Frugal Cooking Carnival (updated)

Welcome to the Frugal Cooking Carnival! I hope you’re all set to share three days worth of menus, costs, pictures, and recipes. Guidelines can be found here. But even the recipes from one or two meals will be helpful, so please participate at whatever level you feel able. Before I share my own three days worth of food, I want to get Mr. Linky up so that those of you who are raring to share can get your own link posted first. Once you’ve signed in with the EXACT link to your post, you can scroll on down and see how the three days of cooking went at my house. And just a note– you have to actually CLICK on the Mr. Linky to see the links that people have posted.

(Update: Here are the actual links of the people who participated, since it seems Mr. Linkie is not showing up in some browsers)

1. Keren ($20 Menu, Shopping List, and Recipes)
2. Untraditional home
3. Linds
4. Anne (vegetarian)
5. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
6. daycare girl
7. Amy@Experience Imagination
8. Joanne
9. Tina
10. Carrien@She Laughs at the Days
11. Melissa Darling (A Darling Life)
12. Shana
13. Sonya
14. Another Oatmeal Idea
15. Ali BG (vegetarian)

(Lynn, diane, and Suzyq: Please resubmit your links– they didn’t show up on Mr. Linkie)

3 Days of Food
This first picture shows most of what I bought to use over the three days. A few odds and ends are missing, and there are a few things there that I didn’t end up using. But the picture gives you a pretty decent idea of what I used over those days. I will be adding recipes in the next day or two. This post has taken a ridiculous amount of time to write– I want to thank all of you who decided to join me in this effort, because it really has been a lot of work.

Breakfast on day one was migas, toast, orange juice and coffee. I used 18 eggs, but since I found eggs for $1.50 a dozen, it wasn’t too expensive. I only give the kids coffee once a week or so, in tiny Ethiopian cups, and when I do, they really enjoy the treat. The whole meal with juice and toast cost about $6.50, which came out to about $0.65/person. This is a favorite breakfast at our house.

Beef stew with dumplings
Tuesday for lunch we had a nice vegetable beef stew with dumplings. The stew was very hearty– I could have used a bit more liquid, I think. It contained hamburger, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and canned tomatoes. The thing the kids liked best was the big dumplings on top.Next time I’ll make more stew, since the stew ran out while there were still plenty of dumplings. I served this with orange halves and a slice of banana bread for dessert. This meal came out to about $6.00 or $0.55 per person.

Peanut chicken and rice

Tuesday’s dinner was another favorite. West African Peanut Chicken is a dish that we discovered a year or so ago, and now make a couple times a month. I used the meat from 3 chicken breasts that I’d bought for $0.98/lb, so this also was a fairly affordable dish. I made the sauce with plenty of homegrown pureed tomato and pureed onion (the kids like onions just fine when I puree them) and served it over rice with fresh broccoli and orange slices. Total cost for the meal was $6.25, which came to about $0.57/person.

cold cereal
Wednesday’s breakfast was as easy as you can get– cereal, milk, juice and fruit. I generally don’t pay more than $1.50 a box for cereal, but Albertsons had a great deal a few weeks ago. A sale combined with ‘preferred customer rewards’, store coupons and manufacturers coupons brought the cereal down to $0.60 a box. I bought 10 boxes. With half a gallon of milk, half a gallon of juice, and a couple pounds of bananas, the total cost of the breakfast was about $4.60, which is about $0.42/person.

Fried rice and egg rolls
This lunch was particularly yummy: fried rice, egg rolls, apples, and peanut butter cookies for dessert. I made the fried rice using leftover rice from yesterday’s dinner and leftover migas from yesterday’s breakfast. I also added a bit of chopped-up pepperoni, onion, garlic and carrot. I fried it all in a few tablespoons of sesame/canola oil. Near the end of cooking, I added about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. The egg rolls were filled with cabbage, grated carrot, fresh ginger, minced onion and garlic, then fried in oil– ya know, you can’t beat deep fried food for taste! With that fat content it was a good thing the meal was practically vegetarian! We rounded out the meal with apple slices and homemade peanut butter cookies for dessert. Total estimated cost for this meal was $7.50, or about $0.68/person.

Beef Stroganoff
Wednesday’s dinner was an old standby at our house: beef stroganoff. Usually I make it with egg noodles, but tonight I just had macaroni and that was fine. I served it with mushrooms on the side since many of the kids aren’t thrilled with mushrooms. For side dishes we did some frozen corn from last year’s garden, fresh broccoli with salad dressing, and a cookie for dessert. (Cookies don’t last long at our house!) This meal cost about $7.50, which was about $0.68/person.

