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21 Fun and Budget Friendly Gifts for Mother’s Day!

cheap Mother's Day gifts and budget friendly Mother's Day gift ideas

 

 

Budget Friendly Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Mom

In this article I am going to share some of the best budget friendly Mother’s Day gift ideas for mom! (These are perfect cheap Mother’s Day gift ideas! (Cheap in price but not in quality. :))

You know how special your mom or your wife is to you. She’s priceless. 🙂 And I know that she deserves the best. But fortunately, you can show your appreciation to the women in your life without breaking the bank. There are lots of budget friendly gifts for moms that can show the special women in your life how much you care!

In the list below you will find some of the best inexpensive Mother’s Day gift ideas for moms. Find Mother’s Day gifts your mom will love!

Pro tip: Do you want your gift shipped fast and free? Have you tried Amazon Prime yet? Get free 2-day shipping when you sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, and enjoy the many benefits of this awesome service!

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on ideas for budget friendly and cheap Mother’s Day gift ideas for mom later!

 

 

21 Top Budget Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

Here are some of my favorite Mother’s Day gift ideas for moms! If you are looking for budget-friendly Mother’s Day gifts (cheap Mother’s Day gifts), then check out these awesome gifts at a great price!

No matter the occasion, if you are looking for a thoughtful, meaningful, and budget friendly gift for mom, then this list has some perfect items for you!

Click the images and links below for more information about each gift idea!

Watches

Even in this day when virtually everyone has a smartphone, many women still love a classy timepiece (my own mom included! :)).

This watch here is like the one I had for years and years, and I still think it is a wonderful piece of jewelry, elegant and very functional.

 

You can find even more ideas for women’s watches here.

 

 Jewelry

In addition to watches, necklaces are another great way to tell Mom that you love her. Two of my favorite budget friendly necklaces that are perfect Mother’s Day or birthday (or Christmas!) gifts are these two.

 

And here is the other one.

 

And here is one more customized necklace that I love. Any mama would be proud to wear this beautiful necklace.

Genteele Sherpa Plush Throw Blankets


Mom will love this super soft, reversible, and warm throw blanket. Available in a wide variety of colors!

 

A Prayer for Mom Wall Art

This beautiful (and still budget friendly!) wall art will show your favorite mom how much you appreciate and love her.

This classy, versatile version is great for hanging on the wall or setting on your end table.

 

Funny Socks


Your favorite mom will get a get out of these funny (but also warm and comfy!) socks! Great stocking stuffer, too!

 

Best Books for Moms

Books are another great option for Mother’s Day gift ideas for mom. Give mom the gift of remembering to take a few minutes for mindfulness each day.

 

This is a wonderful gift idea for moms with teens and tweens. I love the idea of sharing a journal like this with my daughters when they are older.

You can also find tons of great ideas for books for mom here.

 

 

Infusion Water Bottle


This is a high-quality, 100% leak-proof infusion water bottle. Makes a great stocking stuffer!

Flickering Flameless Candles

These beautiful flameless candles will set the perfect mood, whether you want a relaxing evening or a romantic one.

 

 Aromatherapy Candles


These 4 aromatherapy candles are a perfect budget friendly Mother’s Day gift for mom to help her relax and unwind at the end of a long day. Each candle has a wonderful and distinctive fragrance (click to learn what they are!).

 

Bath Bombs Gift Set


These awesome bath bombs are another great way to set the perfect mood. Simply throw the bath bombs in warm water to create a wonderfully luxurious atmosphere.

 

Bronze Family Tree with 6 Hanging Picture Frames


This beautiful bronze set of 6 hanging picture frames is perfect for displaying your cherished family photos!

 

Fun and Funny Mugs for Mom


There are so many fun mugs and tumblers for Mom! This stainless steel tumbler is one that I love.


If you have an angel mother like I do, then you’ll love this beautiful mug.


This is another fun one. (You can also get a set with matching mug and tumbler for mom and dad. :))


This is another one of my personal favorites Show mom you appreciate the many, many important roles she plays.

You can check out more fun and funny mugs for mom here.

 

T-Shirts

Another fun Mother’s Day gift idea for mom is T-shirts. With so many options for awesome mom’s T-shirts to choose from, you are sure to find one that she will loves!

 

 

Car and Trunk Organizer

 

I’m a practical mom, and I love practical gifts that make life easier. 🙂 This car organizer is a great way to get back more storage space and cut down on clutter in your trunk or SUV! I love this simple trunk organizer!

 

Tools

Tools are another awesome and practical Mother’s Day (or birthday!) gift idea for mom. When my sisters and I were in college and high school my dad bought us tools sets, and I still have it today!

So whether mom is super handy already or wants to learn to be, you can find great deals on  tools to make sure she can get done what she needs to.

This is a great, high quality, durable tool set with hammer, precision screwdrivers, tape measure, pliers, wrenches, sockets, ratchets, and more!

In addition to the tool sets above, you can find tons of other great tool sets here.

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

These budget friendly Mother’s Day gift ideas for mom (ideas for cheap Mother’s Day gifts) will give you lots of great gift options for your favorite moms or ladies. These gifts are perfect for Mother’s Day, birthdays, or to give a simple thank you or I love you for any occasion!

 

What are your favorite Mother’s Day gifts for mom? What Mother’s Day gifts for mom do you recommend? I would love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below and let me know!

 

Invitation to Share

Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help 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.

How to Spend Money: 15 Best Ways to Spend Money Wisely!

how to spend money

How to Spend Money (Wisely)

In this article I am going to discuss my best suggestions for how to spend money in smart ways! Learn 15 awesome tips for how to spend money wisely to use it to your best advantage!

With these 15 fun tips, you can get great ideas for what to do with extra money this year!

 

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

Should You Use Extra Money to Pay off Debt?

Before we talk more generally about how to spend money, I want to answer this question: Should you use extra money (also known as found money or a windfall) to get out of debt?

The short answer to this question is generally Yes!

The longer answer is also Yes! 🙂 That is, the answer is yes as long as you have at least a small buffer between you and Mr. Murphy. If you do not have a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000 (and you might want to up that to one month’ s worth of living expenses, depending on the stability of your financial situation and your own need for financial security), then create a starter emergency fund first. And then start attacking your debt and get it out of your life as quickly as possible!

But if you do use your extra money or found money to pay off debt, then also do the things that you need to and make the changes that you need to make in your life to not fall back into the trap of consumer debt!

