Monthly Grocery Shopping to Save Time and Money!

monthly grocery shopping

Monthly Grocery Shopping to Save (a Ton of) Money

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

 

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

 



Monthly Grocery Shopping: 7 Money-Saving Tips

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

2. Create a strategic meal plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meat and related items that will last for the month

Lunch meat (unopened)

Hot dogs (unopened)

Bacon (unopened)

Sausage (unopened)

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

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

 

 

Dairy products that will last for the month

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

Cheese (as long as it is not opened)

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

Cottage cheese (as long as it is not opened)

Butter and margarine

 

Produce that will last for the month

Apples

Oranges

Onions

Potatoes

Carrots

Salsa

Guacamole (if unopened; also freezes well)

Bread and related items that will last for the month

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

Buns (if kept in the fridge or freezer)

Tortilla shells

Bagels

Check out these related articles:

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Invitation to Share

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

Join Our Facebook Group!

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

5 Simple Steps to Plan for a Cash-Only Christmas This Year!

cash only Christmas

How to Save for a Cash-Only Christmas

Are you ready to save money for a cash-only Christmas this year? Then I’m so glad that you are reading this article now so that you can plan ahead and save throughout the next year for a fret-free, debt-free Christmas!

Because like clockwork, Christmas is going to be here again in December. And before you know it, the holiday bustle will be upon us once again. But this year, you will have one less thing to stress about because your Christmas will already be paid for. No more still paying on your credit-card Christmas next November!

Why Have a Cash-Only Christmas This Year?

If you have never saved money for a debt-free, cash-only Christmas before, you may wonder what the big deal is. Well, for one thing, the less debt you have, the more control you have over what one financial expert calls your greatest wealth-building tool—your income. For another, if you know that you have already planned to save for Christmas, you won’t have the stress and that guilty tug in the back of your mind that comes from knowing that you are spending money that you don’t have.

And finally, by planning for a cash-only Christmas you will have a set amount that you will know is available to spend and so you can tell yourself no when you see just one more thing that catches your eye. Knowing exactly how much you have to spend, rather than just winging it, will keep you from overspending and using money that perhaps should have been used for other things or toward your financial goals.

 

 

Plan Your Cash-Only Christmas

So now that we have talked a little about the why behind a cash-only Christmas, let’s talk about the how. Fortunately, saving for a debt-free Christmas really is simple. And even more, it’s pretty easy, too! (Because not all things that are simple are easy—leaving a moist piece of delicious chocolate cake on the table is simple, but it sure isn’t always easy!) Here are five simple steps to follow to accomplish your cash-only Christmas.

 

1. Set a Christmas budget in order to accomplish your cash-only Christmas.

First, as you plan for your cash-only Christmas, decide how much you want to save. Of course $1,000 is a nice round number, but you don’t have to spend that much. I don’t think we have ever spent more than $300 on Christmas.

If you know how much you spent for Christmas last year, then you can use that as a guideline for how much to spend this year.

Don’t have a monthly budget set up yet? Learn the simple steps for how to make a budget and how to stick to it!

2. Decide how much to save each month.

So once you know how much you would like to spend for your cash-only Christmas, you can figure out how much to save each month. So if you want to save $1,000 for Christmas this year and you started saving in July, then you would need to save about $160 per month.

Or let’s say that you are working hard to reach other financial goals, and so you are happy to have a little bit less expensive Christmas. If you want to save $500 for Christmas, then you would need to save $80 per month. Or if you are trying to get out of debt, for example, you could really trim things down, and spend $250. You can still have a wonderful Christmas for $250! And that would be just $40 per month. Forty dollars per month is pretty doable in most people’s budgets, if it’s something they set as a priority.

Note: Do you have a tight budget? Check out these ideas to increase your income!

Of course, if you want to spend somewhere in between that, then you could save $60 each month and have about $350 to spend on your cash-only Christmas this year.

 

3. Open a Christmas savings account to save for your cash-only Christmas.

To have a specific place to save for your cash-only Christmas, open a savings account specifically for that purpose. If your bank or credit union doesn’t allow you to set up multiple savings accounts or doesn’t offer very good interest rates on savings accounts, look into an online bank like Capital One 360. We’ve been banking with them for 14 years (from the time when they were still ING Direct), and they’ve been a great bank for us (despite my reservations when Capital One bought them). One of the things that I love about my Cap One 360 account is that you can have multiple savings accounts for your various savings goals (we have more than 10 savings accounts!). And one of those is our Christmas and gift giving savings fund. They also have one of the better interest rates around.

Learn about the 9 savings accounts that I think every family should have. And learn about the power of saving for large expenses with sinking funds to help you get and stay out of debt!

 

4. Find areas where you can save to fund your cash-only Christmas.

Even though $40 to $160 a month isn’t a huge amount, given the fact that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, it might still be difficult to find it in your family budget. (Haven’t started budgeting yet? Let’s change that this year! Download your free spending tracker and simple starter budget!)

So here are ideas for places where you can trim your budget to fund your Christmas savings account as well as other savings accounts while you’re at it! Top areas where you can likely reduce your spending include (click the links below to read more about each area):

Want even more ideas for how to spend less? Check out 20+ ideas for how to reduce your spending in various areas.

