It doesn’t matter if it’s summertime and the kids are raising your grocery budget with their endless eating habits or if it’s winter and you have to cut costs on food because of the holidays and electric bills rising. Sometimes, dirt cheap meals are just a vital part of your meal plan to help keep everyone fed and the bills paid.
No matter how you choose to pay for the meals, it’s always helpful to stretch a grocery budget. Cash, debit, credit or even food stamp benefits are all just forms of payment and when you’re trying to feed a family on a budget, it doesn’t make much of a difference as to which one you choose.
Finding inexpensive meals for large groups can be a rather daunting task.
The more mouths you have to feed, the more you have to buy, prep, and cook. Feeding a large family on a tight budget can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. I’m sharing some dirt cheap meals that you can make in your own home to prepare for your family.
Whether you are trying to stretch an entire monthly allotment of food stamps or have no money to eat and are trying to squeeze the most out of the pocket change left in your wallet, you’re sure to find a few ideas in this list below!
Spaghetti is a staple cheap food that is used a lot! You can make it as basic as a can of sauce and a package of noodles, and with both of those items being available at your local Dollar Tree, you can feed your family for $2.
Chili over Spaghetti Noodles
Placing your family’s favorite chili over the top of spaghetti (or any kind of noodle) is a very filling and delicious meal. Adding hotdogs can make it fun and turn it into a completely new dish.
Pancakes are a great cheap meal idea. Kids (and adults) love to eat a full breakfast for dinner! Not only that but pancakes are incredibly versatile. You can make them flourless with just two bananas and an egg- that’s crazy!
Fried Kielbasa and Rice
Kielbasa sausage is cheap meat from your store and found near the hotdogs and breakfast sausages. Slice it up into coins, and fry it with some onion and cabbage until the veggies are soft. Then serve it over rice (or mashed potatoes).
When you think of fried rice, you could easily be thinking about fried rice from your favorite Chinese food restaurant. Making it at home is honestly a lot cheaper and easier to do. A great idea to make this dish even cheaper is to use leftover rice from the dinner before (older cooked rice always turns out better than the freshly cooked rice) and mixing it with whatever veggies and meats you have on hand. You don’t need much of anything, just add soy sauce and a scrambled egg and it is good to go. Making it a quick meal to make as well.
Beans and Rice
With there being so many different beans and rice recipes out there, you are sure to have an endless supply of options. If you have ever heard a Dave Ramsey podcast, you’ve probably heard the term “beans and rice budget” used a few times. Making it a literal thing could be the dirt-cheap meal your family needs
Bean Chili Over Rice
Bean chili can be homemade in large batches or bought from a can or the freezer section of your grocery store. Eating it on its own, over hot dogs or french fries is a pretty good idea, but have you ever tried serving it over white rice or a baked potato? Not only are those ideas dirt cheap, but they are also incredibly delicious!
Poor Man’s Stroganoff
Using ground meat like hamburger or ground turkey, brown it and drain as usual. Mix with a can of cream of mushroom soup (or make your own) and then serve it over egg noodles. You can bet that any food labeled “poor mans food” is going to be good for your budget.
This dish is made with lentils rice onions and spices. It’s not only cheap, but it also stretches a lot!
Mexican Pork Chops with a side of Black Beans and Rice
Pork chops are incredibly cheap compared to other types of meat (especially if you get the bone-in variety!) Add some cheap side dishes and you’re good to go!
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Cheap lunch idea or sandwiches for dinner- cold sandwiches make for a delicious dinner when the weather is too hot to cook!
Other sandwich ideas:
- Fried egg sandwiches
- Grilled cheese
- Tuna melt
- Egg salad
- Peanut butter and banana
Chicken and Potatoes
Look through your store’s grocery ads, or markdown sections looking for the best deal on chicken. Whichever part is the cheapest, use for this meal- If chicken quarters or drumsticks are the cheapest, lay them and some seasoned diced potatoes on a baking sheet and cook together until done. If chicken breasts are the cheapest, dice it all up and cook in a skillet on the stovetop.
[Related] Everything you need to know about saving money on meat
Soups are one of my favorite dirt cheap meals to make during fall/winter/soup weather. You can turn easily leftover chicken or turkey into the soup. Adding in as many veggies or noodles as you want and with soup bases and your own mix of seasonings, it’s going to turn out so much better than anything you could get from a can. And it will be cheaper too!
Different soup ideas:
- Tortilla soup
- Potato soup
- Ham and bean soup
- 15 bean soup
- Chicken noodle soup
- Tomato soup
- Corn soup
- Zoodle soup
- Broccoli cheese soup
- Bean and bacon soup
- Egg drop soup
Eggs and Toast
A dirt cheap breakfast idea that my husband and I love to make a few times per month. It’s literally as simple as it sounds. Just make some toast, and butter it (if you want to) and then add a scrambled or fried egg over the top.
