Not Enough Money: How to Budget when You Can’t Pay All Your Bills

not enough money

 

Not Enough Money

It is scary when you are in a position where you feel you have not enough money. I have been in that situation before, with a small income and a lot of debt, and it is stressful. It is uncomfortable. It is not a good place to be. And it is no way to live.

If you are in a position where you do not have enough money and you cannot pay all of your bills, then this article will help you know what to do to manage your current financial situation and budget your money as best you can.

These 11 tips will help you to make decisions about your money and get your financial feet back under you so that you can manage your bills and get back to a better financial situation fast! 

To learn how to make a budget so you can manage your money well, also read this complete Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting!

Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily refer to this article about what to do when there is not enough money later.

 

 

Not Enough Money: 11 Must-Know Tips when You Can’t Pay All of Your Bills

Not having enough money and not being able to pay all of your bills can be terrifying. When you’re in the situation and have to make tough choices about what to pay and what not to, it’s hard to know where to start or what to do to get back control of your money.

But even if you’ve hit rock bottom financially, you can dig yourself out of this mess! Where you are today does not define who you are or even how you are with money. With patience and dedicated effort, your whole financial world can be drastically different if you’ll just systematically follow the steps below in order to improve your financial situation.

 

1. Get a clear picture of all of the money you owe and when each bill is due.

When you feel that there is not enough money to pay all of your bills, it is crucial to figure out where things really stand financially.

No matter how bad you fear the reality of your financial situation might be, decide to just own the mess from today on, and start to dig into the numbers. Not knowing the full extent of the problem won’t make it go away, so determine to roll up your sleeves and just deal with the numbers, no matter how bad they might be.

Sit down, with your spouse if you’re married, and go through you bills to determine what bills need to be paid and when. If you have old, bad debt that you haven’t been paying on, include that at the bottom of the list. We’ll deal with it too—eventually.

Plan to spend 30 to 60 minutes to figure out how much money you owe and to whom. Make a list with all of this information. Then take a deep breath. You may have just finished the hardest part, so things can start to get better from here.

 

2. Figure out (or estimate) your monthly income.

Next, figure out your total monthly income, or estimate an average monthly income if you have a variable income.

If  you don’t know your monthly income, spend a few minutes to figure it out. Look at your pay statements, for both you and your spouse if applicable, and add up the total. Be sure to include income from sources such as side hustles or freelance jobs, child support, and so on.

 

3. Create a prioritized spending plan or budget when there is not enough money.

The next thing to do when you are in a situation where there is not enough money is to create a modified spending plan or budget.

Once you have a rough idea of your income, start getting a rough idea of your expenses, as well. And then create a prioritized spending plan, which is just a slightly different type of budget where you list the most important items you spend money on down to the least important items, and you pay the most important items first.

Once you know how much you owe each month and when and how much you bring in each month, you can create a plan to pay your bills. If you’re not living already on a written financial game plan, called a budget or spending plan, start doing it now. I walk you through exactly how to create a monthly budget here.

I know it might seem hopeless or pointless to have a budget when you can’t make financial ends meet right now, but you’ve got to start from somewhere, and that somewhere is a written budget. When creating that budget (you can download a simple prioritized budget here or create a budget on your computer with a program like Excel), I recommend you list your expenses in this order:

  • Pay your tithing or give to charity first. If you are a person of faith in God or a higher power, then pay your tithing first. I have seen the hand of God bless my life so abundantly when I have put my faith to the test and paid my tithing even when I was completely freaked out about being able to pay all of our bills because of a big pile of debt.

    But my loving Father has never let me down, and I promise that He won’t let you down, either. The Lord has promised, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). Put God to the test, and He will bless you both temporally and spiritually in amazing ways. He has done so for us, and I know He will for you too if you will put your trust in Him.

  • Cover your food expenses next. Your most important expense (after tithing) is food. List that next in your budget, and take care of food before anything else. That being said, there’s a good chance you can drastically reduce your food spending. I teach you how to slash your food budget here.

    A few of my favorite ways to save money on food are to follow a meal plan, to shop at discount food stores, to shop the sales, to reduce your number of grocery shopping trips, to buy less meat and less expensive meat (we eat a lot of chicken 😊), and to buy produce only in season. You can also reduce your food spending by using money-saving apps like Ibotta, Ebates, Walmart Savings Catcher, and Checkout 51.

  • Pay your transportation costs third. Then, because you probably need your vehicle to get to work, pay your transportation costs next (gas, insurance, and car payment(s), if applicable). Again, cover only necessary spending here. Save money on gas. Don’t drive more than you need to. See if you can lower your insurance premium. If you have a car you rarely drive, now might be the time to sell it. And if you are in the rare situation where you don’t actually need your car to get to work, then move this step to come after paying your utilities. Find more than 30 ideas for how to save money on transportation-related costs here.
  • Then make your house payment or rent. If you recognize that you’re spending too much money on housing (more than 25 percent of your take-home pay, including subtracting tithing or charitable giving if that’s a substantial amount, for your mortgage and about 30 to 35 percent for rent), see what you can do to reduce your spending in this area. If you own a home, you might be able to refinance your loan for a lower interest rate (but don’t extend the term of the loan!).

    Or you might be able to take in a roommate or two for a time. Or rent out some rooms on Airbnb or com. If you rent and your lease is up soon, look for a cheaper place. In extreme cases, you may need to sell your home and rent or buy a cheaper one, or you could look into moving in with family. Check out this article for more than 30 ideas on how to slash your housing costs.

  • Next, cover your utilities. Make sure you pay your utility bills so that you can keep your lights and water and furnace on. But do what you can to reduce your utility expenses, as well. Turn off the air conditioner, open some windows, and turn on a fan. Turn down the furnace, put on a sweater, and grab a blanket. These two things can save you over a $100 a month depending on the time of year. Find ideas for how to save money on winter utility costs here and ideas for how to save money on summer utility costs here.

 

Check out these related articles:
Complete Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting
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!

 

 

4. Next, look at your prioritized budget or spending plan, and pay your other expenses in order of most important to least important.

Now, take a breather. You probably have enough money in your budget to pay those first five things listed above, so now you can relax just a little bit, knowing that if nothing else, your food and housing and transportation costs are covered. You’re not going to lose your home or your car. After you’ve met these most basic needs mentioned above, look at reducing your spending in the following areas:

  • Purchase only (truly) needed clothing. You probably have enough clothing in your closet to last a long time, so go on a clothes-buying moratorium. If you do need to buy clothing, you can find ways to save money on buying clothes here.
  • Buy only necessary home furnishings and appliances. Unless you have something essential break or get ruined, don’t spend any money on this category until you can pay all of your bills, you have an emergency fund, and your finances are in better shape. If something does break, look at getting it repaired rather than replaced, or buy a used replacement rather than new.
  • Stop going out to eat and getting takeout. If you’re like the average American household, you spent over $3,000 last year on eating out and takeout! To me, that feels like an astronomical amount. We spend only about $300 a year on restaurant food, which I know seems crazy to some, but we don’t feel deprived at all, and it helps us accomplish our financial priorities and goals.

    If you turn eating out back into the rare treat that it used to be (see if you can reduce restaurant and even fast-food eating to once a month or less), your current and perhaps especially your future financial self with thank you! While you’re working to be able to pay all of your bills, cut eating out from your budget completely.

  • Reduce your internet and cell phone bills if you can. If you can’t pay even a small amount in this budget category without being  pinched, consider cutting either your internet or cell phone service for now, or both. Or look at at least reducing your cell phone and internet bills to help make ends meet.

    If you’re paying a lot for internet (more than about $40 per month), look at less-expensive options. You can go to the library and many other places for free internet.

    And even though cell phones are extremely convenient, they are not a necessity (even if they sometimes feel like it).

    For example, with an awesome service like ObiTalk, you can have a super cheap home phone option, and when you’re out and about, you’ll almost always be surrounded by plenty of people who have cell phones. We’ve been using ObiTalk for over three years now, and I’m so glad we made this switch.

    With ObiTalk you pay a one-time fee of $50 or less for the Obi device to connect to your internet, and then you use your phone over the internet. No monthly or yearly fees, and their phone service has been completely reliable. If you can get rid of even one basic cell phone line and instead get ObiTalk, you’ll probably save a minimum of $200 a year, and depending on how much you’re spending on your cell phone line or if you still have a landline, you could save quite a bit more than that.