 

Related articles:

9 Savings Accounts Every Family Should Have
21 Must-Know Tips to Help You Spend Less Money
7 Simple Steps to Create Your Emergency Fund

 

5. Set up automatic transfers to fund your Christmas savings account.

One way to ensure that you save like you want to in order to accomplish your cash-only Christmas this year is to automate your finances. That way you can essentially set it and forget it—you can determine how much you want to save each month based on your overall budget, set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your Christmas savings account, and then not think about it again until the Christmas shopping season begins later this year!

If you haven’t automated your finances yet, you’re missing out! So let’s change that. Set up automatic transfers to take money from your checking account to your Christmas savings account. You could set up the transfers to correspond to your paychecks, or just set up a monthly transfer on a certain day of the month.

And while you’re at it, if you haven’t set up automatic savings plans for other budget categories, you should. By automating your finances you can set yourself up for financial success by saving for emergencies, saving up for large expenses such as car repairs and home repairs, investing for retirement, and more.

Learn more about how to automate your finances to set yourself up for financial success.

 

Conclusion

By following these 5 simple steps, you will be able to enjoy your cash-only Christmas this year! Now all that’s left to do is to relax until you’re ready to begin your Christmas shopping. Go you!

Also check out this article with 11 must-do tips to save money on your Christmas shopping.

 

Are you ready to commit to a cash-only Christmas? How much do you normally spend on Christmas? Do you feel that that is a reasonable amount, or do you want to decrease or increase that amount? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear your opinion!

 

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.

Budget Meal Planning: 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! 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!


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

 

 

 

 

Budget Meal Planning: 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 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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

Check out these related articles:

21 Cheap and Easy Breakfast Ideas
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
13 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

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 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!

 

Check out these related articles:

Taking PB&J Sandwiches for Lunch Can Make You a Millionaire–for Reals!
5 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

 

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 and pasta salads (ideas below)
Meat and cheese (or just cheese) quesadillas
Leftovers

 

Ideas for Quick Lunches

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

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

Chicken salad sandwiches

Tuna fish sandwiches (with chopped pickles, if desired)

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches

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

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

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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


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.

 

Check out these related articles:

Taking PB&J Sandwiches for Lunch Can Make You a Millionaire–for Reals!
5 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!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

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 brocolli alfredo
Wednesday: Sloppy Joes
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Quick beef stroganoff
Saturday: Chicken fajitas

 

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

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
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
oz. linguine or spaghetti (about 1/2 of a 1-pound package)
cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
tablespoons butter or margarine
1 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
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.

 

Conclusion

These quick, easy, and cheap meals 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? 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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65+ Cheap Dinners: Awesome Dinner Recipes on a Budget

cheap dinners

Cheap Dinners

Find more than 65 ideas for easy and cheap dinners that you can make in 30 minutes or less for your family! If you are looking for quick, easy, tasty, and cheap dinners, then this is the article for you!

These quick, easy, and cheap dinners are perfect to get tasty food on the table fast to feed your hungry family!

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

 

 

65+ Cheap Dinners

Below are over 65 ideas for easy and cheap dinners 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! Today’s families are busy, and keeping things easy will help you save both time and money! Your family will love these cheap dinner ideas!

 

Check out these related articles:

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

Cheap Dinner Ideas

Here are 65+ cheap dinners you can make in a hurry on busy evenings! 

1. Skillet Burritos

If you love burritos you will love this tasty dish! For this easy and cheap dinner, you will need a chopped onion, ground beef, diced tomatoes (fresh or from a can), kidney beans, tortillas, and cheese. Garnish with sour cream or plain yogurt, avocado, green onions, olives, or other favorite toppings. You can get this easy skillet burritos recipe here.

 

2. 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! Find this quick and easy taco salad recipe here.

 

3. Avocado and Black Bean Quesadillas

This cheap dinner idea is a fun twist on traditional quesadillas. To the traditional tortillas and cheese add onion, bell pepper, taco seasoning, avocados, and cilantro (or omit the cilantro, if you prefer). This quick dish is ready in 20 minutes or less. You can find this avocado and black bean quesadillas recipe here.

 

4. Quick and Easy Calzones

Have you tried calzones before? They are sort of like a personal pizza, folded up. To make, you need pizza crust dough (from the store, or make your own simple crust like we do), marinara sauce (or alfredo is great too!), shredded mozzarella (or other) cheese, pepperoni, and a litle butter, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. My calzones never turn out as pretty as the ones pictured with this recipe, but that’s all right. 🙂 They still taste great. Find the quick and easy calzones recipe here.

 

5. Quick Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is another of my personal favorite cheap dinner ideas. This particular recipe has a bit of a fun twist with the addition of ketchup and cream cheese to make it extra creamy. Other ingredients include the egg noodles (or substitute whatever noodles you have on hand), sliced mushrooms (optional), butter and minced garlic, a little flour, milk, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Another awesome comfort food! This quick beef stroganoff recipe is here.

 

6. One-Pot Creamy Garlic Chicken and Rice

You just can’t go wrong with an easy chicken and rice dish! (Well, I guess you could, but the odds are in your favor that you won’t! :)) This meal really is simple, with chicken, spinach, garlic, rice, and some seasonings. We don’t generally have heavy cream on hand, so we substitute whole milk (or even 2%, if that’s all we have at the time). You can find this creamy garlic chicken and rice recipe here.

