Cheap Summer Vacations: 23 Best Tips for Awesome and Cheap Summer Vacations!

cheap summer vacations

 

 

Cheap Summer Vacations

In this article I’m going to share 23 of the best tips for how you can plan awesome but cheap summer vacations

Taking summer vacations can be a wonderful way to spend quality time together as a family and strengthen family relationships. And you don’t have to spend a ton of money to do it! You can save money on your summer vacation by spending less money and finding deals on the travel, the accommodations, the food, the entertainment and activities, and more! Read how to have fun but cheap summer vacations!

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23 Tips to Plan Fun and Cheap Summer Vacations

Some of my happiest memories as a child were the fun summer vacations that we took as a family. My dad loves to find great deals (that’s one of many traits that I likely inherited from him :)), and he loved to travel and take vacations, so we did a fair amount of vacationing while I was growing up. We have a large family, so most of the traveling was within the U.S., but it was still awesome! But you can bet that we found ways to save money on food, lodging, and the attractions that we visited. And so can you! By following these 23 tips, you can plan fun and cheap summer vacations that your children will remember for a lifetime!

Top Tip: We are big fans of Airbnb to save money on family vacations! To receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay, sign up here!

 

1. Make a plan and set a budget to help ensure you enjoy a cheap summer vacation.

The best way to enjoy cheap summer vacations is to make a plan and set a budget based on what you can afford. If you will plan for your summer vacation in advance, then you can save up for it, and you won’t have the memories of a fun summer vacation tainted by the credit card bills that follow you home. 🙁 Instead, plan a debt-free, fret-free  summer vacation! 🙂

You don’t have to plan out every single detail to enjoy cheap summer vacations (unless you love doing that kind of thing, of course—if you do, then by all means, have at it!), but do plan especially for the big-ticket items you know that you want to do  or that you know you will have to pay for so that you can find the best deals possible.

Read this article to find 5 easy ways to save $500 fast to save up money for your summer vacation! And read this article to learn how you can do a no-spend challenge to potentially save even more money than that in a month or less! Save as much as $1,000 (or even more!) fast!

Remember as you make your cheap summer vacation plans to also be flexible if possible. If you can be flexible in the dates of your travel, for example, you can save a lot of money on airfare and hotels.

 

2. Plan a staycation as a way to have a cheap summer vacation.

One of the very best ways to have cheap summer vacations is to stay close to home. By planning a staycation, you save the biggest expenses of travel and accommodations. You can also eat many (or even all!) of your meals at home, as well, so you can save a ton of money on food too!

There are undoubtedly tons of things that tourists comes to see in your city or state, and many of those you probably haven’t visited or haven’t visited for a long time. So why not plan to do that this summer? Enjoy some time in your own stomping grounds!

You can find 57 awesome ideas for your family staycation here!

 

3. Save money on your accommodations through services like Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO.

To save money on your vacation lodging, check out places like Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO, and HomeAway. We have been staying at Airbnb locations for the last four or five years, and it has been great! If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, you should give them a try. I talk about some of the awesome benefits of vacations with Airbnb in my Airbnb review here. To sign up to receive up to $55 off your first Airbnb stay, sign up here!

At the last Airbnb place we stayed, we were in a nice three-bedroom home in a gated community with a pool, hot tub, small playground, and other amenities, and we spent less than we would have if we had stayed in an inexpensive three-star hotel. It was a nice area of town where we felt safe, and our host as well as the neighbors in the community were friendly and kind.

By staying at places through Airbnb and services like them, not only can you save money on the accommodations themselves, but because you generally have a kitchen available, you can save a bunch of money by not having to eat out as much. (Or at all, if you choose—on this most recent trip we ate all of our meals at the home where we stayed or as picnics at the parks we visited.) You can also save money if you fly by packing fewer clothes and bringing carry-on luggage if your place has a washer and dryer, as many Airbnb rentals do.

Note: To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, sign up here!

 

4. Stay with family or friends for you cheap summer vacation.

A third way that you can enjoy a super cheap summer vacation but still go someplace fun is to stay with family, friends, or acquaintances. If you have family or friends (or friends of those family or friends) that live in a place it would be fun to visit, then talk to them about staying with them for all or at least part of your stay. Have a cousin in Florida? Grandparents in San Diego? An aunt and uncle in New York? Take advantage! And if they have kids the same age as yours, all the better!

In exchange for their hospitality, you could offer to buy pizza or takeout or watch their kids for a night or something like that. And who knows? They might even be willing to watch your own sweet cherubs for a night so that you could enjoy an evening just with your spouse.

Also look at sharing the price of a rental with friends or family.

If you have family members or friends that you would enjoy traveling with, then why not suggest staying somewhere together and splitting the cost? You will have more people to do things with that might make less expensive activities even more enjoyable, and you might be able to swap babysitting so that you can take turns enjoying a kids-free evening on the town.

 

5. Price compare to find the best deals for cheap summer vacations.

This may go without saying, but as with everything you do that costs money. be sure to price compare to save! Price compare on your lodgings, your airfare, car rentals, theme parks and similar attractions, souvenirs, and other significant expenses. Even check the relative prices of the restaurants that you are thinking of eating at if you can so that you won’t get sticker shock at the end of your meal.

Another thing to price compare is the airports you fly into. When we took a big family trip and flew to Florida some years ago, my dad booked some of my siblings to fly into an airport in a nearby city in order to save about a hundred dollars round trip.

So if you are renting a car anyway or can get around comfortably using public transportation, look not only at the best prices for the airport in the city (or closest to the city) you are staying but at the surrounding airports, as well.

Similarly, when planning cheap summer vacations, don’t just go and rent a car from the most convenient agency at the airport. Rather, compare all of the car rental agencies in the vicinity of the airport. Most of the car rental agencies will have a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport, and we were able to save money last time we needed to rent a car by renting through an agency that was a few miles away from the airport and just using the complimentary shuttle to get to and from the car rental office.

 

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6. Choose a location you can drive to (take a road trip).

Another way to plan cheap summer vacations, if you don’t want to plan a staycation, is to choose a summer vacation destination that you can drive to.

Especially if you have a few kiddos like we do, you will save a lot of money by staying somewhere close enough that you don’t have to fly to it. Even if you choose a place a little farther away where you have to stay somewhere overnight (or to save even more money you could alternate drivers and drive through the night if you can do so safely), you will generally spend less than you would flying everyone to your destination. Not to mention, you will likely save money on your transportation (and a little bit of hassle) because you won’t have to rent a car.

 

7. Go to less popular destinations.

Another way that you can enjoy cheap summer vacations is to travel to destinations that are not as popular. So, if you want to go on a beach vacation, go to a nice but lesser-known beach. Go to a nice state park instead of a national park. Go to a lesser-known tropical island. Go to smaller or less popular theme parks and other paid attractions.

Not only will you save money by going to less popular destinations, but you will avoid the big crowds, as well. And you will get to see new places and things. Triple win!

 

8. Visit places where it is the shoulder or off-peak season.

In addition to traveling to less popular destinations, another way to save money on summer vacations is to travel to places where it is the shoulder or even the off season.

So, even though it is often very warm, you could look at going someplace south during the summer, like Florida or even Phoenix. Depending on where you choose to go, you may be able to save a lot of money that way and also avoid many of the crowds that are there during the peak tourist season for the area.

 

9. Stay at hotels and eat at restaurants that are a little removed from the center of your vacation destination.

Similarly, you can also save money by staying and eating in a less popular part of town or even the next town over. Instead of staying right on the beach, even though that would be super cool, stay a few blocks or even a few miles away to save big. Instead of eating at the popular tourist trap restaurants, find less popular restaurants a few blocks away from all the action.

 

10. Look into bundling your deals through sites like Kayak, Expedia, and Priceline.

If you do decide to fly to your summer vacation destination, compare prices when you bundle airfare, lodging, and even car rentals. Check out websites like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, and Booking.com. And call travel agents and find out what kind of deals they can get, as well. Also call major airlines and see what deals they offer; sometimes they will have even better deals than the major travel booking websites. And if you are traveling with a large group, see what kinds of group discounts might be available through travel agencies and other providers.

So first search online and even call places and get individual quotes, and then check sites like those above to see if you can save money by purchasing a package deal, check with a few travel agents in your area, and then call the airlines as a final possibility. This will take a little time, but if you can save a few hundred bucks, it is time well spent.

 

11. Stay at places that have a kitchenette or at least a microwave and fridge. (Or buy a $20 hot plate.)

Paying for food while traveling can be a huge expense, especially if you feel compelled to eat out much or all of the time because you don’t have a place to prepare and cook meals. At all of the Airbnb locations we have stayed at, there has been a way to prepare food (even if it was only a little kitchenette in one of them), and so we have not had to go out to eat for our meals.

Instead, we have either taken most of the food with us that we would eat (which works only if you have enough room in your vehicle to do that, I know—but you would be amazed at how much you can pack in a car when you are motivated! :)) or gone to the local (inexpensive) grocery store to buy food that we could prepare for simple meals.

In fact, come to think of it, we haven’t gone out to eat for a full meal while staying at any of them; we have just gone out for dessert or Slurpees or things like that. 🙂 This has got to have saved us at least another $100 on food for each of our trips (and of course the potential savings is much more; that’s the amount we would have saved if we had eaten at really inexpensive restaurants) by not having to eat out for our meals!

