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cheapest meals
Cheapest Meals

If you are looking for the cheapest meals you can eat to get you by till payday or to just help you make ends meet when money is tight, then this is the article for you!

In this article I am going to share some of my favorite quick, easy, and tasty meals for when you are trying to spend less to save money.

These cheapest meals will help you stretch your money!

 


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

 

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45 Cheapest Meals

Below are some of my best ideas for some of the easiest and cheapest meals you can make for your family. These simple meals are ready in less than 30 minutes!

These meals are great if you need to stretch your grocery budget until you get your next paycheck. Or if you need cheap recipes for families or cheap meals for large families, then these meals are a great option! (Just double the recipes if needed. :))

These cheap family meals will help you to get food on the table fast for your family, and they are simple, down-to-earth meals that your kids will actually like!

Though I list these meals in order of what you would traditionally eat for breakfast, then lunch, and then dinner, you can of course eat pancakes for dinner and broccoli alfredo for breakfast, if you prefer! 🙂

 

1. Pancakes

Pancakes are a favorite cheap breakfast for our family. If desired, 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.) We generally make our pancakes different colors each time we make them. 🙂

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten (if desired)
2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

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

 

2. Fried Eggs with Toast

This is another very quick, easy, and cheap breakfast that we love! (We sometimes eat it for lunch or dinner, too!) You can top with salsa to get in more vegetables.

 

Ingredients

8 eggs
2 tablespoons margarine, butter, or oil

 

Directions

1. Heat margarine, butter, or oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. 

2. Carefully crack the eggs into a large frying pan (you may need to do two batches of fried eggs, unless you have a really big frying pan or a griddle). 

2. Break the yolks, if desired. Or if not, cook until egg whites are set but yolks are still soft, and then serve (for sunny-side-up eggs). For easy-over eggs, flip the eggs over and cook 30 to 60 seconds (or longer, depending on how set you want the yolks).

3. Remove from pan, and serve over toast (with butter, if desired). Season with salt, pepper, or seasoned salt to taste.

 

3. Oatmeal

This is another great option when looking for cheapest meals! 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!

For a fun twist on traditional oatmeal, try this super cheap and even easier meal: Just mash a banana with one-half to one cup of rolled oats. This fast and naturally sweet and tasty meal is one of my frequent go-to breakfasts that I eat at work; these days I generally eat it once or twice a week.

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

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

1. Bring the water (or milk) to a boil in a medium sauce pan. 

2. Add in the oats, and stir well.

3. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

4. Add any sweeteners you would like, as desired.

5. Serve warm.

 

 

Check out these related articles:

100+ Cheap and Easy Meals for When Money Is Tight
5 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
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. 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!

Here is a simple recipe you’ll love.

 

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste)

 

Directions

1. Warm rice on the stove or in the microwave (in a large microwave-safe bowl) with the milk.

2. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon.

3. Serve warm.

 

5. 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 the equivalent volume in 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.)

 

6. 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 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

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

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

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

 

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.)

 

7. French Toast

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

This is the simple recipe we use for French toast:

Ingredients

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)

dash of salt (optional)

Cinnamon and sugar mixture

16 slices of your favorite bread

Directions

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

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

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

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

 

8. Egg Omelets

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

1/2 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned)

2 cups baby spinach

6 eggs

1/4 cup water or milk

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Directions

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

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

3. Serve with salsa, if desired.

 

9. Banana and Oat “Cookies”

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

Ingredients

2 large bananas, mashed

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup optional add-ins: chocolate chips, raisins, butterscotch chips (or whatever flavor baking chips are your favorite), or dried cranberries,

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Blend oats till they are about the consistency of flour. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas and the oats, and stir until smooth. Add your favorite add-ins, if desired.

2. Drop dough by large spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Makes about 18 medium-sized cookies. Flatten cookies a bit with a spatula or spoon, if desired.

3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set. Remove from oven, and let cool on wire rack.

 

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!

You can follow the recipe on the box, or here is a simple recipe (for 4 servings).

 

Ingredients

4 cups water (or milk, or 1/2 water, 1/2 milk)

2/3 cup Cream of Wheat

sugar (to taste)

milk (to taste)

 

Directions

1. Bring the water to boil in a small covered pot.

2. Slowly add the Cream of Wheat, stirring well with a whisk to avoid lumps.

3. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 minutes, until Cream of Wheat has thickened.

4. Remove from the stove, pour into bowls for serving, and then sweeten with sugar, brown sugar, milk, honey, sweetened condensed milk, no or low calorie sweetener, or another sweetener of your choice.

5. Stir well, and serve.

 

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11. 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).

Ingredients

1 pie crust (or make your own)

6 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped cooked ham

1 cup shredded cheese

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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

 

12. Overnight Cold Oatmeal

This cheapest meal 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.

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup milk (or milk substitute)

1/3 to 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

yogurt or other sweetener of choice

1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)

Your favorite fruits, nuts, granola, coconut, spices, seeds, protein powder, and so on

 

Directions

Put all of the ingredients in a mason jar with closed lid or another container with a closed lid for at least four hours or overnight (stir well before closing), and you will have a tasty breakfast ready in the morning!