Being debt free is an amazing way to live your life, and it has so many benefits. Some of the more tangible benefits of being debt free include being able to free up money for other financial goals like saving (more) for retirement and being able to have more money available to pay off your mortgage early so that you can save literally tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars during your working life that you can use for other things.

And some of the less tangible blessings of paying off your debt include having peace of mind and the satisfaction that comes in knowing that your money is your own to use as you see fit; it’s not all controlled by someone else.

Paying off your debt and becoming debt free puts you in a wonderful place of strength financially and is an important part of overall financial freedom!

Check out this must-read article to learn how to get and stay out of debt!

 

What Is the Best Thing to Do with Extra Money?

Answering the question “What is the best thing to do with extra money?” can seem kind of tricky. As I note below in this article, there are many good and even great ways to spend money.

But if you have high-interest debt like credit card debt, probably the very best thing to do with your money, after you pay for the basic necessities, of course, is to pay off that debt.

Becoming debt free is one of the very best things you can do for your own financial well-being and long-term success! It is very difficult to build wealth and reach financial independence without being debt free, so definitely make this a goal and work toward it as quickly as possible!

Once you are debt free, start to save more of your hard-earned money so that you can begin to work toward your other awesome financial goals! Find ideas for how to spend your money wisely below!

Tired of tiny interest rates on your savings?

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 Then you should check out CIT Bank. We love our CIT Bank savings account, which offers the highest savings rate that we know of. With the CIT Bank Savings Builder, you can earn up to 1.7% on your savings account (which is really good in today’s market)!

Click here to learn more and open your savings account today!

 

15 Best Ideas for How to Spend Money (in Smart Ways)

OK, now with some of those other related questions out of the way first, here are some of my best ideas for how to spend money in good ways.

 

1. Build a starter emergency fund.

As I mentioned briefly above, one of the best ways that you can use your money is to create an emergency fund. If you do not already have a starter emergency fund of at least $1,000 or up to one month’s worth of expenses, then start there.

Put your money for your emergency fund in a separate savings account (I like our CIT Bank savings account because they offer an awesome [for these days, anyway :)] savings rate) earmarked for emergencies only, and then don’t touch it unless you have an emergency! Learn what an emergency fund should be used for here.

 

2. Stock your pantry and buy extra of other essential home storage items.

If there is one thing that the recent worldwide pandemic has taught me, it is that even if you have all the money in the world, it will not do you any good if there is no food available at the store to buy. You can’t eat money!

So once you have a starter emergency fund, or maybe even before you fund your starter emergency fund, consider setting money aside to stock your pantry, cupboards, storage room, and so on with shelf-stable foods and other essentials like toilet paper, laundry detergent and dish soap, body soap and shampoo, and other similar items.

 

3. Pay down credit card and other nonmortgage debt.

Another great tip for smart ways to spend money you have is to use it to pay off debt.

If your nonmortgage debt is less than the amount of money you have to spend, awesome! Pay it all off, and free yourself from that burden!

If you do not have enough money readily available to pay off all of your nonmortgage debt at once, then pay off the debt with the highest interest rates first, and then pay off your debts with lower interest rates once you tackle the higher interest rate debts.

Or else begin and follow a debt snowball plan to wipe out all of your debt as quickly as possible! With the debt snowball, you pay your lowest debts off first, and you work your way up to your larger debts (like your vehicles and student loan debt), until you eventually get everything paid off.

This is the method we used to get completely debt free (including paying off the mortgage early! woot! :D), and I highly recommend the snowball method to help you get and stay motivated to pay off your debt!

 

4. Finish funding your emergency savings.

If (and when!) you have enough money to do so, then fully fund an emergency fund with at least three months’ worth of expenses saved in it or, ideally if you can, six months’ worth of expenses saved.

And then save additional money each month to finish funding your emergency savings account until it is fully funded with again, if possible, six months’ worth of expenses (but at the very least three months’ worth of expenses).

 

5. Invest the money for (an amazing!) retirement.

Another great option for how to spend money wisely is to put the money toward your retirement savings.

If you don’t have one set up already, you should open a Roth IRA and begin putting money in it each month to save toward your retirement. As of 2019, you can save up to $6,000 in your Roth IRA.

So just for fun, let’s say you did that. If you are 32 years old, for example, and you had $6,000 available to you to spend or use in other ways and you put it all in your Roth IRA, And then let’s say that you worked till the (now recommended) age of 67.

And let’s also say that you invested the money in good, solid growth stock mutual funds and were able to earn the 30-year historical average of 12 percent on that investment. You would have $316,797! Pretty awesome, right? I would take $6,000 and turn it into $316,000 any day. 🙂

If you don’t have a Roth IRA yet, sign up for the cheat sheet below to get simple instructions for how to open a Roth IRA in 10 minutes or less!

 

6. Invest the money in an educational savings account for your children’s college educations.

If you have children, one of the best things you can ever do for them is to help them have a debt-free college education. (It is possible, and even very doable—I promise! Learn how to save for your children’s college educations.)

Don’t let them saddle themselves with thousands of dollars of student loan debt; just don’t! You likely had student loan debt yourself, and I bet you hated it! I bet you couldn’t wait to get rid of it! So save your children from having to go through that experience by helping to ensure that they pay for their college education with cash. 

They will thank you profusely for helping to set them up for financial success in life by not having to start out their adult life shackled by student loan debt—I promise.

 

7. Use the money for a large purchase that you need to make (with cash!). 

If your washer and dryer need to be replaced, now might be a good time. If your car is on its last leg, buy a new (to you! not brand new!) car with cash. If you have been wanting to buy a nice piano for your children to put all of those many hours of practice to use on, by all means go for it.

 

8. Use the money you have available to spend to pay for home improvements.

If you are nonmortgage debt free or if you have home improvements that really need to be made before they become an emergency, then using your money on home-improvement projects is a great idea!

We don’t normally get much of a tax refund (because we don’t like giving the government an interest-free loan for the year when we have so many financial goals of our own!), but we are getting a tax return this year, and because we are debt free (including the mortgage!) and are already saving for our kids’ college educations, we are going to use some of the money for some important home improvements. Yay!

9. Use the money to pay down your mortgage!

If you have an adequate emergency fund (of three to six months’ worth of expenses), you are out of all nonmortgage debt, and you are saving the recommended 10 to 15 percent (ideally 15 percent) of your income each month toward retirement, then you are a financial rock star! Congratulations to you!