We love Airbnb because they really are a great way to save money and we have had such great experiences at the places we have stayed and have also really enjoyed the hosts. If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, give them a try! To receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay, sign up here!

Another thing that we have done to save money on food while traveling was to buy a hot plate so that we could use it to cook if we needed to, even if we didn’t have a kitchen or microwave. We haven’t actually needed to use it yet, but the $10 (on sale; normal price was less than $20) that we spent for an inexpensive hot plate (with good reviews) will be well worth the money once we do need to use it. 🙂

 

12. When you do buy food at restaurants, get carryout or eat fast food to save money.

I know fast food isn’t perhaps quite as good as the food at a dine-in restaurant, but you sure will save a ton of money! By purchasing food that you carry out or by eating at a fast food restaurant, you can save a good chunk of change by not having to pay a tip. If you buy carryout, you can of course eat at the place you are staying, or go to a local park or similar place and eat there.

Also save money by skipping the soda drinks and desserts. Instead, drink water (it’s so much better for you, anyway!) and buy ice cream, cookies, candy bars, or similar treats at the grocery store or even have favorite snacks that you bring with you from home, if you can.

 

13. Go camping to enjoy awesome and cheap summer vacations.

Another tip for planning cheap summer vacations is to go camping! My husband and I are both big fans of outdoor activities, so we do a fair amount of camping and other outdoor activities. (We don’t do quite as much of it as we did before we had young kiddos, though; but when they are older I’m sure we’ll get back to doing more of it. :))

Though it costs a fair amount to get good camping gear if you don’t have any, once you have the equipment and supplies, camping can be cheap or even virtually free, except for a little gas money. There are many places you can camp for free, but you can also tent camp at many nice campgrounds with bathrooms and showers for around $20 or $30 a night.

 

 

 14. Set up price alerts.

For many of the major travel websites such as Kayak, Hotels.com, and Airfare Watchdog, you can set up price alerts. That way, when an amazing deal comes along on airfare, hotels, car rentals, or the like or when an offer on one of those things is within your price range, you can snag it.

 

15. Pack light.

As I mentioned above, especially if you are flying as part of your summer vacation plans, pack light. That way you won’t have to pay the cost of additional carry-on luggage. If you can stay at a place that has an on-site washer and dryer so you can pack only enough clothes for half your stay and wash them once during your trip, all the better.

 

16. Look at flying during the week rather than on weekends.

You can often save money on airfare by planning to either depart or return during the week rather than on a weekend—and you can likely save even more if you can do both! Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be less expensive than other days of the week, so if you can fly on those days, you could get a great deal.

 

17. Avoid flying on holidays.

Airfare and lodging can be much more expensive on holidays and during holiday weekends (like Memorial Day and Labor Day), so plan to avoid traveling during those times if you can in order to save money.

 

18. Consider cruising.

Cruising can be a great way to enjoy a cheap summer vacation! Depending on your destination, you may even be crusing during the off season (since many people go on cruises to escape the cold)Because everything is covered in one price (food, accommodations, and on-boat entertainment), and because of the many cruises that are available, you can get a steal of a deal to certain locations and at certain times of the year. For a short cruise of three or four days you can sometimes find deals for around $200. Pretty amazing! Check out sites like Priceline, VacationsToGo.com, and Expedia. Also check with travel agents and with the major cruiselines themselves to price compare and find the best offers.

If you can drive to the departure location, you will save eve more by not having to fly. And if you are traveling with family members or friends, of course carpool if you can. 🙂 If you have to drive quite a ways, trade off drivers if you can do so safely so that you don’t have to spend money on a place to stay for the night (and you might end up needing to take off less time from work that way, too).

 

19. Enjoy free and cheap entertainment.

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time on activities that are free or cheap. Theme parks are fun, but so are hiking, biking, swimming in lakes, jumping ocean waves, hunting for seashells, and doing many, many other things that you can enjoy for little or no money.

If you love being in the water, pick up a couple of inflatable kayaks or an inflatable paddle board off Craigslist or your local online classifieds, and take them with you to enjoy some time on the lake. Or if you have room in your vehicle, take your bikes and enjoy biking around the city you visit. Or rent bikes there. Look into renting canoes or paddle boats. Or if you love to just enjoy being in the outdoors, go on walking tours of your chosen destinations.

If you know that there are theme parks and other paid attractions that you want to visit, then look for discount tickets, coupons, and so forth online before you go and at local discount joints when you get to your travel destination.

 

 

20. Take the bus or train or even rent bikes instead of renting a car or taking taxis.

If you are flying or taking a train or doing something similar to reach your destination, then look into saving money by using public transportation such as buses and trains once you arrive to get around the city or area you are visiting. In many cities, renting bikes and getting around that way is also another great option. It can be a wonderful way to enjoy the unique flavor of a particular city.

21. Look into services like Uber and Lyft.

Another way to save money getting around in your destination city is to use car-rental services like Uber and Lyft instead of taxis. They are more convenient than public transportation but will still save you money. And if you can use them occasionally instead of renting a car for the whole time of your stay, you can save a good amount of money that way, as well.

22. Take a shorter vacation.

If you don’t have a ton of money this year to spend on a vacation (such as if you are working to pay off debt as quickly as possible and get it out of your life), another way to plan cheap summer vacations is to take shorter ones. Instead of doing a week-long trip, just do a three- or four-day summer vacation this year. You will have tons of time (and tons of money, if you follow the suggestions on this website :)) to plan longer, awesome, debt-free vacations in future years.

23. Hunt for last-minute deals.

Finally, you can sometimes find awesome cheap summer vacation deals by booking last-minute. Hotels, cruise ships, and airlines don’t make any money on a room or a seat if it’s empty, so they may sharply discount rates as dates get closer.

VacationsToGo.com, for example, has a 90-day ticker where you can find deals on cruises that are scheduled within the next three months. Groupon Getaways and Living Social Escapes can also be great resources for finding last-minute deals. Hotel Tonight is an app that offers deals on last-minute hotel bookings.

Final Tip: Are you ready to start saving money on your lodgings for your family vacations? Sign up with Airbnb to receive $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

Conclusion

With these top travel tips you can plan amazing but cheap summer vacations! Remember to price compare, and to look for deals on every aspect of your vacation, from the travel itself to accommodations to food and entertainment and more. Whatever your destination and whatever your plans, you can find tons of ways to save money by hunting around online and keeping your eyes and ears open for cheap summer vacation deals.

How do you find ways to plan cheap summer vacations? What are your favorite destinations for cheap summer vacations? Leave a comment below and let me know! I would love to hear your tips!

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June No-Spend Challenge: Enjoy a Debt-Free Summer Vacation!

June no spend challenge

June No-Spend Challenge

Will you join me for a June no-spend challenge? Since there are no major holidays and many people haven’t scheduled their family vacations yet, it’s a great time to do a no-spend challenge in order to save for a debt-free summer vacation! Are you game? Read on to learn how to save money fast with a June no-spend challenge so that you can enjoy a debt-free vacation, pay off debt you already have, or save for another important financial goal!

 

How to Do a June No-Spend Challenge to Save Money Fast!

There are a lot of great benefits to doing a June no-spend challenge! One of the main ones is that it can allow you to enjoy a debt-free family vacation this summer! Read this article to learn how to save money on your summer vacation this year!

Another benefit of doing a June no-spend challenge is to pay off debt or save money quickly! Do you have credit card or other debt you need to get rid of? Do you want to pay down your auto loan or your student loan debt? Get it paid down by participating in the June no-spend challenge!

Note: Learn how to save $500 a month with 5 simple frugal living hacks!

By participating in the June no-spend challenge with me and my family, you can save a lot of money that you can use toward things like:

  • Saving the $1,000 for your starter emergency fund
  • Starting a savings account and putting money toward a down payment on a home, the purchase of a car, paying cash for this year’s Christmas, and more (learn about 9 savings accounts every family should have)
  • Purchasing a larger item with cash, such as a piece of furniture, an appliance, or an inexpensive car
  • Paying off credit card debt
  • Paying down student loans or car loans
  • Paying off debt from Christmas

A no-spend challenge has the potential to not only help you save money (sometimes a lot of money) but it can also really help you change the way you look at money and potentially even change your whole financial future. So let’s talk about a no-spend challenge and how to accomplish it.

Read on to learn how to complete a no-spend challenge successfully!

 

Check out these related articles:

How to Get (and Stay) out of Debt!
17 Must-Know Tips to Rock Your Budget
13 Top Tips to Help You Stick to Your Budget
16 Best Tips to Help You Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
15 Top Tips to Help You Finally Stop Overspending
31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes for under $5
42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5
73 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
151 Easy Ways to Save Money: Your Ultimate Guide to Saving Money!

 

What is a no-spend challenge?

A no-spend challenge is where you go for a week, two weeks, or even a month or more either without spending any money at all or without spending money on anything besides the bare essentials or without spending money in a particular category such as groceries or clothing.

When doing a typical no-spend challenge, you could start with a one-week no-spend challenge the first time, and then do two weeks, and then go for a whole month. Or if you really want to turbocharge your savings and short-circuit your spending habits, you could go all in and start with a one-month no-spend challenge. And that would be an awesome goal for June to help you pay for a debt-free summer vacation!

Or, as mentioned earlier, you could do a no-spend challenge in just a particular category, if you have a particular budget-busting area such as clothing or entertainment or eating out.

For this June no-spend challenge, do you think you could go for a couple of week or even until the end of the month without spending money on anything but the necessities?

