We all have those moments when we need to make cheap and easy meals for the family. Times when we’re feeling broke or sticking to a tight budget. These $5 dinners will help you in just those times. You’ll see here how you can feed your family a delicious, easy dinner even when you run out of money.
Are you trying to stick to a tight budget? Facing the end of the month? or has an unexpected bill thrown you for a loop?
It’s at those times that we reign in the grocery budget anywhere we can. And, coming up with cheap meals will go a long way to saving you money for something else.
Related Reading: How to Have a Pantry Challenge and Save $500 this Month
Monthly Meal Plan
Get these Monthly Meal Planning Templates and my beautiful library of printables for FREE as a thank you when you join my email list. Start using them and save tons of time right away.
Cheap & Easy Meals to Make for Under $5
The $5 dinner ideas here are not only cheap but are fast and easy to make, too. Best of all, they’re kid-friendly, and your family won’t even realize that you’re living on a tight budget.
Quesadillas are versatile because you just need a tortilla and some cheese to get started. Then you can add nearly anything that you want and a very small amount at that. Here are some great things to add:
- Any Leftover Meat
- Canned Chicken
There are a lot of soups that are quite frugal. Here are a few to take a look at. Feel free to modify, if needed, to keep things under $5 but these can all be made cheaply.
- 5-Ingredient Black Bean Soup
- Green Chicken Chili
- Easy Potato Soup
- Split Pea Soup – make with leftover ham if you have it
Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
You can find each of these things on sale, but even if not on sale you can get make this dinner very cheap:
- Bread – $1.00
- Cheese – $2.00
- Canned Tomato Soup – $1.00
Throw the ingredients in the slow cooker or cook them on the stove. Either way, it’s very simple to make and delicious.
- 1/2 lb. Cooked Ground Meat – $2.00
- 1 Can Beans (chili beans, red beans, or kidney beans) – $1.00
- 1 Cans Diced Tomatoes – $1.00
- 1 Packet Chili Seasoning – $1.00
- 2 Cups Water (less if you want it thicker)
Who doesn’t love spaghetti? Pasta is so cheap and easy to make. Keep these ingredients on hand at all times for nights you need an emergency dinner.
- Dried Spaghetti – $1.00
- 1 Can Spaghetti Sauce – $1.00
For this, you need to make sure and find ground meat that is on sale. Typically, ground turkey and ground pork can be found for under $3.00/lb. Choose one of those if you can’t get ground beef on sale.
- 1 lb. ground meat – $3.00
- 1 Can Tomato Sauce – $1.00
- 1 Sloppy Joe Packet – $1.00
Eggs and Toast
We love to have this on any night that we only have minutes to make dinner and when it looks like there’s nothing to eat. Keep your fridge stocked with bread and eggs and you’ll always have something to eat. Make your eggs scrambled, poached, fried, or boiled. Pick your favorite.
- Eggs (2 per person) – $1.00
- Toast – $1.00
This is another way to eat eggs and bread.
- Bread – $1.00
- Eggs – $1.00
- Milk – $.50
- Cinnamon – (pantry ingredient)
Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese can be made very simply. Look at this recipe for 3-Ingredient Macaroni and Cheese. You can make it for under $4.00
This is one that my kids will rave about when we make it and it gets devoured quickly.
- 1/2 lb sliced or ground meat
- 1/2 bag frozen mixed veggies
- 3 Packets of Ramen Noodles
Fry your meat in a hot pan and add the frozen mixed veggies. Add your dried ramen noodles and 2 of the flavor packets. Add just enough water for the noodles to absorb. Stir occasionally until the noodles are just finished cooking.
French Bread Pizza
Everybody will love this and it’s much cheaper to make than buy take-out. Add seasonings to your canned tomato sauce for the best flavor (garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, salt).
