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9 Simple Ways to Transform Your Money Mindset

money mindset

Money Mindset

Your money mindset is your beliefs and attitudes about money. Unfortunately, many people have a negative money mindset. Many believe they have to have debt to survive in today’s society. Or they believe that they will always live paycheck to paycheck and will never be able to get ahead financially.They feel that l will never be wealthy, or that it’s not really even possible to be wealthy anymore. 

But no matter your current beliefs about and feelings toward money, you can create a healthy, positive money mindset that will move you toward financial security and, ultimately, financial freedom.

 

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9 Critical Tips to Transform Your Money Mindset

A major reason that many people struggle with their finances for years and years—and sometimes for their whole life—is because of their money mindset. Many people learn their money mindset from their family life as they grow up. Sometimes they carry on the same beliefs as their parents. And sometimes, because of financial difficulties or problems in their young lives, they take an opposite view of finances than their parents.

Often we have money mindsets that limit our potential. In other words, our beliefs about money often limit what we are able to accomplish with our finances.  

In this article I am going to discuss 9 crucial things you must do to transform your money mindset. You can shift from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset—from a belief system of just wanting to get by to a mindset of building wealth and being able to thrive—by following these simple principles.

 

1. Let go of your limiting or harmful beliefs from the past as you work toward creating a healthy money mindset.

Maybe you believe (or have believed) that you will always live paycheck to paycheck, and that that is normal and OK. Maybe you have even believed that you will always be broke. Maybe you have believed that you will always be in debt. Maybe you have believed that debt is a good and necessary tool to get by in today’s society.

Maybe you believe that if you don’t save or invest or prepare financially for the future that some fairy godmother will magically appear and take care of you in your golden years. (Unfortunately, what will happen if you don’t prepare is that you will end up being broke and scrimping by for potentially decades of your later life.)

But none of those things have to be your reality—unless you make them your reality by the choices you make.

You can stop living paycheck to paycheck starting today.

You can get out of debt and (finally!) start to save.

You can start to invest and build your own awesome financial future (no fairy godmother required!). 🙂

Millions of people have already done and are already doing it the good old-fashioned way, and so can you!

 

 

 

2. Focus on the future as you work to change your money mindset.

Once you let go of the beliefs you have had and step away from your past, start planning for an amazing financial future!

One of the first steps to help you create the financial future of your dreams is to start to budget. Because like it or not, you probably have limited resources, so you need to tell those dollars how to best work for you.

When you create your budget, make it a zero-based budget. In other words, allocate your monthly income down to nothing on paper. You may think that this seems odd; that it would be better to leave a little money as a buffer. And that is great, if you designate that money to be put into a particular savings account or something, like your emergency fund. But don’t just leave the money unaccounted for. The reason? It’s almost certain to get spent.

No budget? No problem! Sign up below to receive a free spending tracker and starter budget forms!

 

 

3. Focus on your why to help you have the motivation to change your money mindset.

One of the best things that you can do to change your money mindset and your current financial situation is to identify and then focus on your financial why.

Think carefully about the answers to these questions (you may want to write them down or talk about them with your spouse): Why do you want your financial situation to change? Why do you feel you need to pay off debt or start saving more money or investing for retirement? Why would you like to earn more money? What are your ultimate financial goals and dreams?

Your why is of utmost importance because it will give you the motivation to set crucial financial goals that will help you change not only your money mindset (especially as you are able to make progress toward achieving them) but also the trajectory of your life. With simple and realistic but amazing and far-reaching financial goals, you will be able to accomplish incredible things with your money that most people never will. That is sad, but it’s true.

Many people go through life half awake, never having the ambition or the discipline or dedication to really accomplish awesome things. But you are not that person! Or if you were, you are not anymore! 🙂

You are going to accomplish incredible things in your life by setting and steadily working toward simple but incredible financial goals like building up savings for emergencies and saving for large purchases and expenses, getting out of debt (including paying off that mortgage!), investing for retirement. helping to pay for your children’s college educations so that they will not be saddled with debt, and building wealth so that you can achieve ultimate financial freedom.

Check out this related article on how to save more money by identifying your financial why.

 

4. Realize that you can get out of debt and build wealth (and it’s not that hard to do; promise!).

Another one of the most important things you can do to change your money mindset and to build wealth is to change your views on debt. Rather than viewing debt as a tool or thinking that there is good debt and bad debt, consider debt as the thief of your financial freedom and your future wealth.

One of the healthiest things you can do for your money is to first get out of debt and then stay out of debt. That is because when you get out of debt—as one of my favorite personal finance gurus, Dave Ramsey, says—you free up your biggest wealth-building tool: your income.

By paying off all of your debt—including paying off your mortgage (as soon as possible! :))—and then staying out of debt you will have all of your income to use to meet your needs and build your wealth, instead of the bank’s. And ultimately, you will be able to achieve financial freedom.

Learn how to get and stay out of debt.

Start by making one small goal that you can work toward. For example, if you have a credit card with a $200 balance or an installment loan with a $350 balance, work toward paying that off. Start by throwing just $20 extra dollars a month at it, if that is all that you can do right now. But then watch that balance go down. Celebrate each small success that changes your financial trajectory. This will help you realize that you are in control of your financial life and that you can change your financial situation.

Once you are headed in the right direction, see what you can do to kick things up a notch. There are so many things that you can do to cut your expenses in order to work toward getting out of debt and building your emergency fund! And you can also find ways to increase your income, to work on the other side of that equation.

It will take some time and dedicated effort, but once you have gotten out of debt and created your full emergency fund, you will be able to easily find money in your income to be able to invest for an incredible future. Realize and accept (and embrace!) the fact that you really can be wealthy! In fact, you can set yourself up to become a millionaire with as little as $200 a month! This is not just a pipe dream; building wealth is a very realistic goal, given enough time and a little bit of discipline and dedication.

 

Get the Mastering Your Money Mindset Workbook!

Mastering Your Money MindsetIs your money mindset holding you back?

Do you want help to develop a healthy money mindset that will transform the way you think about money and help you develop a mindset of abundance and building wealth? Then get the Mastering Your Money Mindset workbook today!

 

5. Be content with what you have to foster a healthy money mindset.

Another mindset shift that will really help you to build wealth is to learn to be content with what you have. This will help ensure that you have a mindset of abundance rather than a mindset of scarcity.

I truly believe that one of the main secrets to building wealth and being financially successful is to learn how to be content with what you already have. Of course there are other important factors, but if you can’t be content with what you have and you always feel a driving need for more gadgets, more toys, more stuff—and better stuff—then you’re going to struggle at winning financially.

And simple math is the culprit. As much as virtually all of us would like to have all the money in the world to both buy the things we want and do the things we really should do for our financial stability and success, the truth is that most of us simply don’t have the money for both. And so we have to choose.

Learn 9 powerful principles that will help you to be more content (so you can save more money)!

 

6. Differentiate honestly between needs versus wants.

As you work to change your money mindset, begin to differentiate honestly between needs versus wants, and then make adjustments to your budget accordingly. Sometimes we do a pretty good job of justifying wants by calling them needs. But to truly differentiate needs versus wants, remember this: you need housing (unless you can live under a palm tree or something), but you don’t actually need a fancy or new or even nice home.

Similarly, you need food, but you don’t need restaurant food or gourmet food or to always eat name-brand food. You need transportation, but you may be able to get around with one car for a while (or even possibly no car, if you can use bikes or your feet or public transportation). And you definitely don’t need a brand-new or ultra-safe or super fancy car.

The better you can differentiate needs versus wants and base your budget on your needs first and then the wants that you can truly afford while still saving and investing adequately to meet long-term, crucial financial goals, the better off financially you will be later in life.

As you create your monthly spending plan or budget, allocate money for your needs first. That means designate money first for reasonable food, clothing, shelter, transportation, utilities, and other true necessities.

Then designate money to build up an adequate (three- to six-month; six months is ideal) emergency fund, to create sinking funds to cover future larger expenses and larger purchases (such as appliances and furniture and vehicles and so on), and to save adequately for retirement (save at least 10 but preferably 15 percent of your income for retirement as soon as you are financially able to).

Learn more about differentiating between needs and wants here.

 

 

7. Cultivate gratitude in your life as you work to change your money mindset.

Another one of the most important things you can do to change your money mindset and to help ensure you have lasting peace and joy in your life is to develop an attitude of gratitude.

If you are reading this blog article, you probably have power, running water, shelter, and all the necessities of life. You probably have a lot of what you want as well, like a nice home or apartment that you are living in, a nice car or two, nice clothes, high-speed internet, smartphones, and so on. In fact, you probably have everything that you need, and much of what you want.

Collectively, I would wager that the people on the earth have never had so much wealth as we have now. And when we remember that, when we remember how truly blessed we already are, it makes it easier to say no to a daily latte or eating lunch out every day or buying a nicer car or buying one more toy for your kids’ already overstuffed playroom. It also makes it easier to then work toward the financial goals that we know we should be working toward, like saving for an emergency fund and saving for retirement and for larger purchases to help us avoid debt.

For more on this important topic, read this article on the power of gratitude.

 

8. Understand that money is not evil.

Depending on your parents’ view of money or the views of other influencers around you, you may have grown up being taught (either overtly or covertly) that money is evil. If you are a Christian, you may even have been taught that money is the root of all evil.

But that is simply not true. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. In other words, putting money above things that should be more important like family and love of humankind is wrong, but money in and of itself is not bad.

You can do amazing things with money! If you don’t have money—enough money to provide for your own needs and then some beyond that—it is very difficult to give money away to help those less fortunate. By building wealth, you can have ample resources to give away to bless the lives of other people in need.

It is not money that is evil; it is what we do with our money that determines whether money is good or bad.

 

9. Set big financial goals.

If you do not set financial goals, your financial life will never go beyond being mediocre. If you want an awesome financial future, you need to set and then diligently work toward big financial goals.

That doesn’t mean the goals have to be overly difficult. You can stop overspending and stop living paycheck to paycheck now.

You can work steadily and incrementally on getting out of debt.

And then you can work on saving for your future. You really can retire comfortably if you will invest just $200 a month. And investing just $200 a month really is not too difficult given the income of most households if you will just have a little discipline.

On the flip side, if you want to have an even more comfortable life and retirement in order to travel and give more money away, for example, then set bigger financial goals! Invest more money every month, and watch your wealth grow over time. Pay off your mortgage, and invest that money in sound investments, and you will be amazed at what that alone can do for your financial future. When you are completely out of debt, you are better able to build real wealth.