    Especially if you’re going to need some time to fix your financial situation, then look into ways to save money on your cell phones. You can get rid of your smartphones and go back to a basic cell phone (my husband has a very basic cell phone), or you can switch to a cheaper smartphone plan. Republic Wireless or Mint Mobile are excellent options for a cheap smartphone plan.

    I’ve used Republic Wireless for the past two years, and I love them. I pay on average about $13 a month, though I am a very light data user; I’ve always used less (far less) than the 512 MB my plan gives me. But I can do this easily because, except for when I’m driving or in the car, I’m almost always in an area with free Wi-Fi service (at home, work, church, and almost everywhere else), and I bet you are, too!

    But if you want a cheap unlimited data plan, Mint Mobile offers one for less than $20 a month. If I get to the point where I want to use more data or if my husband’s basic cell phone plan gets much more expensive, we will definitely consider switching to Mint Mobile.

    Also, if there is not enough money to make ends meet, look seriously at cutting the kids’ cell phones plans altogether if they have them; the kids can share a phone with you or your spouse in the few cases when they really might need one (but generally they’ll be with friends or a teacher or other adult who will have a cell phone).

    *UPDATE*: As of September 2018, we’ve switched to Xfinity Mobile! If you’re in an area with Xfinity high-speed internet and mobile, you’ve got to check them out! We’re paying an introductory price of $40 per month for our internet for the first year (same price as the much slower internet that we used to have from a different provider), and the cell phone plan is potentially virtually free. (After this year our monthly internet bill will be $65, but you can bet that I’m going to call before the year is up to see if we can lower that—but even if we can’t, I think it will still be worth the cost, because of the virtually free cell phone service!)

    Since we’re such light data users (especially given the fact that Xfinity Mobile has free hotspots it seems almost everywhere), we pay only about $3 a month for taxes and fees for each line. (That’s the price if you use less than 100 MB of data per month, which we do; then it’s $12 per GB per month, or $45 per month for unlimited data.) It’s such an awesome deal!

    And Xfinity Mobile has the same coverage as Verizon, which reportedly has the best cell phone coverage in the U.S. You do need to sign up for Xfinity internet in order to use Xfinity Mobile, at least initially. You can then drop the internet service if you want, but then you’ll pay an extra $10 per month per line for the mobile service. (That’s still very reasonable, though!) And when we signed up they had $300 and $150 rebates available on their phones (depending on the phone you bought)—so my phone cost only $40 (including taxes) after the rebate! And it’s a great phone. Interested in signing up? Use this referral code to receive a sign-up reward of up to $100: 1RQ4SP

  • Pay only the minimums on your credit card bills. If you can’t pay all of your bills, there’s a good chance you’ve been getting harassing calls from your credit card company. See if you can work out a deal with them to reduce your minimum payment. If you can’t, pay what you can when you can, and then don’t worry about it anymore. You can clean that up later when you’re in a stronger financial position.

    Remember this: no matter how frequently they call or how belligerent they might get, do not get pressured to pay your credit card bills when you have other bills you can’t pay. The only power they have is the power of intimidation, but don’t let yourself be intimidated. Yes, you owe the money, and yes, you need to pay them. But only when you reasonably can.

    And if that means that you don’t pay them for a few months or even several months while you get your finances in order, so be it. You can work out a repayment plan later, and if you have to negotiate to have them write off some of the bill so that you can right your financial ship, you can do that too.

  • Stop retirement contributions and other investing. Until you can balance your budget and have an adequate emergency fund of at least three to six months’ worth of expenses, stop contributing to your retirement accounts and other investment accounts. Believe me—I want you to save as much toward retirement as you possibly can and to build long-term wealth through additional investing, but first you need to get back on firm financial footing. Learn how to create an emergency fund here.
  • Consider temporarily cutting music lessons and sports teams and so on. You might need to temporarily cancel financial commitments for the kids, such as music lessons and sports teams.
  • Cut out all money spent on recreation, vacations, gifts, and so forth (or cut out as much as possible) until you can comfortably pay all of your bills again. If you have the wedding or birthday of a loved one coming up, buy a card and write a heartfelt note. Explain that you’re in a difficult financial situation if you want to. But don’t feel pressured to spend money you don’t have.

    And even when you can pay all of your bills, determine if you might need to continue to spend less in this area than you were previously so that you can put more money toward long-term financial goals such as building an emergency fund, saving for retirement and kids’ college, or purchasing a (new-to-you) home or a rental property. (If you’re like most people, it probably is a good idea for you to spend less in these areas to fund other crucial long-term financial goals.)

At whatever point that you run out of money as you work your way down your prioritized spending plan, then you simply don’t pay any of the bills or expenses beyond that point until you receive your next paycheck. In the meantime, continue to work to reduce your spending and increase your income.

 

Budgeting Tip: When you are new to budgeting, I recommend that you use a simple paper and pencil to write out all the numbers. Once you get the hang of budgeting and have done it for a few months, go ahead and switch to a digital system. Or if you really can’t stand paper and you prefer to do everything electronically, you can build a budget in Excel or use a program such as You Need a Budget (YNAB.com). It’s a great, user-friendly budgeting tool with a lot of awesome features.

 

 

5. Address the underlying financial issue or issues.

Take a hard look at your financial situation, and be really honest with yourself. What is it that is making it so that you can’t pay all of your bills? Is it a one-time, temporary setback such as the loss of a job, a large but one-time medical bill, a divorce, or similar situation?

Or is it an income problem? Do you need to get additional schooling or training to be able to get a higher-paying job? Do you need to update outdated skills to make yourself more marketable and move up in your career? Do you need to look at better-paying jobs in your career field? Learn more about increasing your income here.

Or is it something deeper than that? Are you living a lifestyle that you simply can’t afford, and the numbers are finally forcing you to acknowledge that? Do you have a problem overspending or constantly living paycheck to paycheck? Whatever the reason for the gap between your income and expenses, the following steps give ideas for some things you can do to make things right.

 

6. Differentiate honestly between wants and needs.

When you’re struggling to pay your bills, appropriately and honestly distinguishing between wants and needs is crucial. If you have a hard time telling yourself no, then work first on being honest with yourself about what is truly a need versus what is a want. A need is something that you literally cannot live without—it’s not just a matter of convenience.

Transportation may be a need, but a car is not. Housing is generally a need, but your particular home or apartment is not. Basic clothes are a need, but having 20 (or 40) outfits or having designer clothes or shoes is not. Having running water and power is a need; having high-speed internet (unless it’s a requirement because you work from home) is not.

 

7. Negotiate with your creditors to lower your bills and potentially even forgive some of your debt.

If you have to go for a few months without being able to pay all of your bills, call your creditors (especially those that you aren’t able to pay) and see if you can work out a plan to pay a reduced amount toward your debt in exchange for them writing off the rest of the loan. The longer you have gone without being able to pay your bills, the more likely creditors will be to accept such an offer.

Just remember to get everything that they agree to in writing, and don’t give them access to your checking account—they might empty it! Instead, use a money order or cashiers check if needed to pay these creditors.

 

8. Make a plan to further decrease your spending when there is not enough money.

Once you’ve honestly distinguished between needs and wants, reevaluate your budget, and find additional areas where you can reduce your spending (<<click the link for 21 great ideas on how to spend less). If you are still not able to pay all of your bills after cutting all unnecessary expenses, look (again) at ways to increase your income, both short term and long term (see the next step and this article on ways to make more money).

After you are able to pay all of your bills again, start putting something each month toward savings, even if you start small.

 

9. Make a plan to increase your income.

In addition to decreasing your spending when you do not have enough money to meet your needs, it is also important to look at increasing your income.

The awesome thing about looking to increase your income is that the possibilities for doing so are virtually endless! And truthfully, even though decreasing your spending to the point where you live within your means (spend less than you earn) will always trump increasing your income—because you can always outspend your income, no matter how high you get it—finding ways to increase your income has overall greater potential to change your life because of the limitless possibilities.

There’s only so far you can cut your spending, but there is no cap on how much you can grow your income. That’s why, even if you are able to pay all of your bills by reducing your spending, you should still always be working actively to increase your income.

Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Always be learning and growing and increasing your value and marketability in the workforce. Keep up with trends in your career field, and not only don’t let yourself become obsolete, but try to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on so you can command top dollar and help to make yourself invaluable.
  • Look seriously at starting a side hustle, getting a second job or taking on freelance work, or starting your own business. Check out this article that has 19 ideas for side hustles you can do from home. And learn how to start a side hustle here.
    If you like to write and would love to help other people and work on your own schedule, consider starting a blog.
    Or if you enjoy reading, consider being a professional proofreader. I have been doing freelance editing and proofreading (and writing) since before I graduated from college, and it is a fun, rewarding way to earn extra money.
  • Ask for a raise or promotion. It took me a long time to figure this out (maybe largely because my first manager was very on top of this kind of thing and actively sought promotions for high performers), but generally speaking, the only person that’s really going to be worried about your advancement in your career is you. So you need to be continually actively working to advance in your career if you don’t want your salary to stagnate. I discuss the steps to take to get a raise or promotion in another article, but here’s a summary:
    • Be prepared by doing your research. Before you ask for a raise or promotion, you need to be prepared for the discussion. Do your research to find out if your salary is on par for your area, career field, and amount of education and experience.
    • List your accomplishments and the reasons you feel you deserve a raise or promotion.
    • Make sure to show how you have helped your company make money or reduce costs.
    • Choose the right time to make your request. Before you request a raise, be sure you’re aware of the current climate. Have you had layoffs recently? Or have you been able to hire more people? Is upper management working to cut expenses, or is HR spending pretty freely? If there are signs that times are tight, be patient. You’re more likely to have success if you wait till the situation improves.

 Find more ideas for ways to increase your income here.

 

 

10. Set up an emergency fund so that you can cover larger unexpected expenses in the future.

If you want to be able to have lasting financial well-being and avoid being back in the situation where you can’t pay all of your bills, then having a three- to six-month emergency fund is an essential part of your financial plan.

Your emergency fund should be in a separate savings account (and maybe even a different bank or credit union) than your normal checking account so that it’s not too easy to get your hands on. We’ve had our emergency fund with Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct, when we first set up our account) for almost 15 years now.

And though I’m not a fan generally of big banks, Capital One has been great. I love them because we can transfer money easily online between our checking account and our savings accounts—yes, accounts. I know this might sound crazy, but we have more than 10 different savings accounts for our various savings goals.

Not to mention the fact that their savings rates are way better than even our local credit union, and their customer service has been excellent. I’ve only needed to call them a few times (always for some minor thing I did wrong—oops!—like paying someone twice on accident through bill pay), but they’ve always been very professional and competent and solved the problem within a couple of minutes (no sitting on hold forever).

Learn how to build an emergency fund here.

 

11. Start saving for irregular but expected expenses so that they don’t become an emergency.

Once you have a fully funded emergency fund, begin saving for other irregular but expected larger expenses. This includes saving for car maintenance and replacement, house maintenance and repairs, replacing of furniture, repair or replacement of appliances and electronics, and even gift giving for things such as Christmas, weddings, and birthdays.

As I mention just above, we’ve found our various savings accounts with Capital One 360 to be an excellent place to save for these expenses. But any bank where you can open multiple savings accounts and you get a pretty good rate will work

Learn how to save for large purchases and expenses here.

Want even more budgeting inspiration? Find more information about how to succeed at budgeting here.

 

Conclusion

I know how stressful it is when you feel that there is not enough money to pay all your bills. It’s an awful place to be. But where you are today is not where you will be in the future. You can do this; you can! You can improve your financial situation by taking simple, continual steps in the right direction. You can turn things around.

And I’m here to help. Your whole financial world can be completely different in as little as a few months if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and follow the steps outlined above.

 

Ready to roll up your sleeves and win at budgeting? Find information on how to stick to your budget here. And you can find the complete  Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting here.

What questions do you have about how to pay your bills when there is not enough money? What ideas have you tried in the past? What are your biggest budgeting challenges or hurdles? Leave a comment below and let me know! Or leave a comment in the Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group. I would love to help!

 

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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Cut Your Budget: 5 Ways to Drastically Cut Your Monthly Expenses

cut budget

 

How to Cut Your Budget

Would you like to know how to cut your budget drastically to save money?

Learn 5 simple ideas for how to cut budget expenses in order to pay off debt or start to save! With these 5 easy tips, you can save $500 to $1,000 or more every month!

 

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

 

    Tired of tiny interest rates on your savings?

    Are you tired of tiny interest rates? Do you want a solid bank with a long history (one that has been around for over 100 years) who is focused on their customers and not just their bottom line?

    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!

    5 Simple Steps to Cut Budget Expenses

    If you are looking for ways to cut your budget, then this article is for you!

    There are many, many things you can do to cut budget costs each month, but these are 5 of the easiest and best ways for a family or individual to save more money. Follow these simple tips  to easily save $500 or more each month!

     

    1. Cut your food budget.

    One of the very best tips for how to save money from your budget is to reduce the amount you spend each month on groceries and eating out.

    The average American family spends close to $800 a month on food. But you really can spend significantly less than that, especially if you nix eating out so much.

    If you will cut $100 to $200 from your grocery budget for the month and $100 from your restaurant budget, you will have $200 to $300 (or more!) to go toward reaching your awesome financial goals!

    Here are my two best money-saving hacks to help you get the most bang for your grocery-spending buck:

    • First, make a plan. As with anything, you are more likely to succeed at saving money on your groceries when you start with a great plan! Get this awesome free weekly meal planning worksheet to get organized and plan your week’s worth of meals to help you save a ton of money on your groceries! As part of the meal planner worksheets you’ll get helpful meal planning tips and a place for writing alternative meal options for when things don’t go according to your original plan (because life happens!).
      • Second, shop with a grocery list and use a grocery price comparison sheet. Make a list, check it twice, and then don’t deviate from it! 😊
        Use this awesome, super handy grocery list and price comparison cheat sheet to help you spot great deals and pass over items that are overpriced.

      And here are some of my other favorite ways to save money on groceries:

      • Use the food you already have. Clear out your fridge, cupboards, freezer, and pantry. There’s a good chance you have a week’s worth or more of food in your home, and using it up periodically is a good idea to make sure nothing goes bad. (But if you find things that have expired, don’t automatically toss them out. The dates are just guidelines, and you can eat most things months past the best by date.)
      • Shop at discount grocery stores if you have them in your area. We regularly shop at one in our area, and the savings can be amazing. Read this article about discount grocery stores to learn more.
      • Cut down on the sweets, snacks, juice, beer, and so on. You can save a ton of money by just sticking to the main food groups. Leave the rest of the junk (food) on the grocery store shelf.
      • Plan to have a few meatless meals each week. Meat is one of the most expensive food items, so by omitting meat from your meals you can save a ton of money. Consider going meatless for a few dinner meals a week, or even plan a whole week or two week’s worth of meatless meals if you want to save even more money.
      • Buy only items that are in season. Blueberries may sound divine in January, but pass them up for fruits, vegetables, and other items that are in season.
      • Buy what’s on sale. Check the week’s grocery ads, and then plan that week’s meals around that.
      • Be OK with unconventional dinner and other meals sometimes. If you really want to save more money, give yourself permission to plan super simple meals sometimes like cereal with milk, egg omelets, waffles, fried eggs with toast, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fried eggs with rice, chicken with rice, spaghetti, and so on.

      Want more ideas for how to save on your grocery shopping? Read this article for more than 70 suggestions for how to slash your grocery bill without needing to use coupons!

      By using many of the tips included in the article linked to just above, we are able to keep our grocery budget to $300 or less a month for our family of five.

      And dont forget to save money on eating out! The best way to save money on eating out is to eat out less! 🙂 But there are lots of other ways that you can save money, as well. Find 19 ideas to save money when eating out here.

      Savings = $200-$300+

       

      2. Spend less on entertainment to cut budget expenses and save more money.

      Saving money on entertainment is another great way to cut your budget.

      The average family in the U.S. spends close to $300 a month on entertainment. So here, too, you can save a ton of money and cut your monthly budget substantially if you will reduce your monthly entertainment spending.

      My favorite money-saving hack to spend less on entertainment (and the area where we save the most money) is to save on vacations and traveling! For that, I love to travel with Airbnb. If you have not tried them yet, you need to!

      We saved about half the price of a hotel just on our last vacation alone by using Airbnb for our accommodations. And we stayed in a three-bedroom home in a beautiful gated community with a pool and hot tub (which we had to ourselves most of the time), a playground, and more!

      You can sign up to become a member of Airbnb here and save $40 on your first stay!

