Cheap Meal Ideas

Bronze Photo Medal for All Time! 88 Photos
November 15, 2011

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!

  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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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 969 Posts
May 22, 2018

I think you might like this dollar tree dinner I made last night. All from the Dollar Tree! I didn't have any steps as I didn't think to share till it was all done. But I have images I can share.

bowl of jambalaya dinner

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August 19, 2019

I am on several frugal and homesteading groups on FB and one of the owners alerted me to a site that offers free food, just pay S&H. It is (AKA Feeding The Children). They give away non-perishable foods, mainly pastas, rice and instant oatmeal.

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August 6, 2008

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!). Recipes include: Sausage Goulash, Impossible Vegetable Pie, Company Pasta and The Best "Beefaroni" Ever.

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Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 5,887 Posts
May 1, 2008

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.

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October 15, 2004

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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Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 5,887 Posts
November 28, 2012

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

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15 Questions

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March 31, 2009

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


March 31, 20090 found this helpful

What great meal ideas! There are also a lot of good meals, menus, and tips on I love saving money and this is a good site for information.

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April 3, 20090 found this helpful

I belong to It's a site for living a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of meals serving 4 that are under $10 (US).
I make what's called Pho' it's a Viet soup that is very easy to make. Just find Pho seasoning, make the broth with that add 1 chunked up chicken breast, rice noodles and green onion. Once it's done you add bean sprouts and Thai basil. It's a lovely soup and very filling.

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April 3, 20090 found this helpful

Fresh vegetables are less expensive if you can garden them, get them from a local farmer or farmer's market, or buy at a store that stocks only locally produced vegetables and fruit. Fresh vegetables and fruits are also what people need the most, and miss the most when they don't get them for a while.


Liven them up by varying your cooking method (boil, bake, roast, steam, stir-fry, soup, stew, slice, dice, whole), and by spending your money intelligently on spices -- even better if you can keep an herb garden in a window box or pots in the house.

Use meat as a flavoring for the vegetables, rather than as a full 1/3 of the plateful. Ground meats, or whole meats diced finely, can be spread throughout a large vegetable dish, satisfying a whole family on just half a pound. The same can be done with just a sprinkling of cheese; be sure to use a strongly flavored cheese, so that the flavor goes further and you won't need as much, parmesan and cheddar rather than mozzarella, for example.

Fiber makes you feel fuller, faster. Go for whole grains like brown rice instead of white, whole wheat instead of white bread.

Fruits are cheaper, healthier, and more satisfying than most prepared desserts, so fill your kids' lunchboxes with fruit snacks instead of cookies or muffins.


I highly recommend getting a bento box from (most are around $1.50 to $2.00 per single-tier box) and filling it in bento style: 2 ounces of protein/meat, 1/2 C starch such as rice or potato, and the rest with fresh fruit and vegetable. That's the proper proportion for a child's meal, and the proper amount as well. For an adult, pack two bento boxes, one just like the child's and the other with more fruit, for a healthy, weight-controlling lunch and snack, since adults need more food than children. In fact, do a net search on bento and see the creative, fun, healthy ways that people eat very cheaply when making bento.

Remember too that variety is the spice of life. You can serve cabbage four nights in the same week and no one will really complain, as long as you make very different meals with it. Cabbage soup, cabbage in your stir-fry or egg rolls, cabbage stuffed with rice and sauce and a little ground lamb or beef, cabbage cole slaw. Put leftovers in the freezer, or put the tiny portions in the kids' lunches, since tiny leftover portions are perfect for bento.

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April 3, 20090 found this helpful There are 10 meals that serve 4 people for under $10.00 per person and the nutritional info with each recipe.

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April 4, 20090 found this helpful

Go to for great recipes, convenience recipes and ideas for inexpensive meal preparation. I think meals made at home for $10 per person is an outrageous price and does not merit the word frugal to be attached to it. At budget101, you'll find out how to stretch every penny of your food budget while feeding your family very well and having enough leftovers for another day or seconds all around the table.


Buy generic or store brands when shopping. The savings will soothe the overstretched budget no matter what it is. Try to plant some seeds for your own garden and bring the cost of vegetables way, way down for your own use. Remember that herbs and many small plant vegetables like many pepper varieties will grow nicely in window boxes and flower pots. Save here by planting seeds rather than buying started plants. Support for your tomatoes can be as simple as a branch clipped off a tree and some old stockings to tie the stalk to the branch stuck in the ground near the tomato plant, Include a packet of seeds in every trip for groceries and keep the garden going. That will be your greatest success to bring the price of food down.

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Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 472 Feedbacks
April 4, 20090 found this helpful

One thing I like to make is called Texas Hash. Saute a chopped bell pepper and some onion; brown some diced ham. Pour into the pan some beaten eggs and scramble everything together until set. Put into hogie rolls with some cheese.


Amounts don't matter, and you can add whatever you have on hand: diced zucchini, sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. Sometimes I put sliced cheese on the roll, other times I use shredded cheese on top.

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April 4, 20091 found this helpful

I shop at a store called ALDI's and it saves me a lot of money. Their stores are clean and they have a double guarentee on thier products. If your not 100% happy they'll refund you and replace the product. Google ALDI's and search for a location near you, if you'd like.

I also have a couple of cheap meals.

1. Chili with a lid
4 cans of chili poured into a 9x13 pan, then mix up two boxes of jiffy corn bread and pour over the chili, bake on 350 until corn bread is brown and done. You can top with a little cheese if you'd like. Cost is under $5.00 (using Aldi's brands) serves 4-6


2. Ham Hash
1 bag of frozen hashbrowns partially defrosted, 8 small cans of ham spread (deviled ham?), 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbl melted butter, 1 tbl mustard, chopped onion to taste, 1 tsp horseradish to taste, salt/pepper to taste. Combine all and pour into 9x13 pan. Press down and bake uncovered at 350 for 35 min. top with cheeses of your choice. serves 4-6 Cost under $10.00

3. Taco noodle bake
1 bag egg noodles or pasta of choice cooked. 1/2 lb.- 1 lb. browned grown beef. 2 cans of tomatoe sauce. 1 packet taco seasoning. 1 lg container sour cream OR 2 packages of cream cheese (you can even use 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 cream cheese). 16 oz of shredded cheese (divided- save half for later) Mix and place in 9x13 dish. Bake for about 25 min at 325. Top w/remaining cheese and bake 5 min. serves 4-6 You can also add lettuce, olives, and tomatoes if you'd like.

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October 20, 2011

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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November 5, 2010

Does anyone have any cheap meal ideas?

By Autumn

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June 3, 2012

Anyone have any meal ideas that could stretch my £6.00 for 4 days please?

By Helen

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 31, 2009
Click to read more ideas from older posts on ThriftyFun.
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November 5, 2010

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. We have a very low budget and 2 of us are vegetarians. I am looking for new ideas. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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