Cheap Grocery Week: How to Eat Well on a $30 Budget

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By Augusta Lane

Who else splurged a little bit too much on Christmas? I know it can’t be just me. It’s always great giving the things we want to our loved ones during the holidays, but the aftermath is not the best feeling. If money is tight and groceries are pricey, what are you going to eat? I’ve got you covered with my cheap grocery week plan. Here’s the grocery list for around $30 (even at inflation prices) that I turn to when I want to make hearty food and have enough to eat for the week (plus leftovers.)

My go-to grocery store is Aldi. It’s cheaper than the other grocery stores in my area by a LONG shot, but the only way I can actually stick to my budget is by planning out my meals before I go. Below you can find my list, the things I have on hand, and what I make from it.

The grocery list

Here’s my shopping list:

  • Frozen chicken breasts
  • Frozen veggie medley (my fav is the corn, green beans, and peas blend)
  • Frozen pizza
  • Whack-em biscuits
  • Pie crusts
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • The biggest jar of salsa I can find
  • Butter chicken simmer sauce
  • Cheap marinara

What’s on-hand

Obviously, whatever you have on hand will vary from home to home (and week to week). This is just to give you an idea of how I combine the contents of my fridge and pantry with a thrifty list.

Here’s what I already have:

  • Shredded cheese
  • Tortillas
  • Flour
  • Salad dressings
  • Gravy mix
  • Bacon grease
  • Rice
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Beer

And here’s what I make

I know these aren’t all the best quality meals – it’s not necessarily health food. But I think that fed is best, and when it’s cold out, all I want is some comfort food. Here are the meals I’ve made with the food I got + the food I had:

Crockpot salsa chicken

My mom showed me how to make this one. I remember eating it as a kid and thinking, “She must have put so much work into this food. It’s SO good.” When I asked for the recipe, she said, “Girl. It’s a jar of salsa and chicken. That’s it.” I was so shocked.

All I do for mine is add some extra onion, some cayenne pepper, a small can of beer, a jar of salsa, and my chicken. Since I plan to use the chicken for other meals, I like that the beer makes the salsa go a little bit further. I use about six chicken breasts in the crock pot for this one.  (You could also use boneless, skinless thighs.)

Dump all your ingredients into your crock pot first thing in the morning. Let it cook on low for 6 hours, take out the chicken, shred it, pop it back in for an hour, and then you’re done!

We can eat the chicken alone, but to make it last longer, I like to make rice and refried beans to go with it. We use the chicken in tacos, with some lettuce and veggies.

Sorta taco salad

For this one, I use the leftover salsa chicken (who would have guessed), onions, bell peppers, leftover rice and beans, and lettuce. For the dressing, I mix about ⅓ cup of ranch, your basic taco seasonings, and some of the juice from the salsa chicken. I also love to fry up some strips of tortillas and add lime juice and salt to them to mix into the salad. Who doesn’t love a good crunch?

Empanadas

With the last little bit of the chicken, I like to make empanadas. They’re not too much effort, but more than the above meals, and they’re so freaking tasty. I typically do a mix of chicken empanadas and veggie ones.

Here’s how I make them:

  • Pie crust
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Veggies (I’ll use some of the frozen veggie blend, bell peppers, and onions)
  • Potatoes
  • Beans

Take two small potatoes, and chop them up pretty small. Boil them until just before they’re fork tender. Chop up your onions and peppers, and add any leftover juice from the salsa chicken into a pan. Once those are cooked, I take half out and set them to the side. Add the frozen veggies, potatoes, and beans. It’s around here where I’ll add some seasoning.

Once everything is cooked and has a good flavor to it, I prepare the dough. Take your premade pie crust out, and grab about a golf ball size chunk off. Roll it into a circle that’s about ¼ inch thick, and 5-ish inches in diameter. Preheat the oven to 400, and get ready to make your empanadas.

Mix the onions and peppers you’d put to the side with the leftover salsa chicken, and grab your other filling as well. Put a generous scoop (probably about 2 tbsp) in the center of the dough, you can sprinkle a little bit of cheese on here, but that’s completely optional. Fold the dough over so it’s in a half-circle shape, and pinch the edges together. You can use your fingers or a fork for this. Pop an egg wash over the top, and throw those bad boys in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. If you don’t finish all of them, they freeze very well too, but for me, they typically won’t last that long.

Pasta bake

A pasta bake is a great way to make it seem like you put a TON of effort into your food, without actually doing that much extra. Cook your pasta until it’s al dente, and reserve a small scoop of the water. Mix noodles in your marinara in a greased glass pan with some of that extra water. To make it look “fancy”, I mix shredded cheese, breadcrumbs, and some parsley on the top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the top looks golden and crispy. This also freezes well.

Pizza time!