 

7. Vegetable Ramen Pad Thai

For a fun twist on a cheap-dinner staple, try this Thai-inspired dish. All you need are ramen noodles, vegetables, soy sauce, peanut butter, sriracha, and red pepper flakes. If you want a milder version, reduce or leave out the sriracha and red pepper flakes (like I do). You can find a simple vegetable ramen pad Thai recipe here.

 

8. Teriyaki Chicken Thighs with Rice

This recipe is easy! It requires just 3 ingredients. All you need are the chicken thighs, brown sugar, and soy sauce. You can also add in vegetables toward the end of the cook times, if desired. Serve over rice, and enjoy! You can find this three-ingredient teriyaki chicken thighs recipe here.

 

9.  Chicken Gnocchi Skillet

This is another tasty and easy chicken dish. If you have never had gnocchi before, you need to give this classic Italian dish a try! Quick and tasty, you can have this dish on the table in just 20 minutes! In addition to a package of gnocchi, this recipe calls for ground chicken (though I bet chopped chicken would work, as well), onion, spaghetti sauce (or make your own to save money, like we do, with tomato sauce and spaghetti seasoning), salt, oregano, and (optional) grated Parmesan cheese. You can find this tasty chicken gnocchi skillet recipe here.

 

10. Spaghetti with Bacon

Bacon makes everything better; am I right?  This pasta dish is super simple. All you need is pasta (spaghetti, or use a different pasta of your choice), garlic, parsley, and a little olive oil, and you will be ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. You can find this simple spaghetti with bacon recipe here.

 

11. Sour Cream Enchiladas

This is another easy and cheap recipe idea, with just 4 ingredients! All you need is a can of enchilada sauce (or use tomato sauce and taco seasoning as a substitute, like I usually do), an eight-ounce container of sour cream, shredded cheese, and corn tortillas. Simply put a spoonful of sour cream and handful of cheese in the center of each tortilla, roll them up, put them in a baking pan, pour sauce over the top, and distribute remaining sour cream and cheese over the top. Then bake and enjoy! You can find this simple sour cream enchiladas recipe here.

 

12. 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! You can find this easy microwave chicken enchiladas recipe here.

 

13. Skillet Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese

Another of my own favorite tasty and cheap recipe ideas is cheeseburger macaroni and cheese. For this simple from-scratch recipe you need macaroni (or other pasta noodles, though larger noodles may take a few more minutes to cook), oil, ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, milk, cheese, sugar (or you can omit it), and salt and pepper to taste. Put it all together, and you have a tasty twist on good ol’ mac and cheese that is ready in just 30 minutes or less. You can find the skillet cheeseburger mac and cheese recipe here.

 

14. Best Chili Mac

This cheap dinner 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! You can find this best chili macaroni and cheese recipe here.

 

15. One-Pot Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

With melty cheese (two kinds!), hamburger, and bacon all in one yummy dish, this is a yummy combination! The ketchup and Worcestershire sauce give it a tasty kick, too! You can find this cheap dinner idea for bacon cheeseburger pasta recipe here.

 

16. 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! you can find this easy sweet and sour meatballs recipe here.

 

17. Easy Orange Chicken

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. You can find this easy orange chicken recipe here.

 

18. 30-Minute Asian Orange Beef

Or if you are more in the mood for beef, give this easy Asian orange beef recipe a try.

 

19. Easy Sesame Chicken

 Easy sesame chicken is another one of my favorite cheap dinner ideas. For this Asian-inspired recipe the main ingredients are a large egg, boneless skinless chicken thighs, soy sauce, brown sugar, and green onions. Serve over rice. This cheap and easy sesame chicken recipe can be found here.

 

20. Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

OK, moving right along from Asian inspired to Mexican inspired cuisine. 🙂 These easy bean and cheese burritos 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! You can find this simple bean and cheese burrito recipe here.

 

21. Spinach and Artichoke Melts

Love spinach and artichoke dip, like me? Then you will love these simple melts! Main ingredients for this simple recipe include spinach (you can substitute frozen spinach, if it is cheaper), artichoke hearts, cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, and sourdough bread (or substitute your favorite bread on hand). I don’t particularly like feta cheese, so we omit that, and we generally substitute a less expensive spread for the butter. If you want, you can also add thinly sliced or chopped and cooked chicken breast to the melts. You can find a simple spinach and artichoke melts recipe here.

 

22. One-Pot Chicken Pot Pie Fettuccine

OK, confession—there is no “pie” in this chicken pot pie fettuccine recipe. But I think your taste buds will forgive you. This recipe instead calls for a pound of fettuccine pasta, as well as chicken breasts, an onion, two carrots, two celery stalks, garlic, a little flour, milk, chicken broth, and a little parsley for garnish. You can find this winning chicken pot pie fettuccine recipe here.

 

23. Italian Pesto Pizza

If you love pesto, you will love this simple pesto pizza recipe. In addition to the pesto, add mozzarella cheese, parsley, basil, and Parmesan cheese. (The recipe also calls for prosciutto, but you can omit that ingredient if you like to make the recipe even more budget friendly, or substitute regular chopped ham, Canadian bacon, or pepperoni.) This Italian pesto pizza recipe is here.

