Budget Friendly Meal Ideas

Updated on December 29, 2010
K.B. asks from West Jordan, UT
12 answers

Hi there. So, we are really on a budget when it comes to our grocery bill but I need some ideas of meals that are "cheap" and simple to make and might not taste too bad as a left-over or for lunch the next day. What do you mom's buy, fix or do when you are in a dinner pinch and only have the staples-rice, potatoes, some veggies and the basic spices? We are meat eaters too. Just need some ideas...Thanks!

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answers from Denver on

Rice, veggies, & cheese. Left-over are fine alone or can be rolled into a tortilla.

Noodles and spaghetti sauce.

With chicken, start with roast chicken with veggies & potatoes. You can do many thinsg from there...stir fry, boil the chicken to make a stock for soup, and so on...

Bags of frozen mixed veggies are good in the winter, easy to steam or sautee.

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answers from New York on

When pork roast is on sale, I make pulled pork in the crock pot...Get the cheapest pork roast you can find. Throw it in the crock pot on a bed of onions, add a single serving bottle of Root Beer, splurge the $1 for a bottle of Jones brand. Its doesnt have corn syrup and it taste so much better. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low. (I cook it overnight) Drain the root beer, shred to bits and add your favorite BBQ sauce. Simmer for another hour or so. Get the cheap-o hamburger buns, serve with a can of baked beans. And thats dinner. I spend about $8 on the roast, and it will feed us for a few days.

Taco are cheap. Ground turkey meat, taco kit, lettuce, tomato, cheese. Done.

Get a pound of bacon, and the next day have BLT sandwiches with the lettuce, tomato and cheese leftover from the day before. Done.

Homemade pancakes are a snap using staples in your pantry. Add sprinkles, choco chips, or frozen fruit to jazz it up. Oh and serve with the Bacon left over from the day before BLT sandwiches. Here is our favorite recipe: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/good-old-fashioned-pancakes...

Chicken soup is easy and cheap. Use chicken thighs, they are way cheaper and have more flavor. I only like white meat, but in chicken soup dark meat is acceptable. Carrots and Celery are cheap enough. Throw in a zucchini, or some baby spinach for some variety. Add a can of tomatoes to really make it yummy.

I never buy jar sauce. You can make your own with a can of tomatoes and some seasonings from your spice rack. Add some mushrooms one day, maybe some sausage another time. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Grab a package of ground turkey and have meatball grinders with your homemade sauce, the next day.

Keep the staples in your pantry and have fun in the kitchen! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Casseroles and crock pot recipes can be cheap and they last a day or two usually. Check out Kraft websites for lots of casserole recipes as well as recipes that only require a few ingredients. Chili is a good one as well as soups. You can always add a salad or rolls or a small sandwich to finish it off. My friend makes a killer pulled pork and just adds the pork and 1 can root beer into the crock pot and lets it cook all day. Then she drains the liquid, shreds the pork and mixes in one bottle of bbq sauce. Serve that with some buns and mac and cheese and voila! For the ingredients you mentioned, I don't usually get too fancy...I might just bake the chicken and add the others as sides. You coudl also do stir fry. I sometimes will pound out the chicken breasts and stuff them with our random ingredients for flare! Most of the time it tastes pretty good! Ha! I marinate a lot of things in salad dressing too, it's cheaper and always on hand instead of buying separate marinades. You can fix potatoes lots of ways, so get creative there too! Adding a little cheese makes it taste better and add pasta to make it a meal!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

One thing I love to do is take cooked rice, some cans of cream of chicken soup and some fresh veggies (usu zucchini but you can do bell beppers, mushroom, carrots, etc) and just stick it in the crock pot on low. If you have a chicken breast or two to cut up into it even better but if you don't it is still good and filling! We have found that since budgeting ourselves, we just make the veggie or grain the "main event" instead of the meat. Like we will do a big pan of fried rice with peas, carrots, eggs, brown rice, soy sauce and seasonings, and then just cut up 2 frozen chicken breast halves and it is enough for all 5 of us. Potatos are super cheap so we do a lot of different potato recipes - stuffed baked are good for dinners and again you can use just a little meat and more veggies/cheese etc. I know there are a lot of cheap options with beef but we aren't red meat eaters so I can't take advantage of those lol. Good luck, it was hard for us to do meals on a tight budget at first but you will get used to it! :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

One of the things I absolutely LOVE, but it needs to be made
earlier in the month (before you run out of money),
is (what some people call) Johnny Marzetti, in which
there's crumbled up hamburger, AND NOODLES!! and canned tomatoes and canned corn and (possibly) chopped up celery and onions and maybe
other small frozen or canned vegetables and maybe cheese.
I can eat this hot or cold and haven't made it for years
but your question reminded me of it.

Do you eat canned baked beans? Or maybe make baked beans
every so often? Something I remember from my childhood
was a bowl of baked beans with sliced up pieces of hot dogs mixed in.

