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These 42 cheap, easy, budget-friendly meals for under $5 are perfect for getting food on the table fast for your hungry family!

Cheap Meals for under $5

Find 42 cheap and easy meals that you can make for your family for under $5! If you are looking for quick, easy, inexpensive meal ideas, then you have come to the right place!

These quick, cheap, and easy meals are perfect to get your meal on the table fast to feed your hungry family!

42 Cheap and Easy Meals for under $5

Below are 42 tasty, easy, quick, and inexpensive meals you can make for the whole family.

Plus, learn how peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could make you into millionaires! Really, I’m serious! Read how in the section about cheap lunch ideas below!

14 Cheap and Easy Breakfast Meals Ideas

Not only is breakfast one of the most important meals of the day, but it is also one of the cheapest and easiest meals of the day! And the awesome thing is, there is nothing that says you can’t have breakfast meals for dinner!

In fact, I know of a couple of families who regularly make breakfast for dinner, and then eats the leftovers for breakfast the next day! That makes things even easier!

1. Waffles and pancakes

These are one of our favorite breakfast meals. To make them even more economical, you can make them with half the amount of milk and add water in its place. (I have done that before when we were low on milk, and with the syrup or powdered sugar or jam on the waffles, I don’t think you will really notice a difference. I have heard of people who use just water when money is really tight. I have not tried that myself, but I would give it a try if things were really tight.) To make these extra fun for the kids, my husband always makes them a different color that the kids choose.

Pancakes are another favorite. As with the waffles mentioned above, you could substitute milk with water if needed. I have heard of families doing that in difficult circumstances. (You could also do that with crepes, which I have done. And you could try it with French toast, which I have not done but which would likely work just fine.)

2. Biscuits and gravy

This is my favorite breakfast meal (and one of my favorite meals, in general!). My husband makes the gravy while I make the biscuits, and we can have it on the table in about half an hour. Though it takes a little longer than the other foods here, it’s worth it! We probably make it as often for dinner as we do for breakfast. 🙂

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
3 oz. butter
1 cup buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients, gently knead in butter, and add milk. Gently knead on floured surface—don’t overknead. Bake 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes about 6.

Gravy
½ pound ground sausage and bacon (total, or just ½ pound sausage)
4 hard-boiled eggs, diced (optional, but it makes this dish so delicious!)
2 T. butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups milk
Salt and pepper

Cook sausage and bacon; remove and put grease in pot. Add butter and melt. Add flour a little at a time. Cook 2-3 minutes, and then add milk a little at a time. Stir. Add sausage and bacon and cut-up eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

3. French toast

French toast is another one of our family favorites! My dad used to make these for us often growing up, and so they always make me remember fond memories with him. 🙂 You can find a simple French toast recipe here. Or for a little bit heartier French toast recipe click here.

 

4. Crepes

Whether filled with things that are savory or sweet, they are just plain delicious. You can even substitute water for milk if you need to without much difference in taste. We use a basic crepe recipe like this one.

 

5. Fried eggs with toast

 

6. Egg omelets

Another one of our favorite cheap and easy meals are omelets. One of the reasons that I love egg omelets is that they are so versatile! Our favorite way to make them is with eggs, milk, cheese, peppers (usually green, but sometimes red, orange, or yellow if we can buy them for a good price), onions, sausage or bacon (or both!), and spinach. We have also included hash browns or shredded potatoes (that we shredded ourselves), which makes this meal go even farther and makes it even cheaper per serving!

You can make these omelets as simple or as elaborate as you want. At it’s very simplest, you could make omelets with just eggs, water, and a little cheese. Or you could make them with eggs, milk, and spinach or green peppers and onions, and omit the cheese.

 

7. Breakfast casserole

One of the reasons we love breakfast casseroles is that they are so versatile! Some of our favorite things to include our eggs, cheese, peppers, onions, and hash browns or shredded potatoes

And you can also make the casserole the night before for a super quick and simple breakfast the next morning that you can heat up in the oven or microwave!

 

8. Oatmeal or cream of wheat

This is another super cheap and easy option! The little prepackaged versions are pretty cheap on their own (but when I eat them, I generally put two together; do you do that, too? One just doesn’t seem like enough of a meal to me!). But when you make it from scratch, it is even much cheaper than that! We love to add sugar, brown sugar, or cinnamon. If you are counting calories, one tablespoon of sucralose mixed in with one cup of cooked oats works great, too!

9. Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

Most of the cereal we eat costs about 10 cents an ounce or less. My husband’s favorite cereal (and one of the few that he really likes) is raisin bran, which is great since it is one of the cheapest. 🙂 The other cereals we buy when they are on sale.