      To save even more money on entertainment, also try spending less money on the following things (or even give some of them up completely, if you really want to save money!):

      • Paying for cable or satellite. You could easily save $60 to $100 a month (or more!) by doing that alone
      • Paying for expensive smartphone data plans; learn about awesome, inexpensive smartphone data plan options here (including the plan we use; we spend $18 per month total for smartphones for me and my husband!).
      • Going to the movies.
      • Going to music concerts.
      • Going to sports events.
      • Video gaming.
      • Purchasing gadgets (electronic devices).
      • Paying for subscriptions to magazines and other paid TV services (Netflix, Sling, and so on—videos from the library are free!)
      • Paying for memberships to the gym, rec center, museums or zoos, and the like.
      • Participating in recreational activities like skiing, bowling, miniature golf, playing arcades, and so on.
      • Going on vacation. In addition to saving money with Airbnb, you can save a ton of money by doing staycations.
      • Christmas shopping.
      • Your personal monthly spending money (some people call it fun money or blow money).

      And just because you decide to spend less money on or even give up some paid activities completely, that doesn’t mean you have to give up fun! Check out this article with 90+ ideas for fun, free activities you can do with the kids!

      Savings = $200+

       

      Check out these related articles:

      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment
      151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!
      5 Super Simple Steps to Save $1,000 for a Debt-Free Christmas
      11 Ways to Save Big on Your Christmas Shopping
      4 Powerful Principles of Gratitude to Change Your Financial Life
      Contentment: 9 Powerful Principles That Will Help You Save More Money and Reach Financial Success

       

      3. Trim your transportation costs to cut your budget.

      Another great tip for how to cut your budget is to reduce your transportation expenses. Especially since you’ll be cutting back on (paid) entertainment and shopping (you will, right? :)), you can find ways to save money on transportation as well.

      My favorite hack for saving money on transportation is to own a cheaper, paid-for car.

      If you have car loans (and statistically, you do ☹), consider selling the car and buying a less expensive car for cash. The average car payment in America is over $400 a month, so if you will get rid of your car payments, you will be well on your way to saving $500 or more per monthjust by doing that alone!

      You can literally become a millionaire simply by deciding to live your life without car payments! (So please give it a try—the financial benefits are amazing! 😊 Learn how to buy a car for cash.)

      Here are some awesome additional ideas for ways to reduce your transportation costs (they really will save you tons of money if you will put them into practice, especially the first one!):

      • Enjoy staying home rather than spending money going places for entertainment. Pick up reading, playing family games, doing crafts, watching (free) movies, and doing other activities at home to save money on transportation costs.
      • If weather allows, ride a bike or walk to your destinations when possible.
      • Drive less. Combine errands and find other ways to drive less.
      • Carpool to work and school, or take the bus.
      • Telecommute!
      • Drive the speed limit. 😊
      • Use apps like GasBuddy to save money when purchasing fuel.
      • Look around for a cheaper mechanic. Shop around when you need car repairs so that you know you are getting the best deal for the work needed.
      • Save money on auto parts by shopping at places like RockAuto (which truly has amazing prices!). If you possibly can, buy the car part yourself, even if you have a friend, family member, or trusted mechanic do the actual labor. You will save a ton of money that way! In my experience (and I have looked into this in virtually all of the auto mechanic shops in my area), the markup on car parts, even by reputable auto mechanic shops (unfortunately), is huge!

      Looking for more inspiration for ways to save money on transportation costs? You can find here more than 30 ideas for how to save on transportation costs.

      Savings = $50-$200+

       

      Pro tip:  If you would like to earn a better rate on your savings, check out CIT Bank. I love our CIT Bank savings account, which offers the highest savings rate that I 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)! Click here to learn more and open your savings account.

       

      4. Spend less on housing and related expenses (like utilities) to cut budget costs.

      Another idea for how to cut a budget is to reduce your housing expenses.

      For most families, housing is their largest expense. Fortunately, there are a lot of things that you can do to save money on housing, even if you own your home and so your mortgage is fixed.

      My favorite hack for saving money on housing is to rent out your spare bedrooms on sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. If you are able to do this, you could earn well over the cost of your monthly mortgage or rent payment. And you can meet some amazing people in the process.

      Pro tip: If you haven’t used Airbnb yet to save money when you travel, you should! They are a great way to save money on your accommodations away from home! Sign up for a free Airbnb account today, and get up to $55 off your first stay!

      To save even more money on housing expenses, look at these options:

      • Rent a cheaper place.
      • Consider moving in with family or friends.
      • Sell your home and purchase a smaller, less expensive home if your mortgage payments really pinch your budget or if you no longer need as much space as you once did.
      • Consider refinancing your home if interest rates have dropped significantly. (But don’t lengthen the term of your loan! Keep it the same or, even better, shorten it! :))
      • Work to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible so that you can invest the money in your own wealth instead of the bank’s.
      • Save a larger down payment before you purchase a home so that your mortgage payment is smaller. (Consider the 100% down plan!)
      • Simplify your landscaping (this saves money spent on watering it, too!).
      • Get a roommate (or roommates).
      • Talk to your insurance agent and find ways to lower your homeowners or renters insurance.
      • Save money on your utilities and specifically on your winter utilities bill and summer utilities bill.

      For even more ideas on how to save money on housing, read this article with 30+ simple ways to save money on housing and related expenses.

      Savings = $50-200+

      5. Spend less money on clothing to cut budget expenses.

      And one additional tip for how to save money by cutting your budget is to not spend so much on clothing and shoes.

      The average American family spends over $100 a month on clothes, so if you will spend say half of that, then you can add that amount to the money that you save from cutting your budget each month!

      My favorite hack for saving money on clothing is to set up a clothing co-op of sorts. If you have children, see if you can swap children’s clothes with your nieces and nephews or with children from your neighborhood or church.

      My sisters and I share clothes for our kiddos, and it is an awesome way to save money (and help out the environment just a little)! Plus, I just love seeing my nieces and nephews in clothes that my kiddos wore! It brings back such fun memories!

      You can also save money on clothes by buying from second-hand stores, buying from sites like eBay and Craigslist, and shopping discount clothing stores. 

      Check out this article with 13 must-know ideas to help you save money on your clothes buying.

      Savings = $50+

       

      For even more ideas for cut your budget, check out this article with 21 must-know tips to spend less money!

       

      Conclusion

      There are really tons of things that you can spend less money on in order to cut the budget. The possibilities are endless! But these 5 simple ways to cut your budget are a great place to start and can help you easily save $500 to $1,000 or more per month!

      And while you’re at it, in order to put yourself and your family on wonderfully solid financial ground, check out these cool things to save up money for to run your financial house smoothly.

       

      How do you save money by cutting your budget? Or what do you intend to do this year to save money from your budget? Leave a comment below and let me know—I would love to hear your ideas!

       

      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 a family member or friend or people in general? 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 with others. 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.

      Frugal Dinner Ideas: Make 2 Weeks of Dinners for under $50!

      frugal dinner ideas

       

      Frugal Dinner Ideas

      In this article I am going to share ideas for frugal dinner ideas that will save your family tons of money! Find 2 weeks’ worth of easy and super cheap meals that you can make in 15 minutes or less for your family! If you are looking for super quick, easy, frugal dinner ideas, then this is the article for you!

      And what is more, you can make all of these frugal dinner ideas for $50 for a family of five! That is two weeks of frugal dinners for under 50 bucks!

      These quick, easy, and frugal dinner recipes and ideas are perfect for when money is really tight and you need super cheap meals!

      And if you have a game night party or other large gathering where you need frugal meals for a crowd, then these recipes will help you to prepare food for a big group of people without breaking the bank!

       

      Caveat: These are just examples of frugal dinners you can eat when money is tight. These are not all super balanced meals, and I would not recommend eating only these things long term! However, as your budget allows, you can make some of 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! 

      Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily find these frugal dinner ideas later!

       

      Make Frugal Meals Even Cheaper!

      One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can frugal 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 Frugal Meals

      When you are broke or need to save money fast, these 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).

      Are You Looking for Mealtime Inspiration?

      cheap recipes cheap meals

      Are you in a dinner rut? Do you want inspiration for quick and easy recipes you can make for your family on busy nights?

      Then you need this cookbook! Find more than 125 recipes for delicious quick and cheap family meals you can prepare in 30 minutes or less for $5 or less!

      Click here to get your digital copy of the recipe book today for just $5! (Buy now and get access to your recipe book for immediate digital download!)

      What to Make for Dinner When You’re Poor?

