Top Ten Fantastic Frugalicious Foods

I’m a huge fan of fantastic frugal foods. I’ve written previously on these whole “real foods” and defined them as frugalicious. Frugalicious is a word I made up to describe foods which are delicious, frugal, and healthy. I’ve even updated my handy dandy spell checker to confirm frugalicious as a valid word.

Since I hate fake food and would rather see you eat healthfully and frugally, I’ve put together a list of my favorite frugal foods. Some of these foods you’ll easily recognize while others may be new to you. Don’t be shy, give them a try!

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Here are my top ten fantastic frugalicious foods to keep you healthy and wealthy:

1. Dried Beans:

I love soaking and cooking dried beans. Dried beans are cheap, healthy, environmentally friendly, protein rich, and delicious. If you love beans like I do, try switching from canned to dried to frugally save big bucks. If you’re not convinced, here’s ten reasons why you should become a keener beaner and get soaked with dried beans.

2. Quinoa:

Have you heard of quinoa? Well let me introduce you to this nutritional marvel. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) packs a nutritional punch. It is a tiny sesame-seed size grain high in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most grains. Quinoa is considered a complete protein because it contains all eight essential amino acids. Quinoa can be used in place of rice or other similar grains. I eat it for breakfast (like oatmeal) with milk and apples. Quinoa is a super frugalicious food packed with health benefits. To buy quinoa just check out the grocery bulk section. Learn more on cooking quinoa and get some quinoa recipes high in nutrition.

3. Natural Peanut Butter:

Are you nuts for peanuts? I sure am. I love natural yummy peanut butter. The ingredients on my jar are simply: peanuts. Avoid the hydrogenated butters with added salt and sugar. Food companies like to hydrogenate their butters to prevent the oil from separating. Hydrogenation is terrible for your heart and health. If you don’t like the peanut oil on top, then just drain it in the sink. The added bonus is you’ll have a lower fat peanut butter.

4. Flax:

My nutritionist friends are always singing the praises of flax seed and flax seed oil. I only started adding flax to my oatmeal, salad dressing, and smoothies. Apparently, flax contains high levels of lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids (which are kinda good for you). Lignans may benefit the heart and may possess anti-cancer properties. I’m not a flax expert or anything, but I’m happy to add a source of Omega-3 to my diet frugally. If you get whole flax seeds, you gotta grind them to enable full digestion and absorption of all the good flax stuff. I use my coffee grinder for the flax grinding task

5. Quark:

Ever heard of quark? No worries, I hadn’t either until my European “better half” introduced me to quark a few years ago. Originating from Germany, quark is a wonderfully versatile smooth cheese with a light, tangy flavor. Quark is kind of a cross between cheese and yogurt. It is created from either skim milk, partially skim milk, or whole milk. I usually eat quark prepared in a German dessert called “Quarkspeise”. In this recipe the quark is mixed with several cups of orange juice to sweeten the cheese and turn it into more of a yogurt consistency. Fresh fruits like strawberries, mango, and apples are then added to taste. This is one delicious frugalicious dish.

6. Eggs:

What can I say about eggs? They are affordable, healthful, and yummy. Eggs can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A good source of protein, eggs are an eggceptionally flexible food as they can be fried, boiled (hard or soft), tossed, scrambled, steamed, or turned into a flavorful omelet. If you are concerned about cholesterol and fat, try eating just the egg white. I often have egg white omelets for breakfast or lunch.

7. Fruits:

I love frugalicious fruit. My favorites are apples, oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit, mangos, pears, bananas, and on and on. Fruits are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals. Fruits are affordable and healthy. For a fun healthy snack, I slice an apple and add a little bit of peanut butter for dipping. Yummy.

8. Veggies:

Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are essential to any frugalicious diet. I often eat leafy greens, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, green peas, green beans, kale, salad…I could go on forever. I love veggies, and usually fill my grocery cart with affordable, yummy for my tummy, slimming veggies. Many green veggies are high in calcium and excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

9. Lean meats:

OK, buying meat can be an expensive source of protein. But if you purchase small quantities of organic meats, you can be frugal by maximizing healthful cuts with smaller portion sizes. If you’re a vegetarian or on a strict protein budget, buy dried beans and soak them. I tend to buy small portions of lean fish, chicken, and beef. I also eat a lot of beans.

10. Steel Cut Oatmeal:

Stop buying instant and rolled oatmeal and give steel cut oatmeal a try! Steel cut oatmeal is by far the tastiest and arguably most nutritious oatmeal around. Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces. These oat pieces take longer to cook than other precooked varieties, but are well worth the extra cooking time. The texture is creamy and chewy and far better than any instant or near instant breakfast cereal. Steel cut oatmeal is high in fiber, low in fat, contains protein, iron, and has no cholesterol. I buy mine for cents and pennies in bulk food stores. To prepare my oats, I just cook a batch Sunday evening, refrigerate, and microwave a portion each morning with some fruit. It’s quick, healthy, and easy if you plan a little ahead of time. If you love oatmeal, do yourself a frugalicious favor by forgoing the packaged sugar icky types and trying steel cut.

