4 Cheap Dinner Menus for $5 or less

Posted on Apr 6 2009 - 5:02pm by Patty

family dinner


Sorry I have not posted a blog post recently but I have been sick and really busy so it has been difficult to get much of anything done!

Today’s post was inspired by an old post at a message board I used to belong to. Back then these meals could feed a family of four for around a dollar. These days the cost of these meals will be a bit more.

Many of these meals are reasonably healthy meals (as opposed to macaroni and cheese and hotdogs) as super cheap meals go and while I like to stick with healthy foods for the most part there are going to be those days,weeks or months when it is more important to feed a hungry crew than anything else.

We have all been there: when payday is longer than the paycheck, or when someone gets laid off, sometimes you have to do what you have to do to keep people fed.

These meals are shared with that thought in mind, they are bottom dollar meals that will stretch your food budget as far as possible.

How low you are able to go dollar wise with these meals will greatly depend on the time of year, whether you grow a garden and where you live. Most people ought to be able to bring the cost of these menu’s down under 5$ for a family of 4 or 5. Enjoy!!!


First menu -Mexican

Bean Burritos
Mexican Rice
Cinnamon Crisps

You will be making the flour tortillas and refried beans ahead of time, so be sure to plan ahead as beans must be soaked and cooked.

Flour Tortillas
2C flour
1/3C shortening or lard
2 Tsp salt
1C warm water
In Food Processor, combine flour, salt, and shortening and drizzle in water until dough begins to stick together. Form dough into egg sized balls and let rest under cover for about 10 minutes. Roll out as then as possible and cook on dry griddle. One minute on each side. Makes about 24 thin tortillas, 12 gorditas.

Pinto beans (Low Fat version)
1 lb pinto beans
water to cover
Rinse dry beans and pick out any pebbles or bad beans (they will rise when the beans are covered with water). Bring to rapid boil on the stove and boil 10 minutes. Carefully drain off liquid and add fresh water. Return to stove and bring to rapid boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook covered until a few beans peel when blown on lightly on a spoon, about 2-3 hours. Drain and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 4C cooked beans (or so).

To make Refried beans:
2C cooked pinto beans
1Tbsp shortening or lard
dash salt
Heat shortening or lard in skillet and add beans, mashing with potato masher and stir-frying until heated through and beans are thick (add a little water if necessary to thin down). Be sure to leave some beans whole. Sprinkle with salt and stir.
To assemble burritos, spread bean mixture on warm tortilla, sprinkle with grated cheese and roll up by folding two sides of tortilla and rolling lengthwise. You will need about 1/2C cheese for 4 burritos.

Mexican Rice
1C rice
1 large tomato, chopped fine
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
2C water
In microwave safe covered casserole, pour 2C liquid over rice and vegetables and nuke for 15 minutes on high covered. When done, fluff with fork and serve.

Cinnamon Crisps
4 Flour tortillas
4 Tsp sugar
1 Tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
cooking oil
Cut tortillas into strips and deep fry in oil until lightly browned and crisp. Sprinkle while hot with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm with a drizzle of honey, if desired.

Menu Two – Italian

Beef Onion Soup
Stuffed Spinach Manicotti


Beef Onion Soup
1 lb beef bones
salt to taste
1 onion
Roast beef bones (shin, ankle…some butchers sell them as “dog bones” or save bones from your roasts) in a 400F oven on a cookie sheet until darkened and marrow is brown. Put in soup pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and simmer to form broth, skimming off any foam that forms. Remove bones and add salt to taste and onion, sliced. Simmer until onion is softened. Serve. (Or cheat and use 1 boullion cube and one cup of water per serving, plus onion).

Stuffed Spinach Manicotti


Make shells in advance-
2 eggs
2C flour
Place eggs and flour in food processor and whirl for about 15 seconds. Drizzle in water while processor runs until flour mixture resembles coarse meal and will stick together into a dough ball without sticking to your hands. Feed through pasta maker (or roll out) until you have a long narrow strip. Cut into pieces slightly larger than the handle of a broom is around. (I use a clean broom handle). Wrap dough pieces around handle and give a slight pinch to form a tube around the handle. Hang on back of chairs to dry at least one hour. Makes about 1 dozen or so.