Continue to invest at least 15 percent of your income above investing the money that was previously going toward your mortgage, and your money will grow even faster. You might decide to retire early, or you can pursue other goals that come with financial freedom.

 

Final Thoughts on Money Mindset

As you follow these steps to change your money mindset, you will be able to move yourself and your family steadily toward financial freedom. First you will be able to achieve freedom from overspending, then freedom from living paycheck to paycheck, then freedom from the stress of having no financial cushion (savings), then freedom from being in debt, and then ultimate financial freedom—from having to work to provide an income for your living expenses.

With ultimate financial freedom, you will get to the point where you can choose when and how you want to work, or if you want to work at all. Your time will be your own to accomplish the amazing things that you want and maybe even were meant to do in your life.

So transform your money mindset and go after your amazing financial goals!

 

What do you think are the most important steps for transforming your money mindset? Where are you on the journey to financial freedom, and how has your money mindset helped you get there (or prevented you from getting farther)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear your best ideas for how to change your money mindset!

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!

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47 Dirt Cheap Meals (2 Week Meal Plan): Eat for as Little as $1 a Day!

dirt cheap meals

 

Dirt Cheap Meals

In this article I am going to share ideas for dirt cheap meals that will save your family tons of money! Find easy and super cheap meals that you can make in 30 minutes or less for your family! If you are looking for super quick, easy, cheap meals, then this is the article for you!

These quick, easy, and dirt cheap meals include breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes and ideas that are perfect for when money is really tight and you need super cheap meals to help to make ends meet!

 

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily find these ideas for dirt cheap meals later!

 

Quick note: You can find a 2-week sample meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner using these dirt cheap meals near the end of this article. 👇

 

These are just examples of dirt cheap meals you can eat when money is tight. I know that these are not all super balanced meals. As your budget allows, you can make these meals more nutritious by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, for example.

If you want help to eat healthy on a tight budget, check out my best ideas for eating healthy on a budget, including my list of nearly 50 of the cheapest healthy foods you can buy! 

Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can prepare dirt cheap meals is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!

I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!

Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!

 

A Huge Benefit of Dirt Cheap Meals or Super Cheap Meals

When you are broke or need to save money fast, these super cheap meals are a great way to stretch your food dollar till payday or to help you save money to reach an important financial goal (like paying a bill, paying off a debt, saving for something important, and so on).

Why Prepare Dirt Cheap Meals?

Sometimes you are in a financial situation, as I mention briefly above, where money is very tight. At these times, rather than go into debt and put myself and my family in an even more precarious situation financially, I personally would much rather cut my grocery budget in order to save money.

Even if you are not in a particularly bad financial situation, you may want to eat dirt cheap meals for a time in order to save money to make a large purchase with cash or to get your grocery spending under control. You may also want to eat dirt cheap meals as part of a no spend challenge.

Find more tips to slash your grocery budget spending here.

 

Is It Worth It to Make Super Cheap Meals?

Yes, I think so! In certain circumstances, making super cheap meals can really help your family to survive hard times. If you can cut some other expenses too and spend a little more on a little bit higher-quality food, than that is great too. But because it it relatively easy to cut your grocery budget, it’s a great place to start when you need to trim your monthly budget.

That doesn’t mean that you have to make super cheap meals forever! As your financial situation improves, you can make more balanced and nutritious meals and not worry so much how much you are spending at the grocery store.

Meal Planning Made Even Easier: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create an inexpensive meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like $5 Meal Plans could be a great option for you. $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month, and they do all of the planning for you!

They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And the service comes with a 14-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose! If this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out $5 Meal Plans here.

If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out per month, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.

Quick and Easy Dirt Cheap Meals!

For planning easy, really inexpensive meals, below are ideas for dirt cheap breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals you can make for your family in less than 30 minutes!

One of the easiest things you can do to save money on food is to eat at home and to keep things simple! Keeping your meals simple will help you save both time and money! And you can really slash your grocery budget with these dirt cheap meal ideas!

 Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

These easy and cheap breakfast ideas are perfect for making quick, dirt cheap meals. And you don’t have to reserve these meals for breakfast; you can eat them for lunch or dinner if you like, as well!

Note: You can get a summary of all of the breakfast meals listed below near the end of this article! Print it out to have an easy cheat sheet of super quick and cheap meals.

 

 

Waffles

Waffles are one of our favorite cheap breakfast meals. To make these extra fun for the kids, my husband always makes them a different color that the kids choose. Here is the simple waffle recipe we use:

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar (we generally leave out the sugar)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the waffle iron. Crack the eggs and put them in a large bowl. (Beat them at this point, if you want, for fluffier waffles. I never worry about doing that. :)) Add the flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.

Spray the heated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray, and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup mix onto your iron (depending on the size of your iron). Cook until desired doneness. (If you like them more well done, cook until they are golden brown.)

Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 

To make this cheap breakfast 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 got really tight.)

 

Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

Most of the cereal we eat costs about 10 cents an ounce or less—that’s the rule of thumb I go by when I buy it. 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.

 

 

Fried eggs with toast

This is a very quick, easy, and cheap breakfast that we love!

 

 

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. 🙂

This is the recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

4 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
dash of salt (optional)
Cinnamon and sugar mixture
16 slices of your favorite bread

Directions
Preheat a large griddle or square frying pan, and coat it with non-stick cooking spray (or butter or margarine).

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla in a square baking dish or pan. Dip each slice of bread in the batter, coating one side and then flipping to coat the other side.

Place the bread slices on the griddle or frying pan, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cook on medium heat until golden brown on each side (about 2 to 3 minutes), or until desired doneness (I like mine pre-golden brown :)).

Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 Or for a little bit heartier French toast recipe click here.

 

 

Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

Bagels are another simple and affordable cheap meal idea for breakfast, lunch , or even dinner! Add plain cream cheese or flavored cream cheese, spread on jam or peanut butter, or even make a tasty savory dish by adding an egg, ham, and cheese as my husband likes to.

 

 

Oatmeal

This is another super easy option for budget meal planning! 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!

 

Here is a simple recipe for traditional oatmeal (serves 4).

 

Ingredients

2 cups oats
4 cups water (or milk)
dash of salt (optional)
sugar, brown sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, or similar, to taste

 

Directions

1. Bring the water (or milk) to a boil in a medium sauce pan.
2. Add in the oats, and stir well.
3. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
4. Add any sweeteners you would like, as desired.
5. Serve warm.

 

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 this basic crepe recipe:

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, and salt. Beat until smooth. (But if you have a few lumps, don’t worry about it; they still taste great.)

Heat a lightly oiled frying pan over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the frying pan for each crepe. Tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.

Cook the crepes for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is lightly browned. Then loosen with a spatula, and flip to cook the other side.

Serve warm with powdered sugar, syrup, jam, cinnamon and sugar, or other favorite toppings.

 

Egg Omelets

Another one of our favorite easy and cheap breakfasts 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, often 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.

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

large eggs

salt  and pepper (to taste)

 

2 tablesoons margarine or butter

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chive (optional)

 

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix eggs thoroughly, and then season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt margarine butter. Pour in eggs and allow to cook. As eggs start to set, use a rubber spatula to drag cooked edges into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan to let the uncooked egg fall to the edge of the pan.
  3. Once the bottom is set but while top is still a little wet, sprinkle cheese and chives on one half of the omelet. Allow to cook for another minute or two, to allow the cheese to melt.
  4. Carefully fold the other side of the omelet over the cheese, cut into four equal wedges, and slide the omelets onto plates.

 

Cream of wheat

Our kids, and particularly our older daughter, love cream of wheat. We generally add some brown or white sugar to sweeten it, and as a rare treat, we even put sweetened condensed milk (did you know they even have caramel flavored?) in it sometimes. Totally fattening but totally tasty!

 

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 :)). One easy muffin recipe that is tasty is this basic banana muffin recipe: 

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another large bowl, mash the bananas. Then to that second bowl add the egg and oil, and mix well. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients.

Fill 12 greased muffin cups half full. Put the muffins in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes (or until inserted toothpick comes out clean). Serve warm with butter or margarine, if desired.

 

Yogurt and fruit

Buying yogurt in the tub is cheaper than in the small single-serve containers. We often buy yogurt from the local discount grocery/salvage store for awesome prices. We can get the big tubs of yogurt for $2 each or less and small containers often for even cheaper than that! (Many of them are close to the “best by” date or even past the best by date, but I have eaten unopened yogurt even a month or two past the recommended best by date, and the yogurt has always been fine, without any mold or anything.

 

Toast with jam or peanut butter

This is a super quick and cheap breakfast option.

 

Toaster pastries

Toaster pastries (PopTarts) don’t really have any nutritional value, but they are cheap and (in my opinion :)) pretty tasty. Of course you will save money if you buy a generic brand rather than PopTarts themselves, so that’s what we generally do. We treat them like any other treat, and try to keep them as a less-common indulgence rather than a regular meal option.

 

Grits

To be honest, I haven’t really had grits before, since I’m not from the South. 🙂 But a wonderful reader suggested this as another option for a dirt cheap meal for breakfast, so I wanted to be sure and include it for my Southern friends (or anyone who loves grits, whether you are from the South or not)!

 

Pancakes

Pancakes are another favorite cheap breakfast option for budget meal planning. 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.) Again, we generally make these different colors each time we make them. We like this quick and easy recipe:

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten (if desired, or just crack them right into the big bowl)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, eggs, and oil. Mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Lightly brown on both sides until desired doneness.

Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 

On Valentine’s Day we color them pink with red food coloring and use heart-shaped cookie cutters after they are cooked to make different-sized hearts. The kids love it. And on St. Patrick’s Day we color them green (along with the milk sometimes :)).

 

Overnight cold oatmeal

This cheap meal is a fun variation of the traditional cooked oatmeal. All you need is milk, rolled oats, your favorite sweetener (sugar, honey, zero-calorie sweetener, jam, or the like could all work well), desired spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon, and your favorite berries or thinly sliced apples or similar fruit. Put them in a mason jar with closed lid or another container with a closed lid for at least four hours or overnight, and you have a tasty breakfast ready in the morning!

 

German pancakes

A fun (and budget friendly, of course!) variation on traditional pancakes are German oven pancakes, which you bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. And then you top them with your favorite toppings like syrup, powdered sugar, or fresh fruit.