I love to eat fancy pizza, and I hate to pay for it. I like to get any of the Mama Cozzi’s frozen pizzas from Aldi, throw all the toppings onto one side, and add a balsamic glaze, chicken, and apple slices with sharp cheddar onto the other side. Have fun with it, add whatever weird toppings you’ve wanted to try on your pizza, and find comfort in knowing that there’s still half a pizza left if you hate your creation. Cook as normal and enjoy!

Pasta, pizza, and salad

I usually have some leftover pasta when I make the bake, and leftover pizza too. Heat up the rest of the leftover pasta, and pizza, and make a salad to go with it. I like the olive garden dressing. It’s a good way to make it seem like it’s a brand-new meal, or like you’re at a pizza buffet.

Not-Pot Pie

This one is so comforting and warm, perfect for a cold day. I’m not a huge fan of regular pot pie crusts, but i love the filling for it. The only different thing I do for the filling is I cook chicken breasts and cut them thinly instead of shredding them. Make your gravy, add in the frozen veggies and some onion, throw in the chicken, and pop into a cast iron pan. Add your biscuits to the top. Pop it in the oven and cook until the biscuits are done, then bam! You have your very own not-pot pie.

Butter Chicken

You can make this from scratch, but I prefer using the simmer sauces. I cook my chicken most of the way through, and then let it finish in the sauce, and add half a can of drained + rinsed chickpeas to make it go further. Make garlic-butter naan and rice to go with it. It’s a super tasty meal that will make you feel full for longer.

Biscuits and gravy

What is better than a slow Saturday with a big brunch after sleeping in?! Probably a million dollars, but I’ll settle for biscuits and gravy. Take any of your leftover biscuits, and throw them in the oven. Make your gravy with leftover bacon grease, flour, and milk. I like to add a little bit of gravy mix into it since I can’t make white gravy as good as my mom does. It’ll leave you feeling full for the rest of the day.

What about you?

Are there any cheap meals you like to make? Or any specific methods you use to make your food go further? Do any of these meals sound good to you? Let’s talk about cheap grocery weeks in the comments.

About Augusta

Augusta is a reader of The Frug website who wants to share her thrifty ideas with her fellow Frugalites.

Cheap Grocery Week: How to Eat Well on a $30 Budget

9 thoughts on “Cheap Grocery Week: How to Eat Well on a $30 Budget”

  1. No Aldi’s in my state and though nice suggestions but I am managing diabetes with my diet. All those items in one week would put me in the hospital or dead. Will keep them in mind for thinking outside the box when shopping with my $20 a week budget.

    1. I’m doing the same thing. Beans and salsa in a low carb wrap for lunch with raw veggies. Dinner is usually chicken or tuna two times a week – on a salad, with a side of cooked veggies, or, again, in a wrap. The other 5 days it’s Seitan that I make, TVP or tofu. Using her ideas of various seasonings you don’t have to have repeat meals. I keep about 6 seasoning blends including Mrs. Dash salt free original, Italian, curry, garam masala, taco. I also keep SF BBQ sauce and pasta sauce. BTW I personally don’t find Aldi’s the best on price – mandatory to check price per unit.

  2. I needed some ideas for quick, cheap meals to make over the next couple of weeks – these will be perfect! I’ve made most of these before, but I’ve been stuck in a dinner rut recently. We are definitely having salsa chicken for dinner tomorrow! And I will probably do baked ziti another night, make the family feel like it’s not our usual spaghetti. Thanks for the ideas!

  3. Fried potatoes with sliced up hot dogs was my go-to when the kids were little! Great post with some good suggestions! I think I will make salsa chicken later this week!

  4. What one can and can’t cook (to his/her standards) is rather ironic. I don’t cook all that much but I can make white gravy – or milk gravy as my family calls it.
    Pot pies are much better with just a top crust. You can also cook chicken (breast or thighs) in the crock pot and top with biscuits. Mom used to do it, I believe I have her recipe on my Baker’s shelf.

  5. This would be wonderful as a weekly or monthly feature, like Fed and Fit does. Maybe similar articles for GFCF (my daughter has autism and bowel disease) and weight loss. It would ge nice to have them as recipes with instructions for balsamic glaze and butter garlic naan. Very good ideas!

  6. I like the idea of making empanadas with pre-made pie crust. And the salsa chicken. One of my favorite dinners is (fill in the blank heavily seasoned protein) over rice. I think salsa chicken would be amazing over rice! I personally wouldn’t bother buying popping biscuits if I already had flour and baking powder, but if they were cheap, eh. I noticed that your list is a winter list, so hidden in this suggestion is another one – SHOP SEASONALLY. I quite agree.

  7. In place of jars of spaghetti or marinara sauce . One large can of tomato puree. Add a tsp. (or more/less) garlic powder, oregano, pepper, salt, dab of sugar and red pepper flakes. Stir on low heat until heated thru. Great for pizza and pasta dishes and pasta bakes. This recipe will cover two or more meals depending on your sauce need. Thanks for your ideas. Happy New Year
    Bun

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