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

dirt cheap meals

 

Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

A Huge Benefit of Dirt Cheap Meals or Super Cheap Meals

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

Why Prepare Dirt Cheap Meals?

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

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

Find more tips to slash your grocery budget spending here.

 

Is It Worth It to Make Super Cheap Meals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick and Easy Dirt Cheap Meals!

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

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

 Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

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

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

 

 

Waffles

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

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

 

Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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

 

 

Fried eggs with toast

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

 

 

French toast

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

This is the recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

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

 

 

Oatmeal

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

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

 

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

 

Crepes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Egg Omelets

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

8 large eggs

salt  and pepper (to taste)

 

2 tablesoons margarine or butter

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chive (optional)

 

Directions

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

 

Cream of wheat

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

 

Muffins

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

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

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

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

 

Yogurt and fruit

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

 

Toast with jam or peanut butter

This is a super quick and cheap breakfast option.

 

Toaster pastries

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

 

Grits

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

 

Pancakes

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Overnight cold oatmeal

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

 

German pancakes

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

3. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

  

Find even more ideas for cheap breakfasts here.

 

Check out these related articles:

Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas

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

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

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

 

 

Ideas for Dirt Cheap Quick Lunches

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

 

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

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

 

Tuna fish sandwiches

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

 

Ingredients

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

Directions 

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

 

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

Ingredients

 

Directions

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

 

 

Egg salad sandwiches

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

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

 

 

Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

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

 

 

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

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

Here is a simple recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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

 

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe I like.

Ingredients

Directions

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

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

 

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

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

 

Chicken salad

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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

 

Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

 

Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

 

Traditional green salad

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

 

Spinach and strawberry green salad

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

Easy pasta salad

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

 

Directions

 

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

 

 

Check out these related articles:

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

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Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas for Dinner

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

 

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

 

Baked Potatoes

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

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

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

 

Quick and Easy Chili

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

 

Ramen Noodles with Vegetables

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

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

 

Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

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

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

Directions

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

 

More Better Mac and Cheese

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

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

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

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

Homemade Mac and Cheese

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

Directions

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

 

 

Meatless Spaghetti

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

 

 

Easy Garlic Chicken and Rice

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

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

 

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

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

 

Traditional or Black Bean Quesadillas

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

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

 

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

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

Meatless Taco Soup

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

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

 

Egg Fried Rice

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Hot Dogs and Fries

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

 

Pizza

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

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

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

 

Ingredients

Crust

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

Sauce

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

Toppings

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

Directions

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

 

Broccoli Alfredo

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

 

Creamy Pasta and Veggies

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Leftovers

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

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

 

Get the Slash Your Grocery Budget Ebook!

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

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Breakfast Example Meal Plan

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

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

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

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Lunch Example Meal Plan

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

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

 

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

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Dinner Example Meal Plan

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

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

 

Week 1

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

 

Week 2

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

Final Thoughts on Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

cheap easy slow cooker meals

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

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

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

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

 

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

Make Your Cheap Slow Cooker Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Cheap and Easy Slow Cooker Meals for under $5!

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

 

1. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

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

 

2. White Chicken Slow Cooker Chili

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

 

3. Slow Cooker Meatloaf

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

 

4. 3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

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

 

5. Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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

 

Related articles:

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

 

6. Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

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

 

7. Slow Cooker Garlic Parmesan Chicken Stew

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

 

8.  Slow Cooker Honey Lemon Chicken

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

 

9. Crock Pot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

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

 

 

10. Sour Cream Chili Bake

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

 

11. Leftover Rotisserie Chicken Soup

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

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

 

12. Crock-Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

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

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

 

 13. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Noodles

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

 

14. Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

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

Get the slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs recipe here.

 

15. Pulled Barbecue Chicken

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

 

16. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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

Get the slow cooker pulled pork recipe here.