So use food from your cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Don’t buy any clothes or toys. Don’t eat at any restaurants or order pizza or takeout. Don’t spend any money on entertainment; so no movies or bowling or baseball games or other sports events. Don’t spend any money that you don’t absolutely have to (such as for a necessary car repair).

 

How do I participate in the no-spend challenge?

For this June no-spend challenge, if you are all in, let’s see if you can go all month without spending money on anything but the necessities. So use food from your cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Don’t buy any clothes or toys. Don’t eat at any restaurants or order pizza or takeout. Don’t spend any money on entertainment like going to the movies or playing golf. Don’t spend any money that you don’t absolutely have to.

Need some ideas for free activities for you and the kids? Read this article with more than 90 ideas for free family fun.

And then see the savings start to add up! If you want to save money toward a specific goal such as paying for summer vacation with cash or purchasing a car with cash or buying an appliance or furniture with cash, set up a specific savings account for that purpose. If you don’t have a bank or credit union that lets you easily open multiple savings accounts to save toward specific goals and purposes, then check out an online bank like Capital One 360. We’ve been banking with Capital One 360 for close to 15 years (since they were still ING Direct), and even after the purchase by Cap One, they’ve still been a great bank. They also have one of the best savings interest rates around.

If you want to grow your savings or pay off debt even faster, look for things around the house that you can sell. You might have sports equipment, electronics, toys, clothes, cookware, an extra vehicle, or other items that you could sell at a garage sale, through the online classifieds or Craigslist, or on eBay, for example.

 

What are the benefits of a no-spend money challenge?

One big benefit of a no-spend challenge, of course, is that doing it can you save a significant amount of money. But an even bigger benefit is that it can also help you to break money habits that you want to give up.

Say, for example, that you have gotten into the habit of buying clothes every week online at Target. Or toys for the kids. Or you’ve gotten into the habit of stopping at the grocery store nearly every day after work for just “one or two things,” and then you inevitably leave the supermarket or big box store with more than you planned. All of that frequent or maybe even nearly constant shopping, even if it’s not a bunch of money at one time, will really bust your budget. But you can change your financial course more quickly than you think if you’ll get serious. And a great way to do that is with a no-spend challenge.

Are you ready to really reset your financial habits? Then do the no-spend money challenge and begin to change your life today!

 

How much money can I save during the June no-spend challenge?

The amount of money you can save during a no-spend challenge depends on how long you choose to do the no-spend challenge for and how much you normally spend during that time. But let’s imagine that you’ve decided to go all in, and so you’re going to reduce all spending except for monthly bills like rent or mortgage and utilities and cell phone and fuel for your cars and such, as well as reduce your grocery budget for the month to just enough to buy food like fresh produce and other perishables.

And let’s say you’re a family of four and that in a given month you typically spend $600 on groceries, $200 on gas, $200 on entertainment, $100 on clothes, $100 on eating out, and $100 on stuff for the kids and other miscellaneous household items or other purchases.

Now, let’s say that you decide to eat what’s in your fridge, freezer, and cupboards and pantry and save $400 on groceries, you cut down on your driving to save $100 on gas, and then you spend nothing on entertainment, clothes, or eating out for the month. So you could save $1,000 during that no-spend month! And that awesome amount of money you just saved can fund your summer vacation or help pay off debt. Love it!

 

How can I succeed at doing a June no-spend challenge?

It probably won’t be as hard as you might think to be able to succeed at your June no-spend challenge. First, if you do a full no-spend challenge, you will need to get organized and do some meal planning. (But you should do that anyway! Get my super handy meal planning worksheet and other helpful meal planning resources by signing up below! :))

And you will probably need to get creative with your meal planning, if you decide (as I would recommend you do) to cut your grocery budget during this time. You can of course search online for some great ideas for recipes that have the ingredients you have on hand that you are trying to use up, or you can just wing it and see what concoctions you can create. You might even find some new family favorites!

You can even make the no-spend challenge into a game, to help keep things from getting too serious. With your family, once you have determined a goal for how much you want to plan to save, see how quickly you can do it or if you can even exceed your savings goal!

And then maybe give yourselves an inexpensive reward when you reach your goal or complete the no-spend challenge—like going out for inexpensive ice cream, or buying a variety of toppings and making homemade banana splits. Or if your no-spend challenge helps you reach a really big financial goal, then maybe splurge a little more and go out to dinner or something. 🙂

Other than that, being successful at a no-spend challenge mostly means just staying out of stores and restaurants and movie theaters and so forth and staying offline. Figure out what your triggers are for spending money, and then set yourself up for success by avoiding those trigger points.

Setting and then working toward financial goals and dreams will also help you stay on track to reduce your spending and complete your June no-spend challenge effectively. When you know what your financial priorities and goals are, it’s easier to stay the course and keep your resolve to go for a time without spending because you know that whatever you might be giving up now is a small sacrifice compared to the big financial goals you can reach if you will stay strong and follow through!

Also work on finding new hobbies and activities that don’t cost money or that don’t cost a lot of money. For ideas, see this huge list of more than 90 fun and free activities you can do.

 

What else can I do to start to get a handle on my financial situation or start to save money?

In addition to doing a no-spend challenge, you should create and start to follow a budget or spending plan. I know that sometimes budgets have negative emotions attached to them, but a spending plan or budget is simply where you tell your money where you want it to go. It’s that simple. You control the budget, so that your spending won’t control you. See this article for more information on how to create your first budget. And learn how to stick to a budget here.

To learn how to start getting control of your finances and really start winning with money, get my free Save Your Money, Change Your Life ebook. Sign up below! This book will teach you how to earn more, save more, spend less, and invest more in order to right your financial ship, gain financial stability, and work toward building prosperity and wealth and reaching ultimate financial freedom.

As you work to get your financial life in order, you should also start tracking your spending. You can track your spending with the free spending tracker sheet and simple monthly budget sheet that are part of the Simple Budgeting Bundle!

Grab the bundle below!

A great free app to help you track your spending is Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can see not only all of your bank checking and savings accounts and even your credit cards and other finance accounts, but you can also link your retirement and regular nonretirement brokerage accounts.

This allows you to have a complete, overall picture of your current financial situation. And you can also view your account history to see how your accounts and overall portfolio have done over time. I love this very helpful tool and use it regularly! Sign up for your free Personal Capital account here.

 

Conclusion

Maybe the idea of doing a June no-spend challenge is a little daunting—but you can do it! And when you do, it really could change the way you look at money and even change your whole life. It will strengthen your resolve to make positive financial changes in your life.

Most things in life that are worth achieving require a little hard work or sacrifice, or both, and winning with your money is no different. But the rewards are so worth it! 

Changing your money habits so that you really succeed with your finances will have a bigger impact than many other things in your life. And the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll reach the finish line! Get ready, get set, go! And I’m here to help you all along the way!


Are you ready to join the June no-spend challenge?! Leave a comment below (and post a comment in our new, closed Facebook group!) with your money-saving goal! I can’t wait to see the great things that you will accomplish with the money you are able to save!

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30 Cheap and Easy Dinners Your Family Will LOVE! {Ready in 30 Minutes!}

cheap and easy dinners

 

 

 

Cheap and Easy Dinners

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Make Your Cheap and Easy Dinners Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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

Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

cheap recipes cheap meals

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Mozzarella chicken

For a 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.

Ingredients
6 cups cooked pasta
4 small chicken breasts
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup chopped onions
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato pesto or basil pesto
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup water
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Sprinkle the chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat with the cooking oil. Add the chicken to the skillet, and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side or until the chicken is completely cooked through. Remove to a plate.

2. Preheat the oven on the broiler setting. Add the onion to the oil remaining in the pan. If there isn’t any, add in about ½ teaspoon oil, and sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes until it softens. Add the garlic, and let cook for about a minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, dried basil, and pesto. Stir to combine. When the sauce reaches a simmer, add 1/4 cup water, lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce thickens a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place the chicken breasts in the sauce, and use a spoon to cover the chicken with sauce. Top each breast with a mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese gets nice and bubbly and just melts. Top with chopped parsley. Serve with pasta, crusty bread, and a salad.

 

2. Chicken stir fry over rice

This meal is so easy and so tasty! 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 lb chicken thighs (or chicken breast) 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.

 

3. 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

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

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 uncookeed 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.

 

4. 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.

 

5. 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).

Ingredients
2 packages ramen noodles, Oriental flavor
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
12 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 tsp sriracha
2 tablespoons hot water

Directions
1. Add vegetable oil, frozen vegetables, and seasoning packets. Cook for 3 minutes.
2. In a pot, cook Maruchan ramen Oriental flavor noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes.
3. Drain noodles, and add to pan.
4. Mix soy sauce, peanut butter, sriracha, and hot water. Add to pan, and mix together.
5. Divide into bowls, and serve.

 

Or, if you prefer, you can make this simpler version of a cheap and easy ramen noodle dinner.

 

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 cooked chicken and favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, corn, and sometimes peppers.

To make, cook (boil) the chicken first. At the same time, cook the vegetables, drain off some of the water if needed, and then add the chicken and the noodles and cook a few minutes until the noodles are soft. Add the seasoning packet (or omit), and stir to combine.

 

Check out these related articles:

 

 

 

6. Beef and cheese goulash

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish, and it feeds a lot of people! 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! :))

Ingredients
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.

 

7. 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.

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
1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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

5. 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.