Depending on your kids' ages and willingness to try new things . . . .
If I have some cooked chicken (again assuming before you have run out of money), I will do one or another of the following:
Make a green salad with various veggies and chunks of chicken,
Make tacos with beans and chicken,
Make vegetable or tomato soup with pieces of chicken,
There might be some food pantry resources in your area.
One doesn't need to be at the poverty level
and, sometimes, one doesn't need to demonstrate income
to be eligible.
And/or see if there are any food co-ops in your area.
You buy a share a week or two ahead
and then pick up your order when it arrives at a central location.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Our favorite cheap meal is chicken pasta

Cook a whole box of pasta
Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil or you can use butter too
Two chicken breast cooked whatever way you like cut into small chunks
A cooked bag of frozen veggies
About 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese
(freeze remaining cheese for the next time you make this)
Parmesean cheese, pepper and salt to taste

This is a house favorite. Even with our picky eater. This feeds my family of three at least 3 times for dinners and lunch.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

stir fry, stew, soup (chicken, veggie, beef), chilli, potato soup, tacos, home made pizza, pulled pork (or chicken),


answers from Salt Lake City on

We love hobo dinners. The way we make them is:
get a largish square of tin foil for each person
add chopped veggies and herbs of choice
add salt and pepper
add meat, if desired (bacon is our favorite, have also liked sausage, hamburger, shrimp)
fold up veggies in tin foil pouches and bake at 400 degrees 1 hour

We like to use: potatoes, zucchini, peppers of any kind, carrots, onions, mushrooms, pico de gallo, garlic cloves, fresh or dried herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram.

I make extras and freeze them. I like leftovers even for breakfast with a fried egg.



answers from Columbus on

Make a pot of whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, rotini, etc) & make 2x the normal amount of noodles, and set half aside. For tonight, Add meatballs or browned beef and sauce.

With the other half of the noodles, throw it and some meat of your choice (chopped ham, browned beef, leftover turkey or chicken, pepperoni, etc.), mix in tomato sauce & spices (we usually use pasta sauce or tomato sauce & Italian spices [basil, oregano, thyme, garlic]). Optional: add a small container of lowfat, small curd cottage cheese. Throw into a freezeable casserole dish and freeze. To eat, throw some cheese on top (1 to 2 cups) and/or seasoned bread crumbs. Cover and place in an unheated oven. Turn oven to 350 and let cook for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly.

We make a lot of veggie burritos. We buy the pepper & onion veggie mix for stir fries (in the freezer section of Kroger, on sale for $1 frequently). Cook 1 to 1 1/2 cups brown rice (we use instant brown rice in a pinch) until done. Set aside. Saute pepper & onions with garlic until desired doneness (we like our onions translucent, but still a little crisp). Add a can (15oz) or 1 to 1 1/2 cups of black beans (it's cheaper to buy in bulk & cook & freeze in 1 to 2 cup portions). Add a can of diced tomatoes (sometimes we cook the tomatoes & rice together & use the tomato juice as part of the rice cooking liquid). Mix all together, and sprinkle with taco seasoning to desired amount (we use 2 T, approx). Serve in burrito or taco shells with plain yogurt (in place of sour cream) and salsa and cheese. Leftovers can be made into a Mexican casserole and baked similarly to the above baked pasta.

We buy in bulk. If you don't have access to or don't want to get a membership in Costco or Sam's Club or BJ's Wholesale Club, try GFS (Gordon Food Services), which has no membership fee but sells bulk food items (they only sell food/foodservice stuff, no other misc. items like Sam's/Costco/BJ's). This is where we buy our pizza sauce ($3 for a giant can, which I split up & freeze in normal pizza size portions), whole wheat pasta, pizza shells, sliced & shredded cheese (both freeze well), etc.

Also, check out the local ethnic grocery stores: You can often buy beans, rice, and other other items cheaper here. The local Somali grocer has 4# bags of black beans for $5, and it cups up to about 16 cups, which is a huge savings over the cans of beans. You can cook them in a crockpot, too, which is super easy. Also, the ethnic groceries, especially Indian, has "ready meals" which are sauce packets to go over rice for $1 or $1.50 each, and these are fun to eat as something different; we use 2 sauce packets for 4 people, over 4 to 6 cups cooked rice.



answers from Phoenix on

Try out e-mealz.com They send you recipes and grocery store list for $5 a month. You never have to think about what to make or dreaded grocery shopping. Should be about $85 a week for a family of 4.



answers from Chicago on

at least twice each week make a big pc of meat. here are a couple examples

pot roast I usually buy a 4-6 lb roast. it is a roast the first night. left overs the second night and then soup later in the week. So 3 dinners out of one pc of meat.

Baked chicken breasts I bake them in the oven or throw them in the crock pot we have that the first night. then the extra gets made into fajita's or chicken tacos or sandwiches, a ham can be baked for the first night then the extra chopped up and thrown into ziplocks. then pulled out for casseroles, egg dishes or sandwichs. or soups. if you want recipes for any of those let me know. good luck



answers from Eugene on

I don't know why - but a taco salad sounds really good.....I was just thinking about how inexpensive it would be.

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