10. Muffins

Though muffins from a mix are more expensive than many of the other foods listed here, we still feed our young family of five with one box of muffins (12 muffins). I know that won’t last forever! We have made many different types of muffins from scratch over the years, too, and those are even cheaper (but not always tastier :)).

11. Banana and oats

You can make these into 2-Ingredient Banana and Oat Cookies, which are yummy and nutritious! Or you can make an even easier meal by just mashing a banana with two-thirds to one cup of rolled oats. This fast and tasty meal is one of my frequent go-to breakfasts that I eat at work; these days I eat it once or twice a week.

12. Yogurt and fruit

 

13. Peanut butter and toast

 

14. Quick and easy quiche

Quiche is another one of my favorite breakfast meals. (Have I mentioned that I just love food in general? :)) This easy quiche recipe takes only 15 minutes to prepare. To save money, I generally make the crust myself using a simple pie crust recipe like this one (except I use shortening instead of butter, since it is less expensive).

 

15. Toaster pastries (sneaking this one in!)

OK, I know toaster pastries (Pop Tarts) have no nutritional value, but that doesn’t keep me from sometimes craving (and eating) them! I did go for a couple of years without eating these, but now I treat them like any other sweet treat: a rare (but so yummy, to me!) indulgence. My favorites are s’mores, chocolate fudge, and cherry flavors.

Of course we get the store-brand versions, not the name brands, to save money (unless the name-brand versions are on sale for an amazing deal!). If you eat the standard two pastries with a banana or apple later in the morning, you’re spending less than 50 cents on breakfast!

 

Related articles:

5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
55 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
13 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
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12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

14 Cheap and Easy Lunch Meal Ideas

Lunch is another meal that you can keep oh-so-cheap and easy if you choose to! I primarily eat either a peanut butter sandwich with fruit or leftovers for lunch every day at work, so it keeps things very simple and inexpensive.

To me it is worth it so save the tons of money that we are able to every year by not buying work lunches at the nearby food court or even the cafeteria where I work. If I bought lunch every workday it would cost over $100 per month (if I bought inexpensive lunches). By bringing lunch every day and investing that saved money in my Roth 401(k) instead, that money can grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

In fact, if you invested just that $100 a month in your retirement fund from age 25 to age 65 and earned an annual average rate of return of 11 percent, which is very doable long term, you would have $774,992! If you were able to earn an annual average rate of 12 percent, also doable over the long term with good growth stock mutual funds, you would have $1,030,970! Isn’t that $1,000,000 worth bringing inexpensive lunches from home?! It sure is to me! I love the power of compound interest! Learn how to start investing here.

In the list below I am including only very simple lunch options that you can make in a matter of minutes—of course you can use any of the ideas for dinner (or for breakfast!) later in this article as a meal for lunch, as well!

1. Peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana, or peanut butter and honey sandwiches

2. Tuna fish sandwiches

3. Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

4. Egg salad sandwiches

5. Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

6. Chicken salad sandwiches

7. Grilled cheese (with lunch meat, if desired) sandwiches and tomato soup

8. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

9. Avocado egg salad sandwiches

10. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheese sandwiches (BLTs)

11. Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

This is a chicken salad sandwich with even more good stuff added, like sesame seeds or peanuts (we generally use the kind we have to shell ourselves, since they are cheaper), chopped grapes, raisins, chopped apples, and dried cranberries.

12. Chicken salad

I tease (but it really is kinda true :-}) that the salad is just the way to get the ranch dressing to my mouth and that the salads that I really like to eat are the ones where I basically turn them into a sandwich. So my favorite chicken salad, for example, has croutons and cheese in addition to my favorite veggies like spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and so on.

But whatever you like to put in your chicken salad, you can’t go wrong!

13. Traditional green salad

14. Spinach and strawberry green salad

 

14 Cheap and Easy Dinner Meal Ideas

One of the best ways to save money on your dinner meals is to keep things simple! This isn’t the 1950s, and you don’t have to make a three-course meal every day for dinner! Today’s families are busy, and keeping things easy will help save your money and your sanity!

You can make all of these cheap and easy dinner meals in about 30 minutes or less!

 

1. Spaghetti with green salad and garlic bread

Spaghetti is one of our favorite quick and easy go-to meals! We most often make spaghetti the way my mother did. We use a pound of ground beef, a can of tomato sauce with maybe half a can of water, a packet of spaghetti seasoning (though we have made our own, which is cheap and easy!), and a small can of cream of mushroom soup. Sometimes we include mushrooms (fresh or canned) and peppers (most often green peppers, since they are the least expensive), as well.