Oatmeal and ice cream
Thursday morning’s breakfast idea came from some friends of ours. Oatmeal is the ultimate in affordable breakfasts, but it can be a little dull taste-wise. Unless you top it with ice cream, that is. Even kids who aren’t in love with oatmeal will eat it happily if you top it with a scoop of strawberry ripple ice cream. One other tip: we cook our oatmeal in our rice cooker, which totally avoids the ol’ boil-over problem we always used to have with oatmeal. It requires absolutely no watching, which is a plus on busy mornings. Just pop in your regular amount of oats along with twice that amount of water, turn the cooker on, and walk away. The rice cooker turns off automatically, and keeps it warm til you get to the table. We served this breakfast with a link of sausage, toast, and orange juice, for a cost of about $6.00 altogether, or $0.55/person.

Our third lunch was another easy meal: leftovers from previous days. At least once a week we have a leftovers meal at our house, which consists of pulling everything from the last few days out of the fridge and letting kids go through picking what they want then microwaving it. This time around we have leftover peanut chicken, dumplings from the beef stew, and fried rice. Since I already added the costs of those items into the previous meals, the only ‘new’ costs were for the oranges and carrot sticks we served on the side, which cost about $1.25.

Chicken enchiladasOur final meal for the three days was chicken enchilada casserole. While I was making one casserole, I went ahead and doubled the amounts so I could have another casserole to stick in the freezer for a different day. Along with the enchiladas, we had a green salad made with swiss chard from my husband’s greenhouse, and the last bit of cabbage. The younger kids turned their noses up at the chard– it does have a slightly sharp taste– but I really liked it, and so did most of the bigger kids. The enchiladas turned out great and were met with rave reviews. I’m really glad I made two! For dessert we had more cookies– I’m afraid this batch is almost gone. The total on this meal was a little higher than some: meat AND cheese, you know! It was around $11.50 for everything, which comes out to about $1.05/person, and we even had some leftovers for my husband to pack next time he goes to work.

The grand total, for 9 meals for 11 people? $57.10. That’s 99 meals for about 58 cents a meal.

I am so glad I’m done with this post. I am now going to bed as my hubby is literally tugging me by the hand. I’ll be back with more recipes tomorrow, people! So come back, OK? Welcome to the people visiting after seeing the mention here and then on CNN this morning. If you look in my sidebar under ‘Techie Stuff’ you’ll see several different ways to subscribe to this blog. I hope you’ll all be back and please feel free to leave a comment!

{ No Comments }

  1. Thank you so much for all the hard work you put into the post! I love some of your suggestions. I’m hoping to convince my family that oatmeal really does taste good… maybe the ice cream will convince them!

    Oh – and gotta get a rice cooker!

  2. Wow, this must have been a lot of work! I’m hoping to get the cost per portion down so this is a good idea! The practitioner in me is counting up the fruit and veg to see if it has the minimum amount of 5 fruit & veg a day as recommended with only 1 of those portions coming from juice….and I think you passed lol ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope some vegetarians join in as it would be neat to see what their costs are.

    Thanks for putting in so much work!

    Do you find your teenagers are full with these portions? Do they snack inbetween meals?

    Thanks again, what a great idea!
    p.s. that tip about oatmeal is great!

  3. For some reason my comment isn’t showing up!

    I wanted to say thanks for putting in so much work! My worry with frugal cooking has always been about whether you can get the 5 fruit & veg a day that is recommended as a minimum, I counted and you pass! lol ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks again, this is great, you’ve obviously put a lot of effort into this! I can’t wait to read more!

  4. Wow what interesting and frugal meals. Didn’t get anything together for this, but sure hope others did!

    Great idea!

  5. Ice cream! On oatmeal! Inspired! (And it gives me an excuse to buy icecream! Hot ziggity!) I hope you get a ton of participants for this, Mary, and that they’re all as helpful and interesting as yours. I’ll be back to check ’em all out. Thanks! M

    Also, CNN? Do tell!

  6. I did it, though mine isn’t organized in the same way. Great stuff. We can’t eat most of it (lots of food allergies–LOTS, and have to use only organic meat and no chicken…) however I LOVE the rice maker to make oatmeal thing and am definitely going to use that.

  7. My budget was recently cut by almost $400, so all the frugal recipe ideas I can get helps tremendously! Thanks for all effort this took!

