The most budget friendly meal is to go through your pantry and freezer to make use of the things you have.
Baked Potato Bar. Bake some potatoes, add butter and whatever other ingredients you have on hand: broccoli, cheese, bacon bits, garlic salt, parsley, etc.
Chicken Soup: Buy inexpensive cuts of chicken or a whole chicken if you can afford it. Put the chicken into a big pot of water and bring to a boil. Then turn it down and simmer until well cooked. remove the skin and bones, then chop the meat and put it back into the water. Add whatever vegetables you have on hand. Add salt and pepper, onions (real or dehydrated). Cook until heated through. If you have bisquick or flour on hand, you can add dumplings and a spot of milk (powdered or regular) to add a little creaminess. You can also add pasta or egg noodles.
Spaghetti and Sauce. Add ground beef to the sauce if you have any. Include applesauce or salad.
Burritos. Buy Tortilla shells, refried beans, cheese (shred your own if it is cheaper).
Macaroni and Cheese.
Breakfast for dinner: Homemade pancakes, biscuits, eggs, fruit, buttered toast, etc.
Beef Stroganhoff-ish: Brown 1 lb.of ground beef, add a can of mushroom soup, and milk for creaminess. Pour over cooked egg noodles. Spice as you like it. I just use salt and pepper.
Tuna casserole : 1-2 cans of tuna, cooked rice, cream of chicken soup, chopped onions and celery (sauted in olive oil or butter), cooked broccoli (optional). Bake until it sets up at 350 around 30 minutes.Top with a small amount of cheese if on hand.
You can also cut back the portions sizes of your more expensive foods and still serve them. For example, for our family of six I will sometimes make a pasta as a main dish (like mac and cheese) and take a couple of chicken breasts, bake them and cut them into slices. Everyone takes a slice or two instead of getting a whole chicken breast. If you have plenty of healthy side dishes, you can stretch your money a bit. Some healthy side dishes include: frozen vegetables, homemade bread, applesauce, sliced apples, even cooked apples.
Here are some of the ideas sent in by our readers:
Macaroni and Cheese Stroganoff1 lb ground beefOnion, choppedJar of mushroomsBox of family size Macaroni and CheeseSour CreamCook Macaroni and Cheese according to directions on the box and prepare. Brown onion and mushrooms, add ground beef and brown. Mix with Macaroni and Cheese. Add and mix Sour Cream. Serve with bread.Takes less than 30 minutes and feeds 4-6 depending on portion size.– Jill Jones—
Hello Malia,This is just a quick note in response to the low-cost meal idea. I have found that leaving out ingredients can also leave you with a delicious meal, thus, less spent equals save more. Recently I made sauce-less spaghetti. The very thin noodles worked best with enough ground meat to flavor. If you leave a small amount of oil it turns out nicely. I’m sure any oil or butter would work well for the moisture.Then add some parmesan cheese and a dash of salt.Thanks for your helpful emails and articles.Eager Reader,Amy—Our Family’s Barbecued Chicken
- 5-6 Chicken thigh and leg quarters [of course, bought on sale 🙂 ]
- salt and pepper
- 1 bottle of barbecue sauce [We use Kraft-it was on sale for .89, with a .25 coupon, so I bought several]
Wash and pat dry the chicken.
Sprinkle the salt and pepper on chicken.
Place the chicken in a prepared baking pan.
Heat oven to 350.
Place chicken in oven and cook for 45 min. – 1 hour, or until
internal temp. in chicken reaches 180 degrees.
Serve and enjoy.
This recipe is so simple and tasty, you would never guess it’s very budget friendly.
Here are some tips I have for budget friendly meals.
- Shred meat whenever possible. Shredding cooked chicken, pork, or beef can really stretch the amount you need to use per meal. I can take 2 full chicken breast, shredded, and make at least 2 meals for my family of 6!
- When using ground meat cut the amount of meat in half per recipe. Add an equal amount of well processed beans (I generally use kidney or navy beans for this) for each recipe. For example if a recipe calls for using 1 lb of ground meat, use ½ pound of ground meat and a can of beans that have been run through a food processor. This freezes well too!
- Consider meat as a side dish instead of a main component of a meal. Instead of thinking about making chicken for dinner and determining what you will have to go with it, think about what vegetables and grains you will be making and what meat would accompany that nicely.