Cheap and Simple Meals

Updated on May 13, 2013
A.H. asks from San Antonio, TX
11 answers

My husband just switched jobs so money is a little tight right now. He's working out of town so it's just me and my son eating. I'm fixing to go grocery shopping and I'd love some dinner suggestions that are pretty simple and cheap. I'm also a big fan of my crock pot. :)

Oh and what are some healthy snack ideas?

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answers from Chicago on

We get chicken from sams (already cooked). We have it for meal 1, then I take the left overs and make chicken salad. Then I make soup for meal 3 or to go with the chicken salad. (or I make broth)

Pot roast-crock pot, meal 1, cut up left over meat (depending on amount) either make beef veggie soup, or beef strogonoff Or both..

Spagehtti Squash & saucse.. quick spagehtti.

Beans are a good meal.
Split Pea soup. .. This is one the meals I make aftre I use parts of a ham.

I try to take the bigges meal first, then break it down in to several other meals.

Ohter things I use the left overs with/for. Is pot pies.. veggie, chicken, beef, etc..

Ham, ham the first meal, then break it out for lunch meat. ham salad, omlets, & augrauten potatoes with ham... then save the bone for soup.

have fun

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm also a fan of whatever large piece of meat was on sale + whatever veg was on sale + potatoes + crock pot = dinner.

Rice, beans and pasta can fill out a meal easily.

We also do leftovers for dinner. Once a week we let the kids pick out whatever's in the fridge for dinner, as long as it's a leftover and reasonably healthy. So tonight DD might finish off her half a yogurt, add some broccoli, a partially sliced up pear and a sausage. Kids think it's fun. And breakfast for dinner is often cheap and quick. Got some bread going stale? A little milk and eggs? French toast.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

When that happens I go to my pantry. I store enough food so I always have at least three months of food on hand.

I always have macaroni or spaghetti or pasta and rice on the shelf. I bought nacho cheese sauce in 15 oz cans at the 99 cent store. Boil macaroni and drain and add the cheese sauce. Mac and cheese. Cut up a hot dog and boil with the mac. or two hotdogs. I add cut up carrots an other vegetables and still have a healthier mac and cheese.

Make a salad. I use iceberg lettuce. Then I add tomatoes and hard boiled eggs, shredded carrots, sunflower seeds, grated sharp cheddar cheese. (Sharp cheese adds an interesting flavor and texture.) If I have chicken, I fry the chicken, debone and dice the meat and add it to the salad. I let the juice cool and pour it over the salad. I add cut up avocados. It makes a very tasty salad that doesn't taste like a plain old salad . . . because it isn't. And its very healthy. Add craisins or bacon bits.

Go to for more interesting ideas.

BTW, if you are having "tight budgets" every now and then, buy grocery items when they are on sale and put them in your pantry. Then when you need to eat and don't need to spend money, go to your pantry and make dinner. By buying the grocery items when they are on sale, you eat at sale prices when every one else pays full price. This I one of the techniques I use to save. I spend less than $200 per month on groceries for my wife and me.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Meatloaf with whipped or baked potatoes a veggie and salad. Spaghetti, or any pasta with sauce. Hamburgers or turkey burgers

I make a skillet supper with ground turkey, easy and yummy:
1 lb ground turkey, 1 sweet potato or yam peeled and diced, celery and onion, brussel sprouts halved but could also add green beans or peas, a handful of dried cranberries, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, let cook until done add a can of cream of mushroom or celery soup or make a simple white sauce add milk if needed. Can be stretched with cooked rice added, I usually make 3/4 cup rice in 1 1/2 cup water let cook ad when done add to skillet.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I live on Tacos at present.

Pulled pork/ shrimp
Corn (soft) tortillas

Slow cooker pulled pork (slice 1"deep 1" apart allover, rub with sea salt, add a tablespoon of liquid smoke... Cook until shreds... Pour out water, shred, and Baggie up in 1/2 pounds for the freezer).

* I usually cut about a pound off the shoulder before slow cooking the rest, chop FINE, season, sear, and freeze for making burritos

Shrimp is bagged & frozen already, just takes a minute under cold water to defrost 5 and then sear up. OR dip in coconut milk batter, roll in coconut, fry & refreeze (I have no idea why coconut shrimp freezer well, but it does when other cooked shrimp doesn't). Both seared shrimp & coconut shrimp make great tacos.

- Double tortilla
- About 2Tbs of meat ((or 2-3 shrimp))
- big pinch of cilantro
- 1 radish sliced up
- generous lime squeeze

Rice & beans, or Rice & bananas.

Pulled pork/ spiced pork then also goes in:
- Burrito with grilled onions, peppers, rice, beans, and cheese
- Quesodillas
- Tamales (plus masa)
- BBQ sammies
- stuffed peppers
- et cetera


Using just those ingredients above, I can feed myself on $50 for about 3 weeks. There's enough variation that I don't get suicidally bored. $20 for meat, $30 in rice/beans/torillas/veggies/peppers/coconut.

For an extra $20... I can add in egg dishes (Omlettes & quiches & frittatas)... And feed myself for another couple weeks.


I have a craaaaaaaazy spice cupboard, so I often change ethnicities (middle eastern, Italian, Indian, Caribbean), but that's prohibitively expensive unless you're already stocked. I also have a veggie garden that, come summer, will cut my costs in half, and add more variation.