    One more thing, I applaud you for making 3 meals a day! When my kids are home for lunch they usually have sandwiches, which they make themselves!

  8. What a great carnival idea!! This is going to help our Total Money Makeover….Thanks for the inspiration!!

  9. I just found your blog this week, but I’d already done a $20/week menu plan in the past. It didn’t fit into all the exact parameters that you specified (like pictures of the shopping trip), but I did have a menu, shopping list w/prices, and recipes, so I hope you won’t mind that I also participated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I am so glad I heard about your blog on CNN! It is wonderful!!!

  11. Thanks for hosting this! It was very eye-opening for me and I enjoyed putting my menu together. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Oatmeal in the rice cooker? Who knew? With ice cream? Maybe the kids will eat it now…

  13. Wow, you did a great job! Mine is up too, and you’re right, it was a lot of work. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also didn’t do as much beforehand planning, I think I can do better next time. Oh well, you said mid-frugal is okay, and I did get a couple recipes up, so maybe it will help somebody.

    I LOVE the ice cream on oatmeal idea. And now I want some chicken enchiladas!

  14. Your blog was on CNN??

  15. Dear Mary: what a great idea! It’s a bad weekend for me to participate as it is Orthodox easter and I won’t be cooking much. However, I would be interested in a future carnival for certain…

    I have a recipe for tortellini soup up on my blog which would probably fit the bill… but no recollection of how much each item cost! sigh.

    Cheers and thanks,


  16. Wow … I was feeling all frugal at 99ยข a meal. My husband wants to know, did you shopped at a bulk foods store (Sam’s Club or something similar) or just a standard grocery store?

  17. I added mine, but your site seems to be having a problem with the mister linky.

  18. wow this is awesome. I didn’t see it in time to do it this week but maybe I’ll do it an link late. Thanks for the good ideas!

  19. My kids usually have a late afternoon snack of either fruit (oranges right now since a local store has them for 48 cent a pound) or sometimes cookies or leftover pancakes from breakfast. My little kids eat less than on the plate shown, and at some meals my big boys and husband eat double that. The per-meal cost I shared was adequate to give every person as much as they could eat– probably at least half the kids routinely go back for seconds. I also had leftovers some meals.

    As far as where I shop, I go to a warehouse store (Costco) about once a month, where I stock up on rice, flour, grated cheese, coffee and a few other things. Twice a month I go to Winco for the bulk of my shopping. Once a week I ‘cherry-pick’ at two other stores, buying only the things they have on the best sales that week. I also hit Walmart once a week or so, grabbing odds and ends I forgot from my other trips. It averages to about twice a week at the grocery store.


  20. Please tell us more about the CNN spot!
    And thank you for a good reminder that ethnic food can often be inexpensive and yet healthy! I’m off to dig out that Chinese cook book I have stashed away…

  21. Heather Reu says:

    i am so happy you are doing this. I was afraid no one was linking because you can’t see the links on your blog. Thanks to all you participating. I cant wait to have a chance this weekend to visit everyone’s blogs. I am blogless, but wanted to contribute at least a little something. So I have a couple of my frugal tips. I have four kids (between the ages of 2 and 6)….on average we consume about 4 gallons of milk a week. With the price of milk rising, i stock up when milk is on sale and then freeze the bargin gallons for the weeks that neither big chain store in my area is offering milk on sale. You have to use a little milk from the gallon before you freeze it. Let it thaw, shake it up and you would never know it had been frozen. I also stock up on cheese when it is on sale and freeze it as well. Of course this tip requires that you have some additional freezer space, but if you do, you might as well use it!

    thanks everyone. Blogless Heather

  22. happybell says:

    In this part of the world we usually use chard to make “Pascualina” (a kind of pie but made with either chard or spinach); so when preparing the “stuffing” I add a little sugar, and it comes out tasting much better, not so “sharp” tasting.

  23. Mary I couldn’t believe it when I heard them talking about you on CNN today!

  24. Wow! Very impressive! I LOVE the oatmeal with ice cream idea. Yum!

    Your egg rolls looked very tasty too! I’ll have to give them a whirl sometime.

    Thanks for hosting this great carnival!

  25. WOW!
    I am very impressed. I do cook a lot too but I spent more then you.

  26. Just added my post to the MisterLinky. Thanks for the idea; we can all learn so much from each other! It was a bit of work, but I’m hoping it will be worth it as we search each other’s ideas for new encouragement & new recipes!

