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With grocery costs being one of the biggest expenses in any household budget, finding the best cheap food ideas that are also healthy can be a lifesaver.

But it can be tough to know exactly what cheap food to buy when broke, let alone what recipes you can make that aren’t boring or repetitive week after week.

This is why we’ve created this list of nutritious, delicious food ideas that are also incredibly inexpensive. 

The aim here is to make it as easy as possible for you to adjust your food spending so that your grocery bill is cut but your meals for the week are just as good as they are now – if not better!

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Best cheap food options

We all know why we should save money but there’s no question that it can be tough sometimes. In particular, when trying to limit your spending on food, the hardest part is easily finding meals that are both healthy and let you live on a tight budget

Having to find new dishes to cook every single day that don’t break the bank can be seriously exhausting and it’s no wonder plenty of people run out of cheap food ideas and just resort to fast food.

Meal planning is a great way to save money, as it allows you to decide in advance which meals you’re going to cook – and, ideally, lets you make sure that your meals are based around some of the cheap food staples we’ll go through below.

But…it can take a ton of time and energy to meal plan. In fact, the time that it takes to do this is the main reason most people give up.

This is why I recommend the $5 Meal Plan. For only $5 per month, they’ll send you a weekly meal plan (and a shopping list based on this) where every meal costs around $2 per person.

(In fact, Erin, the creator of $5 Meal Plan, says she feeds her family of six on the same meal plan for only $5 per meal.)

This program saves you an incredible amount of time, energy and money. By sending the meal plan straight to your inbox every single week, it’s putting you in the best position to make sure that you always know which cheap, nutritious food you’ll be making that week – better for your body and MUCH better for your budget.

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$5 meal plan as a way to stop spending money on food

Cheap food staples

Having cheap food staples in the pantry is important for making sure that you always have the ingredients on hand to make something quick, healthy and inexpensive. That way, by having options for more frugal meals, you won’t be tempted to go for cheap fast food options instead.

It’s also a good idea if you’re planning your own meals to base them around a lot of these items. These are all things that don’t cost much to buy and, in many cases, you’ll be able to use them for several meals, meaning the cost per usage goes way down.

Don’t forget to take advantage of cash back apps when buying these staples! Ibotta is a great example of this, with the average user earning $150 in cash back on their groceries every year.

You can start your savings by getting a free $20 welcome bonus just for signing up here.

Here’s what I’d recommend as being the key cheap food staples to stock up on:

1. Canned beans

Canned beans are incredibly versatile as they can be used in a huge range of recipes. They’re also packed with nutrition, so you’ll actually be full when you eat them. Chickpeas and kidney beans are my personal favorites, but there are many other options out there.

Dried beans can also be great – and, in fact, are going to be cheaper per pound than canned ones. However, it’s true that a lot of people find the soaking process to be a lot of hassle. 

If you do go down this route though, I personally use these jars for storing my dried beans (and other dried food). They look great all lined up on a shelf and have helped to make sure I always have this food on hand.

2. Rice

This is an easy, filling ingredient to bulk up any meal and save money on the overall cost per serving. If you can, try to get some of the healthier versions, like brown rice compared to the usual white variety.

3. Pasta

Similar to rice, having some type of pasta available is great for making a meal more filling. It really doesn’t matter which type, ultimately, although try to make it whole wheat rather than white for an extra punch of nutrition.

4. Stock base

This is seriously one of those hidden treasures that not enough people know about.

You can use stock paste (I use this one by Better Than Bouillon) for SO many things. Soups, stews, sauces, gravy and more are all made far more flavorful by adding a bit of this stuff.

A lot of people buy pre-made broth, which is not only more expensive, but it’s really not necessary given how easy it is to use this paste instead. And this jar alone makes 76 servings, meaning the cost per use is pretty amazing.

You can use the vegetable version, like I do, but they also have a ton of other bases, like beef, chicken, turkey, mushroom and more.

5. Eggs

Eggs are perfect for a high protein hit to any meal – or even alone hard boiled as a snack. But given how many recipes you can use these in, it’s a good idea to always have a dozen in the fridge as one of the best healthy pantry staples you can have.