Using whatever vegetables are in season and cheap, roast them together and then top it off with a fried egg or two on top.
Cabbage and Noodles
Mixing a head of cabbage with cooked egg noodles in a large pot on the stove is not only cheap but filling. Add in some garlic, salt, and pepper and you’re good to go.
Sloppy joes can be made very cheap. In fact, you don’t even need to buy a can of Manwich to put it together. You can use ketchup and mustard (it’s practically the same thing). By adding in diced onions, veggies or canned beans, you can stretch it even further!
Making baked potatoes for dinner is not only cheap but easy too! You can boil potatoes, microwave them or bake them in the oven depending on which method you prefer.
This is something that I didn’t even realize was a thing until I was an adult and living on my own. It’s cooked noodles mixed with butter and seasonings. Add a side salad and if you have any shredded chicken on hand you can mix that into the noodles too.
Crescent Roll Hot Dogs
With hotdogs being as cheap as they are, you can have a family meal for under $5 if you shop sales. Unroll some canned crescent rolls and roll up hotdogs and bake.
I realize some people might think I’m crazy, but a cold bowl of your favorite cereal on a hot summer day is pretty great. You can make it more fun for kids by offering up different milk flavors (using chocolate or strawberry ice cream syrups) and allowing them to mix and match cereals. – You can use the latter idea for helping to get rid of the half-used bags of cereals in your pantry! Win-Win.
Sheet Pan Chicken Dinner
Placing any kind of starch +veggie+ chicken breasts and seasoning on a sheet pan and cooking is a great way to have dinner done with minimal prep and dirty dishes involved.
Omelets for dinner sounds like a real winner to me! You can fill it up with whatever leftover veggies and meats you may have on hand, making it cheap and filling.
Roasts or Hams
Stick with me here, pork roast shoulders and bone-in hams are often found for cheap. Buying one and doing a nice big dinner on Sunday might cost a little more, but you can stretch the meat even further throughout the week.
- Hambone soup
- Ham and eggs
- Shredded BBQ pork sandwiches
- Taquitos or enchiladas using corn tortillas and shredded pork
- Any number of casseroles
Tuna Noodle Casserole
This is my husband’s favorite dish. A can of sweet peas, a can of cream of mushroom soup, some tuna, and cooked egg noodles. There are recipes out there for this dish as a hot cooked meal or served cold.
Oatmeal with Fruit
Another cheap breakfast idea is oatmeal, and what makes it even better is that there are so many different recipes for overnight oatmeal so you can even meal prep it and wake up to a ready-to-eat meal!
Sweet Potato Hash
Mixing diced sweet potato with ground turkey, egg, green bell pepper and onion can give you a delicious and hearty meal. Topping it with cheese is an extra step that is completely optional.
Salisbury Steak and Egg Noodles
Buying a store-bought and family size container of Salisbury steak from your grocery stores freezer section or making your own using hamburger patties and then serving over egg noodles is another great idea.
When you get tired of the idea of spaghetti, another great alternative is baked pasta- which is basically the same thing. The difference makes it more enjoyable though, like a lasagna. This is also a great way to repurpose leftover spaghetti.
Jambalaya and Smoked Sausage
Getting a box of dirty rice mix or Jumbalaya and mixing it with smoked sausage and a can of diced tomatoes can be a one-pot meal for your family.
Ramen Noodles and Chicken
Mixing chicken ramen with canned chicken or any diced/shredded chicken you might have on hand and then adding in some peas or frozen veggies can make your own version of chow mein.
Ramen Noodles with Beef
Doing the same thing with ramen noodles as listed above, but swap out the chicken for beef or pork.
One of the cheapest meals you can make for a family is SOS. It’s gravy with mixed any meat you have on hand and then served over toast, potatoes or anything you want.
Mix salsa, cooked white rice, corn, beans, taco meat and/or anything you think you’d enjoy or happen to have on hand. It’s filling, makes a bunch and pretty cheap!
Sweet Beef Over Rice
This is a great one- browning ground beef or ground turkey, mix with a little soy sauce and brown sugar and then serve over rice with green onions. It’s delicious and a nice change of pace from other dinners.
Sausage, Squash, and Onions
In a pan, stir-fry together some sausage, squash (like acorn or butternut) and onions. It tastes delicious and is packed with flavor. You can also substitute the squash for bell peppers for a different twist.
Dirt cheap meals can be made even more affordable when you utilize foods already in your home.
Doing a pantry challenge or looking for foods that you can eat when you have no money are all great ways to find more suggested meal ideas for your family.
Check out this post with 98 ways to repurpose leftovers into new meals!
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