Do you need help learning how to stretch your meal budget? This guide has tips on what is both nutritious and cheap when money is tight. This guide contains cheap meal ideas.
Okay, this is my first ever tip, but here goes.
For a couple of years, my husband and I had very, very little cash flow and began going hungry at times, here and there. We never had a lot of food, but it only felt bad when we had nothing but dried noodles and water; rice, if we were lucky.
Realizing something had to be fixed, I scourged our local Wal-Mart and found the best deals I possibly could. Especially since we have no working stove top or oven, so we have to get creative with our eating habits. If you ever find yourself in this position, here are my suggestions for your grocery list:
Also, after you've made this initial purchase, you won't find yourself needing to buy ketchup or mustard for a while, which also saves on cost the next time around! If you have enough in your pocket book, pickles make for a nice flavor enhancer, and are still relatively cheap. Just stay away from the cheese! It may be absolutely delicious, but it's also what will kill your check book when it comes to eating hamburgers. Without the cheese, they are a very cheap meal!
Now, we had no working stove top (still don't) but one plug-in burner does the trick! Chicken broth in bulk is so inexpensive and gives the rice a wonderful flavor!
If you don't like split pea soup, feel free to look around at other soups. They can be some of the cheapest meals if you keep them simple, and adding something like a box of 6 bread sticks for less than $2! Just heat them in your toaster oven, if you have one and no oven, like us.
I hope someone out there finds this helpful! I know how difficult it can be to work hard, and still go cold and hungry. If any of you out there are in this position or a similar one, just remember to keep holding your head high. God never gives us a challenge we can't handle, scripture promises as much.
If you are out there, feel free to let me know about it. Believe it or not, I most likely know a lot of what you are going through and would like to help in any way possible. Even if it's just an ear to hear and a prayer to pray. I love you, and God does, too!
Have a wonderful and frugal week, all! Here's a cup of cocoa, on me!
By Chelle152 from Coquille, Oregon
I am looking for cheap meals please. With the economy the way it is, and my husband and I both on a Pension I'm having a bit of struggle to be inventive and frugal as well. Help!
By Leah Jones from Bauple, Australia
Growing up my mom would buy two of those Lipton noodle packets (now named Knorr) like butter and herb and add a can of peas to it. She found a way to add peas to everything. You can add hamburger too.
I like to brown a pound of hamburger in a big skillet, drain, then add a can of diced tomatos. Add the noodles from a box of mac-and-cheese, add water, milk and butter to barely cover. I never measure, it doesn't have to be precise. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are done and add the cheese packet and two or three slices of american cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. For big families, use two boxes of mac-and-cheese.
Another meal is a pack of bratswurst, head of cabbage, an onion and a few potatoes. Cut everthing up, cover with water and boil everything until brats are cooked and potatoes are tender. Season to taste. Soup can last days. To stretch it more, add more potatoes. Can make it in a crockpot too.
I live on less than $800 a month. Can anyone help me with some very cheap recipes?
By defile from St.John, IN
A filling food that isn't very nutritious but will fill you up are homemade flour-&-water noodles. You can use wheat flour to add a few nutrients, but anyway, it costs pennies:
To Make Flour & Water Noodles you will need about 1/2 cup of flour per person.
1. Boil a pot full of water.
2. Take 1/2 a cup of flour and add cool tap water to it a little at a time until it forms a soft ball. (If you add too much water, just add a little more flour.) Sometimes I add black pepper or garlic or onion powder.
3. Put the ball onto a plate and roll it into a thick cigar shape (or sausage-shape.) Cut the ball into pieces, rolling each piece off the plate and into the boiling water. Be careful you don't splash yourself.
4. Let them boil for a minute or two until they rise to the top. Scoop them out and enjoy with either spaghetti sauce, cheese, butter, gravy, or in soup.
As I said, it's not the healthiest recipe in the world, but it is very inexpensive and it will fill you up in an emergency - "I have no food left" situation. They are a very inexpensive alternative to pasta, and they taste pretty good.
FYI: This is a great website: www.dollaraday.com. This woman is able to cook three meals per day for $1 per person, per day.
You can get all of the ingredients at the dollar store, it whips up fast, and it's a comfort food!
Empty 3 cans of soup into pan and whisk in 1 can of milk. Add 3 cans of tuna drained and stir till simmering
Toast the bread and tear it into bite sized pieces onto the plate about 2 or 3 slices per serving. Pour tuna mixture over toast and enjoy!
Some good toppings are bacon bits, shredded cheese, or Parmesan cheese.
|Time:||5 Minutes Preparation Time|
10 Minutes Cooking Time
By Margaret from Aptos, CA
Does anyone have any cheap meal ideas?
I have a dish my husband calls prison food as a joke but he doesn't cook so he can't talk.
Layer a 8 x13 dish with mashed potatoes (buttered and salted). Top that with a layer of ground beef seasoned with a taco seasoning packet. Then end with a layer of 8 oz shredded cheese of your choice.
Bake until cheese is nice and bubbly.
And then a little more sophisticated (I picked this up at epicurious.com and have made it many times).
1 3 1/2-pound chicken, quartered
6 russet potatoes peeled, quartered, lengthwise
4 large garlic cloves, halved
3/4 cup canned chicken broth
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange chicken, potatoes and garlic in large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour broth over. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and oregano to combine. Pour evenly over chicken and potatoes.
Bake until chicken is cooked through and golden brown and potatoes are tender, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Anyone have any meal ideas that could stretch my £6.00 for 4 days please?