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6. Garlic

Garlic is one of those cheap food hacks as it’s a great addition to almost any meal, mainly because it’s hard to go wrong here. Just peel it and throw it in your pan or pot and you’re good to go!

7. Olive oil

Good quality olive oil can be a bit pricey sometimes (although not as much as you may think, like this top pick on Amazon), but it’s worth making sure you have a bottle of this in the pantry. Try to look for one in a darker colored bottle, to better preserve it and make sure its quality lasts.

8. Flour

Having flour available is a must-have for so many recipes. It’s also very cheap, especially if you simply go for an all purpose flour option, which is more than enough for most households.

It’s also one of those cheap foods you can buy in bulk, if you’re really looking for the cheapest way to live.

9. Sugar

While we all know we should be limiting our sugar intake, it’s also true that it’s a key ingredient in many recipes. And assuming you’re not eating it straight out of the packet, it’s a good idea to have this cheap food in the pantry at all times.

10. Salt

Salt may seem obvious for most people to have, but there’s no doubt that it should be on any list of cheap food staples.

Kosher salt is going to be better for you than normal table salt as it doesn’t have the same additives. That said, it’s not such a big deal if you can only get the usual kind.

11. Pepper

Like salt, pepper is a no-brainer when it comes to cheap food to cook with.

Preground pepper is fine, but freshly ground pepper has a much better flavor which is what you want when adding it to recipes. It’s also cheaper to buy in bulk generally, although you’ll obviously have to buy a grinder. These ones are excellent value and will last much longer than plastic ones.

12. Oats

Oats are an easy, healthy staple to add to a bunch of different recipes. They’re a very filling cheap food option for breakfast, but they also go well in other meals to bulk them up, especially to reduce how much meat you use in a particular dish.

13. Frozen vegetables

You may think that fresh vegetables are always going to be better, but that’s actually not the case. Even Jaime Oliver has pointed out that unless they’re in season, fresh vegetables can actually be of quite low quality.

This is why he’s a big advocate of frozen vegetables, as they preserve the nutritional content of these foods, while making sure you always have vegetables in the freezer ready to use.

Plus, not only can they be cheaper to buy, but there’s no risk of them going rotten in the back of the fridge.

14. Onions

Onions are another easy addition to almost any cooked meal. For a relatively simple staple, they add a ton of flavor and are healthy as well.

15. Green peppers

If you are going to have some fresh vegetables on hand (as you should), green peppers are a good choice. They’re cheap and have a flavor that means they can be included in a huge range of dishes. Having some color in a meal always helps too.

16. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another item that I keep as a permanent member of each week’s shopping list due to their versatility. Given that they can be cooked or served raw, you’ll find yourself using these basically every day.

17. Canned tomatoes

It may seem funny to include this after mentioning fresh tomatoes in the previous point, but I’ve found keeping several cans of tomatoes on hand to be super useful.

For example, while you can buy premade pasta sauce, making your own with canned tomatoes takes only a few minutes extra and is so much cheaper.

18. Tomato paste

And just to continue the theme…tomato paste is great for throwing in any sort of stew, soup or casserole to add a ton of flavor. It’s also incredibly cheap to stock up on and when bought in cans, it lasts basically forever.

19. Potatoes

Potatoes are good for bulking up cheap food meals and are healthy too. They have the added bonus of being easy to buy in bulk given they last for a fairly long time, making them even cheaper.

To up your protein, you could go for sweet potatoes instead (or as well). Not only are they delicious, but your budget will barely notice this as an extra cheap food option.

20. Canned tuna

Tuna is a cheap, easy addition to a lot of dishes – not to mention the health benefits of this.  One good way to use it is as a chicken replacement, especially if you don’t have any chicken in the fridge or freezer and realize you need it. Instead, simply grab a can from the pantry and you’re on your way.

21. Chicken

Chicken has a ton of health benefits, including that it’s high in protein. It’s also probably the cheapest meat out there, but you can reduce your costs further if you’re trying to drastically cut expenses by buying in bulk and freezing what you aren’t going to use in the next few days.