 

24. Tater Tot Casserole

Tater tot casserole was one of our regular staples when I was growing up. But I think that this recipe is even better than the one we ate growing up (shhh; don’t tell Mom!) because it has yummy, melty cheese, and Mom’s didn’t. 🙂 This tasty tater tot casserole recipe doesn’t call for vegetables, but we do include either half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or a can of corn when we make it.

 

25. One-Skillet Smoked Sausage and Rice

This quick and easy cheap dinner idea calls for smoked sausage, broccoli, cooked rice,  and cheese, which add up to an awesome combination that can be on your table in 15 minutes! (Even if you need to cook the rice, you can still have dinner ready in 30 minutes or less.) You can find this budget-friendly one-skillet smoked sausage and rice recipe here

 

 

26. Chicken Pot Pie Rice Bake

This is another fun twist on chicken pot pie (in other words, another pot pie dish without the pie). For this cheap dinner all you need is rice, chicken, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, frozen mixed vegetables, and a little milk. Another dinner success in 30 minutes or less. Find this easy chicken pot pie rice bake recipe here.

 

27. Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese

This is another great cheap dinner idea when you want to sneak in some extra veggies for those picky palates. In this fun version of mac and cheese, to traditional elbow macaroni you add cauliflower, butternut squash, sliced carrots, milk, cheese, and cream cheese. You will find this hidden veggie mac and cheese recipe here.

 

28. Stuffed Green Peppers

For another fun vegetable-themed dish, try these stuffed green peppers. To make, you need four large green peppers, tomato sauce, ground beef, chopped onion, a cup of cooked brown or white rice, and some seasonings. Easy! Get the stuffed green peppers recipe here.

 

29. One-Pot Lemon Herb Chicken and Rice

This cheap dinner is another tasty one-pot chicken dish. This recipe calls for boneless skinless chicken breasts, a little butter and some seasonings, rice, chicken broth, lemon, and Italian seasoning. It takes just 5 minutes to prepare and about 25 minutes to cook. And then, lemony goodness! Yay! You can get this one-pot lemon herb chicken and rice recipe here.

 

30. Easy Garlic Chicken

Garlic chicken is another of my favorite cheap dinners. 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! Find this simple easy garlic chicken recipe here.

 

31.  30-Minute Mozzarella Chicken in Homemade Tomato Sauce

For another cheesy treat, try this easy mozzarella chicken. This recipe calls for chicken breasts, garlic, onion, a can of crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes (or you can omit, like I do), dried basil, a tablespoon of pesto (recipe included), salt and pepper to taste, and the mozzarella cheese. Find this mozzarella chicken recipe here.

 

32. Pesto Pasta with Chicken

This is another easy chicken and pesto recipe, ready in 30 minutes. In addition to the chicken breasts and pesto sauce, this recipe calls for olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes to taste, and sun-dried tomatoes (or you could substitute canned tomatoes). Get this easy pesto pasta with chicken recipe here.

 

33. Spinach Alfredo Pasta

I love this light and easy meatless spinach alfredo pasta! To a package of spaghetti or fettuccine noodles add spinach, a little milk, Parmesan cheese, butter (or substitute a spread), and a little salt and pepper. This simple spinach alfredo pasta will be ready in 30 minutes!

 

34. Classic Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

For another 30-minute meatless pasta dish, give this garlic fettuccine alfredo a try. This recipe calls for Fettuccine (or substitute a pasta of your choice), butter, minced garlic, diced shallot, half and half (or we just substitute whole milk or whatever milk we have on hand), cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper and parsley to taste. Get the garlic fettuccine alfredo recipe here.

 

35. 20-Minute Skillet Chicken and Spinach Parmesan

This is another quick, easy, and cheap dinner. This chicken and spinach dish can be eaten or rice or noodles, and is ready in just 20 minutes. Ingredients include the chicken, panko bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, a little oil, spaghetti sauce, spinach, and grated mozzarella cheese. Find this skillet chicken and spinach Parmesan recipe here.

 

Check out these related articles:

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7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
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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

 

36. 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.

 

37. 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!

 

38. 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.

 

39. Easy Pasta Carbonara

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

 

40. Chicken Stir Fry over Rice

So easy! So tasty! 🙂 We normally just wing it for this cheap diner and throw in peppers along with whatever other vegetables we have on hand that sound good, but you can find an easy chicken stir fry recipe here. Serve over cooked white or brown rice, and omit or substitute roasted peanuts to save money. (You can save even more on peanuts if you buy the kind you have to shell, as we often do.)

 

41. 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

I love this dish because it is so fast to make! It is one of my quick go-to recipes from Campbell’s (except that I use the store-brand cream of mushroom soup to save money, of course! :D). You can find this simple 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner recipe here.

 

42. 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.

 

43. 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.

 

44. Beef and Cheese Goulash

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

 

45. 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 :)). Substitute chicken for beef to save money, as well.