Pasta - overcooked so it contains plenty of water is filling and you can add about anything to it - just spices and oil will work. Peanut butter is another high food value product. Check the mark downs if your local grocery has them, and if not, ask.
This is hard to answer as I don't know what food costs in your location. A small piece of beef can be stretched by using it as a addition to other foods, and boiled, then there is beef broth for cooking pasta and rice. Stay away from prepared foods. Plain frozen vegetables can be prepared in many ways. Hope this helps. Good luck.
With times so tight, I am glad that my family enjoys budget friendly meals. Here are some of my fave recipes that have my families stamp of approval (and they are easy and cheap!)
Hope you enjoy. Blessings to all!
By Carol from Landisville, PA
Chop up one onion; mix with one pound ground beef. Cook until done and drain off grease. Mix brown sugar and 2 Tbsp. mustard into a bowl. Then add one can of pork and beans into the same bowl. Add to ground beef and let simmer for 20 minutes.
By Robin from Washington, IA
This is a great one-dish meal! Inexpensive to make!
This recipe is so economical. For a family of four I buy 2 boxes of mac & cheese at 25 cents each, 2 cans of pork & beans at 33 cents each and a package of hot dog wieners for 50 cents (only use half the package for this recipe). I buy it all at the Sav A Lot store.
I am looking for very cheap recipes and meal ideas. Half the week there are just 2 of us, and the rest of the week there are 6.
I already make things like spaghetti bowls, mac and cheese, shepherd's pie, lasagna, jacket potatoes, stews and soups, curries, etc. We also make our own bread.
We have a very low budget and 2 of us are vegetarians. I am looking for new ideas. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
By Charlie from England
The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczn is the best book I've found for saving money on groceries. You can buy the Complete Tightwad Gazette (which includes all three of the Tightwad Gazette series) used at www.amazon.com for $8.76, or you can buy the Tightwad Gazette II or III each starting at $0.01 at Amazon, so basically you would just pay shipping and handling for both books. I have the complete series and it contains a wealth of information. (12/23/2009)
By Patty Lynn
We enjoy baked potatoes with broccoli, butter, cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
Homemade vegetable soup is also good.
Make your own pizza dough add spaghetti sauce, vegetables of your choice, mushrooms, onions, etc., or buy cheap pizzas and embellish with other vegetables.
What about macaroni and cheese?
Make a vegetable lasagna and use cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese to cut the cost.
Buy sandwich sliced bread instead of the regular; more slices in the package; grilled cheese, salad sandwiches with dressing tastes good on toasted bread. (12/23/2009)
One of our go tos is corn stew. One can each of whole kernel corn, creamed corn, and stewed tomatoes. Heat and serve over rice. We add frankfurters cut into coins, which the non-vegetarians could add to theirs. You could stretch it even further with most types of canned vegetables and well drained beans, etc. It's fast (longest time is cooking the rice), can be made cheaply and the ingredients are usually on hand.
Farmer's omelet is easy too. Fry up some potatoes and onions, add beaten eggs. Can be served like an omelet (just flip with a plate and slide the uncooked side down into the frying pan) or scrambled. Sprinkle some cheese on it and enjoy. (12/24/2009)
We use Top Ramen which is 6 for 99cents here. As it is cooking, drop in an egg or two and cook until just the white is cooked. Add some chopped green onions (optional) and a little soy sauce. I learned this from a Japanese friend. Same thing with rice, add an egg to hot rice and mix. The heat from the rice partially cooks the egg. Add some soy sauce. These are family favorites now. (12/24/2009)
The Living More with Less book series may seem old fashioned at first, but the book has a wealth of knowledge and the cook book is a wonderful resource for those tight budgets. I found them both at Amazon.com for about $5.00 each because they were out of print, and rare, so they cost more! But having them has helped me realize all the things my family takes for granted! (12/31/2009)
This is an awesome dish that you can all enjoy.
Chop and crush garlic clove. Start two cups of water to boil and soak potatoes in sink.
While the water boils scrub the potatoes and dice them small. Add the garlic, bay, and rosemary to the water. Dice celery and leaves of celery.
Add all of the diced potatoes and celery to the pot and just enough water to cover them. Add milk, butter, and soup. You will not want to add more water if the soup cans are condensed. Bring the water to boil for 35 minutes stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to simmering and cook for two hours. Stir every ten minutes.
This makes an awesome crock pot dish, just be sure to boil the herbs before you add them to the crock pot so you get their full flavor.
Garnish with diced roast beef, cheese, or diced pan cooked toast. Salt and pepper to taste. (02/04/2010)
While cooking pasta, cut and saute onions and cabbage together in margarine or butter in a covered pan until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix with cooked pasta and fry all together another 5 to 10 minutes. Very flavorful and is a huge Pennsylvania favorite. We like to add 6-8 oz of sour cream to it when finished, it is amazing, feeds 6-8 and is cheap! (09/15/2010)
What are some inexpensive meal ideas?
Jessica from IA
Pancakes, eggs, and french toast if your family doesn't balk at eating breakfast foods for dinner. (05/11/2005)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Here is a one pan easy meal that I call Leftover Picnic Ham:
Three baked or fresh potatoes
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Inexpensive Goulash (feeds 4 with leftovers for under $3):
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):
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:
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
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
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:
***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:
***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:
***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)
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.
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:
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:
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)
Hamburger and Hash brown Casserole (serves 4):
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)