Frugalicious foods just make sense. What are your favorite frugalicious foods?

Your two cents:

  1. Kyle Paterson March 14th, 2008

    Cinnamon – I put cinnamon in most things I make. It is a great addition to the taste if you want it to be (use less if you do not). I usually put a little spoonful in oatmeal and/or shakes.

    Cinnamon helps to control blood sugar levels… 1 up for your heart!

    Pumpkin Seeds – just grab some and eat; especially if you are a fella. Tests have been done and males who consume pumpkin seeds daily have a much lower rate of death. Period.

    Celery – I don’t necessarily enjoy the taste but the calories burned processing celery is greater then the calorie intake from eating them. If you are hungry due to bordem, stress, etc. then eat some celery.

    Boiled Onion – My grandma taught me this one. She told me it was pretty common among the commoners in Scotland at the time. It’s a poor man’s food, but it is a tasty poor man’s food.

    Chard – Swiss Chard… carotinoid loaded… like carrots… protect retinas… I like my retinas.

    Bran Buds (I know not frugal… but…) – if you only have the recommended daily serving in a bowl of yogurt then the box lasts quite some time and it will certainly keep you regular; especially if you splurg for a pro-biotic yogurt.

    Water – from the TAP! In Britian they are considering charging people who buy water bottles for home consumption… In Africa they would love the water we have in North America. India would, China would, actually Asia would. I know those from the Middle East would sure love our tap water since they are often in short supply. So drink tap water. Drink a cup before every meal and at every meal.

    Almonds – expensive? yes, if you eat 50/sitting. Not if you consume the recommended amount of 10-15 a day. Almonds have higher fat (good Saturated Fats, not like BigMacs) which fills you up and makes you snack less which can lead to greater weight loss. Also good for your cholestoral and diabities concerns. It is low in the glycemix index too.

    (I just noticed this little piece from an article I looked up for almonds “Spead some nut butter on your morning toast”, it made me laugh… maybe not you)

    English Muffins – I am IRON MAN! Iron is very important, most of us are deficient in Iron which makes us zzzzleeepy. (you can get it from beans, meat, fish but you eat English Muffins in the morning)

    Green Tea – so many benefits, some proven, some not. Way better then coffee and you do not have to add crapola to it (you just have to train your taste buds). I take green tea packs when I travel and have Tim Hortons fill up my mug with hot water and I also am hardly adverse for asking for hot water when at restaurants… but you may have more respect for the establishment and be willing to pay 1000%+ markup on your bag of tea)

  2. fox March 14th, 2008

    Kyle: I want to give you a frugalicious hug. This is a rock star list of fantastic foods (mostly frugal) which can really make a difference in people’s health. I eat 95 percent of the foods you list here. I love chard…LOVE IT. Chard was also on my list…but I made myself stick to just Ten foods. I too add cinnamon to most of my foods, especially oatmeal, quinoa, and yogurt. YUMMY pumpkin seeds…I have a big cannister filled with these yummy seeds. Pumpkin seeds are wonderful on salads, in soups, and on stews as well. I am so with you on bottled water. A good friend of mine (princess) writes to me often on the evils of bottled water…which reminds me I should post on this matter. I often eat whole natural almonds. I agree, almonds are not really frugal for the budget-wise, but just a few is really all you need. Green Tea is also a wonderful addition to the list. So full of good things! Bringing the tea bags with you is VERY VERY frugal, great idea! The only options you list which I do not partake are the boiled onion (my better half may love this though)…and celery. Celery is the ONLY veggie which I cannot stomach. There’s just something about it…to me it’s more of a science project I suppose. I always picture a stalk of celery sitting in a glass with ink or dye, and then the capillaries draw up the dye into the leaves. So yeah, celery has always given me the ick. 😉

  3. tijmetje March 17th, 2008

    Very nice list of foods. Especially the beans. I love thm and should really get in the habit of proper meal planning to make good use of the many varieties I’ve managed to hoard.
    I’ve also just started trying flax seeds. I’ve been playing with the oil for a while now, but there seem to be some benefits to using the seeds instead.
    And I’ve been puzzled by people’s insistence on bottled water for years now. I really don’t get it, especially since I’ve always lived in areas where water tasted nice enough to drink without extra filtration.