In that case, a great way to spend extra money you have available is to use the money toward paying off your mortgage. My firm belief is that one of the best things that you can do for your own family’s financial well-being, financial security, and ultimate financial freedom is to pay off your mortgage as soon as you can. Once you have paid off your mortgage, no one can take your home from you if you have a financial setback such as a death of a spouse, a major illness, or the loss of a job.

And once you pay off your mortgage, you can invest the money in your own wealth instead of the bank’s! If you will pay off your mortgage as quickly as you can and then pay yourself a mortgage payment every month (as we have started doing since we paid off our mortgage a couple of years ago! #debtfreeforlife), you can then invest that money in good growth stock mutual funds in order to buy a more expensive house with cash in five or more years (which is our plan) or for your long-term financial security and wealth.

10. Put your extra money toward a larger down payment to purchase your future home.

Another great option for a smart way to spend money is to put the money toward your down payment for the future house purchase you are saving money toward. By saving up a larger down payment, your monthly mortgage payment can be smaller. (I know it is extreme, but you might even consider the 100% down plan! That’s our plan for our next home purchase! #100percent down :))

11. Start savings accounts for larger purchases and expenses (sinking funds).

Another great idea for how to spend money wisely is to open individual savings accounts (these are all savings accounts that we have and regularly fund and use) for large purchases and expenses such as car maintenance and repairs, future (cash!) car purchases, home maintenance and repairs, annual life insurance premiums, family vacations, Christmas, birthdays and other gift giving, appliance and furniture purchases and repairs, and miscellaneous short-term savings.

These types of funds are often referred to as sinking funds, and they are a fantastic part of your overall financial success plan so that you can avoid going into debt in these and other areas.

Read this article for more information on saving up for large purchases and expenses and this article to learn more about sinking funds.

Pro tip: If you are looking for a good place to save your money (with higher interest rates!), 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 1.7% on your savings account (which is really good in today’s market)!

Click here to learn more and open your savings account today!

 

12. Use the money to continue your education.

If you are in a position where you would benefit from additional education to further your career (or just to further your own interests), then consider taking some college classes or completing a certification or other job training program.

One of the best investments you will ever make is in your own education if it helps you to be able to increase your income. And even if you take classes just for fun, additional knowledge is always a worthwhile thing.

 

13. Start a side hustle or small business.

If you have been wanting to start a side hustle (learn how!) or small business on the side, this could be the perfect opportunity to do it!

I would not recommend that you go into debt to start a side hustle or small business, but if you can do it for cash and have done the research to show it is a good fit and a viable (profitable) option for you, then go for it! Discover 19 awesome side hustles that you can do from home (or anywhere)!

My favorite side hustle is this blog, because it allows me to work from home on a flexible schedule, and it is a great way to earn extra money! If you want a fun way to earn some extra money (from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas if you want!), then why not start your own blog today?! I am able to make $1,500 to $2,000 a month blogging part time (on top of my full-time job and raising 3 young kiddos), and I know a ton of bloggers who make even a lot more than that!

Check out these related articles:

Why Blogging Is the Best Job Ever!

How to Start a Blog in 7 Simple Steps (in Less Than 10 Minutes!)

11 Amazing Incomes of 11 Amazing Bloggers

 

Perhaps you haven’t considered starting a side hustle and should! If your day job lends itself to freelance or consulting work, for example, then starting a business on the side could be a great way to further use your skills, expand your professional network, and earn extra income to reach your financial goals—like paying off debt or purchasing a home—more quickly.

 

14. Donate the money to one or more of your favorite charities or local churches!

If you have local charitable causes that you love to support or one or more churches that you want to bless, then look at the option of donating some money to one of these worthwhile and likely very much in need causes.

You can do a lot of good in your community by giving money to charitable organizations and churches, that they can then use to help others in need or accomplish other good works.

 

15. Go have some (debt-free, guilt-free) fun!

Whether or not you follow any of the suggestions above on smart ways for how to spend money, if you use some or all of the money you have available to spend for some debt-free fun, you will still be ahead of the game (because you will not have gone farther into debt :))!

You could use the money to buy a new TV, a new smartphone, or a nicer (paid-for, please!) car, or you could even go on an epic trip, like my coworker is (he and his wife are going to China!). You could purchase bikes for your whole family (can you say “tandem”? :)). You could pay for an awesome backpacking trip or go to Disney World or take a family cruise.

If you love to save money when you travel like we do, read this article with 5 awesome ways that we save money by using Airbnb! And if you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, you need to! They are such a great way to save money while you travel! Sign up here to receive $55 off your first Airbnb rental!

 

Final Thoughts on How to Spend Money Wisely

There are many great options for how to spend money wisely, but these 15 suggestions are some of the best ways to spend your money to get the most bang for your buck!

Use the money to fund your own amazing financial goals like building a six-month emergency fund, like saving more money for retirement, like paying off your mortgage early, like funding your children’s college educations, like giving generously to help fund causes you care about, or even taking an epic, paid-for family trip or vacation!

 

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 Awesome Ways We Save Money Traveling with Airbnb!

5 Best Frugal Living Hacks to Save $500 a Month or More!

 

What do you do to help ensure that you spend money wisely? Are you going to pay down debt, invest, build your emergency fund, save for a large purchase, or spend the money on something fun? 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.

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

dirt cheap meals

 

Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

A Huge Benefit of Dirt Cheap Meals or Super Cheap Meals

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

Why Prepare Dirt Cheap Meals?

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

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

Find more tips to slash your grocery budget spending here.

 

Is It Worth It to Make Super Cheap Meals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick and Easy Dirt Cheap Meals!

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

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

 Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

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

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

 

 

Waffles

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

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

To make this cheap breakfast even more economical, you can make them with half the amount of milk and add water in its place. (I have done that before when we were low on milk, and with the syrup or powdered sugar or jam on the waffles, I don’t think you will really notice a difference. I have heard of people who use just water when money is really tight. I have not tried that myself, but I would give it a try if things got really tight.)

 

Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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

 

 

Fried eggs with toast

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

 

 

French toast

French toast is another one of our family favorites! My dad used to make these for us often growing up, and so they always make me remember fond memories with him. 🙂

This is the recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

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

 

 

Oatmeal

This is another super easy option for budget meal planning! The little prepackaged versions are pretty cheap on their own (but when I eat them, I generally put two together; do you do that, too? One just doesn’t seem like enough of a meal to me!).

But when you make it from scratch, it is even much cheaper than that! We love to add sugar, brown sugar, or cinnamon. If you are counting calories, one tablespoon of sucralose mixed in with one cup of cooked oats works great, too!

