend as little cash as possible at the grocery store? For those times when the budget is very tight, here are eight ultra low cost recipes that are easy to make, plus one bonus recipe for a low cost treat. Nearly all ingredients qualify as true bargain foods in the quantities used. (See Survival Shopping: True Bargain Foods)


It’s All In The Ingredients


While all of us have our own favorites, the recipes below are inexpensive to make, flavorful and filling. A key secret is to use flavor enhancing ingredients such as garlic powder, sugar, bullion, or bottled Parmesan cheese.  These ingredients can be very inexpensive when used in the small amounts and really add zip to recipes. Often such ingredients obey the “smart splurge rule”, as explained in the article, Survival Shopping: Eating Well on Less.


Olive oil is good for you.

Are you cooking with olive oil? Find out why you should by clicking on this image.

A note on Olive Oil: A couple of these recipes suggest using olive oil.  Olive oil is much better for you than other oils and comes in several grades.  If you cook with olive oil, buy the “Extra Light” grade as it is less prone to burn at higher heats.  If you use less expensive oils to cook with and just want the best tasting oil for your salad or to add into your cooked pasta use “Extra Virgin”.  In small amounts, olive oil is inexpensive. However if you can’t afford its higher price, you can try canola oil as an alternative.


Whole grains are better for you.

One part of getting a balanced diet is to use whole grains. Find out more about balanced diets by clicking on this image.

A note on rice and pasta: For the healthiest eating use brown rice or “whole-grain” pasta.  Nutritionists suggest using whole-grain foods whenever possible. However, if you find the whole grain alternatives are too expensive go ahead and use white rice or white noodles instead.


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Tuna Pasta


1 pound dried spaghetti or pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (bottled generic brand)

1 can tuna, drained (small or large can)

Salt and pepper to taste

Tuna pasta is delicious.

Watch for specials on canned foods and then stock up.

Break spaghetti into thirds, and boil in a pot of water until done. Drain briefly in a colander or strainer, and then return to the pot. Pour olive oil over spaghetti, and mix with a fork. Sprinkle with garlic power, and mix again. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and mix once more. Crumble tuna and mix in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.


Spice makes everything taste good.

Spice your meal up for variety.

Variations: Sprinkle Italian seasoning or red pepper chili Flakes for extra zip.  Or if you have access to fresh basil from a window herb garden  finely chop up several leaves and toss it in.


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Luncheon Meat Pasta


1 pound dried spaghetti or pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (bottled generic brand)

3-4 slices packaged sandwich meat (e.g. bologna, turkey, etc.)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sandwich meats do in a pinch.

Watch your local deli for sales on fresh sliced sandwich meats.

Cut up luncheon meat into small pieces, and fry with a dash of oil until slightly browned. Set aside. Break spaghetti into thirds, and boil in a pot of water until done. Drain briefly in a colander or strainer, and then return to the pot. Pour olive oil over spaghetti, and mix with a fork. Sprinkle with garlic power, and mix again. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and mix once more. Add the fried luncheon meat pieces, and mix in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.


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Stove Top Casserole


Create many excellent variations of the pasta recipes (above) by using any other kind of meat, such as a leftover piece of chicken cut into small pieces. Or make your meal using small pieces of beef, hot dog slices, or crumbled, fried hamburger. A tasty and healthy variation is to add canned peas, cooked frozen peas or other frozen veggies to the recipe. Try draining some canned mushroom pieces, frying them, and adding them to the casserole. For a more creamy, fettuccine-style dish, stir in a little milk or cream after stirring in the Parmesan cheese. The variations are endless.


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Baked Whole Chicken


1 whole chicken

Salt, garlic powder, paprika, dried parsley (all sprinkled over the top)

Experiment with spices to add a little variety.

What’s your favorite chicken recipe?

Whole chickens are sometimes available at bargain prices under $1 a pound. Here is an ultra simple way to cook one. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash chicken, and put it into a deep baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, paprika, and dried parsley. Cook for 1 ½ hours, or until visibly done when cut with a knife. (Note: for variety, try other spice combinations.)


