As a family of five, our grocery budget can quickly get out of hand. Therefore, I have a list of super frugal meals that I rotate to keep my grocery budget within reason and my life easy.
I start by planning my meals from what I already have on hand and then grocery shop weekly to fill in my needs and pick up what’s on sale. I cook as much as I can from scratch, but some things I buy purely out of convenience to save my sanity.
I must admit, I am not a great cook. I can follow a recipe (for the most part) and make a couple of things really good. But, I try not to get too fancy in the kitchen because
- It can get expensive.
- My kids are getting picky, and while I encourage trying new things, I am not about wasting food and money in this economy.
Therefore, I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here. I am trying to provide somewhat nutritious meals that are quick, easy, and affordable. So, here is a list of my favorite frugal meals that keep our budget on track and our bellies full.
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Frugal breakfast ideas
In our house, we do cereal more for snacks instead of breakfast. Cereal doesn’t seem to stick as long as a hot breakfast (at least for my kids).
So, here are my favorite cheap breakfast ideas for every day.
Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat are really cheap and easy. I usually make it in the microwave or stovetop, adding maple syrup, brown sugar, berries, or mushed banana.
But, when I want something a little more decadent or have a group of people to feed, these crockpot oatmeals are delicious, simple, and cheap.
- Slow Cooker Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
- Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats
Bagels, toast, and english muffins
A toaster and some toppings make for a quick and inexpensive meal when paired with bagels, bread, and english muffins.
- peanut butter
- banana slices
- a piece of melted cheese
- cream cheese
- a dippy egg
The list goes on and on and costs very little to make.
Although eggs have gone up in price (like everything else), they are still an inexpensive meal. You can look for sales and stock up when they have them. Or, if you know a person with chickens, they usually give them away!
There are so many different ways you can prepare eggs. But, here are a couple of low-cost meals to try.
- Toad in the Hole
- Spinach and cheese egg muffins
- Easy Breakfast Casserole
- Freezer Breakfast Egg Sandwich
Pancakes, waffles, and french toast
Some more frugal breakfast meal essentials are pancakes, waffles, and french toast. They are easy and freezer friendly. So, you can make a ton, freeze them, pull them out, and heat them up when you want.
You can get a box of pancake and waffle mix pretty cheap at the store, but I usually make them from scratch with some easy pantry staples.
This easy french toast bake is a great recipe for any extra rolls or bread you need to get rid of (especially the ends of the bread no one wants to eat).
Banana bread is a great way to use those spotted or brown bananas. Paired with some fruit and a glass of milk, it’s a delicious weekend breakfast that my kids enjoy. It makes for a great snack too!
This banana bread recipe is tried and true and my absolute favorite.
Frugal tip: I don’t usually have buttermilk sitting around, so I use this simple buttermilk alternative instead.
Skip the individually portioned cups of yogurt, and save some money. Buy the large 32oz yogurt containers (plain or flavored), and make your own yogurt parfait.
You can add fruit, peanut butter, honey, or homemade granola (my absolute favorite)! The possibilities are endless to jazz up your yogurt!
Frugal lunch ideas
Like all my meals, I like to keep things simple. Lunch is usually after our morning outings and running errands, so it needs to be quick too.
Here are my go-to kid-friendly lunches that are super affordable.
You can make homemade chicken nuggets, but I buy the 4-pound bag of chicken nuggets because it makes my life easier. Serve them with some fruit and/or veggies, and it’s a meal most kids love.
Quesadillas are quick, easy, and great for using leftover veggies, meat, and cheese. I love making quesadillas when I have leftover chicken or taco meat.
My kids also love these simple pizza quesadillas, which you can make with leftover spaghetti or pizza sauce and toppings.
Sandwiches are quick and easy to take on the go. Some of our favorites are
- Homemade PB&J Uncrustables
- Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders
- Tomato sandwiches
- Ham, turkey, chicken sandwiches
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup
Lunchables are fun, but it’s not cheap at over $2 a piece for a couple crackers, meat, and cheese! So, here are some DIY Lunchable ideas.
