40+ Dirt Cheap Meals (w/ meal plan!) to Make When You’re on a Budget

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Dirt cheap meals to make when you’re broke or on a tight budget! These super cheap, low budget meals are an easy and quick way to eat at home more, so you spend less money on food.

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

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 worriedly wondered ‘what do you eat when you’re broke?’

For many households, food and groceries are their second biggest expense, after housing.

Luckily, it is also one of the easiest expenses to control. You can create a grocery budget, and use frugal meal planning tricks to spend less on food.

And by keeping some pantry staples on hand, you can feed the whole family, even when hard times hit.

(And don’t worry, it’s not all ramen noodles! These are some actually delicious and filling cheap family meals for buy nights.)

How can I eat dirt cheap?

In order to eat really cheap, you need to plan ahead. Create a weekly menu and grocery list full of inexpensive, simple foods that can be used in a variety of ways.

Consider eating less meat, or stretching it with meals that stretch a pound of meat, such as spaghetti or soup.

Make as many meals as you can out of the items you already have in your pantry and freezer. Base the rest of your meals around what’s on sale at the store this week.

Bring your shopping list to the store, and refrain from buying anything that’s not on the list.

Buy the generic versions of food whenever possible, and be sure to check out the clearance or markdown sections of the grocery store for amazing deals.

Keep a running tally of how much your groceries cost as you’re shopping, so you don’t overspend.

During the week, plan to eat leftovers for another meal. Pick 1-3 meals for breakfasts and lunches, and repeat them. This simplifies the meal planning process, and means there’s less you have to buy and spend at the store.

What is the cheapest food to buy?

When grocery shopping on a tight budget, look for high protein foods and nutrient-rich veggies that can be used in many different cheap meals.

The cheapest foods to buy are:

  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Chicken thighs
  • Canned tuna
  • Ground turkey
  • Long-lasting vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, spinach, celery, and sweet potatoes
  • Inexpensive fruit, such as apples, bananas, and oranges
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Tortillas
  • Loaf of bread
  • Blocks of cheese that can be used in multiple ways

💡 Make your cheap meals even cheaper by using cash back apps!

My two favorites are Ibotta and Fetch Rewards. Simply scan your receipts after you shop, and earn cash back or free gift cards!

Use code UGY82 to receive 2000 bonus points when you download the Fetch app.

Click HERE to get a $20 welcome bonus through Ibotta! (Signing up on the app instead? Use code uwhaflc to receive your bonus.)

Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas

Here are 41 cheap dinners and frugal meals so you can feed your family on a budget.

All of these extremely cheap meals should ring in at $5 or less (with some as low as $2 dinners), 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.

Let’s check out what food to buy when you’re broke, and some cheap easy meals you can make on a budget!

This post may contain affiliate links. You can view my full disclosure policy here.

👉 Ever wish someone would just plan your meals FOR you? Grab our 6 Week Meal Plan to have six full weeks of easy dinners already planned for you (plus the corresponding shopping lists)! 

40 Super Easy, Dirt Cheap Meals to Make When You’re Broke

Breakfast (or breakfast for dinner) Ideas:

These inexpensive breakfast ideas are actually perfect anytime of day! Breakfast is some of the best cheap food to make. It doesn’t get any cheaper than eggs, potatoes, and bread!

1. 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!

2. Pancakes or Waffles

You could make them from scratch, or pick up a ‘just add water’ box mix from the store.

3. French toast

Some bread plus eggs and milk can turn into delicious french toast!

4. 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.

5. Hashbrown casserole

This recipe is quick, cheap, and easy!

6. 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.

7. 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.

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

8. Breakfast burritos

All you need for breakfast burritos is scrambled eggs and tortillas. You can add in shredded cheese, or potatoes, veggies, or whatever leftover meat you have on hand.

9. 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.

10. 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.


Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

Dirt Cheap Lunch Ideas:

Whether you pack your lunch for work, or are preparing a meal for your kiddos at home, here are some inexpensive ideas for lunch!

11. Grilled cheese 

There’s just something so satisfying about a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. Makes ya feel like a kid again, especially when paired with tomato soup!

12. 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.

13. BLT sandwich

Bread, lettuce, and tomato are certainly inexpensive, and you can buy bacon in whatever amount you want from the meat counter.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. Soup

Stock up on some cans of soup when they’re on sale for $1. They make an easy, quick lunch. Or here are 61 easy and delicious soups you can make in your slow cooker!

17. Macaroni and cheese

You can prepare the boxed or frozen kind, or make a super easy 3-ingredient mac ‘n’ cheese like this one.

18. Wrap

Can you tell that tortillas are a staple ingredient in many of my favorite dirt cheap meals? You can make a wrap out leftovers, frozen chicken strips, or lunchmeat.

19. 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.

20. Egg, chicken, or tuna salad sandwiches

For a variation on traditional deli meat sandwiches, try making a batch of egg, chicken, or tuna salad.

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

Very Cheap Dinner Ideas:

Ever wondered what should I make for dinner with no money? Here are some ideas for cheap food to make at home for dinner.

Whether you’re feeding a large family, or just one or two, waiting at home is always far cheaper than hitting the drive thru!

21. Spaghetti

Pasta and tomato 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 and parmesan cheese if your budget allows.

22. 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.

23. Bean burritos

Since beans are one of the cheapest ingredients ever, heat up your favorite kind of refried beans, and top with cheddar cheese and whatever else you like. Such an easy recipe!

24. Sheet pan supper

Sheet pan suppers come in many variations, but usually include chicken or sausage with potatoes and onions.

25. 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.

26. Pizza

You can make ‘homemade’ pizza out of so many different things. From english muffins, bagels, garlic bread, tortillas, or pre-made pizza crust.

Related: 95 Pizza Topping Ideas to Jazz Up Homemade Pizza Night

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

27. 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!

28. 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.

29. 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.

30. 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.

31. 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.

32. Chicken Parmesan

To make an easy, ‘faux’ chicken parm, top frozen breaded chicken strips or patties with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, and bake.

33. 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.

Related: 25 Side Dishes You Can Make in Your Crockpot

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

34. 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.

35. Jambalaya

The box mix Zatarain’s is an inexpensive and simple way to enjoy jambalaya. All you need is some kielbasa and water!

36. 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!

37. Turkey Reuben Sandwiches

You can make a reuben-style sandwich with turkey lunchmeat, thousand island dressing, and sauerkraut.

38. 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!

39. 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.

40. 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.

41. Hot dogs 

When you find a sale on hot dogs over the summer, stock up! They freeze beautifully, and you can enjoy them year round.

Sample Cheap Meal Plan

Week One


Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – Oatmeal and banana

Tuesday and Thursday – Eggs and toast

Saturday and Sunday – Pancakes or egg bake, and fruit


Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – Peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwich and pretzels or fruit

Tuesday and Thursday – Tuna or egg salad sandwich

Saturday and Sunday – Grilled cheese sandwich, or cheese quesadilla


Monday – Spaghetti

Tuesday – Bean burritos

Wednesday – Perogies 

Thursday – Black bean burgers

Friday – Homemade pizza

Saturday – BBQ pulled chicken

Sunday – Leftovers

Ready to try some cheap and easy meals?

I hope this list of over 40 easy dirt cheap meals gives you some good ideas of the easiest ways to cook when you’re broke. Actually, they’re delicious meal ideas on any budget, and perfect for busy nights!

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 cheapest meals ever.

And remember, sometimes a simple meal made with staple ingredients can be truly comforting.

(Not to mention save so much money!)

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Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

Check out these 40+ easy dirt cheap meals to make when you're on a budget. Here's the cheap food to buy when you're broke!

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