3 Delicious, Thrifty Meals with 3 Ingredients: Potatoes, Flour, and Butter

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Three delicious and thrifty meals with 3 ingredients? YES! Just in time to help you on those days right before grocery day, when you look in the fridge and have nothing to eat. No need to consult Google only to have it come up with all these recipes using ingredients you just don’t have. Google typically comes up with things like grilled cheese, or a pb&j, or cereal, and a bunch of other things I may not have on hand.

With the rising costs of food, as mentioned here, trying to feed 2 people on a grocery budget of $150 per month can get a little bit tricky. 

Let’s talk about staples to make thrifty meals with 3 ingredients.

We go grocery shopping about twice a month, and very seldom exceed $75. So when I go grocery shopping I buy things that are diverse enough to create a wide variety of meals. Some things I refuse to run out of are potatoes, flour, and a pack of butter. I also always have a good supply of pantry basics like spices and herbs, which I either grow myself or purchase from my favorite grocery store, Aldi. Oh and onions.  With these items, I can put together three different delicious and thrifty meals with 3 ingredients.

For some pretty good meals, all you need are these basic ingredients, and some spices to throw in – as well as a bit of elbow grease and patience. Not my favorite combination. But I’d rather throw in some extra work than go to bed hungry. 

I’m allergic to eggs, so I use flour and water to create an egg-like consistency. All you do is mix equal parts of egg and water. Say you needed 1 egg, you would use 3 tbsp. of flour, and 3 tbsp. of water.

Here are 3 thrifty meals with 3 ingredients that people ALWAYS love when I make them.

Fried Gnocchi

This one takes some work but is one of the most requested ones by my boyfriend. It takes about 3 hours to make at most, but it’s worth it and freezes well. The equation I use for gnocchi is about one slightly overflowing cup of flour to one medium-sized potato. 

  • Step 1: You have to peel your potatoes and cut out any chunks you wouldn’t normally shove down your gullet. Annoying and tedious, I know. It just makes it work better. I like to chop them into tiny pieces after peeling so they cook quicker. Boil the bad boys until they are fork-tender. 
  • Step 2: Once your ‘taters are soft, you can put them through a ricer, but I don’t know a single person who owns one of those. So I just squish them, with the potato masher that has been in my family since way before I was born, with a few chunks of butter (around 2tbps).
  • Step 3: After they’re all mashed up, you’ll take your flour (again, about 1 heaping cup, for one medium potato) and dump it straight onto a clean, dry counter. Make a well in the middle and add your mashed potato. Make another well and add either melted butter or a flour-water slurry. (2 tbsp. of butter, or 3 tbsp. of flour and water thoroughly mixed.) Then you’re going to knead it all together until it’s no longer sticky. 
  • Step 4: After you’ve mixed your ingredients well, you’re going to want to cut the lump of dough into about 6 pieces. Once they’re chopped up you’ll need to add some flour to your hands so the dough doesn’t stick, you’ll take the freshly floured hands and make a long roll of dough that’s about as thick as the average thumb. 
  • Step 5: You then will bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While that’s heating up, take a fork and chop the roll in about 1-inch pieces, then roll them down the fork to make a cute indent on the gnocchi. I find it turns out less gummy if I let the gnocchi sit for about 20 minutes before boiling, so I will collect all my pieces, and leave them in the order of assembly. I throw together all the gnocchi logs and proceed to dump them into the boiling water. Once they float to the top, you know they’re ready. 

Finished! You can leave it at that, and strain them, and add your sauce, or you can make an onion butter basil sauce to fry them. That one’s always a winner, and no one would believe you if you said you made it because you had nothing else to make. It’s crunchy and savory, and so good you’ll have dreams about it. 

Biscuits and Butter Based Gravy

These are weekly occurrences in my household. It’s comforting, warm, and buttery. Tell me, who doesn’t love that on a chilly Sunday morning, before going back to the real world?


You need butter, flour, and you guessed it, water. (And make sure to take any rings off.)

  • Step 1: You need to chop about 1 cup of butter (so 2 sticks) into about pea-sized pieces, and preheat your oven to 450 degrees, 425 if you’re in a more dry climate. 
  • Step 2: In a big ole bowl, mix 2 cups of flour, your cups of butter by hand. Gross, I know, but you’ll be able to tell your people it was made with love, right? All you need to do is sort of smush the butter into everything until combined. 
  • Step 3: Once you’ve mushed everything together, you’ll add your water (about 6tbsp) until a soft and not quite sticky dough forms. 
  • Step 4: Roll them out until they’re about ½ an inch thick, and then take a biscuit cutter, or a cup, and plop them into a buttered cast iron pan and into the oven for about 13 minutes, or until golden brown, and flakey. 


