Frugal Cold-Weather Comfort Foods (Eat Well, Spend Less)

One of the great things about winter is that so many of our favorite comfort foods happen to be really frugal, too. If I can contain most of my baking urges to breads and main dishes and skip the buttery, sugary desserts, we're all set! ;)

I'm partial to some of these foods because they remind me of my childhood -- cold Ohio winters, sitting in the kitchen of my parents' old farmhouse, eating foods we'd grown and preserved throughout the warmer months. But before that starts sounding too rosy -- I do remember all the hard WORK involved... ;)

Eat Well, Spend Less series

My family "did things" very simply. Special events were a bit rare and a big deal, and holidays were special because special stuff just didn't happen that often. We didn't have elaborate celebrations or gift exchanges, but that was okay. A day off school because of snowfall, or family gatherings -- it was special because it was our family... and I like that.

...and, our favorite cold-weather comfort foods are pretty simple, too.

Beans! Oh, all right, you already know I love beans... filling, delicious, and frugal. I almost always cook my beans from dried beans. I either cook a big batch and freeze some of them, or cook a big batch and we eat all of them!

On a chilly day, some freshly cooked beans waiting in the crock pot is a perfect meal. And not many perfect meals are that cheap. ;)

What do I like besides pinto beans (and some toppings)? Here are a few easy from-dried-grains recipes for variety:

White chili is so easy, and a welcome change if you eat "regular" chili often. We love this soup!

Hearty Beef and Lentil Chili is one of my newer discoveries. If you've never cooked with lentils, this is a great place to start!

Lentils don't get any easier than this Easy Lentil Soup recipe! Despite its simplicity, it's delicious. Our whole family likes it. I got lentils in bulk (25#) and this is one of the ways I serve them! :)

This veggie bean soup with spinach is one of my personal favorites. I can't get over how good it is -- when I follow the recipe. ;) It's meatless, colorful, and affordable. I like to buy the big 3-pound bags of spinach at Costco and make several meals with spinach, including this soup! (Leftovers freeze great, as well.)

This Gourmet Bean Soup is really as easy as 1, 2, and 3. You may end up standing at the stove wondering if you really did everything you were supposed to do for this recipe! Start it early, and then get busy doing other fun stuff (or make some dinner rolls and a salad while the soup cooks). :)

Beef and Barley Soup is one of my childhood favorites. I have a similar version made using wheat: Wheat Berry Soup.

My mom's vegetable soup... one of the common Sunday lunches after church. My mom would make this in the morning, leave it to simmer, and we'd come home to a hot lunch (only we called it dinner, of course). Having vegetable soup in the crock pot (or in the fridge, waiting to be warmed up) is one of my best tactics for affordably filling hungry tummies after a day (or part of a day) away from home. :)

While this one won't save you time (compared to making loaves of bread), it really ups the presentation of your pennies-per-cup soup when you serve it in a homemade bread bowl! Everyone LOVES these bread bowls when I make them. :)

Easier beans or soups during busy days and weeks:

Make large batches and freeze leftovers for a quick meal later.

Bread or rolls (made and then frozen) are a great side with soup.

Most soup recipes can be easily adapted for the crock pot.

Have a plan! My downfall is that soups need to be started early, despite the little hands-on time required. Having a menu plan is a huge help! :)

A favorite winter tradition: Sunday night popcorn! Dark before 5 in the evening, and we'd pull out the air popper and pop lots and lots of popcorn. My mom usually served home-canned apple juice or grape juice with our popcorn. Popcorn is a great frugal snack (even though I don't grow my own). :)

I don't usually get too fancy with beverages, but here are a couple I turn to when a friend comes over (or it's just been One Of Those Mornings).

Chai Tea Latte (pictured above) -- or this from-scratch spiced chai tea! Mmm... cardamom... :)

Hot cocoa on demand. This stuff totally saves my morning some days. :)

Since this is rather decadent (hello, eggs and cream and maple syrup!), I've been saving it to make when we're having company. No one can refuse homemade egg nog -- what a treat! :)

Joshua's specialty is making homemade sparkling grape juice (or other juice) when we have company. It adds a festive touch without costing much! :)

What do you like to make from-scratch this time of year? I'm sure I'm forgetting things. We have a more relaxed December than most... and hang out at home a lot. ;)


Oh, how I wish I hadn't seen this post. I want to make every soup listed, especially the ones with bean. But, alas, my DH doesn't like soup, especially the ones with beans. :o( So instead I'll just scroll through again and drool.

Bummer. :P Will he eat it as a side dish, or not at all? Joshua doesn't like it if I serve soup as a main dish very often, but he'll eat a medium bowl of soup as a side dish with a meal. :) Especially if it's a meatless soup... he wants some more protein with the meal, for sure. :) So... that's our compromise. I could live on soup! ;)

And... Joshua used to not like beans, but when I started cooking them from dry beans and making them in the crock pot and serving them with salt, hot sauce, and shredded cheese on top... he changed his mind! ;) :)

My husband wouldn't eat beans because he doesn't like the texture (I say "wouldn't" because he recently returned from Haiti and said I can start fixing them 1X/wk calling it our "Haiti meal") so instead of serving soups/ beans for dinner I will make a large pot of soup at the beginning of the week and then the kids and I will have that for the week for lunches. Of course this only works because my husband isn't home for lunches ;)

Your posts always make me hungry......thanks a lot. ;-)

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

I always love looking through the recipes you highlight! Beautiful post!

You left out tomato soup though. It's almost as easy to make from scratch as it is to open a can, and it's soooooooooooo delicious. I like to serve it with biscuits, cornbread, or topped with plain popcorn.

For really frugal options (although not bean, I think you covered that!), there are our current favorites, potato-carrot ( and pea-and-corn ( soups. I also like a good fish chowder, which is pretty frugal, as meat goes.

Hi Tammy,

I love the idea of the homemade sparkling grape and apple juice! Just for clarification, do you mix the juice concentrate with water and then add the club soda, or do you mix just the concentrate with the club soda?


It is just concentrate + club soda. Basically, the club soda takes the place of the water you would normally add to the juice concentrate to make your juice. :)

I was looking for the lentil and beef stew and the hot cocoa mix and both of those go to the picture - not the recipe??

Thanks for letting me know! It should be fixed now. :)

We tried a new soup recipe yesterday that my whole family liked. It was basically chicken soup with 1/2 cup of peanut butter stirred into 8 cups of broth. Weird but surprisingly delicious. Loosely based on this recipe:
I left out the broccoli and zucchini and upped the carrots, celery, tomatoes, and chicken--my husband jokes that he only likes soup if he can eat it with a fork ;) He goes along with soup night because it's also homemade biscuits/bread/rolls night, his favorite.

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