November 20, 2017

Save Money by Cooking Creatively


Saving money by cooking creatively and sticking to a really small budget is a talent that every one can learn. The more accurate question is “Do you really want to?”

Unfortunately, these suggestions will not be of  help to those whose family members want their meat separated from their veggies.  Learning to feed your family on a budget is all about getting the creative juices going in the process. Cooking meals from the pantry really challenges oneself to think outside the box, and experiment with different flavors and presentations (or lack thereof). 🙂

While I understand that many of you are “by the book, give me the recipe and I’ll follow it” type of cooks, take baby steps from your comfortable cook book realm and start ad libbing with recipes.  It’s a must if you really want to cut those grocery costs and eat from your pantry/freezer on a regular basis.

Let’s start with this dinner, and see how some creative cooking can occur. Now remember, this isn’t a tutorial on gourmet meals, it’s about eating well on a budget, using what you have on hand.

Ask your self, “What do I really need to use up?”

I still have a ton of frozen veggies and bags of dried mashed potatoes that I got for free, so I thought…”Shepherd’s Pie. ” It can cover a multitude of over stuffed pantry and freezer sins. (And of course, you may use home made mashed potatoes for sure, but these were surprisingly good in here.)

I cooked up some  ground beef, but maybe you already did this during your freezer cooking Day. Then, season it well. (Creative cooking is ALL in the seasoning, people!) You can be creative here. Mix and match your ground meats…what has fallen to the bottom of your freezer? Ground pork, chuck, turkey…it’s all good. 🙂

Then I layered frozen shoe peg corn and a bag of shredded zucchini that I hadn’t used from this “Do the Next Thing” day. If I had some lentils or barley cooked up, I would have added some of that as well. I perused the dairy portion of the fridge…hmm…way too much cottage cheese is left. So, yes,  I layered some cottage cheese, but if I had a ton of cream cheese, I would have added a mixture of the two. I know, what you’re thinking, but the cottage cheese was REALLY good.

At this point in the recipe making, my daughter declared, “That is so gross looking.”

“Why yes, honey, it is, but wait until you try it….you’re going to love it.”

I used my Ore-Ida “mashed potatoes,” added two cups of sour cream just to assure that home made taste, sprinkled a little cheese, and VOILA…creative cooking on a budget.

This is not going to win any type of food presentation award, but I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious it was. We polished off an entire heaping 9×13 pan with all of the boys wanting more. If you have picky eaters, this is a recipe that you should make when they are not around. It’s a great way to hide veggies and miscellaneous food products hiding in your fridge/pantry.

When it’s time to eat, just light those candles and enjoy the amazing ambiance and satisfaction of creative cooking…using only what you had on hand. It’s a good thing!

TastyTuesday200pix Welcome to my new home   Tasty Tuesday


  1. Jen, that sounds sooooo yummy. I am definitely going to be making this soon!


  2. Your creation reminds me of shephard pie, which is a great way to use up leftovers! I love using up leftovers in soups and chili’s. My post this week shows how I plan ahead to use up leftovers.


  3. OK Jenn….
    I am one of those people that likes to mix things together like mashed potatoes w/corn and meatloaf but really? Was the cottage cheese part good? You lost me @the cottage cheese :).

    Maybe I’ll try it and ad lib a bit.


    Jens Reply:

    @christa todd, Seriously, Christa, it was SO good. It mixed right in with all the cheese flavor and added a lot of creaminess…now, if you don’t like cottage cheese to start with, that may be a different story, but you couldnt’ even tell it was cottage cheese.


  4. It seriously looked good to me! Thanks for the idea’s! And thanks so much for hosting –


  5. That looks great! What a wonderful way to use up all sorts of odds and ends! I will keep that one in mind. Thanks Jen!


  6. Yum! Except I have different things in my pantry and freezer to use! However, making up recipes comes easy to me so I like to make things like this. And, thankfully, my husband eats anything and we’re teaching our young children to do the same. 🙂


  7. Jen, that sounds just wonderful to me. I’m afraid my family would be in the “Ewww” category. But if they would actually taste it, I think they’d like it. Arrggghhhh.

    One way that even those of us with picky eaters can get away with mixing things up is by making homemade soups. For some reason the mix of things doesn’t seem to bother my picky ones nearly so much if it’s in a soup or stew.

    Hope your challenge month is going great!


  8. I too raised a brow at the cottage cheese! 🙂 But what a great way to add protein to a vegetarian dish!!

    I admire you for being able to throw things together! My experiments don’t always turn out! 🙂 I’m blessed to have an understanding husband!


  9. Two thumbs up for you! I am not always the most creative cook. You’re right, it’s a must when you’re on a budget. Thanks for hosting, Jen! 🙂


  10. Jen, you’re SO creative in cooking for that family of yours!

    I’m sharing Pork Chops Ole today, it’s a good one too, with that Mexican flavor. My hubby loves it!


  11. I’m all about creative cooking. Candles make almost anything look beautiful. I think your creative dishes look wonderful!


  12. Mmmm….Shepherd’s Pie is such a delicious, comfort food to me!


  13. I agree – cooking creatively can use up what you have, be resourceful and produce some amazing dishes!!! I love doing that with soups especially.


  14. Although I think all of these look like they’d be worth a try, my creativity always has to involve separation…my kids are definately …”family members [who] want their meat separated from their veggies”…

    As any good midwesterner should, though, I do throw in a ‘hot dish’ here and there…I mean, how can my kids be from Minnesota and not like even one thing mixed with cream of mushroom soup, a meat and a veggie ;D

    Thanks for sharing your creative ideas!


  15. My mouth is watering, Jen! Kelly


  16. I love your site and all the inspiring ideas and tips! I’m loving the Eat from the Pantry Challenge!


  17. Frankly, although chicken is my favorite meal, I am getting tired of the way it is prepared in the fast food places like KFC or El Pollo Loco…please publish a recipe that will take this meal to another level without breaking my wallet!


    Glenda Reply:

    @Cooking On A Budget, I can recommend Crockpot Chicken with Black Beans and Cream Cheese
    Spicy Chinese Chicken

    Both are delicious and made with items straight out of my pantry.


  18. Jen from Germany says:

    I just also want to encourage those of you who do like your meat and veggies seperately that it can be done. While many of you have access to all kinds of deals, I only have the commissary. With that said, I was still able to cut my grocery budget in half this month and have amazingly good food. I am happy to tell you that it just takes creativity like Jen said!


  19. Great food photography! It looks delicious.


  20. This is more my speed! I landed on the “Beautiful Food” post first, but I’m still working on getting my concoctions (I mean creations) to taste good 🙂 Lucky for me, my husband eats anything with a smile. I’m glad I stopped by. This looks delicious and I always need new recipes!


Share Your Thoughts