 

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

 

Crepes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Egg Omelets

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

large eggs

salt  and pepper (to taste)

 

2 tablesoons margarine or butter

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chive (optional)

 

Directions

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

 

Cream of wheat

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

 

Muffins

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

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

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

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

 

Yogurt and fruit

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

 

Toast with jam or peanut butter

This is a super quick and cheap breakfast option.

 

Toaster pastries

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

 

Grits

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

 

Pancakes

Pancakes are another favorite cheap breakfast option for budget meal planning. As with the waffles mentioned above, you could substitute milk with water if needed. I have heard of families doing that in difficult circumstances. (You could also do that with crepes, which I have done. And you could try it with French toast, which I have not done but which would likely work just fine.) Again, we generally make these different colors each time we make them. We like this quick and easy recipe:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Overnight cold oatmeal

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

 

German pancakes

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

3. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

  

Find even more ideas for cheap breakfasts here.

 

Check out these related articles:

Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas

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

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

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

 

 

Ideas for Dirt Cheap Quick Lunches

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

 

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

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

 

Tuna fish sandwiches

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

 

Ingredients

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

Directions 

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

 

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

Ingredients

 

Directions

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

 

 

Egg salad sandwiches

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

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

 

 

Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

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

 

 

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

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

Here is a simple recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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

 

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe I like.

Ingredients

Directions

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

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

 

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

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

 

Chicken salad

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

 

Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

 

Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

 

Traditional green salad

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

 

Spinach and strawberry green salad

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

Easy pasta salad

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

 

Directions

 

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

 

 

Check out these related articles:

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

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Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas for Dinner

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

 

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

 

Baked Potatoes

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

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

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

 

Quick and Easy Chili

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

 

Ramen Noodles with Vegetables

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

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

 

Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

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

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

Directions

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

 

More Better Mac and Cheese

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

To traditional macaroni and cheese we add broccoli and carrots and sometimes cut up polish dogs or hot dogs, chicken, hamburger, or another meat. We also sometimes add onions and green or other colored peppers.

We sometimes add ranch to shake things up a little, and I like to add salsa to mine after it is cooked but before eating it to get even more vegetables. Yum!

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

Homemade Mac and Cheese

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

Directions

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

 

 

Meatless Spaghetti

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

 

 

Easy Garlic Chicken and Rice

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

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

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

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

 

Traditional or Black Bean Quesadillas

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

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

 

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

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

Meatless Taco Soup

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

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

 

Egg Fried Rice

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Hot Dogs and Fries

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

 

Pizza

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

Crust

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

Sauce

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

Toppings

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

Directions

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

 

Broccoli Alfredo

This is a simple and tasty dish, ready in 30 minutes. It’s great as a one-pot dinner, or we often eat it with toasted garlic bread. Eat with green salad to get in more veggies.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Creamy Pasta and Veggies

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leftovers

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

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

 

Get the Slash Your Grocery Budget Ebook!

Slash Your Grocery Budget ebookAre you tired of paying so much money at the grocery store? Do you know that you spend more on groceries than you probably need to (and more than you can probably afford to)? Are you tired of running out of money before the end of the month? Do you want to know how to save money on groceries, eat healthy on a budget, comparison shop to get the best deals, meal plan effectively to save time and money, and more? Do you want to save money on food so that you can use that money to help you reach other important financial goals? Then you need the Slash Your Grocery Budget ebook!

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Breakfast Example Meal Plan

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

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

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

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Lunch Example Meal Plan

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

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

 

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

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Dinner Example Meal Plan

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

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

 

Week 1

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

 

Week 2

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

Final Thoughts on Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

cheap easy slow cooker meals

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

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

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

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

 

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

Make Your Cheap Slow Cooker Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Cheap and Easy Slow Cooker Meals for under $5!

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

 

1. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

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

 

2. White Chicken Slow Cooker Chili

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

 

3. Slow Cooker Meatloaf

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

 

4. 3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

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

 

5. Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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

 

Related articles:

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

 

6. Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

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

 

7. Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken Stew

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

 

8.  Slow Cooker Honey Lemon Chicken

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

 

9. Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

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

 

 

10. Sour Cream Chili Bake

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

 

11. Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Soup

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

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

 

12. Crock-Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

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

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

 

 13. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Noodles

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

 

14. Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

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

Get the slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs recipe here.

 

15. Pulled Barbecue Chicken

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

 

16. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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

Get the slow cooker pulled pork recipe here.

 

17. Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

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

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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

18. Slow Cooker Goulash

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

 

19. Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

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

 

20. Slow Cooker Curried Coconut Chicken

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

 

21. Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

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

 

22. Slow Cooker Sour Cream Chili Bake

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

23. Potato Bacon Chowder Soup

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

 

24. Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

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

 

25. Slow Cooker Garlic Roasted Chicken

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

 

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap, Easy Slow Cooker Meals

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

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!

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

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

Cheap and Easy Meals (Budget Friendly Meals) for under $5

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

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

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

 

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

 

Make Your Cheap and Easy Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

42 Cheap and Easy Meals for under $5

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

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

 

 

14 Cheap and Easy Breakfast Meals Ideas

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

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

1. Waffles and pancakes

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

Waffles

Ingredients

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

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

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

And here is a simple recipe for pancakes.

Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten (if desired)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

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

 

 

2. Biscuits and gravy

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

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

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

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

 

3. French toast

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

Ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

dash of salt (optional)

Cinnamon and sugar mixture

16 slices of your favorite bread

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

4. Crepes

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

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

5. Fried eggs with toast

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

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
100+ Cheap and Easy Family Recipes for $5 or Less!
(Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
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13 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
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12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

6. Egg omelets

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned)

2 cups baby spinach

6 eggs

1/4 cup water or milk

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Directions

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

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

3. Serve with salsa, if desired.

 

7. Breakfast casserole

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

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

Ingredients

12 oz. frozen hash browns (about 4 cups)

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

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

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup shredded cheese

8 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

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

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

 

8. Oatmeal or cream of wheat

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

Easy Oatmeal Recipe

cups rolled old-fashioned oats

4 to 5 cups water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

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

Directions

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

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

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

Easy Cream of Wheat Recipe

4 cups of water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cream of wheat

Directions

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

9. Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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


10. Muffins

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

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

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

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

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

11. Banana and oats

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

12. Yogurt and fruit

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

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

 

13. Peanut butter and toast

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

 

14. Quick and easy quiche

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

Ingredients

1 pie crust (premade, or make your own)

6 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped cooked ham

1 cup shredded cheese

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

 

15. Toaster pastries (sneaking this one in!)

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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14 Cheap and Easy Lunch Meal Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Tuna fish sandwiches

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

 

3. Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

4. Egg salad sandwiches

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

5. Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

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

6. Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

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

8. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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

9. Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

11. Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

12. Chicken salad

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

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

13. Traditional green salad

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

14. Spinach and strawberry green salad

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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14 Cheap and Easy Dinner Meal Ideas

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

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

 

1. Spaghetti with green salad and garlic bread

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

 

2. More Better Mac and Cheese

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

4. Easy pasta carbonara

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish! Bacon makes (almost) everything better!