  27. I just posted my frugal meal idea for zesting up beans and rice. I can’t wait to check out all the other recipes!

  28. Thank you so much for all of this hard work, Mary!

    I posted a link on Mr. Linky to the only way I’ve found to get my Ducklings to enjoy oatmeal – granola! It’s very easy and frugal, using only very basic, inexpensive ingredients.

    Thanks for all the ideas and inspiration. Makes me want to go and cook something yummy!

  29. Hi!

    My Mother-in-law just emailed me your blog address because she saw you on CNN this morning. I can’t wait until I get some “me” time and can peruse your site! I love frugal meal planning and wished I had made it on time to contribute. I will read about your cooking carnival and maybe you do this often and I can take part in the future ๐Ÿ™‚

    What a beautiful family…how rich you are with ten children!! We are a medium sized family with six littles.

    Have a lovely weekend!

  30. Hi, can you provide the recipe for the chicken enchilada casserole?

  31. What a great Carnival.

    Love the icecream on oatmeal idea :-0

    Hope that you will be posting your chicken enchilada casserole recipe!

    Cheers, Wilm

  32. Hey MAry-
    So I made the Peanut Chicken for supper tonite b/c I thought it sounded great and I do not think it was right-it tasted like gooey warmed peanut butter over rice-kind of not so great. What did I do wrong? Does it taste less peanut-buttery if you use the natural/homemade peanut butter? It was just kind of thick and weird and I’m sure it should be more yummy than it was-help! But we made it an “all Africa” nite to celebrate our Ethio adoption application approval and the kids gobbled up the Dabo Kolo so it wasn’t a total loss ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. Jody,
    I just went back and looked at that recipe and realized I’ve tweaked it quite a bit since I first found it a year ago. The other day when I made it I used half the peanut butter and a full quart of tomatoes, plus about 4 pureed onions, not two. I suspect that changes the taste quite a bit. I’ve re-posted it here, with my modifications added in….sorry about that… If you have leftovers and are so inclined you might be able to save it by adding more tomato….some salt too, probably, to cut the sweetness.


  34. Thank-you so much for all your hard work (and all the work of the others participating.) My husband and I had just been discussing the rising cost of food and I remembered that Boomama had linked to this.
    I can’t wait to try everything out!
    I’m from Canada where food prices are usually much higher and I tell you if I found chicken breast for 98 cents a pound I’d get on CNN too as the crazy lady doing backflips in the butcher aisle.
    Good luck tomorrow!

  35. this is really cool. and i love your responses to those 2 people that commented on the cnn post. i wish i had seen the cnn mention on tv! awesome job mary!! love it!! and i want to try that ice cream on the oatmeal. what a concept! xo

  36. Karen VS says:

    I just saw your site on CNN and thought I’d check it out. I’ve never been a cook but I’d like to try these receipe out. The trick is shopping with a purpose. A list is what I need.

  37. Hi.. I saw your site mentioned on CNN also. What a great job you do and wonderful recipe ideas! I saw some that I might be able to adapt. If anyone has recipes that will work for those on special diets, I’d love those. MANY children are restricted on things like gluten and casein, sugar, corn and soy and need to be on preservative-free and organic foods just to mention a few of the restrictions we juggle with every meal for health reasons. Anything less and we have serious health issues. It makes cooking frugally a huge challenge to say the least! ๐Ÿ™‚ I love your recipes and will see how I can change some to take out high phenol foods like tomatoes and some fruits that my children cannot tolerate and make substitutions for the other ingredients that are not tolerated. thanks for the great ideas and hoping we might be able to get some great ideas that will be safe for my children also.

  38. Wow! I’m very impressed. Thanks for posting this. Also, what a great idea about cooking the oatmeal in the rice cooker! I love it! I’ll definitely be trying that one!

  39. Thanks Mary! I think it just had too much peanut butter and I think less peanut butter and more tomatoes would definitely help-thanks for your help! (It has actually kind of become a topic of much giggling now to discuss “when Mom made Peanut butter covered rice” for dinner-I’m sure it will provide fodder for mockery for years to come ๐Ÿ™‚ What are families for if not for having recipe guinea pigs, right??? Thanks again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Where is the Mr. Linky to click on? I am reading this with IE browser and the only links are to “the details” or the recipes in your 3 days section. I have been looking forward to this since you announced . I have 7 children and am always looking for new frugal recipes to try. We are having migas for breakfast tomorrow – they look great. Thanks-Melissa

  41. Keilah says:

    I just discovered your site and I love it. I started doing the frugal cooking carnival, is it too late to add mine when I am done?