 

17. Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

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

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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

18. Slow Cooker Goulash

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

 

19. Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

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

 

20. Slow Cooker Curried Coconut Chicken

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

 

21. Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

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

 

22. Slow Cooker Sour Cream Chili Bake

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

23. Potato Bacon Chowder Soup

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

 

24. Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes

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

 

25. Slow Cooker Garlic Roasted Chicken

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

 

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap, Easy Slow Cooker Meals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Make Your Cheap and Easy Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

42 Cheap and Easy Meals for under $5

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

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

 

 

14 Cheap and Easy Breakfast Meals Ideas

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

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

1. Waffles and pancakes

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

Waffles

Ingredients

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 cups milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

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

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

And here is a simple recipe for pancakes.

Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten (if desired)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

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

 

 

2. Biscuits and gravy

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

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

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

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

 

3. French toast

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

Ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

dash of salt (optional)

Cinnamon and sugar mixture

16 slices of your favorite bread

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

4. Crepes

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

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

5. Fried eggs with toast

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned)

2 cups baby spinach

6 eggs

1/4 cup water or milk

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Directions

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

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

3. Serve with salsa, if desired.

 

7. Breakfast casserole

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

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

Ingredients

12 oz. frozen hash browns (about 4 cups)

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

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

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup shredded cheese

8 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

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

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

 

8. Oatmeal or cream of wheat

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

Easy Oatmeal Recipe

2 cups rolled old-fashioned oats

4 to 5 cups water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

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

Directions

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

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

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

Easy Cream of Wheat Recipe

4 cups of water or milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cream of wheat

Directions

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

9. Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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


10. Muffins

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

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

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

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

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

11. Banana and oats

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

12. Yogurt and fruit

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

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

 

13. Peanut butter and toast

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

 

14. Quick and easy quiche

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

Ingredients

1 pie crust (premade, or make your own)

6 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped cooked ham

1 cup shredded cheese

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

 

15. Toaster pastries (sneaking this one in!)

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

31 Cheapest Foods to Eat When Money Is Tight
100+ Cheap and Easy Family Recipes for $5 or Less!
(Ready in 30 minutes or less!)
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
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65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
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19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
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14 Cheap and Easy Lunch Meal Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Tuna fish sandwiches

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

 

3. Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

4. Egg salad sandwiches

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

5. Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

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

6. Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

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

8. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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

9. Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

11. Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

12. Chicken salad

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

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

13. Traditional green salad

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

14. Spinach and strawberry green salad

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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14 Cheap and Easy Dinner Meal Ideas

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

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

 

1. Spaghetti with green salad and garlic bread

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

 

2. More Better Mac and Cheese

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

4. Easy pasta carbonara

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

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

Directions

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

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

 

 

5. Chicken stir fry

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

Ingredients

Chicken Stir Fry

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

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

Directions

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

 

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

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

Ingredients

1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

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

Directions

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

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

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

4. Whisk gravy constantly until it thickens.

5. Once thickened, add the chicken drippings.

6. Serve hot over rice.

 

 

7. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

8. Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables

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

9. Beef and cheese goulash

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

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

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

Directions

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

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

10. Tacos

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

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

 

Get the Slash Your Grocery Budget Ebook!

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11. Taco soup with tortilla chips

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

Ingredients

1 pound hamburger

1 packet taco seasoning

1-2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can red kidney beans

1 can chili beans

1-2 cans corn

shredded cheese (optional)

 

Directions 

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

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

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

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

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

 

12. Chili and cornbread

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

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

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

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

10 cups chicken broth

8 oz. egg noodles

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

14. Chicken fajitas

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap and Easy Budget Friendly Meals

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

 

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

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

budget meal planning

Budget Meal Planning

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

What Is Budget Meal Planning?

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

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

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

 

Why Do Budget Meal Planning?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Save Even More Money Budget Meal Planning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Budget Meal Planning Tips for Success

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Then when you plan the next week’s meals, if you decide to plan two weeks’ worth of meals at a time, stick with a few (or several! or all!) of the same meals that are your family’s favorite.

