Inexpensive Meal Ideas

What are some inexpensive meal ideas?

Jessica from IA


Inexpensive Meal Ideas

Pancakes, eggs, and french toast if your family doesn't balk at eating breakfast foods for dinner. (05/11/2005)


Inexpensive Meal Ideas

Sandwiches- My favorite being peanut butter and jam or banana.

Soup- From a can or heat some stock and throw in some veggies, especially potatoes!

Pasta- Pasta and sauce, cheap, easy and fast.

Rice- Cook rice, add veggies or tofu

You can probably find some good books at the library focused on this topic. I know my library has many! (02/19/2007)

By Katie

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

One of my family's favorites is linguine cooked and drained, tossed with butter, top with generous Parmesan cheese, and then topped with stewed tomatoes, with some garlic bread and a salad. (02/19/2007)

By msburny

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

I made patties out of a basic meatloaf recipe, just beef, bread crumbs, egg, diced onion, salt and pepper to taste. Brown patties on both sides. Mix cream of mushroom soup (can use cream soup of choice) and 1/2 -3/4 soup can milk, pour over top of patties, cover and simmer until patties are done, about 1/2 hr. Served with corn and mashed potatoes, with the sauce for gravy, and dump cake for desert. My picky family loves it. (02/21/2007)


By jmz2005

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

  • 1 lb. box spaghetti
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • Salt
  • 1 tbl cumin
  • Powder garlic

    In small amount of oil; brown spaghetti and onions stirring, constantly not to scorch. When brown, add water and tomatoes, sauce and spices. Allow to cook until spaghetti is done

    Optional: You can add jalapeno peppers. My daughter adds prepared meatballs. (02/21/2007)

    By lzygranny

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    Here is a one pan easy meal that I call Leftover Picnic Ham:

    Three baked or fresh potatoes
    Bell pepper

    Trim the bone and chip PIECES that were not sliced for sandwiches. Cut into bite size pieces. Place a small amount of oil in a pan. Put cubed pepper and onions in. Then add cubed potatoes. Fry until brown. Salt and pepper. (02/21/2007)


    By janice westbrook

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    My take on this is never skimp on the nutrition. You can buy ingredients for meals cheaply. Watch for sales, and then match coupons to the sale items. I got 20 cartons of free oatmeal last month that way, and 44 cups of free yogurt this month. If you go to the bread outlet, they might sell you a whole barrel of outdated bread for $3-4. Some will be moldy, so take it to the park and feed the ducks. Try to get whole grain. Stick some in the freezer. Dry some and make bread crumbs for chicken or pork or fish. Make bread pudding. Cook macaroni, canned tomatoes and chunks of bread together -- we ate a lot of that in my childhood.

    All kinds of beans are nutritious, and you don't need expensive ingredients to make them good. Of course, I got a case of my favorite pork and beans when they were on sale for .40 and there were .40 coupons on them. With a can of garbanzos and some celery, you can have hummus dip. We do this for movie nights when we want something special. We are eating Oatmeal-To-Go that cost .50 per box with coupons and a sale, and we have 20 boxes! Ask the produce manager if he/she will sell you a box of culled produce for a reduced price. I have bought a whole lug for $2.00 lots of times. If you get all lemons, make marmalade or lemonade. Of course, save some to marinate some chicken. Beans and grains are nutritious and very cheap. A 25-pound bag of either will make at least 200 servings.

    I bought a broken bag of whole spring wheat for $5, and it makes a wonderful pilaf or sometimes I make Bulgar. A hand grinder doesn't cost much, and you can use it to make whole grain flour from the spring wheat. It makes delightful cookies and cakes and pies. For bread you want hard wheat flour. Whatever you grow is cheap. Today (February 21) I am going to put up some pumpkin butter. We still have 10 large Kabocha squashes under the bed where they stay cool but don't freeze. They won't keep a lot longer since they've been there almost 5 months. So pumpkin butter, pumpkin pies, and lovely mashed squash as a veggie side dish for a year. Or I'll sell some pumpkin butter at the farmer's market next spring.

    My meal plan is this: See what's in the refrigerator. Now see what's in the cupboard. Try to put together 1 protein, 1 starch, and 1 veggie. Protein can be as simple as an egg. Brown rice makes a great starch and is available for about $10.00/25 pounds. Veggies can be all kinds of things. You can even forage in the wild for dock, asparagus, etc. Are there wild berries in your neck of the woods? Good luck! (02/21/2007)

    By coreenhart

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    One other thing I just experienced is that I checked out the cheese bin at a local grocery and found some Irish cheese, an aged cheddar, with no price on it. Digging through the bin I found several other blocks, but none of them had prices either. Then I noticed the expiration date: 2/13/07. I took one to the deli counter and asked them to give me a price, pointing out that the expiration date had already passed. The lady said, "Oh, this should have already been pulled!" and went over there and started pulling it. I told her it looked okay to me and I just wanted to get a price on it, and she said she'd mark it down, and how many did I want? I told her that depended on the price, and she said she'd mark them down to a dollar each. If they had been priced I expect the original price on them would have been four to five bucks, so I scooped them up.