22. Ground beef

Ground beef is generally the cheapest cut available which is why, if you’re looking to include beef in your diet, going for the ground version is going to really increase your savings rate. It’s not going to be quite as cheap as chicken, but you can still buy a lot of it and freeze what you don’t use immediately.

One other good way to save money on beef is to reduce the amount that a recipe recommends you use and replace it with other ingredients, like beans or even oats.

How do you make a meal on a budget?

To make a meal on a budget, there are some easy tips to follow that can help reduce your food costs:

  1. Meal plan – Planning your meals ahead of time and making a shopping list based on this can save you a ton of money, as it means you’re only buying what you need and makes it less likely you’ll resort to fast food. This is why I recommend you check out the $5 Meal Plan, which sends a weekly meal plan to you for only $5 per month. Try it out with a free 14-day trial here.  
  2. Base your meals around cheap food staples – Planning meals where the main ingredient is a cheaper item, like beans, will reduce your overall food costs significantly. You also probably already have these on hand, meaning you won’t need to buy things specifically for one meal.
  3. Take advantage of cashback apps – Apps like Ibotta make it incredibly easy to get money back on your groceries, letting you save money without changing your shopping habits. In fact, the average Ibotta user earns $150 in cash back per year – starting with the free $20 welcome bonus you get for signing up here.
  4. Reduce your meat intake – Meat is much more expensive than meatless alternatives, like beans and lentils. It can be hard to make this switch when you’re used to eating meat, but you’ll actually find that there are some delicious recipes out there that are no trouble at all to cook. Not to mention that the environment will thank you too!
  5. Use fruit and vegetables that are in season – Food that’s in season tastes better, is of better quality and is cheaper, so it’s an overall win. This seasonal produce guide can help you with this.
  6. Avoid “special” ingredients – You know the feeling when you’re looking at a recipe and it asks for something that you don’t have and probably won’t use again? Chances are that this item won’t make or break your recipe, so either search online for a most cost-effective substitute or pick a different meal to make.
  7. Cook more than you need – Leftovers can really help to limit your food spending, whether it’s letting you have the same meal for lunch later in the week or allowing you to repurpose what you’ve made for a different meal.
  8. Check what you already have – Before heading to the supermarket, check your fridge, freezer and pantry to see what you already have and try to base your meals on that. This will make sure you’re using things before they go off, saving you money overall.

Cheap food to buy when broke

If you’re looking for how to live cheap, finding recipes that produce cheap food for your family to eat (and love!) can be a great way to keep your grocery bill down. That’s why this list of recipe ideas focuses on ingredients that won’t break the bank.

And as an added bonus, most of them can easily be made ahead of time in bulk, letting you use them for multiple meals. As just mentioned, this is one of the key strategies for reducing your food costs, meaning that these recipes should be on anyone’s weekly meal plan who wants to keep their grocery expenses as low as possible – while still making sure you’re sticking to cheap food that’s healthy.

You may be interested in: 43 Simple Ways to Get Free Books Mailed to Your Home (including some recipe books!)

Good cheap foods for dinner

1. Spanish Rice and Ground Beef Skillet

cheap food options

This is a quick and easy dish that takes advantage of using some very cheap ingredients to make a filling meal. In fact, if you bought the cheap food staples we listed above, you’ll almost have everything you need to make this meal

And at a total cost of $4.25 to make, this comes out at only $0.85 per serve.

You could even add things like chilli or garlic to jazz it up a bit, depending on your household’s tastes, although it’s also very good as is.

Find the recipe here: Spanish Rice and Ground Beef Skillet

2. Parmesan Chicken Legs

recipe made using cheap food staples

Baked chicken legs are one of the easiest meals to make and taste amazing with only a few additions.

This recipe recommends that you use various herbs, such as basil, parsley and oregano, but there’s no need to go and buy all of these if you don’t have one of them already. It’s a good idea to have at least basil and oregano in your pantry though, so it’s worth buying these for future recipes if you don’t have any of them yet.

