What Makes a Meal Frugal?

by Kelly · 13 comments

in Thoughts On Food & Cooking

Some friends of ours came over for lunch the other day; I served chicken and zucchini korma with rice. They are fairly close friends and know about this blog and Almost Frugal. The husband laughingly asked “Is this a frugal meal?” and we started talking about what makes a meal frugal.

I had a hard time answering that question, however. My gut wants to say that a meal that didn’t cost a lot of money is a frugal meal, but I feel like that answer is lacking in something. But what, I couldn’t tell you.

What do you think? What makes a frugal meal for you? Is it just the cost of the ingredients, or is there something more?


1 Katie September 3, 2008

To me, a frugal meal doesn’t have to be cheap. It should use or provide for use of all elements of the ingredients (no waste). Also, I think it should consist primarily of common ingredients that can be used over and over, not lots of specialty items (unless you use them over and over).

Katies last blog post..Who makes biscuits from scratch? This guy. Er, girl.

2 Lissa September 4, 2008

Very intriguing question ! For some “frugal” might mean spaghetti-Os in a can. Cheap, fast (and very orange and disgusting), but not much more. The word “frugal” always reminds me of my grandmother. Born in 1906 she was a woman of the depression and the war. She never wasted. She was amazing at making the less expensive chicken legs or tougher cuts of meat wonderfully tasty. Leftover bread went into strata or bread puddings. Or for bread crumbs. I used to spend several weeks with her during the summer and remembering the some of her meals seemed “funny”. Not the standard meat, potato, veg, salad. At every meal there was something recycled from the day before. Leftover corn muffins would be presented the next day, split, buttered and broiled. Every little dab of food would be eaten somehow and the food was respected. She is probably rolling over in her grave each time she sees me clean the refrigerator and throw out food.

3 Nicole September 4, 2008

For me, it’s a cost per serving. Under $3, I say frugal!

4 Dana September 4, 2008

What makes a meal frugal is the value I get out of it. Did everyone eat it and enjoy it? Did it have some nutritional value? Are there leftovers for another meal? Did it break the bank for me? A frugal meal generally will cost between $5-$10. Was it also frugal with my time? I guess I'm looking for the total package.

Danas last blog post..Will we survive?

5 strawberrygal2007 September 4, 2008

A frugal meal is one that uses readily available foods to obtain the quality and satisfaction that comes from a more expensive meal. For some it is adding an extra potato or two in the pot when an unexpected guest presents theirself at dinner. Perhaps it is enhanced with fresh herbs from the garden or table linens or candlelight. It is getting the most enjoyment and nutrition for the minimum amount of money and effort. Ambience is every bit as important a factor as the entree. Just turning off a nearby tv can enhance the dining experience.

6 Denise September 4, 2008

well, it wouldn’t be frugal if no one ate it and you ended up tossing the meal and eating cereal. (not that we ever do that).

Frugal would be less than $10 for my family of five for a dinner. It really is so much cheaper to eat our meals at home vs. out no matter where we go.

I bought a “pre-packaged” meal at Costco yesterday. It was 11.99. It was lettuce wraps with chicken and some rice noodles. I made some rice to go along with it. I was short on time so it was perfect. Everyone ate it and I even had leftovers today for lunch – a good frugal purchase I thought.

Denises last blog post..I didn’t think I would go there

7 neimanmarxist September 4, 2008

I think cost certainly has to do with making a meal frugal, but I think that there are two other things (that are related to cost, but not necessarily).
1) The meal doesn’t use any overly processed items (for example, one of my favorite dishes, vegan portobello-chard lasagna, uses rice cheese. Not only is rice cheese expensive, but it isn’t something easy to find. I get it in the refrigerated section of the natural foods store. )
2) It uses seasonal ingredients, preferably from the farmer’s market. For example, when I make courgettes with beans and bulgar wheat, that is frugal, because I make it in the summer when these items are readily available from farm stands.
3) It is really filling and satisfying. I associate frugal food with a big warm bellyful. I make a vegan shepherd’s pie that has carrots, potatoes, and lentils, and for a big nutritional punch you also end up feeling really full and happy.

So I think there is more to take into account that just cost. Like frugality itself, frugal food is about the way resources are deployed for maximum benefit. Not just about small expenses. That’s just being cheap 🙂

neimanmarxists last blog post..Ten Reasons You Should Learn To Cook

8 neimanmarxist September 4, 2008

ha! I said two and then i put three. you know what i mean.

neimanmarxists last blog post..Ten Reasons You Should Learn To Cook

9 Amiyrah September 5, 2008

By the definition you originally thought, a hot dog on the corner of New York City would classify as a “frugal” meal but I wouldn’t think of that as one. To me, a frugal meal is not only inexpensive, but feeds your family with healthy ingredients and can be re-used for other meals. Most of my meals during the week follow these “rules” because being frugal and not being wasteful go hand and hand with me. But when we have those “hot dog and fries” meals that only cost me a few bucks all together, I just count those as cheap rather than frugal. There won’t be leftovers to make into another meal and the nutritional values leave something to be desired.

Amiyrahs last blog post..August monthly totals

10 Amy September 5, 2008

I agree on the “cheap” vs. “frugal” distinction! We’re surrounded by food that is relatively cheap, but is absolutely horrible. I also think that a frugal meal is one that doesn’t use a lot of unnecessary ingredients, and relies on fresh, seasonal produce. I also find that treating meat as a flavoring or condiment rather than the center of a meal helps keep me on budget.

Amys last blog post..Back to Basics: Replace Bad Habits

11 elle September 5, 2008

oh, for us it definitely depends on the meal and/or the situation. sometimes, a frugal meal is the bottom line cost per serving; sometimes it is that we have a metric ton of it and can freeze / reheat for a long time to come; sometimes it’s making something that we initially were craving out but “recreated” at home – even if it’s bacon-wrapped shrimp goodness… 🙂 many times to me a frugal meal means that i had everything i needed in my pantry/freezer/fridge and didn’t have to make an extra trip anywhere. very thought-provoking question, thank you! 🙂

elles last blog post..bloom (sc) – 9/3-9/9

12 Ryan @ SpillingBuckets September 9, 2008

I agree with Dana’s total package view. Was it healthy, simple to make, relatively inexpensive, enjoyed by all, and maybe even fun?

Ryan @ SpillingBucketss last blog post..To the Presidential Candidates and the American People:

13 Sharon J September 12, 2008

Like most of your other commenters, to me frugal food means a combination of cost, taste, nutrition and availability. Here’s an example: a few days ago my OH was asked to bring in half a dozen best butcher’s sausages. He didn’t. Instead he’d bought the cheapest they had, being “frugal”. The result was that nobody ate the dinner because the sausages were so awful and put us off not only the toad-in-the-hole but we lost our appetites for everything else on the plate too. That was obviously far from frugal.

Sharon Js last blog post..F is for Family Meals – Spaghetti Bolognese

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