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Budget Friendly Meals: Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals

Here are some Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals.  Easy and practical tips and ideas to help save you money and create budget friendly meals!

There are always times when we run low on groceries between trips to the market, so it’s good to have some easy meal ideas that work with what we’ve got.  So if you’re looking for ways to stretch your meals, you can easily do it with these easy tips and recipe ideas!  These are also ideas that help with the grocery bill!  Winner winner budget friendly dinner!

Here are some delicious ways to stretch your meals!

Add canned tomatoes to macaroni and cheese.

One of my most favourite things to eat is good old fashioned macaroni and cheese with canned tomatoes.  This simple meal is as easy as adding about 1 cup of drained canned tomatoes to a box of mac & cheese.  Or if you want to make a homemade version you might like my recipe for Tomato Macaroni & Cheese.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Add drained canned tomatoes to mac and cheese.

Add frozen vegetables to casseroles and lasagnas.

To stretch a casserole, add a cup or two of frozen vegetables before baking.  For example, if you’re making Tuna Casserole, toss in some green beans or peas.  If you’re making lasagna, toss in some chopped carrots, zucchini and mushrooms.  Or make vegetables a meal with this recipe for Vegetable Tortilla Lasagna.

Roast tomatoes, onions and garlic to make pasta sauce. 

If you have tomatoes that are getting ripe quickly, why not roast them with some chopped onion and garlic to make a delicious roasted tomato pasta sauce.  Here’s a simple recipe.

Add beans. 

If you’re low on meat, add a can of beans to your meal to balance it out. For example, if you’re serving roast chicken or pork chops, offer brown beans as a side dish.  Add beans to chili, soups and stews. And don’t forget about wieners and beans!  Classic. 😉

Turn leftover roast meat into more meals.

One of the best ways to stretch your meals is to turn one roast meat (like a chicken, turkey or beef roast) and turn it into 3 different and delicious meals. Take any left over meat from pot roasts and roast chicken (including the gravy), and make soup or pot pies! 

  • Soup: Add 1 L of broth, some extra veggies (chopped carrots, celery and onion – for extra flavour you can brown these in butter first), and some pearl barley (about 2 tbsp dried), season to taste, and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Voila, soup for dinner!  You might also like this recipe for Turkey Rice Soup that is loaded with leftovers.
  • Pot Pie: Make a Beef Pot Pie using leftover beef (like pot roast), gravy and vegetables.
Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Cook a roast, then make soup from leftovers

Make a stir fry. 

Stir fries are a great way to use up small portions of meat and vegetables, including leftovers.  Serve with rice to make it a full meal.

Make fried rice.

Use up leftover rice, eggs, cooked meat and vegetables and make a stir fry.  This Thai Fried Rice is one of our favourites.

Make a crustless quiche/frittata. 

If you’ve got eggs, use them to make crustless quiches/frittatas.  Frittatas are a great way to use up leftover ham, bacon, potatoes and small amounts of vegetables, and they’re perfect for both breakfast and dinner. Here is a great basic recipe for frittata/crustless quiche.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Make a Crustless Quiche/Frittata with leftovers

Turn it into a soup.

You can make a hearty and delicious soup with the most simple ingredients.  Toss leftover meats and vegetables, beans and more into a pot with broth and some simple spices and you’ve got dinner. I use this recipe for Vegetable Soup as the base and tailor it to what I have on hand.

Make stock.

Take a leftover chicken or turkey carcass and turn it into a delicious and healthy stock. Then use that broth to make soups, use it to cook rice or orzo, and put it any recipe that require stock.  You can freeze it too.  Here is my recipe for homemade stock that I use for both chicken and turkey.  This is such a great way to turn 1 meal into several.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Make Homemade Chicken Stock from last night's chicken dinner

Roast a tray of vegetables. 

Use vegetable odds and ends and make one big tray of roasted vegetables.  Use broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, squash, onions and more.  Cut the vegetables up and toss them in olive, season with salt and pepper and simple spices, then roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.  This is a great way to use up the 1 or 2 random carrots, potatoes, celery stalks, rogue cauliflower florets and any other small portions of vegetables that you have in your fridge and pantry.

Use leftover mashed potatoes in recipes.

You can serve leftover mashed potatoes again at another meal, just add a little more cream and butter to freshen them up.  Or add leftover mashed potatoes to shepherd’s pie, add them to soups, or make potato pancakes.

Make a Dinner Bowl from leftovers.

