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By the author of The Flat Broke Cookbook and The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living
Just because your budget is tight and you’re relegated to cheap eats, that doesn’t mean you have to eat boring, bland food. A simple sauce can really jazz up the plainest of food and elevate your cheap eats to a frugally fabulous level. Whether you dip your food or pour the sauce over it, you’ll get a yummy burst of flavor.
You can use whatever basic ingredients you have on hand or wish to purchase. You can go with cheap, generic ingredients or higher-quality, cleaner ingredients, depending on your budget.
Here are some of my favorite sauces.
Seriously, I have peanut sauce at least twice a week. It’s super easy to whip up, and it’s absolutely divine for dipping, drizzling, and dressing. If it seems familiar, I shared this recipe in The Flat Broke Cookbook. The cumin is the key to an authentic-tasting Thai flavor.
- 1/3 cup of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
- 1/8-1/4 cup of broth or water
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 1 tbsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp of cumin
- 1 tsp of ginger powder
- 1 tsp of sugar or honey
- In a large skillet, add peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic powder, ginger powder, cumin, and broth or water.
- Warm this up on low heat and whisk constantly.
- When the sauce is smooth and creamy, add the sugar or honey and whisk for another minute. If you want it spicy, add some crushed chili peppers.
You can use this as a dip for chicken, stir cooked noodles into it, or let it cool and put it on top of a salad for some Thai vibes.
DIY Campfire Sauce
This is a knock-off of Red Robin’s Campfire Sauce. It’s flippin’ awesome for dipping fries, chicken nugs, or tater tots. One of my daughters also loves it on her burgers. It’s also pretty tasty for dipping roasted veggies.
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
- Plop the two sauces into a bowl and mix ’em with a fork.
- That’s it.
Yum Yum Sauce
This sauce is the pinkish-white sauce you get on hibachi food, teriyaki bowls, and sushi. This is a cheap knock-off but super tasty. If you want a more authentic Japanese Yum Yum sauce, check out this recipe.
- 1 cup of mayo
- 2 tablespoons of ketchup
- 1 tablespoon of white sugar
- ½ tablespoon of sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- Plop it all in a bowl.
- Stir it up.
If you need to make it thinner for drizzling, just add a wee bit of water, a tablespoon at a time.
Honey Mustard Sauce
This comes from my sweet mother-in-law back in Canada. She always whipped this up regularly. If you want a little bite to it, add some cayenne pepper.
- 2 tablespoons of dry mustard
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- optional: cayenne pepper
- I’m embarrassed to call this “directions.”
- Put everything in a bowl.
- Stir it up with a fork.
I was recently in the Asian aisle of my local grocery store, and I was shocked at how much more expensive teriyaki sauce was than soy sauce. It’s super cheap and easy (don’t judge) to make.
- 1 cup of water + 1/4 cup of water
- ¼ cup of soy sauce
- 3 tbsp of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- ½ teaspoon of ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- In a cup, mix the cornstarch and the 1/4 cup of water with a fork until it’s well combined. Put it aside.
- In a saucepan, mix everything else and bring it to a simmer on low heat.
- Stir in the cornstarch mixture and keep simmering until the teriyaki sauce reaches the desired thickness.
Use this as a condiment on meat or veggies, or mix it up with some noodles for a tasty stirfry. It also makes a tasty dipping sauce.
Boom Boom Sauce
I first had this yummy sauce at a local breakfast place that specializes in fried chicken. (I’m from the South. Yes, fried chicken is a breakfast food.) It’s a tasty dipping sauce for chicken, french fries, or other crunchy things. This sauce has a little bit of heat, but you can control how much with the amount of sriracha you put in.
- 1/2 cup of mayo
- 2 tablespoons of ketchup
- 1 tablespoon of sweet chili sauce (substitute honey if you don’t have any – it’s not exactly the same but it works)
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- ¾-1 teaspoon of Sriracha (this is non-negotiable for Boom Boom sauce)
- Plop everything into a bowl and mix it up with a fork.
- That’s it.
What is your favorite sassy sauce?
I always said that if I offered my kids dipping sauce I could get them to eat just about anything. Sauces are a great way to dress up food that may not be the fanciest and elevate the flavor and presentation.
Do you have any favorite frugal sauces that you’d like to add to this list? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.