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Inexpensive Meal Ideas

What are some inexpensive meal ideas that your family enjoys?


Pancakes for Dinner

Serve pancakes for dinner every once in a while. They're cheap, and delicious! (05/11/2005)


By Joanne

Tuna and Noodles

I make Tuna and Noodles for my family. It's inexpensive and quick to make.

  • 2 Cans Tuna (not drained)
  • 1 Bag of Egg Noodles
  • 2 Cans of Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • About 1 C. Milk (I never measured)
Boil noodles. Drain. Put noodles back in pot. Add tuna, mushroom soup, and milk. Stir together. Cook for about 10 minutes, just enough to heat everything and you're done. (05/11/2005)

By luv2craft

Eggs, Home Fries and Toast

We have eggs, home fries and toast for our dinner sometimes. We like breakfast foods all day long. Another one we like is tomato soup with saltines and also grilled cheese sandwiches with that. We also love hamburger gravy over pulled apart home baked bread. Add salt and pepper and a few diced onions on top and yummy!! (05/11/2005)

By Arlene

Chicken Fried Rice and Eggrolls

I buy frozen eggrolls which are not really inexpensive, but a package goes a long way if serving just a couple as a side to your Chicken Fried Rice. I am a "throw it together and taste it" kind of cook most of the time. So I don't have a real recipe. When I make fried rice, I start with a couple tablespoons of Sesame Seed Oil, and a couple tablespoons of light olive oil in a pretty large skillet. Take a package of green onions, and snip them with a kitchen shears. Use the whole green onions. Add these to the skillet. Then add about 3-4 cups of cooked rice. This can be just cooked or leftover cold rice.


Stir until it loses that sticky texture that rice has. Add about 1/2 cup of frozen peas and a carrot, shredded. Let this cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beat two eggs with a fork and push the rice to one side of the pan. Pour the eggs in the pan and stir briskly with a fork as they cook. Gradually stir the rice into the egg mixture until it is cooked and mixed through. Add cooked chicken and continue to heat until chicken is heated.Add salt and pepper to taste. You could use beef, pork, shrimp or none of the above as it is good even without meat or chicken.

I actually make about triple this amount, and then freeze the leftovers in quart size Ziplock bags. Fill the bags, then press the contents flat pressing out as much air as possible. Seal and freeze on cookie sheets. When they are frozen, the flat packages are easy to store in the freezer, and by pressing most of the air out, they won't freezer burn. Just thaw and reheat in your skillet when ready. You can add the meat when you reheat if you like. Green tea will complete the meal. (05/12/2005)


By Harlean

Sloppy Joes

A quick cheap entree we have is sloppy joes. In our area, Albertson's grocery store has 10 items for $10 almost every week or so. Sometimes you can pick up 1 lb. rolls of ground turkey meats 10/$10., that's $1.00 each! Another item, we also can get 10/$10. is Manwich sloppy joe sauce. You can't get much cheaper than that! It's cheaper is you have coupons for the sale items. (05/12/2005)

By badwater

Tuna On Toast

I used to make this when the kids were small and time as well as money was at a premium.

  • 1 can Tuna, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 to 3/4 soup can evaporated milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Toast
Saute onion and green pepper in oil until tender and onion is transparent. Add tuna, salt and pepper. Mix well. Blend soup and milk. Add to tuna and bend well. Cook on med. to low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve over toast. Covers 6-8 toast pieces and Tuna sauce ingredients can be doubled.

Delicious! (05/12/2005)

By nolasandy

Pseudo Lasagna

When the kids were little, they loved lasagna, but it is so expensive to make. So I came up with a pseudo lasagna, and they loved it. Cook a pound of ground beef, add 1/2 cup chopped onions to ground beef and cook until clear. While browning the beef, boil one bag of eggs noodles and drain. Combine egg noodles with ground beef and onions, add 1 container of large curd cottage cheese, and one large can of tomato sauce. Stir together and add any spices you like (oregano, etc) (05/13/2005)

By Jackolyn Smith

Using Whole Chickens

Buying whole chickens (fryers) is way cheaper than parts and you can make chicken and dumplings one night, then have leftovers over mashed potatoes the next night. Very cheap to do this. (05/13/2005)

By Monika Bigelow

Comfort Food

From growing up being the oldest of 5 kids, I can give you some ideas that my mom used. First, Chicken stew with dumplings, I am not fond of dumplings, so I made a chicken stew and put dumplings in it. I ate the stew and the kids loved the dumplings.


Also, chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes. Fattening, I know, but oh, so comforting (as was the beef and noodles over mashed potatoes)
Then she would open and drain a few cans of hominy, chop up some bacon, fry the bacon out, get rid of most of the bacon grease, then dice an onion and fry it a bit, then added the hominy and fry all together with lots of salt and pepper. Fry it until the hominy is a bit crusty and then devour it. Very good.
One of my own recipes also has a base of bacon. Same thing as above, dice it and then render it. Get rid of most of the grease, then fry a diced onion in the bacon grease until translucent. Meanwhile, have a pot of water on cooking the amount of spaghetti your family will eat. After the spaghetti is cooked to your liking, drain it. Put it back in the pot. In a separate bowl have ready 4 eggs and 1/2 c parmesan cheese. Once the spaghetti is back in the pot, put in the bacon and onions, then the eggs and cheese. Swirl in around the pot over heat until the eggs are cooked. (At this point you could put in some drained and heated peas if you want). Now you have a spaghetti carbonara on the cheap. It is a good meal, too.


