Meal Planning on a Budget: How to Utilize What You Already Have to Save on Groceries

Image from Tips for Survivalists

A lot of people find themselves struggling in the area of budgeting, especially for creating healthy, yet frugal meals for the entire family. But the thing is, there really is a way to save on meals by creating budget-friendly courses with ingredients that are already made available in your pantry.


Know What You Already have in Stock

You’ll be surprised at how much you can slash off your budget if you can take good inventory of useable items in your fridge, pantry or freezer. So instead of buying new ingredients found in the grocery list that you have made, why not use what you have first!

Image from Dacor

How to Use What You Have to Save On Groceries

So you maybe have a random mix of veggies, soup, a cup of rice and some beans on your fridge and you get into thinking how “there’s nothing to eat in there”, because it really feels that way. Your fridge is not filled to the brim and you have a mix of ingredients that does not seem to fit together.

Given the case, why don’t you try putting those random ingredients together to create something totally new? Throw everything together plus some seasoning to create some yummy soup. When in doubt, soup is a sure fire way of stretching something so little.  Make use of broth if you have some, or water if you don’t.  Add some bay leaves with your veggies and lentils, then cook until it tastes “brothy” enough.

Some Rice and Beans Variations

Ham/bacon + salt and pepper = Southern

Tomatoes + taco seasoning = Mexican

Tomatoes + curry powder = Indian

Oregano + olives + lemon = Mediterranean

The gist here is to just get your creative juices flowing so you can create meals that don’t always depend on “recipes” that require you to buy a new slew of ingredients every single time you need to prepare a meal.

Below are some more examples of how you can do some variations on most people’s pantry staples:


You can do:

Skillet potatoes


Mashed potatoes

Potato soups

Baked potatoes with toppings


You may use pasta with any meat or vegetable toppings that you have available, or go meatless i you don’t have any.  Just add sauce and a bit of seasoning.

To create a basic white sauce:  Mix equal amounts of butter and flour to create a roux. Add milk and mix until it thick. Season with pepper and a bit of salt.

To create a basic cheese sauce: Do the same as with the white sauce, just add cheese.

To create a basic marinara sauce:  Prepare butter and garlic.  Melt the butter and add the minced garlic. Cook on low heat and toss with hot pasta.


  1. Curry
  2. Sloppy joes
  3. Soup
  4. Lentils with rice

Left-over meat

  1. Stuff it in pizza dough
  2. Add in stir-fry
  3. Add to grilled sandwiches
  4. Add to soup
  5. Top in pasta
  6. Add into salad
  7. Make into a casserole

Flour, Yeast, Eggs, Milk and Butter

  1. Make pancakes
  2. Make crepes
  3. Create biscuits
  4. Turn into tortillas
  5. Make into waffles
  6. Bake into breads
  7. Make English muffins
  8. Turn into pizza dough

So the challenge for you is to take inventory of the available ingredients in your pantry and come up with as many ideas as you can in order to make use of those. It takes practice but once you already get the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save with your groceries by maximizing what you already have.