If you have trouble creating filling meals for a hungry family on the cheap, you’ll want to get creative with meal “fillers.” These cheap items can not only stretch a great meal – they can add nutrition and delicious flavor. Let’s take a look at 5 great fillers suggested by Wise Bread:


These are usually available in cans for $1 or less. (Editor’s note: I purchase Goya chickpeas at my local Hannaford for $.79 every time I go grocery shopping). They’re easy to store in the pantry, and when you need them, just open the can, rinse the beans and drain.

You can add chickpeas to green or pasta salads, soups, casseroles and more. And as an added bonus, they’re a great source of protein, fiber and iron.

Orange Vegetables

Veggies like butternut squash and sweet potatoes are inexpensive (especially now that they’re in season) and will last you a good long while stored in your kitchen. You can prepare these in the oven, or if you’re in a hurry, you can microwave these veggies to speed up the process.

You can add butternut squash to soups and you can add either veggie to quick breads, doughs, tomato-based sauces and dips.

Black Beans

You can typically buy canned beans for less than $1 and store them for a long time in your pantry. You can even get dried black beans for much less. When you open a can of beans, rinse them and drain them (or soak dried beans and rinse) and cook until they’re done.

Add richness and nutrition to meals by adding black beans to tacos, chili, soup, salads and more.


You can usually grab large quantities of bunched kale in the produce section for a few dollars. A great source of vitamins A, C and K, kale is a great addition to many snacks and meals. Since kale is a bit bitter, Wise Bread recommends adding it to sweet stuff or sauteing it in olive oil until it’s crispy.

Try blending raw kale into fruit smoothies, tossing sauted kale into pasta dishes, adding kale to omelets, quiches and frittatas, or using it as a pizza topping.

Veggie Leftovers

Those leftover veggies that you toss in the freezer can add flavor and nutrition to meals that need fillers. Try spreading leftover veggies on a pizza before you bake it, making frittatas with leftovers and adding leftovers to pastas.

Check out more great ideas over at Wise Bread’s 9 Cheap and Healthy Filler Foods.