Super Cheap Meals For When You’re Broke

Super cheap meals for when you're broke. How to make the most of a tight grocery budget.

Sometimes the need arises for creativity in stretching the grocery budget. No judgement here. Trust me, I know what it’s like to have $25 left to your name and still need to buy 2 weeks worth of groceries… I’ve learned to cook from the pantry (utilizing what we have on hand in new ways), use coupons to get freebies and cheapies and I’ve lived off ramen for lunch. In the practice of being broke, I’ve come up with some pretty decent and yet super cheap meals. Β I hope you find them helpful in the event that you become broke and need some dirt cheap recipes πŸ˜‰ OR in the event that you just want to be cheap!

  1. Ramen – Of course I had to mention this one. I like to jazz mine up. Throw a few leaves of spinach in and crack an egg right on top. As it cooks in the microwave, the boiling water will poach the egg. Then just use half the packet of seasoning, if any at all.
  2. Chips & Dip – A can of refried beans and a bag of tortilla chips cost $1 each at the dollar store. Dice and sautee an onion or slice of bacon to mix into the beans and kick up the flavor.
  3. Tacos – You can go with just beans and rice or ground beef. Whatever you can afford. Then just throw on salsa, cheese, sour cream or nothing at all.
  4. Hot Dogs – You can go the old school route and just boil a few dogs and serve on white bread. Or you can make pigs in a blanket. Cut each dog in half and wrap in a slice of cheese and then a Pillsbury biscuit. Cook for 8 minutes at 350.
  5. Skillet Potatoes – Slice up potatoes and fry in a skillet. Add in sliced polish sausage or hot dogs and fry together. Then crack in a few eggs. This is a childhood favorite of mine!
  6. Toasted Cheese – Ah, the classic. Try making it with different cheeses.
  7. Potato Dishes – A 5 pound bag of potatoes is often on sale for $2 in these parts. You can make baked potatoes, potato soup, mashed potatoes, fries and more.
  8. TV Dinners – I really recommend against doing this, but if you don’t have time to do otherwise, there are frozen dinners in the $1 or less range. Banquet and Michlena’sΒ have a decent variety of things for cheap.
  9. Spaghetti – A box of spaghetti will cover 8 servings for a buck and you can make a simple sauce with just a can tomato paste for 50 cents. Just mix in some spices (basil, oregano, etc) and water.
  10. Hamburger Helper – You don’t even have to buy the box. You can make your own form, often called goulash, for cheap. You’ll need pasta or rice, sauce (tomato sauce or even alfredo) and meat (chicken, beef, tuna).
  11. Salad – Go for iceberg lettuce and top with a tomato, maybe even an onion and a boiled egg.
  12. Eggs Dishes – Boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, eggs in a basket, easy over eggs, egg salad, even breakfast sandwiches and burritos.
  13. Rotisserie Chicken – Now before you say, “But that’s expensive!?” You’re half right. It will cost $5-$7 for a whole chicken, BUT it can make several meals. Use the gizzards to make a meal of fried liver or a gravy. Cook the chicken whole and serve one day. Save the leftovers for another. Pick the remaining meat off the bones to make chicken salad. Then use the bones to make broth. So many meals out of one chicken is a real money saver.
  14. Breakfast For Dinner – Do eggs and toast or pancakes. Really, any number of things typically deemed as breakfast foods are pretty cheap!
  15. Peanut Butter And Jelly – You can skip the jelly if that’s not you. A jar of peanut butter will cost about $3 but be enough for dozens of sandwiches.

Do you have any super cheap meals you enjoy? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to try!

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  • Heather
    September 5, 2016 at 7:41 am

    I loved all of these! So practical and real. Sometimes when I click on these while planning our meals, the food doesn’t seem real or even edible . Lol

  • Sasha
    March 10, 2016 at 3:46 am

    My hubby and I do meatloaf! We buy ground turkey instead of ground beef, and then you just need oats or breadcrumbs and an egg! Add a few spices, a little ketchup on top, and a side of those cheap potatoes and you have a great meal (plus leftovers when it’s just the two of us!)

  • Ann
    March 5, 2016 at 8:22 am

    My problem with the rotisserie chicken is it never does make several meals for us… we always pretty much eat the whole thing the first go around, lol. But yes, then I can make stock from the carcass. πŸ™‚ Thanks for linking up with Frugal Fridays! πŸ™‚

    • Jenn
      March 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

      Well at least you can make stock πŸ˜‰ my husband loves when I make a good soup the next day.

  • Denay DeGuzman
    February 11, 2016 at 12:03 am

    What a great round-up of quick and inexpensive meal ideas! These are not only great for families, but for college students too. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise on dinner ideas that won’t break the bank.

  • Becky @ Project Domestication
    February 10, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Eggs, beans and tuna melts (not together) are my go-to ingredients for stretching the budget.

  • Rhi
    February 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    We’re always eating on a budget! Good ideas.

  • Warren @ Blog to Taste
    February 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    This post is so great! I too am a cheap-o, and so many of these things are essential for me, especially eggs. Eggs are such a great go to. I love having a dozen eggs hardboiled at all times as a quick grab and go breakfast or snack.

