We’ve all been there: we get to the middle of the month (or maybe not even that far!) and our grocery budget is gone. You frantically look through grocery receipts from the month and wonder how it went so fast. Because surely your cash must have just fallen out of your pocket the last time you were at the store! But no, it’s true, your budget for the month has been used up and there isn’t anything else left to spare.
Cheap Meals to Make
But, of course, you still have to feed your family! It’s times like these that I’m thankful that we know to keep a hearty pantry stockpile on hand at all times because you never know when it could happen that you might need to use it.
When that time hits, you will want to have this post on hand for ideas. The meal ideas that follow are frugal, use many pantry staples, and could save your budget on months when you are stretched thin. Please make sure to scan the comment section for more ideas or add your own cheap and frugal meal suggestions!
Homemade Pancakes along can make a filling supper, however, you can always add extras to make a well-rounded meal! If you have some kind of ground meat you can make Homemade Sausage Patties. You could make a simple side of berries or cooked fruits, or of course, a pile of scrambled eggs.
Why I don’t have a good blog post about all of the things that you can do with a whole cooked chicken is beyond me. I’m adding this to my to-do list! I love making a whole cooked chicken because you can use every part…all of the meat and then use the carcass to make broth for soups or other things (even things like Homemade Soy Sauce!).
One of my personal favorites (although my husband isn’t a fan of soup so I don’t make it as often as I would like). Use the broth from your whole chicken and toss in ANY veggies that you have on hand. Add in some herbs and spices and you’ve got a soup! If you have leftover chicken or any kind of meat, these veggies soups can be a good way to use them up, otherwise, they still have protein from the bone broth so meat isn’t necessary. If you have leftover chicken, this Roasted Veggie Soup is one of my favorites and if you’d rather make something with bean (another big frugal staple!) Bean with Bacon Soup is always a hearty hit.
For a kid-friendly frugal meal, Mac & Cheese will always be a favorite! You can make your own with the recipe above using just 3 ingredients or you can make something a little more complex like this Baked Mac and Cheese dish.
- Taco Salads (or anything made with home canned beans!)
I love my home canned beans! They use dried beans (and frugal staple!) and make them easy to prepare and serve. For a full list of meals using canned beans, check out this post: Recipes Using Canned Beans.
Even if you are gluten-free, you can still enjoy a frugal taco supper by making Homemade Corn Tortillas or Homemade Gluten-Free Tortillas. You could also use any of these homemade tortilla options to make various kinds of wraps based on what other fillings you have in your fridge if you don’t have typical taco fillings. If you are making traditional tacos, don’t forget to make some Homemade Taco Seasoning! You can make Homemade Taco Sauce also.
This is such an inexpensive lasagna to make since you are using only what you have on hand! Don’t have the pasta? Make it with veggies instead!
This was a frugal staple that my mom always used to make when I was growing up. So easy to prepare and you can use any pasta that you have on hand. This recipe works great with canned, fresh, or home canned tomatoes depending on what you have. I’ve even got a Cheesy Goulash Recipe here for something a little different.
Skip the expensive store-bought hashbrowns and make your own for this frugal casserole dish! This one also calls for homemade sausage so you can save there as well. This casserole is another hearty meal that will easily fill up the family.
- In the summer…Simple Squash Bake
If it’s summertime and you have a lot of veggies in your garden, this squash bake is a good meal to make. I’ve even added in sliced potatoes and tomatoes and onions if I currently have them on hand.
- BBQ Drumsticks (made with homemade BBQ Sauce)
Drumsticks are a good source of frugal meat if you have someone in your home that doesn’t consider it a meal unless there is meat! In addition to the recipe above you could also fry them in garlic salt or I’ve also fried them with a few of my Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes for a flavorful main dish.
Another easy meal to put together and I love this one because you can make it in advance and freeze them. Great for grab and go on busy days! Breakfast Burritos are great for any meal of the day and you can make them with Homemade Sausage as well.
- In the summer…anything using garden produce.
Of course, during those lean times, it’s also important to skip store-bought expensive products such as condiments and other pre-packaged items. We have a big list of Make Your Own recipes you can check out for cheap alternatives!
Of course, what better way to find cheap meal ideas than to ask our community! A few weeks ago I asked on our Facebook page for you to share your favorite cheap meals to eat when your budget is stretched. Here are some frugal meal ideas from you, our readers!
- Mini Ground Turkey Meatloaves, made in muffin tins so extras can be frozen for later. – Patricia S.
- Pinto Beans and Rice. – Robin C.
- Beans and Cornbread. – Julie S.
- Chili (to be used for taco meat, chili dogs, etc). – Karen B.
- Cabbage Casserole (Cabbage cut into small bite size pieces add cooked hamburger (or not), salt, and pepper to taste, then add tomato soup. Cook at 350 for 20-30 minutes). – Betty W.
- Navy Beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread. – Mary Beth W.
- Biscuits and Gravy or Toast and Gravy. – Mary J.
- Pasta with steamed veggies and butter. – Barbara P.
- Grits and Cheese with eggs on top. – Cindy A.
- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. – BethAnn H.
- Lentil Soup. – Kate J.
- Pork Noodle Soup (Uses one pork chop (plus the bone), a handful of vegetables, soy sauce, a handful of noodles, salt and pepper to taste.) – Kathleen M.
- Tuna Melts – Faith F.
- Scrambled Egg Skillet (With almost anything tossed in: left over veggies, meat, whatever little bit of cheese you might have left, potatoes. Add salsa or hot sauce to jazz it up.) – Tammy M.
- Poorman’s Dinner (A package of hot dogs pan fried up with potatoes and onions and a can of green beans …served with baked beans if you have them.) – Catherine R.
- Sweet potatoes and steamed seasoned veggies – Kristine M.
- Gumbo with red beans and rice. – Annette W.
(You can read even more suggestions, over 300 of them, here on our Facebook page.)
What are some of your favorite meals to make for yourself or your family when the budget is stretched thin? Share them with us!