My Top 5 Cheap Home Cooked Meals


I’m married now, but I was a bachelor up until very recently. In fact there was a time when my roommate and I were both working lousy jobs–plus he was going to college full time and our combined earnings were barely paying the rent and keeping the lights on. The numbers escape me, but I’m pretty sure we were living on $5-10 a day for all three meals. Needless to say, we weren’t eating like kings, unless you are talking about the old Henny Youngman joke: “Here King, here King…” Now living with a wife in grad school, three dogs and mortgage payments, I’m doing a little bit better but money is still tight. Back in our parent’s day, mom used to get advice from magazines like the Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, and Family Circle. They would always advise that to maximize your food dollar you need to plan your menu in advance and shop accordingly.

I heartily agree and these are the meals I plan–with a million variations. Yeah, they aren’t all that groundbreaking, but hopefully I can save some poor struggling bachelor a few dollars on his dinner bill.

Spaghetti – Sure it’s an old standby, but there is no better way to feed people on a budget that pasta. Add tomato sauce with browned ground beef, smoked sausage or Alfredo sauce with chunks of chicken, or just garlic, olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese and its done.

Just about the easiest thing in the world.

Chili with rice – You can make chili out of just about any meat you want and make it good. Ground beef or turkey, chunked stew beef, leftovers–whatever you have. Brown it, simmer it for an hour, and add cooked beans, tomatoes (freshly diced or canned), onions, and season with whatever you have in the cupboard. Put it over rice and eat.

Roll it up in a tortilla, or put it in a taco shell and it’s a whole different meal.

Meatloaf – There are a million ways to make meatloaf. Ground meat, breadcrumbs, onions, an egg or two to help bind it–and lots of ketchup.

Here’s a simple meatloaf recipe for you courtesy of Bake it, slice it eat it. Make it with brown gravy and mashed potatoes and it’s a pretty classy meal. Or add a few slices of bacon to the top of it if you’ve got some.

Red Beans and Rice – In the south, this was the traditional Monday meal. Plantation workers would take Sundays off, so Monday there was a backlog. They’d toss leftovers in a pot with red beans and rice in the morning and simmer it all day. When they finished work dinner was waiting.

The ingredients are red beans (from a can or dried from a bag), rice and whatever meat you want to add.

It’s great with hot links, browned ground beef, chicken, or whatever leftovers you have from Sunday. Toss in a ham bone, scraps of roast beef or whatever you can pick off the carcass of a roast chicken.

Mac and Cheese with Fish Sticks – Sure, this is not the most economical meal, but sometimes you just want some processed cheese and fried fish. Nothing to tell you, both these come out of a box. Call this one the “Theo Huxtable” special, it was his all time favorite.

So there you have it. Nothing groundbreaking here, just some simple classic American comfort food. And in a real pinch remember, pancakes aren’t just for breakfast–they make a quick cheap and filling supper.

Got a good suggestion of a cheap and simple meal plan? Add it in the comments below.

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  1. Allegra.Ringo

    3 years ago

    I like to make lentil loaf instead of meatloaf. It’s really easy, and lentils are ultra-cheap (in most cases, cheaper than buying meat). Plus, dried lentils last forever. I use this recipe:

  2. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    fried rice is simple and cheap. I also like to utilize my slow cooker. Honey garlic chicken is one dish that is super easy to make, cheap and lasts a few meals.

  3. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    Frito pie. Grab a bag of Fritos. Cover plate. Add some piping hot chili. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Frito pie. MMMmmm good.

  4. chrismason57

    3 years ago

    Tater Tot casserole. Jus’ sayin’.

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