Assuming you do have these though, this recipe will cost only $8.00 to make at a cost per serving of only $1.00.

You’ll probably want to pair this with a side, so a quick salad, some steamed vegetables or even mashed potato would go beautifully with this. Alternatively, you could try one of the cheap food to cook as sides we’ve listed further down.

Find the recipe here: Parmesan Chicken Legs

3. Taco Mac and Cheese

example of cheap fast food options

We all probably enjoyed mac and cheese as kids, but there’s no reason why you can’t also enjoy it as an adult – with some adult health tweaks, of course.

In particular, including spinach and pepper really helps to up the nutrition value. If you don’t have those (or any of the other ingredients) already, the recipe actually includes some great substitutions.

This recipe makes a massive 12 servings, meaning the $15 preparation cost equates to $1.25 per serving.

The fact that you are essentially making this in bulk makes it perfect for those looking to save money, as you can keep the leftovers for use later in the week. You can even freeze them to help them last longer.

Find the recipe here: Taco Mac and Cheese

4. Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

example of how to make a meal on a budget

While this still (clearly) includes some meat, this is also a great cheap food option for anyone looking to incorporate more vegetables in their meals. The recipe includes a healthy mix of different peppers, but it’s fine if you only have one type available to save you from having to buy more.

You could also use different vegetables if you like – almost anything in your fridge will work here!

What I particularly love about this recipe is that it has instructions on how you can get your kids involved, no matter their ages. This is a great way to help them appreciate what they’re eating – and make sure they actually eat it, saving you money in the long run by avoiding wasted food.

And as an extra bonus, this recipe only costs $1.73 per serving for a total cost of $10.35 for six people.

Find the recipe here: Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

5. Creamy Sausage and Potatoes

dinner made from cheap food to buy when broke

Any meal where potatoes are one of the main ingredients is always going to be both filling and very inexpensive.

In fact, this dish costs only $5.25 to prepare, at a cost per serve of $1.05.

While the recipe recommends one type of sausage, you can, of course, use any type you like, especially if you already have a particular type in the fridge. You could also add some vegetables to this if you’re looking to up your greens, like beans or even peppers.

Find the recipe here: Creamy Sausage and Potatoes

6. Stuffed Peppers Pasta Casserole

example of good cheap foods for dinner

When looking for cheap food for dinner, a casserole is always a winner.

Besides the cheese, you’ll actually already have all of the main ingredients for this in the pantry if you’ve stocked up on the staples above, making this a filling, inexpensive meal that you can easily make ahead of time and freeze – or make extra to take advantage of leftovers.

While the recipe does ask you to use a couple of herbs, it’s fine if you only have one or, say, only have dried basil on hand instead of the leaves of basil it asks for. These kinds of substitutes can really help to bring the cost of the dish down, while still making the final product great.

Find the recipe here: Stuffed Peppers Pasta Casserole

7. Beef Enchilada Casserole

example of cheap fast food to make

For anyone who’s a fan of Mexican food, this gives you the taste of your favorite enchilada restaurant in the comfort of your home – and without paying the prices of eating out.

If you’d like to save even more money on this or are looking to cut back on how much meat you eat, you could replace some (or even all) of the meat by adding more beans. You could also substitute in some lentils, with some great recipes out there on how to cook them so that they can be used as a meat replacement in other dishes.

Find the recipe here: Beef Enchilada Casserole

8. Chicken Stir Fry

example from what are the cheapest meals

I made this recipe while exhausted after work one night and it was seriously one of the easiest meals I’ve ever made. Not to mention that given how little effort was involved, it was so delicious too! You can literally make this by cleaning out the veggies in your fridge, making it the perfect dish for anyone looking for budget meals as it’s great for avoiding food wastage.

You could also easily substitute the chicken for something like a can of chickpeas you have in the pantry and still get the nutritional benefit of this recipe.

Find the recipe here: Chicken Stir Fry

9. Sloppy Joe Pasta

example of what you can cook for $5

This recipe is a great example of some cheap food you can make a lot of, as it’s incredibly simple and will taste great both the night of and as leftovers.