6. 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.

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

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

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

 

 

8. Taco soup with tortilla chips

This is one of our favorite cheap and easy dinners, especially during the colder months.

To  make this meal, simply brown a pound of hamburger in a large pot, drain the hamburger, 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.)

Serve with tortilla chips or Frito’s. Yum!

 

9. Chili and cornbread

This is another really simple and tasty cheap and easy dinner. Serve with homemade cornbread, or make it from the box to save time.

You can also stretch this chili recipe by adding another can or two of chili or kidney beans (we often do :)).

Ingredients

1 lb 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.

 

10. Homemade chicken noodle soup

This is a cheap and easy chicken noodle soup recipe.

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1  large onion, chopped
3  carrots, peeled and sliced
2  stalks celery, sliced
cloves garlic, minced
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.

 

 

 11. Noodles or mashed potatoes with beef stroganoff

We generally eat this dish with corn (sometimes on the cob but more often than not from a can) and often with rolls or simple bread and butter (margarine). Of course you can find tons of hamburger gravy and stroganoff recipes online. You can omit the fresh mushrooms if you don’t have any on hand, or substitute canned mushrooms.

 

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (or substitute canned)
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup sour cream
1 small can cream of mushroom soup
1 to 2 cups milk (depending on desired thickness)

 

Directions

1. Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic  in a pan until no pink remains. Drain fat.
2. Add sliced mushrooms, and cook 2-3 minutes.
3. Add milk and cream of mushroom soup. Add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
4. Stir in sour cream.
5. Serve over noodles, rice, or mashed (or baked) potatoes.

 

12. Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite cheap and easy dinners!

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, saute 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. 

13. Easy pasta carbonara

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

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 tast
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.

 

14. More better mac and cheese

This is my family’s favorite way to eat good old macaroni and cheese. To traditional macaroni and cheese we add broccoli and carrots and sometimes cut up polish dogs or hot dogs, chicken, hamburger, tuna, 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 often like to add salsa to mine before eating it to get even more vegetables. Yum!

Here is a simple homemade mac and cheese recipe (or you can make more better mac and cheese with boxed mac and cheese, too!):

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.

 

15. 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. 🙂 

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
1 pinch salt
pepper, to taste
1 small can condense cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheese
1 can corn or 1/2 package frozen mixed vegetables (or both)
1 16 oz. package frozen tater tots

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cook ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir cream of mushroom soup and corn or vegetables into the cooked ground beef; pour the mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Layer tater tots evenly over the ground beef mixture, and top with cheddar cheese.
3. Bake until tater tots are golden brown and hot, about 30 to 45 minutes.

 

16. Chicken pot pie rice bake

This is a fun twist on chicken pot pie (in other words, a pot pie dish without the pie). For this cheap meal 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.

Ingredients
2 cups instant white rice
2 cups water
2 cup cooked, chopped chicken
1 can (10.75 oz) cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables or corn
1/4 cup milk 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly spray a glass 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.
2. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add instant rice, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 to 7 minutes, until water has been absorbed.
3. In a large bowl stir together chicken, soup, sour cream, cheese, frozen vegetables, 1/4 cup milk, and cooked rice.
4. Pour rice mixture into pan.
5. Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

17. Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are another of our favorite cheap and easy dinners.

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 hamburger buns, split

Directions

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the ketchup, water, brown sugar, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve on buns.

 

Check out these related articles!

42 Cheap and Easy Budget-Friendly Meals for under $5!
25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
65 Must-Know Tips to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
19 Top Tips to Save Money Eating Out
How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money!
Eat Free for Your Birthday!
12 Best Tips to Save Money on Entertainment

 

18. Meatball sub soup

Meatball sub soup is another quick and easy dish. You can slice French bread and dip it into the soup if you want to use a simpler substitute for baguettes (like we do).

For the Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

salt
pepper

For the Soup

2 tablespoons cooking oil

large onion, diced

large clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

3 cup beef broth

1 cup milk

3 cups shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt

pepper
baguette or French or Italian bread

 

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley,  and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roll into meatballs, and transfer to one prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake until browned and cooked through, 15 minutes
  4. Heat broiler.
  5. For the soup, in a large pot over medium high heat, heat oil. Add onion, and cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste, and stir until combined. Then add tomatoes, beef broth, and milk, and stir until combined.
  6. Add meatballs and bring to a simmer, and then add half the mozzarella and all the Parmesan cheese. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper.
  7. Ladle soup into four oven-safe ramekins or similar bowls, and top with a baguette slice. Top with remaining mozzarella, and broil until browned and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes.

 

19. Stovetop chicken pot pie

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

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
chopped small onion
1 cup sliced carrots
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups shredded chicken
1 cup frozen or canned corn (or more, to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Biscuits, for serving (recipe below)

 

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk chicken stock, whole milk, flour, and poultry seasoning.
  2. Cook onion and carrots in butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Slowly whisk in milk mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes.
  4. Stir in shredded chicken, corn, and parsley, and cook until warm, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve topped with biscuits.

 

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
3 oz. butter
1 cup buttermilk
 
Directions
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 large biscuits.

 

20. Parmesan chicken with rice

This is a great chicken and Parmesan (and chicken and rice) recipe.

Ingredients
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large egg
2 tablespoons  milk
3/4 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs (or substitute other bread crumbs)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup frozen corn (about 4 ounces), thawed (or canned)
pepper, optional

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, bring broth and lemon juice to a boil. Stir in rice and onion; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until liquid is almost absorbed and rice is tender, 15-20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, whisk together egg and milk. In another bowl, toss bread crumbs with 1/3 cup cheese and oregano. Dip chicken in egg mixture and then in crumb mixture to coat both sides.
  3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook chicken until golden brown and chicken is no longer pink, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  4. When rice is cooked, stir in corn; cook, covered, until heated through, 1-2 minutes. Stir in remaining cheese. Cut chicken into slices, and serve with rice. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.
 

 

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21. Barbecue chicken tostadas

If you love barbecue chicken, then you will love this cheap meal that you can make in 20 minutes or less. 

Ingredients
8 tostada shells or 8 corn tortillas or small flour tortillas, brushed lightly with olive oil and baked for 3-5 minutes per side, until crispy
3 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, divided
2 cups shredded cheese
3 green onions, very thinly sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lay out the tostada shells (or baked tortillas) on two rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Combine the chicken and 1 cup of the barbecue sauce in a small bowl, and stir to coat.
  3. Divide the chicken between the tostada shells and top with the cheese (about ¼ cup on each).
  4. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, just until the cheese is melted.
  5. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining ½ cup barbecue sauce. Sprinkle with green onions, if desired.

 

22. Chicken quesadillas 

Cheap and easy chicken quesadillas are another winner! This recipe serves 6, so if you want to make less (or more), scale accordingly.

Ingredients

12 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 1/2 cups grated cheese
2 pounds skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
1 large onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into strips (or substitute two more green peppers or a cup of sliced mushrooms, to save money)
cooking spray, oil, butter, or margarine, for frying

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and taco seasoning. Add the chicken to the skillet and saute over medium-high heat until done, about 4 minute per side. Remove from the skillet and dice into cubes. Set aside.
  2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet over high heat. Throw in the onions and peppers and cook until the peppers are slightly seared, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat cooking spray, a little oil, or about 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a separate skillet or griddle over medium heat and lay a flour tortilla in the skillet. Then layer on grated cheese, chicken, and peppers. Then top with a second tortilla.
  4. When the tortilla is lightly browned on the first side, carefully flip the quesadilla to the other side. Continue cooking until the second side is lightly browned, and then remove from the skillet and set aside. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings.
  5. Cut each quesadilla into wedges, and serve.

 

23. Chicken alfredo pizza

Chick alfredo pizza is another of my favorite cheap meals. 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.

Ingredients
1 pizza dough (12 to 14 inches), or make your own
3 tablespoons alfredo sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup cooked chicken

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Roll out dough to about 12 to 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Top pizza with alfredo sauce, mozzarella cheese, and chicken.
  4. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crust starts to turn golden brown and cheese is melted.

 

24. Biscuits and gravy

This is one of my favorite meals. My husband makes the gravy while I make the biscuits, and we can have it on the table in about half an hour. Though it takes a little longer than some of the other foods here, it’s worth it! Some might consider this primarily a breakfast food, but we probably make it as often for dinner as we do for breakfast. 🙂

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

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

Directions

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

 

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25. Lemon pepper chicken with rice

Another tasty cheap and easy dinner is lemon pepper chicken. This is another easy dinner option that you can make in about 20 minutes.

Ingredients
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning (or more to taste)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

  1. Mix together the flour, lemon pepper seasoning, and salt. Pour the flour mixture onto a plate or into a shallow bowl.
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a large pan over medium high heat.
  3. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour mixture, turning to coat both sides evenly.
  4. Place the chicken in the pan, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side or until done.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan, and place on a plate. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Melt the butter in the pan, and whisk in the lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.
  7. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

26. 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!

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter
cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
yellow onion, chopped
large carrots, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup rice
boneless skinless chicken breasts
 
Directions
  1. In a large pot, melt butter. Add mushrooms, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Add chicken, and cook until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Add flour, and whisk until golden, about 1 minute. Pour over chicken broth and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Add rice, bring to a boil, and simmer until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

 

27. 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 simple recipe.