- 1 loaf French Bread – $1.00
- 1 8 oz. can Tomato Sauce – $.50
- 8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella – $2.00
- Additional toppings if you want (pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)
Fried rice is best to make when your rice is cold. If you make it with hot rice it all clumps together. Plan ahead, or use leftovers.
- 1/2 Bag Frozen Mixed Veggies – $.50
- 4 Cups Cold Rice – $1.00
- 2 Eggs – $.50
- Soy Sauce – (pantry ingredient)
- Add-ins: ham, leftover meat, turkey, etc.
Most people don’t know what a Strata is, but it has been one of our family’s favorites for years. Think of it as a savory bread pudding. It’s a great way to start with very cheap ingredients and use up leftovers, too. You can use this recipe, but leave the sausage out to keep it under $5.00.
- 1/2 Loaf of Bread – $.50
- 6 Eggs – $.50
- 2 Cups Milk – $.50
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheese $2.00
- Add leftovers or foods you already have on hand like bacon, sausage, lunch meat, veggies, etc.
Homemade Hamburger Helper
Make a Cheap Hamburger Helper at home with half the meat that a box of Hamburger Helper calls for. Here are some easy recipes. Feel free to modify the seasonings and the amount of meat if needed. Use bouillon cubes and water for the beef broth if you need a cheaper option.
Burritos can hold nearly anything that you want to. Get tortillas for under $2 then put whatever you want in them. Here are some ideas for what to put in your burrito. Also, keep in mind that you can use leftover ingredients as burrito fillings.
- Shredded Chicken
- Ground Beef
- Leftovers: Roast, Turkey
- Sour Cream
- Cottage Cheese
This is a huge hit whenever we make it. It feels like you’re at a party when that big pan of nachos hits the table. Use a big cookie sheet so everyone can get their fill. Top it with whatever you have on hand. The most important ingredients though are chips and cheese. After that, you can go wild.
- 1 Bag Tortilla Chips – $2.00
- 2 Cups Shredded Cheese – $2.00
- 1 Can Beans – $1.00
What is the Cheapest Food to Buy?
Here are some of the Cheapest Ingredients to add to your grocery list. If you base your family meals around them, you’ll be ready to stick to a tight grocery budget:
- Grains: Rice, Oats, Bread, Pasta, Tortillas
- Potatoes: they can be used in so many different ways. Here are 5 Quick Meals With Baked Potatoes.
- Frozen Veggies
- Meat: Ground Pork, Sausages, Chicken
- Tomato Paste: Cheaper than tomato sauce and just needs to be reconstituted with water.
Read 15 Essential Frugal Pantry Staples for More Cheap Grocery Ideas.
Where to Get Cheap Food for Family Dinners
Where you can buy cheap food varies greatly depending upon where you live. It’s important that you investigate your local options and make note of prices in order to figure out where you should do your shopping.
Here are some of the best places to shop:
- Farmer’s Markets
- Grocery Outlet
- Discount Grocers
How to Get Groceries for Cheap Meals
- Check the Front Page of Sales Flyers
- Shop at a Discount Grocer
- Look for Mark-Downs
- Choose Frugal Pantry Staples
- Pick the Grocery Store with the Best Prices
- Here are 10 Killer Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- Be sure to keep a Grocery Price Book so you know when you’re getting a good price
Cheap and Easy Side Dishes to go with your $5 Meals
- Mashed Potatoes
- Ginger Glazed Carrots
- Baked Potatoes
- Buttered Noodles
- Homemade Coleslaw
- Carrot Sticks
- Garlic Bread
- Tortilla Chips
- Frozen Veggies
It doesn’t have to be hard to feed your family when you’re on a tight budget. Pick some of these cheap and easy family meal ideas and stock the ingredients regularly so you will always have something to eat.
One of my Favorite Recipe Books for Cheap and Easy Meal Ideas:
5 Dinners Under $5.00
Make these cheap dinners when you're broke. Get 5 Menus for Dinners you can make for less than $5.00.