It’s perfect for anyone looking for a way to use a bunch of things that are already in your pantry and fridge, making it super good value. 

And if you have any other vegetables in the fridge that need to be used, they can also be added to this however you like. For example, the author recommends grating some carrot in as well if you have some.

Find the recipe here: Sloppy Joe Pasta

10. Oven Baked Pork Chops

example of cheap food ideas for your family for dinner

These look so impressive when served that no one will ever know just how easy (and cheap!) this is to make.

The biggest expense here will be the pork chops themselves, as chops can be more expensive than some of the other cuts. However, they also tend to be bigger with more meat, making them better value overall.

All this means that you could save this recipe until a week where you find some pork on sale or you could even buy in bulk to reduce the cost and freeze what you don’t use immediately.

Find the recipe here: Oven Baked Pork Chops

11. Tuna Casserole

example of what do you eat when you're broke

I love making tuna-based recipes as opening the can is seriously the simplest food prep step of all time. When combined here with the fact that the longest step involves cooking macaroni, you can see why this is one of the easiest cheap food recipes out there.

As it’s true that this is also great value, with only a few key ingredients that you’ll probably have already. It’s always nice when simple comfort food is also comfortable for your wallet as well!

Find the recipe here: Tuna Casserole

12. Tuna Scrambled Egg

tuna scramble

This is intended to be a breakfast dish, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t have it for another meal if you want. This is especially the case if you’re looking for quick, protein-filled recipes, as this definitely fits the bill.

You’re also free to add whatever you want to take this to the next level. I love adding tomatoes and mushrooms, personally, and I’m sure spring onions would also be an easy addition to try.

Find the recipe here: Tuna Scrambled Egg

Vegetarian cheap food recipes

13. Cinnamon, Honey and Kefir Popsicles

cinnamon popsicles

These are a super cheap dessert or snack on a hot day that goes beyond the usual popsicle flavors you may be used to – at a cost of only $0.42 per serve.

If you’re not familiar with kefir, it’s similar to drinking yogurt so you can use that as an alternative, or even regular or greek yogurt mixed with some milk if you already have that in the fridge.

Don’t forget as well that you’ll need a popsicle mold to make this. This reusable silicone one is incredibly good value.

Find the recipe here: Cinnamon, Honey and Kefir Popsicles

14. Lemon and Garlic Broccoli

lemon broccoli

For a quick side at dinner, you can’t go past this one. Steamed broccoli is also incredibly healthy and there’s no reason why you can’t save money by using frozen broccoli. This packet is a great deal at less than $0.10 an ounce.

And adding the dressing makes it great for people who may be less inclined to eat their greens. If someone in your family isn’t a fan of garlic, there’s a great, simple substitute in the recipe.

Find the recipe here: Lemon and Garlic Broccoli

15. Vegetable Fried Rice

vegetarian fried rice

Fried rice is one of the easiest meals to cook for anyone trying to eat less meat while also saving money. And as this recipe shows, it’s incredibly fast, making it perfect for a weeknight meal when you may be tired and just want something you can put on the table in a few minutes.

This specific recipe is great for letting you take advantage of those frozen vegetables you keep in your freezer, as almost any type of vegetable mix will go well here.

This will also go well for your budget, with a total cost of $6.32 or $1.58 per serving.

Find the recipe here: Vegetable Fried Rice

16. Minestrone Soup

minestrone soup

Minestrone soup is the perfect cheap food to make when the temperature drops. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also incredibly healthy.

It’s also great for your budget, as you can basically use any vegetables you have in your fridge that you need to clean out. You don’t necessarily need to go out and get the exact vegetables that this recipe calls for – instead, just use whatever you have left that you need to use up.

Finally, soups like this are perfect for leftovers. In fact, they can often taste better the next day as all the flavors have had the time to develop even further. This means you should consider making extra portions of this to use late in the week – and save even more money.

Find the recipe here: Minestrone Soup

17. Chilli Sin Carne

chilli sin carne

I love eating recipes that are based on beans as they’re low in fat, high in fiber, a good source of protein, great for your grocery budget…and taste amazing as well!