Ingredients

4 large eggs, divided
2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided
1 cup diced red onion (about 1 small onion)
1 1/3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
3 green onions, sliced
4 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

  1. Crack 3 eggs into a small bowl, and beat them together. Beat the last egg in a separate bowl.
  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 3 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 kitchen 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. Add the mixed vegetables and green onions, and cook for another minute. Save some of the green onions (the dark green part) for garnish, if desired.
  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. Pour the single beaten egg over the rice and stir to coat the rice with the egg. Cook for another minute.
  5. Add the soy sauce, and stir. Add the 3 scrambled eggs, and stir to mix again. Serve immediately.

 

28. Cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is another one of our family favorite cheap meals. It is so creamy and good! This quick and easy one-pot recipe is ready in just 30 minutes.  (If you need to cook the chicken, you can boil or saute it on the stove in about 15 or 20 minutes.)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 chicken breasts cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice, uncooked
10 oz. cream of chicken soup (1 can)
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped onion and cubed chicken. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the chicken starts to brown a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until garlic gets aromatic.
  2. Add the rice, cream of chicken soup and chicken broth. Start with 2 cups of chicken broth and if more is needed add more until rice is fully cooked. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and cook over medium heat until the rice is fully cooked, stirring occasionally, should take about 15 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  3. Add the broccoli florets and half the cheese then continue cooking for 2 more minutes, until broccoli softens a bit. Sprinkle over the top with remaining cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for a couple more minutes, just until it melts and starts to brown a bit.
  4. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

 

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29. 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.

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

Optional toppings: Shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream

Directions

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

 

30. 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.

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 small to medium onion
2 small cans tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can refried beans
1 packet taco seasoning
8 large tortilla shells
1 cup (or more, if you want) shredded cheese

1. 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 9x13 inch casserole dish.

2. 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!).

3. 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.

4. 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 30 quick cheap and easy dinners will help you to get food on the table fast for your hungry family! Feed your family quick, delicious, inexpensive meals every day of the month for under $5 a meal!

 

What are your favorite cheap and easy dinners? I would love to hear your ideas! And if you try one of the recipes above, let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below!

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25 Cheap Breakfast Ideas for under $1 per Person!

Find 21 ideas for cheap breakfast that your family will love!

Cheap Breakfast

Find 21 ideas for a cheap breakfast! If you are looking for a quick, easy, inexpensive breakfast, then you have come to the right place!

These ideas for a quick, easy, and cheap breakfast are perfect to get breakfast on the table fast for your hungry family!

 

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

 

25 Ideas for Easy and Cheap Breakfast Meals for under $1 per Person!

Below are 25 ideas for a tasty, easy, quick, and cheap breakfast you can make for the whole family in 30 minutes or less!

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 (some people call it brinner :)), and then then they eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day! That makes things even easier

 

 

1. 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. We use a simple waffles recipe like this one.

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 were really tight.)

 

2. Pancakes

Pancakes are another favorite cheap breakfast for our family. 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. You can find a quick and easy pancake recipe here.

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 :)).

 

3. Biscuits and gravy

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

5. 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.

 

6. Fried eggs with toast

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

 

7. 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.

 

8. 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!

 

Related articles:

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

 

9. Oatmeal

This is another super  easy and cheap breakfast 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!

 

10. 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!

 

 

 

11. 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.


12. 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 here.

13. Banana and oat cookies

You can make these easy and tasty 2-Ingredient Banana and Oat Cookies, which are yummy and nutritious, in about 15 minutes!

 

14. Mashed banana and oats

You can make an even easier cheap breakfast 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.

15. 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.

 

16. Peanut butter and toast

This is a quick and easy (and filling!) meal that my son loves. (The girls like it too, but my son is the only one—so far—who requests it. :))

 

17. Quick and easy quiche

Quiche is another one of my favorite cheap breakfast meals. (Have I mentioned that I just love food in general? :)) This easy quiche recipe 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).

 

18. Toaster pastries

OK, I know toaster pastries (Pop-Tarts) have 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 this cheap breakfast!

 

19. Overnight cold oatmeal

This cheap breakfast is a fun variation of the traditional cooked oatmeal. All you need is milk, rolled oats, your favorite sweetener, 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!

 

20. Hard-boiled eggs with cheese in a tortilla

This is another easy and cheap meal. Simply boil the eggs (or even poach or cook them in a mug or glass bowl in the microwave), put them on a heated tortilla shell, mash them with a fork, add a slice of cheese, and warm them in the microwave for 30 seconds until the cheese  is melted. For a tasty (but caloric!) addition, add a smear of mayo before wrapping the tortilla.

 

21. Breakfast rice

One of my best friends introduced me to this cheap breakfast back in high school. All you need is cooked rice (leftover rice from dinner works great, too, and it is a great way to use it up!), some milk, and sugar and cinnamon to taste! Warm it up, and you have a tasty comfort food perfect for cool mornings!

22. Swedish pancakes

Somewhat similar to crepes, Swedish pancakes are another fun, cheap meal.  They take just 15 minutes or less to prepare, and all you need are eggs, milk, sugar, flour, salt, butter or margarine or another favorite spread, and your favorite toppings.

Ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Directions

1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, flour, salt, and melted butter until smooth.

2. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with cooking spray.

3. Pour a small amount of batter into the pan, to make a thin layer. Tilt the pan to oat it evenly with batter.

4. Cook the pancake until it is lightly browned on the bottom, and then flip over and cook the other side until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 6 to 8 pancakes.

5. Serve with powdered sugar, jam, fruit, peanut butter, whipped cream, or other favorite toppings.

 

23. 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

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.

 

24. Toast with jam

Toast with jam or jelly (extra points if it is home made!) is another very easy and cheap meal. You can always use sugar-free or reduced-sugar jam if desired.

 

25. 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.

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Conclusion

These 25 ideas for an easy and cheap breakfast will help you to get food on the table fast for your hungry family! Feed your family a quick, tasty, cheap breakfast every day of the week for under $1 per person! 

 

What are your favorite budget-friendly breakfast meals? What great ideas for cheap and easy breakfasts did I neglect to include? Leave a comment below and let me know your great ideas!

 

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

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Eating Cheaply: 4 Simple Strategies to Help You Eat for under $2 a Day!

eating cheaply

Eating Cheaply

In this article I am going to 4 crucial strategies for eating cheaply.

By using many of the tips and techniques that I share in this article, we are able to feed our family of 5 for about $300 a month, or about $2 per person per day!

If you are looking for tips on how to eat cheap and cut your food budget, then these ideas can help you to spend less on feeding your family, too! And that money that you spend can then be used to pay off debt, save for an emergency fund, invest for retirement or pay for kids’ college, and more!

Because there is so much great information to share on how to eat cheaply, I am going to break this post up into 4 sections, or 4 strategies for eating cheaply.

 

 

4 Strategies for Eating Cheaply

Follow these simple strategies to eat cheaply (these 4 strategies are each explained in a section below in this article):

1. Eating cheaply using meal planning

2. Eating cheaply by saving money on groceries and eating out

3. Eating cheaply by buying inexpensive foods

4. Eating cheaply by preparing quick and inexpensive meals (simple recipes included!)

For information about all of these simple and effective ways for eating cheaply, read on!

 

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

 

A Simple Hack for Eating Cheaply!

Before I get into the larger overall strategies for eating cheaply, I wanted to mention this easy hack first. One of the easiest ways to save money and eat cheaply so that you can prepare cheap meals is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

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

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

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

What Is the Cheapest Meal to Make When Eating Cheaply?

When you are looking for ways to really stretch your grocery budget, making cheap meals is a must! At the end of this article I share 40+ cheap meals (many with recipes!) that you can make to feed your family well for just a few dollars a day! So be sure to read till the end to get those money-saving recipes!

But in general, the cheapest meals to make are going to be made up of your inexpensive staples like beans, rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, oats, and cornmeal.

Another aspect of eating cheaply (and well) is to cook from scratch when possible and to avoid convenience foods like premade meals and precut fruits and vegetables, produce that is out of season, expensive cuts of meat, and juices and soda and so forth.

 

What Should You Eat When You’re Broke in Order to Eat Cheaply?

When you are broke, it is important to cook inexpensive meals that you can eat at home to save money.

As part of this article, I have included a list of cheap foods that will help you to save money on groceries (these are inexpensive staples that will help you to create inexpensive meals) as well as recipes to make cheap meals to feed your family when money is tight.

These cheapest foods to eat and the list of budget-friendly recipes will help you to make ends meet, even on a tight budget!

Read on to learn more!

 

Strategy 1: Use Meal Planning for Eating Cheaply

When you are looking for the best strategies for eating cheaply, 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 eating cheaply specifically.

Pro tip: Make sure to grab the weekly meal planner below to make meal planning a snap!

These simple tips will help you to succeed with your weekly 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 create your meal plan 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 create your weekly meal plan.

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

There will be some days where 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.

 

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

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 go bad. 🙂

 

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 use your meal planner.

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

 

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, 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.

 

OK, those are some of my best tips for meal planning to help you eat cheaply. Learn how to really stretch your food budget in strategy #2 below!

 

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

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

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

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

Strategy 2: Save Money on Food (Groceries and Restaurants) to Eat Cheaply

 Another big part of eating cheaply is saving money on your monthly food budget! These 15 tips for saving money when eating out and saving money on groceries will help you to slash your money spent on food month after month!

