Sometimes it feels like there’s more month than money. And then you remember that you still have to buy groceries! Maybe you’ve even wondered ‘what do you eat when you’re broke?’ Here are 40 dirt cheap meals you can feed your family on a budget.
All of these meals should ring in at $5 or less, depending on where you live. You can stretch your grocery budget farther if you buy the ingredients when they’re on sale. Or shop at a discount grocery store like Aldi.
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Pro-tip: Try using the Meal Planning on a Budget System to plan cheap meals like a pro!
Let’s check out what food to buy when you’re broke, and some cheap easy meals you can make on a budget!
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40 Super Easy, Dirt Cheap Meals to Make When You’re Broke
Breakfast (or breakfast for dinner) Ideas:
Eggs and toast – It doesn’t get much cheaper than a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread. I have and love this Egg Cooker. It takes all the guesswork out of cooking eggs!
Pancakes or Waffles – You could make them from scratch, or pick up a ‘just add water’ box mix from the store.
French toast – Some bread plus eggs and milk can turn into delicious french toast!
Biscuits and gravy – Biscuits can be made from simple ingredients, a mix like bisquick, or baked from a can in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. The gravy can come from a jar, a packet, or from scratch.
Hashbrown casserole – This recipe is quick, cheap, and easy!
Egg bake – An egg bake just involves whisking together eggs with whatever veggies and cheese you have on hand, and baking at 350℉ for about 40 minutes.
Scrambled egg muffins – Mix together 12 eggs with ¼ cup of milk, ¼ cup shredded cheese, and any leftover veggies or cooked meat you have. (Or make them plain without meat or veggies!) Bake in a silicone muffin pan at 350℉ for 30 minutes.
Breakfast burritos – All you need for breakfast burritos is scrambled eggs and tortillas. You can add in shredded cheese, or potatoes, veggies, or whatever you have on hand.
Potato hash – Potatoes are another extremely cheap food. Dice up a couple potatoes (I like to use this awesome chopper to dice things evenly and super fast!) Brown them in a skillet in a little oil or butter. Again, you can add in whatever veggies or cheese you have. Fried or scrambled eggs also make a nice addition.
Smoothie – Smoothies can be made from so many different ingredients. Combine whatever fruit you have with milk and/or yogurt and ice cubes in a blender like this one, for a quick, easy breakfast.
Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas:
Grilled cheese – There’s just something so satisfying about a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. Makes ya feel like a kid again!
Panini sandwiches – You can use an electric grill (like the George Foreman), panini maker, or even a waffle maker, to make a delicious hot sandwich.
BLT – Bread, lettuce, and tomato are certainly inexpensive, and you can buy bacon in whatever amount you want from the meat counter.
Quesadillas – Cooked in a similar fashion to a grilled cheese, quesadillas are so flexible! You can put almost anything inside 2 tortillas – from pizza ingredients, to bean, veggies, leftover cooked meat, or even banana and peanut butter.
Leftovers – One of the very best ways to stretch your food budget is to make sure that nothing goes to waste. Eating leftovers for lunch is a great way to save yourself time and money.
Soup – Stock up on some cans of soup when they’re on sale for $1. They make an easy, quick lunch.
Macaroni and cheese – You can prepare the boxed or frozen kind, or make a super easy 3-ingredient mac ‘n’ cheese like this one.
Wrap – Can you tell that tortillas are a staple ingredient in many dirt cheap meals? You can make a wrap out leftovers, frozen chicken strips, or lunchmeat.
Baked potatoes – It’s so easy to make baked potatoes in the microwave or slow cooker. Top it with whatever ingredients you enjoy or have on hand. They are a great way to repurpose leftovers like chili or pulled pork as toppings too.
Egg, chicken, or tuna salad sandwiches – For a variation on traditional deli meat sandwiches, try making a batch of egg, chicken, or tuna salad.
Cheap Dinner Ideas:
Spaghetti – Pasta and pasta sauce are some of the best foods to buy when you’re broke. (And stock up on when it’s on sale!) Add in some ground beef or turkey if your budget allows.
Tacos or tostadas – Tacos are another way to stretch ground beef. You can keep it simple with just meat and cheese, or top with lettuce, salsa, and sour cream if you have it.
Bean burritos – Since beans are one of the cheapest ingredients ever, heat up your favorite kind, and top with cheese and whatever else you like.
Sheet pan supper – Sheet pan suppers come in many variations, but usually include chicken or sausage with potatoes and onions.
Chili – You can make chili cheaply and easily with a pound of ground beef or turkey, a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, and any peppers or onions you have on hand.
Pizza – You can make ‘homemade’ pizza out of so many different things. From english muffins, bagels, garlic bread, tortillas, or pre-made pizza crust.
Hamburgers (or black bean burgers) – If you can find ground beef on sale for under $3 a pound, you can easily make hamburgers for under $5. If not, you can make some delicious patties out of black beans, which are always cheap. Don’t forget the buns!
3-ingredient Meatloaf Muffins – Combine a pound of ground beef with a package of stuffing mix (like Stove Top) and 1 cup of water. Divide mixture into muffin tin cups and bake at 375 ℉ for 35 minutes.
Sloppy joes – Whether you use a ready made sauce like Manwich, or make your own sauce out of ketchup and brown sugar, sloppy joes are a tasty, inexpensive option.
Goulash – You can make goulash very cheaply with ground beef, a box of elbow macaroni, and 2 cans of tomato paste. Add a splash of water to thin out the tomato paste a bit.
Ravioli – Frozen ravioli is a very affordable and easy meal to make. It just takes a few minutes to boil it, then drain and mix in some sauce.
Chicken Parmesan – To make an easy, ‘faux’ chicken parm, top frozen breaded chicken strips or patties with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, and bake.
Pierogies – You can prepare frozen pierogies a few different ways. My favorite is to saute them in a skillet in a little oil or butter and some onions. You can add in some kielbasa too, if you prefer a non-vegetarian meal.
Chicken fajitas – When chicken breasts are on sale, enjoy some easy, tasty chicken fajitas! They can be made on the stovetop, in the oven, or even in a slow cooker. If bell peppers aren’t on sale, a bag of frozen ones are such a money saver.
Jambalaya – The box mix Zatarain’s is an inexpensive and simple way to enjoy jambalaya. All you need is some kielbasa and water!
BBQ Pulled Chicken – It’s super easy to make bbq pulled chicken in the slow cooker. Combine a couple chicken breasts and a bottle of bbq sauce in your crockpot for a few hours. Shred it with a fork and serve on buns!
Turkey Reuben Sandwiches – You can make a reuben-style sandwich with turkey lunchmeat, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut.
Chicken Caesar Salad – Grill up a chicken breast or two (or use leftover chicken), and top lettuce along with some caesar dressing. The Aldi bagged caesar salad kit is delicious, just so you know!
Taco Bake – Brown some ground beef with cumin or taco seasoning, then layer it with tortillas, and cheese. Top with salsa and sour cream, if you have some.
Mexican chicken – Place a couple chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a block of cream cheese and some salsa. Cook on low 4-6 hours.
That’s a wrap!
I hope this list of over 40 dirt cheap meals gives you some ideas of what to cook when you’re broke. Actually, they’re delicious meal ideas on any budget!
Most families can make these recipes for $5 or less. For large families, it may cost a little more, but these are still some of the most inexpensive meals out there.
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What your favorite dirt cheap meals?