Take leftover meats, grains and vegetables and make a dinner bowl.  You can make it a delicious meal by serving the bowl with a tasty dressing.  Here are some great recipes:  Mexican Street Corn Bowl, Greek Chicken Bowl, and a Taco Bowl.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Use the leftovers to make a hearty dinner bowl

Make a hearty salad. 

Salads are a great way to use up all kinds of random leftovers like cheese, dry bread, nuts, vegetables, fruit, pasta and cooked meat.

Turn it into a pasta salad.

Pasta salads are great when it comes to using up leftovers!  Toss together cooked pasta, leftover cooked meats, and fresh vegetables with some salad dressing.  Perfect for lunch or dinner.  This Ranch Pasta Salad is a great recipe that you can tailor to your tastebuds.  Or this Easy Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Make a pasta salad with leftover pasta and cooked chicken

Serve with pasta. 

If you only have a small serving of meat, adding pasta is a great way to turn it into a full meal.  For example if you only have a few sausages or chicken breasts, chop them up and toss them with pasta and sauce.

Serve with bread.

If your meal seems a bit short serve it with some bread, toast or buns to stretch it further.  One of my favourite breads to serve with soups, stews and many other meals, are my buttermilk quick breads, like this Jalapeno Cheddar Bread, Mozzarella Parmesan Bread, or this Basic Quick Bread, that can be on your table in 1 hour.

Make wraps. 

Wraps are delicious filled with leftover meats, cheeses and vegetables.  If you have leftover cooked quinoa, couscous or rice, toss that in too.  Tortilla pinwheels are great for using up leftovers as well, and kids love them in their lunches.

Make pan of sandwiches. 

Use up leftover ham, chicken, turkey or beef and make a pan of sandwiches to feed your whole family.  You can assemble them and bake them in the oven for a delicious and cheesy dinner.  These Turkey Pull Apart Buns are SO delicious, but you can also make them with leftover ham or chicken.

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Make a tray of baked sandwiches with last night's leftover meat

Stretch out your meat. 

If you don’t have quite enough meat to go around, cut it up into pieces and serve it that way.  For example, if you only have 4 chicken breasts, cut them in half and serve them that way.  Then fill in the gaps with extra vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice or bread.

Stretch your vegetables. 

There are so many ways to use up all your vegetables…including stems and skins.  Here are some delicious ideas:

  • The stems of broccoli and cauliflower are delicious, so make sure to chop these up and serve them too, or add them to soups like this Broccoli Cheddar Soup.
  • Another idea is to leave the skins on potatoes, they are hearty and delicious.  Clean potato skins left on the potato are delicious in potato salad, baked potatoes and even frittatas.
  • Roast whole squash and serve the puree as a side dish, or use it to make a creamy pasta sauce.
  • Add leftover vegetables to soups like this Vegetable Soup.
  • Add leftover vegetables to stir fries.
  • Make a soup stock.
  • Toss leftover veggies on pizzas or add them to quesadillas.
  • Leftover veggies are also great in salads.

Turn a Roast Chicken into several meals.

A single chicken can be turned into a number of different meals: from roasted chicken one night, to soups, to stews, casseroles and stocks that are used as a base for other dishes for other nights.  In this post I show you how to take 2 roast chickens and make 7 different meals.

Roasted Whole Chicken with Vegetables-1

Make a casserole.

Combine leftover pasta, leftover or frozen vegetables, cooked chicken, turkey or ham together and turn it into a creamy casserole.  You can do this by adding a can of soup (like cream of mushroom or potato), 1 cup sour cream, salt, pepper and seasonings of your choice, plus 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 – 1 cup shredded cheese for the topping.  This Creamed Turkey and Creamed Ham are great examples!

Have a leftover night.

And if all else fails, bring out all of your leftovers from the last few days and declare a ‘Leftovers Night’.  Little bits of casseroles, meats, vegetables…it’s a leftover buffet!

Simple Ways to Stretch Your Meals: Have a leftover night

I hope you found some of these ideas useful to stretch your meals!  With a little creativity, you can make delicious dinners with what you have on hand.

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Make the most of meal planning with this


Organize Your Weekly Meal Planning With These FREE Meal Planning Printables. Includes a weekly dinner menu plan, inventory checklists, a grocery list and more.

If you are looking for more ideas, make sure to follow my What’s For Dinner board on Pinterest!  Have a delicious day!Have a delicious day!

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