 

1. Turn going out to eat at restaurants back into a rare treat to help you eat cheaply.

The most important way to save money on eating out is simply to go out to restaurants less as a family. I have to believe that 75 years ago, eating out was the rarest of treats for a family. And I also have to believe that they were better off for it. Their waistlines weren’t so wide as ours are now :), and as an overall percentage, they undoubtedly saved more.

According to the most recent information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spends about $300 a month eating out. I couldn’t verify this for sure (for once Google let me down!), but I would bet that’s more than the average American invests for retirement. And that is really sad, given that you’ll be in retirement for 30 or 40 years and you eat a meal for maybe 60 minutes (if you really take your time to enjoy it).

So instead of spending the $300 a month that the average American family reportedly spends on eating out, try cutting back to just one fun and inexpensive meal a month with your family for $50 or less. You will all then appreciate the experience more, and you’ll be able to spend the extra money on goals that will lead your family to financial success—goals like getting out of debt, saving up for emergencies, investing for retirement, and saving for your kids’ college. If you’re really gung-ho or are on a tight budget, save eating out for really rare occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

You could even make it a game to see how long your family can go before going to a sit-down or even fast-food restaurant again. One of my favorite FIRE bloggers has on his blog a ticker that counts the number of days it’s been since their family has gone out to eat. You might think that’s kind of a funny thing to do, but hey, it undoubtedly helped him retire by his late 30s. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make (to retire early, though we won’t make it by our 30s—though I do hope we make it by our 50s!), as well. 🙂

Spending less money on going out to eat also means brown-bagging your lunch, but that’s better for you, too. If you love going to lunch with a group of coworkers every day or once a week, see if they’re willing to brown-bag and eat together instead.

Or be gutsy and take your made-at-home lunch to the restaurant or food court while they eat, or see if they can pick up their food and then you all eat somewhere outside or back at the office. Or just tell them you’re making some changes to your financial habits, and ask them over to watch a football game or play a round of Frisbee or something instead.

 

2. Choose less expensive restaurants when you do go out to eat.

Of course there is a huge difference in what you will pay at a fancy French restaurant compared to the local chain burger joint down the road. But there’s even a huge discrepancy between generally nice sit-down restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants, Applebee’s, costs only about $20 for dinner for two, but another restaurant that we went to a while back was over $70 for just the two of us. (That’s a lot for us to pay, as you might guess. :)) And I wouldn’t say that the food at the more expensive place was necessarily any better.

 

3. Find great deals for restaurants on Groupon and Living Social and on local deal websites to help you eat cheaply.

On the rare occasions you do eat out, try to save money by buying vouchers and similar items from deal websites such as Groupon and Living Social. But only buy them if you will actually use them and if you would have gone out to eat anyway for a special occasion! (Read again the section just above. :)) Otherwise, you’re not actually saving any money—you’re just spending more money!

4. Look at menus online before you go out to eat.

If you’re considering going to a restaurant where you haven’t been before, look at the menus online beforehand. That way you’ll know about how much to expect to pay for your meal. You wouldn’t want to end up at a restaurant that was outside of your price range and either feel bad for overspending your budget or feel bad for having to leave and go find another place to eat.

5. Share an entrée or save half of your meal for lunch the next day to save money and eat more cheaply.

Another good way to eat cheaply when eating out is to order an entrée with your spouse or good friend, and then share it. Entrée sizes at most restaurants are huge! You’ll save money and won’t end up eating so many extra (even if delicious!) calories!

Or, if you do not want to share a meal, then save half of your meal for lunch for the next day! By asking for a carryout box you can avoid overeating today and enjoy a scrumptious lunch tomorrow! Two meals for the price of one!

While you are eating, slow down and enjoy your food! Give your stomach time to tell your head that you are satisfied, and you will avoid eating too much. To avoid temptation altogether, you could ask for the carryout box at the beginning of your meal and put half of your food into it right then. That way, you won’t be as tempted to overeat.

 

6. Plan your meals before you grocery shop.

I know I mention this as the first main strategy above, but it is worth repeating: perhaps the very most important way to eat cheaply is to plan inexpensive meals to eat at home.

To help you save the most money on groceries, plan your before you shop, and reduce the number of times you go grocery shopping.

By getting organized and using a simple meal plan, you can begin to save on your food purchases and put that money toward other important financial goals like paying off your debt, saving an emergency fund, and investing for retirement.

If you have never really planned your meals very well, doing so may seem a little daunting at first, but I promise it’s not as difficult as it might sound.

Most people basically repeat the same meals every couple of weeks, and you can definitely do that in your meal plan. To keep things simple these days in our family, we basically eat the same thing every week except for on weekends, when we have a little more time to prepare food.

Fill out the information below to receive the free weekly meal planner to help you get organized and reduce your spending on groceries!

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

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

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

 

7. Use coupons or rebate apps to help you eat cheaply.

Use coupons and money-saving apps to help you slash your grocery budget.

In addition to your local newspaper or circulars, you can find coupons on many manufacturer’s websites. And try Googling them, as well.

And in addition to using coupons, another easy way to save money on groceries is to use money-saving apps! My favorite FREE grocery money-saving app is Ibotta.

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!

 

 

8. Become familiar with the regular prices of the items you routinely buy so you can stock up when they are on sale.

In order to save money on the items you routinely buy, keep a record of their regular price so that you will know when they are really on sale for a good price versus when they might be technically “on sale” (according to the grocery store signs) but really aren’t a great deal.

You can do this really easily by filling in the grocery price chart that I have created. (Fill out the info below and I’ll send it right away!) That way, you will know when prices really are low and it’s time to stock up on the items that your family loves and that you use regularly. (More on this in the next section.)

 

Fill out the information below to receive the free and extremely handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet to help you really cut your grocery bill by letting you know when your favorite foods are really on sale for a great price!

9. Buy most of your groceries when they are on sale, and buy sales items in bulk.

To keep your grocery spending down, buy as much of your food as possible when it is on sale. This is huge when it comes to saving money on groceries!

Many grocery stores have a fairly predictable cycle of sales, such as every six to eight weeks, and so if you routinely shop at the same grocery stores and you use the grocery price chart and start paying attention to the prices (which you really need to do!), you will start to figure out when the foods you regularly buy go on sale, and you will be able to buy them in bulk when they’re at a great price.

Once you know what the good deals are for the items you buy, you will know when to stock up on them. A couple of things to keep in mind, though:

  • Only buy as much of a particular food as you will eat in a reasonable amount of time before they go bad (however, know that you can safely eat most foods past the “best by” or “use by” date).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of always buying more than you need just because it’s on sale. The best discount is the 100 percent discount when you never buy an item in the first place.
  • Keep your pantry, cupboards, or storage room organized so that you don’t forget about the foods that you already have. This keeps you from buying too much and keeps your food from going bad.

10. Buy produce when it is in season, or buy produce items frozen.

Another way to save money on groceries is to buy your fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Even though blueberries and raspberries would be an awesome, nutritious treat year round, I just can’t stomach (no pun intended!) the thought of paying $4 or more for a little carton of them.

When your favorite fruits and vegetables are not in season, see if you can get them frozen for a reasonable price. And better yet, when they are in season and especially when they are on sale, stock up and freeze them yourself!

 

11. Plan your meals around what you have and what’s on sale to eat cheaply.

When you sit down to plan your weekly meals and make your shopping list, do a quick inventory of what you have first in your fridge and freezer that needs to be used, and do the same thing for your cupboards and pantry. Then check the sale items in your local store ads. And based on what you have and what is on sale, make your meal plan for the week (or two weeks).

 

12. Eat less meat.

Meat is one of the most expensive items at the grocery store. To reduce your spending in this area and save money on groceries every month, buy more chicken and less red meat. Be judicious in your spending on seafood. Also have more meatless meals as part of your meal plan.

When you do buy red meat, buy the less-expensive cuts (a roast versus a sirloin steak, for example). And know that you can often substitute a less-expensive cut of meant for a more expensive one in recipes, and the meal still turns out great!

 

13. Buy less junk food, juice, and soda.

Cut down on the amount of junk food, juice, and soda that you buy. These items diminish your bottom line and expand your waistline. Instead of indulging every day or every meal, turn these items back into being a rare treat. Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

And if you drink, cut down on (or cut out) the alcohol as well. Doing so will be better for your budget and your overall health.

These simple cuts to your monthly budget can be a huge way to save money on groceries!

 

14. Limit the number of convenience items you purchase.

Love those nice platters of already-cut fruits or vegetables? The yummy-looking already-prepared lasagna in the frozen aisle? The sandwiches and fried chicken and salads at the deli? All of those items are convenient, but you also pay a premium for that convenience!

Instead of purchasing these overpriced items, cut the produce yourself. Make your own lasagna, and double the recipe to have some left over that you can freeze. Make your own delicious pasta and potato salads from home. Spend a few extra minutes to cut your own fruits and veggies. 😊

 

15. Shop at discount or salvage grocery stores.

If you have a discount or salvage store in your area, take advantage of it! They have such amazing deals and can be a fantastic way to save money on groceries!

Moms and dads, if you have a salvage-type store (where they sell overstock, soon-to-expire, lost, or damaged items) in your area and you’re not shopping there, you are doing your wallet a huge disservice!

Soon after going to our local discount store for the first time I started doing the bulk of my grocery shopping there. The prices on some things are just incredible. Most of their produce is cheaper than anywhere else by far, and even though some of it is a little too ripe or bruised or is otherwise not worth buying, for the most part, it’s just great prices.

