6 Ways to Stretch a Meal

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You eat.


Sometimes, we have more money than month and wonder how we’re going to avoid going hungry at the end of the month.   When the grocery budget has run out and the cupboards are almost bare, how do you keep the kids fed?

The secret is to keep some staple stocked all the time.  If you have these ingredients, you can stretch $1 of beef into a meal for 10 people.  Almost.


We buy rice 20 pounds at a time.   I try to keep a bowl of cooked rice on hand at all times.    When we cook a soup, stew, or hotdish, we add a cup or two of rice to the dish.   If we’re running late for dinner(a painful situation with a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, and an 11-year-old who’s about to hit 5′ 7″), we’ll dump a can of soup over the top of a bowl of rice.  A quick trip through the microwave, and we’ve got a reasonably healthy meal in 2 minutes.   Another trick is to add some to ground beef, whether it’s a meatloaf or sloppy joes.


This is another ingredient I try to keep on hand, cooked, and in the fridge.    We use it like we use the rice.  We add a cup to soup, or almost anything else.   Throw some barbecue sauce on them, and you’ve got pseudo-baked beans for cheaper than you can buy a can.  Mash them with taco seasoning and you have refried beans.    Add a cup to scrambled eggs for a filling breakfast.


There are so many ways to use potatoes to stretch a meal.  Shred them to cook with eggs or slice them onto a hotdish.   Cube them into soup or dice it as a thickener in stew.


Yet another item that can go into almost anything.    Before I met my wife, I’d make a dish that consisted of nothing more than whatever pasta I had on hand, with a can of soup, cooked until the pasta was done and most of the liquid was absorbed by the noodles.  I learned how to wield spices like a crazy Neptunian ninja.


Whenever we cook, whatever we eat, we make enough for leftovers.   When the leftovers are no longer enough to make a meal for anyone, they go in a bag in the freezer.   When we have enough, we put them all in a slow-cooker with some water and a ton of seasonings.     When we get home from work, we have a delicious soup waiting for us–free soup.   If we want stew, we throw in some rice.   By the end of the day, the rice has completely dissolved, transforming our delicious freaking soup into yummy dang stew.   Everything we make tastes good, so combining a dozen dishes into one soup should also taste good, right?   The exception: fish.  Never, ever add fish to free soup.  Trust me.


I don’t use bread to cook much, though it’s harder to get much cheaper than a grilled-cheese sandwich.   I like to serve a slice of bread with dinner.    It just makes the food feel more filling.

That’s how I make a meal for two stretch to feed my family of five, without sacrificing taste or nutrition.    How do you make a meal stretch?

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    1. Can’t believe bread was last on the list. That is our first choice to stretch a meal. Not only just a slice of bread, but we will toast it or even put in some garlic bread, maybe with cheese. Those little loaves are not bad in the stores to buy and add to the meal, but a simple slice will do it.

      Rice is the classic favorite in most houses and we do use it as well, but we made the switch to brown rice cause it is healthier for us….not so bad once you get use to the taste difference.

      • I’m from the midwest. In Minnesota, rice isn’t nearly as common as everywhere else. When it’s served, it’s either solo, with sugar and cinnamon, or glorified. It’s almost never in anything.

    2. a $20 rice maker is darn handy. Don’t pass up on that picnic ham because of the initial price is high. Sure it is huge and spendy, but it provides the initial meal, scalloped potatoes and ham, ham sandwiches, and then use the scraps and the bone for bean or split pea soup.

    3. We use a lot of ground beef/ground turkey. Soft tacos, chili, hamburgers, hamburger steaks, etc. Rice is definitely one of our staples too. 🙂

    4. But how do you stretch a meal while on the slow carb diet?

      Other than beans, I mean…. lol


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