    The moral of this story is, watch those expiration dates, and if something looks good but is outdated, ask for a deal on it. This works with anything; cheese, meat, whatever. If the date is out whoever is in charge just wants to get it out of the store.

    You can save money if you *pay attention*. I figure most folks on this list are here for the same reason I am. We aren't rich and need to stretch what little money we have. I don't want to rip anybody off, but taking advantage of a deal like that is good for everyone. (02/26/2007)

    By Alph

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    This is a meal idea I came up with in my first year at University as a cheap meal for one or two.

    Baked Flat Mushroom:

    Take 1 or 2 large flat mushrooms per person and lightly drizzle with olive oil, bake for about 10-15 mins on a medium high heat.

    Once the mushroom is baked to your preference place either Parmesan or Cheddar over the top of the mushrooms and grill until browned.

    Serve with organic couscous (made in the bowl with hot water and a tea towel placed over the top for about 5 minutes), mixing the couscous with some organic olive oil. Also serve with raw spinach, making sure it has been thoroughly rinsed and tossed with a little bit of organic oil and sea salt flakes.

    This meal was a life saver for me. It's unbelievably cheap to make, especially if cooking it for 4 or so people as you use up a pack of 4 large flat mushrooms and a bag of spinach at once. Also the presentation can be lovely for a dinner party with smaller portions for a starter, or even a main as the ingredients are really good for stacking. (03/27/2007)

    By Saha

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    I like to make tater tot casserole. Brown some ground beef and put in a baking dish. Pour cream chicken and cream of mushroom soup in. Place tater tots on top and bake about 30 min. After baking, put shredded cheese on top and place back in oven a couple minutes to melt the cheese. This is so good with ketchup! Sounds weird, but the kids love it. (09/13/2007)

    Mexi-Mac and Cheese

    This is a family favorite and so easy to make!

    Just get some minced meat and brown it. Add a pack of taco seasoning. Cook the Macaroni and Cheese according to package. Place a little of the Mac and Cheese on a baking dish (make a layer). Add the meat and then add the rest of the Macaroni and Cheese.

    If you have some nachos or tortilla chips, crumble some with your hands and add it all over the top of your dish. If you feel for extra cheese, add some more cheese on top. Bake it for a few minutes. So yummy! (09/29/2007)

    By Sol

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    Inexpensive Goulash (feeds 4 with leftovers for under $3):

  • 1/2 lb. hamburger
  • 1 box elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cans tomato paste
  • Garlic and onion powders
  • Salt and pepper

    Boil elbow macaroni per package instructions and drain

    Meanwhile, brown hamburger in a large skillet (so you can mix everything together in it afterward). Season with a shake of garlic powder and a couple shakes of onion powder, salt and pepper to taste. When done, drain and add the tomato paste. Sometimes I add a splash of water to thin the paste and mix well with the hamburger. Add the macaroni and some more salt and pepper. Heat a few minutes - careful not to scorch the tomato paste.

    My family loves this and I make it at least twice a month.

    Cheap and Easy Beef Stroganoff (less than $5 to feed 4):

  • 2 breakfast (or minute) steaks (approx. $1.75 at my butcher's)
  • 1 can mushroom pieces (50 cents)
  • 1 can beef broth (50 cents)
  • 1 can water (use beef broth can)
  • 1 pkg. brown gravy mix (50 cents)
  • A shake or two of both onion and garlic powders
  • 1/4 cup (approx.) sour cream (maybe about 50 cents)
  • 3 cups of instant rice (make according to pkg. instr.)

    Make the rice first. This dish only takes about 5-7 minutes to make.

    Cut steak into thin strips, and fry in large skillet in a tiny amount of oil.

    Add mushrooms (drained) and a shake or two of both onion and garlic powders. Stir around for a minute and then add the beef broth and water. Bring to a boil.

    When boiling, add the brown gravy mix and stir until all the lumps are gone. Reduce heat and add the sour cream. Stir until mixed, do not boil.

    Serve over rice, as it's very good and satisfying. I usually serve this with peas on the side and bread or rolls.

    Cheap and Easy Barbecue Pork Sandwiches:

  • 3-4 lbs. Western Style Pork Ribs (buy on sale $1/lb)
  • 1/2 bottle favorite barbecue sauce
  • Hamburger buns

    Boil the ribs until they fall off the bones (1 1/2 to 2 hrs). Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with foil and shred ribs onto it. Pour barbecue sauce over and mix up. Spread out to one layer and bake about 15 minutes or until they don't look too wet.

    Heap onto hamburger buns. Serve with coleslaw or salad. This feeds my family of 4 two meals. (12/01/2007)

    By Cathy Lee

    Cheap and Easy Sloppy Joes

  • 1 # Ground Beef
  • 1 Can Tomato Soup
  • Onion and Garlic Powders
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Hamburger Buns

    Brown hamburger and drain. Season with a few shakes of pepper, salt, and onion powder. I only do a small shake of the garlic powder. Add the tomato soup and stir to combine. Heat through and serve on hamburger buns.