 

46. Taco Soup with Tortilla Chips

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

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

 

47. Chili and Cornbread

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

 

48. Homemade Slow Cooker or Stove-Top Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade (or inexpensive) Rolls or Bread

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

 

49. Easy Creamy Sour Cream Chicken Casserole

This is another of my favorite cheap dinners. We generally eat this dish with corn (sometimes on the cob but more often than not from a can) and often with rolls or simple bread and butter (usually, margarine). This recipe calls for sour cream, cubed chicken breast, cream of chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. We substitute corn flakes for the Ritz crackers, and we add three-fourths to one cup of cheese to make this tasty dish even creamier. 🙂 You can find this Easy Creamy Sour Cream Chicken Casserole recipe here.

 

50. Chicken Fajitas

Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite cheap dinners! You can find an easy chicken fajita recipe here.

 

51. Mom’s Beef Stew

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

 

52. Sloppy Joes

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

 

Check out these related articles:

5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
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How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
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53. Meatball Sub Soup

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

 

54. Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie

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

 

55. Parmesan Chicken with Rice

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

 

56. Grilled Cheese (with lunch meat, if desired) Sandwiches and Tomato Soup

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

 

57. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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

 

58. Barbecue Chicken Tostadas

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

 

 

59. Chicken Alfredo Pizza

Chick alfredo pizza is another of my favorite cheap dinners. You can find a very easy chicken alfredo pizza recipe here. However, to help keep this meal to $5 or less, we generally make our own simple (but delicious) pizza dough and our own alfredo sauce. You can also omit the tomato if you have family members who don’t like them.

 

60. 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.

 

61. Lemon Pepper Chicken with Rice

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

 

62. Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

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

 

63. Egg Fried Rice

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

 

64. Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

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

 

 65. Quick Bean and Rice Burritos

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

 

66. Easy Beef Enchiladas

This is the way that my mother made enchiladas when I was growing up, and we love these simple beef enchiladas that you can make in about 30 minutes. Cook one pound of hamburger with half a large onion or one small onion in a large skillet. While the hamburger is browning, pour one-third of a can of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

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

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

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

Conclusion

These more than 65 quick, easy, and cheap dinners will let you get food on the table fast to feed your family! All ready in 30 minutes or less, these cheap dinners are great for busy families!

 

What are your favorite quick and cheap dinners? Do you have quick and inexpensive go-to dinner recipes that you just love?

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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31 Cheapest Groceries List for When You Are on a Tight Budget

cheapest groceries list

Cheapest Groceries List

This cheapest groceries list is perfect for when you are on a tight budget or when you are broke. With this list of 31 of the cheapest groceries you can buy, you will be able to stretch your grocery budget to help make ends meet and make sure you have food on the table for your family.

**Note:
See the end of the article for ideas on super cheap meals you can make so you can eat for as little as $1 per day!**

 

Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily find this article about cheapest groceries list to refer to it later!

 



 

 

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31 Cheapest Groceries List

In this cheapest groceries list below I include many of my own favorite least-expensive grocery items. If you are a Dave Ramsey fan, you know that he talks about going on a beans and rice diet when you are trying to get out of debt and get control of your money. And that is because you really can save a ton of money on groceries if you choose to or have to.

Here are some of the cheapest groceries you can buy.

 

1. Oatmeal
Oatmeal is one of the cheapest grocery staples you can buy for your pantry, and it is also very good for your heart. You can make oatmeal the traditional way over the stove or in the microwave, or you can make overnight oatmeal or these super easy 2-ingredient banana oatmeal cookies. Another thing I like to do that is even easier than the two-ingredient cookies are to simply mash up a banana with one-half to one cup of oatmeal for a filling, tasty, nutritious, low-calorie breakfast.

 

2. Cream of wheat
This is another one of our family favorite staples for breakfast. It is not quite as cheap as oatmeal, but it is still very inexpensive if you buy it in the box. You can flavor it with a little white or brown sugar (or even an artificial, calorie-free sweetener of choice), or my personal favorite (not healthy at all, but so delicious! and also not super cheap) is to add some sweetened condensed milk. Yum!

 

3. Eggs
Another staple on the cheapest groceries list is eggs. At a price (where we live) of only about 10 cents per egg, you can have a hearty breakfast (or whatever meal) of eggs and toast for well under $1 per serving. And eggs are so versatile!

4. Bread
Bread can make a very inexpensive breakfast item when you make toast, but of course bread is a staple of an inexpensive lunch, as well, with the many kinds of sandwiches you can make.

Obviously, you can spend quite a bit of money on expensive artisan and craft breads, but your basic store-brand breads are one of the items where you can get the most bang for your buck. The 100% whole wheat loaves are more expensive than white bread or just partial-wheat, but it is still quite cheap at just around $1.50 to $2 a loaf (in our area) for the less-expensive brands.

When you are needing to buy the cheapest groceries you can, then skip buying buns, and just use bread for hamburgers and hot dogs and similar things. We regularly use bread in place of buns for these things just because I don’t like to have to keep buns on hand because sometimes they go bad before we can use them all up.

 

5. Cereal
If you love breakfast cereal (like I do!), then when you are broke or on a tight budget stick to the varieties that you can buy for about 10 cents an ounce or less. (In your area they may be more expensive than that, but they would be the ones comparable in price to raisin bran, which is about the least expensive—but also one of the tastiest, in my opinion! :)—cereal you can buy unless others are on sale.