- Cracker stacks for your lunch pack
- Pizza toast
- Make your own tacos with scooped tortillas
- tuna or chicken salad with crackers
Hot dogs are a very versatile staple, and most kids love them. Add them to baked beans, mac & cheese, or wrap them in croissants…kids go crazy over them!
Frugal dinner ideas
I don’t do a traditional meat, starch, and vegetable dinner. I often make soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes to further stretch the meat in our meals.
If I do make a traditional dinner, I often make a whole ham, chicken, or roast so that I can repurpose the meat into other meals for the week.
Here are our favorite cheap dinners.
Most weeks, I schedule one or two leftover nights. Leftovers are a great way to clear out the fridge so that food doesn’t go to waste.
Pasta is so cheap, and it can feed a ton of people! Here are my go-to pasta dinners that are really inexpensive!
Spaghetti with meat sauce or meatballs
You can’t get any cheaper than spaghetti. I use a pound of ground beef, a jar of sauce, and a pound of pasta, and this gives us two days’ worth of dinners. I pair it with a salad or broccoli and homemade garlic bread.
Frugal tip: I save a quarter of the ground beef after I brown it and throw it in a baggie in the freezer. Each time I cook spaghetti, I add a quarter of the meat to the baggie. This way, after a couple times, I have enough to make another meal without using a whole pound of ground beef.
Chicken alfredo is a great meal to use up leftover chicken. I use approximately a pound of leftover chicken heated in a jar of alfredo and poured over a pound of penne pasta. You can add whatever seasoning you like to jazz it up. I use Old Bay and a bit of shredded parmesan cheese.
This homemade hamburger helper recipe is delicious. It’s just as quick as making a box of hamburger helper, except it tastes much better. The great thing is, it’s made with kitchen and pantry staples. So, if I don’t have anything planned or don’t feel like making dinner, this is something quick I can whip up in about 15 minutes.
Garlic butter noodles with shrimp
This is a family favorite! It tastes like it costs a lot, but it’s so cheap to make. Saute a pound or two of shrimp, and set to the side. Saute fresh minced garlic (6-8 cloves or more depending on your taste) in a stick of butter until fragrant. Add whatever seasoning you like (I use Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and sometimes Old Bay). Then, mix a pound of cooked linguine (or whatever pasta you have) and shrimp in with the garlic butter.
Goulash is another great meal that can feed an army for little money. Here is an excellent old-fashioned goulash recipe that my kids love!
Soups are great for super frugal meals. You can throw anything in them, and they taste great, especially in the fall and winter.
- Chicken noodle soup
- Vegetable soup (this is a good base to add on to)
- Navy bean and ham soup (using leftover ham bones)
- Taco soup
I love a casserole! It’s everything all-in-one and feeds a ton of people with leftovers to spare. Here are a couple of my favorite cheap casserole dishes.
If you’re looking for a sandwich with a little more oomph than a typical lunch sandwich, here are my family’s favorites!
- French dip sandwiches
- Cheeseburgers (2lb ground beef mixed with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, onion, and garlic powder. Then, shape into 8 burgers and grill)
- Sloppy Joes
- Grilled chicken sandwiches (I use this marinade and grill. Then top with lettuce, tomato, and red onion, and serve with chips and a pickle)
- Meatball sandwiches (use leftover meatballs and sauce for spaghetti and meatballs)
Meatless meals save you money because they cut out the most expensive of the grocery items: meat.
Here are a couple good ones.
- Southern Mac and Cheese (served with stewed tomatoes)
- Shells and sauce (Get a bag of pre-stuffed shells and a jar of sauce)
- Baked potatoes (put whatever you want on them, even leftover chicken or taco meat are delicious)
- Breakfast for dinner (pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs, etc.)
Make sure to eat leftovers, repurpose them, and get creative with making casserole and one-pot dishes to help stretch meat a bit further.
Think outside the box and have an appetizer night or a meatless meal to save on groceries. Just because it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself to eating certain meals at certain times.
Feeding a family can be costly. But with some meal planning and a list of super frugal meals, it can be more affordable than you think.
What super frugal meals are your favorite? Leave a comment below.