Ingredients

1 cup flour
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a mixing bowl combine the eggs, milk, melted butter, salt, and sugar. Mix well. Add the flour, and mix until incorporated.

2. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 11 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the dish, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.

3. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

  

Find even more ideas for cheap breakfasts here.

 

Check out these related articles:

Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas

It is amazing to me how many people spend $5 or more every day for lunch at work! I just can’t do it.

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

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!

 

 

Ideas for Dirt Cheap Quick Lunches

This list of ideas for dirt cheap meals for lunch is made up of simple foods you can make in a matter of minutes. Add an apple, banana, or orange (or other fruit of your choice) and baby carrots or cut vegetables to make it a more balanced meal.

 

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

These are about as simple an option as you can get. But I love them! Whether you eat peanut butter with jam or jelly, peanut butter with banana, or peanut butter and honey sandwiches, you get a super cheap and easy meal ready in just a couple of minutes.

 

Tuna fish sandwiches

Though not as inexpensive as it used to be, tuna is still an inexpensive way to go for lunch. Mix with regular or reduced fat mayo or salad dressing and diced pickles or relish, if you like.

 

Ingredients

2 cans (6 oz.) tuna in water, drained
1/2 cup chopped celery or chopped pickles (or relish)
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (if desired)
8 slices of your favorite bread

Directions 

1. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Spread the mixture in equal amounts on 4 slices of bread, and top with the remaining 4 slices of bread.

 

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

If you love tuna sandwiches and you love egg salad sandwiches, put them together for a new twist on an old favorite. Here is a simple recipe you can use.

Ingredients

 

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the tuna, eggs, celery or pickles, and mayonnaise.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Spread the mixture equally onto 4 slices of bread. Top with remaining slices of bread.
4. Serve.

 

 

Egg salad sandwiches

In our family we love this simple and tasty cheap lunch option. All you need is bread and eggs and your favorite brand of mayonnaise or salad dressing and favorite seasonings, and you are ready to go!

 

Ingredients

8 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 teaspoon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
paprika, if desired
8 slices of bread

 

Directions

1. Put the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and boil for 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let water cool, and then peel and chop.

2. Place the chopped eggs in a bowl, and stir in the mayonnaise and mustard. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir and serve on your favorite bread (or with crackers).

 

 

Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

Choose your favorite lunch meat such as honey ham, chicken, turkey, or beef, and then add a slice of cheese, tomato and lettuce (or spinach), and a little mayo and mustard if desired.

 

 

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

This classic and cheap lunch idea is great any time of year, but is particularly delicious on cold days! To make this kid-friendly dish even more filling, add your favorite lunch meat, or add spinach or another favorite vegetable to boost the nutritional value!

Here is a simple recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Ingredients

8 slices bread
about 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 slices cheddar (or other favorite) cheese
sliced luncheon meat (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat large square skillet (or griddle) over medium heat.
2. Butter one side of 4 slices of bread.
3. Place bread butter side down onto skillet bottom and add 1 slice of cheese and lunchmeat (if desired) to each.
4. Butter 4 more slices of bread on one side, and place butter side up to top the sandwiches.
5. Grill sandwiches until lightly browned and flip over; continue grilling until cheese is melted.
6. Serve with tomato soup, if desired. 

 

Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

Quesadillas are so easy! You can use just your favorite tortilla shells and type of cheese, or add sliced lunch meat, spinach, hot dogs (kind of weird, but my younger brothers love it), beans, or favorite cooked vegetables. Yum!

 

Here is a really simple recipe to use as a base.

Ingredients

8 large tortilla shells
about 6 tablespoons margarine or butter
about 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
additional ingredients such as spinach, lunch meat, chicken, and so on, if desired

Directions

1. Heat a large skillet on medium heat.
2. Spread margarine or butter on one side of a tortilla shell.
3. Cover tortilla shell with shredded cheese and other toppings as desired.
4. Spread the second tortilla with margarine or butter, and place on top of first tortilla and cheese.
5. Lightly brown on one side, and then flip and lightly brown on the other side.
6. Repeat with remaining tortillas and toppings.
7. Serve warm.

 

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches are awesome, and adding avocado makes them even awesomer (but also more expensive :-\\).

Though avocados have definitely gotten more expensive over the last few years, avocado egg salad sandwiches are still pretty economical.

Here is a simple recipe I like.

Ingredients

Directions

Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. In a small nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook scallions until softened, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and cook, stirring, until almost set, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

Place the egg on a piece of toast or the bottom half of an English muffin, and season with additional salt pepper, if desired. Layer with avocado, and then cover with the other piece of toast or other half of muffin.

 

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

What’s not to love about classic BLTs? Add mayo or salad dressing for a little extra zing, and swap the lettuce for spinach to make them a little more nutritious.

 

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!

This is a salad recipe with grilled chicken that I like.

 

Ingredients

2 grilled chicken breasts
4 cups chopped lettuce
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup oil
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, tomatoes, and onion.
2. In a small  bowl or cup, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano. Pour over the salad, and toss gently to coat.
4. Slice or chop the grilled chicken breasts.
5. Place the salad on serving plates. Arrange half of the sliced grilled chicken breast on top of the salad for each serving.
6. Serve.

 

Chicken salad sandwiches

Chicken salad sandwiches are one of my all-time favorite lunches. You can keep it really simple with just the chicken and a little may or salad dressing and your favorite seasonings.

Or dress this sandwich up (see the information about chicken salad supreme sandwiches below) with your favorite nuts (such as cashews or my preferred cheaper option, peanuts), seeds, sliced grapes, cubed cheese, finely chopped apples, chopped celery, and more! There are so many options for this versatile meal!

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon season salt
pepper, to taste
other add-ins noted above, as desired

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir well.
2. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve with your favorite bread as a sandwich or on a tortilla as a wrap.

 

 

Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

This is a chicken salad sandwich (see recipe above) 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.

 

Traditional green salad

Like I said just above, in my opinion, the best green salad is the one that is filled with tons of other great foods like meat and cheese and croutons. 🙂 But you can also keep them simpler (as I often do, despite my preferences :)) with using simple greens like leafy lettuce and spinach or kale and adding your favorite vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, and the like.

 

Spinach and strawberry green salad

Even though I do not turn this salad into a sandwich :), it is still one of my favorites. All you need are spinach, strawberries, and almonds if you have them on hand (or substitute less expensive seeds or nuts). Here is a simple strawberry spinach salad with tasty homemade dressing:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
10 oz. fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions

1. In a mixing bowl, mix the sesame and poppy seeds, sugar, oil, and vinegar.

2. In another large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

 

Easy pasta salad

Use leftover pasta and add cooked vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, or spinach. Toss with a little oil, vinegar, and your favorite spices, and you’re set. Yum!

Or cook the pasta, and you can still have this lunch ready in less than 30 minutes!

Here is a recipe for pasta salad that we really like.

 

Ingredients

1 (12 oz) box your favorite pasta noodles (rotini works well)
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 can olives, chopped
cup chopped baby carrots
1 cup sliced pepperoni
1 1/3 cups bottled Italian salad dressing (I prefer Kraft with this recipe)

Dressing

1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
1 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 

Directions

 

1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions to al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
2. Pour pasta into a bowl, and add tomatoes, broccoli, olives, carrots, and pepperoni.
3. Make the dressing, and pour the dressing over the salad and toss to evenly coat.
4. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for or up to 1 day. Add a little more dressing if needed when serving.

 

 

Check out these related articles:

Taking PB&J Sandwiches for Lunch Can Make You a Millionaire–for Reals!
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
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Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas for Dinner

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to plan dirt cheap meals for your family is to keep things simple! You can make all of these super cheap and easy dinner meals in about 30 minutes or less!

 

Note: Again, these are just examples of dirt cheap dinner ideas (some recipes are included below). You can switch out any of the meals with other dinner options that you like better. See this article for more than 65 cheap family dinner recipes that you can make for $5 or less in 30 minutes or less!

 

Baked Potatoes

You can make baked potatoes quickly and easily in the microwave in about 15 minutes for a simple dirt cheap dinner (or lunch) meal.

We pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork and put a little bit of water on the plate to help them cook more quickly. We also sometimes cover them with plastic wrap to help keep the heat in so that they cook a little more quickly, but normally I omit this step.

If you want to save time baking your potatoes, get one of these awesome microwave potato pouches for just a few bucks! They are great!

 

Quick and Easy Chili

This is one of my favorite quick and easy dirt cheap meals! (My older daughter, a somewhat picky eater, is a huge fan of chili!)

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 to 2 regular size cans of chili with beans
1 can of chili beans or kidney beans (optional)
2 or 3 cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)

Directions

1. Brown the hamburger with the onion.
2. Drain the grease.
3. Add all ingredients to the saucepan, and heat.

 

 

Ramen Noodles with Vegetables

This is another one of our go-to super easy dirt cheap meals. To make this simple meal, first cook your favorite fresh or frozen or canned vegetables (corn, peas, green beans, carrots, and onions all work really well) in a pot, and then for the last few minutes, add your favorite flavor of ramen noodles.

You can also add chopped chicken for protein to add more nutrition and make this a heartier meal.

 

Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

These easy bean and cheese burritos are another great option when you are looking for the cheapest meals to eat. They have just four ingredients (plus add any other toppings you love, such as salsa). All you need are refried beans, cheese, tortilla shells, and taco seasoning mix. Such an easy and cheap dinner idea!

Ingredients
1 can (16 oz) refried beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1 package (1 oz)  taco seasoning mix
8 8-inch flour tortillas
Additional toppings as desired, such as salsa, sour cream, diced tomatoes, and shredded lettuce

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper or foil (or spray with nonstick cooking spray); set aside.
2. In medium bowl, mix the beans, cheese, and taco seasoning mix.
3. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture onto each tortilla, just below the center. Fold the bottom edge of each tortilla up and over the filling. Fold sides in, overlapping to enclose filling. Roll up from the bottom of the tortilla.
4. Place the burritos seam-side down on the cookie sheet.
5. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with additional toppings listed above, as desired.
6. Remove from heat, and serve.

 

More Better Mac and Cheese

This is my family’s favorite way to eat good old macaroni and cheese from a box.

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 after it is cooked but before eating it to get even more vegetables. Yum!