6. Bananas
Probably because they are readily available all year round, bananas are one of the cheapest groceries you can buy, so they should be on your go-to list when you are trying to save money on groceries. And they are just delicious, in any case. 🙂

7. Apples
For what you get, apples may be the overall cheapest fruit in many grocery stores, if you choose the least expensive varieties such as red delicious and Gala. But even yellow delicious, Granny Smith, and some of the others are not too expensive, either.

8. Beans
Beans may be the overall cheapest food staple there is. Especially if you buy them in a large bag and soak and prepare them yourself, you pay just a few  pennies per ounce. Dry beans to take time to prepare, but if you soak them overnight and then prepare them in a slow cooker, they really don’t take much effort at all. And of course there are tons of different kinds of beans. Pinto, black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), great northern beans, chili beans—we like them all at our house.

Even if you buy canned beans, you can still make a lot of inexpensive meals, such as taco soup or even meatless taco soup, to make the dish even cheaper. And use canned chili beans to stretch your can of chili and make it a cheaper meal.

9. Lentils
You can also buy lentils for very cheap, and they are another great protein option when money is tight. There are lots of recipes for lentil soups and other dishes with lentils, such as veggie lentil stir fry.

10. Rice
Rice is another dish amply suited for a cheapest groceries list. White rice isn’t the healthiest option and it also isn’t super filling, but it is cheap and fairly versatile. Brown rice is healthier and not much more expensive.

You can make a simple breakfast rice for a cheap option for that meal, and of course there are tons of cheap dishes that you can prepare with rice for dinner meals.

11. Pasta
Basic pasta is another cheap groceries list item. You can use it in simple and relatively inexpensive main dishes such as spaghetti (especially if you make meatless spaghetti), homemade mac and cheese, broccoli alfredo,  pasta carbonara, and so on.

 

 

Related articles:
42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
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12. Potatoes
Regular russet potatoes are fairly healthy, and they are also super cheap. (Make sure to eat the skins to get the most nutritional value!) At our local grocery store we can often buy them for a dollar for a 10-pound bag.

You can cook several up in the microwave in about 15 to 20 minutes for a quick and very cheap meal. I like to make them a little healthier by topping them with salsa (or salsa mixed with a little bit of ranch) instead of sour cream, ranch, cheese, and other more expensive and more caloric options.

You can also slice up potatoes and season them and fry them up, or make homemade fries or hash browns. A simple creamy potato soup is another super cheap meal option. And of course mashed potatoes are cheap (and delicious :)).

13. Sweet potatoes
Personally, I really like making sweet potatoes as a healthier alternative to baked potatoes. Because they are so naturally sweet, I don’t even think you have to top them with anything. But if you choose to, you can add a little cinnamon and sugar for an even sweeter treat.

14. Carrots
Your list of less expensive groceries to buy and keep on hand should include carrots. The cheapest way to buy carrots generally is  full sized, in bulk, but if you find baby carrots for a good price, then they are a great option, as well.

15. Canned tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes can fluctuate in price pretty wildly throughout the year, so for meals where it makes sense to use them, canned tomatoes can sometimes be a less-expensive alternative.

16. Squash
In the fall when it is in season, you can sometimes buy squash at amazing prices! (If you have neighbors who grow them and give them to you, then that’s an even better deal!)

17. Zucchini
Similar to squash, you can sometimes get amazing deals on zucchini during the fall when it is in season.

 

 

18. Onions
Onions are another vegetable that you can get for a pretty good price most of the time. And because of the awesome way that it enhances the flavor of many dishes, it is a great staple to keep on hand all the time.

19. Broccoli
You can also generally get broccoli for a pretty good price. Often the crowns are more expensive, but occasionally they are the better deal because you are not paying for the stalk. (However, we slice up the stalk and include it in some of our dishes. If you can do that, then that makes the whole broccoli heads even more affordable.)

20. Salsa
Salsa is particularly helpful if you are getting low on fresh produce before your next scheduled trip to the grocery store. It is a great item to keep on hand all of the time because it lasts longer (once opened) than most fresh vegetables, too.

21. Chicken
When money is tight or when you just want to be able to buy the most economical foods, chicken is definitely your friend. Much of the meat that we buy is chicken because it is generally less expensive than beef and pork and other kinds of meat. We can also get skinless, boneless chicken breasts for a $1 a pound, and so I tend to stock up when that happens until the next time they go on sale. Occasionally we can even get ground chicken for a great price, and it is excellent for dishes like tacos and enchiladas in place of ground beef.

Chicken thighs are generally less expensive than breasts, so if you want chicken and cannot get breasts at a great price, consider getting the thighs. Some people don’t like the thighs as much, but personally, for flavorful dishes, I actually like the thighs better sometimes because I feel they can be more moist and tender than the breasts. And if you don’t mind the extra work, buying the whole chicken can be a great way to purchase chicken on the cheap.

22. Ground turkey
Sometimes ground turkey is on sale for a better price than ground beef, and since it is also a healthier option than ground beef, when it is, we will sometimes buy several pounds of it and freeze it to use in various dishes where we would normally use ground beef.

23. Green salad
You will usually get a better price if you buy the ingredients for an inexpensive salad yourself rather than buying premade salads. However, sometimes the premade salads are on sale for a great price. We generally keep our salads pretty economical by making them ourselves using spinach or romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sliced or chopped carrots, cauliflower (if it can be bought for a good price), and broccoli.