Add additional milk or other liquid in the morning, if you would like, to reach desired consistency.

 

13. Hard-Boiled Eggs with Cheese in a Tortilla

This is another of our family favorite easiest and cheapest 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.

 

14. 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

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

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

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

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

 

15. 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.

16. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Good old PB&J is another one of our favorite cheapest meals. Or if you prefer, you can make peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Or peanut butter sandwiches alone are great, too!

17. Tuna Fish Sandwiches (with pickle, if desired)

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

These sandwiches are so simple that you don’t really need a recipe (just mix tuna and mayo or salad dressing and chopped up pickles if desired in desired proportions), but if you want to spruce them up, you can follow this simple recipe.

 

Ingredients

2 cans (6 oz.) tuna in water, drained

1/2 cup chopped celery or chopped pickles (or relish)

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (if desired)

8 slices of your favorite bread

 

Directions 

1. Mix all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

2. Spread the mixture in equal amounts on 4 slices of bread, and top with the remaining 4 slices of bread.

 

18. Tuna Fish and Egg Salad Sandwiches

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

You can follow the recipe above for tuna sandwiches and simply add two hard-boiled eggs (or more, if desired) and a little more mayo if needed.

 

19. Egg Salad Sandwiches

In our family we love this simple and tasty lunch for another cheapest meals 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!

This is another recipe that is so simple that I don’t usually follow a recipe, but you definitely can if you prefer to. The following is a simple recipe that I like.

 

Ingredients

 8 eggs

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 teaspoon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

paprika, if desired

8 slices of bread

 

Directions

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

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

 

20. 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.

 

 

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21. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (with lunch meat and spinach, if desired) and tomato soup

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

Here is a simple recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches.

 

Ingredients

8 slices bread

about 6 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 slices cheddar (or other favorite) cheese

 

Directions

1. Preheat large square skillet (or griddle) over medium heat.

2. Butter one side of 4 slices of bread.

3. Place bread butter side down onto skillet bottom and add 1 slice of cheese to each.

4. Butter 4 more slices of bread on one side, and place butter side up to top the sandwiches.

5. Grill sandwiches until lightly browned and flip over; continue grilling until cheese is melted. 

6. Serve with tomato soup, if desired. 

 

 

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

Quesadillas are another one of the cheapest meals you can make, and they are so easy! You can use just your favorite tortilla shells and type of cheese, and you can even add chopped or shredded chicken, sliced lunch meat, spinach, hot dogs (kind of weird, but my younger brothers love it), beans, or favorite cooked vegetables. Yum! 

Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

 Ingredients

 8 large tortilla shells

about 6 tablespoons margarine or butter

about 1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

additional ingredients such as spinach, lunch meat, chicken, and so on, if desired

 

Directions

1. Heat a large skillet on medium heat.

2. Spread margarine or butter on one side of a tortilla shell.

3. Cover tortilla shell with shredded cheese and other toppings as desired.

4. Spread the second tortilla with margarine or butter, and place on top of first tortilla and cheese.

5. Lightly brown on one side, and then flip and lightly brown on the other side.

6. Repeat with remaining tortillas and toppings.

7. Serve warm.

 

23. 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.

 

24. Simple Pasta Salad

This is a fun twist on traditional macaroni salad. And even better, this simple pasta salad takes only 20 minutes to make, plus the time that you allow it to chill. (Personally, I like to eat my pasta and potato salads while they are still warm. :))

Ingredients

1 package (16 ounces) elbow macaroni
4 medium carrots (or substitute baby carrots), shredded or finely chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 

Directions

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain.

2. In a large bowl, combine macaroni and vegetables. Whisk together remaining ingredients until smooth and sugar is dissolved; stir into macaroni mixture. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

25. 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 mayo or salad dressing and your favorite seasonings.

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

 Here is a simple recipe we like.

 

Ingredients

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 stalk celery, chopped (optional)

1/2 teaspoon season salt

pepper, to taste

other add-ins noted above, as desired

 

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir well.

2. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve with your favorite bread as a sandwich or on a tortilla as a wrap.

 

 

26. Black Bean Quesadillas

This cheapest meal idea is a fun twist on traditional quesadillas. 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 (optional)

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

 

27. Spaghetti

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

First brown the hamburger. Add the green pepper if you are going to use it; you could also add chopped onion at this point, too. Then add the tomato sauce and the water. Add the spaghetti seasoning, and stir. Then add the can of cream of mushroom soup, and stir it in. Add the mushrooms at this point, if you are going to include them. Serve over warm spaghetti noodles.

Do you want to stretch your food budget even farther? Make meatless spaghetti! If you have just the spaghetti noodles and a basic meatless sauce like the one I share above, and especially if you omit the vegetables, then spaghetti really can be one of the cheapest meals you can make!

 

28. More Better Mac and Cheese

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

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

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

 

29. 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
tablespoon vegetable oil
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
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.