 And if you prefer to make it from scratch, here is a simple homemade mac and cheese recipe I like.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

Ingredients
12 ounces elbow macaroni (or other pasta)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

Directions

Boil noodles as directed. In a separate pan, melt butter and sprinkle in flour to make a roux. Add milk, cheese, salt, and pepper. Combine with noodles. For a creamier texture, add more milk.

 

 

Meatless Spaghetti

Spaghetti is one of our favorite quick and easy go-to meals! We most often make spaghetti the way my mother did. We usually eat it with a pound of ground beef, but for the meatless version, just use 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. You could also add mushrooms (fresh or canned) and peppers (such green peppers, since they are the least expensive), as well.

 

 

Easy Garlic Chicken and Rice

Garlic chicken is another of my favorite cheap meals. For this simple dish, all you need is the boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a little butter, garlic powder, season salt, and onion powder.

Serve with rice and your favorite vegetables, and you are set! Ready in just 20 minutes!

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Directions
Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with garlic powder, seasoning salt, and onion powder. Saute about 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.

 

Traditional or Black Bean Quesadillas

If you prefer traditional quesadillas (or even quesadillas with lunch meat added), then grab the recipe above.

Or for a fun variation of traditional quesadillas, try this recipe for black bean quesadillas.

 

Ingredients
2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, drained
1 cup salsa
2 cups shredded cheese
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1/3 cup sour cream (optional)

Directions
1. Mash one can of beans. Mix in remaining can of beans and salsa.
2. Spread mixture evenly on 4 tortillas; top with cheese. Cover with remaining 4 tortillas.
3. Heat skillet, and cook quesadillas 2 minutes. Flip, and cook for another minute or two.
4. Cut into wedges, and serve with salsa & sour cream on the side.

Meatless Taco Soup

Combine a can or two of diced tomatoes, a can of red kidney beans, a can of chili beans or other beans, a can or two of corn, and a package of taco seasoning,  (Do not drain any of the cans before you add them to the pot.) Cook until warmed through.

If you want to include protein but still save money on meat, use chicken instead of ground beef. You can buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts for usually $2 a pound or less (at least in our area), and boneless, skinless chicken thighs for even less than that.

 

Egg Fried Rice

Ingredients

4 large eggs, divided
2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
1 cup diced red onion (about 1 small onion)
4 cups cooked rice|
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

  1. Crack eggs into a small bowl, and beat them together.
  2. Heat a large frying pan or a wok with 1/2 tablespoon of the cooking oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the beaten eggs and scramble them for about a minute. Transfer the eggs to a dish, and turn off the heat. Wipe off the pan or wok with a paper towel.
  3. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in the pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and cook them for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the cooked rice into the pan or wok, and cook for a few minutes, until the rice is heated through. If you have large clumps of rice, break them apart with the back of your spatula.
  5. Add the soy sauce, and stir. Add the scrambled eggs, and stir to mix again. Serve immediately.

 

Hot Dogs and Fries

Good old hot dogs and fries is one of the cheapest and easiest meals you can make.

 

Pizza

If you buy the less-expensive brands of store-bought pizza, pizza can actually be a dirt cheap meal! Totino’s is pretty cheap, but your local store brand may be really economical, as well. One of our local store brands costs only a little more than Totino’s, and the pizzas taste great.

You can also make homemade pizza for pretty cheap, depending on the toppings that you put on it, of course. If you make the crust yourself and stick with cheese and pepperoni and typical vegetables like green peppers and olives, you can make homemade pizza for even less than the inexpensive store varieties.

Here is a simple homemade pepperoni pizza recipe that we love.

 

Ingredients

Crust

3 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast, or 1 packet (1/4 ounce) yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon oil

Sauce

1 to 2 cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon season salt

Toppings

1 package (3 1/2 oz) sliced pepperoni
5 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, and salt. Add water and oil, and beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
2. Place the dough on a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine tomato sauce, oil, and seasonings.
3. Divide the dough in half, and then press into two 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pans coated with cooking spray.
4. Spread sauce over crusts, and then top with pepperoni and cheeses.
5. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or a little longer, as needed.

 

Broccoli Alfredo

This is a simple and tasty dish, ready in 30 minutes. 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.

Ingredients

12 oz. linguine or spaghetti noodles
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Prepare the linguine or spaghetti noodles according to the package directions in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain the linguine mixture well in a colander.
  2. Heat the butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and cook until well browned and cooked through, stirring often.
  3. Stir the soup, milk, cheese, pepper, and linguine mixture in the skillet and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

 

15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

I love this dish because it is so fast to make! It is one of my quick go-to recipes.

Ingredients

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) cream of chicken (or substitute cream of mushroom) soup
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups uncooked instant white rice
2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli florets

Directions

  1. Season the chicken as desired.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides.  Remove the chicken from the skillet.
  2. Stir the soup, water, paprika, and pepper in the skillet, and heat to a boil.  Stir in the rice and broccoli.  Reduce the heat to low.  Return the chicken to the skillet.  Sprinkle the chicken with additional paprika.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Season to taste.

 

Creamy Pasta and Veggies

This is a quick and easy dirt cheap meal my husband and I invented to use up some veggies we had on hand. And it tastes great, I think. 🙂

Ingredients

2 to 4 cups pasta
1 small can cream of mushroom soup (or sub cream of chicken soup)
1 cup cut or baby carrots
1 cup broccoli
1 small onion, chopped (if desired)
salt and pepper or seasoned salt, to taste

Directions

1. In a large pot, cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the chopped or baby carrots for about the last 7 minutes and the broccoli and onion for about the last 5 minutes.

2. Drain the pasta in a colander, and then return it to the pot. Add the cream of mushroom soup and salt and pepper to taste, and then stir well to combine.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is another easy, budget friendly meal that’s great for cold days.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup carrots)
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup celery)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chicken broth (or more, if desired)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
12 oz. pasta or egg noodles
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken 
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
salt, to taste

Directions

1. Add the oil to a large pot, and heat over medium-high heat.

2. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir occasionally.

3. Add the garlic, and sauté for another minute or two.

4. Add the chicken broth, oregano, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Allow mixture to boil gently for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are fork-tender.

5. Add the noodles, and boil mixture for about 10 minutes, or until noodles are soft and cooked through. Add more water, if needed.

6. Add the chicken and parsley, and boil for a few minutes, until the chicken is warmed through. Add salt to taste, and serve with crackers, rolls, or bread and butter.

 

 Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

This is another tasty chicken soup perfect for cold days. And this one is a creamy comfort food, as well!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup  all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 pound cooked chicken, cubed

Directions

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the carrot, celery, and onion until tender.

2. Add the garlic, and cook for about 1 minute.

3. Stir in the rice, seasonings, and broth, and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes until rice is tender.

5. Mix the flour and milk until smooth, and stir into the soup.

6. Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Stir in chicken, and cook until chicken is heated through.

 

Leftovers

Don’t dismiss your leftovers! Eating leftovers is a great way to save both time and money in the kitchen!

You may even want to keep a paper or whiteboard or similar thing on yoru fridge where you keep a list of the leftovers in your fridge and the day that you prepared the meal so that you can use your leftovers before they go bad and not forget about them.

 

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2 Week Dirt Cheap Breakfast Example Meal Plan

Note: This is of course just an example of easy dirt cheap breakfast ideas. Change it up any way that you like!

Also feel free to have just two or three breakfast options that you choose between (such as cold cereal with milk, fried eggs with toast, and fruit with yogurt) and then just repeat them to keep things easier for yourselves on busy mornings and to potentially save more money!

Check out this article for even more ideas for inexpensive breakfast meals.

Week 1

Sunday: Waffles
Monday: Cold cereal with milk (try to get cereal that is close to 10 cents per ounce to make this a more economical choice)
Tuesday: Fried eggs with toast
Wednesday: Bagels with cream cheese, jam, or peanut butter
Thursday: French toast (or toaster pastries)
Friday: Oatmeal or overnight cold oatmeal
Saturday: Crepes or German pancakes

Week 2

Sunday: Egg omelets
Monday: Cream of wheat
Tuesday: Muffins (homemade, or from a box)
Wednesday: Yogurt with fruit (generally the cheapest option is to buy generic-brand yogurt in the larger tub and eat it wish sliced bananas)
Thursday: Toast with jam or peanut butter
Friday: Cold cereal with milk
Saturday: Pancakes

2 Week Dirt Cheap Lunch Example Meal Plan

Note: In the list below I am including only very simple lunch options for dirt cheap meals that you can make in a matter of minutes—they are perfect for busy mornings when you are trying to get ready for work and get kids off to school. (Many of these options are great for school lunches, too!)

Of course you can also use any of the ideas for dinner (or for breakfast!) as a meal for lunch, as well!

 

Week 1 and Week 2 (repeat the dirt cheap meal ideas for lunch listed below during the two weeks to meet the needs of your family)

Sandwiches (ideas include peanut butter and jam sandwiches, meat and cheese sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna fish sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, tuna fish and egg sandwiches, and chicken salad sandwiches) or wraps
Green salads (ideas above)
Pasta salads (ideas above)
Meat and cheese (or just cheese) quesadillas
Leftovers

2 Week Dirt Cheap Dinner Example Meal Plan

Note: As I mentioned with the list of breakfast ideas, as you do your meal planning, feel free to reorganize and substitute meals below as needed. You can find a list of more than 60 cheap and easy 30-minute (or less) dinner meals here.

Also, if meal planning is very new to you and you are just completely overwhelmed by it, start super simple with your dinner meal planning! Simply pick 7 meals that you like that are quick and easy, and repeat them each week of the month. Meal planning = Done!