  42. great post! thank you! will be bookmarking and checking back for more!

  43. Your beef stroganoff looked yummy…do you have the recipe for it? Thanks for these ideas!

  44. I loved your site. I will try to add some recipes to it. Re oatmeal, I used to buy the little boxes of Oatmeal with the flavors – cinnamon, apples, etc. All of these had too much sugar and I’m diabetic. These were up to $3.29 for one box of only 6 packages and didn’t have much substance, much fiber, etc. Last week I went to the supermarked and got 2 super-large store-brand boxes of Oatmeal for $4.00. It was the cooks in a minute type that can be microwaved. This amount of oatmeal provides about 40 or so servings, possibly more, which translates into 10 cents per serving. I just started adding cinnamon, pieces of bananas, yogurt (instead of milk and fruit), apple slices, raisens, peanuts, peanut butter, strawberries (on sale) or anything else I can add that will improve the bland flavor, along with the skim milk. So for about 20 to 25 cents a serving (including milk) I can still have oatmeal in less than 2 minutes with NO sugar but with much more fiber and overall nutritional value. This is a low-cost alternative for smaller families who have kids coming and going (everyone doesn’t sit down at the same time) so microwaving is so convenient. In addition, there are lots of options that can be added so everyone has his/her own tastes satisfied.

  45. as is my home page, i noticed the headline “iReporters struggle with rising food costs”.

    as someone who lives in los altos hills, california (about 40 minutes south of san francisco), i take my asian cuisine very seriously. pepperoni does not belong in fried rice, period. canola oil? how about stir fry oil? and i’m certainly not a cook by any means.

    i don’t really see a lot of fresh organic foods in your picture of weekly groceries. as someone who was born with type 1 diabetes and a student of medicine, i think it’s sad that parents feed their children fried, processed foods. i sound like a broken record, so i’ll digress…

    i challenge the “frugal cooking carnival” to reproduce something that is authentic asian cuisine. authentic japanese. try anything from the ozumo’s menu ( i dare you…

    have a great day!


  46. My word… I only have 4 kids (soon to be five, as I’m expecting) and I’m constantly feeling burnt out by trying to be creative with the “same ol’ recipes”. I need you to come and cook for me a few nights! LOL

    Also, I’m much lazier than you, apparently, as I don’t “cook” for lunch, usually the old standby PB&J or ham & cheese. Thankfully, my kids don’t complain too much. My DH sure would, but I’m lucky in that 5 days a week, he’s at work. ๐Ÿ˜›

    I love your recipes, however, and will have to try them. Thanks for sharing!


  47. To Isaac:

    How dare you criticize and get hung up on organic foods and authentic asian cuisine! Don’t you get it? Frugal is about getting what you can afford and being creatinve with what you have. Being a food snob is not frugal. Neither is coming onto a family oriented site to post harsh criticism.

    I understand what you are suggesting, but you could have done it with a lot more tact and manners.

  48. Excellent, there are several of your recipes I’m going to have to try. I applaud all your efforts, it can’t be easy to keep it all organized and together for a family of 11.

  49. Dear Cassi,

    While I normally don’t respond back to postings of those who I wouldn’t normally deem worthy of my time, I will say this much.

    Hung up? Choosing authentic and organic cuisine that is healthy and nutritious is a lifestyle choice that would benefit most Americans.

    In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32.9% of adults aged 32-74 were obese while childhood obesity spiked to 17.4% [NHANES Survey, 2003-2004].

    While I laude this bloggers movement to establish a correlate budgetary needs with food, one could look at food as an investment in health. I don’t think you would cut corners on your health, would you Cassi? I would hope that while Americans are looking for a financially efficacious way to plan their meals, they are keeping their health, and the health of their children starkly in their mind.

    Maybe I shouldn’t complain. As a medical student and future surgeon, I will inevitably have to repair the complications from poor diet (and more than likely lack of exercise). Hopefully that won’t be any of you.

    Take that into account when you drop the pepperoni and other processed foods in your cart Cassi.

  50. Isaac,
    Yes, well, as a proofreader and college professor, I think it is sad that you can’t spell “laud” correctly or punctuate “blogger’s” right. That sort of petty criticism doesn’t feel too good, does it? With your nascent (See, I can use big words too! It is not just for medical students anymore!) elitist and rigid bedside manner, I’d be curious to hear how that medical practice of yours works out. Then again, I’ve heard from physician friends that in medical school, they always can pick out the future surgeons right away. They’re always the most arrogant and smug people in the room.