And they have great prices on a lot of other things too, like yogurt and meat and other perishables. Many of these items are close to or even past the recommended “best by” or “use by” date, but with everything we’ve bought there over the past few years, we’ve never found anything that looked or smelled sketchy or otherwise seemed questionable (besides some of the produce, as I mentioned).

For more information, see this article from Consumer Reports, which mentions how the “best by” and “use by” dates are more a matter or food quality than safety. (But, really, I wonder if it’s not also another way for the big food producers to make more money? The sooner food “expires,” the more likely you are to feel like you need to toss it and buy more of it. Who knows?)

 

 

Strategy 3: Buy Inexpensive Whole Foods That Are Perfect for Eating Cheaply

When you are set on eating cheaply in order to save on food costs, then buying inexpensive, whole foods is crucial! Here I list some of the best foods that you can buy to stretch your dollar but still eat well.

 

Grains for Eating Cheaply

In this section you will find some of the best cheap grains to buy to eat cheaply. For the amount that you get, grains really provide some of the best value for your grocery-spending buck!

 

Oatmeal

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

 

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!

 

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 foods 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.

 

Rice

Rice is another dish amply suited for a cheapest foods 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.


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.

 

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.

 

Proteins for Eating Cheaply

In this section you will find some of the best cheap proteins to buy to eat cheaply.

Honestly, for what you get, some of the inexpensive protein options, like beans and lentils, really provide some of the best value for your money spent. These proteins are super cheap and very filling, so they are a great way to stretch your grocery budget.

 

Beans (Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, Chili Beans, and So On)

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

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

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.

Eggs

Another staple to help you eat cheaply is eggs. At a price (where we live) of only about 10 cents per egg (or less!), you can have a hearty breakfast (or whatever meal) of eggs and toast for well under $1 per serving. And eggs are so versatile!

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. 

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.

 

Peanut butter

When looking for ways to eat cheaply, peanut butter is a really 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.

 

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.

Dairy Products for Eating Cheaply

In this section I am going to discuss some of the best cheap dairy products to buy.

Milk

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

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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Vegetables for Eating Cheaply

In this section you will find some of the best cheap vegetables to buy for eating cheaply.         

 

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 :)).

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 (and I generally do not top them with anything). But if you choose to, you can add a little cinnamon and sugar for an even sweeter treat.

 

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.

 

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.

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!)

Zucchini

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

 

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.

 

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.)

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Peppers

Green peppers are another good option if you are looking for ways to eat cheaply—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.

 

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.

 

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, I have read that garlic can help fight the common cold and other illnesses and also help reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

 

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.

 

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.

Fruits

In this section you will find some of the best cheap fruits to buy for eating cheaply.

 

Bananas

Probably because they are readily available all year round, bananas are one of the cheapest foods 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. 🙂

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.

 

Oranges

Oranges are another great fruit when you need to be eating cheaply. 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!)

 

Cantaloupe

Though not as cheap as the fruits listed above, cantaloupe is still a good choice when you are looking to eat cheaply. 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 buy the large bags of frozen strawberries or 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.

 

 

Strategy 4: Prepare Inexpensive Meals at Home for Eating Cheaply

Perhaps the overall best way to ensure you are eating cheaply is to cook most of your meals at home.

In this section you can find ideas and recipes 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 meals simple will help you save both time and money! And your family will love these ideas for inexpensive meals made at home!

 

Breakfast Ideas for Eating Cheaply

These easy and cheap breakfast ideas are perfect for making quick, budget friendly 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.)

  

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 recall 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 eating cheaply! 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:.

 

Homemade Banana Muffins

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 eating cheaply. 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Lunch Ideas for Eating Cheaply

In this section I include some of my favorite lunches for eating cheaply. Add your favorite (inexpensive) fruits and vegetables to make a more complete meal.

I often have a piece of whole fruit (apple, banana, or orange) and simple, inexpensive vegetable such as baby carrots or sometimes celery or broccoli and cauliflower or green salad with one of the simple lunches listed below.

 

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

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

 

Check out these related articles!

Taking PB&J Sandwiches for Lunch Can Make You a Millionaire–for Reals!
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!
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7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
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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!
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75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
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Dinner Ideas for Eating Cheaply

As I mentioned earlier, one of the best strategies for eating cheaply as a 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!

 

And for even more cheap dinner recipes, check out this article with more than 65 cheap dinner recipes (as well as cheap breakfast and lunch recipes, as well)!

 

Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

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!

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

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper or foil (or spray with nonstick cooking spray); set aside.
In medium bowl, mix the beans, cheese, and taco seasoning mix.
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.
Place the burritos seam-side down on the cookie sheet.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until heated through. Serve with additional toppings listed above, as desired.

 

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).

Ingredients
2 packages ramen noodles, Oriental flavor
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
12 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 tsp sriracha
2 tablespoons hot water

Directions
Add vegetable oil, frozen vegetables, and seasoning packets. Cook for 3 minutes.
In a pot, cook Maruchan ramen Oriental flavor noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes.
Drain noodles, and add to pan.
Mix soy sauce, peanut butter, sriracha, and hot water. Add to pan, and mix together.
Divide into bowls, and serve.

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) or canned tomatoes, as well.

 

Best Chili Mac

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Chicken Spinach Alfredo Pizza

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

Ingredients

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

For Alfredo Sauce

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

Directions

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

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

 

Pizza Dough

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

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

 

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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

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

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

 

Black Bean Quesadilla

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

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

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

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

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

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

 

Directions

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

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

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

 

Sloppy Joes

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

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

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

Quick Beef Stroganoff

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

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

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

 

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite meals for eating cheaply! Here is the easy recipe:

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

 

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

 

Conclusion

These 4 strategies really will help you succeed in eating cheaply! By following the simple tips in this article, you can feed your family well and save a ton of money while you do it!

 

What are your favorite tips and strategies for eating cheaply? Do you have quick and inexpensive favorite meals that you just love and cook often that help you to save money?

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

 

Invitation to Share

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15 Frugal Cheap and Easy Freezer Meals!

cheap and easy freezer meals

Cheap and Easy Freezer Meals

If you are looking for cheap and easy freezer meals, then you will love these quick and simple freezer meals for families!

In this article I am going to share 15 quick, budget friendly, easy, and tasty freezer meals for when you are trying to make ends meet. These cheap freezer meals are some of the best freezer meals I have come across, and they will help you stretch your money and feed your family well on busy nights!

 

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

 

Make Your Cheap and Easy Freezer Meals Even Cheaper!

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

I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more!

With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!

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

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

Are You Looking for Dinner Inspiration?

cheap recipes cheap meals

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

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

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

 

15 Cheap and Easy Freezer Meals

Below are 15 ideas for easy and cheap freezer meals you can make for your family. You will love these quick, budget friendly freezer meals!

Though I am including meals that are traditionally considered dinner meals, you can of course eat them for lunch or even breakfast, if you prefer! 🙂

 

1. Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas is one of my favorite dishes, and they are a perfect easy freezer meal! This recipe makes a creamy and delicious chicken enchiladas dish.

Ingredients

2 cans of chicken (or 1 pound of cooked chicken breasts)
1 small can of mild green chilies
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
1 chopped onion
10 flour tortillas

Directions

  1. Mix soup, milk, chilies, and onion in a bowl.
    2. Put some chicken and sauce in the center of the tortilla.
    3. Sprinkle with some of the cheese.
    4. Roll up and place the seam side down in a sprayed 9 x 13 pan.
    5. Continue process until the pan is full.
    6. Pour the remaining sauce over all enchiladas and top with cheese.
    7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

2. Orange Teriyaki Chicken

This is another great cheap and easy freezer meal with chicken. 

 Ingredients

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dried onion
2 cloves minced garlic or crushed garlic (1/2 t = 1 clove)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
6 ounces orange juice concentrate
4 to 6 chicken breasts

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken in a freezer bag and mix.
    2. Add chicken breasts.
    3. Freeze.
    4. Thaw at room temperature.
    5. Grill or bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

 

3. Quick and Easy Chili

This is one of my favorite quick and easy freezer meals! (And we eat it fairly regularly without freezing it, as well!)

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.
4. Freeze in freeze-safe container or zip-top bag.
5. On cooking day, thaw, heat, and serve!

 

Check out these related articles:

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
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

 

4. Little Cheddar Meat Loaves

If you like meatloaf (and maybe even if you do not :)), you will like this fun mini cheddar meat loaves! The small loaves make them fun for kids, too! Makes 8 mini loaves.

Ingredients

Meat Loaves

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion or 2 tablespoon dried onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 pound lean ground beef

Sauce (or use your favorite barbecue sauce)

1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon mustard

 Directions

1. In a bowl, beat the egg and milk.
2. Stir in cheese, oats, onion, and salt.
3. Add ground beef, and mix well.
4. Shape into 8 small loaves; place in a lightly greased 9 x 13 inch pan (or put in mini loaf pans) that can be frozen.
5. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small mixing bowl, and brush the loaves with the sauce, or brush with your favorite barbecue sauce.
6. Thaw for at least a few hours.
7. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

 

5. Chicken Noodle Casserole

This chicken noodle casserole is another awesome comfort food, and why not turn it into a freezer meal so save prep work on a busy day? (With just four ingredients, this is an awesome pantry meal, as well!)