      When you are poor, or broke, then one of the easiest ways to save money is to prepare meatless meals. Meat is generally one of the most expensive items in the grocery store, so by eating a few meatless dinners a week, you can save a lot of money over time. Find ideas for 25 meatless dinner recipes here.

      When you do include meat in your meals, choose less expensive meats like chicken and turkey for most of your recipes to help you stretch your food budget.

      Produce can also be very expensive, so use produce that is frozen, canned, or fresh but in season when you make your dinner meals. And organic produce is often much more expensive than nonorganic, so be choosy about what organic produce that you buy. If you are worried about it, look up the foods that nutritionists feel are most important, and then eat nonorganic for the rest.

      Cooking from scratch is often also cheaper than buying boxed foods, and it is definitely cheaper than buying already made frozen meals, for example.

      Find items to create a super cheap groceries list here.

       

      What Can I Make for Dinner That’s Cheap?

      All of the recipes listed below are great ideas for what to make for dinner that is cheap. Like I mention above, to help you make ends meet when money is scarce, make meals that use inexpensive meats (or no meat at all) and that use less expensive produce.

      Another way to keep your dinner costs low is to make meals that have a lot of pasta, rice, or beans. Those are food staples that really help you to stretch your food budget in lean times.

      You can find a big list of 65 cheap dinner recipes here for even more ideas for frugal dinners.

       

      How to Make a Frugal Meal?

      One very important part of making frugal meals and frugal dinners in particular is to meal plan! Without a plan, you will likely always spend more money than you would if you sit down and create a meal plan for the week. When you are intentional (in any area of your life), you get better results! 🙂

      Above I mention how you can save money on your meal preparation using less meat and less expensive meat, less expensive produce, and inexpensive staples like pasta, russet potatoes, rice, and beans.

      Make those less expensive fillers the stars of your frugal dinners (meaning, make the pasta or the rice or the beans the main ingredient in the recipes you prepare), and you can make frugal meals for super cheap.

      Cooking from scratch as much as possible will help you to keep costs low, and buy items that are on sale! Look at the weekly grocery ads as you make your meal plan, and build your meals around the items that you can buy for the best deal.

      And then when you are at the grocery store, if you see items that your family loves and that are marked down to a great price, stock up on them! Get this handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet so that you can learn what good prices are for the items that you typically buy when you grocery shop.

       

      What Do You Eat When You’re Broke?

      To save money on food when you’re broke, stick with the basics. That includes:

      • Preparing meatless meals.
      • Preparing meals that use inexpensive lean meats like chicken, turkey, and pork.
      • Using inexpensive filler-type foods in your meals like beans, pasta, russet potatoes, and rice. (To make these items more healthy and to keep you satisfied for longer, you can buy the whole grain varieties of pasta and brown rice. They will cost a little more, but they are better for you.) To buy beans for really cheap, buy the dry beans, and soak them yourself to use in your recipes.
      • Buying the less expensive varieties of produce that are virtually always in season, like apples, bananas, lettuce, potatoes, and so forth.
      • Making meal from scratch rather than already prepared meals or meals in a box, unless those packaged items are on sale or are super cheap themselves, like boxed macaroni and cheese (the generic kind, especially).
      • Sticking with generic brands as much as possible when you do your grocery shopping.
      • Leaving junk food, soda, fruit juice, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and other items that provide little to no nutritional value on the shelf. You will be amazed at what a huge difference just doing that will make!

       

      Why Prepare Frugal Dinners and Frugal Meals in General?

      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 frugal 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.

      Frugal Meal Planning Made Easy: 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 such as 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 meal planning services could really help you get on the right track and really save your food budget! track and save your food budget.

      Two Weeks of Frugal Dinner Ideas

      One of the best ways to plan frugal dinners for your family is to keep things simple! You can make all of these super cheap and easy dinner meals in about 15 minutes or less, for five dollars or less!

      Find 2 weeks of cheap meals that you can make for less than $50! Now, that is a great deal!

       

      A Quick Note about These Frugal Dinner 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!

      Recipes for meals that are made entirely from scratch are included below.

       

      Check out these related articles:
      31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
      Two Weeks of Dirt Cheap Meals (40+ Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Recipes!)
      31 Cheap Dinner Recipes for under $5!
      42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
      25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
      5 Cheap Instant Pot Meals Your Family Will Love (for under $5!)
      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 Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
      Eat Free for Your Birthday!
      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

       

       

      Week 1

       

      Sunday: More better mac and cheese

      This is a family favorite of ours where you add chopped up broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, and other vegetables of your choice to a box of macaroni and cheese. Add the vegetables to the pasta as it is boiling; save broccoli and peppers and the softer vegetables for the last five minutes or so so that they will not become overcooked.

       

      Monday: Homemade refried beans and rice burritos

      Of course I had to include a beans and rice recipe. 🙂 These burritos are tasty and filling and can be on your table in less than 30 minutes.

      Ingredients
      1 1/2 cups water
      1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
      1 medium green pepper, diced
      1/2 cup chopped onion
      1 tablespoon cooking oil
      1 teaspoon minced garlic
      1 tablespoon chili powder
      1 teaspoon ground cumin
      1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
      8 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
      1 cup salsa

      Optional toppings: Shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream

      Directions

      1. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rice. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let stand until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
      2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute green pepper and onion in oil until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the chili powder and cumin until combined. Add beans and rice; cook and stir until heated through, about 4-6 minutes.
      3. Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling off-center on each tortilla; top with 2 tablespoons salsa. Fold sides and ends over filling and roll up.
      4. Serve with cheese and sour cream if desired.

       

      Tuesday: Baked potatoes with cheese, sour cream, salsa, barbecue sauce, or other favorite toppings

      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! (Click the link below to learn more!) They are great!

       

      Wednesday: Chili

      You can make chili super cheap from a can by choosing an inexpensive brand of canned chili that you like and then adding an extra can or two of kidney or other favorite canned beans to make it go further and to make this dish even less expensive. Serve with corn bread, saltine crackers (this is my 7-year-old daughter’s favorite), or round butter crackers.

       

      Thursday: Leftovers

      An important part of preparing frugal dinners is to not let food go to waste! 🙂 Make sure you use your leftovers. And the best way to make sure that you use them is to plan for a night of leftovers.

      That may mean that you end up with kind of a hodge podge of foods for different people. If Johnny loves spaghetti most and Julie loves mac and cheese and you do not have enough of either of those leftovers to feed everyone, then let people choose the leftovers that they eat based on their preference that night. (And if you know how finicky kids can be, then you know that that can change from day to day! ;))

       

      Friday: Quesadillas

       Quesadillas are such a cheap and easy (and tasty!) frugal dinner idea. For this meal, you can use just your favorite tortilla shells and type of cheese, or you can add sliced lunch meat, spinach, hot dogs (kind of weird, but my younger brothers love it), beans, mushrooms, or favorite cooked vegetables. Yum! 

       

      Saturday: Hot dogs and fries or potato chips

      Hot dogs are one of the cheapest frugal dinner ideas, and they are a favorite of kids everywhere. Add your favorite fries (make them homemade to make them even cheaper!) or your favorite store-brand potato chips, and you have a tasty (though I admit not totally healthy :)) meal.

      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.

      Week 2

      Sunday: 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.

       

      Monday: 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.

       

      Tuesday: Inexpensive frozen pizza

      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)

       

      Wednesday: 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 more 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.

       

      Thursday: Leftovers

      Again, to help ensure that you do not leave food to waste away in your fridge, make leftovers a regular part of your frugal meal planning!

      Even if you do not have enough of any one leftover to feed your whole family, you can serve one leftover item to some family members and another to other family members, and this is a great way to use up those small portions of leftovers from earlier in the week!

       

      Friday: Grilled cheese sandwiches (with tomato or mushroom soup, if desired)

      The easiest way to make several grilled cheese sandwiches at a time is with a griddle. (We have an inexpensive one like this one.)

      But even without a griddle, you can make four at a time with this flat frying pan, which is similar to the one we have.

      To make grilled cheese sandwiches even cheaper, you can omit using butter or cooking spray on the pan. I generally make grilled cheese sandwiches without any kind of anti-stick agent because you do not actually need it and it saves calories 🙂 (but it does make the grilled cheese sandwiches a nicer golden brown to use non-stick agent). If you want to save money but do want some kind of additional anti-sticking agent, use margarine.

       

      Saturday: 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.

       

      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!

       

      Get the Grocery Money Saving Bundle!

