At the heart of frugal living, right after following a budget to a tee, is shopping smart. Your grocery bill is extremely flexible based on what meals you’ll be eating, so while you’re planning them out, think cheap. There are plenty of tasty meals that are cost-effective, too, so there isn’t any need to make sacrifices!
Today, I’ve compiled a list of 9 meals you can make for less than $5 per person and a couple you could feed a few people for $5. I tried to order these by increasing cost, but ultimately it’ll vary depending on where you live and shop.
1) Gourmet Mac n Cheese
Mac and Cheese is famously cheap, which I’m sure you’ve already figured out, but there are tons of ways to upgrade it so you aren’t eating the same boring thing every week! Even with boxed mac and cheese I add some cream cheese, extra shredded cheese, and lots of garlic or cayenne pepper, depending on my mood, to upgrade the flavor. If you’re looking for more variations, check out this article.
2) Pasta Galore
Pasta dishes are extremely basic, you just need noodles, sauce, seasoning, and meat if you’d like it. We could probably bring this list from 9 to 99 with a ton of pasta dishes added in, so it’s a great option while shopping on a budget. You’ve got your classic spaghetti, but my favorite is a spicy chicken Alfredo! Mmmm.
3) Soup and Grilled Cheese
Another basic option is the classic combination of soup with grilled cheese. You probably won’t want to eat this every day, but it’s great for kids or a quick meal for yourself. I add some garlic salt to the outside edges of my grilled cheese and it’s so tasty even I can’t resist!
4) Hot Dogs and Bacon
Wrapping hot dogs in bacon is a great way to bring them to the next level, and your kids won’t be able to resist! Plus this pairs perfect with some gourmet mac and cheese! Sometimes, I even melt some cheese into my hot dog bun, making it kind of a grilled cheese hot dog— I might be a kid at heart 🙂
5) Black Bean Tacos
I like to make a mixture of black beans, some pinto beans if I’ve got them, corn, tomato, and salsa then stick it in my fridge. I use it for everything from tacos, to quesadillas, and even on my nachos whenever I’m in the mood. It’s as diverse as it is cost-effective; you can add meat if you’d like or toppings like avocado and onion!
6) Chili / Corn & Black Bean Chili
Chili is a great dish for when you’re on a budget, as its cheap and also easily stored for leftovers! If you’re tired of regular old chili, try a corn and black bean version. Just sub out the beef for additional beans (I use a combination of black and pinto) and add a couple cups of corn! You can view a full recipe for corn and black bean chili here.
7) Shepard’s Pie (Poor Man’s Pie)
I had to include this on the list, first because of its nickname but also because I loooove this dish! All you do is layer the pan starting with ground beef, then gravy, then mashed potatoes, then corn and cheese! It’s easily made in big quantities, so you’ll get to reap the benefits of having leftovers.
8) Sloppy Joe’s / Pulled Pork Sliders
Sloppy Joe’s, like most of these, are really simple. You can use as many or as few veggies and spices as fit your budget, and I usually make a spicy variation with lots of chili powder, cayenne pepper, and green chiles. Alternatively, if you’re tired of the beef based sloppy Joe, give pulled pork sandwiches a try! It’s kind of the same concept, except you’d just add sauces, seasonings, or veggies to shredded pork instead. Yum!
9) Orange / Sesame Chicken
If you like Chinese food, you need to check out this easy sesame chicken recipe. It’s basically rice and chicken, with various sauces and seasonings, but you can switch out the sauce recipes easily and make a bunch of different Chinese dishes that will stay in your budget!
Obviously, you might not be able to keep every meal this cheap, but keeping them in rotation will help lower your grocery bill or just help you get through a hard time. Do you have any go-to meals that help save you money? Share with me in the comments!