24. Spinach
Spinach isn’t generally the cheapest vegetable you can buy, but it is a great way to (relatively) inexpensively increase the nutritional value of other inexpensive dishes such as egg omelets, meat sandwiches, salads, stir fry dishes, pasta dishes, quesadillas, and more.

25. Peppers
Green peppers are another good option if you are making a cheapest groceries list—when they are in season, that is. When they are not in season, look at lettuce, cabbage, and the other vegetables included in this list for cheaper options.

26. Frozen vegetables
Frozen vegetables can be an economical option, as well, particularly when other favorite vegetables are not in season. And despite what you may have heard, from what I have read, vegetables lose little if any nutritional value when frozen. Frozen vegetables are great in casseroles, soups and stews, omelets, and more. To know when frozen vegetables are a better deal, do a rough comparison of serving sizes.

27. Peanut butter
When looking for the cheapest groceries you can buy, peanut butter is a good value because it is high in protein. Especially if you just stick to regular peanut butter and not the sugar free kind (even though I admit not having the extra sugar is a healthier option), you can make a ton of sandwiches from one large jar of peanut butter!

In the 40 ounce jar (typically the largest standard size, at least at the stores where I shop, that is about 80 tablespoons of peanut butter, and if you eat the standard serving size suggested, that is 40 sandwiches that you can make from a jar that costs (in our area) about $4 or less.

So for about 10 cents for the peanut butter and another 10 cents for the two slices of bread (if you get the cheap bread) and another 15 cents or so per serving for the inexpensive jelly or jam, you are spending well under 50 cents for a PB&J sandwich. Eat an inexpensive apple with it, and you have a light lunch for well under a buck.

28. Tuna fish. Tuna has definitely gotten more expensive over the last 10 or 15 years, but it is still more economical than most meats. Tuna salad sandwiches are more expensive than PB&J sandwiches, for sure, but a simple tuna salad sandwich of tuna and mayo is generally a little less expensive than a simple homemade ham (luncheon meat) and cheese sandwich.

 

Related articles:

42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
31 Budget-Friendly Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes
59 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 Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!

 

 

 

29. Hot dogs
I know that the cheap hot dogs aren’t necessarily super healthy, but this is an article about the cheapest groceries, not the most healthy ones. 🙂 And hot dogs are an inexpensive option when money is short. You can put a hot dog on a slice of bread with a little ketchup for less than 20 cents (with the prices in my area, anyway).

30. Macaroni and cheese
This is another cheap option. Even though mac and cheese has also gotten more expensive in recent years (which is true for many foods), you can still make a box of mac and cheese (the inexpensive, store-brand kind) for less than 50 cents where I live. In our house we like to make what we call “more better mac and cheese,” where we add vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, and green peppers, as well as sometimes polish sausage or even hot dogs or hamburger. I also like to top mine with salsa to add even more vegetable goodness.

31. Ramen noodles
This one has little nutritional value, I know, but it’s about as cheap a meal choice as you can get. We add vegetables and chicken to make this not so healthy choice  healthier (and tastier!).

 

Examples of Meals You Can Make from a Cheapest Groceries List

Here are some examples of simple meals or meal plans you can make with the cheapest groceries items listed above. These ideas are perfect for when you really have to (or want to!) make your money stretch because you are broke, waiting for your next paycheck, or saving money diligently for an important financial goal.

With these cheap and easy ideas below, you can eat for as little as a dollar a day!

 

 

Cheapest Groceries Breakfast Ideas

Toast with peanut butter or toast with jam or butter (margarine)
Oatmeal
Oats with mashed banana (I know it may sound a little odd, but I love this one!)
Oatmeal and banana cookies
Cereal (with or without milk; cereal you can get for 10 cents an ounce or less will give you the most bang for your buck)
Cream of wheat
Scrambled eggs with salsa
Egg omelet with spinach
Fried eggs with toast
Waffles or pancakes (make them from scratch; sprinkle with a little powdered sugar or regular sugar in place of syrup to save money and calories)


Cheapest Groceries Lunch Ideas

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with an apple
Tuna fish (with pickle) sandwiches with chopped carrots or baby carrots
Ramen noodles with chopped vegetables
Egg salad sandwiches
Bologna sandwiches
Lunch meat and cheese sandwich with an apple
Green salad with dressing (add a hard-boiled egg or a little chicken or beans for protein)
Baked potato with ranch or salsa
Baked sweet potato with a little margarine or cinnamon and sugar
Macaroni and cheese (with vegetables)
Any of the ideas from the list for breakfast or dinner

 

Cheapest Groceries Dinner Ideas

Egg fried rice
Beans and rice
Bean and cheese burritos (homemade)
Meatless taco soup
Squash soup with homemade rolls
Lentils and rice
Hot does and fries (make the fries yourself to save even more money)
Chicken and rice with steamed carrots or vegetables
Pasta (and broccoli) alfredo
Chicken alfredo with broccoli
Meatless spaghetti
Green salad with chicken
Chili macaroni and cheese
Tuna macaroni and cheese
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Homemade vegetarian chili with cornbread
Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables
Hot dogs with fries
Fried potatoes and hot dogs (chop the hot dogs and add them to the fried potatoes for the last couple of minutes that you cook them; I used to eat this when I was living in Bolivia, where they called it salchipapas)
Chicken or vegetarian stir fry with rice
Any of the ideas from the list for breakfast or lunch

 

Conclusion

When compiling a cheapest groceries list at times when your budget is tight, there really are a lot of options for making meals using the items listed above. With this list of 31 of the cheapest groceries, you can easily make meals until your next paycheck—or for the whole month, if you need to!

