When times are tough, your money needs to stay in your wallet, not on the dinner table. These easy, inexpensive meals are the internet’s favorite for saving your hard-earned cash when you’re feeling a little extra broke.
Here are their easy cheap dinner ideas:
1. Beans, Potatoes, and Rice
This hearty trio will fill you up and offers tons of options for customization.
You can add various spices for additional flavor, turn them into a burrito, serve a baked potato with beans, or just serve them together in a bowl.
An individual pointed out that this inexpensive recipe gets even cheaper with some smart grocery shopping. “Buy dried beans and rice in bulk, save up for the 25lb bag of each. Go to Mexican and Asian markets for these if you can; they are significantly cheaper.”
2. Southern Hoecakes
“My grandma always said hoecakes were the food to eat when you had nothing else. It’s just all-purpose flour, water, and salt. You fry them up like pancakes, and from experience, they taste pretty good if you’re hungry.”
Describing how to make spaghetti on a budget, one individual wrote, “Poor man’s spaghetti is what I call it. Boil the noodles, pour sauce over it, and mix. Nothing else. Kraft parmesan if we are having a good week.”
The individual’s frugal approach to the meal was justified by an Italian who chimed in, saying, “It’s a delicacy here too. Sometimes, we purposely cook double the pasta and sauce to have some ready for the day after. It’s literally just pasta, a nice tomato sauce, and some Grana or Parmigiano! It’s heavenly.”
4. Grits and Eggs
“A $2 bag of grits will make a big soup pot of them. Add in a $1 box of butter, and you’ll eat for a week on something that will absolutely sit on your stomach for hours.
“Of course, it’s better with stuff like cheese or a fried egg with a runny yolk on top, and those things are cheap too, but if you don’t have $10 to spend on all the fancy stuff, a big pot of grits will do just fine.”
Cheese definitely makes grits one of the ultimate comfort foods.
5. Lasagna Love
Lasagna on its own may not be considered cheap, but those really in need can get one dropped off to them free of charge through this charity.
Lasagna Love‘s network connects cooking enthusiasts to needy families. Those requesting food can get a homemade lasagna dropped off to them free of charge by a volunteer nearby, with no judgment or strings attached.
Said one recipient of the service, “They brought us lasagna, bread sticks, cookies, and a bottle of wine. It was crazy, I only expected a lasagna for two.”
Chickpeas are super versatile and a great source of protein. One individual described that “a $4 bag would be enough protein for a week” when they were broke.
Toss your chickpeas with chopped vegetables, or roast them for a healthy, crunchy salad topping. Chickpeas can also be turned into creamy hummus or crispy falafel.
See also: Easy Hummus Recipe: Jazz Up Your Hummus
7. Dressed Up Ramen
Instant ramen might not be that filling on its own, but when tossed with an egg and some rice, it becomes much more substantial. For extra flavor, responders recommended adding hot sauce or homemade kimchi.
A commenter added an additional tip for saving while cooking this meal, writing, “You can cook the egg at the same time as your rice and noodles. Saves a little bit of electricity or gas.”
8. Pinto Beans with Cornbread
“This was comfort food for my mom. She grew up poor during the Depression, and they ate this every day.
“If they were lucky that week they might buy a piece of ham for the beans. After years of that, you would think she would never want it again, but she made them often for the rest of her life,” reminisced one individual.
Another added, “I put in bacon and chop up an onion. Kept me alive as a bachelor several times.”
See also: Sweet Corn Soup Recipe
9. Whole Chicken
Buying a whole chicken can make a week of inexpensive meals, as this home chef describes. “Buy that, some cheap veggies, and a pack of tortillas and make a week of dinner. The first night is roast chicken and veggies. Save your bones and veggie scraps and make a broth.
“The second and third night is chicken tacos or quesadillas. The fourth and fifth night is chicken pot pie. The sixth and seventh night is chicken and rice soup.
“A whole chicken is about $5 here, a small bag of potatoes is $2, an onion is $.50, a bag of carrots is $1, a 10 pack of tortillas is $1, a bell pepper is $.50, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies is $1.”
Sheet pan chicken fajitas would also work nicely with these inexpensive meals for family favorite dinners.
“Chili, the cheapest largest quantity of food I can think of.
“My exact recipe is chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, whatever seasoning you like, veggie stock, tomato paste, and pasta. This makes a whole crock pot full of food, lasts two adults most of a week, and costs less than $10 depending on what brand of beans, pasta, and tomato paste you buy.”
“It’s a really forgiving recipe, and you can change the flavor with different seasonings. If you have a few more bucks on hand, sour cream and cheese make it taste even better.”
11. Canned Tuna
The internet loves canned tuna for ultra-casual, inexpensive meals. One diner’s go-to is “Canned tuna, beans, and rice, sometimes with shredded cabbage for fiber,” while another kept it even easier, saying that canned tuna with “Saltines and some cheap mayo” is a “whole lunch.”
Succotash, another Southern favorite, isn’t too expensive to throw together. One individual described their cheap recipe for the dish, writing, “(A) can of black beans, can of diced tomatoes, can of whole kernel corn. Onion. Garlic. Stir fry with some salt, pepper, and cumin. Eat with rice. Enough for 2-3 meals.
“Add other veggies if you want. They just all need to be diced or around the same size.”
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Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.