Variations: For a creamy sauce on whole or cut up chicken, you can season it as above, and then bake it in a mixture of 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup of milk.  Just pour the mixture over the top before cooking.  Or try baking your chicken with a can of cranberries or a can of stewed tomatoes instead.  These alternatives can turn the same old meal into something really different.  Do you have a favorite chicken recipe?  Why not share it in our comments below?


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Parmesan Omelet


2-3 eggs

1 teaspoon butter or oil

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (bottled generic)

2 teaspoons artificial bacon bits (bottled, sold for salads)

Salt and pepper

Eggs make a fast meal.

Eggs are cheap, easy to make, and high in protein. So many possibilities!

Add butter or oil to a small nonstick fry pan, and preheat on stove at low to medium heat. (Do not overheat pan, or eggs will brown.) In a small bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Add Parmesan, bacon bits, salt and pepper, and then pour the mixture into a fry pan. As eggs begin to harden, tilt and rotate pan, to even out the uncooked portion. If desired, flip the nearly cooked omelet over to briefly cook the other side, then flip it back. Slide omelet onto plate, after folding it in half.


Variations: Eggs are great with any kind of cheese, but you can also add chopped onions, mushroom, spinach or even diced tomatoes.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up.


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Sweet & Sour Wiener Supreme


¾ cup sliced onions

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup catsup

1 rounded tablespoon mustard

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup brown sugar (white is OK)

1 tablespoon vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pack of wieners

Cook onions in the oil until tender, not browned. Add catsup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. With a knife, make shallow cuts across each wiener at an angle, and on both sides. Add wieners to sauce, and heat well. Serve over cooked rice or pasta.


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Spicy Black Bean Soup


1 can black beans

1 can diced tomatoes

1 cup water

1 chicken bullion cube

1 tablespoon of oil

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

6 to 8 chopped fresh mushrooms or one small can of mushrooms, chopped (you can skip this ingredient if you don’t have it)

2 teaspoons cumin

¼ to ½ teaspoon chili powder (depending on how spicy you like it)

1/8 to ¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper powder (you can skip this ingredient if you don’t have it)

Ground pepper to taste

Salt to taste (wait to add salt until the end—the other spices may do it)

If you have one, use an immersion blender in the soup pot.

Black beans and diced tomatos are the base for black bean soup.

Brown onions and mushrooms in the bottom of a large soup pot with oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer on low heat about 20 to 30 minutes.  If you have an immersion blender, use it to blend the ingredients in the pot, and then serve.  (Note: you can blend your soup as smooth as you like, though leaving some chunks makes a nice texture.)  If you have a regular blender, pour a small amount of soup into it at a time, securely fasten the lid on the top, and then blend.  Use care not to blend too much soup at once in your blender as the soup is very hot and can burn you if it flies out the top.  If you don’t have a blender, chop all ingredients as small as you can before cooking.  Still another alternative is to try mashing the beans before adding them to the soup.  This soup is best if served hot with bread or toast.  (To find spices for less money check our post The Spice Of Life.)


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Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup


1 tablespoon of oil

1 medium sweet onion chopped

2 large carrots chopped

2 or 3 large celery stalks chopped

1 breast of chicken, chopped or 1 can of chicken, crumbled

1/3 cup of barley

6 cups of water

6 chicken bullion cubes

1 bay leaf

Ground pepper to taste

Buy canned chicken on sale.

If using canned chicken you won’t need to brown it.

For some terrific home made chicken soup, this recipe is simple and delicious.  Start by lightly sautéing your chicken (if fresh), onion, carrots and celery in oil.  Once the chicken is no longer showing pink add your water and the rest of your ingredients.  (If you used canned chicken, you can just add it with the rest of your ingredients after lightly stir-frying your fresh veggies.)  Bring your soup to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a low to medium heat and simmer for about 45 to 60 minutes.  You’ll know the soup is ready when the barley and carrots are cooked to your satisfaction.  Remove bay leaf and serve.  Great with bread or toast.


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Make popsicles in a ice cube tray.

Don’t buy new. Use what you’ve already got.

Bonus Treat: Chocolate Popsicles


1 can evaporated skim milk

4 tablespoons chocolate milk powder

Popsicle molds

Mix skim milk and chocolate milk powder thoroughly. Pour into molds, and freeze.


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For more great recipe ideas click here.



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