I have heard that most families have only about a dozen meals that they eat regularly, with the occasional new or different dish for variety. (That is true for our family, as well!)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

8. Consider having weekly dinner theme nights.

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

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

 

9. Plan to use your leftovers.

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

 

10. Consider batch meal prepping and cooking.

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

You can find simple beginner freezer meal tips here!

 

11. Keep a well-stocked pantry.

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

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

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

 

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

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Budget Meal Planning for Cheap Breakfast Ideas

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

 

Quick Overview of Cheap Breakfast Meals

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

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

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

 

Recipes for many of these budget meals are below.

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

Waffles

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

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

Directions

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

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

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

 

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

 

Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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

 

Fried eggs with toast

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

 

French toast

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

This is the recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

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

 

Oatmeal

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

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

 

Crepes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cream of wheat

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

Muffins

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

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

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

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

 

Yogurt and fruit

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

 

Pancakes

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

German oven pancakes

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

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

Budget Meal Planning for Cheap Lunch Ideas

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

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

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

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

 

Quick Overview of Cheap Lunch Meals

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

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

 

Week 1 and Week 2

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

 

Ideas for Quick Lunches

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

 

Tuna fish sandwiches (with chopped pickles, if desired)

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

Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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

Egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

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

Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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

Chicken salad

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

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

Traditional green salad

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

Spinach and strawberry salad

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

 

 

Avocado tuna melt

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

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

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

 

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

 

Avocado and chicken salad

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

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

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

 

 

Chicken avocado salad sandwiches

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

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

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

 

Bacon, lettuce, and tomato wrap

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

Meatball sub sandwich

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

 

Easy pasta salad

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

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

 

Check out these related articles:

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

 

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

 

Quick and Easy Taco Salad

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

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

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

 

Easy Orange Chicken with Rice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Spaghetti with Green Salad and Garlic Bread

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

 

Best Chili Mac

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pizza

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

Ingredients

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

For Alfredo Sauce

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

Directions

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

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

 

Pizza Dough

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

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

 

 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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

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

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

 

Black Bean Quesadilla

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

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

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

 

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

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

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

 

Directions

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

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

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

 

Sloppy Joes

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

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

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

 

Quick Beef Stroganoff

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

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

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

 

Chicken Fajitas

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

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

 

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

 

Final Thoughts on Budget Meal Planning

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

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

 

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

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

 

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The BEST Cheapest Food: 57 Cheapest Groceries List for When You Are on a Tight Budget

cheapest groceries list

Cheapest Groceries List to Buy the Cheapest Foods

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.

When you need to stretch your budget, shopping for the cheapest foods can really help you to survive financially until things get better!

I should include the caveat that these are some of the best foods to save you money on your groceries, but they are not all the healthiest of options. For a list of the best healthy cheap foods to eat, check out this article with the best cheap and healthy foods to save you money on your grocery budget!


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

Be sure to also download the Cheapest Groceries List Cheat Sheet at the end of this article so you will have this list of cheapest groceries at your fingertips!**

 

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

 

 

Make Your Cheapest Groceries List Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

A Huge Benefit of Buying the Cheapest Groceries and Cheapest Foods

When you are broke or need to save money fast, buying the cheapest groceries that you can to get by for a time can be a great way to stretch your food dollar till payday or to help you save money to reach an important financial goal (like paying a bill, paying off a debt, paying for a large and necessary purchase, saving for something important, and so on). Buying the cheapest foods can help you to stay afloat and keep you from slipping farther and farther into debt!

For another great way to save money on your food budget, see this article for more than 100 cheap recipes that you can make for $5 or less in 30 minutes or less. Your family will love these cheap, easy, quick, tasty kid-friendly meals!

 

Why Buy the Cheapest Groceries or Cheapest Food?