2. More Better Mac and Cheese

This is my family’s favorite way to eat good old macaroni and cheese. To traditional macaroni and cheese we add broccoli and carrots and sometimes cut up polish dogs or hot dogs, chicken, hamburger, or another meat. We also sometimes add onions and green or other colored peppers. We sometimes add ranch to shake things up a little, and I like to add salsa to mine before eating it to get even more vegetables. Yum!

3. Chicken Patty Parmesan with rolls or French bread and green salad

This is a simple meal where you take 8 ounces of cooked spaghetti noodles or another pasta of your choice, mix them with a small can and a half of tomato sauce, put them in an 8 by 8 inch casserole dish, layer four microwave-cooked (previously frozen) chicken patties over that, drizzle over with the remaining half a can of tomato sauce, cover that with half a cup (or more if you want) of shredded cheese, and top that with a fourth cup (or more if you want) Parmesan cheese. Serve with toasted garlic bread and your favorite green salad.

4. Easy pasta carbonara

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish! You can find a simple and inexpensive pasta carbonara recipe here.

5. Chicken stir fry over rice or chicken fajitas

So easy! So tasty! 🙂 You can find an easy chicken stir fry recipe here. (I am a wimp, so I omit the red pepper flakes when I make it. :)) And you can find an easy chicken fajita recipe here.

6. Chicken and rice with gravy and veggies

 

7. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

We make this simple and tasty dish following the Campbell’s chicken and broccoli alfredo recipe here. It’s great as a one-pot dinner, or we often eat it with toasted garlic bread. Eat with green salad to get in more veggies.

8. Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables

I know that ramen noodles are not really healthy, but they are super cheap and they are super easy. We make eating them healthier by adding chicken and favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, corn, and sometimes peppers.

9. Beef and cheese goulash

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish, and it feeds a lot of people! We like an easy recipe such as the cheesy beef goulash recipe here (I omit the bay leaves if I don’t have any on hand). You can half the recipe if you are feeding your family of just four or five.

10. Tacos

Traditional tacos are even cheaper if you make them using your own homemade tortilla shells. You can find a simple, tasty recipe for tortillas here (you can skip the rest time if you want dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes :)). For the filling, you can use any combination of the following: grilled or ground chicken or ground beef (to keep it less expensive) with taco seasoning (you can find easy recipes for taco seasoning online if you do not have any on hand), cheese, refried beans, diced tomatoes, lettuce or spinach (we use spinach to make it a little healthier), salsa, and sour cream.

11. Taco soup with tortilla chips

One of our favorite cheap and easy dinners, especially during the colder months.To  make this meal, simply brown a pound of hamburger, drain it, and add taco seasoning. Then add a can or two of diced tomatoes, a can of red kidney beans, a can of chili beans (or other beans), and a can or two of corn,  (Do not drain any of the cans before you add them to the pot.)

Or you could use a simple taco soup recipe similar to this one if you like a little more of the tomato flavor to come out.

12. Chili and cornbread

When time is tight, we eat chili from the can, or with a little more time, we love a simple chili recipe like this one. I have made cornbread from scratch, and it is great, but more often than not we make it from the box because it is easier.

13. Homemade slow cooker or stove-top chicken noodle soup with homemade (or inexpensive) rolls or bread

We generally make a simple chicken noodle soup over the stove, but this is a great slow cooker dish, as well. You can find a cheap and easy slow cooker chicken noodle soup recipe here.

14. Hot dogs, brats, and fries

The kids eat hot dogs, we eat brats, and we all love fries. At the local discount store where we do a lot of our grocery shopping we can often get brats for $1.50 or less a package, about half off the normal price. Even full price, my husband eats two brats and I eat one, so this meal is still well under $5 for our family of five.

Since I don’t like to have to keep hot dog buns on hand, we generally eat our brats and hot dogs with bread rather than buns. To me they taste just as good, and they are also cheaper that way! (We do the same thing with bread instead of hamburger buns, for the same reasons.) We cook our fries over the stove instead of frying them in oil to make this (not healthy but tasty!) dish a little bit healthier.

Want even more easy dinner ideas? You can find 31 cheap and easy dinner recipes here.

 

Related articles:

73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
55 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
13 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

Conclusion

These 42 cheap and easy meals will help you to get food on the table fast for your hungry family! Feed your family quick, tasty, inexpensive meals every day for under $5 a meal! 

 

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