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Cheap Meal Ideas

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.

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November 15, 2011 Flag
40 found this helpful

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.

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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:

  1. Hamburgers If you have a George Foreman or any other way to cook hamburgers, buy the patties. I found you can get 25 semi-thin patties for 7-10 dollars, depending on your brand preference. For us, we always just did whatever was cheapest! Once you have the patties, you only need to buy some ketchup, mustard, one head of lettuce, and one package of buns at a time, giving you more time to make more cash before needing another package of buns.

    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!

  2. Rice: You can do so many things with rice and it's oh, so inexpensive! I like it just plain with butter, soy sauce is inexpensive. As most of you probably know, you can use other forms of liquid to steam it in in order to give it a different flavor. My husband's favorite was chicken broth.

    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!

  3. Split Pea Soup: A bag of peas, an onion, a little bacon, milk, and you are ready to go! If you have no stove top, see if anyone has a slow cooker you can borrow, or maybe you're lucky enough to have one of your own. I got one for Christmas! Anyway, I buy the chuck pieces of bacon - not only are they a heck of a lot cheaper, but they are fattier, which is better for your soup, anyway. This costs less than ten dollars to purchase and used to last me a week!

    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.

  4. Dollar Tree: If you happen to have a Dollar Tree in your area, there are some foods they carry that actually aren't that bad. First of all, in my opinion, they carry the best ketchup. You can find stuff there that has no high fructose corn syrup, and it tastes much better than the stuff that has that crud in it. Also, in their frozen foods, you can sometimes find Savory snacks by Pillsbury, yum! I don't suggest going here all the time, but if you have $5 to your name, you can find a little something to hold you over until you find a way to make that next dollar.

  5. Pork: I am a meat eater and it was very hard for me to stay away from the meat section when we were so poor. We can afford food now, and are ready to move out of this kitchen-less home. Pork is great though. You can have it as steak, in pieces with your rice, or make Chinese noodles (pork, ramen noodles, and eggs topped with soy sauce, add green onion if desired).

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

A cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream and a candy cane.

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March 31, 2009 Flag
0 found this helpful

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

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May 21, 20100 found this helpful

If possible, buy meat, vegetables or fruits in bulk, divide into storage containers and freeze for use in soups, and stews, etc.

Dry beans and rice, when cooked properly, can be filling and are often a good bargain. Ramen noodles can be the basis of many recipes. And they are cheap. Pasta is generally cheap and you can make your own sauce if you like. I bought a large crock pot and make stew that will feed a family of 5 for 2 or 3 days. Hamburger Helper can be made with less than the pound of ground beef called for, ground pork sausage can be used as the meat, or make without meat if you desire. Many times these items are offered with coupons or sales.

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June 28, 20100 found this helpful

Go to www.hillbillyhousewife.com and look for her $45 emergency menu for feeding a family of 4-6. You may not want to make those meals, but it will give you ideas. This is a great site in general, and it's linked everywhere.

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October 14, 20100 found this helpful

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.

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October 20, 2011 Flag
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I live on less than $800 a month. Can anyone help me with some very cheap recipes?

By defile from St.John, IN

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October 21, 20110 found this helpful

Have you looked on this website. If you type in budget Recipes or cheap recipes you will find alot of them. I know because I have looked them up. Good Luck.

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October 31, 20110 found this helpful

You have to rethink the way you cook and eat. As lots of the posters have suggested take advantage of offers at supermarkets and if you can buy ahead if there is a really good offer on something you use regularly.

However now is the time to think about what you eat and whether it is actually nourishing you or just filling you up with empty calories which leave you feeling full for a while but then craving more food as you body tries to get what it needs.

So if you rethink in terms of value for money being value for your body you will steer away from packages and mixes and spend the resources you have on the best basics you can afford. 1 good sized chicken roasted will feed you for a week. With the addition of fresh veg, rice and beans each day you can have a different tasting main meal and enough for lunchtime sandwiches too. Even the soup you make at the end of the week with the chicken carcass, an onion, a carrot some dried herbs and pearl barley will do you more good than any packaged, pre-prepared rubbish.

If you can go to the farm gate for things like potatoes, onions and beans, buy in bulk and split with others in the same fix as you, you will make friends and save money because farmers will give you deals. Wait until the end of the day at farmers markets and ask them what they will give you for $5, you will be amazed, they never want to take stuff home and would rather give it to you cheaply than throw it away.

The internet is your amazing free recipe book, start with Thriftyfun then move out from there, you will find so many cheap and nutritious recipes you won't have enough days of the week to use them all!