  • Elaine
    February 9, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Sounds like all of the foods I had growing up! I don’t think my Mom was cheap I thing we were getting what we could afford at the time! πŸ™‚ I had a great childhood!

  • Katy
    February 9, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Eggs and beans are great sources of nutrition and provide plenty of protein which can help you feel fuller. In college I ate tons of eggs to help me stay afloat and I still love them!

  • Jennifer Threet
    February 6, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I buy dried beans, the pintos and white beans. I mix them half and half to cook adding in a few slices of bacon for flavor. I like cornbread muffins so I make these from scratch and keep them in a bag in the freezer. A few minutes in the microwave and they are nice and toasty. Fry up some potatoes and you have a wonderful meal and it costs next to nothing. I usually cook enough beans to use the leftovers for chilie. The beans are full of protein as a bonus.

    • Jenn
      February 6, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Cornbread in the freezer is genius! I’ll have to try that for sure. Thank you so much for the suggestions. I’ve done beans from scratch (dry instead of canned) for sides but really they could be the star of the show with all the protein πŸ™‚

  • Lindsey
    February 4, 2016 at 10:19 am

    All of these are regular staples at our house! I think half the problem is that we don’t have a lot of money, but we don’t have a lot of time either and these satisfy both of those needs! I’m pinning, stumbling and tweeting this! <3

  • Anne @ Domesblissity
    February 3, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Ahh, a woman after my own heart! I’m cheap too, nice to meet you! lol Great to meet you Jenn and thanks so much for linking up to Thriving on Thursdays. Love your list and I’ve eaten many of those things on your list when times were tough. Don’t be a stranger. Would love for you to share more of your blog posts.

    Anne @ Domesblissity xx

  • Shellie Bowdoin
    February 2, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Great ideas! It’s amazing what you can do with basic ingredients. Thanks for lending your creativity to the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop! I also pinned this to the Thursday Favorite Things Pinterest Board.


  • Leanne@crestingthehill
    February 2, 2016 at 6:07 am

    I’ve eaten so many of these over the years and breakfast for dinner (or brinner as it is known in our house) was a favourite backup plan. Thanks for sharing with us on our #OverTheMoon link up ~ Leanne

  • Rachel G
    February 1, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Oatmeal was my go to in college and my husband’s work lunch for years because it’s dirt cheap! πŸ™‚ I had mine with brown sugar, he ate his plain. Eggs, like you mentioned, are a really good option, too!

  • swathi
    February 1, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Very nice post, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  • Miranda
    February 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    A bunch of those are favorites of mine and staples at our house. I love fried potato skillets, breakfast for dinners, and spaghetti. Great list!

  • Lisa
    February 1, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I love Ramen with a little bit of butter. I don’t like the flavor packet because it’s loaded with MSG which makes me sick. But I am going to try the egg bit because I love eggs!

  • Hollie Ramsey
    February 1, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Breakfast for dinner is definitely our go-to meal, not just in hard times but when I’m feeling kind of lazy.

  • Jennifer @ WrittenByJennifer
    February 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    You hit on all of my staples for when we’re running low on groceries but haven’t gotten to the store yet. Mashed black beans with a bit of goat cheese sandwiched between a tortilla is delicious!

  • Danielle K Howell
    February 1, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Great list!! I love to make homemade pizza, very affordable!

  • Lindsey @ Butter & Type
    February 1, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    This list brings back so many memories from my college days. Ramen is still my go-to cheap meal!

  • Amelia
    February 1, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I love egg dishes!

  • Erin @ Stay At Home Yogi
    January 31, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Love peanut butter and jelly, and all the possibilities that come with breakfast for dinner! We do a lot of rice and beans too (I like them with salsa!).

  • Angela @ Setting My Intention
    January 30, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    I just started budgeting this month and meal planned from our pantry this last week of January since we only had $2.75 left in our grocery budget! I actually enjoyed the challenge of doing it. We usually always have ramen in the house – not because we’re trying to eat cheaply, but the family loves it. I love it too, especially when we have kimchi in the house! Visiting from Home Matters.

  • Vicky Warren
    January 30, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Love this list! Also great for kid families!

  • Antionette Blake
    January 30, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Although I try to stay away from processed foods, Ramen is always a great alternative espcially when adding frozen veggies and cheese as a topping. #WeekendWindDownParty

  • Marilyn Lesniak
    January 30, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    I love how many great things you come up with. I am so glad I found you! Thanks for linking up at #ThursdayFavoriteThings! I hope to see you also at #OverTheMoon.

  • Melissa M.
    January 30, 2016 at 11:49 am

    Love your ideas! Here are a few we make, often I make enough it can be frozen for another meal.
    chili-homemade of course, soup-homemade, you can use what you have on hand, grilled cheese, cheese/veggie/meat quesdillas.

    • Jenn
      January 30, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Oh I forgot those! Love using chili for soup then Cincinnati style spaghetti or chili dogs. So good!

  • Kyle
    January 29, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    That’s a great list! I’m visiting from Frugal Friday thanks for joining us!