      Grocery Money Saving BundleAre you ready to really slash your food budget? The Grocery Money Saving Bundle includes 9 must-have resources to help you save money on groceries, eating out, healthy eating, produce, meat, and more! Also learn how to meal plan effectively—and efficiently!—to help you save time and money! Discover the foods that give you the most bang for your grocery-spending buck! And learn how to use my secret weapon to save big time on your monthly grocery budget! 

      Learn the tips and tricks our family of five uses to spend less than an average of $300 a month on food! Learn more about or purchase the Grocery Money Saving Bundle today!

      Conclusion

      These quick, easy, and frugal dinner ideas 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 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, frugal dinner ideas? 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.

      Monthly Grocery Shopping to Save Time and Money!

      monthly grocery shopping

      Monthly Grocery Shopping to Save (a Ton of) Money

      In this article I am going to discuss how we were able to do monthly grocery shopping successfully. And I will teach you how you can grocery shop just once a month, too, in order to potentially save a ton of time and money every month!

      Learn how you can slash your grocery budget with this simple technique to grocery shop just once a month!

       

      Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on how to do monthly grocery shopping later!

       

       

      Save Even More Money with Your Once a Month Grocery Shopping!

      One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries so that you can prepare 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!

      Monthly Grocery Shopping: 7 Money-Saving Tips

      A long time ago in a lifetime far, far away, it was just my husband and me before we had kiddos. Back then, I didn’t like grocery shopping, just like I don’t like grocery shopping now :), and we were very focused on becoming debt free. One of the ways we were able to save time and save money to go toward paying off our debt was to do monthly grocery shopping trips.

      How do you save money grocery shopping just once a month? Largely, by not having the opportunity to impulse buy as often. Secondly, monthly grocery shopping can save time and money because this method of shopping encourages simpler meal planning. Third, grocery shopping just once a month virtually ensures that you have to meal plan, which could be the biggest money saver of all.

      Are you wondering how monthly grocery shopping can work, especially with keeping produce and milk and all of that? Read on to find out!

       

      1. Plan to have the money available to cover all of your grocery shopping in your first paycheck of the month.

      First, if you are going to grocery shop just once a month, you need to be able to budget so that you have the money available to buy all of your groceries at one time. If you are currently barely scraping by, you may need to stop living paycheck to paycheck first.

      And if you are not yet budgeting, you also going to need to start budgeting or else otherwise plan your spending (learn about a simple budgeting alternative) to have the money available in your account so that you don’t have to rely on credit cards or go into debt to do all of your grocery shopping in one trip.

       

      2. Create a strategic meal plan.

      Whether you grocery shop once a month or once a week, the way to save time, money, and sanity is to shop with a meal plan. As with every area of your life, things will go more smoothly and you are far more likely to succeed (and to become a super saving superstar :)) if you have a plan.

      When you want to do monthly grocery shopping, you have to create a strategic meal plan in order to succeed.

       

      Plan your meals for the month.

      As part of this plan, you should determine, with a calendar beside you, all the meals that you will eat each day for the month. If there are nights where you have been invited for dinner or other activities, for example, make sure you account for that in your planning so that you are not buying (and therefore potentially wasting) more food than you need.

       

      Make a list of what you will use in your meals.

      After you make your meal plans for the month, make a list of all of the (especially perishable) ingredients that you will need to use so that you can determine what you need to buy more of when you do your food inventory in the next step.

       

      Determine where you will shop.

      Another important part of your plan is to determine what stores you will shop at. You may decide to shop at two (or possibly even three) grocery stores in order to save the most money possible during your monthly grocery shopping trip. You can buy the items that our on sale at your local grocery store, for example, and then buy the rest of your groceries at Walmart or Aldi or wherever you generally find the best prices in your area.

      Because these monthly grocery shopping trips will generally last a couple of hours (but you will still save time in the long run because you will only have to spend a couple of hours once a month!), it is a good idea—even more than normal—to leave your children at home with your spouse while you grocery shop. Young children may not have the stamina to endure a monthly grocery shopping trip very well, and grumpy children will make it more difficult for you to get all of your shopping done in one trip.

      Make sure you have a place to put the food you will purchase.

      You will also need to plan for a place to keep all of the food that you buy during your monthly grocery shopping trip. So before you go, make room in your cupboards and pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you are serious about monthly grocery shopping or even just grocery shopping once every couple of weeks, you may want to spend the money to buy a chest freezer or upright freezer.

      Learn the simple steps to create a meal plan and how to create a meal plan in just an hour a month.

      And be sure to sign up to receive my free meal plan printable just below so you can begin to meal plan like a pro! It includes simple instructions to help you to easily and effectively meal plan to save time and money!

       

      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.

       

      3. Do a food inventory as you make your grocery list in order to make monthly grocery shopping successful.

      Figuring out what you already have and what you need to buy is always an important part of meal planning and creating an effective grocery list, but when you are determined to do monthly grocery shopping, it is even more important.

      While you make your grocery list, quickly go through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry to see what you are out of or what you are getting low on. This is crucial so that you don’t run out of something mid-month and have to run to the store. If you do overlook something, before you go to the store, see if you can substitute the item (Googling works great for this) or simply leave the item out or go without it. Or do the old-fashioned thing and ask your next-door neighbor. 🙂

      Pro tip: Keep a piece of paper stuck to your fridge or a place on your phone where you can note food items you are low on or have run out of so that you can be sure to add them to your grocery list for the next time you go to the store.

      Another pro tip: Use the grocery price comparison cheat sheet to save big on your grocery spending! With the cheat sheet, you will know when foods are a great price so that you can stock up on them, and you can also pass over foods that are overpriced. Sign up below to get yours now!

       

      4. Plan to eat your fresh meat, dairy, and produce first.

      After you go grocery shopping, freeze any meat that won’t keep for more than a few days. (Meat such as lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage will last for the month unopened.)

       

      How to prepare your milk to last a month

      When you purchase your milk, look for the gallons that have the latest “best by” dates. Sometimes the difference between dates can be three or four days. Generally, whole milk lasts the longest, so the best by dates for that milk will generally also be three or four days past the other types of milk. (And it only has 2% more fat than 2% milk, so the difference between the two really isn’t that big.)

      Also know that you can still drink your milk even it is past the best by date—depending on how quickly you get the milk in the fridge after you buy it and how cold you keep your fridge, it could stay good for up to a week beyond the best by date.

      You can also freeze milk, and then just thaw it and drink it after you drink your other milk. If you do this, it’s a good idea to open the milk and use about a cup of it before freezing it so that it won’t overexpand when it freezes. That being said, I have frozen it without drinking any of the milk, and it ended up being fine.

      If you can tell your milk is getting close to going bad, you can also put it in waffles and other things. We also always keep powdered milk on hand in case we do run out of milk between scheduled shopping trips.

       

      How to get your yogurt to last a month

      For yogurt, you can safely go a month or more past the best by or sell by date. Same with cottage cheese and sour cream. So you don’t have to worry about those going bad before your next monthly grocery run.

       

      What to do about fruits and vegetables

      Some types of produce really do not last very long. Strawberries and other berries, such as blueberries and raspberries, are really only good for a few days unless you freeze them. But they do freeze very well. So to have berries after about the first week, wash them when you get home, and put them in zip-top bags or freezer-proof containers. Then stick them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

      Bananas generally are good for only about a week, maybe two during cooler months. Apples will last up to a month in the fridge, as will oranges.

      Tomatoes can generally last two or three weeks in the fridge.

      Green peppers can last up to about three weeks, and onions can last three or four weeks or more. (If you’re brave like we are, just cut off any bad spots if they go past their prime.) Carrots and potatoes can also last a month (you can keep potatoes in the fridge or in any cool, dark place). Broccoli and cauliflower generally last two to three weeks, but they also freeze well, so buy what you would normally use in two weeks, and then double that and freeze that amount so that you can have broccoli and cauliflower throughout the month.

      Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is also another great way to preserve them, and you can buy a pretty good and inexpensive food dehydrator for less than $50. We love to dry apples, bananas, mangoes, peaches, plums, and sometimes even green peppers and onions with our dehydrator. The dried fruit is about as sweet as candy, and much better for the kiddos. 🙂

       

      Pro tip: Check out this article for the list of cheapest produce and other groceries.

       

      Listed below are examples of items that will (generally) last for a month or close to it, that you don’t need to worry about eating first and can save to eat till later in the month if desired. These are not the only grocery items that can last for a month, but they are some of the most common.