A very "Italian" thing to do is take 1 meal, and turn it into 6 (the last one being soup, typically). Its a good habit to be in, even if you're not in lean times. But its a life saver during lean times.

- Roast & veg on night 1
- Sammies/ Quesodillas / enchiladas/ burritos/ Stirfry/salad on nights 2-x
- Soup (using roast bone)
- Pot pies or Shepards pie (using thickened soup)

EX2) = Same ingredients, served differently.

Instead of making 1 meal stretch by adding things, this is using the same core ingredients (like bacon & eggs) in many different dishes. This works well when one can afford 5lbs of bacon & 120 eggs ($25), but not starting with a new protein every Monday, and having soup on Sunday.

Bacon & eggs can be served over 30 ways (i was broke and made a challenge to cook something new every night to keep from crying)with very little in the way of additions / added cost. Here's a short list. You'll see how many blend and I only need to add bread, pasta, jam, dried peas, etc... Aka things from my pantry
- Bacon & eggs
- French toast
- Montecristos
- Croque Madame
- Devilled eggs
- Egg Salad sammies
- Chinese fried rice
- egg drop soup
- Frittatas
- Quiche
- Pasta Carbonarra
- Split pea soup
- Hoppin John
- breakfast burritos
- BLTs

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Ask your butcher when your meat goes on clearance. Ours is Wed morning. So I go over there and get meat on crazy sales and throw it in the freezer. Then I google recipes for it. Also look for sales on other items and buy all of it if it's something you use all the time. Last time I was at the store, they had Campbell's COM soup for .25 per can, that was more than $1 off each can so I got a case since I use it a lot. We still eat well but at a fraction of the cost. There are 5 of us and I spend very little on groceries.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I'm with Laurie A.

I go to the grocery store with a ballpark idea of our meals for the week and fill in the proteins with sale items!

Two magazine suggestions:
Real Simple
Family Circle

Most of my "cheap and easy" meals come from there!

Off the top of my head...
- Sausage peppers and onions (crock pot)
- sloppy joes (homemade is very easy and super cheap)
- breakfast for dinner (my husband and son think this is a "treat", so it's a win-win)
- kebabs (with on sale proteins and fresh "hearty" veggies) are SO good! You can grill them outside or put them in the indoor grill if you have one.

Best advice my mom gave me about grocery shopping on a budget...
- Shop the "outside" of the store (process and prepackaged are much more expensive)
- Don't be "product loyal". Pasta is pasta. Buy whatever is cheapest on that day
- Buy what you need when you need it. BOGO sales are great... if you will use it. Otherwise it will still sit in the pantry and go bad!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

here are my main dinners

sloppy joe


tuna noodle
stuffed shells
fettichini alfredo

pork roast - then bbq pork sandwiches
roast beef- then sandwiches
steak- steak salad
grilled chicken- grilled chicken salad
baked chicken- shredded in fake pot pie or bbq or soft tacos

Canned soup and grilled cheese
chicken nuggets
mac and cheese

Cheese its
saltines (yummy w pb and jelly)
airpop popcorn
peanut butter toast
celery and pb
carrots and dip
chips and salsa
cheese rolls ups (melted cheese in a soft taco)
apples or grapes or raisins

Some of that on the list might not be doable right now and i'm sure making a roast for pretty much just yourself unless your son is a teen seems a little much. but do what you can, and for a few weeks while dad is gone if you eat a little extra mac and cheese or spaghetti then so be it.
If there is something in your budget that DH doesn't really care for I would eat a bunch of that right now.

try to eat up what you do have in your pantry.

If i had cheese and noodles and some spaghetti sauce, soft tacos and ground beef i would be good for awhile.

toast and pancakes are probably cheaper than cereal.

good luck we could all use a little dinner help every now and then.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Mexican Chicken - Take 1 large chicken breast - slice the breast in half - lay on cookie sheet or pan & spread w/salsa - lay 1 slice of muenster or sprinkle cheddar or any other type of cheese on each, bake @ 350 for 30 mins or until chicken is cooked thru. Serve over rice.

We are a family of 4 so I'll figure the recipes we use for 2 & jot them down for you.


answers from Norfolk on

Beans, rice and pasta!
I got an extra ham when they were on sale for Easter.
I divided up the meat into meal size portions (and froze the bone to make soup with).
Last week for supper we had peas and baby onions in a white sauce with some cubed ham in it.
It's a simple but filling meal.
We like Zataran's Caribbean Rice mix - I add diced up chicken breast and I like to add a can of pineapple chunks (drained) to it.
Apples and baby carrots work well for snacks.
So do prunes, dates and nuts.
Around here when the milk's sell by date is just a few days away, the store will mark it down by a dollar.
The milk's good for at least a week after that (and the way my guys drink milk - 4 gallons a week - it's never around long enough to go sour).


answers from Austin on

I purchase whatever is on sale for meats.
Chicken legs for 79 cents a pound at HEB? we will have grilled BBQ chicken legs. Or I will make soup..

Pork steaks for $1.49 a lb.? Pork chops. they can be grilled or can be sauteed.

5 lb Bag of potatoes for $1.99 or less. We are eating potato everything.
Baked, Mashed, Hash browns.

Pasta.. a million things you

Make your own pizza crust.. add left over spaghetti sauce on top with cheese. You can add meats or veggies if you like.

Burger meat or ground turkey? Tacos. saute with onion, garlic and a bit of cumin, salt and papper.

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