If you are interested I have loads of recipes I can send you just let me know, especially the ones for 'elastic chicken'!

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July 26, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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October 22, 2010 Flag
4 found this helpful

You can get all of the ingredients at the dollar store, it whips up fast, and it's a comfort food!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cans tuna
  • 1 empty can of soup to measure out milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

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.

Servings: 3-4
Time:5 Minutes Preparation Time
10 Minutes Cooking Time

By Margaret from Aptos, CA

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November 5, 2010 Flag
0 found this helpful

Does anyone have any cheap meal ideas?

By Autumn

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November 7, 20100 found this helpful

Burritos:

Ground beef

Potatoes, diced into small cubes

Onion, diced

Salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground beef with potatoes in skillet. When done, roll up in warm flour tortillas and serve with salsa or cheese if desired.

You can make burritos and freeze for a quick meal.

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November 8, 20100 found this helpful

Macaroni with tuna and peas

Cook package of macaroni (12-16 oz.) according to package directions. Because we are a dairy and gluten free house, we use gluten free pasta and stir in mayo, tuna, and frozen peas. If you like, you could cook regular macaroni and cheese and stir in tuna and peas. Alternative meats include using ground beef, salmon, or leftover chicken.

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August 5, 20110 found this helpful

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.

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June 3, 2012 Flag
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Anyone have any meal ideas that could stretch my £6.00 for 4 days please?

By Helen

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June 4, 20120 found this helpful

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.

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August 6, 2008 Flag

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!)

Sausage Goulash

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb sausage, loose (or take off casing and break up)
  • 2 cups broad noodles
  • 3-4 cups coarsely slivered cabbage
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Cook noodles and drain. Brown sausage in frying pan, breaking up into small pieces. Add cabbage, stir and cook until cabbage is tender. Add to noodles and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss lightly and serve. Surprisingly tasty!

Impossible Vegetable Pie (Quiche)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped broccoli (or preferred veggie)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green or red pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup Bisquick (or generic)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a pie plate. Cook broccoli, drain. Mix broccoli, onion, pepper and cheese in pie plate. Beat remaining ingredients until smooth with a whisk or in blender. Pour over ingredients in pie pan. Bake until golden brown and done in the center about 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before eating. I make 2 of these at a time, because they are great reheated for breakfast, lunch or anytime. Use whatever veggies or cheese you have on hand!

Company Pasta

Kids love this!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups medium pasta shells (or any macaroni), cooked and drained
  • 1 box frozen green beans
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cups cooked carrot slices
  • 1/2 lb (the smallest size box) Velveeta, cubed
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

Combine pasta with veggies and bacon. Mix lightly and keep warm. Heat Velveeta with milk over low heat. Stir until smooth. Place pasta mixture on a platter or bowl. Top with sauce. A delicious and economical dish.

The Best "Beefaroni" Ever

This makes a nice big pot, great leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 (15 oz) tomato sauce (or 1 15 oz tomato sauce and 15 oz V-8 for extra veggies for extra nutrition :)
  • 2 (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp. each, pepper and garlic powder

Directions

Cook the ground beef, onions and garlic in a big pot on the stove. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well then simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add 2 cups UNCOOKED macaroni, stir. Simmer 25 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves, scoop into a bowl and enjoy. I drizzle any rolls, or bread I have on hand (even hot dog or hamburger rolls) with olive oil. sprinkle a little Parmesan and garlic on and broil and I am good to go.

Hope you enjoy. Blessings to all!

By Carol from Landisville, PA

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May 1, 2008 Flag
0 found this helpful

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

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November 28, 2012 Flag
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This is a great one-dish meal! Inexpensive to make!

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October 15, 2004 Flag
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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.

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November 5, 2010 Flag
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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

Answers:

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

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

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

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)

By Lorelei

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

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)

By Frazzled Leslie

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

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)

By wasshrunk

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

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)

By leftthesanebehind

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

This is an awesome dish that you can all enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 10, or more russet potatoes
  • 2 cups milk.
  • water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 3 stalks of celery with leaves if possible.

Prep -
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.

<p.Then -
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)

By Mr.Snow

Inexpensive Meal Ideas

Halushki

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1-2 large onions
  • 1 pound bow tie pasta (or any macaroni style or egg noodles)

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)

By kimmiekim

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December 22, 2009 Flag
0 found this helpful

What are some inexpensive meal ideas?

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February 19, 2007 Flag
0 found this helpful
Click to read more ideas from older posts on ThriftyFun.
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