Have you seen that image going around on Facebook groups? The one where it states “you have $20 and 2 hours to make a meal for 6 people, what do you make?”
Did you know that there are people who respond stating that they can’t do it? Some stated it’s impossible, it’s too hard, or that is when they’d simply give up and run to a food pantry for help and assistance. Crazy, right?
If you’ve ever been too poor to afford food and wondered where your next meal would come from, you know just how precious money is and with any luck, you know how to stretch it further than anyone else you know.
If you’re on government assistance such as EBT food benefits, you may know how temperamental it can be and how to get the most from it month to month despite the chances of it not being there or the approved amount lessening as time goes on.
[Related] Articles about EBT:
- EBT perks you didn’t know existed
- How to stretch your food stamps to last all month
- What can you buy with EBT?
Back to the cheap family meals
Consider me a little triggered by this Facebook meme as I am pretty accustomed to feeding cheap family meals to my household. Giving my family struggle meals here and there to stretch a budget is a pretty common occurrence.
Larger families are known for their frugal ways, and can often find ways to feed their entire brood of kids for $10 or less. This means that with this $10 extra, they’d no doubt have room to offer a nice dessert or drinks option to the table.
While some families drop out of the race by stating that they’d just grab a cheap family meal deal from Little Ceasar’s pizza, others actually put real thought into the dinner ideas. Heck, some people can make an entire Thanksgiving feast for that amount!
[Related] How to Host Thanksgiving on a Budget
Check out these frugal dinner ideas!
Spaghetti, green salad, garlic bread and ice cream sundaes for dessert
This can be made using mostly Dollar Tree ingredients (the only exception being the salad) and even with all of that, there would still be money leftover!
Chicken chow mein, rice, and chocolate cake
One of my favorite ways to make chow mein is by cooking up the noodles from those Ramen packets or some fresh Yakisoba noodles. Then I add in enough soy sauce, mixed veggies and cubed chicken to make it tasty. It’s a cheap family meal that can make enough servings to last a few days if I make it in a large enough pot!
Hotdogs, chips, coleslaw, and popsicles
I think the most expensive part of this dinner would actually be the coleslaw, everything else is incredibly cheap. Together they can form a great frugal summer meal!
Goulash with French bread, spinach salad, and ice cream
I didn’t know about goulash until I met my husband. According to him, it’s as simple as making spaghetti with meat, but instead of using regular noodles, you use elbow-shaped. He loves it and so does my budget.
Chicken noodle soup, rolls, Bundt cake
homemade chicken noodle soup is amazing! Even better if you have your own herbs growing. When I make homemade chicken noodle soup, I often toss in any half-used container of noodles already in the pantry. If there is none already open, I’ll just grab some bowtie shaped noodles and claim that it’s fancy soup.
Lasagna, garlic bread, and salad
Let me preface this by saying that some lasagnas can get incredibly expensive! Bare basic is noodles, sauce, cheese, and meat. Everything else (ricotta, cream cheese, veggies, etc is extra.) Consider your budget when it comes to assembling the ingredients or if it’s cheaper to grab that $12 family-sized freezer lasagna, save yourself some dirty dishes and effort.
Hamburger helper beef stroganoff, cornbread muffins, green beans, and an apple cobbler
This actually sounds really filling, and you can stretch the hamburger helper by adding in some of your own egg noodles or you can cut the costs on meat by using less.
Apple cobbler can be as simple as a can of 7-up, a box of yellow cake mix and a can of apple pie filling, just layer it in a pan and bake.
Breakfast for dinner!
French toast with an egg and tater tot bake. In a 9×13 casserole pan have tater tots, scrambled egg, diced ham, crumbled bacon, or other favorite omelet toppings and bake. If there’s room in the budget, add in some fresh or frozen fruit (thaw or cook and serve over the french toast).
Cheesy Chicken & rice with buttery biscuits w/ honey and lemonade.
This one just sounds delicious. There are so many different ways to make cheesy chicken, but I think my personal favorite is actually chicken divan (which I didn’t know existed until I was 27 years old!)
Chicken n’ dumplings (for a budget-friendly time saver use dollar tree gnocchi)
Chicken and dumplings are so delicious and while you can make the dumplings with just about anything or even add any vegetables to your soup, you can also substitute the dumplings for gnocchi (available at the Dollar Tree). This can help to cut down on time and energy with dinner prep although it does mean you’re spending $1.
Sloppy joes with coleslaw and tater tots
Sloppy joes don’t need a can of Manwich, but even if they did the cost is still pretty minimal. Adding in homemade or storebought coleslaw and a bag of frozen tater tots and you have yourself a summer-time meal or one that just feels homey.
Pork chops with fried apples and onions, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts
Pork chops and apple sauce are a classic, but slicing up an apple and frying it and onion in the pan with your chops is a whole new experience that is both frugal and delicious.
Sweet potatoes are cheap when in season and can be cooked a wide range of different ways including oven-roasted, cooked on the stovetop, or sweetened with brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows like you do with yams at Thanksgiving.
A taco skillet with rice
Choosing between beef or turkey, beans, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, bell pepper or any other favorite taco topping and mixing it together with plain or flavored rice can create a “taco bowl” that is absolutely delicious.
When I do this, I make salsa rice (quick rice that subs half of the required water for salsa). This helps to fulfill the taco dreams and bring flavors together (in my opinion).
So there were several different ideas for cheap family meals that range from $20 and under, many with a nice dessert option as well!
If you need more frugal family dinners you can find more meal ideas by checking out my struggle meals post (30+ dirt cheap ideas and growing!)
If you were given $20 to feed 6 people for one meal, what would you make?
Share your cheap family meal in the comments below!
But don’t forget to share this post on Pinterest too!