11 Budget-Friendly Real Food Hacks

Do you feel like you are spending way too much time in the kitchen trying to cook real food? Maybe you feel like you are spending too much money on real food and you want a few ideas for how to make the budget stretch.

If so, you're going to love these budget-friendly real food hacks!

1. Save Leftover Bread and Muffins

Do you buy specialty breads or make your own bread? If your family is like mine and won't eat the ends of the loaf of bread, save them! Break up the end pieces and save them in a container in the freezer. Soon you'll have accumulated enough to make some tasty homemade stuffing. This also works for gluten-free bread, and you'll have yourself enough to make a nearly-free gluten-free stuffing!

2. Regrow Onions

Image Credit: Feli*

Don't throw away the ends of those green onions! Place them in a container with water and set them in the windowsill. In a week or so you'll have a fresh batch of green onion to chop.

3. Freeze Produce

Image Credit: US Department of Agriculture

There are so many kinds of fruits and vegetables that do great in the freezer, which comes in handy if you find some on sale or you're worried about produce going bad in the fridge or on the counter.

Stick overripe banana directly into the freezer to make banana bread or smoothies later. Plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and many other fruits can be chopped and frozen as well. They make great additions to smoothies, or thaw and make them into pie, cobbler, or a myriad of delectable treats.

Carrots, onions, zucchini, small potatoes (whole), etc., can all be frozen quite easily and used for soups, stews, and more.

11 Budget-Friendly Real Food Hacks

Try some of these recipes and tips for freezing produce:

4. Freeze Herbs

Image Credit: Kristen Taylor

Chop and freeze fresh herbs in small ice cube trays with coconut or olive oil. Once they are frozen solid, pop them out of the trays and store them in a freezer bag with a label for each type of herb. This makes it super easy to find your favorite herbs and add the frozen cubes to just about any recipe.

5. Freeze Beans

Image Credit: Raising Generation Nourished

Did you know that cooked beans can be frozen? By far the cheapest beans you can buy are dry beans. Soak the dried beans overnight, drain in the morning, sprout if desired, and boil the beans on low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they are soft. Drain the beans and allow them to cool completely. Store them in durable glass jars or freezer bags in the freezer, but don't forget to label them.

6. Learn How to Stretch a Chicken

Image Credit: Raising Generation Nourished

A whole chicken is a very economical thing to keep in your freezer. Do you know how to make it stretch? You can often get enough meat from a chicken to last for a week's worth of meals, plus make bone broth for soups and extra nourishing meals.

7. Dehydrate Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs With or Without a Dehydrator

Image Credit: Simply Healthy Home

If you prefer a more shelf stable way of preserving your produce, try dehydrating. It can be done with a dehydrator or without.

8. Make a Meal Plan

Meal planning is one of the best ways to save time and money in the kitchen. When you have a meal plan, you can do all of your shopping at once. Because there is no confusion about what ingredients to buy for the upcoming week, you won't spend money on things you won't use. It also saves time because you will know exactly what needs to be prepared for the week ahead.

>> Check out these Real Food Meal Plans

Try to do your shopping and prep work on the same day. It's that much easier to cook healthy meals throughout the week if you know that everything is ready and waiting for you in the kitchen.

Here are some tools to help you get started with meal planning:

9. Ready-To-Go Smoothies

Image Credit: Live Simply

Smoothies are a great way to get in a lot of nutrition in a delicious and portable form. The only hassle can be gathering all of your ingredients. You can make whipping up a smoothie a lot faster with these smoothie hacks:

10. Transform Your Leftovers

Leftovers don't have to be eaten as-is. You can transform your leftovers into a whole new meal. Leftover rice dishes, soups, stews, and more can all be made into something new and appealing. Check out these leftover transformation how-tos and recipes:

11. Make Your Produce Last Longer

Image Credit: Live Simply

So you're eating real food and you're buying more produce. Unfortunately eating produce means that food can go to waste a lot faster than the old pre-packaged standard American diet. How do you buy lots of fresh produce without wasting the budget on food that goes bad too quickly?