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

Directions

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

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

 

 

5. Chicken stir fry

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

Ingredients

Chicken Stir Fry

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

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

Directions

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
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6. Chicken and rice with gravy and veggies (on the side)

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

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

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

Directions

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

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

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

4. Whisk gravy constantly until it thickens.

5. Once thickened, add the chicken drippings.

6. Serve hot over rice.

 

 

7. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

This is a simple and tasty dish, ready in 30 minutes. It’s great as a one-pot dinner, or we often eat it with toasted garlic bread. Eat with green salad to get in more veggies.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

8. Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables

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

9. Beef and cheese goulash

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish, and it feeds a lot of people! We like an easy recipe such as the cheesy beef goulash recipe below (I omit the bay leaves if I don’t have any on hand).

You can half the recipe if you are feeding your family of just four or five.

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

Directions

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

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

10. Tacos

Traditional tacos are even cheaper if you make them using your own homemade tortilla shells. You can find a simple, tasty recipe for tortillas here (you can skip the rest time if you want dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes :)).

For the filling, you can use any combination of the following: grilled or ground chicken or ground beef (to keep it less expensive) with taco seasoning (you can find easy recipes for taco seasoning online if you do not have any on hand), cheese, refried beans, diced tomatoes, lettuce or spinach (we use spinach to make it a little healthier), salsa, and sour cream.

 

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11. Taco soup with tortilla chips

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

Ingredients

1 pound hamburger

1 packet taco seasoning

1-2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can red kidney beans

1 can chili beans

1-2 cans corn

shredded cheese (optional)

 

Directions 

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

2. Then add a can or two of diced tomatoes, a can of red kidney beans, a can of chili beans (or other beans), and a can or two of corn,  (Do not drain any of the cans before you add them to the pot.)

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

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

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

 

12. Chili and cornbread

Chili is another really budget friendly meal that we like to eat regularly in our home. When time is tight, we eat chili from the can, or with a little more time, we love a simple chili recipe like the one below. I have made cornbread from scratch, and it is great, but more often than not we make it from the box because it is easier and not very expensive.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

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

10 cups chicken broth

8 oz. egg noodles

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

14. Chicken fajitas

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

 

One more cheap and easy dinner: Hot dogs, brats, and fries

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

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

Want even more easy dinner ideas? You can find 35 cheap and easy dinner recipes here.

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
100+ Cheap and Easy Family Recipes for $5 or Less! (Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
55 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
13 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap and Easy Budget Friendly Meals

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

 

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

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11 Must-Know Budget Meal Planning Tips + 2 Weeks of Easy Meals with Recipes!

budget meal planning

Budget Meal Planning

In this article I am going to show you how to do awesome budget meal planning that will help your family save time and money! Plus, find 2 weeks’ worth of easy and cheap meals that you can make in 30 minutes or less for your family! If you are looking for quick, easy, tasty, and cheap meals, then this is the article for you! These quick, easy, and cheap breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes and ideas are perfect for your budget meal planning!

Note: These are just examples of inexpensive meal ideas that my family loves. You can of course switch out any of the meals with other meal options that you prefer. See this article for more than 100 cheap recipes that you can make for $5 or less in 30 minutes or less!

Sign up to get the free weekly meal plan below to help you make your  budget meal planning a breeze! Use it to make  cheap meal plans that can help you to save a ton of time and money on your grocery shopping and meal planning!

 

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily find these tips and ideas for budget meal planning later!

 

What Is Budget Meal Planning?

Different people would undoubtedly give different answers, but to me, budget meal planning is using a weekly or even monthly meal plan in order to save money on monthly grocery shopping and eating out.

In other words, it means sitting down once a week to think about what budget-friendly meals you want to eat during the week, and then writing those meals down on a calendar or on a weekly meal planner printable. You could even keep your weekly meal planner on your phone or computer.

Budget meal planning is a way to consciously save money by making a plan of what you will eat each day, preparing those meals at home, and watching your savings grow as you are able to slash your grocery budget and save so much money on fast food, takeout, and restaurant eating!

 

Why Do Budget Meal Planning?

Food is one of the biggest expenses for most families. But it is also one of the areas where you can most easily save the most money, if you choose to, because there are so many variables that you can control.

For example, you can choose to buy less meat or less expensive types or cuts of meat. You can choose to buy less junk food and soda and juice, all of which are fairly expensive items with little nutritional value. You can choose to buy generic brands of most items rather than more expensive brands. You can choose to shop at less expensive grocery stores. You can find discount grocery stores to shop at in your area (just Google it).

Many of these factors are controlled directly by your meal plan. By choosing to do budget meal planning where you actively work to lower your grocery expenses and the money you spend eating out, you can save a lot of money in those two budget categories, month after month.

And that money saved can then be used to save for emergencies, pay off debt, help pay for college for your children, help fund your (early) retirement, help fund your dreams, and so much more!

That is why it is worth it to do budget meal planning. 🙂

If you did not sign up for the free weekly meal plan above, make sure to do that to help you make your budget meal planning quick and easy! Use the weekly meal planner to make a cheap meal plan that will help you to save so much time and money each week and each month!

 

Save Even More Money Budget 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!

Budget 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. track and save your food budget.

11 Budget Meal Planning Tips for Success

When you are looking for the best strategies for saving time with meal prep and saving money on groceries with budget meal planning, then perhaps the most important thing to do to start is to create a weekly meal plan.

You have likely heard the saying that when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And that is definitely true when it comes to saving money in general and saving money on food specifically.

 

Pro tip: Make sure to use my weekly meal planner printable to make meal planning a snap!

 

These simple tips will help you to succeed with your budget meal planning.

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

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. Consider repeating 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. Think about your favorite family meals that you would like to eat for the week as you do your budget meal planning.

As you do your budget meal planning for the week. think about your favorite family meals.

What would you like to eat this week? What sounds good? What can you afford right now based on your monthly food budget or how much you have left in your food budget?