       

      Meat and related items that will last for the month

      Lunch meat (unopened)

      Hot dogs (unopened)

      Bacon (unopened)

      Sausage (unopened)

      Pepperoni (as long as the package is resealed after it is opened)

      Eggs (as long as they don’t get a crack; they can actually last for a few months in your fridge before going bad)

       

       

      Dairy products that will last for the month

      Milk (can possibly last up to four weeks, if you find the gallons with the farthest out best by date and get it home and in the fridge pretty quickly; you can also freeze it)

      Cheese (as long as it is not opened)

      Yogurt (as long as it is not opened; sometimes even if it is)

      Cottage cheese (as long as it is not opened)

      Butter and margarine

       

      Produce that will last for the month

      Apples

      Oranges

      Onions

      Potatoes

      Carrots

      Salsa

      Guacamole (if unopened; also freezes well)

      Bread and related items that will last for the month

      Bread (if kept in the fridge or freezer; some bread will stay fresh and soft if kept in the fridge, depending on the brand)

      Buns (if kept in the fridge or freezer)

      Tortilla shells

      Bagels

      Check out these related articles:

      7 Simple Steps to Create a Meal Plan to Save Time and Money
      100+ Recipes for Cheap Meals to Save You Money and Time!
      65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
      19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
      Eat Free for Your Birthday!
      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

       

       

      5. Keep bread, bagels, buns, tortilla shells, and so on in the fridge or freezer to extend their life.

       If you get the right kind of bread (which does not mean it has to be the most expensive; it’s just those that are soft and stay that way for longer), you can put bread and buns in the fridge and they will still be soft even after a few weeks. So we generally keep out enough bread for a week or two, and the rest goes in the fridge or freezer.

       

      6. Save your frozen and canned fruits and vegetables and meat for the last week or two of the month, and consider using powdered milk.

      As I mentioned above, as part of your meal planning when you are doing monthly grocery shopping, plan to eat your fresh meat, dairy, and produce first. Also plan to buy or prepare enough frozen and canned meat, produce, and dairy to get you through the last week or two of the month.

      Meat will freeze well for a few months (sometimes up to six months). Hamburger, steak, roast, chicken, turkey, pork, and more all freeze well. Lunch meat and hot dogs freeze well, as do bacon, sausage, and pepperoni. 

      Also, if you are really committed to monthly grocery shopping, then you may want to consider using powdered milk for your baking and any other needs for the last week or so of the month. If you have young children who do not like the taste of powdered milk, try adding a little chocolate syrup for a fun flavor. Or during the winter, warm it up and add a little sugar or make hot cocoa.

      7. Try to stick to just one monthly grocery shopping trip.

       To save the most time and money, try to go the whole month without needing to return to the store by following the tips shared above. If you do need to go to the store, try to go just one other time, perhaps two or three weeks into the month. And limit your shopping to just buying milk if you can, or milk and a few produce items.

      If it is difficult for you to overcome the temptation to buy more than you planned to during the second mini shopping trip, see if you can send your spouse (if he or she is less likely to impulse buy).

      Conclusion

      One of the biggest budget categories for most families is groceries, but the awesome thing is that it is also one of the areas where you can save the most money if you choose to! By doing monthly grocery shopping, you really can save a ton of time and money that you can then use for other important things.

      Using a simple weekly meal planner printable like the one available above (and sticking to it!) is one of the best ways to be successful at monthly grocery shopping in order to save money on groceries each month.

      Learn 7 simple steps for how to create a meal plan to save time and money! And if you are new to meal planning and it just seems overwhelming and you regularly spend more on groceries than you would like to, consider an awesome meal planning service like $5 Meal Plans, where they do all of the planning for you and send you the recipes and shopping lists. And you spend just $5 a month and can then prepare meals that cost less than $5 each! It really is a great service. 

      Read this article to find more than 50 ideas for how  to save money on groceries! And check out more than 100 easy recipes to save you money and time; these easy recipes are ready in 30 minutes or less and cost just $5 or less!

       

      Have you tried monthly grocery shopping? What tips do you have for how to make monthly grocery shopping successful? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Leave a comment below to let me know!

       

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      Join Our Facebook Group!

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      31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes

      cheap dinner recipes

      Cheap Dinner Recipes

      Below are 31 quick, easy, tasty, and inexpensive dinner meals you can make for the whole family in less than 30 minutes! You will love these cheap dinner recipes!

      Meal planning and making inexpensive meals really are two ways that you can help to reduce your monthly expenses and balance your family budget. In addition to cutting entertainment costs if needed, spending less money on groceries and eating out are the best ways to cut your spending so you can save more money!

      By making inexpensive meals like those included in the cheap dinner recipes highlighted below in this article, we are able to feed our family of five for less than $300 a month. We can then use that extra money to put toward reaching our important financial goals!

      My hope is that by saving money as you make inexpensive meals, you will be able to work more quickly toward reaching your own family’s financial goals, as well!

       

      Tip: Pin the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on cheap dinner recipes later!

       

      Make Your Cheap Dinner Recipes 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!

      Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

      cheap recipes cheap meals

      Are you in a dinner rut? Do you want inspiration for quick and easy recipes you can make for your family on busy nights?

      Then you need this cookbook! Find more than 125 recipes for delicious quick and cheap family meals you can prepare in 30 minutes or less for $5 or less!

      Click here to get your digital copy of the recipe book today for just $5! (Buy now and get access to your recipe book for immediate digital download!)

      31 Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes You Can Make for under $5

      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! Your family will love meals made from these cheap dinner recipes!

       

      1. Easy pasta carbonara

      If you have never tried pasta carbonara, then you need to give this recipe a try! A simple pasta carbonara features spaghetti noodles, bacon, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and seasonings like garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. This dish is a cheap, easy, and tasty dinner idea! (Everything tastes better with bacon; am I right? :)) You can find a simple and inexpensive pasta carbonara recipe here.

       

      2. Chicken stir fry over rice

      So easy! So tasty! 🙂 We normally just wing it and throw in peppers along with whatever other vegetables we have on hand that sound good, but you can find an easy chicken stir fry recipe here. 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.)

       

      3. 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 from Campbell’s (except that I use the store-brand cream of mushroom soup to save money, of course! :D). You can find this simple 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner recipe here.

       

      4. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

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

       

      5. 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.

       

      Check out these related articles:

      42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
      25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
      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 Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
      Eat Free for Your Birthday!
      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

       

       

       

      6. Beef and cheese goulash

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

       

      7. 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 :)).

       

       

      8. Taco soup with tortilla chips

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

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

       

      9. Chili and cornbread

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

       

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

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

       

       

       11. Noodles or mashed potatoes with stroganoff

      We generally eat this dish with corn (sometimes on the cob but more often than not from a can) and often with rolls or simple bread and butter (margarine). Of course you can find tons of hamburger gravy and stroganoff recipes online. The way we make ours is very similar to this simple Ground Beef Stroganoff recipe (we also include cream of mushroom soup in ours, and we omit the fresh mushrooms if we don’t have any on hand).

       

      12. Chicken fajitas

      Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite cheap dinner recipes! We generally make fajitas with green and red peppers (or whatever peppers are the least expensive at the time we are grocery shopping), onions, broccoli, carrots, avocados (if they are a good price), salsa, or other vegetables we have on hand. You can find an easy chicken fajita recipe here.

       

      13. 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.

       

      14. 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!

       

      15. 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.

      16. Mom’s Beef Stew

      My own mom’s beef stew, that is. 🙂 We make it using a pound of hamburger, sliced potatoes and carrots, corn, onions, quick barley (optional), and a small can of cream of mushroom soup to make it thicker and creamier. Salt and pepper to taste. You can also use frozen mixed vegetables to make the prep for this meal even easier.

       

      17. Sloppy Joes

      Sloppy Joes are another of our favorite cheap dinner recipes. I like this simple Sloppy Joe recipe, but of course there are many, many variations.

       

      Related articles:

      42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
      25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
      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 Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
      Eat Free for Your Birthday!
      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

       

      18. Meatball Sub Soup

      You can find a simple recipe for Meatball Sub Soup here. You can slice French bread and dip it into the soup if you want to use a simpler substitute for baguettes (like we do).

       

      19. Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie

      I love homemade chicken pot pie (the baked kind)! And it is not hard to make, but it does take a little more effort than I want to give for dinner on most busy weeknights.  So this quicker version of this classic meal is awesome! You can find a simple Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie recipe here.

