Sassy Sauces to Elevate Your Cheap Eats

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

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.

Peanut Sauce





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
  1. In a large skillet, add peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic powder, ginger powder, cumin, and broth or water.
  2. Warm this up on low heat and whisk constantly.
  3. 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)
  1. Plop the two sauces into a bowl and mix ’em with a fork.
  2. 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
  1. Plop it all in a bowl.
  2. 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
  1. I’m embarrassed to call this “directions.”
  2. Put everything in a bowl.
  3. Stir it up with a fork.

Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki sauce will really make your Asian dishes come to life.

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
  1. In a cup, mix the cornstarch and the 1/4 cup of water with a fork until it’s well combined. Put it aside.
  2. In a saucepan, mix everything else and bring it to a simmer on low heat.
  3. 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)
  1. Plop everything into a bowl and mix it up with a fork.
  2. 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.

About Daisy

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), 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 You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sassy Sauces to Elevate Your Cheap Eats
Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

7 thoughts on “Sassy Sauces to Elevate Your Cheap Eats”

  1. I think I love you?, kidding. This article elevates you to kitchen goddess level. Just what I needed and I have all the ingredients. Nothing new to go out and buy that I won’t ever use again. I’m printing this out and tapping it to the inside of one of my kitchen cabinet doors. Really, if I feel deprived, on a regular basis, cheap eating becomes a drudge. This helps. Lessens the takeout urge.

  2. Wow!!
    Just made your yum yum sauce fir dipping my potato chips n it was wonderful!!
    Gonna put it on a bagel with cream cheese in the morning.

  3. Great ideas! I love good sauce. Thanks for this article, Daisy! Naturally, I have a couple more I’d like to contribute:

    For those who are watching their weight or needing to reduce fat in their diet, I make a spicy peanut sauce that’s ultra simple. I use powdered peanut butter, mix it to peanut butter consistency, and mix it half and half with my favorite hot sauce. You control the heat by picking the right sauce! Powdered peanut butter seems a bit expensive but if you can get it on sale it’s pretty shelf stable and honestly, it’s great stuff.

    I love making a knock off easy tzatziki sauce by taking Greek yogurt (can also just drain regular yogurt) and adding shredded cucumber, minced garlic, salt and pepper to it. In some cases I just add the garlic, salt, pepper and dill, for a slightly different sauce that’s just as tasty. Since you can use any kind of yogurt for this including homemade it’s another flavorful option for those who are trying to lose weight, and it can even make a decent salad dressing.

    One last tip for the frugal cooks: grinding your own black pepper makes it taste so much more amazing than regular pepper, and a pepper grinder is quite cheap and easy to get. It preserves the flavor better and whole pepper corns last a lot longer on the shelf.

  4. I have a sauce that’s a great marinade, especially for pork, works well as a basting sauce when grilling meat or fish, and is a good sauce to add over meat at the table.

    Mix 1/2 cup of a good quality soy sauce, 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, and one tablespoon a brown sugar. That’s it. If you marinate mates in this, hold the marinade time to 2:00 to 4 hours. That seems to be the sweet spot.

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