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

Even if you are not in a particularly bad financial situation, you may want to eat the cheapest groceries and cheapest food that you can for a time in order to save money to make a large purchase with cash or to get your grocery spending under control. You may also want to eat the cheapest groceries that you can as part of a money-saving challenge.

Find more  ideas to slash your grocery budget spending here.

Cheapest Groceries List So You Can Buy the Cheapest Foods

In this cheapest groceries list below I include many of my own favorite cheapest foods and 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 foods 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 do 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!
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!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

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.

 

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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. Kale

Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around, so it really is a great value. It is packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium, At our local grocery store you can find it for around $1 to $1.50 per bunch.

28. Garlic

Garlic is an awesome flavor enhancer that also has healthful vitamins and minerals. At 50 cents or less per bulb, it is not the cheapest vegetable around, but because it is so packed with flavor, a little goes a long way. 🙂

In addition to having various vitamins and minerals (vitamins B and C, manganese, iron, copper, and potassium, for example), garlic may also be able to help fight the common cold and other illnesses and also help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

29. Canned pumpkin

Pumpkin doesn’t have to be reserved just for the fall. 🙂 You can buy canned pumpkin year round to enjoy in soups, muffins, and curries. The antioxidants in pumpkin make it a healthy choice,  and at less than a dollar for the 15-ounce can, it’s another good choice for a cheap, healthy food.

Pumpkin is another good source of potassium and beta carotene (which turns into vitamin A). It also has calcium as well as vitamins C and E and some B vitamins, too.

 

30. 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.

 

31. 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!
11 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
31 Budget-Friendly Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes
65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save a Ton of Money!

 

 

Even More Cheap Groceries

In addition to the list above of the cheapest groceries to buy, here are even more cheap foods you can buy when money is tight. 

These items are not quite as inexpensive as the items listed above, but they are still some of the cheapest groceries you can get.

32. Oranges

Oranges are another great fruit when you are wanting to eat the cheapest foods you can buy when broke. They are somewhat seasonal, so you will pay more for them in the winter generally than you do in the summer, but the prices year round are pretty good. And these awesome little fruits are packed with vitamin C as well as fiber and potassium. If you love orange juice, save money by making your own, fresh squeezed! (And you will avoid the extra sugar and other additives that way, as well!)

 

33. Cantaloupe

Though not as cheap as the fruits listed above, cantaloupe is still a good choice when you are looking for cheap foods to eat when broke. It is a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. Cantaloupe is awesome to cut up for a simple fruit salad, or chop it up and eat it plain or with your favorite low-fat or nonfat yogurt.

 

34. Kiwi

This sweet, delicious fruit is another budget-friendly option—particularly during the summer months when they are in season. At our local grocery store we can usually get three or four for a dollar during the summer. Kiwis have tons of vitamin C and fiber, and they are great alone or sliced up in a fruit salad.

 

35. Watermelon

You can find watermelon for a great price—when they are in season! When they are not, stick to fruits that are so that you don’t spend an arm and a leg on them. Check local fruit stands and farmers’ markers to find great deals during the summer. This powerful fruit is a great source of vitamin C and is delicious in fruit salads or all on its own.

 

36. Grapes

Grapes are another one of the cheapest fruits available. When they are in season during the summer months, they can be a steal of a deal on sale. They are great in fruit salads, straight off the vine, or frozen as a sweet, healthy treat! We also love them in chicken pasta salad and chicken salad sandwiches.

 

37. Frozen berries

When your favorite berries are not in season (and honestly, even sometimes when they are), you will get more bang for your buck by buying them frozen. Especially if you get mixed frozen fruit with strawberries, you will spend less per serving than you will on berries bought out of season.

And frozen berries lose little if any nutritional value, so they are a great option when you are looking to buy cheap, healthy foods when broke.

