Preparing Fast and Frugal Meals

A plate of macaroni and cheese.

Home cooked meals don't have to be expensive or complicated. Feed your whole family with these great recipe ideas and tips.


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Kelly Ann Butterbaugh
September 8, 2006

mac and cheeseWhen it comes to meal time the less prep time with less money is better. Hearty and healthy is the key while leaving time for family. Try two budget friendly rules for fast and frugal meals.

Make it Macaroni!

Macaroni is not only a satisfying staple, but it's easy on the grocery bill as well. With generic boxes of macaroni and cheese selling for as little as $.20 a box, it can make one of the cheapest and heartiest meals. Plus, the kids love it! If the prepackaged fare isn't to your taste, purchase a box of macaroni itself for $.50 a box and make a meal from scratch.


  1. Add a new spin to mac & cheese. Try mixing up a batch of the traditional style but toss in some extras. With a jar of salsa added, you have instant Salsa Mac. Stir in a variety of cheeses or make it with whole wheat noodles. Add broccoli for a healthy twist or extra chili for some added zest.

  2. A new tuna casserole. Make a box of macaroni and cheese as directed. Then, to it add one can of cream of celery soup, one can of tuna, and a _ cup of milk. Spread in a greased baking dish and top with shredded cheddar. Bake at 350º until heated through. Instant tuna casserole for under $3.

  3. Whip up a beef casserole. Brown 1 lb. of hamburger while boiling 7 oz. of macaroni elbows. Mix the hamburger and macaroni with _ cup of Miracle Whip and a large jar of spaghetti sauce. Heat and top with cheese or pour into a baking dish and bake.

Make it Sunny Side Up for Sundown!

Breakfast is usually a meal that's easy on the pocketbook, so why not make it for dinner instead? Often mornings are rushed and those appetizing morning meals go uncooked, opting for cold cereal instead. Keep the cereal for the mornings, and look forward to healthy breakfasts in the evenings. With some prepackaged waffle/pancake mixes and a dozen eggs the evening meal can cost less and fill more.
  1. Fold extras into an omelet. Take some time to inventory leftovers in the fridge. Have an extra tomato, pepper, or onion? Make a vegetable omelet. Leftover pizza ingredients or chipped steak? Create a pizza omelet with pepperoni, cheese, mushrooms, the works and top it with warmed pizza sauce. Try making a cheese steak omelet with leftover chipped steak, some onions, and mozzarella cheese. Anything can find its way into the folds of this favorite.

  2. Traditional ham and eggs. If you've made ham, steaks, or a meal that required one or two slices of bacon, you most likely have leftovers in the fridge. Plan for a traditional meal of eggs with a slice of meat on the side. Make ham and eggs, steak and eggs, or bacon and eggs with toast. Don't forget a nice side dish of asparagus to add some greens.

  3. The short stack, Belgian style. By using a box of pancake mix, you can prepare a stack of pancakes filled with fresh or frozen fruit. Opt for the alternative, Belgian waffles. Use the same fruits, add whipped cream, and you have a dinner and a dessert in one. These are not only filling, but they are a delicious treat for family game night.

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February 25, 2008


  • 1 large can of Sloppy Joe mix
  • 2 cans of spam, cubed small
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder or 1 whole clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper


Dice the spam small and put into a saucepan. Pour the Sloppy Joe mix and spices over the spam, cook until good and hot, about 15 minutes. When hot, serve it over elbows, or in a wheat hamburger roll, or on bread, or just by itself.

Source: It was the end of the month and needed something quick for dinner so I came up with this and my kids loved it, better than using chopped beef. We had a contest to name it. The best name won and the winner got a special prize.

By Sue from Manchester, NJ

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April 28, 2016

This is a page about cheap meal ideas for a college student. Many college students need to eat on a budget.

Pile of coins on a white plate with a knife and fork on a wooden table

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April 15, 2013

This is a page about frugal meals for one. Cooking for one is often a challenge, then add to that the need to keep costs down and you may be having difficulties maintaining a variety in your diet.

An Asian lady eating the frugal meal of ramen noodles.

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