You could add garlic bread to the above and a salad if you like. Make the garlic bread out of hot dog buns that you have purchased at the day old bread store. Just spread them with margarine, sprinkle with garlic, onion powder and salt, then parmesan cheese and toast under the broiler.

Another inexpensive meal is stroganoff. Buy minute steaks, usually not expensive and for 3 people, you only need 2 minute steaks. Slice in 1/2 inch strips, cook in a skillet with 2T oil, (1 if you are using teflon skillets) until brown, add a diced onion, cook till softened. Boil as many noodles as needed, then add to the skillet, 2T worchestshire sauce, 2T catsup, 1 can of mushrooms, broth and all, one can of mushroom soup and 8oz of sour cream. slowly cook, but do not boil, pour over noodles, add a vegetable and another inexpensive meal is born.

You should also learn how to cook from scratch, get cookbooks that will teach you how to make things from scratch, that is the cheapest way to cook.

Good Luck! (05/14/2005)

By jaxi3

French Toast

French toast is cheap. Another idea is Cream of Mushroom soup thinned with half can water or milk, heated and poured over toast. Optional sliced boiled egg. Another idea is dried beans cooked plain or made into soup, with ham bone or bacon. Split pea soup too. Tomato sandwiches in summer. Chipped ham bar be que sandwiches. Fried egg sandwich with or without tomato. Egg salad sandwiches. Stewed tomatoes with bread and little sugar. Scalloped potatoes are good too. Salmon patties or salmon loaf. (05/14/2005)


Chipped Ham

I live in Western Pennsylvania, we have a lunch meat in our area called chipped ham, I guess it is like spiced loaf ham, formed ham. If you can't get chipped ham, try cheep boiled ham. I just got chipped ham for $1.39 lb. Chipped ham refers to the thickness of the ham which is as thin as you can get it.

Chop 1 to 2 lbs ham in 1 to 2 inch pieces, heat in some water, add instant onion or fine chopped onion till cooked. Optional is relish or sweet relish liquid to taste (small amount). Also optional is ground clove (very, very little). When everything is heated add part of a bottle of ketchup, more or less to taste. Also add water if needed.

The ingredients are:

  • Chipped ham
  • water
  • onion
  • relish or vinegar
  • ground clove
  • catsup
  • more water if needed
  • serve on buns.
I use all these ingredients. Some people use BBQ sauce, but I like this much better. (05/16/2005)


Soup, Sandwiches and Pizza

During ball season I am always needing quick and easy things to fix for the kids. Soup and sandwiches are always good, chili dogs and chips and homemade pizza (seems like it would take a long time, but I've been able to make it quickly and a lot less expensive than I thought it would be). (05/16/2005)

Tater Tot Casserole

I make tater tot casserole which is great as leftovers the next day.

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 C. milk
  • Half a bag of Tater Tots
Brown ground beef, drain. Put back in pan with Cream of Mushroom soup and milk and heat until warm. Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a casserole dish put ground beef mixture and place Tater Tots on top until covered. Bake half an hour. Serve with vegetable and rolls for a quick and easy meal! (05/19/2005)

By Amber


This is my sister Cathy's famous recipe. Very inexpensive and tasty. It only messes up one dutch oven.

Cut up a bag of bacon into bite sized pieces. Fry your bacon to your own tastes. Remove bacon and set aside. Fill pan half full of water on top of bacon drippings and bring to a boil.

Then add:

  • 1 bag of elbow macaroni .
  • Boil till macaroni is done.
  • Drain off all liquid.
Add back into pan:
  • one can of whole tomatoes
    (pierce the tomatoes so that the tomato juice blends into the macaroni)
  • bacon pieces
  • 1 can of tomato sauce.
  • Salt and Pepper

Leave on burner until tomato mixture is hot.

This is really good served with cooked greens and corn bread. (05/21/2005)

By Laura

Mince and Pasta

One my partner came up with:

Fry up about 500g of mince. Add frozen peas and corn and whatever other veggies you like. Then add a basic spaghetti sauce or a tin of diced tomatoes and herbs.
Stir in cooked pasta. It's enough for 6-8 people any leftovers can be frozen. (06/09/2005)

By catwoman


Here's a great one I tried when trying to cut corners. Take 1/2 wheat Pita bread and stuff with pastrami and swiss cheese. Put in Microwave for 15 seconds. Whalaaaaaa and it's so yummy.