       

      20. Parmesan Chicken with Rice

      This is another great chicken and Parmesan (and chicken and rice) recipe. You can find a simple Parmesan chicken with rice recipe here.

       

       Get the Grocery Money Saving Bundle

      Grocery Money Saving Bundle
      The Grocery Money Saving Bundle includes 9 must-have resources to help you save money on groceries, eating out, healthy eating, produce, meat, and more! Also learn how to meal plan effectively—and efficiently!—to help you save time and money! Discover the foods that give you the most bang for your grocery-spending buck! And learn how to use my secret weapon to save big time on your monthly grocery budget! 

      Learn the tips and tricks our family of five uses to spend less than an average of $300 a month on food! Learn more about or purchase the Grocery Money Saving Bundle today!

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

      Grilled cheese is another favorite cheap dinner recipe; actually, it’s so simple you don’t even need a recipe. You simply need your favorite bread, cheese, butter or margarine (optional, to coat the bread and give it a more toasted color), and spinach (also optional, but it is yummy and makes this kid-friendly dish more nutritious). 🙂

       

      22. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

      All you need for this easy dinner are flour tortilla shells, cheese (that you shred), ham or other favorite luncheon meat (optional), and spinach (also optional, but, like the grilled cheese sandwiches just above, it is yummy and makes this kid-friendly dish more nutritious).

       

      23. Barbecue Chicken Tostadas

      If you love barbecue chicken, then you will love this cheap dinner recipe that you can make in 20 minutes or less. You can find a great recipe for Barbecue Chicken Tostadas here.

       

      24. Biscuits and gravy

      This is one of my favorite meals. 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! Some might consider this primarily a breakfast food, but 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 so delicious!)
      2 T. butter
      ¼ cup flour
      3 cups milk
      Salt and pepper

      Directions: 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.

       

      Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

      cheap recipes cheap meals

      Are you in a dinner rut? Do you want inspiration for quick and easy recipes you can make for your family on busy nights?

      Then you need this cookbook! Find more than 125 recipes for delicious quick and cheap family meals you can prepare in 30 minutes or less for $5 or less!

      Click here to get your digital copy of the recipe book today for just $5! (Buy now and get access to your recipe book for immediate digital download!)

      25. 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.

       

      26. Lemon pepper chicken with rice

      Another family favorite cheap dinner recipe is lemon pepper chicken. This is another easy dinner option that you can make in about 20 minutes. You can find a tasty lemon pepper chicken recipe here.

       

      27. Creamy chicken and mushroom soup

      This yummy soup is perfect for cool nights, and it can be on your dinner table in just 20 minutes ! You can find the recipe for Creamy Chicken and Mushroom soup here.

       

      28. Egg fried rice

      You can make this simple, cheap dinner in just 15 minutes, so it is perfect for those busy evenings after work and school. There are many variations, but I like this easy egg fried rice recipe.

       

      29. Cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

      This is another one of our family favorites. It is so creamy and good! Find this 30-minute cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole here. (If you need to cook the chicken, you can boil or saute it on the stove in about 15 or 20 minutes.)

       

       

      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.

      30. Quick Bean and Rice Burritos

      Of course I had to include a beans and rice recipe. 🙂 These burritos are tasty and filling and can be on your table in less than 30 minutes. You can find a simple Quick Bean and Rice recipe here.

       

      31. Easy Beef Enchiladas

      We love these simple beef enchiladas that you can make in about 30 minutes. Cook one pound of hamburger with half a large onion or one small onion in a large skillet. While the hamburger is browning, pour one-third of a can of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

      When the hamburger is browned, stir in a can of refried beans and a small can of tomato sauce. Add in taco seasoning (from a packet, or make your own!).

      Then spoon the enchilada mixture evenly into eight large flour tortilla shells, and roll them up and lay them horizontally in the casserole dish. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the rolled tortillas, and cover with one cup of shredded cheese. Top with sliced olives if desired.

      Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, or other favorite toppings.

       

      Conclusion

      These 31 quick, easy, and cheap dinner recipes will help you to get food on the table fast for your hungry family! Feed your family quick, delicious, inexpensive meals every day of the month for under $5 a meal! 

       

      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.

      FREE Simple Meal Planner Printable! 7 Steps to Plan Meals and Save Time and Money

      meal planner

      Meal Planner

      By learning how to use a weekly meal planner, you can get organized to save a lot of time and money every month. Read this article to find 7 simple steps to create an easy and effective meal planner to make your meal prep a snap

       

      Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on how to use a weekly meal planner later!

      Save Even More Money with Your Weekly Meal Planning!

      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!

       

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

      If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a 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.

       

      How to Use a Weekly Meal Planner

      Once a week or every two weeks (if you can go that long between grocery shopping trips, like my family does—and which I recommend if you really want to save time and money!), sit down and write out your plan for what you will eat for your meals.

      To plan for two weeks’ worth of meals at a time, make sure to use the items, especially produce, that are most perishable first. So use bananas and berries in the first week, for example, and save apples and oranges, which last longer (especially when you keep them in the fridge or cold storage area) for the second week. Also supplement fruits, vegetables, meats, and so on with canned or frozen items in the second week.

      Get your free weekly meal planner with shopping list emailed right to you by signing up below! 

      Using Your Meal Planner Effectively

      Follow these 7 simple steps as you use your weekly meal planner.

       

      1. Plan one week’s worth of meals at a time as you use your meal planner.

      To keep things simple (especially if you have never used a weekly meal planner before), plan the first week’s worth of meals first.

       

      2. Repeat a few of the same meals from week one in your second week of meal plans.

      Then when you plan the next week’s meals, if you decide to plan two weeks’ worth of meals at a time, stick with a few (or several! or all!) of the same meals that are your family’s favorite. I have heard that most families have only about a dozen meals that they eat regularly, with the occasional new or different dish for variety. (That is true for our family, as well!)

      And there is nothing wrong with that! If there are tasty, inexpensive meals that your family loves to eat, you don’t need to spend the time and money and mental energy to come up with new meals every week. You can save that for when the kids are older or you are retired or life otherwise slows down!

       

      3. Inventory what you have on hand as you fill out your meal planner form.

      As you plan your meals, quickly go through your food so that you can use items from your fridge, freezer, and pantry in your meals during the week so that it will not go bad and so you will not buy items that you do not need more of.

      However, if you find great deals on food items that your loves that you have room to store in your freezer or pantry or cupboards, then definitely stock up! Use the handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet below so that you will be able to recognize when a food item is at a great price so you can stock up!

       

      4. Fill out your meal planner and create your shopping list in advance.

      Plan to create your meal plan and shopping list a day or two before your shopping trip so that you don’t feel rushed and so you don’t have so much to do on shopping day.

       

      5. Be sure to check the sales as you use your meal planner.

      As you plan your weekly meals, check the weekly ads at the grocery store or stores (we generally go to two to snag the best deals at each) you shop at, and then plan at least some of your meals around what is on sale.

       

      Check out these related articles:
      31 Cheapest Groceries to Buy on a Tight Budget!
      42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
      25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
      31 Budget-Friendly Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes
      65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
      19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
      Eat Free for Your Birthday!
      12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

       

      6. Consider having weekly dinner theme nights.

      You can simplify your meal plan considerably if you stick with a theme for each (or most) of the nights of the week. For example, when we were in college and working to get out of debt, Monday night was more better mac and cheese night (macaroni and cheese with vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peppers, onions—we still eat this meal a couple of times a month!).

      So you might plan a meatloaf Monday (or meatless Monday, or mac and cheese Monday), taco Tuesday, pizza Wednesday (another of our favorites—this is actually one we currently do), casserole Thursday, and so forth. 

       

      7. Plan to use your leftovers.

      Plan one or more lunch or dinner meals where you eat the leftovers from earlier in the week. I love leftovers because they are such a great time (and mental energy :)) saver! All you have to do is pop the food in the oven or microwave, and you have a meal in minutes! One handy trick is to keep a list of your leftovers on the fridge so that you do not forget about them.

      Conclusion

      One of the biggest budget categories for most families is groceries, but the awesome thing is that it is also one of the areas where you can cut back the most! Using a simple weekly meal planner like the one available above (and sticking to it!) is one of the best ways to save money on groceries each month.

      Read this article to find more than 50 ideas for how  to save money on groceries!

       

      Have you used a meal planner before? Do you have awesome tips or ideas for effective meal planning? What are your favorite go-to meals? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Leave a comment below to 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.