When you are broke or living on a very tight budget here are some fabulous dirt cheap meals that you can enjoy!
When money is very tight and you are wondering how to pay all your bills, you still need to eat.
Food is a necessity and one of the biggest expenses each month for families.
If you are struggling with your budget and wondering how to stretch your grocery money, there are things that you can do to help.
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How can I eat dirt cheap?
Eating cheap meals will require a little bit of planning ahead.
Yes, it is tempting to go grab a quick meal at a fast food restaurant or make impulse purchases at the grocery store, but if you really want to eat cheaply then you need to make a plan and choose inexpensive items.
If you create a weekly meal plan and keep a running grocery list of cheap foods, this will help you slash your grocery bill. I use this wonderful weekly planner on my fridge and I write down my meal plan for the upcoming week. This saves me SO much time and helps keep me on track!
Make Dirt Cheap Meals Even Cheaper!
How to Save Money on Food with Dirt Cheap Meals
Besides making a meal plan, here are some other simple tips to help you start saving BIG on meals:
- Eat less meat (the most expensive food item).
- Stretch meat by using a 1/2 portion in a recipe instead of the full amount.
- Use meat in a stew, soup, or pasta recipe (you can use less meat in these kinds of recipes and still have the flavor).
- Use up pantry items and freezer items first before buying new groceries (at the end of the month before your next paycheck, set a challenge to use up pantry and freezer items instead of shopping).
- Look at your weekly sales flyer and plan meals based on upcoming sales.
- When you shop, stick to your shopping list (and do NOT shop when you are hungry! You’ll end up buying more! And avoid impulse purchases!).
- Buy generic versions instead of brand names (most generic brand foods taste the same as the original. If not, maybe you can get used to it!).
- Shop the markdown/clearance section for great deals (I do this all the time. If I find meat, I use it immediately or freeze it for later.)
- Plan to use leftovers (and include them in your meal planning).
- Batch cook and make larger portions for leftovers and freezing. These souper cubes work very well for freezing soups (stews, etc.) in nice portion sizes.
- Use coupons – you can find coupons in the mail, via your local grocery store app, or through rebate apps like Ibotta.
- Grow some veggies in your own garden.
- Make items at home from scratch.
What is the cheapest food to buy?
Focus on high protein items (these will keep you feeling full longer) and healthy vegetables (for nutrients and vitamins) that are versatile and can be used in many types of meals.
The cheapest foods at the grocery store are typically:
- peanut butter
- chicken thighs
- ground turkey
- canned fish
- blocks of cheese (shred it yourself if needed)
- rice (brown rice)
- vegetables (choose ones that last longer – sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, broccoli, etc.)
- fruits (like apples, bananas, oranges)
What is the Cheapest Food that Fills You Up (and is still healthy!)?
When you are trying to stretch your grocery and meal budget, it helps to plan meals and snacks made from foods that will make you feel full!
If you feel full, then you won’t need to snack between meals (and will save money that way).
Cheapest foods that fill you up:
- Beans (dried beans are cheapest)
- Cheese (cottage cheese)
- fruit (bananas, apples)
- squash (delicata is my favorite!)
- canned tuna
Dirt Cheap Meal Ideas
Let’s check out some simple, inexpensive meal ideas that you can use in your meal planning each week.
Dirt Cheap Meals – Breakfast
Breakfast doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a variety of cheap meals
You can honestly eat breakfast for any meal, really!
- Smoothies (So many varieties! You can add milk, yogurt, tofu, kale, spinach, bananas, frozen berries, peanut butter…)
- Eggs (fried, scrambled, in an omelet), served with toast or fried potatoes
- Breakfast Casserole (you can leave out the sausage to save money)
- French toast (if avocados are on sale, try Avocado toast – yum!)
- Hash browns (super easy! you can also add eggs, cheese, veggies…)
- Oatmeal (add brown sugar, fruit, seeds/nuts)
- Cereal – maybe not the healthiest choice, but you can opt for cereals with less sugar and more whole grains (like Grape Nuts)
- Bagels (add cream cheese, PB&J, or our favorite – peanut butter, honey, and a dash of cinnamon!)
Dirt Cheap Meals – Lunch
Lunch can be cheap and simple with one of these ideas.
- Leftovers – Save time and effort on meal planning, but making extras and eat leftovers for several meals.
- PB&J – look for sales on whole wheat bread
- Grilled cheese – get block cheese (it’s cheaper) and slice it yourself
- Sandwiches – wide variety of options here
- Quesadillas – (take tortillas and add shredded cheese and toast in the oven, or make it fancy like these. You can add taco meat (or chicken), salsa, and cheese.)
- Mac and Cheese – you can buy a box or make your own (I’ve been know to add things like diced broccoli or sausages.)
- Wraps – You can take inexpensive tortillas and fill them with anything (leftover chicken/beef, lettuce and avocado. Here are some ideas to get you started.)
- Salads – SO many options here. Take a look at these for some starter ideas.
- Pasta salads – Check out these for some simple, inexpensive ideas.
- Soup – Here are some budget-friendly soup recipes. Make a big batch and freeze portions in these for later.
Dirt Cheap Meals – Dinner
- Tacos – our family favorite! Lots of different options – you can use different meats (ground turkey, chicken, beef), add diced veggies when cooking, add beans, etc.
- Pasta – spaghetti noodles with a can of sauce – add cheese or ground meat or even chopped veggies
- Chili – (easy to make with can of diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, ground meat, beans) Or start with this recipe and add your own twist.
- Stir-fry – I like to cook ground meat add some veggies and serve with rice – something like this recipe.
- Salads – add lots of veggies and some meat
- Soups – (you can try tomato, bean, lentil, corn chowder)
- Eggs – fried or scrambled with toast
- Fried rice
- Sloppy Joes
Dirt Cheap Meals – Side Dishes
- Rice – Try different versions like Mexican rice, Lemon rice (an Indian favorite!), or healthier brown rice
- Frozen veggies – you can steam them in under 10 minutes for a quick side dish (or sometimes I give this to my girls for a meal!)
- Bread, biscuits, or rolls
- Pasta salad
You don’t need to be worried about your grocery bill with these dirt cheap meal ideas! Make a meal plan, check out the weekly coupons, and start saving money. What are your favorite dirt cheap meal ideas?