By Cas

Yummy Chicken

Boil any type of chicken drain and shred with fingers. Add about quarter cup water let soak for a few minutes on medium high. Then put a whole tomato and 3 quarters of a med onion and a break off piece of garlic in the blender with a bit more water (a quarter cup) and blend away until smooth. Then add to chicken water. Let it lightly boil for about 10-15 minutes just so the flavor can set in chicken. Add as much salt as you wish put in piping hot tortillas and you have yourself a meal in that is less than five dollars and all you have to clean is the pan you cooked the chicken in and a blender. It goes great with tabasco sauce. A great cheap meal extender for this one is to add rice. (06/21/2005)

By butterfly925

Lazy Day Casserole

My daughter loves this. You can use any spaghetti sauce, but we think it's best with the mushroom & ripe olive variety.

  • One small box elbow macaroni (cooked)
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 jar Classico mushroom & ripe olive spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
Brown the beef in a large fry pan, then drain the grease. Add the spaghetti sauce and heat until bubbly. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well to combine.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top, then put the lid on and heat until the cheese melts.

By SusannL


Cook some Rigatoni noodles according to package directions, Add a can of tuna, add some Hellmans (and it's important to use Hellman's brand), and some Tony Chachere cajun seasoning to taste. Leave in the fridge for a couple hours (the longer you leave it in the fridge, the better it tastes) and that's it! It's so yummy! (01/26/2006)

By Rachel

Pork N Beans

  • 1 package hot dogs (any brand)
  • 1 can baked beans (I like the Busch brand best especially the kind w/ brown sugar in it)
  • about 5 slices of bacon
preheat oven to 350.
Cook bacon ahead of time (microwave 5min).
Crumble bacon.
Cut up hotdogs.
Place beans, bacon and dogs in a oven dish cook until warm.

You can also add other things to this (cheese,brown sugar, ect) YUMMY!! (05/04/2006)

By Ashley

Homemade Hamburger Helper

I make homemade hamburger helper. All you do is cook a pound of hamburger meat in pan, drain off grease, set aside. Cook any kind of macaroni that has the cheese packet with it. we like kraft. Then drain , mix in the cheese sauce, meat, and some ketchup, however much you want, and thats it! (05/05/2006)

By Caroline

Quick Spaghetti

I make "Quick Spaghetti" when I am in a big hurry. You can make as much as you need, and is extremely cheap.

  • 1 Can Tomato Soup
  • 1 Can Tomato Sauce (small can)
  • Salt / Pepper To Taste (I like it with lots of pepper)
  • Pack Spaghetti Noodles
Put the soup and sauce in a small saucepan, and heat up. Add salt and pepper. (Sometimes I add parmesan cheese and garlic powder for extra flavor.) Boil your noodles according to package. Serve. This is my mom's recipe and it got us through some pretty thin times, and it's still a favorite! (06/05/2006)

By Reece

Lazy Day Chinese/Shepherds Pie

Very quick and yummy... I call it "Lazy Day Chinese/Shepherds pie" (whichever you call it).

  • For quickness, we use instant potatoes
  • Hamburger
  • cream corn
Cook up your hamburger, layer it on the bottom of a deep casserole (or oven useable pan) on top of the hamburger add a can of cream corn and on top of that add the (pre-made) instant potatoes...which you can make in the microwave! Heat in the oven until the top is browned. DONE!

Quick and easy, my kids love it! (08/28/2006)

By Annmarie

Potatoes And Hamburger

Dice up some potatoes.
Add some onion.
Fry and drain some hamburger.
A can of mushroom soup.
Add a bit of garlic salt & pepper.
Stir all together and serve on toast or with butter bread. (08/28/2006)

By Sharon

Noodles and Eggs

Boil some elbow noodles, when done, drain and set aside. Scramble some eggs on medium heat in some butter. When eggs are done add a little more butter and the noodles to the eggs, add salt and pepper and a slice or two of cheese cook on low until cheese is melted. Very good and cheap (09/02/2006)

By monica


  • Whatever your favorite pasta is
  • cottage cheese
  • dried oregano
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
Mix the cottage cheese, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper and either heat in the microwave or in a skillet. When noodles are done place everything in the skillet to heat up a bit. If you don't want to do the "skillet thing" the heat from the pasta may be enough to melt the cottage cheese or you could just nuke for a minute or two. (09/03/2006)

By Vicky

French Fry Casserole

  • 3 cans generic canned rolls
  • About 10-15 eggs
  • Chopped ham
  • Shredded cheese
  • French Fries/Hashbrowns

Press the rolls into the bottom of a casserole dish; as my family likes to eat I make a bigger pan =D

Cover with a thin layer of shredded cheese, then crumble french fries or add hasbrowns.
Place more cheese on top.

Beat eggs with a small amount of milk, if you like them that way, and pour on top of the rolls/cheese and potatoes. Add ham to the top and then more cheese.

Bake at 400 until the eggs are cooked, about 20 minutes I'd say. Add more cheese, bake long enough to melt and there you go!

It's cheap, it's delicious, and it lasts! (12/13/2006)

By Shanon S

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