Ingredients

1 package of egg noodles
1 pound chicken breast, chopped
1 can corn
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions

1. Cook the egg noodles according to the directions, and then drain.
2. While the noodles are cooking, lightly brown the chicken in a skillet, until fully cooked and juices run clear.
3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and then spoon into a freezer-safe container.
4. Wait until the dish cools down, and then freeze.
5. On cooking day, thaw completely in the fridge (allow at least several hours for thawing).
6. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, until warmed through.

 

 

6. Easy Lasagna

With quadruple cheesy goodness, lasagna is another perfect comfort food, and it makes a great freezer meal, as well!

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 15 oz jar or can marinara sauce or two small cans tomato sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
8 to 10 oz. lasagna pasta, cooked
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)
2 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Directions

1. Combine ground beef, onion, salt and garlic powder. Cook on medium until browned.
3. Drain hamburger and put back into skillet.
3. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. In a separate bowl combine cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, and parsley. Mix well.
5. Add a small amount of spaghetti sauce mix to the bottom of your 9x13 pan.
6. 
Layer a single row of noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the cheese, and 1/3 of the cottage cheese. Repeat layers two more times.
7. Cover with one final layer of shredded cheese.
8. Freeze.
9. After thawing (can take several hours), cover and bake in 350 degrees oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly all over. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

 

7. Orange Chicken

Orange chicken is another of my favorite chicken dishes, and it also works well as a budget friendly freezer meal, too!

Ingredients

Chicken Mixture

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 egg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Orange Sauce

1/4 cup orange juice
1/4  cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions

1. Chop chicken.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine cornstarch and egg. Stir and add chicken to bowl. Turn to coat chicken, and stir until all are well combined.
3. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat, and when hot, add coated chicken. Cook, stirring often until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.
4. In another small bowl make the orange sauce by whisking together orange juice, water, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, garlic, and cornstarch.
5. Place sauce into labeled gallon sized bag. Seal, removing air. Place cooked and cooled chicken into another labeled gallon size freezer bag. Add the sauce bag to this bag to prevent them getting separated. Freeze.
6.  On cooking day, place frozen orange sauce mix into a bowl of hot water to thaw quickly. Place frozen chicken in a separate bowl of hot water to thaw.

7. Pour sauce into large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously, and then reduce heat to low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce thickens up.
8. While sauce is heating, put the chicken in a nonstick skillet coated with nonstick spray, and cook for a few minutes until it is warmed through.
9. Pour sauce over chicken and serve with chopped green onions if using.

8. Chili Cornbread Bake

You love cornbread with your chili, right? So why not combine them? This cheap and easy freezer meal is a fun twist on a family favorite.

Ingredients

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 diced green bell pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic clove
1 pound ground beef
1 15 oz can chili or kidney beans
15 oz tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 small box cornbread mix, plus ingredients to make cornbread
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion in vegetable oil for 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Add bell pepper and garlic, and cook another 2 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef, beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin and paprika. Stir well to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.
  5. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  6. While the chili is cooking, prepare cornbread mix according to directions on package, but do not bake it.
  7. Remove chili from heat, and pour into a freezer safe baking pan.
  8. Top with cornbread mixture, and sprinkle cheese on top.
  9. Cover tightly with foil, label with name and date, and freeze.
  10. On cooking day, thaw for several hours in the fridge, and then bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until cornbread is set.

 

 

9.  Cheesy Broccoli and Chicken and Rice

This is another delicious cheesy, pleasy chicken dish! Your family will love this cheap and easy freezer meal.

Ingredients

2 cups of cooked rice
1 pound chopped chicken breast, cooked
1 small can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1/2 bag of frozen chopped broccoli, or 2 to 3 cups of fresh chopped broccoli, cooked
1/2 tablespoon dried onion
2 cups of cheese
1 cup of milk
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Combine the cooked rice, cooked chicken, cooked broccoli, cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup, dried onion, cheese, and milk in a large bowl.
2. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Spoon into a freezer safe casserole dish or into a large freezer bag.
4. Freeze.
5. Thaw, and then bake for 30 minutes on 350 degrees.

 

10. Sour Cream Chicken

This recipe I got from a coworker years ago, and it has become one of our family favorites (even among my extended family). Creamy and delicious!

Ingredients

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
2 cups uncooked rice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small can cream of chicken (or substitute mushroom) soup
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 to 2 cups broccoli (optional)

Directions

1. In a large bowl, stir all of the ingredients.
2. Pour into a freezer safe casserole dish and cover with aluminum foil, or pour into a freezer bag.
3. On cooking day, thaw, and then top with crushed cornflakes.
4. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or at 275 degrees for 2 hours.

11. Simple Beef Burritos

Beef burritos are another one of our favorite meals, and these cheap and easy freezer meal burritos are a great way to make them ahead so that you can enjoy them on busy weeknights!

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
8 10-inch flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 teaspoons oil
sour cream and salsa

Directions

1. Brown ground beef with onion, and then drain.
2. Stir in taco seasoning. Then remove ground beef mixture from skillet, and set it aside. Wipe the skillet clean.
3. Heat the refried beans over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, until heated through.
4. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the beans off center on each tortilla, with about 1/4 cup of the beef mixture.
5. Sprinkle with cheese.
6. Fold sides and ends of tortillas over the filling, and roll up.
7. In the same skillet, brown the burritos over medium heat in oil, browning on all sides.
8. Freeze burritos in freezer-safe container.
9. When ready to eat, microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes, turning halfway through.

 

12. Baked Spaghetti

Spaghetti is a big winner at our house, and this baked spaghetti as a cheap and easy freezer meal is a fun twist on this traditional family meal.

Ingredients

8 oz uncooked spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1 jar (14 oz) meatless spaghetti sauce (or 2 small cans tomato sauce)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded mozzarella or shredded cheese

Directions

1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat egg, milk and salt.
3. Drain the spaghetti, add it to the egg mixture, and toss to coat.
4. Put in a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
5. In a large skillet, cook beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat until meat is browned. Drain.
6. Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce. Spoon over the spaghetti mixture. Let cool.
7. Cover and freeze unbaked casserole.
8. On cooking day, partially thaw in the refrigerator for several hours. Then remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or longer as needed to heat through.
11. Sprinkle with the cheese.
12. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

 

13. Pepperoni Pan Pizza

By making this pepperoni pan pizza as a freezer meal, you can enjoy yummy homemade pizzas, even on busy weeknights!

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 and cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

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. Securely wrap, and then freeze.
6. On baking day, unwrap pizzas and bake for about 25 minutes or longer, as needed. 

 

14. Easy Baked Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is so popular with kids, and this easy baked mac and cheese is a great way to turn it into a cheap and easy freezer meal.

Ingredients

16 oz macaroni or macaroni of your choice
4 tablespoons butter (or margarine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 to 3 cups shredded cheese

Directions

  1. In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions, stopping boiling 2 minutes before recommended time. Drain and return pasta back to pot; set aside.
  2. In a medium sized sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds. Add flour, whisk quickly over medium high heat for 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk, whisking while pouring. Turn heat to medium high, and whisk slowly for 4-5 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Add mustard and whisk; remove from heat. Add half of the cheeses (2 ounces fontina, 2 ounces asiago, 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar, 2 ounces parmesan) to the milk mixture and whisk until completely melted.
  3. Pour cheese sauce over the pasta in the large pot, mix well to coat. Pour the pasta with sauce into a large 9x13 baking dish. Cover the pasta with additional cheeses that are left.
  4. Allow to cool completely – at least 2 hours. Cover pasta tightly with a lid or 2 layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 4 months.
  5. To cook: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove from freezer, place into oven and cook for 1 hour, covered with foil. Remove foil and cook an additional 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and browning a bit on the top.

 

15. Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is another awesome dish you can make into a cheap and easy freezer meal!

Ingredients

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
12 oz frozen peas and carrots mix (or 1 cup cooked chopped carrots and 1 cup thawed peas)
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2  (1 top and 1 bottom) unbaked pie crusts, homemade or from the store

Directions

1. Put the chicken. vegetables, broth, and milk in a large bowl, and stir until well combined.
2.  If store bought, remove the store-bought pie crusts from the packages and allow them to come to room temperature.
3. Place the pie crusts in a pie pan, and then spoon the filling equally between the two pans.
4. Top with the second pie crusts, and seal the edges by pressing together with a fork or your fingers. Poke a few holes into the crust with a fork.
5. Wrap unbaked pot pies tightly in aluminum foil, and then place in freezer. Freezes well for up to 6 months.
6. To bake from frozen, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pot pie or pies on a baking sheet, place on the middle rack of the oven, and bake, covered for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the pie, and then continue baking for about 35 minutes or until top of pie is golden and inside is bubbling. You may want to cover the edges with foil to protect them from over browning. Cool for 10 minutes, and then cut into slices and serve.
To thaw first and then bake, place the frozen pot pies into the fridge for 24 hours. When thawed, bake at 400 degrees covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil from the pie, and then continue baking for 35 more minutes or until the top of the pie is golden and inside is bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes, and then cut into slices and serve.

 

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Conclusion

These 15 ideas for cheap and easy freezer meals will let you get delicious and inexpensive meals on the table even on busy nights! Take the stress out of your evening and stop the dashes through the drive-through with these budget-friendly freezer meals!

 

What are your favorite cheap and easy freezer meals? Do you have easy and inexpensive go-to freezer meals that you love? Share them in the comments below!

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

 

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