    I have some questions about the oatmeal, though. I’ve been meaning to get back into the habit of eating oaty breakfasts again, but one of the things stopping me has been laziness. Making a batch once in a while sounds like a great idea, though. I was just wondering how long you can keep a batch like that. A few days, a week? And do you make it with some kind of milk? As I’m a vegan, I usually made it with soya milk, which might make a difference.
    Also, does it *need* to be reheated? I currently don’t have access to a microwave, though I could heat it up on the stove. But since I’m lazy (I mentioned that before, right?), I wouldn’t mind avoiding that step to save me some dishwashing.
    And how do you store it? I have a bunch of plastic containers, but I’m not sure I have a large one.

    I would like to add that root vegetables, at least around here, always seem pretty cheap and you can easily make tasty meals with them.

  4. tijmetje March 17th, 2008

    ETA: Misspelled the site address. *forehead slap* Fixed it now.

  5. fox March 17th, 2008

    tijmetje: No worries about the typo site address, I fixed it for ya! 😉

    You have some good questions regarding oatmeal. I cook mine in water. I tend to cook a batch every Sunday night, and then refrigerate it in a glass container/pan for the week. I find it lasts until I’ve eaten it all by Friday or Saturday. I use the Steel Cut Oats type of oatmeal, so maybe this cut has a longer fridge life then the rolled oat variety. I think oat varieties with little processing and no sugar will last longer when refrigerated. I do reheat my oatmeal, only cause I like it hot. I see no reason why it needs to be reheated if that is your preference. It could just be eaten like cold cereal. I only add milk to my oatmeal after it’s been reheated and it’s ready for my morning meal. The added milk is just a preference though…my sister uses soy milk on her morning cereal and she’s pretty happy with the taste. I hope this helps!

  6. Anne March 18th, 2008

    Great list! I am finding my interests are leading me to read a lot of personal finance books and food books, so this is a nice tie-in to both my interests. I’m particularly interested in how health and environmentally conscious living can also be more frugal than mainstream choices are.

    I also do the steel-cut oats and stopped for a while but will make a pan tonight to get back on track with it. It’s so good!

    To the poster who asked about heating them up, you could also heat them in a non-stick pan as an oatcake for the morning if you don’t want to microwave.

    My other fave foods (other than the many already on your list!):

    Yoghurt (buy plain with no gross gelatin additives or make your own, it’s pretty easy!). I add it to smoothies with blueberries, bananas and ground flax, use it in place of sour cream on soups and with salsa.

    Hummous. Again, make your own though I have been using canned chickpeas and should really explore soaking dried and really making it from scratch! I like it with carrots and celery for a snack and I can control how much oil goes into it, keeping it lower fat than the store varieties.

    Speaking of carrots I’ve broken the peeled baby carrot addiction and I buy whole organic carrots and when I get them home I wash and chop them and store them in water in the fridge, grabbing a handful every morning when I pack my lunch.

    Lentils, particularly in soups and stews. There’s also an amazing veggie burger recipe in the Moosewood cookbook for lentil-based patties that freezes well.

    My friend Katie invented an amazing morning muffin which I like to make and freeze for easy grabbing. http://katiethemermaidgirl.blogspot.com/2008/01/updated-muffin-recipe.html

    If I think of more, I’ll be back!

  7. Ryan March 19th, 2008

    Here’s a tip you can use to get more flax into your diet. One tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water works as a 1:1 substitute for 1 egg. I try to limit my intake of eggs so I always use this substitute when baking anything.

    Quinoa is great with cut up banana as a breakfast meal and also mixes well with curry and beans as a substitute to rice.

  8. tijmetje March 19th, 2008

    Thanks, Fox and Anne!
    After reading/hearing about steel-cut oats several times, I should see if those things are available here.

    I can’t believe I forgot about hummus. That stuff is brilliant, and once I started making my own, I wonder why the hell anyone actually pays for the convenience of store-bought.
    Now that I’ve learned I can actually freeze that stuff, I should go and make me a ncie big batch.

  9. beth March 19th, 2008

    I’m also a fan of the tap water! Especially if you are fortunate enough to live in a place where tap water is of high standards like in Canada, please don’t contribute to excess plastic/glass bottle waste by bringing Nestle’s tap water in single size servings into your home.
    To my tap water, I will add concentrated OJ. Check out the difference between pasteurizing a juice (a la tropicana) vs concentrating a juice (a la frozen OJ). I’m not an expert, but aren’t you paying twice the price for more water? Is it better water if it was originally in the fruit itself instead of coming from your tap? I don’t know.
    With quinoa — sub it in for rice in any risotto recipe. Delicious.
    Similar to quinoa, but smaller, nuttier, and (imo) tastier, amaranth. Toast it up for a popcorn like treat that doesn’t stick in your teeth, too!
    Wine: no, not very cheap. But your local wine is likely a lot cheaper than foreign stuff — I know the Okanagan Valley has some spectacular and reasonably priced wines 🙂 And if you get ambitious, making your own wine can cost as little as 1 dollar a bottle!