I really am a big advocate of keeping your grocery costs down anyway, even when money isn’t tight, so that you can use the money for things (such as getting out of debt, retirement, kids’ college,  becoming totally financially free) that have longer-lasting value than a meal that is consumed in 30 minutes or less and that you can then barely even remember the taste of. 🙂 You can find more than 70 ideas for saving money on groceries (without having to use coupons!) here.

 

What items would you include on your list of cheapest groceries? What else do you do to save money on groceries? Leave a comment below and let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Summer Instant Pot Recipes

summer Instant Pot recipes

Cheap Summer Instant Pot Meals

Find information and links below to 9 cheap and easy summer Instant Pot recipes that you can make for your family!

These cheap and easy summer Instant Pot recipes are perfect for dinner after work or for an easy meal on a busy Saturday.

On those sultry summer days, these tasty, inexpensive summer Instant Pot meals will hit the spot and make you smile!

 

Tip: Save the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to these summer Instant Pot recipes later!

9 Cheap and Easy Summer Instant Pot Recipes

Below are 9 easy, inexpensive summer Instant Pot meals that your family will love.

 

1. Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken

This first summer Instant Pot meal is an easy, delicious, and budget-friendly chicken dish. To save even more money, substitute the chicken breasts for chicken thighs. This quick and tasty meal is on your table in 30 minutes or less, start to finish! It is made with simple ingredients you will have on hand. Serve warm over rice. Get the recipe for Instant Pot honey garlic chicken here.

 

2. Instant Pot Barbecued Ribs

Love barbecued ribs but don’t love to have to wait a couple of hours to enjoy them? The Instant Pot is the solution.

I know barbecued ribs are not the least expensive thing that you can prepare in an Instant Pot (by far!), but you can make them youself for way less than you would spend to take your family out to dinner to enjoy them. So if you make them at home when you would otherwise go out to eat, that is still a big financial savings and a big financial win!

With this easy recipe for baby back ribs, you need just four ingredients, and your ribs are ready in just 40 minutes! Find the recipe for easy barbecue Instant Pot ribs here.

 

3. Instant Pot Baked Beans

Baked beans are a wonderful comfort food, and they are a staple at backyard summer barbecues everywhere. This from-scratch baken bean recipe is hearty and flavorful! It takes only 10 minutes to prepare and then a little over an hour to cook. This recipe makes 12 servings, so it is perfect to feed a crowd. Get the recipe for Instant Pot baked beans here.

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Quick, Easy, Budget-Friendly Dinners for $5 or Less!

59 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

 

4. Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

This simple but delicious Instant Pot recipe takes macaroni and cheese to a whole new level. Less than 30 minutes for homemade mac and cheese to be on your table and in your tummy! It also makes great leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch! And this recipe is also a kid pleaser! You can get the recipe for Instant Pot garlic Parmesan macaroni and cheese here.

 

5. Instant Pot Barbecue Chicken

Barbecue chicken is another summer favorite, and in the Instant Pot, it is so quick and easy! This recipe takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, and it is great in sandwiches, in tacos, on pizza, and more! All you need are a handful of readily available ingredients, and you are on your way! You can find this easy Instant Pot barbecue chicken recipe here.

 

 

 

6. Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice

This tasty sweet and sour chicken recipe is a great addition to your repertoire of Chinese cuisine. Best of all, this delicious and eye-catchingly colorful recipe is ready in 30 minutes or less! You can get this Instant Pot sweet and sour chicken with rice recipe here.

 

7. Instant Pot Kalua Pork

Kalua pork is one of my own family’s favorite summertime recipes! We love to have a luau to celebrate the summer, and Kalua pork is always one of the stars of the show.  And it takes just a few simple ingredients to bring out the amazing flavor of this Hawaiian-inspired dish. You can get this easy recipe for Instant Pot Kalua pork here.

 

8. Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

 

Instant Pot barbecue pulled pork is tender, juicy, and finger-licking good. You can put it on hamburger buns or bread to make a sandwich, or use it in your favorite tacos, burritos, or taco salads. This tasty dish will be ready in about an hour. Find the recipe for Instant Pot barbecue pulled pork here.

9. Instant Pot Honey Teriyaki Chicken

This dish, like several of the others in this article, is ready in under 30 minutes. This recipe calls for chicken thighs (which will save you a little money over the chicken breasts), but you can substitute chicken breasts if that is what you have on hand. Serve over warm rice, and you have a quick and easy meal ready to go. You can find a simple Instant Pot honey teriyaki chicken recipe here.

Conclusion

These 9 summer Instant Pot recipes will help you to get a delicious dinner on the table without having to slave over a hot stove! Feed your family easy, inexpensive, delicious meals all week with these simple recipes!

 

What are your favorite summer Instant Pot recipes? I hope you will share them! Have you tried one of the recipes in this article? How did it go? Leave a comment below and let me know!

 

 

Invitation to Share

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

Join Our Facebook Group!

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