    My family prefers this over Manwich or other sloppy joe sauces, and it is much cheaper. (12/01/2007)

    By Cathy Lee

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    Here are two recipes that my mom use to make that I got before she passed away. You probably already have some of the ingredients in your cupboard. These are good hits with my children, family, and relatives. The first is what she called:

    Summertime Chili:

  • 1 lb. ground beef with cut up onion in it. Brown meat and onion/drain.
  • 1 can Ranch Beans
  • 1 can Mixed Beans
  • 1 can Mixed Vegetables
  • 1 small 4 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can Rotel (This is Hot, you may need to use only 1/2 can, it depends on your taste)
  • 1 can of Minestrone Soup
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    ***Mix together all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low 4 hours*** Saltine crackers crumbled up in the bowls are a plus.

    And the second recipe my mom use to make is called:

    King Ranch Casserole:

  • 1 package skinless/boneless chicken
  • 2 cans of Rotel
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • onion and/or bell pepper
  • shredded cheese
  • corn chips (about 14 oz.) (you may want to add peas, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, or other ingredients...just depends on the taste and what you may already have in the refrigerator or cupboard you need to get rid of)

    ***Broil chicken in water on stove. After chicken is done cooking, peel chicken in large bowl. Mix chicken with rotel, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, onion, (bell pepper or any other ingredients you may wish to add) in a bowl. Spread corn chips in a baking dish, spread some broth from the chicken over the chips to moisten the chips. Spoon on the mixture over the chips. Spread shredded cheese over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

    By Kimberly Gering, and my mother Sandra Sue Gering.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot to share my mom's recipe for a fantastic dessert. It is also a big hit and cheap to make! She called it her Strawberry Shortcake:

  • 1 box white cake mix (mix as directed on box)
  • 1 package (3oz.) Strawberry Flavored Gelatin
  • 2 cups (two 10oz. pkg.) frozen strawberries, completely thawed.
  • 1 cup of miniature marshmallows

    ***Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix thawed strawberries and gelatin together, set aside, generously grease bottom of a 13x9 cake pan. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over batter. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Serve with cool whip or ice cream. Store in refrigerator. (This also makes a good baby shower cake, potluck dessert, or even a birthday cake, and it's easy and cheap!) (05/25/2008)

    By gering_kimberly

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    I use all of my leftover dinner meats (chicken pieces, turkey, ham, roast beef, roast venison) and make into a pot pie. Pie crusts are cheap and easy. All you have to do is saute some onions, potatoes, and carrots in butter for a few minutes, add one can of broth (match to meat) and cook for 6 minutes on low, covered. Then add 1 cup meat, 2 cups mixed veggies, salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbs flour to thicken broth. When thick, pour into pie crust, put other crust on top. Seal and flute it, cut 1 inch slits in top, then bake for 45-60 mins.

    My family loves this recipe and it's a cheap way to use up extra meat. When I make turkey for Thanksgiving, I cut up the leftovers into portions for this recipe and freeze it so I have it for many more meals. Same with roast. (06/23/2008)

    By Jennifer H.

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    We're cutting corners, and trying to cut way back on our grocery bills. I just got back from the grocery store. $46 for a family for a week! It's much better than what it used to be (and it still sounds like a lot to me).

    I'm making three meals for the week, which will each have leftovers, plus the option for different groceries. I won't go over everything I bought, just the stuff for these two meals I don't think too many people prepare:

    Chicken Mushroom Rice:

  • 2 chicken breasts (bought frozen-9 for $6)-$1.33
  • Rice (bag was $2, we're using 1/4)-$.50
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup-$.68
  • 1 cup Sharp Cheddar- Approx. $1.00

    Slice the breasts up and fry them in a tiny amount of oil in a saucepan. When they're cooked through (and possibly even browned a bit), reduce heat, add can of mushroom soup, and let sit. Meanwhile, cook the rice with a bit of butter and a splash of lemon juice. Serve layered: Rice, chicken mushroom mixture, top with cheese. Makes four generous portions at a cost of $.88 a serving.

    Chicken Curry Alfredo:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts-$1.33
  • Penne pasta-$.88
  • 1 Jar Prepared Alfredo Sauce-$2.00

    Same thing- slice the chicken, saute it up, add sauce, doctor with spices and most importantly, add a heaping spoon of curry powder. Add to penne. Serve. $1.05 per serving.

    I like the whole "calculating the price of a serving" method, because it helps you sort out what's reasonable and what's just too much to be spending on a budget. About a dollar per serving for dinner (much less for other meals, of course), sounds reasonable to me. More is just too much. (07/11/2008)

    By Hillery

    Inexpensive Meal Ideas

    Hamburger and Hash brown Casserole (serves 4):

  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 lb. of Hamburger meat
  • 2 cups of hash browns (I find that Potatoes O'Brien work best)
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese

    Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and brown the meat and onion together, drain. Pour in the hash browns into the baking dish and then the meat/onion mix, pour on the cream of mushroom and then sprinkle on the cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

    My husband and I love this recipe. It's SO easy and very cheap to make. Every time I've made this for someone new, they always say "This is amazing!" :) Enjoy. (10/05/2008)

    By lauren

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