 

Week 1

Sunday: Macaroni and cheese (or More Better Mac and Cheese, where you add chopped up broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, and other vegetables of your choice)
Monday: Homemade refried bean and cheese burritos
Tuesday: Baked potatoes with cheese, sour cream, salsa, barbecue sauce, or other favorite toppings
Wednesday: Chili (homemade or from a can; add an extra can or two of kidney or other favorite beans to canned chili to make it go further and to make this dish even less expensive) and corn bread (or crackers)
Thursday: Easy Garlic Chicken and Rice or leftovers (be sure to use your leftovers if you have them! :))
Friday: Quesadillas or black bean quesadillas
Saturday: Hot dogs with fries or potato chips, or creamy pasta and veggies

 

Week 2

Sunday: Cheap frozen pizzas (Totino’s is one of the cheapest brands, or check store brands; per ounce, our local store brand is sometimes cheaper, and also better tasting, than the Totino’s), or backpacker’s pizza (tortillas, pepperoni, and shredded cheese)
Monday: Ramen noodles (with vegetables)
Tuesday: Meatless spaghetti
Wednesday: Egg fried rice or chicken noodle soup (or creamy chicken and rice soup)
Thursday: 15 Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner or leftovers (don’t forget to eat your leftovers!)
Friday: Broccoli alfredo or grilled cheese sandwiches (with tomato or mushroom soup from a can, if desired)
Saturday: Meatless taco soup

Final Thoughts on Dirt Cheap Meals

These quick, easy, and dirt cheap meals are perfect for a super tight budget! They will let you get food on the table fast to feed your family! All ready in 15 minutes or less, these budget-friendly super cheap meals are great for busy families!

For more ways to save money on cheap meals, see this article for more than 100 cheap recipes that you can make for $5 or less in 30 minutes or less.

 

 

What are your favorite quick, easy, dirt cheap meals? Do you have quick and inexpensive go-to dishes that you just love and use in your meal planning? I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below!

 

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!

Join Our Facebook Group!

Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.

7 Simple Steps for How to Make a Budget: Learn the Simple Steps That Work!

how to make a budget

How to Make a Budget

In this article I am going to discuss how to make a budget. Learn the simple steps that every person and family can follow to make a budget that actually works! Learn the 7 steps that allowed us to pay off over $260,000 in debt in less than 10 years (including our mortgage)!

Budgeting is so important to your financial success because when you get control of your spending by creating and then following a monthly budget, you gain control of what one financial expert calls your largest wealth-building tool: your income. And when you control your income, you can reach your awesome financial goals and achieve your dreams!

If you want even more information on how to make a budget, also read this complete Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting!

 

Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily refer to this article on how to make a budget later!

 

 

How to Make a Budget (That Actually Works!) in 7 Simple Steps!

Below I am going to share 7 simple steps for how to make a budget that will actually work to help you save money and reach your short- and long-term financial goals!

 

1. Track what you spend as you work to make your budget.

Track what you spend for a couple of weeks or a month to really get a good feel for where your money has been going. This doesn’t have to be perfect; just do your best. Use a debit card to make purchases and pay bills as much as possible during this time so that you can go to your bank or credit union website to see what you have spent. Sign up below (after step 2) to receive a free spending tracker form!

 

2. Start with a simple, hard-copy budget.

When you very first start budgeting, I recommend using a paper budget. This gives you a simple way to create your first budget by helping you to get a rough idea of what you would like to spend where. Sign up below for a simple budget that will help you get started!

 

Once you get the hang of budgeting and have done it for a few months, go ahead and switch to a digital budgeting system if you prefer. 

 

Check out these related articles:

Complete Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting
17 Must-Know Tips to Rock Your First Budget!
Budgeting fail? Try This Simple Alternative to Budgeting
13 Surefire Steps to Help You Stick to Your Budget
9 Must-Know Tips to Help You Finally Start Saving! 

3. List all income sources as you work to make your budget.

If you have a job where you receive regular paychecks, this shouldn’t take too long. Simply add up all income (for you and your spouse), and write that number at the top of the page. Don’t forget to include freelance income and any money earned from second jobs, overtime, or side hustles.

Here is a list of possible income sources:

  • Wife’s job
  • Husband’s job
  • Wife’s second job or side hustle
  • Husband’s second job or side hustle
  • Child or spousal support
  • Rental income
  • Disability income

 

4. List all of your expenses as you make your budget.

Then begin to list your expenses. Don’t forget to include tithing and charitable giving in this category.

Do a zero-based budget so that every dollar you have goes to a designated place. If you don’t, it’s almost certain that the unallocated money will get blown in one area or another. Be intentional with all of your money so that your money really works for you.

First list your regular, fixed expenses. Gather your regular bills, such as mortgage or rent payment, car payment, public transportation pass, utilities, health insurance premium (if not deducted automatically by your employer), cell phone bill, internet bill, car insurance bill, and so on.

Here is an easy list for reference of common fixed expenses you can use when creating your budget:

  • Tithing
  • Charitable giving
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Renters insurance
  • Homeowners insurance and property taxes (if not paid with the mortgage)
  • Car payment
  • Automobile insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Internet
  • Cell phones
  • Cable/satellite TV
  • Home phone
  • Gym or rec center membership
  • Retirement savings

Then list your variable expenses. After you add up all of your fixed expenses, figure out your variable monthly expenses such as groceries, gasoline, household expenses, clothing, entertainment and eating out, pet food and supplies, and toiletries.

And here is an easy list for reference of common variable expenses you can use when creating your budget:

  • Groceries
  • Household items (cleaners, towels, and related items)
  • Eating out
  • Gasoline/fuel
  • Public transportation
  • Clothing
  • Utilities (electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage)
  • Toiletries, makeup, and related items
  • Child care
  • Pet food and supplies
  • House maintenance
  • Home furnishings and appliances
  • Car maintenance
  • Education/tuition
  • Kids’ school or sport/music expenses
  • Entertainment
  • Electronics/toys
  • Recreation/sports and vacations
  • Hair care (stylist/barber)
  • Christmas and gift giving

 

5. Decide how much money you will budget toward savings.

 Before you budget for other expenses, budget in your savings. This is known as paying yourself first. If you budget your savings first, you will know it will be taken care of and you can trim other budget categories if needed to make saving (even if it is a small amount at first) a reality. If you wait to budget your savings last, you might feel like you have nothing left over to save.

 

Start Small If You Need to When You First Make Your Budget

It’s likely when you first start budgeting that you won’t have a lot of money left over to put toward savings. It’s OK to start small, but as quickly as you can, start increasing the amount that you save toward specific categories. And no matter how little your income, start saving something right from the beginning if you possibly can, to get yourself into the habit of saving.

As long as you make a little more than your fixed expenses each month, then determine a realistic amount to save, and save that portion of your income before you do anything else—known as “paying yourself first.” If you plan to just “save what’s left over,” the chances that you’ll have anything left to save are slim.

If you crunch the numbers and you really just don’t have anything left over to put toward saving (and then paying off debt once your starter emergency fund is funded—see the next section) after paying all of your bills, then you should look at ways to earn additional income.

 

Fund Your Starter Emergency Fund (EF) First as You Make Your Budget

The first thing you should start saving toward when you make your budget is a starter emergency fund. This is a crucial next step because an emergency fund gets you out of the mode of relying on credit cards and it really does virtually stop emergencies from happening. It’s not that your car’s transmission never goes out or your roof never springs a leak, but those things are no longer emergencies—they are inconveniences because you have the money saved up to pay for them.

You should put all extra money above bare-bones expenses (that means minimal spending on eating out, entertainment, and so on) into your emergency fund until it is fully funded. If you have consumer debt, start with a small emergency fund of $1,000 to one month’s worth of expenses (depending on how likely you are to need the money—for example, scale upward if you have an older car or home), and pay off your consumer debt before you build your full emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. Try to build up your $1,000 starter emergency fund in a month or less by slashing expenses such as your grocery bill and entertainment spending, by selling stuff, and by earning extra money through overtime or a side hustle or second job.

Learn more about how to fund your emergency fund as quickly as possible.

After you have funded your starter emergency fund and have paid off all of your nonmortgage debt (discussed in the next step), start working toward your fully funded emergency fund and toward saving for large purchases.

 

Tired of tiny interest rates on your savings?

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 Then you should check out CIT Bank. We love our CIT Bank savings account, which offers the highest savings rate that we know of. With the CIT Bank Savings Builder, you can earn up to 1.75% on your savings account (which is really good in today’s market)!

And right now you can get up to $300 when you open a Savings Builder account! Click here to learn more and open your savings account today!

6. Start working to pay off your debts.

Once you a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000, begin working to pay off your debts.

After you start budgeting and have all of your expenses written down on paper, you will start to see areas where you can reduce your spending (see this article for more than 35 areas where you can cut your spending) in order to start paying off your debt.

Once you have a good handle on doing your monthly budget, try to set up your budget so that you can pay extra payments on your debt in order to have all of your nonmortgage debt paid off within 18 to 24 months—or faster, if you can! (You may want to find ways to increase your income or find things to sell in order to help you reach this goal.) In order to pay off your debts, use either the snowball debt payment method or the avalanche debt payment method.

Briefly, the debt snowball method is where you list all of your debts smallest to largest and you pay just minimum payments on all of your debts except for the smallest one and then throw all of the money that you can toward that smallest debt until it is paid off. Then once that first debt is paid off, you use the all of the money from your budget that you were spending on paying off that smallest debt to attack your next smallest debt. And then so on.

With the debt avalanche method, you similarly pay minimum payments on all but one debt, but the debt that you attack first is the one with the highest interest rate. You will save on interest if you use the avalanche method, but I recommend that you follow the snowball method because of the motivation that comes from paying off the smaller debts first and getting the emotional boost from those relatively quick wins. The snowball method is the method we used to pay off more than $60,000 in nonmortgage debt.

 

7. Continue tracking your spending each month, and adapt your budget as needed over time.

Don’t get frustrated and give up if your budget doesn’t seem to work at the beginning and you overspend or forget to record all of your expenses. We’re shooting for progress, not perfection. 🙂

It will probably take about three months to work out the major kinks in your budget, but then your budget will really start to work! You should create a specific budget for every month because no two months are exactly the same, but once you’ve been budgeting for a while, your budget will be mostly set and you’ll only have to make minor tweaks from month to month. However, when major events happen in life that cause big changes in your finances, be sure to adapt your budget accordingly.

 

How to Make a Budget That Will Work: Must-Know Tips to Succeed at Budgeting

Another important aspect of how to make a budget is what to do to actually succeed at budgeting, or what to do to make a budget that will work for your family. To succeed at budgeting, here are 5 important things you should do.

 

Adjust Your Budget Categories If You Overspend in an Area So That Your Budget Stays Balanced Each Month

Because you’re going to go off of a zero-based budget, if you decide you have to spend more in one area than you planned for, then you need to pull the money from another spending category. So if something comes up where you need to spend more on your gifts category, for example, because you receive a wedding invitation, then the amount in your entertainment category or fun money or clothing category or somewhere else will need to be adjusted. Your budget needs to balance out.