You’re using basically the same ingredients as before, water, flour, and butter, but this time salt and pepper as well. 

  • Step 1: While your biscuits are cooking, melt equal parts of butter, and flour. I typically use 6 of each. Add in salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Once those are all melded and smooth, add your water. Slowly pour about 4 cups of water into the mix – if you do it too quickly, it will make your gravy lumpy. 
  • Step 2: Continue mixing until all are combined, if it’s too thick, add more water. Too thin, add more flour. It tastes wonderful with a heart-filled amount of garlic powder and onion powder. 
  • **You can use bacon/sausage grease instead of butter, and milk instead of water as well. This one is just what I do when we’re running low. 

Finished! Once your biscuits are golden, your gravy should be good to go as well. Put your biscuits in a bowl, and smother them in gravy, and you’ll be ready to face the upcoming week. 

Soup Dumplings

You need about a cup of flour, cold water (as needed), 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 tbsp. melted butter for this one. 

  • Step 1: Add your flour and salt into a bowl, and slowly add cold water, about 1 tbsp. at a time. You want it to be a very dense and firm mix.
  • Step 2: Once your flour water and salt are thoroughly combined, break it into pieces and pour the melted butter over, and knead everything together until it’s smooth. If it’s feeling sticky, you’ll want to add more flour to it. 
  • Step 3: Let it rest for about 10-20 minutes under a warm damp cloth. (I take this time to throw together some kind of soup. Usually, I will use all the veggies in my fridge that will soon go bad. For example, carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery, and I add a bouillon cube.)
  • Step 4: Once the time is up, you’re going to take little chunks (about the size of a Brussels sprout) out of your dough, and roll it out into a long strip on a floured surface. 

Finished! Once your dough is done, you can throw it into a soup, and cook for about 15 minutes, and enjoy! Dumplings can add a really nice texture to your soups or stews, and make you feel full for a little bit longer. 

Do you have any go-to thrifty meals with 3 ingredients?

Are there any foods that you always have on hand in case you can’t get to the grocery store in time? Will you be trying any of these thrifty meals with 3 ingredients out? Let me know in the comments!

3 Delicious, Thrifty Meals with 3 Ingredients: Potatoes, Flour, and Butter

13 thoughts on “3 Delicious, Thrifty Meals with 3 Ingredients: Potatoes, Flour, and Butter”

  1. Those dumplings are called Rivvels in Pa Dutch and you can just tear small pieces off and drop them into the soup. Its an easier way to make Spaetzel ( no machine/gadget needed). Its a cheap way to fill you up and extend any soup. You can actually use just plain water or throw in a bullion cube for some flavor and make just Rivvel soup.
    Thanks for the other recipes. I plan to copy them and add them to my recipe book

  2. Not exactly 3 but
    my boys loved the dumpling, as per yours, dropped in boiling canned garbanzos with a little chicken bullion for flavor.

    Same but in any jucy pot of boiling fruit or berries sweeted to taste. Made a find desert. My favorite was blackberries.

  3. I can make udon noodles with only flour, salt and water – could make gyoza wrappers with just flour and water too. Can make bread with only flour, salt, water and time – time to get the sourdough starter going. Can make sauerkraut with cabbage, water and salt. Is water an ingredient? Can make yogurt with powdered milk, water, a thermos, and a heat source like a hot water heater. Oh, that one needs a spoon of previously made yogurt so that’s the third ingredient.

    Great article – I love simple food!

  4. “You want it to be a very _____ and firm mix.”
    I’m having trouble coming up with what the missing word might be in the context of the dumpling recipe.

    1. Hey Allegra! I meant to put a very dense and firm mix, thanks so much for catching that – I just updated the article 🙂

  5. My grandmother’s potato soup. Potatoes, onions and water. The secret is to cook it for a long time; the onions basically disappear. The potatoes should be breaking down so that their starch thickens the soup. It has a nice earthy taste and goes well with a veggie relish plate (cucombers, tomatoes, radishes… this was a summer dish). Serve with cornbread. But of course you can just have the soup.

  6. Love these simple recipes! I’ve never made or eaten gnocchi before, but my daughter tried it once and loved it, so we are planning to make some together this weekend. Another tip with these ingredients – any time I make mashed potatoes, I use the water/broth that the potatoes cooked in to make bread. The extra starch makes the bread a little softer and tastes a little like potato bread. If I can’t make the bread right away, I freeze the broth in 2 cup portions, usually in recycled pint sized sour cream containers.

    1. Great! Gnocchi is even better when you make it from scratch. 🙂 And the trick for bread sounds awesome! I will absolutely be trying this next time I make some!

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