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.

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.

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!

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  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

November 2, 20121 found this helpful

Thank you for the reminder. Our first home I had a slow pot, camp stove and a toaster oven. I think a toaster oven and a slow pot are the greatest. My very favorite is a mircowave, I didn't have one then. That was nearly 20 years ago and through the years my husband and myself have tried to always thank God and pay our tithes and We have been blessed over and above. What is helping me right now is that Walmart will match other store ad's. I look them all up on line, write down the best deals and try to store up on things when it goes on sale. If I have a coupon that helps too. Our Walmart will match their store brand with other store's brands, besides the name comparison prices on other things.

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November 3, 20121 found this helpful

I want to thank you for your post and for your statement about working hard and still hungry. We are doing the best we can, and food has to be stretched out terribly. I feel sorry for my daughter, but maybe it will make her stronger in future. Hoping to rise above it all. Every little tip or encouragement helps.

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Anonymous Flag
November 19, 20121 found this helpful

My husband and I learned the first year we were married how to overcome hunger, and no food in the house even thought you are working hard everyday. The first time we got around to having a really good meal in a long while, I noticed we had not thanked God for it at the beginning of the meal. So since then we thank God for his generosity, at every meal, and have not been hungry anymore in 46 years of marriage. It was as simple as that.

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September 1, 20151 found this helpful

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

September 7, 20090 found this helpful

My bf is very picky and won't eat a lot of things but here is one thing he loves:

Mix a box or two of velveeta shells and cheese with a pound or two of hamburger and you are done! You can add onions or peppers or whatever you like to this, but he just eats it plain or with broccoli mixed in. It's good and really cheap!

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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 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

October 20, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

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

By defile from St.John, IN

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: This woman is able to cook three meals per day for $1 per person, per day.

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April 3, 20160 found this helpful

November 5, 2010 Flag
0 found this helpful

Does anyone have any cheap meal ideas?

By Autumn

November 6, 20100 found this helpful

Individual lasagna noodle rolls>>>you need:

2 cups marinara sauce (from a jar)

1 cup or so of shredded parmesan cheese

1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta cheese

1 lb mushrooms (cooked in bit of olive oil, sliced yellow onion & garlic)

1 egg slightly beaten

1 tab. oregano

(can also add chopped roasted tomatoes--optional)

and 12 Lasagna Noodles--partially cooked 3/4 of the way and drained (should feel smooth, not sticky)

To prepare>>

Pour 1 cup of the sauce to coat bottom of baking dish that'll hold the 12 rolls

To the ricotta, add the cooked mushroom mixture with a slotted spoon, add the beaten egg, add the oregano---mix well

Doing one noodle at a time, spoon 3 tablespoons of cheese mixture onto the noodle (1 Tab at top, 1 in middle, 1 towards bottom). Spread out the mixture to cover the noodle and roll tightly from bottom--place seam side down into baking dish.

Pour remaining sauce over the tops of the lasagna rolls and add some shredded parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake 400^ F for 20 minutes, let rest. Can add garnish of fresh thinly sliced basil to add more flavor and color for presentation--- Can be easily frozen to serve whenever you want---just reheat at 350^F for 20 min when you want to serve them individually or more.


Turkey Meatloaf with Spinach Roll Up

2 lbs. ground turkey

2 eggs slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs

6 cups chopped fresh spinach

Sea salt and pepper to taste

(some sauce from a jar for serving on slices if wanted..yum!)

Mix turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, s&P with clean hands (don't overwork the meat or it gets tough)

Place meat onto a cutting board lined with foil and shape into a rectangle---place the chopped spinach to cover the entire meat mixture.

Taking the foil from the bottom, start to lift the "rectangle" to help start to ROLL the meat mixture, then carefully pull foil away and then continue until entire roll is completed.

Place turkey rolled-up loaf into a baking pan and bake 350^F for 1 hour and remove when browned--let rest a bit, then slice (you will see colorful green spiral in center of loaf)..This recipe can also be frozen to take out when needed to be eaten in slices. (You may also serve a small portion of sauce over each cooked slice for added flavor!)

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November 7, 20100 found this helpful


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

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



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)



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!



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.



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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August 9, 20080 found this helpful

Carol, Thanks for the Best Beefaroni recipe. I like to share with neighbors and friends and this looks really good AND easy. Will try it soon.GG Hugs,Vi

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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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May 1, 20080 found this helpful

How much Brown Sugar?

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November 28, 2012 Flag
0 found this helpful

This is a great one-dish meal! Inexpensive to make!

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