Try these produce hacks:


What is your favorite real food hack?

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

13 thoughts on “11 Budget-Friendly Real Food Hacks

  1. Vanessa, this an awesome article. My Mother loves frozen fruit, her favorites are frozen grapes and frozen watermelon cubes. We also use the frozen fruit as an ice substitute or as a garish for a dessert. I always appreciate your tips, especially the one for the “Ready-to-Go Smoothies”.

  2. I really like ‘freeze produce’ and I will try them with over ripe bananas, plums and grapes. Its always when you want to drink a smoothie, that you are all worn out, that’s why your ‘ready to go smoothie’ tip put a smile on my face. I will have to recommend the ‘stretched chicken’ in my kitchen and see how it works out, its always been the one food item that has never been a leftover dish.

  3. The freezer is my best friend when it comes to keeping nutritious food around for quick meals. It’s also the best way (unless you’re a really talented canner) to preserve real food staples and scraps to further stretch your dollar. It’s amazing how little prep work it takes to keep tasty things on hand. Thanks for all the great tips and linking to my posts! 🙂

  4. There are a lot of excellent tips here and we are already using many of them. I love the idea of the leftover bread though. I will definitely add that to my bag of tricks!

  5. I can’t believe that I had never thought about freezing beans. What a great idea. I am going to that starting this week. I also appreciate the tip on freezing those unwanted ends of the bread. That tip is going to come in handy this Thanksgiving. I want to cook a 100% real food Thanksgiving meal this year.

  6. I never know what can be frozen and not, but this helps give me a good idea! I love reusing leftovers for new foods! Thanks for the ideas!

  7. I read a lot of stuff on the internet in the nutrition and health sections and rarely do I find a list article like this that is absolutely full of good ideas. You really should put this one on Pinterest and Zergnet. The frozen fresh herbs one is brilliant! Can’t wait to try it with fresh cilantro.

  8. Hey Vanessa, I think this article is very helpful and interesting. Quite recently I’ve discovered another budget-friendly tip found here: http://www.listonic.com/protips/get/gizuiacmoe. In short, if you’re buying bell peppers and they’re priced by the pound, choose the lightest vegetables because they contain less seeds. Anyways, thanks for your great hacks! Take care

  9. There’s so much good advice here! I love the tip about freezing the herbs in ice cube trays – I’m fed up of stumbling across bunches of limp old herbs that I haven’t used. I was going to dry them in my new dehydrator, but I think putting them in ice cube trays and using them straight from the freezer is an excellent way of using them up.

    I also love the tip about ‘ready to go smoothies; – I’ll definitely be doing that one! I would like to have more smoothies in my diet, but I do find getting the ingredients together can be a bit time consuming, so this will be a really good way for me to tackle that issue.

    I can really recommend getting a dehydrator – I only recently got mine, but I’ve done so much with it already: apples, strawberries, tomatoes, and even kale – more delicious healthy snacks!

    I think we could all benefit from looking at how much food we waste.

  10. I love the idea of the Ready-To-Go Smoothie. It’s a very time-consuming task to cut all the fruits and put together all the ingredients in a smoothie, but by having it all put and stored together at once, is a great time saver for people on the go. From the other tips you mention, I already re-grow my green onions and freeze my beans and herbs. These are also proven time-savers. Another suggestions would be to make chicken stock in the crockpot with the leftover chicken bones when making rotisserie chicken. It saves a ton of money versus pre-packaged stock and it’s a way to use up the last bit of that chicken.

  11. Great money and time saving ideas that we all need in the current economic climate. I have never dehydrated food, but I am going to look into this. I am interested in ways of saving food wastage.

  12. Ready to go smoothies! That is genius! I cannot even wait to try that one.

    Here’s a food hack I use: We drink a lot of iced tea in my house. When someone has put the pitcher back in the fridge when there isn’t enough left for a glass, I pour it into ice cube trays and then pop them into a freezer bag when set. I use the iced tea cubes in future glasses of iced tea to prevent watered down tea when the ice melts.

    Excellent post! Lots of great ideas!

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