Then think about what new meals or recipes you might want to try. Go to Pinterest or Google or your favorite recipe website for ideas for simple and inexpensive new meals you can try.

Are there new dishes or particular recipes you have been wanting to try out? Has a loved one shared a new recipe with you?

To keep things simple, when you try new dishes, you might want to stick to just one or two new recipes a week. The weekend may be the easiest time to try those new recipes, if you typically have a little more time then.

These are important things to think about as you learn how to meal plan effectively and create your initial weekly meal plan.

 

4. Consult your family calendar as you do your budget meal planning.

Have your digital or paper calendar or planner in front of you as you meal plan.

There will be some days when one or more of your family members will be away from home for certain meals because of other activities, so plan your meals accordingly.

For example, if your son loves lasagna but he will be at a ball game Thursday evening, then plan lasagna for another night. And if you all have plans to eat dinner at a family member’s house one night, then note that on your weekly meal planner, as well.

 

5. Inventory what you have on hand as you do your meal planning.

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

However, as you consult your weekly ads or do your grocery shopping, if you find great deals on food items that your family loves that you have room to store in your freezer or pantry or cupboards, then definitely stock up!

Just make sure not to buy more of an item than you can eat in a reasonable amount of time, so that the food item does not spoil. 🙂

 

6. 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, if you can, so that you don’t feel rushed and so you don’t have so much to do on shopping day.

 

7. Be sure to check the sales as you do your budget meal planning.

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.

 

8. 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, and 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, Italian Friday, and so forth.

 

9. 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.

 

10. Consider batch meal prepping and cooking.

To save time and effort, consider making more than one batch of your favorite meals at a time by doubling (or more) your favorite recipes and freezing the extras for easy freezer meals on busy weeknights!

You can find simple beginner freezer meal tips here!

 

11. Keep a well-stocked pantry.

You will save money by keeping a well-stocked pantry. With a well-stocked pantry, can you buy the staples you frequently use in bulk when they are on sale. You can avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, which almost inevitably mean spending more than you planned. And you can make quick, easy meals from items you have at home rather than running to get takeout when your original meal plan goes awry for some reason.

Bonus Tip: Consider using fridge, freezer, pantry, leftovers, and other inventory sheets.

I touched on this in item 5 above when I mentioned inventorying what you have as you make your meal plan. To make things even easier, use fridge, freezer, pantry, leftovers, and other inventory sheets. Using inventory sheets is a great way to stay organized and avoid food waste!

 

Read on to the next section to find 40+ quick, cheap, and easy meals that you can use in your budget meal planning to help make meal prep a cinch!

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

If you answered YES! to any of these questions, then the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder is for you! Get more than 40 actionable pages to help you save time, money, and effort, month after month! Grab your copy today!

 

 

Budget Meal Planning Ideas and Recipes: 2 Weeks’ Worth of Inexpensive Meals

For easy budget meal planning, below are 2 weeks’ worth of ideas for easy and inexpensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals you can make for your family in less than 30 minutes!

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

 

Budget Meal Planning for Cheap Breakfast Ideas

These easy and cheap breakfast ideas are perfect for making quick meals on a budget.

 

Quick Overview of Cheap Breakfast Meals

Note: This is of course just an example of easy breakfast budget meal planning. Change it up any way that you like! And feel free to have just two or three breakfast options that you choose between (such as cold cereal with milk, fried eggs with toast, and fruit with yogurt) and then repeat to keep things easier for yourselves on busy mornings!

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

Week 1

Sunday: Waffles
Monday: Cold cereal with milk
Tuesday: Fried eggs with toast
Wednesday: French toast
Thursday: Bagels with cream cheese, jam, or peanut butter
Friday: Oatmeal
Saturday: Crepes

Week 2

Sunday: Egg omelets
Monday: Cream of wheat
Tuesday: Muffins
Wednesday: Yogurt with fruit
Thursday: Pancakes
Friday: Cold cereal with milk
Saturday: German oven pancakes

 

Recipes for many of these budget meals are below.

 

Check out these related articles:

21 Cheap and Easy Breakfast Ideas
15 Cheap and Easy Instant Pot Recipes
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
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

 

Waffles

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

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

To make this cheap breakfast even more economical, you can make them with half the amount of milk and add water in its place. (I have done that before when we were low on milk, and with the syrup or powdered sugar or jam on the waffles, I don’t think you will really notice a difference. I have heard of people who use just water when money is really tight. I have not tried that myself, but I would give it a try if things got really tight.)

 

Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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

 

Fried eggs with toast

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

 

French toast

French toast is another one of our family favorites! My dad used to make these for us often growing up, and so they always make me remember fond memories with him. 🙂

This is the recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

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

 

Oatmeal

This is another super easy option for budget meal planning! The little prepackaged versions are pretty cheap on their own (but when I eat them, I generally put two together; do you do that, too? One just doesn’t seem like enough of a meal to me!).

But when you make it from scratch, it is even much cheaper than that! We love to add sugar, brown sugar, or cinnamon. If you are counting calories, one tablespoon of sucralose mixed in with one cup of cooked oats works great, too!

 

Crepes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cream of wheat

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

Muffins

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

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

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

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

 

Yogurt and fruit

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

 

Pancakes

Pancakes are another favorite cheap breakfast option for budget meal planning. As with the waffles mentioned above, you could substitute milk with water if needed. I have heard of families doing that in difficult circumstances. (You could also do that with crepes, which I have done. And you could try it with French toast, which I have not done but which would likely work just fine.) Again, we generally make these different colors each time we make them. We like this quick and easy recipe:

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

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

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

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

 

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

German oven pancakes

Another fun variation on traditional pancakes are German oven pancakes, which are very similar to what my mother’s family calls Yorkshire, except we treated that dish as a savory dish (it didn’t have any sugar) and put turkey or roast beef gravy on it. German oven pancakes are a little bit sweet, and they call for flour, sugar, milk, salt, and melted butter or margarine. But unlike a crepe or a pancake, just as the name indicates, you bake German oven pancakes in the oven for about 15 minutes.

And then you top them with your favorites like syrup, powdered sugar, or fresh fruit.

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

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

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

Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

Budget Meal Planning for Cheap Lunch Ideas

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

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

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

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

 

Quick Overview of Cheap Lunch Meals

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

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

 

Week 1 and Week 2

Repeat the budget meal planning ideas listed below during the two weeks to meet the needs of your family

Sandwiches (ideas below) or wraps
Green salads (ideas below)
Pasta salads (ideas below)
Meat and cheese (or just cheese) quesadillas
Leftovers

 

Check out these related articles:

Taking PB&J Sandwiches for Lunch Can Make You a Millionaire–for Reals!
15 Cheap and Easy Instant Pot Recipes
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
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

 

 

Ideas for Quick Lunches

These are some of my favorite quick and cheap lunch ideas!