So this chilli sin carne is a great twist on the “con carne” version. It’s also a good example of a recipe that you can make in bulk and freeze, to pull it out at a later date when cooking a new meal just seems like an impossible feat.

Find the recipe here: Chilli Sin Carne

18. Black Bean and Rice Wrap Filling

black bean and rice wrap filling

This is a hearty cheap food you can live off for days, whether you use it for meals at home or for lunches at school or the office. Given the main ingredients are rice and black beans, this will not even come close to breaking the bank, especially if you have dried beans you can use to further reduce costs.

This is also fine to make in bulk and freeze, letting you pull it out before, say, a busy school week. Simply pop it into some tortilla wraps and you’re good to go.

Find the recipe here: Black Bean and Rice Wrap Filling

19. Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti

lentil bolognese

This is a fantastic meat replacement for the original, making it great for anyone who’s trying to eat less meat but is missing some of their old favorites.

You could easily use this recipe as a substitute in others that include meat-based bolognese, especially if you’re not keen on having all the carbs that this pasta involves. I’ve used lentil bolognese to make shepherd’s pie, for example, and the result was a huge success.

I also really like using this recipe for meal prepping, as it’s so easy to make in bulk and then incorporate into different meals during the rest of the week. For anyone trying to meal prep, this one should be added to your list.

Find the recipe here: Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti

20. Onion and Herb Frittata

onion and herb frittata

For a healthy, light dish that can be eaten as any meal of the day, you can’t go wrong with this frittata. You can eat it on its own or as part of a larger dish, such as with a salad or even in a sandwich.

It’s also one of the easiest meals you’ll ever make. With the core ingredients of just onions, whichever herbs you have and eggs, you can then add anything else you want to jazz it up. I’d personally include some cheese as well but if you don’t have any in the fridge, it’s absolutely not a problem to leave it out and still have a delicious result.

Find the recipe here: Onion and Herb Frittata

Cheap fast food with an Instant Pot

If you’re a household that owns an Instant Pot, you’ve got some extra possibilities for cheap food you can make!

(And if you don’t have one, you should really consider it if your budget allows it, as it lets you make food that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise, not to mention the time savings. 

In particular, a lot of Instant Pot recipes use ingredients you can buy in bulk, meaning your meals end up being much cheaper compared to when you buy the finished product in a jar or a container.

If you’re interested, this Instant Pot is a great deal, with almost 140,000 Amazon reviews at an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.)

21. Instant Pot Chicken and Rice

instant pot chicken and rice

This is one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever try, taking less than five minute of prep work before it’s in the Instant Pot cooking away. This makes it great for those nights when you just can’t be bothered cooking – although it also works well for cooking ahead of time, freezing and then using when you’re ready to do so.

You’ll also probably already have all the ingredients available, especially if you followed the list of cheap food staples we went through earlier.

And just as an added bonus, it only costs $5 to make at a cost per serve of $1.25.

Find the recipe here: Instant Pot Chicken and Rice

22. Instant Pot Corn on the Cob

Instant Pot corn on the cob

Corn on the cob is a favorite of pretty much everyone, but this one really works in the nutrition factor by steaming it instead. This helps it to retain a lot of the nutrients you’d lose if you boiled it.

And not only is this good for you, but it’s good for your wallet at a total cost of $2.88, making it $0.48 per serving.

Just keep in mind that the cost of the recipe may go up if it’s not summer when you’re making it, as that’s when corn is in-season.

Find the recipe here: Corn on the Cob

23. Pinto Bean Soup

pinto bean and sausage soup

Although this is a slow cooker recipe, you can just hit this function on your Instant Pot for it to work exactly the same.

And you should definitely give this a try, as it’s a delicious way to eat more beans. With the pinto beans taking pride of place in this recipe, you’ll get your hit of protein while helping your wallet too, especially if you bought them dry and in bulk.

