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Meals you can serve when you have almost no food left in the house!


Most of you know that I run a very tight ship around here when it comes to our weekly grocery budget.  It is rare that I make room on my list for high-dollar grocery items like ground beef, macadamia nuts, and canned cream of coconut (the likes of which you’ve seen a lot of here lately.)  But the month of January brought many unusual changes to the Casey household.  Some bad… and some so very humbling and good!

I never expected my dad’s illness and sudden passing to prompt such an outpouring of generosity on my family.  People have brought over meals, supplied us with money for gas and other expenses, given me gift cards to my favorite restaurant, donated money for my siblings and I to attend a grief recovery retreat, babysat my daughter, cleaned my house, even rented me a U-Haul the day we cleaned out my dad’s house.  It has utterly blown me away!

So the decadent recipes you’ve seen here over the last few weeks are the direct result of all this generosity.  With a freezer full of meals at-the-ready, I figured why not spring for a little ground beef so I can share Spaghetti Pie with the masses? 😉

But… don’t think this means I’ve become a softy!

I’m pinching my pennies just as much as ever, because I’ve still got my eye on that dream house I keep pinning pictures of!

So in the spirit of penny-pinching, I wanted to share a quick list with you today.  This is a list of meals you can put on the table when you’re reeeeeally stretching to get to that next grocery day.  (Meals that will do the job of filling your belly and nourishing you, at least somewhat, until you can replenish the fridge and pantry.)

One of my favorite challenges in the grocery-budgeting-game is putting a shopping date on the calendar and refusing to break down and go to the store before that date.

Sometimes that means you’ll go a few days without milk at the end of a week…

Sometimes it means oatmeal for other meals besides breakfast…

Sometimes it means smaller portions.  (Who doesn’t need that once in a while??)

But it also means you’re exercising discipline and sacrifice… And that you are awesome!


So here are a few of my suggestions for “Pinch Hitter” meals, when the fridge and pantry are nearly bare.  Please throw out your own suggestions in the comments section so we can all expand our arsenal of pinch hitters.  Goodness knows I could use em’!


Pinch Hitters - Meal Ideas for when you have no food in the house (or so it seems)  |  prettyhungryblog.com


1) French Toast –

Filling (thanks to protein-packed eggs), yummy, and a great way to stretch ingredients that may be past their prime (like bread!)  Bonus: You don’t need sandwich bread… you can use French Bread, Sourdough, even sliced dinner rolls!

2) Baked Potatoes –

Cheap cheap cheap, full of potassium, and a great vehicle for whatever you have!  Even if you’re short on the traditional favorites like sour cream, cheese, or bacon, you can always try mixing it up!  Chopped frozen broccoli with canned Parmesan cheese… salsa with black beans… chopped tomatoes with Italian herb seasoning… caramelized onions and a bit of beef broth or bouillon… seriously, your options here are endless!

3) Oatmeal –

Don’t knock it, Man!  Oatmeal is a cozy meal any time of day that supplies you with loads of heart-healthy fiber.  I particularly love keeping steel-cut oats on hand because they have such a nutty flavor and satisfying, chewy texture.

4) PB & J –

Cuz who doesn’t do this sometimes (and secretly love it)?

5) Michelina’s frozen entrees –

I’m kinda evangelistic about Michelina’s frozen entrees.  They regularly go on sale at my local Kroger for 88 cents each, so I buy them in bulk whenever that sale is going on.  You cannot beat an 88-cent meal!  I will say that I haven’t tried them all… so I can’t vouch for every single entree they make.  But I particularly love the Lasagna, Veggie Lasagna, Manicotti, Pizza Bites, and Buffalo Chicken Bites.

6) “Leftovers” Soup –

If you have an onion and a few odds and ends in the crisper, you can usually throw together a decent soup.  It is especially helpful if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet or a few herb bushes in the yard.  (Also, this is why I never throw away chicken bones or leftovers from restaurants.  The most meager leftovers can really enhance a soup!)

7) Omelettes –

Of course this is assuming you have eggs on hand (enough for each family member to have a couple)… so it may be a long shot.  But it’s still worth mentioning because sometimes people don’t think of omelettes for lunch or dinner.  And even if you only have enough for 1 egg per person, you can bulk up an omelette with leftover mashed potatoes, any veggies and seasonings you have lying around, even a little flour and milk to give them a crepe-like consistency!

8) “Doctored-Up” Mac n’ Cheese –

I never serve Macaroni and Cheese on its own… I just can’t justify calling it a “meal.”  But I definitely serve it often (especially to myself!)  My trick is to mix in frozen broccoli, or canned tuna, or a few heaping spoonfulls of hummus (or all of the above.)  And you know who else loves it?  My little one!


Pinch Hitters- Meal Ideas for when there's no food left in the house!


Hope these ideas provide a little fresh inspiration for the days you find yourself struggling against the temptation to head to the store early.  You can do it!  And be sure to send your own ideas my way. :)

Much love,



Here is a quick list of meals you can serve when the cupboards are nearly bare!





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8 Responses so far.

  1. Sarah says:

    my go-to is rice. sometimes with black beans and some homemade taco seasoning, sometimes just plain w/ a little butter. we had #9 on your list tonight with frozen veggies and applesauce. :)

  2. Jennifer says:

    Here’s the smartest money saver I’ve read on a blog, and I wish I could remember which one so I could give credit. When you chop veggies like onions, carrots, and celery, toss the ends in a bag in the freezer. As you cook other meals, add the stems from parsley and mushrooms. When you are ready to make stock-with or without bones-you have “free” veggies. Why buy whole vegetables to make broth?

    Also, I toss a handful of beans into all kinds of dishes. They take on the flavor of whatever they are added to, contribute protein, and are filling. I cook beans of all kinds and lay them single layer in bags in the freezer so I can just break off what I need easily.

  3. I am all about the pastas. You can stretch them to really extend a meal. Something I did purely by accident last summer that is now a family favorite. I had some leftover pasta salad in the fridge with some chicken in it. But I forgot it was a cold salad and I heated in the microwave and loved it. Now a favorite for supper hot instead of cold. Didn’t realize how good that ranch dressing which was in the pasta salad would be hot.
    And thanks for all your savings tips, I am so gonna try the calendar shopping day.

  4. Katy Resop says:

    Carissa, have you ever heard of or used TVP (textured vegetable protein)? It’s an AMAZING, cheap, healthy substitute for all ground beef. We buy it in bulk on Amazon and use it to make one of our staple “pinch hitters,” TVP tacos. Simply toss some TVP in a skillet, add some water to “hydrate,” then add the salsa of your choice (we always buy that in bulk when it’s on sale). Season with oregano and cumin to your taste, maybe even some cayenne. We always have fajita shells on hand (we buy when on sale and freeze them). Add some cheese and lettuce, if you like, and maybe even some sriracha, and VOILA. TACOS! On the CHEAP.

  5. […] I didn’t have on hand.  Sweetened Condensed Milk.  And you all know about my aversion to going back to the grocery store in the middle of the week for single ingredients.  I don’t do it!  Period.  I’m a budgeting mama and that is […]

  6. […] to stretch the last remnants of our pantry and fridge til grocery day (as usual) and all my go-to pinch hitters were non-options… (I didn’t even have bread in the house!)  But I did have bread […]