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

These are about as simple an option as you can get. 🙂 But I love (all of) them!

Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches (with tomato and lettuce or spinach, if desired)

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

Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

 

Tuna fish sandwiches (with chopped pickles, if desired)

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

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

Egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese; add spinach to make them more nutritious)

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

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

Chicken salad

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

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

Traditional green salad

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

Spinach and strawberry salad

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

 

Avocado tuna melt

If you love avocado and tuna and cheese, you will love avocado tuna melt sandwiches! You can find a simple avocado tuna melt recipe here:

Ingredients
2 5-oz. cans of tuna
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 avocado, sliced
4 slices cheddar cheese
8 slices bread
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Directions
Mix the tuna and the mayonnaise. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place four slices of bread in large frying pan. Spread each slice with 1/4 of the tuna mixture. Add 2 to 4 slices of avocado on each. Place a slice of cheddar cheese on top of avocado for each. Top sandwich with other slice of bread, butter side up.
Cook on medium high heat until bottom of bread is a golden brown, and then carefully flip over to toast the other side until it is also a golden brown and cheese is melted.

 

For even more goodness, add tomato and spinach or your favorite lettuce.

 

Avocado and chicken salad

This is another simple and tasty avocado dish, and a great option for a cheap meal. All you need for this easy salad are chicken, avocados, lime juice, green onion, cilantro (or omit it, like I do), and mayo.

Ingredients
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 medium avocados, diced
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
salt, to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 tablespoons mayo

Directions
In a large bowl, mix the diced avocado with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice, and season with the salt to taste. Add the chicken and the sliced green onion.
In a small bowl, mix the mayo and the lime juice to make the dressing.
Add the dressing to the chicken mixture, and mix well to coat with the dressing. Sprinkle the other tablespoon of lime juice over the top (or omit, if you want less lime juice).
Serve as is as a salad, or serve inside pita bread or as a sandwich or lettuce wrap.

 

 

Chicken avocado salad sandwiches

Similar to the cheap meal mentioned just above, here is another tasty chicken avocado salad sandwich recipe:

Ingredients
2 cup cooked chicken, chopped
2 ripe avocados, chopped
2 apples, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
8 slices of bread

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, avocado, apple, celery, and red onion. Gently mash the avocado with a fork and stir it around so that everything is mixed well.
Add the parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon of oil.
Spread on sandwich bread, toasted bread, or pita bread.

 

Bacon, lettuce, and tomato wrap

This tasty dish is a simple alternative to regular BLT sandwiches. Simply omit the bread and keep the bacon and tomato, season to taste with salt and pepper, and wrap in large lettuce leaves.

Meatball sub sandwich

After a delicious spaghetti dinner, don’t just put that tasty concoction away! Take a few minutes to put some of the meatballs and sauce in a microwave-safe container, grab a couple of pieces of your favorite bread and put them in an airtight bag, and tomorrow you can have a tasty and super quick and easy lunch at work. Just reheat the meatballs, arrange them on the bread, and enjoy!

 

Easy pasta salad

This is another cheap meal that is quick and easy to make. Use leftover pasta and add in some of your leftover cooked vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, or spinach. Toss with a little oil, vinegar, and your favorite spices, and you’re set. You can also add chicken, ham, or another meat of your choice to add protein.

Another way to make easy and inexpensive pasta salad is to cook your favorite noodles and then add cut tomatoes and your favorite mix of salad greens, and then add, again, a little oil, vinegar, and your favorite spices.

 

Check out these related articles:

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Budget Meal Planning for Cheap Dinner Ideas

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to do budget meal planning for your family is to keep things simple! Today’s families are busy, and keeping things easy will help save your money and your sanity!

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

 

Quick Overview of Dinner Meals

Note: As I mentioned with the list of breakfast ideas, as you do your budget 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 budget meal planning! Simply pick 7 meals that you like that are easy, and repeat them each week of the month. Meal planning = Done!

Recipes for all of these meals are included below.

 

Week 1

Sunday: Quick and easy taco salad
Monday: Easy orange chicken with rice
Tuesday: Spaghetti with green salad and garlic bread
Wednesday: Best chili mac
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Easy microwave chicken enchiladas
Saturday: Chicken and spinach alfredo pizza

 

Week 2

Sunday: Sweet and sour meatballs with rice
Monday: Black bean quesadillas
Tuesday: Chicken and broccoli alfredo
Wednesday: Sloppy Joes
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Quick beef stroganoff
Saturday: Chicken fajitas

 

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

 

Quick and Easy Taco Salad

You can’t go wrong with a tasty taco salad. In this quick and easy version, you need just hamburger (or substitute ground turkey or ground chicken), taco seasoning, cilantro (or omit it, like I do), lettuce, cheese, salsa, green onions, tortilla chips (crumbled), and a lime for garnish. Simple!

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 head lettuce, chopped
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup fresh or bottled salsa
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup crumbled baked corn tortilla chips (about 12 chips)
1 lime cut into 4 wedges (optional)

Directions
Cook ground beef (or turkey) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add taco seasoning, and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
Divide lettuce, salsa, cheese, green onions, chips, and hamburger evenly among 4 dinner plates. Serve with lime wedges.

 

Easy Orange Chicken with Rice

Orange chicken is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, and this recipe is great because it is quick and easy to make. You can have this delicious dinner on the table in 25 minutes or less! The main ingredients for this cheap dinner idea include chicken thighs, a large orange, soy sauce, brown sugar, an egg, and green onions. When prepared, eat piping hot over white or brown rice.

Ingredients
Orange Sauce
1 large orange
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
1 large egg 
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
pinch of salt and pepper 
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 green onion, chopped
4 cups cooked rice

Directions
Remove the zest from the orange using a zester or small-holed cheese grater, and then squeeze the juice from the orange. You should get about 1 teaspoon zest and 1/2 cup juice.

Combine the juice and orange zest with the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, minced garlic, and cornstarch in a small sauce pot. Before placing it over heat, whisk until the cornstarch is fully dissolved.

Heat the mixture over medium-low for about 3 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Remove the sauce from heat, and set it aside.

Use a sharp knife to remove any excess fat from the chicken thighs, and then cut them into small pieces.

