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Good Cheap Food
These are the cheapest recipes I have made in my years raising my family as a single parent. In order to make it from one month to the next, I had to stretch my grocery money as far as it would go.
I was always on the lookout for cheap dinner ideas, since I was raising two hungry children on a limited income. Now I share with you my family favorites, tried and true recipes for very cheap meals on a budget.
This article focuses primarily on cheap food that is easy to prepare for someone who does not have much time or a fully equipped kitchen. Many of these recipes are suitable for college students or those who receive packages from food pantries.
Warning: Eating a lot of these very cheap meals will save you money in the sort run, but it is not a good long-term strategy. Eat the cheapest recipes to stretch your food budget, but as often as possible eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry, red meat and fresh milk.
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Cheap Pasta Meals
The Frugal Foodie - Waste-Not Recipes for the Wise Cook
Tasty, yet inexpensive, recipes that maximize nutrition while stretching your food dollar!
Cheap Pasta Meals - Cheapest Recipes Using Pasta
Pasta is an inexpensive way to fill up a hungry family. Buy pasta when it is on sale to save a lot of money and make your grocery dollars stretch as far as possible.
- Canned sauce is cheaper than sauce in a jar. Doctor it up with a little ground beef or other leftover meat scraps. Just chop them fine and throw them in. Chop leftover vegetables and add them too. If your sauce is too watery, stir in some parmesan cheese or breadcrumbs. Spice your sauce up with some additional garlic or spices. Spaghetti is a very cheap meal my mother always served with toast, and which my girls loved with garlic toast.
- Add pasta to soups and chilis to make it more filling and add servings.
- Make lasagna without the meat. Instead, use some chopped vegetables, and extra ricotta and parmesan cheese.
- Serve serve warm cream of chicken soup, diluted with a little milk or water, over hot pasta. Add some peas or mixed vegetables, if desired. Top with grated cheese or parmesan, if desired.
- To make Poor Man's Stroganoff: Brown a pound of hamburger. Add onion and garlic to taste, then pour in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Dilute with milk until it is the desired consistency. Serve over noodles.
- To make Tuna Pasta Salad - Mix together in a large bowl: 1 package of pasta (tri-color spirals are pretty, but you can use anything from macaroni to shells), 1 can tuna, enough ranch dressing to make everything moist. Chill and serve.
- Toss hot pasta with plain yogurt, a spoonful of prepared mustard and parmesan cheese, seasoned with a little salt and white pepper.
- To make Pasta Fazoli - Brown 2 cloves of garlic and a small, chopped onion in around 4 tablespoons of butter and cook until tender. Then add a can of white beans (juice and all), add some salt and pepper, then heat until bubbly. Add a little olive oil if a little more sauce is needed. Serve over cooked spaghetti with parmesan cheese.
Colorful shell pasta for the cheapest recipes
Here is a very easy recipe for macaroni and cheese that my girls loved. Nothing complicated, just macaroni and cheese sauce.
- 1 1/2. cups macaroni
- 3 T. butter
- 2 T. flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1. Cook macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain, but don't rinse, and set aside.
- 2. Using the same pan you cooked the pasta in, melt the butter and blend in the flour, stirring until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Then slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constanly until the sauce is thick and bubbly.
- 3. Add the cheese, stirring until melted.
- 4. Toss in the cooked macaroni and stir to coat with the cheese sauce.
- 5. Put the macaroni mixture into a lightly buttered 1 1/2 qt. casserole.
- 6. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
Tuna Noodle Casserole
The cheapest recipes are flexible enough to let you use what you have on hand. This allows you to use up scraps of food that might otherwise go to waste, and saves you from running to the store to pick up needed ingredients.
- 2 cans tuna
- 1 bag egg noodles
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- cheddar or velveeta cheese (optional)
- bread crumbs (optional)
- frozen or canned peas (optional)
- 1. Cook the noodles according to directions. Drain.
- 2. Combine the soup with half a can of water or milk, then add the drained tuna and optional peas.
- 3. Add the noodles to the soup mixture.
- 4. Put the noodle and soup mixture into a large casserole or baking dish.
- 5. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and browned.
- 5. Top with bread crumbs or grated cheese, as desired.
Cheap Recipes Poll
What is your favorite way to eat pasta?
Cheap Potato Recipes
Cheap Potato Recipes - Inexpensive Meal Ideas
Potatoes are always economical. You can buy a large bag for a few dollars. Store them in a cool, dark location and they will keep well.
- My friend, Jayne, a military wife raising three active children, says her cheapest meal idea is a Friday night potato bar. This is extremely popular with her children. She makes potatoes and sets them out on her bar with a variety of toppings, including any leftovers from the week. The kids load up their potatoes with vegetables and leftover bits of meat, top with grated cheese and sour cream. Leftover taco fixings are especially popular on the potato bar.
- My girls have always loved a dish we call Fried Skillet. I fry a bunch of sliced potatoes or hash browns in hot oil until they are tender and browned, adding onion and/or mushrooms if desired. When the potatoes are almost done, I throw in whatever I have on hand: cooked hamburger meat or sausage, beans, bits of rice. Then I add eggs and cook until the eggs are cooked through, and top with grated cheese. This is very filling and my girls love it.
