Thursday 10 August 2017

Stretching Meals To Go Further

Keeping the cost of groceries down can be a never ending battle. Prices are always on the increase, appetites increase, food is bought then wasted and adult children don't always show up for dinner. Unexpected visitors can send you into a tail spin ( or at least another trip to the supermarket )

Here are some of the tricks I use to keep my family fed for well under $300 a month and still put good food on the table -

* Spag bol is often served with shredded silverbeet from the garden and grated carrot and zucchini in the meat sauce. I've also been known to add half a handful of quick oats to the sauce. These " extras " increase the volume of meat sauce. I don't serve larger quantities because of this. The extra sauce is frozen and might serve two people for another meal.

* Two minute noodles as well as cabbage really bulk up chop suey.

* Meat is the most expensive component of a meal. Loading up the dinner plate with veggies will fill up hungry tummies. A much cheaper alternative to serving large portions of meat.

* When dishing out the main meal, serve out the leftovers at the same time into takeaway containers or other suitable freezer containers. When you are eating dinner, let those leftovers cool until the steam disappears. Put them straight in the fridge after dinner until completely cold. Put a lid on, label and freeze ASAP. You save more money if the leftovers are eaten at dinner instead of a lunch treat. When you have enough frozen leftovers, write " freezer meals " into the menu plan. A free meal.

* When adult children don't show up for dinner, cook as you usually do and freeze the leftovers.

* If the main meal looks a little on the frugal side, put a plate of buttered bread or toast on the table.

*  Stews and casseroles need less meat per person.   My chicken curry recipe uses two small chicken fillets yet serves up to eight people.

 * When I make chunky soups, I add 1/2 to 1 cup of small shell pasta 20 minutes before serving.

* Add mashed potato to salmon patties. You'll get more patties without changing the flavour.

*  When you come home from grocery shopping portion out the raw meat and freeze in meal sizes. This is a really frugal tip and easier to defrost instead of a whole tray of meat.

*  When cooking casseroles and stews,  cut the meat into smaller cubes.  The meat seems to go further and you are more likely to get a piece of meat with each mouthful.

Have you stretched food without your family noticing ?

What are your tricks for making food go further ?

Loading the plate with veggies

Adding silverbeet to a pasta bake

Chicken curry with two small chicken fillets

Chop suey with lots of veggies

Freezing leftovers


  1. Your meals look delicious and your tips are so practical, Wendy! I often will serve cooked brown rice as a side to many meals, such as with slow cooked chicken and veggies, and beef and bean chili (put a generous serving of rice in a bowl, then top it with chili--that stretches the chili for many additional servings). Brown rice is very nutritious and inexpensive.

  2. I have added cooked lentils to my hamburger meat. I use 1/4 cup of cooked lentils to 3/4 pound of hamburger meat. I've done this in meatloaf, tacos, even grilled patties and my family loves them. They say they can not even tell the difference. We try to make the veggies the bulk of our dinner plates too. Love your blog, Cindy from Alabama, USA

  3. I do all the above too. I've found that by dishing out and then putting the leftovers into containers straight away a real saver. If left out it will get eaten just because it's there.
    My groceries always go away as soon as I arrive home and meat portioned. I label absolutely everything and have freezer lists which are up to date. The time it takes to do this saves you so much later on. Really worth doing.
    I like the idea of cutting meat into smaller pieces for casseroles. Everyone loves the meat so a good way to make sure it is spread throughout the dish.

  4. I use dumplings in stews and casseroles, it was a trick my grandmother and mother used to stretch meals. You can add herbs or parmesan grated cheese for taste. It is simply 1 cup self raising flour, pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of butter (grated), combine until like breadcrumbs then mix with 1/2 cup milk. Roll into small balls and add to casserole or stew for approx 30-40 mins until they have swollen. The dumplings take up the taste of the meat and sauce.

    1. I really want to start doing this. Thanks for the instructions.

    2. My Gran and Mother also did this, and they were delicious! You've inspired me to start doing it myself!

  5. Hi Wendy. These are great tips. Another less obvious one is to make sure food is really flavoursome. Just a few fresh herbs really add to tastebud satisfaction, and a tiny drizzle of good oil and some chopped herbs beats any fancy dressing or posh mayo on a salad. Herbs are easy to grow too. Mimi xxx

  6. Hi Wendy
    Good tips.
    We enjoy meatless meals more often now by choice rather than just for savings.
    We have macaroni cheese, toasted Foccacias, omlettes and quiche, soups, nachos and loaded jacket potatos
    Julie- Pilbara WA

  7. Hi Wendy,
    I have always "stretched" meals since I had sons who ate like horses. Like you I always add rolled oats to savoury mince, rissoles and some stews. No one ever knew they just asked for more! I think the trick is to not over do the oats so that they are obvious in the food. I have also made spaghetti bolognese with TVP for extended family and no one knew! Just give it a go, you might just be surprised. Julee

  8. Hi Wendy,
    I know someone who swears by adding pureed cauliflower to her bolognaise mix (along with grated carrot and zucchini) - she claims it is her 'secret' ingredient to not only bulk up, but also add vegetables into the family's diet. She even labels the bags of puree 'secret ingredient' when freezing as no one in the family 'likes' cauliflower.

    1. We've tried cauli too although not everyone liked the texture. Maybe I had too many veggies in the spag bol.

  9. Now you are making me hungry! Everything looks really good. :) I add lettuce to pasta salads right before serving to add extra nutrition and to stretch the salads. I also use veggies to bulk up sauces, pasta dishes and for side dishes. My pasta salads usually have more veggies than pasta in them and that is the way I like it. ;) I regularly make more than we need and free things for future meals because it just makes life so much easier.

  10. We often add a tin of red kidney beans to the mince for spag bog. Leftover sauce can become a taco meal.

    1. Jane I love that idea I am going to add that to my spag bog recipe right now.

    2. Wendy your chicken curry recipe looks great, I am going to try it soon. Thanks

    3. You'll love the chicken curry Sherri. It's mouth watering.

  11. Great tips, thank you Wendy!

    I add extras to my spaghetti bog sauce too. I grate carrots, zucchinis, sometimes pumpkin, I also add chopped mushrooms and capsicums :)

    Now there are only two of us here at home, Phil is eating the meals that I eat, which are meatless. We are saving heaps of money not having to buy meat all the time.


  12. When making mash potato,i use some powdered milk with the boiled water the potatos were cooked in instead of milk and butter,no one even noticed.

  13. Those are great tips. I especially like the one for making spaghetti sauce. I'll have to try those additions next time. It sounds like you are very organized. I am impressed with how little you spend on groceries. Stephenie


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