Combine the egg, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the chicken pieces, and stir to coat them in the egg mixture.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add cooking oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the chicken, and cook until they are golden brown on the bottom.

Flip the chicken pieces, again cooking until golden brown (about 6 or 7 minutes total).

Turn the unit off, and pour the orange sauce over the chicken. Stir to coat.

Serve the chicken over cooked rice. Garnish with the green onions and any leftover orange zest.

 

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.

 

Best Chili Mac

This cheap meal is such an easy comfort food to make! All you need are macaroni noodles, half a pound of ground beef, tomato soup, mozzarella cheese (or substitute whatever cheese you have on hand), and seasonings! And then you can have this easy chili mac and cheese dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less!

Ingredients
1 cup uncooked macaroni
1/2 pound hamburger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
pinch salt
pinch pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheese.

Directions
Cook macaroni, about 7 to 9 minutes.
Brown meat in large saucepan, and drain fat.

Add garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well, and cook on medium about 5 minutes.

Add cooked macaroni and tomato soup. Heat thoroughly. Just before serving, add the grated cheese. Cover and heat until cheese melts.

 

 

 Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

This is another one of my favorite enchilada recipes. And this one you can make in the microwave! Woo hoo! All you need are shredded chicken (already cooked—this is a great way to use leftover chicken!), enchilada sauce (or again, you can use tomato sauce), taco seasoning, cheese, corn tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro for garnish (or omit the cilantro [like I do]). Total prep and cooking time is just 20 minutes!

Ingredients
1 can (19 oz.) mild enchilada sauce (or substitute tomato sauce)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 tablespoon chicken taco seasoning mix
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
8 tortillas (6-inch)
 
3/4 cup sour cream (optional, for serving)
 
 

Directions
In medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, the chicken, seasoning mix, and 3/4 cup of the cheese.

Spray 8-inch square microwavable baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish. Fill 1 tortilla at a time with heaping 1/4 cup chicken mixture, and roll to seal. Place each rolled tortilla in the baking dish, seam side down.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas. Top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Microwave uncovered on high for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through.  Serve with sour cream.

 

Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pizza

Chicken spinach alfredo pizza is another of my favorite options for budget meal planning. To help keep this meal to $5 or less, we generally make our own simple (but delicious) pizza dough and our own alfredo sauce.

Ingredients

For Pizza
pizza dough (prepared, or make from scratch using the recipe below)
alfredo sauce (recipe below)
1 cup spinach
1 1/2 cups chopped chicken)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella

For Alfredo Sauce

1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup heavy whipping cream (or substitute whole milk)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley

Directions

Make alfredo sauce by doing the following:
Add all ingredients to a sauce pan over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, stirring often.
Lower unit to medium low, but keep sauce simmering. Continue to cook for about 15 more minutes as sauce thickens, stirring often.

Allow alfredo sauce to cool for a few minutes before putting on the pizza dough.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread pizza dough on large pizza pan. (See recipe below if you want to make the crust.)

Spread alfredo sauce over the top of the dough. Leave about 1/2 inch free on each edge.

Sprinkle spinach over sauce, and then sprinkle chicken over pizza, and then cheese.

Put in oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

 

Pizza Dough

1 cup water
1 heaping teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ½ to 3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil

Directions
Mix water, sugar, yeast, and let rest for a few minutes. Add flour, salt, and oil and mix. Start with 2 cups flour, then add more (3 cups total seems to work), and then let proof for about 20 minutes.

 

 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

If you love sweet and sour dishes, you will love this easy from scratch recipe for sweet and sour meatballs! This recipe calls for hamburger, an egg, onion, bread crumbs, cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, and salt and pepper. And it is ready so fast; have dinner on the table in just 20 minutes!

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 onion, chopped
1 cup dry bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions
In a large bowl, combine hamburger, egg, onion, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Roll into meatballs about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in size.
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the meatballs until browned on all sides.
In a separate medium bowl, mix together the water, vinegar, ketchup, cornstarch, sugar, and soy sauce. Pour over the meatballs, and allow sauce to thicken. Continue to heat until the sauce just starts to bubble.
Serve with rice and your favorite steamed vegetables.

 

Black Bean Quesadilla

This cheap dinner idea is a fun twist on traditional quesadillas. To the traditional tortillas and cheese add black beans, salsa, and sour cream. This quick dish is ready in 20 minutes or less.

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

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

 

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.

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

 

Directions

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

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

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

 

Sloppy Joes

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

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 hamburger buns (or use 8 slices of bread)

Directions
In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until browned. Drain. Stir in the ketchup, water, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve on buns (or bread).

 

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is another of my personal favorite cheap dinner ideas. This simple recipe calls for egg noodles (or substitute whatever noodles you have on hand), sliced mushrooms (optional), cream of mushroom soup, milk, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Another awesome comfort food!

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 chopped medium onion
sliced mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups cooked egg or elbow noodles or cooked rice

Directions
Saute chopped onion and mushrooms on medium heat until onions are translucent. Add hamburger to frying pan, and cook hamburger until browned. Drain.
Add the cream of mushroom soup, milk, and sour cream. Stir. Heat to a boil, stirring regularly. Add salt and pepper.
Serve stroganoff over cooked noodles or rice.

 

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite cheap meals for budget meal planning! Here is the easy recipe:

Ingredients
4 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons season salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
Optional: Shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream

 

Directions
In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Add the chicken, and coat evenly.
In a large  skillet, saute peppers and onions in remaining oil just until crisp-tender. Remove from pan.
Drain chicken, discarding oil mixture. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat until no longer pink, 5 or 6 minutes. Return pepper mixture to pan, and heat through.
Spoon filling down the center of the tortillas, and roll. Serve with any of the favorite toppings listed above, if desired.

 

Final Thoughts on Budget Meal Planning

The tips above will help you with your budget meal planning as you consider your favorite meals and recipes, as you identify what you have on hand and what you you want to buy at the grocery store, as you look at what is on sale at the store and the season of the year. Considering these things as you meal plan will help you to stretch your food budget, week after week and month after month.

Plus, these quick, easy, and cheap meals included in this article are perfect for budget meal planning! They will let you get food on the table fast to feed your family! All ready in 30 minutes or less, these budget-friendly meals are great for busy families!

 

What are your favorite quick and cheap meals for budget meal planning? Do you have quick and inexpensive go-to dishes that you just love and use in your budget meal planning?

Give these recipes a try and let me know how it goes! I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below!

 

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