 

30. Broccoli Alfredo

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

Ingredients

12 oz. linguine or spaghetti noodles
cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
tablespoons butter or margarine
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.

31. Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

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

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

Directions

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

 

32. Ramen Noodles with 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 our favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, corn, and sometimes peppers.

Cook the vegetables, drain off some of the water if needed, and then add the noodles and cook a few minutes until the noodles are soft. Add the seasoning packet (or omit), and stir to combine.

 

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33. 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 or white 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.

 

34. Quick Bean and Rice Burritos

Of course I had to include a beans and rice recipe in this article about cheapest meals. 🙂 These burritos are tasty and filling and can be on your table in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups cooked 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 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 cooked rice; cook and stir until heated through, about 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Serve with cheese and sour cream if desired.

35. 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
1. Cook macaroni, about 7 to 9 minutes.
2. Brown meat in large saucepan, and drain fat.
3. Add garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well, and cook on medium about 5 minutes.
4. Add cooked macaroni and tomato soup. Heat thoroughly. Just before serving, add the grated cheese. 5. Cover and heat until cheese melts.

 

36. 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 9×13-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.

37. One-Pot Chicken Pot Pie Fettuccine

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

Ingredients
1 lb chicken breasts, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, diced 1/4 inch thick
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 lb dry fettuccine pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil over medium-high heat until veggies are tender and chicken is no longer pink. Stir in flour until smooth, and then slowly stir in milk, chicken broth, and parsley. Add dry fettuccine, and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring to incorporate pasta underneath the liquid.
2. Reduce heat to medium and keep pasta at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce begins to thicken and the pasta is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
3. Remove pasta from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

38. Chicken Pot Pie Rice Bake

This is another fun twist on chicken pot pie (in other words, another pot pie dish without the pie). For this cheap 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 9×13-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.

 

39. Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese

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

Ingredients
1 lb cooked elbow macaroni
1/2 cup water
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup diced butternut squash
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions
1. Add water, cauliflower, squash, and carrots in a pot over medium heat. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender.
2. Add everything into a blender, including cooking water, and blend until smooth.
3. Return blended veggies to the pot over medium heat, and add the milk, and cheese. Stir until smooth.
4. Add macaroni, reduce heat, mix thoroughly, and cook until warmed through.

 

 

40. Easy Cranberry Sweet and Sour Chicken

This is a (super easy) sweet and little bit tangy sweet and sour chicken recipe my family loves.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 to 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • 1 8 oz. bottle Catalina dressing
  • 1 can (14 oz.) cranberry sauce
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 cups cooked rice, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté the chicken for about 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked through (no pink inside).
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the Catalina salad dressing, cranberry sauce, and onion soup mix. Pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook until heated through, about 10 minutes.
  4. Serve over hot cooked rice.

 

41. Easy Garlic Chicken

Garlic chicken is another of my favorite cheap meals. For this simple dish, all you need is the boneless, skinless chicken breasts, a little butter, garlic powder, season salt, and onion powder. Serve with rice and your favorite vegetables, and you are set! Ready in just 20 minutes!

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

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

 

42. One-Pot Lemon Herb Chicken and Rice

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

Ingredients

For the Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

For the Rice
1 cup uncooked white rice
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions
1. Melt butter (or margarine) over medium heat in a large skillet or pan (one that has a lid). Season chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Brown chicken in the butter for 1-2 minutes on each side. (Chicken shouldn’t be cooked through at this point.) Transfer chicken to a plate.
2. Add rice, chicken broth, lemon juice, and remaining Italian seasoning to the pan. Place chicken on top, and then cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes, until liquid is dissolved.
3. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired and lemon wedges for squeezing.

43. Spinach Alfredo Pasta

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

Ingredients
12 oz. spaghetti or fettuccine
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
pepper to taste

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook the pasta to al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water in a measuring cup; set it aside. Drain and rinse the pasta.
2. In a large saucepan or skillet, heat a splash of the pasta water over medium heat. Cook spinach leaves until just wilted and bright green; then remove to a bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and set aside.
3. In the saucepan, add the milk, 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and the Parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat, stirring until a smooth sauce forms.
4. Add the pasta to the pan, and stir to coat. Add the butter, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine until the butter melts. If necessary, and a splash of pasta water to smooth out the sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

 

44. Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo

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

Ingredients
16 oz. fettuccine or penne pasta
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper
fresh parsley

Directions
1. Make pasta according to the box directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter, and add onions. Cook for 2 minutes, and then add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
3. Add milk and cream cheese, and heat just until bubbly (do not boil).
4. Remove from heat, and add in Parmesan cheese and mix until the cheese is melted.
5. Add pasta to the skillet, and toss until combined. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley.

45. Easy Pasta Carbonara

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

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

 

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Final Thoughts on Cheapest Meals

These easy ideas for cheapest meals will let you get super inexpensive food on the table fast to feed your family! All ready in 30 minutes or less, these simple cheapest meals are great for busy families!

 

What do you like to eat for your cheapest meals? Do you have quick and inexpensive go-to meals that you love?

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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