 

Automate Your Finances to Help You Succeed at Budgeting

To avoid getting overwhelmed, automate as much of your finances as possible. I don’t have any bills that I regularly pay with a check—we use bill pay for all of our expenses, including tithing and charitable donations. Automating our financial transactions saves time and makes life much simpler (and helps me avoid forgetting to pay my bills!).

If you want to learn more about how to automate your bill paying, saving, and investing to simplify your life and start to build wealth, I recommend The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. It’s one of my favorite personal finance books because it gives simple, actionable steps you can follow. And check out this article for more information on automating your finances.

 

Use Cash for Budget Categories You Tend to Overspend On

Some areas that you’ll probably want to use cash for in your budget include food, entertainment, clothing, and personal fun money. You can use envelopes to keep your cash for the week or month or a wallet with different compartments. You can learn how to stop overspending here.

Budget to Save for Large Purchases and Expenses as Soon as Possible

If you do not have any debt and you have already created your fully funded emergency fund, then start to save toward other financial priorities. You can learn how to save for large purchases here.

In order to stay out of debt and build wealth, you’ve got to be able to cover your expenses without borrowing money. This means you need to have the money saved to cover these costs with cash. For financial well-being, all families should have the following savings accounts in place and be regularly funding them.

  • Create a vehicle maintenance and replacement fund as soon as possible. Shorter term, funding your vehicle savings account prevents regular car maintenance and unexpected repair costs from becoming financial emergencies. And longer term, this fund helps you save thousands of dollars in interest by paying a car payment to yourself instead of to a bank or other lender.
  • Create a house maintenance or down payment fund. If you are a homeowner (or plan to be a homeowner in the future), then this is a must. Eventually virtually everything in your home will need to be repaired or replaced. And some of those items are really expensive. Yes, homeowners insurance will take care of many things, but whenever you can, you should be your own insurance plan—you should self-insure by having savings to cover those inevitable expenses that will crop up. This will help to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible—so raise those deductibles! And there are some things that homeowners insurance simply won’t pay for (generally), such as burst water pipes, collapsed sewer lines, and damage caue by earthquakes, mold, floods, and more.
  • Create other savings funds. Here are some examples of other savings funds that we have and that I recommend you set up as soon as possible:
    • Save for vacations, Christmas, gift giving, larger household items (such as appliances and furnishings), and more. Once you have the essential items covered in your budget (food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and utilities, for example), begin saving for things like vacations, Christmas, household furnishings and appliances, and so on. The easiest way that I’ve found to do this is by having separate savings accounts for each category.Pro tip: If your bank or credit union doesn’t offer very good interest rates on savings accounts, look into CIT Bank or another online bank with high interest rates.

      One of the things that I love about my CIT Bank Savings Builder account is that you can have multiple savings accounts for your various savings goals. They also have one of the best interest rates around, with up to 1.75% interest rate on your savings. And right now, you can get up to $300 when you open a Savings Builder account.

      Learn more or open your CIT Bank Savings Builder account today!

    • Create a dream fund. When you are out of debt and have begun to save for all of the above items, begin funding your dreams. Because learning to be financially savvy isn’t just so you can pay all your bills and retire with dignity and give to the causes you support—though all of those things are extremely important. It’s also so that you can really enjoy the many things money can buy, guilt free and without debt. This might mean saving for a motorcycle, a nice car, an RV, a boat, an exotic vacation—whatever you want. If you’re young or have a lot of debt it may be years before you can fully fund or maybe even start these savings funds, but if you keep it in the back of your mind, it will help you stay on track financially.

Learn the 9 savings accounts that every family should have.

 

Budget Money to Save for Retirement and Save for Kids’ College

There’s a saying in the personal finance industry that the best time to start investing was yesterday—and the next best time is now. So as soon as you can, start investing for retirement in a 401(k) or Roth IRA (or both!), and start saving for your children’s college expenses in an educational savings account (ESA) or college 529.

Even if you start with just $100 a month, the savings begins to grow quickly, and by seeing the progress you make, you’ll be motivated to save even more. We have investment accounts with both Schwab and Vanguard. Both are inexpensive, excellent options to help you start investing for retirement and saving for college today.

Find more information about how to succeed at budgeting here.

Final Thoughts on How to Make a Budget

With these 7 simple budgeting steps, you can learn how to make a budget work for you! By identifying and tracking your expenses, listing your income and expenses, drafting your budget, including money for saving and paying off debt, and adjusting your budget if you overspend in a category so that your budget stays balanced, you will succeed at budgeting! It will take some time and consistent effort, but you can do this! And your future self will be forever grateful. 🙂

If you want to be able to have financial peace and stability and eventually reach financial freedom, you have to be able to have money left over after your spending to save and to invest. And in order to do that, you have to master a budget or spending plan. If you want to win financially, as with any area of your life, you have to make a plan and stick to it. Find information on how to stick to your budget here. And you can find the complete  Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting.

What questions do you have about how to make a budget or how to start budgeting? Have you tried to budget before and not been able to stick with it? What are your biggest budgeting challenges or hurdles? Leave a comment below and let me know!

 

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!

Join Our Facebook Group!

Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.

25 Cheap, Easy Slow Cooker Meals for under $5!

cheap easy slow cooker meals

Cheap Slow Cooker Meals (Cheap Crockpot Meals) for under $5

Find information and links below to recipes for cheap slow cooker meals (Crock-Pot meals) that are easy and that you can make for your family for under $5!

Winter is fast approaching. And even though I am kind of dreading it and looking forward to spring, the cold weather is perfect for some of my favorite slow cooker (Crock-Pot) meals. These cheap and easy slow cooker meals are perfect for dinner after work and school or for an easy meal on a busy Saturday.

When it’s a cold, wintry day outside, these tasty, inexpensive slow cooker dishes will warm you up from the inside out!

 

Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily find these recipes for cheap and easy slow cooker meals later!

Make Your Cheap Slow Cooker Meals Even Cheaper!

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can prepare inexpensive slow cooker meals and other meals is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!

I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!

Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!

 

 

Preparing Easy and Cheap Slow Cooker Meals (Cheap Crockpot Meals)

If you are looking to replace your old slow cooker, of if you do not have a slow cooker, one of the best ones that is a great value (budget friendly) and has really good reviews is this 7-quart, dishwasher safe programmable slow cooker from Hamilton Beach. Just click the image below for more information!

Or if you want to simplify your meal preparation even more (and possibly cut down on the number of gadgets you have in your kitchen!), consider getting an Instant Pot. We just got one of these last year, and they are so convenient! I love ours! Click on the image below to learn more about the benefits of getting an Instant Pot!

 

 

Cheap and Easy Slow Cooker Meals for under $5!

Below are 25 cheap and easy $5 Crock-Pot (slow cooker) meals that your family will love! With these recipes, you do simple meal prep, and your slow cooker does all the work!

 

1. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

This is a family favorite on cold days (or any day, really :)). To keep it to $5 (and keep it less spicy), omit the can of diced green chile peppers and use just one can of diced tomatoes. You can find this easy slow cooker taco soup recipe here.

 

2. White Chicken Slow Cooker Chili

This is another of our favorite winter meals. Omit the salsa verde, Monterey Jack cheese, and cilantro if desired to help keep costs low. (And I think it tastes better without those things—except for the cheese. :)) Find this tasty white chicken slow cooker chili recipe here!

 

3. Slow Cooker Meatloaf

If you love meatloaf but are leery of making it because it can sometimes get a little dry, then slow cooker meatloaf is the perfect solution for you! This slow cooker meatloaf is moist and yummy. And even better, you can make it as a freezer meal for even less prep time when you are ready to cook it. Check out this simple and satisfying slow cooker meatloaf recipe here.

 

4. 3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

This meal is super quick, super easy, and super tasty. To save even more money (and make the dish less spicy), use regular diced tomatoes in place of the Rotel tomatoes. This base can be used for chicken tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, and more! You will find this easy slow cooker chicken taco recipe here.

 

5. Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This easy, tasty enchilada dish takes only 10 minutes to prepare! To save even more money, substitute the enchilada sauce with tomato sauce and taco seasoning (like we do; personally, I like the taste better, too! :)). Get the recipe for slow cooker chicken enchilada casserole here.

 

Related articles:

65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Big Bucks!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

6. Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

This classic Mexican dish is simple and quick to make; it can be ready to slow cook in just 15 minutes! To keep this dish to $5, you may want to stick with the less expensive peppers (like green peppers), and substitute carrots or another favorite vegetable for the other colored peppers. You can also substitute regular diced tomatoes for tomatoes with green chiles. Find this slow cooker chicken fajitas recipe here.

 

7. Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken Stew

This is another yummy comfort dish. If you like garlic Parmesan (like me!), you will love this meal! The garlic and Parmesan give a fun twist to this dish. To save money, simply cut up regular russet potatoes in place of the smaller potatoes called for. Get this tasty slow cooker garlic Parmesan chicken stew recipe here.

 

8.  Slow Cooker Honey Lemon Chicken

This is another tasty chicken dish. It is a great way to use the more economical chicken thighs and drumsticks, too.  (Or you can substitute chicken breast, too, if you prefer.) Again, the small potatoes called for in the recipe can be replaced with cut up russet or other less expensive potatoes. Find this simple slow cooker honey lemon chicken recipe here.

 

9. Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

This slow cooker recipe is the ultimate in comfort food! And it is easy peasy cheesy delicious. 🙂 If you want to save even more money, you can make your own cream of chicken soup (and even double the batch to freeze some for later!); a link for that recipe is included on the web page. Get this great recipe for Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken and Rice here.

 

 

10. Sour Cream Chili Bake

Sour cream chili bake is another great $5 Crock Pot recipe! If you do not have any enchilada sauce on hand, you can simply double the tomato sauce and add a package of chili or taco seasoning (that is generally what I do instead of using enchilada sauce). Get this sour cream chili bake recipe here.

 

11. Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Soup

This is a great way to make an inexpensive and hearty meal with leftover rotisserie chicken! All you need is the leftover chicken, chicken broth (the recipe includes simple instructions for how to make that while you make the soup), carrots, celery (or substitute another vegetable of your choice, such as brocolli, like I often do), rice, kidney beans (or your favorite beans), and seasonings. Find the recipe for leftover rotisserie chicken soup here

If you do not have any Italian seasoning on hand, no worries! You can easily make some with this recipe here. (Just substitute or omit any of the seasonings that you do not care for or do not have on hand.)