After all, this recipe is only $0.63 per serve, costing a total of $10.00 for 16 people, so there’ll be plenty of leftovers if you’re a smaller household.

As an extra way to save money, the recipe calls for chicken stock but if you only have, say, the vegetable stock paste I recommended earlier, that’s perfectly fine as well.

Find the recipe here: Pinto Bean Soup

24. Chicken and Potatoes

Instant Pot chicken and potatoes

The highlight of this meal is easily the fact that you can make it all in one pot. This makes it super easy to just put everything in and your work is basically done!

The recipe does ask for paprika and while I didn’t put it on the list of staples, I’d still argue that it’s a great thing to have in the pantry that you’ll use for a ton of different recipes. And this one is such good value, you won’t even notice this one-time cost in your new cheap food budget that week.

And if you’d like to add some greens to this, quickly cooking some of those frozen green beans you probably have in your freezer is an easy way to do this and adds no time at all to the overall cooking process

Find the recipe here: Chicken and Potatoes

What are the cheapest meals?

The cheapest meal to make for you is going to largely depend on what you already have in your pantry, saving you from having to buy new ingredients in order to make a recipe.

That said, from the list above, some of the cheapest meals include the following:

  • Vegetarian fried rice
  • Minestrone soup
  • Spanish rice and ground beef fillet
  • Sheet pan chicken fajitas
  • Chilli sin carne
  • Beef enchilada casserole
  • Chicken stir fry

What can I cook for $5?

For cheap food you can make for under $5, the following recipes from the list above are some great ideas to include on this week’s menu based on how low their per serving cost is:

  • Sheet pan chicken fajitas
  • Taco mac and cheese
  • Vegetarian fried rice
  • Parmesan chicken legs
  • Pinto bean soup
  • Creamy sausage and potatoes

As you can see, even if you’re trying to live stingy, this absolutely doesn’t have to be at the expense of your diet. 

Want to save time AND money? The $5 Meal Plan sends a meal plan to you every single week for only $5 per month – with each meal costing $2 per person or less.

Try it by grabbing a free 14-day trial here.

What do you eat when you’re broke?

When you’re broke and really need the cheapest food to survive on, look into eating meals that have the following as their main ingredients:

  1. Beans – They’re healthy, filling and really cheap. If you can buy them dry and in bulk, they come out to about $0.15 per serving.
  2. Frozen vegetables – These can actually be healthier than their fresh counterparts, not to mention cheaper, and they’ll basically never go off.
  3. Rice – Rice is a great addition to a lot of meals, especially to bulk them up instead of more expensive ingredients. Brown rice especially is healthier and, being high in fiber, is very filling.
  4. Oats – An easy breakfast option which, if you buy them in bulk, can come out to only $0.05 per serving.
  5. Potatoes – These can also be bought in bulk, given they last a long time, and help for adding some substance to meals when you don’t want to use items that are pricier.
  6. Eggs – Eggs can be eaten as basically any meal of the day and are packed with protein to help both your body and your wallet.

Essentially, focusing on the list of cheap food staples we included above should be your go-to if you’re looking for what to eat when you’re broke. They’re all very inexpensive and, in most cases, can last you a long time, letting your grocery bill stretch for as long as possible.

Final thoughts on these cheap food ideas

Finding what you can eat for under $10 or even less to feed your entire household can certainly be a struggle.

But as you can see above, there are plenty of options out there if you put a few key strategies into play. And the difference of cheap food vs expensive food doesn’t have to have any impact on nutrition, with plenty of the best healthy pantry staples also being incredibly good value.

In fact, in terms of cheap food you can live off, these recipe ideas also have the added bonus of being delicious! Whether it’s adding some garlic, some chilli or even a bit (just a bit!) of salt, very simply ingredients can easily bring out a ton of flavor.

And to further reduce your grocery bill, meal planning is going to be one of the best things you can do. While it may take a bit of prep work (unless you take advantage of something like the $5 Meal Plan to do it for you for just $5 a month), it’s definitely going to be worth it in the end in terms of the benefits for your budget.

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About the author

Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been featured on Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a six-figure investment portfolio. Find out more.