1 pkg frozen spinach, drained, cooked, and squeezed dry
1/2C cottage cheese
1 slice bread, crumbed in food processor
1 egg
Combine cheese, spinach and egg and bread crumbs, and stuff into partially dried manicotti and place in well greased baking dish. Makes enough filling for about 8. Cost: 80¢
1/2C canned spaghetti sauce
Pour topping over manicotti lightly, and bake covered at 350F for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Menu Three – Southern

Beans and Greens
Southern Cornbread


1 lb white beans (or your favorite: pintos, black eyed peas, butter beans, whatever)
1 end chunk of ham or ham hock
Cover beans with water and bring to boil, pour off water and add fresh and return to stove (or soak overnight and pour off before cooking). Place ham or ham hock in with the beans and bring back to boil, cover, and turn the heat down. Boil several hours until beans are cooked and meat begins to fall off the bone. Remove bones and skin, and lid and boil a few minutes longer to form “bean gravy”. Serve with chow-chow, sliced onion or other condiment. Makes enough for 4 people for AT LEAST two meals.



This is my way, not the Southern way. I think cooking them the Southern way makes them bitter…to do that you put them whole in the saucepan pan with bacon drippings and a little water and cook until lifeless.
6C uncooked greens of choice (turnip, mustard, collard, or mixed), with tough stems removed, roll up and cut into slivers
2-3 Tbsp butter
Melt butter in large skillet and stir-fry greens in the butter until color changes and heated through. Serve with a bit of malt vinegar, if desired. Makes about 6, 1/2C servings


1C self-rising flour
1C cornmeal
1 egg
2 Tbsp oil, melted shortening, melted butter, or bacon drippings (through the crumbled bacon in, if you’ve got it!)
Combine all ingredients with enough milk to make a medium batter. Pour into well greased and hot cast iron skillet, bake at 350F until done about 1/2 hour. Makes 8, 3″ wedges.

Meal Four – Vegetarian

Zucchini Casserole
Banana Cream Pie

Zucchini Casserole

3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 tbsp water
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic
1 can (28 oz)diced tomatoes and liquid, or two large tomatoes chopped, but not seeded plus 1/2C water
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2C dried bread cubes (good use for stale bread)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2C parmesan cheese
1/2C shredded mozzarella (optional)

In non-stick skillet, place water and zucchini, cook t minutes until tender. Add onion and garlic and cook for one minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and their liquid and spices, including first 1/2 Tsp garlic salt. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Place in ungreased 13 X 9 X 2 inch dish, top with bread cubes, sprinkle with oregano and second 1/2 tsp garlic salt, sprinkle on parmesan cheese and bake covered at 305F for 20 minutes. Uncover and top with mozzarella, return to oven until mozzarella melts, about 10 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Banana Cream Pie
3/4C+3 Tbsp (divided) sugar
1/3C flour
1/4 tsp salt
2C milk
3 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 bananas
1 pastry shell
2C flour
1/3C shortening
dash salt
cold water

In Food Processor, whirl shortening and flour together until it looks like cornmeal (about 15 seconds). Drizzle in ice cold water until mixture begins to form a dough. Roll out thinly and line ungreased 9 inch pie pan, crimping edges decoratively.
In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt. Add milk and mix until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and it comes to a boil for two minutes (do no allow to scorch!) Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks, slowly, by adding some hot liquid to the yolks and then pouring yolks into the hot mixture. Cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly, remove from the heat. Add butter and vanilla, cool slightly. Slice bananas into pie crust and pour filling over.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks, adding sugar gradually. Top pie with meringue being sure to spread to edges of crust. Bake at high heat 400F until meringue is set and l lightly browned. Makes 6-8 servings (Refrigerate any leftovers or if it will be served after reaching room temperature.) Cost: about 50¢ This pie recipe can be made without eggs, but will lose some richness. Suggest then that you cool it and top with non-dairy whipped topping instead of meringue.

5 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. chatty Kathy April 6, 2009 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    You should join the recipe swap! I have a button on my blog to the blog that is running it!

  2. Bar Stool Boy April 7, 2009 at 4:22 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great recipe suggestions. I have been cooking a lot to save money because of the recession. This helps me think of things to prepare when I am cooking for others.

  3. Ashley April 8, 2009 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    What a great post!!! I am taking notes. : ) I found your link on MomDot. Have a great day!


  4. Bar stools June 16, 2009 at 2:55 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great recipes. I am very interested in trying the cinnamon crisps and the banana cream pie. I love them both, and the recipes look great. great post thanks.

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