POLL: Budgeting

Thank you so much for letting me know what financial topic(s) you are most interested in right now. It really helps me to be able to serve my readers better.

If you are interested, my new Spending Smart for Financial Freedom course might really help you to get a handle on your spending, learn to budget effectively and stick to your budget, and start to spend smart so you can reduce your expenses and have money to work toward financial goals.

Or the Simple Budget Binder or Simple Budgeting Spreadsheets or the Complete Smart Money System could be great tools to help you be successful with budgeting and managing your money well so you can make financial progress.

POLL: Frugal Living

Thank you so much for letting me know what financial topic(s) you are most interested in right now. It really helps me to be able to serve my readers better.

If you are interested, my new Spending Smart for Financial Freedom course might really help you to get a handle on your spending, learn to budget effectively and stick to your budget, and start to spend smart so you can reduce your expenses to live more frugally and have money available to work toward financial goals.

Or the Simple Budget Binder or Simple Budgeting Spreadsheets or the Complete Smart Money System could be great tools to help you be successful with budgeting and managing your money well so you can make financial progress.

15 Best Summer Instant Pot Recipes

summer Instant Pot recipes

Cheap Summer Instant Pot Meals

Summer is my favorite time of year, by far! What is not to love about it? Long, bright, warm, sunny days, water fun, family vacations, school break, fun holidays, and fun summer recipes! 

In this article I share some of my very favorite cheap and easy summer Instant Pot recipes that you can make for your family!

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

On those sultry summer days, these tasty, inexpensive summer Instant Pot meals will hit the spot and make you smile without heating up your kitchen!


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

11 Cheap and Easy Summer Instant Pot Recipes

Below you will find easy, inexpensive summer Instant Pot meals that your family will love.


1. Instant Pot Honey Garlic Chicken

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


2. Instant Pot Barbecued Ribs

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

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

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


3. Instant Pot Baked Beans

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


Check out these related articles:

31 Quick, Easy, Budget-Friendly Dinners for $5 or Less!
65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment


4. Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

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


5. Instant Pot Barbecue Chicken

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




6. Instant Pot Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice

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


7. Instant Pot Kalua Pork

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


8. Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

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


9. Instant Pot Honey Teriyaki Chicken

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



10. Instant Pot Summer Chili

This cheap and easy summer Instant Pot dish is a fun twist on traditional chili. And it is ready in less than 20 minutes! This coloful is packed with tasty veggies like orange pepper, red pepper, jalapno, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and corn. And it has fun seasonings like cumin, chili powder, thyme, paprika, and lime zest. You can find this festive Instant Pot summer chili here.


11. Instant Pot Chicken Fajitas

These chicken fajitas are another fun and colorful dish great for summer. This recipe calls for onion, minced garlic, red, green, or yellow peppers, jalapeno peppers, potato, and tomato. Seasonings include cumin, chili powder, chicken broth, oregano, lime juice, and pepper and salt.

You can of course also include tasty toppings like cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce. Find this Instant Pot chicken fajitas recipe here.


12. Pineapple Chicken Breasts

You can’t go wrong with the light and tangy combination of pineapple chicken breasts. This is another delicious and frugal summer Instant Pot recipe that you and your family will love. This simple recipe requires only a handful of ingredients and is ready in 30 minutes or less. You can get this pineapple chicken breasts recipe here.


13. Hawaiian Barbecue Chicken

This is another simple chicken recipe perfect for those warm sunny days. And it has just 4 ingredients and is ready in under 20 minutes. Those are two huge wins in my book! You can find this tasty Instant Pot Hawaiian BBQ recipe here


14. Thai Coconut Beef

If you like Thai food, give this summer Instant Pot recipe a try. This is a colorful and flavorful recipe and works great served with your favorite rice. You can make this dish with beef, chicken, or pork. Find this Thai coconut beef recipe here.


15. Instant Pot Meatballs

In our family even our somewhat hard to please kids love meatballs. (They’re just fun to eat with toothpicks, right?) And this super simple recipe takes only 3 ingredients! You can have it on the table in 30 minutes or less, too! You can find this easy Instant Pot meatballs recipe here.



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


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



Invitation to Share

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

Join Our Facebook Group!

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

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

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



Budget Friendly Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Mom

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

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

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

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


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



21 Top Budget Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

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

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

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


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

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


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



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


And here is the other one.


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

Genteele Sherpa Plush Throw Blankets

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


A Prayer for Mom Wall Art

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

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


Funny Socks

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


Best Books for Moms

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


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

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



Infusion Water Bottle

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

Flickering Flameless Candles

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


 Aromatherapy Candles

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


Bath Bombs Gift Set

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


Bronze Family Tree with 6 Hanging Picture Frames

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


Fun and Funny Mugs for Mom

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

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

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

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

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



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



Car and Trunk Organizer


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



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

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

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

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


Final Thoughts on Cheap Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

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


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


Invitation to Share

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

Join Our Facebook Group!

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

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

how to spend money

How to Spend Money (Wisely)

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

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


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

Should You Use Extra Money to Pay off Debt?

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

The short answer to this question is generally Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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


What Is the Best Thing to Do with Extra Money?

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

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

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

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

Tired of tiny interest rates on your savings?

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

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

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


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

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


1. Build a starter emergency fund.

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

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


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

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

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


3. Pay down credit card and other nonmortgage debt.

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

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

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

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

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


4. Finish funding your emergency savings.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

9. Use the money to pay down your mortgage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro tip: If you are looking for a good place to save your money (with higher interest rates!), then you should check out CIT Bank. We love our CIT Bank savings account, which offers the highest savings rate that we know of. With the CIT Bank Savings Builder, you can earn up to 1.7% on your savings account (which is really good in today’s market)!

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


12. Use the money to continue your education.

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

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


13. Start a side hustle or small business.

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

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

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

Check out these related articles:

Why Blogging Is the Best Job Ever!

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

11 Amazing Incomes of 11 Amazing Bloggers


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Final Thoughts on How to Spend Money Wisely

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

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


Check out these related articles!

12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!

5 Awesome Ways We Save Money Traveling with Airbnb!

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


What do you do to help ensure that you spend money wisely? Are you going to pay down debt, invest, build your emergency fund, save for a large purchase, or spend the money on something fun? Leave a comment below and let me know—I would love to hear your ideas!


Invitation to Share

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

Join Our Facebook Group!

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

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

dirt cheap meals


Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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



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


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


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

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

Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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


A Huge Benefit of Dirt Cheap Meals or Super Cheap Meals

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

Why Prepare Dirt Cheap Meals?

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

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

Find more tips to slash your grocery budget spending here.


Is It Worth It to Make Super Cheap Meals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick and Easy Dirt Cheap Meals!

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

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

 Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

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

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




Waffles 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:

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


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:


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

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.




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).



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



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.



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:

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

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.



large eggs

salt  and pepper (to taste)


2 tablesoons margarine or butter

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chive (optional)



  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!



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: 

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

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.



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 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:

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

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.


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


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.



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


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.




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!



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



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.



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


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.


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


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.



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.



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



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.



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


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:


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


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.



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


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




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:

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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!
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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!)


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)


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!

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


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

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 


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!


3 tablespoons butter or margarine

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.


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)

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


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


  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.



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.




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


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


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


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.


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


  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.


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


  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. 🙂


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


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.


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


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!


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


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.



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

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


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2 Week Dirt Cheap Breakfast Example Meal Plan

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

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

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

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Lunch Example Meal Plan

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

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


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

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

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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