 

38. Cabbage

Cabbage is quite inexpensive; in our area, you can buy it for less than 80 cents a pound, so it is another great choice when you are looking for the cheapest healthy foods. It is a good source of vitamins B, C, and K. Chop it up for an inexpensive addition to your favorite green salad!

 

 

39. Garden vegetables

Another way to have a cheap grocery bill is to grow your own produce from seeds (the cheapest way) or even from plants.

You don’t have to have a super green thumb to be able to grow some pretty great produce. We have gotten more into gardening in the last few years, and it is amazing the amount of produce you can get from some plants. Especially if you get the ones that keep producing throughout the season, this can be a great return on your money.

 

40. Milk

Milk is definitely one of the cheapest dairy products, and overall foods, that you can buy when you are broke.

Milk is of course great to drink on its own, but you can also use it to make many inexpensive meals like waffles or pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, cereal and milk, mashed potatoes with white gravy, and much more!

 

41. Yogurt

Yogurt is another relatively inexpensive dairy product that is a great cheap food to buy when you are broke. To get the most bang for your buck, buy yogurt in the larger containers, and then just measure out the amount that you want to eat at a particular time. (This is what we do in my family.)

Of course, as with most food buying, purchasing the generic or store brand varieties will pretty much always save you money over the name-brand options.

 

42. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is also a relatively inexpensive dairy product that is a great cheap food to buy when you are broke. Same as with yogurt, to get the most bang for your buck, buy cottage cheese in the larger containers, and then just measure out the amount that you want to eat at a particular time.

 

43. Cheese

Of course, you can spend a ton of money on cheese if you want to buy the fancy stuff! But cheese can be a relatively cheap food if you stick with the more familiar types of cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack.

To stretch your food buying dollar, you can always use a little less cheese than is called for in a particular recipe. So, for example, if a recipe calls for two cups of cheese, spread the cheese out thinner, and just use one.

Another great way to save money on cheese is to not buy string cheese, presliced cheese, and other types of convenience cheeses. For your kids, instead of buying the packages of cheese with individual things of string cheese, cut long strips of cheese for them yourself. We did this a lot when our kids were toddlers as a finger food, and it worked great.

 

44. Canned refried beans

Though definitely not as cheap as making refried beans from scratch, canned refried beans are still a cheap, fairly healthy food. Go for low sodium, unsaturated fat options.

Refried beans are a good vegetarian source of  protein and a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants.

 

45. Edamame (soybeans)

 Edamame is a great source of fiber and protein, and they are a great snack as well as a power-packed side dish. Frozen edamame is great steamed with a little salt.

 

46. Corn

Corn is another grain that you can buy very cheaply. It is a great side dish all on its own, and it is a great addition to soup, stews, and some casseroles.

 

47. Quinoa

Though not as cheap as other less-expensive grains, quinoa is great for you and is fairly inexpensive considering its nutritional value. It is high in both fiber and protein and contain various essential amino acids. Quinoa is a great side dish or add-on for main dishes to give them an extra protein punch.

 

48. Flour

Flour is one of the very cheapest grocery items you can buy. Even if you buy whole wheat flour, you can still buy it very cheaply. 

If you want to save even more money, you can buy a hand wheat grinder, and you can make your own flour for pennies.

 

49. Sugar

You can also buy sugar pretty inexpensively. It is more expensive than flour, but it is still one of the cheapest groceries to buy. And when you buy your own ingredients like flour and sugar, you can cook and bake very cheaply.

 

50. Popcorn

Popcorn that you pop yourself is super cheap and also good for you! To make your own microwave popcorn, simply put it in a paper bag, fold the top of the bag over twice to seal it, and microwave for about two minutes (or until you hear a couple of seconds between kernels popping). Then carefully take out the hot bag, and simply add your favorite toppings like a little Parmesan cheese, cinnamon, brown sugar, or even taco seasoning!

No paper bag? No problem! Just put the popcorn kernels in a large microwave-safe bowl (such as a glass bowl) and put a glass plate over the top. Voila!