 

12. Crock-Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This soup is a great comfort food and is perfect for fall or winter (or anytime!). This recipe is packed with delicious veggies and is great to eat with your favorite crusty bread or your favorite dinner roll. To save money and keep this recipe to $5 per meal, you can substitute regular rice for the wild rice, and substitute whole milk (or whatever milk you have on hand) for the half and half.

Find this slow cooker chicken and wild rice soup recipe here.

 

 13. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Noodles

This slow cooker Italian chicken and noodles recipe is great for busy days because it is very qucik to prepare. And it is also easy to make because you probably have virtually all of the ingredients in your pantry and freezer, so it is something you can make on short notice. Get the slow cooker Italian chicken and noodles recipe here.

 

14. Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

This slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs recipe is quick and easy to prepare. You even cook the pasta right in your slow cooker. If you do not have crushed tomatoes on hand, you can substitute additional diced tomatoes. You can also omit the Italian sausage and Panko to keep costs down, and you can substitute dried basil for fresh if you do not have any fresh basil on hand.

Get the slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs recipe here.

 

15. Pulled Barbecue Chicken

Pulled chicken is a great staple for making barbecue chicken sandwiches, serving over rice, serving in a salad, and more! You can get this easy pulled barbecue chicken recipe here.

 

16. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

We love making slow cooker pulled pork for barbecue sandwiches, to make taco salads and burritos and enchiladas, to serve over rice in Hawaiian type dishes, and more! And making the pulled pork is so easy; the slow cooker does all the work to make this tender, moist dish. This recipe from Betty Crocker takes just 10 minutes to prep and uses simple ingredients you will have on hand.

Get the slow cooker pulled pork recipe here.

 

17. Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

If you want a little bit healthier alternative to regular chili (and sometimes less expensive option), try slow cooker turkey chili. You can prep this dish in less than 20 minutes, and let the slow cooker do the work for you of blending the tastes of this hearty meal. (You can omit the tomato paste if you do not have any on hand; I generally don’t.) Find this easy slow cooker turkey chili recipe here.

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

Meal Planning BinderAre you tired of spending so much time on grocery shopping and meal planning and prep? Are you sick of spending so much money on groceries and eating out? Do you hate the dreaded nightly question, “Hey, what’s for dinner?”

If you answered YES! to any of these questions, then the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder is for you! Get more than 60 actionable pages to help you save time, money, and effort, month after month! Grab your copy today!

18. Slow Cooker Goulash

Using a slow cooker is a great way to make goulash! This is another classic comfort food that is perfect for a chilly day! (Or a day when you do not want to heat up your kitchen in the heat of the summer! :)) This recipe from $5 Dinners is quick and easy to make. Get the slow cooker goulash recipe here!

 

19. Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

If you love macaroni and cheese, why not give it a try in your slow cooker?! This recipe is easy and cheesy. 🙂 (You can omit the dry mustard powder and simply use more of the cheddar cheese in place of the gruyere cheese if you do not have them on hand.) Find this simple and tasty slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe here.

 

20. Slow Cooker Curried Coconut Chicken

If you love curry, give this curried coconut chicken recipe a try! Prep time is less than 10 minutes, and then the slow cooker does all the work! You can find this easy slow cooker curried coconut chicken recipe here.

 

21. Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

 This is another tasty and super quick to prepare slow cooker chicken recipe. It is another easy recipe that you can prepare in just 10 minutes or less! If you are not a fan of cilantro (like Ia m not), you can omit them and still have a great soup. You can find this slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe here.  

 

22. Slow Cooker Sour Cream Chili Bake

This is another great Mexican inspired slow cooker dish. For this recipe, if you do not have enchilada sauce on hand, you can substitute with another can of tomato sauce. You can also substitute whatever cheese you have on hand for the American cheese, if you choose. Get this simple slow cooker sour cream chili bake recipe here.

23. Potato Bacon Chowder Soup

The bacon in this hearty slow cooker soup recipe gives it an awesome flavor. You can make this recipe more budget-friendly (and keep it to about $1 per person) by substituting generic cream of mushroom soup for the Campbell’s cream of potato soup called for. This recipe serves 10 people, so you can half it (and keep it to about $5) if you have a smaller crowd to feed. 🙂 Find the recipe for potato bacon chowder soup here.

 

24. Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

Another great way to serve up potatoes in the slow cooker is to make slow cooker baked potatoes. Simply wash the potatoes, prick them with a fork several times, and rub with a little oil and sprkinkle with salt if desired before wrapping in foil. Then bake on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours. Then top with your favorite toppings like cheese, bacon, ham, chili, sour cream, salsa, ranch dressing, or other favorites. You can find a simple recipe for slow cooker baked potatoes here

 

25. Slow Cooker Garlic Roasted Chicken

For another easy slow cooker chicken recipe, try this slow cooker garlic roasted chicken recipe. Serve with baked or roasted potatoes or cooked rice to round out this simple meal.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap, Easy Slow Cooker Meals

These cheap and easy slow cooker meals will help you to get dinner on the table fast on those cold, busy days! Feed your family quick, delicious, easy and cheap Crockpot meals every day of the workweek for under $5!

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42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!

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

Cheap and Easy Meals (Budget Friendly 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 ideas for quick, easy, budget friendly meals, 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!

Heads up: Do you want even more easy recipes? Find more than 100 cheap and easy family recipes for $5 or less, ready in 30 minutes or less!

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so you can easily refer to this article on cheap and easy budget-friendly meals later!

 

Make Your Cheap and Easy Meals Even Cheaper!

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can prepare budget friendly meals is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!

I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!

Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!

 

42 Cheap and Easy Meals for under $5

Below are 42 tasty, quick, and cheap and easy meals you can make for the whole family. These are 40+ budget friendly meals you can make in 30 minutes or less!

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.

Waffles

Ingredients

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon white sugar (we generally leave out the sugar)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Preheat the waffle iron. Crack the eggs and put them in a large bowl. (Beat them at this point, if you want, for fluffier waffles. I never worry about doing that. :)) Add the flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix until smooth.

2. Spray the heated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray, and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup cup mix onto your iron (depending on the size of your iron). Cook until desired doneness. (If you like them more well done, cook until they are golden brown.)

3. Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 

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.)

And here is a simple recipe for pancakes.

Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten (if desired)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, eggs, and oil. Mix until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Lightly brown on both sides until desired doneness.
  3. Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 

 

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 below. Or for a little bit heartier French toast recipe click here.

Ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

dash of salt (optional)

Cinnamon and sugar mixture

16 slices of your favorite bread

Directions

1. Preheat a large griddle or square frying pan, and coat it with non-stick cooking spray (or butter or margarine).

2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla in a square baking dish or pan. Dip each slice of bread in the batter, coating one side and then flipping to coat the other side.

3. Place the bread slices on the griddle or frying pan, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Cook on medium heat until golden brown on each side (about 2 to 3 minutes), or until desired doneness (I like mine pre-golden brown :)).

4. Serve warm with butter and syrup, powdered sugar, jam, or other favorite toppings.

 

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 here.

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, and salt. Beat until smooth. (But if you have a few lumps, don’t worry about it; they still taste great.)

2. Heat a lightly oiled frying pan over medium high heat. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto the frying pan for each crepe. Tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.

3. Cook the crepes for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is lightly browned. Then loosen with a spatula, and flip to cook the other side.

4. Serve warm with powdered sugar, syrup, jam, cinnamon and sugar, or other favorite toppings.

 

5. Fried eggs with toast

This is a very quick, easy, and cheap breakfast that we love! All you need is bread, eggs, some simple seasonings, and a little bit of margarine or butter for the toast if desired. 

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
100+ Cheap and Easy Family Recipes for $5 or Less!
(Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
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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.

Here is a simple recipe (adapt the filling to your liking :)):

Ingredients

1 teaspoon vegetable oil or canola oil (or butter or margarine)

1/2 bell pepper (green, red, yellow, orange, or a combination), chopped

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned)

2 cups baby spinach

6 eggs

1/4 cup water or milk

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Directions

1. In large nonstick skillet, heat the oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onion is tender. Stir in the spinach, cooking and stirring until the spinach wilts.

2. Crack the eggs into the pan, and add the 1/4 cup water or milk. Gently stir until all ingredients are well combined. Allow the eggs to cook until the eggs start to solidify. Top with cheese. Fold the egg mixture in half, and let it continue to cook until the egg mixture solidifies and the cheese is melted.

3. Serve with salsa, if desired.

 

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!

Ingredients

12 oz. frozen hash browns (about 4 cups)

8 oz. cubed ham (or just cut up sliced ham luncheon meat)

1 green pepper (or whatever color you like), chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup shredded cheese

8 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the hash browns, ham, cheese, green peppers, and onion in a large bowl; toss to combine. Add the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together to combine.

2. Pour into an 8 x 8 casserole dish that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Put the dish in the oven, and bake for about an hour. When the casserole is done, the center will be set (not liquidy).

 

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!

Easy Oatmeal Recipe

cups rolled old-fashioned oats

4 to 5 cups water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

sweetener such as sugar, maple syrup, honey, fresh fruit, or artificial sweetener

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, add the liquid and turn the heat to medium-high heat. Once the liquid boils, reduce heat to medium low, and then add the salt and rolled oats.

2. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on desired level of thickness, stirring occasionally.

3. Divide into bowls and serve with milk and desired sweetener.

Easy Cream of Wheat Recipe

4 cups of water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cream of wheat

Directions

Bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in cereal, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 2 minutes.

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 :)).

One easy muffin recipe that is tasty is this easy banana muffin recipe: 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In another large bowl, mash the bananas. Then to that second bowl add the egg and oil, and mix well. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients.

2. Fill 12 greased muffin cups half full. Put the muffins in the preheated oven, and bake for 20 minutes (or until inserted toothpick comes out clean). Serve warm with butter or margarine, if desired.

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

Yogurt and fruit is another cheap and easy breakfast. To save money, buy yogurt in the bigger tubs, and then measure the amount that you want to eat for your meals. The cheapest fruit you can eat with yogurt is generally bananas, but strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other berries are other options when they are in season and relatively inexpensive. (They are an especially good option the couple of weeks a year when they are available at a really good price.) When berries are not in season, you can still enjoy for a relatively good price by buying them frozen (if you buy the name brand bags of frozen fruit, check online and in your weekly ads for coupons).