- Make mashed potatoes, then top with stew or soup. My girls loved a dish I once made out of desperation, when I made mashed potatoes and then mixed it with a can of Dinty Moore Stew. We called it Goop, which is what it looked like. The children loved it and begged for more. I have also made mashed potatoes and topped with various chunky soups, like the Sirloin Burger soup. This is also quite tasty and will stretch a can of soup to serve more than one person.
Cheap Bean Recipes
Cheap Bean Recipes
Beans are one of the cheapest forms of protein you can buy. They are also low in fat and high in fiber. They are so good for you and so cheap that it is crazy not to eat more of them!
The cheapest form you can buy is the dried beans, but even if you buy canned beans they are still cheaper than any other form of protein. Stock up on beans when they are on sale and use them to stretch other recipes, like soups and pasta dishes.
- Make a cheap and easy beans and rice dish by combining one cup each of beans with rice pilaf.
- Make bean soup according to the directions on packages of dried soup mix.
- Serve baked beans with brown rice.
- Add beans to a box of rice mix, add a can of chopped or stewed tomatoes and top with cheese if desired.
- Substitute a can of beans for the meat in Hamburger Helper mixes.
One of the Cheapest Recipes: Bean Soup
Mama's Hobo Beans
- 3 cans pork and beans
- 3 cans kidney beans
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 small chopped onion
- 1 1/2 lbs. browned ground beef
- Empty cans into crockpot. Do not drain the cans, add the juice too. Then add the other ingredients and cook on low. Serve with cornbread. You can also add lima beans, butter beans or garbanzo beans to the pot. I usually add extra beans to stretch this, but be careful you do not overflow your crockpot!
Cheap Rice Recipes
Cheap Rice Recipes
Rice is another inexpensive food that can be used to stretch your food budget. White rice is cheaper, but I prefer brown rice for its nutritional value. I also buy a lot of arborio rice. Even though it is more expensive, it has the advantage that you can just toss it into other dishes while they are cooking to add bulk.
- Heat a can of cream of chicken soup, diluted with a little milk, and serve over hot rice.
- Add rice to soups to stretch them and make them more filling.
- Serve rice on the side of other dishes. Add a little gravy if desired. This is filling so that people eat less of the more expensive foods on the table.
- Serve chili over rice.
Cheese Rice & Beans Casserole
- 1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 15.5 ounce can drained and rinsed kidney beans
- 14.5 ounce can undrained diced tomatoes
- 1 cup frozen corn or substitute a can of corn
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
- Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a 2 quart casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, stir thoroughly then bake another 10 minutes. Uncover and top with the cheese, then bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Cheap Ways to Use Your Leftovers
Ideas to Use Up Leftovers
Don't throw your leftover food away! Make it into something else with these cheap and easy ideas!
- Keep a container in your freezer and add your scraps to it. When it is full use it to make a delicious soup.
- Set up a potato bar as described above. Bake potatoes then top with your leftovers from earlier in the week.
- Make a casserole by dicing leftover meat, adding a can of cream of anything soup, add some vegetables and serve over rice or noodles.
- Make homemade pizza and toss your leftovers on the top.
- Make a frittatta, by mixing your leftovers with some beaten eggs, then bake in a greased casserole or baking dish at 350 degrees until eggs are set.
Whatever Casserole Makes Use of Your Leftovers
I love the Green Apple Home videos! Here Karissa shares her recipe for Whatever Casserole. This looks like a terrific way to use whatever you have on hand to make a delicious and nutritious meal for your family.
More Recipes for the End of the Month - Some of the Cheapest Recipes on the Web
If you run out of money before the end of the month, as I often did for many years, try these recipes for using up what you have on hand.
- Bare Pantry Soup | A Simple Haven
Here is a tasty soup you can make using just the ingredients you have in your pantry and fridge.
More Cheap Meal Ideas and Recipes
The Staving Student's Cookbook
Not just for students! This is a terrific cookbook for beginners, but it is also wonderful for anyone who wants to learn some new techniques or find new ways to save money on their groceries. Filled with fun and simple recipes for inexpensive comfort food, I think you will enjoy this one!
The Everything Handy College Cookbook
Another cookbook not just for college students! I have used many of these recipes as I get used to cooking for one, after feeding a family for the past several decades. You never know when the tips in this book will come in handy!
Not only that, but the Kindle price just can't be beat!
Beans are cheap, tasty and nutritious. They are packed with protein and fiber. You can pick up a pound of canned beans for under a dollar. A pound of dried beans costs a few cents more, but yields a lot more meals.
This cookbook is full of delicious recipes that will help you make good use of beans to keep both your body and your bank account healthy!
Cheapest Recipes Poll
What do you do with your leftovers?
Even More Very Cheap Recipes and Meal Ideas
- 100 Delicious, Dirt-Cheap Recipes for the Starving Student
Not just for college students!
- Casual Kitchen: The 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen
If food costs are getting you down, or if you're just looking for a few easy and cost-effective recipes, take heart: Casual Kitchen has you covered. What follows is an extensive list of the best and least expensive recipes ever posted on this site. T
- How to Live Comfortable on $36 a Month for Food
Blogger gives details of how he survived on a $36 a month grocery budget while in college. Be sure to check out the comment section for additional recipes and suggestions for cheap and free eats!
What are the cheapest recipes you have made to feed yourself or your family? Do you or your family have a favorite inexpensive meal? Do you have any tips for making cheap food? Please share your ideas and comments!