 

51. Pork

Pork is another good option when you are looking for cheap healthy foods because it is a relatively inexpensive source of fairly low-fat protein. At our local grocer you can buy a pound of pork regularly for between $2.50 and $4 a pound, depending on the cut.

52. Ground beef 

 Though not as good for you as chicken or ground turkey, lean ground beef is not a bad option. And it is less expensive than many of the other types of meat of similar nutritional value. Of course, the leaner it is, the more expensive it generally is, so we usually wait to buy ground beef until it is on sale and then stock up and fill our freezer so that we can wait until the next time that it goes on sale.

  

53. Peanuts

Peanuts can be a pretty cost effective and fairly healthy food, particularly when you buy then unsalted in the shell. Peanuts are a good source of healthy fats that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

54. Seasonings

Seasonings can be a great way to enhance the flavor of cheap foods. Though some spices can be pretty expensive (or even really expensive), you can get lots of great-tasting seasonings for pretty cheap, like onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper of course, parsley, oregano, chili powder, and so on.

55. 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).

56. 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.

 

57. 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!).

 

Read on a little further below to get a list of ideas of cheap meals that you can make with these cheap foods!

  

Summary of the Cheapest Food to Buy When Money Is Tight

In case it is helpful, I also want to include a streamlined list of these 57 cheapest foods to include on a cheapest groceries list. And if you want this list as a handy printable, be sure to grab the cheat sheet offered below!

And keep reading, because in the next section I am going to talk about some of the cheap and easy meals that you can make with this list of cheapest groceries!

Here is a condensed list of the 31 cheapest foods discussed in this article:

1. Oatmeal
2. Cream of wheat
3. Eggs
4. Bread
5. Cereal
6. Bananas
7. Apples
8. Beans
9. Lentils
10. Rice
11. Pasta
12. Potatoes
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Carrots
15. Canned tomatoes
16. Squash
17. Zucchini
18. Onions
19. Broccoli
20. Salsa
21. Chicken
22. Ground turkey
23. Green salad
24. Spinach
25. Peppers
26. Frozen vegetables
27. Kale
28. Garlic
29. Canned pumpkin
30. Peanut butter
31. Tuna fish
32. Oranges
33. Cantaloupe
34. Kiwi
35. Watermelon
36. Grapes
37. Frozen berries
38. Cabbage
39. Garden vegetables
40. Milk
41. Yogurt
42. Cottage cheese
43. Cheese
44. Canned refried beans
45. Edamame (soybeans)
46. Corn
47. Quinoa
48. Flour
49. Sugar
50. Popcorn
51. Pork
52. Ground beef
53. Peanuts
54. Seasonings
55. Hot dogs
56. Macaroni and cheese
57. Ramen noodles

 

Examples of meals that you can make with these cheapest foods are discussed just below!

 

Get the Slash Your Grocery Budget Ebook!

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

Examples of Meals You Can Make with the Cheapest Foods from a Cheapest Groceries List

Below you will find 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 (or the cheaper margarine)
Toast with peanut butter and bananas
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 dogs 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

 

For even more ideas of cheap meals you can make, check out this article with more than 100 cheap recipes you can make for $5 or less!

Final Thoughts about Cheapest Foods and a Cheapest Groceries List

When wanting to buy the cheapest food and 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 cheapest food 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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65+ Cheap Dinners: Awesome Dinner Recipes on a Budget

cheap dinners

Cheap Dinners

Find more than 65 ideas below 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!

 

 

Make Your Cheap Dinners Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

 

Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

cheap recipes cheap meals

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

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

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

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!

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.

 

Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

cheap recipes cheap meals

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

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

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

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.

 

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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:

5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
5 Cheap Instant Pot Meals Your Family Will Love (for under $5!)
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 a Ton of Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
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.

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Check out these related articles:

5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
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

 

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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