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dirt cheap meals


Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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



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


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


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

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

Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!

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

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

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

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


A Huge Benefit of Dirt Cheap Meals or Super Cheap Meals

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

Why Prepare Dirt Cheap Meals?

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

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

Find more tips to slash your grocery budget spending here.


Is It Worth It to Make Super Cheap Meals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick and Easy Dirt Cheap Meals!

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

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

 Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

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

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




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

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


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

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

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


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


Cold cereal with (or without!) milk

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



Fried eggs with toast

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



French toast

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

This is the recipe we use for French toast:


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

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

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

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

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

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



Bagel with jam, peanut butter, or cream cheese

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




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

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


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



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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Egg Omelets

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.



8 large eggs

salt  and pepper (to taste)


2 tablesoons margarine or butter

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons freshly chopped chive (optional)



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


Cream of wheat

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



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

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

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

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


Yogurt and fruit

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


Toast with jam or peanut butter

This is a super quick and cheap breakfast option.


Toaster pastries

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



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



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

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

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

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

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


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


Overnight cold oatmeal

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


German pancakes

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


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


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

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

3. Serve warm with your favorite toppings.



Find even more ideas for cheap breakfasts here.


Check out these related articles:

Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas

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

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

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



Ideas for Dirt Cheap Quick Lunches

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


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

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


Tuna fish sandwiches

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



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


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


Tuna fish and egg sandwiches

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




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



Egg salad sandwiches

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



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



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

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



Lunch meat and cheese sandwiches

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



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

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

Here is a simple recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches.



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


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


Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

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


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


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


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


Avocado egg salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe I like.



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

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


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

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


Chicken salad

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

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

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



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



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


Chicken salad sandwiches

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

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

Here is a simple recipe we like.



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


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



Chicken salad supreme sandwiches

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


Traditional green salad

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


Spinach and strawberry green salad

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


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


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

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


Easy pasta salad

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

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

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



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


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




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



Check out these related articles:

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25 Cheap Slow Cooker Meals for under $5
75 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries without Coupons!
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Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas for Dinner

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


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


Baked Potatoes

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

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

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


Quick and Easy Chili

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


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


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



Ramen Noodles with Vegetables

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

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


Classic Bean and Cheese Burritos

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

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


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


More Better Mac and Cheese

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

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

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

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

Homemade Mac and Cheese

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


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



Meatless Spaghetti

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



Easy Garlic Chicken and Rice

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

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


3 tablespoons butter or margarine

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


Traditional or Black Bean Quesadillas

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

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


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

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

Meatless Taco Soup

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

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


Egg Fried Rice


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


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


Hot Dogs and Fries

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



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

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

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




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


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


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


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


Broccoli Alfredo

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


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


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


15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

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


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


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


Creamy Pasta and Veggies

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


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


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

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


Chicken Noodle Soup

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


 Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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2 Week Dirt Cheap Breakfast Example Meal Plan

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

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

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

Week 1

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

Week 2

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

2 Week Dirt Cheap Lunch Example Meal Plan

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

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


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

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

Get the Make It Easy Complete Meal Planning Binder!

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

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2 Week Dirt Cheap Dinner Example Meal Plan

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

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


Week 1

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


Week 2

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

Final Thoughts on Dirt Cheap Meals

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

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



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


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