  10. Sarah April 2nd, 2008

    I’m really into quinoa, but my local Trader Joe’s seems to have phased it out of inventory for now, which is lame.

    I know this isn’t exactly what you were asking for, but I bought a HUGE bag of good quality turmeric from my local Indian grocery for about $2.00. I recommend skipping the supermarket when buying spices, because often you can get a lot more spice for a lot less money if you utilize your local Asian/Indian/Mexican/Croation/Minoan, etc. food stores.

    I add it to almost anything. Like cinnamon, it’s VERY good for you (it’s a very potent anti-inflammatory). But be careful — it stains.

  11. Eric April 23rd, 2008

    Pretty good stuff, and some great ideas.
    About the natural peanut butter. I put mine into my stand mixer after opening a new jar. This mixes in the oil really well and will stay mixed in until the jar is empty. (well it only take me a week to empty, so I have not gone longer than that to know). But this works really well..

    Thanks

    Eric

  12. Shirley July 3rd, 2008

    So many good ideas! My family does not like green tea but I am hooked on brown rice/green tea – both from Korea and Japan (genmaicha). For the summer I make a pot of it, put it into a pitcher when it is cool – add a bit of honey and ice if I want a cold drink. I also mix 1/4 cold tea with 3/4 fruit juice for my family. (Any fruit juice works) They don’t notice any taste difference but it makes the expensive 100% juice go further and gives them the additional benefit of green tea.

  13. Sharon J August 4th, 2008

    Excellent list!

    I’ve always given my children tap water to eat with their mains meals rather than fruit juice etc. It doesn’t conflict with the taste of the food and is sooooooo frugal. Fruit juice belongs with breakfast.

  14. Christine January 9th, 2009

    I love your list. Sounds like your “better half” is a “bessere Haelfte” and made in Germany. 😉 If so tell him “Herzliche Gruesse und Danke” if not tell him I said thanks for sharing you with us.

    Quark (Topfen in Bavaria and Austria) is wonderful. In summer it is delicious if you mix it with still frozen strawberries or raspberries. It’s better than icecream.

    And it makes a great cheesecake.

    Where do YOU buy it?

    Greetings from Ravensburg (where they make the puzzles)

  15. Christine January 9th, 2009

    @Kyle TAP Water

    I am glad you mentioned it. It is cheap and almost everywhere available. My father used to be head of the local waterworks and he says it is better than what you buy in bottles.

    @all

    I drink verbena tea (aka vervain tea). I use the whole leaves. You don’t have to take them out, the tea won’t turn bitter. Great if you’re at work. The leaves look beautiful in a glas. I love the taste of it, warm or cold. It has a soft touch of lemons and you don’t need sugar. Try it, you will love it.

  16. Squawkfox's "bessere Haelfte" January 9th, 2009

    Christine, I certainly am “made in Germany”! 🙂

    In our area Quark is available from several local specialty stores. There is enough of a German population in the area that a larger Dutch dairy in the area produces it.

    I grew up with Quark — as Quarkspeise, as a spread on bread, and of course as part of a proper German Kaesekuchen. North American “cheesecake” just doesn’t compare.

    And of course, Ravensburger games and puzzles were another thing I grew up with! 🙂

  17. Christine January 11th, 2009

    @Squawkfox’s “bessere Haelfte”
    You are lucky then, because Quark was one of the few things I missed when staying with my friend in Mississippi. But of course that was ages ago and nowadays we can get almost everything everywhere in the global village.

    While reading your post I just thought how wonderful it is mixed with fresh herbs, a good olive oil, a little bit of garlic (if you like) salt and pepper and spread on a warm potatoe. That’s my kind of fast food.

    @all:
    I am not much into dieting but to those many who are on a low carb diet Quark is extremly low fat and very rich in protein.

    Talking of diary food I want to share a really frugal way to make your yoghurt at home. It is easy as pie because you don’t have to heat the milk you just heat the water.
    Absolutely no fussing with heating milk and controling temperature.

    It safes me a lot of time, money, waste and energy!

    Read more on

    http://www.greatfood.ie/item_display.asp?cde=8&id=1036

    In Germany you can buy it via amazon.de:

    http://www.amazon.de/My-Yo-Joghurtmaker-der-stromlose-Joghurtbereiter/dp/B001MZSY7S/

    I love it just the way it is. But for my little niece I add some grounded vanilla and maple syrup.

  18. Alice August 20th, 2012

    If you eat eggs, there isn’t really any need to add flax to your diet…?

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