Other good options are mangoes and peaches (fresh or frozen, or even from the can if you drain them and wash off the sugary syrup), pears, and cans of mixed fruit.

 

13. Peanut butter and toast

This is a super cheap and easy meal, and it is filling, too! And what’s more, it takes just a couple of minutes to make! Triple win!

 

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 cheap and easy quiche recipe below 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).

Ingredients

1 pie crust (premade, or make your own)

6 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped cooked ham

1 cup shredded cheese

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Unroll the pie crust and press it into a 9″ pie plate.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.

4. Sprinkle the ham and cheese into the pie crust, and pour the egg mixture over the top.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the center is set. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then slice and serve.

 

15. Toaster pastries (sneaking this one in!)

OK, I know toaster pastries (Pop Tarts) have virtually 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!

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
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(Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
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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

These are about as simple an option as you can get. But I love them!

2. Tuna fish sandwiches

Though not as inexpensive as it used to be, tuna is still an inexpensive way to go for lunch.

 

3. Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

If you love tuna sandwiches and you love egg salad sandwiches, put them together for a new twist on an old favorite.

4. Egg salad sandwiches

In our family we love this simple and tasty cheap lunch option. All you need is bread and eggs and your favorite brand of mayonnaise or salad dressing and favorite seasonings, and you are ready to go!

5. Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

Choose your favorite lunch meat such as honey ham, chicken, turkey, or beef, and then add a slice of cheese, tomato and lettuce (or spinach), and a little mayo and mustard if desired.

6. Chicken salad sandwiches

Chicken salad sandwiches are one of my all-time favorite lunches. You can keep it really simple with just the chicken and a little may or salad dressing and your favorite seasonings.
Or dress this sandwich up (see the information about chicken salad supreme sandwiches below) with your favorite nuts (such as cashews or my preferred cheaper option, peanuts), seeds, sliced grapes, cubed cheese, finely chopped apples, chopped celery, and more! There are so many options for this versatile meal!

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

This classic and cheap lunch idea is great any time of year, but is particularly delicious on cold days! To make this kid-friendly dish even more filling, add your favorite lunch meat, or add spinach or another favorite vegetable to boost the nutritional value!

8. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

Quesadillas are so easy! You can use just your favorite tortilla shells and type of cheese, or add sliced lunch meat, spinach, hot dogs (kind of weird, but my younger brothers love it), beans, or favorite cooked vegetables. Yum!

9. Avocado egg salad sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches are awesome, and adding avocado makes them even awesomer (but also more expensive :-\).

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

What’s not to love about classic BLTs? Add mayo or salad dressing for a little extra zing, and swap the lettuce for spinach to make them a little more nutritious.

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

Like I said just above, in my opinion, the best green salad is the one that is filled with tons of other great foods like meat and cheese and croutons. 🙂 But you can also keep them simpler (as I often do, despite my preferences :)) with using simple greens like leafy lettuce and spinach or kale and adding your favorite vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, and the like.

14. Spinach and strawberry green salad

 Even though I do not turn this salad into a sandwich :), it is still one of my favorites. All you need are spinach, strawberries, and almonds if you have them on hand (or substitute less expensive seeds or nuts). Here is a simple strawberry spinach salad with tasty homemade dressing:

Ingredients

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
10 oz. fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Directions

1. In a mixing bowl, mix the sesame and poppy seeds, sugar, oil, and vinegar.

2. In another large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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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! Bacon makes (almost) everything better!

Ingredients
3 to 4 oz. bacon (1/4 of the package), or more if desired
2 cloves garlic
12 oz. spaghetti
3 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pepper to taste
salt to taste
fresh parsley (optional), for garnish

Directions

  1. Fill a large pot with water for the pasta, and season with salt. Place a lid on the pot and bring it up to a boil over high heat.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the bacon into small pieces. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until brown and desired crispness. Remove the cooked bacon from the skillet, and then turn the heat down to low. Mince two cloves of garlic, add them to the warm skillet, and sauté for about one minute or until fragrant and softened. Then turn off the heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and a generous dose of pepper.
  4. The water should be boiling at this point, so add the pasta, stir well, and continue to boil the pasta until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve one cup of the starchy pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta in a colander.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet that was used to cook the bacon. Stir the warm water in the skillet, and dissolve the browned bits from the surface of the skillet.
  6. Add the steaming hot drained pasta to the skillet, and toss in the bacon liquid in the skillet.
  7. Pour the egg and Parmesan mixture over the hot pasta and immediately begin to stir or toss the pasta. Continue to stir the hot pasta in the egg mixture until a creamy sauce forms.
  8. Add the remaining Parmesan, a little more pepper, and the reserved bacon bits, and toss again. If the pasta becomes too thick or dry, add a splash more of the reserved pasta water.

9. Finally, taste the pasta and adjust the salt, Parmesan, or pepper if needed. Top with a pinch or two of roughly chopped parsley leaves, if desired.

 

 

5. Chicken stir fry

This recipe is so easy! And so tasty! 🙂 Honestly, we normally just wing it for this cheap meal and throw in peppers along with whatever other vegetables we have on hand that sound good, but I will include an easy recipe below. Serve over cooked white or brown rice, and omit or substitute roasted peanuts to save money. (You can save even more on peanuts if you buy the kind you have to shell, as we often do.)

Ingredients

Chicken Stir Fry

1 pound chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 zucchini sliced or cubed
2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup broccoli cut into florets
1 small carrot julienned or cubed
8 oz. mushrooms sliced
1/2 red pepper cubed (or substitute a pepper of your choice)
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp fresh ginger minced
1/2 onion cubed
1/2 cup cashews (or peanuts), optional

Stir Fry Sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

  1. Trim any excess fat off of chicken thighs, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Cut the vegetables into even-sized pieces (about the same size as the chicken pieces).
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the stir fry sauce in a bowl.
  3. In a large pan (or wok), on medium high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Once oil is hot, add chicken in a single layer. Cook chicken until browned, mixing as needed. Once cooked, remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining oil and the butter to skillet with the broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, red peppers, and carrots. Cook until vegetables are crisp tender, mixing frequently.
  5. Add the chicken back to the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

6. Add the cashews (or peanuts), and then pour the sauce into the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and let stir fry simmer until the sauce thickens and is well incorporated with the remaining ingredients. Garnish with green onion and sesame seeds before serving, if desired.

 

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6. Chicken and rice with gravy and veggies (on the side)

Cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or your favorite chicken). Then cover with a simple gravy like this one, and serve with steamed or boiled vegetables.

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chicken drippings (if available; otherwise, it is fine to leave this out)

Directions

1. Melt margarine or butter in a saucepan on medium high heat.

2. Add the flour, stirring until it becomes a paste and turns slightly brown.

3. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring with a whisk.

4. Whisk gravy constantly until it thickens.

5. Once thickened, add the chicken drippings.

6. Serve hot over rice.

 

 

7. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

This is a simple and tasty dish, ready in 30 minutes. 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.

Ingredients

8 oz. linguine (about 1/2 of a 1-pound package) or spaghetti noodles
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

1. Prepare the linguine or spaghetti noodles according to the package directions in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli during the last 4 minutes of the cooking time. Drain the linguine mixture well in a colander.

2. Heat the butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and cook until well browned and cooked through, stirring often.

3. Stir the soup, milk, cheese, pepper, and linguine mixture in the skillet and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

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 below (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.

Ingredient
2 onions, chopped
2 pounds ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar pasta sauce, approx. 26 oz. (or substitute 3 small cans [8 oz. each] of tomato sauce)
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can 6 oz tomato paste (or substitute tomato sauce)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
3 cups water
1 green bell pepper (optional)
salt and  black pepper to taste
2 cups macaroni noodles, uncooked
1 cup cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium high heat until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  2. Add pasta or tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, seasonings, bay leaves, and green pepper. Simmer covered for 15 minutes.
  3. Add in the macaroni, and continue to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until pasta is tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove and discard bay leaves. Top with cheese, and replace the lid. Let sit about 5 minutes or until melted.

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.

 

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11. Taco soup with tortilla chips

Taco soup is one of our favorite cheap and easy budget friendly meals for dinners, especially during the colder months.

Ingredients

1 pound hamburger

1 packet taco seasoning

1-2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can red kidney beans

1 can chili beans

1-2 cans corn

shredded cheese (optional)

 

Directions 

1. Brown a pound of hamburger, drain it, and add taco seasoning.

2. 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.)

3. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until heated through.

4. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or scoop chips and shredded cheese, if desired.

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

Chili is another really budget friendly meal that we like to eat regularly in our home. When time is tight, we eat chili from the can, or with a little more time, we love a simple chili recipe like the one below. 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 and not very expensive.

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (or substitute turkey)
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of chili with beans

Directions

1. In a large pot, cook ground beef over medium high heat until meat is no longer pink.

2. Add chopped white or yellow onion and the cloves of minced garlic, and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. If there is not enough grease from the meat and the mixture is too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the pan while the veggies are cooking.

3. Add the can of diced tomatoes and the cans of chili with beans, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top with cheese, if desired.

 

13. Homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade (or inexpensive) rolls or bread

Chicken noodle soup is another budget friendly meal that we love in our family. We generally make a simple chicken noodle soup over the stove, but this is a great slow cooker dish, as well. I like this simple homemade chicken noodle recipe.

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf (optional)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

10 cups chicken broth

8 oz. egg noodles

Directions

1. In a large pot, combine chicken, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf.

2. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour in broth.

3. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes. Remove chicken, and shred with two forks. Discard bay leaf. Return chicken to pot and add egg noodles.

4. Cook on medium high, covered, until al dente, about 10 minutes

 

14. Chicken fajitas

And chicken fajitas are another one of our favorite cheap and easy meals.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/2 sweet red pepper, julienned
1/2 green pepper, julienned
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, sauté peppers and onions in oil until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm.
  2. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat until no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through.

3. Spoon filling down the center of tortillas; fold in half. Serve with desired toppings.

 

 

One more cheap and easy dinner: 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 35 cheap and easy dinner recipes here.

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
100+ Cheap and Easy Family Recipes for $5 or Less! (Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
75 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!
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12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap and Easy Budget Friendly Meals

These cheap and easy and really budget friendly 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!

 

What are your family favorite cheap and easy meals? Are there budget friendly meals that you eat on a regular basis to help keep your grocery budget in check? I would love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below and let me know!

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