30+ Dirt Cheap Meals (That You Can Make For $5 or Less)

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30+ cheap and easy meal ideas that you can eat on a tight budget

Dirt cheap meals to eat when you are broke

Looking for cheap recipes to feed your family on a budget? Try these dirt cheap meals that are healthy and perfect to feed large families on a limited budget.

Sometimes, you need to cut down on your grocery budget when you are living paycheck to paycheck and trying to make the end meet.

In such a situation, dirt cheap meals come to your rescue and help you feed your large family on a budget easily.

In this post, you can find 30+ easy, filling, and super cheap meal ideas for a week to feed your family to include in your budget meal plan when the money is tight.

Broke or not, these cheap recipes for families come in very handy when you want to feed your family on a budget to save more money.

These cheap family meals are easy to cook and cost $5 or less to feed the entire family.

So, if you are trying to find cheap food to buy when you are broke then, you should look no further and check out these dirt cheap healthy meal ideas

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How to save even more on dirt cheap meals


Use the Ibotta app to earn cashback on your grocery shopping.

Before heading out to the store, select the cashback offers available on the items on your grocery list.

Then, can your receipt after getting back home to get the instant cashback savings.

Join the Ibotta family today to start saving!

$5 Meal Plan:

 Wondering what is the cheapest meal service available in the market? Try a $5 Meal Plan for just $5 a month (as the name suggests).

If you run out of ideas on what to cook and bored of eating the same recipes over and over, you should try out a $5 Meal Plan subscription.

This service suggests new recipes and ideas for meals and also tells you what ingredients do you need to cook them.

This makes your meal planning and grocery shopping easier and helps you save money on groceries.

It just costs you just $5 a month and comes with a 14-day free trial.

Sign up for a $5 Meal Plan free 14 days trial today!

Sign up with Rakuten and get a $40 gift card

Another way to earn cashback on your grocery shopping is Rakuten. It also gives you a $40 gift card for just signing up.

It works only with online shopping. So, you can shop online and pick up at the store to enjoy additional cashback with Rakuten on your grocery shopping.

Sign up with Rakuten and get a $40 gift card

What is the cheapest food to buy when you are broke?

If you want to save money on grocery shopping, you should focus on buying the versatile nutrient-dense food items that can be used to prepare many cheap meals.

cheapest food to buy when you are broke

Some of the cheapest food that you should buy are:

  • Eggs
  • Pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Spaghetti
  • Potatoes
  • Oats
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, and so on
  • Chicken thighs or legs
  • Tortillas
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruits like bananas, apples, and other seasonal produce

This is an extensive list and you can add more cheap food items based on your reference that are high in protein and nutrition value.

Buying the cheapest food may not be the healthiest food item but if you shop consciously you can find cheap healthy food items to replace the expensive one.

For example, chicken thigh or legs are cheaper than chicken breasts. Vegetables like mushroom and Brussel sprouts are expensive and can be avoided.

Quick and easy dirt cheap meal ideas for your family

Here are inexpensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas to include in your budget meal plan when the money is tight.

These dirt cheap meal ideas are quick to prepare and can be made in 30 minutes or less easily. Also, they are super cheap and will cost you $5 or less to feed the complete family.

Dirt cheap meals for breakfast

Here are a few easy and inexpensive breakfast ideas that you can include in your budget meal planning:


Coffee is not necessarily a breakfast meal but I added it to the list to reminder to brew your coffee at home instead of grabbing it from outside every day.

When you are working on ways to save money on food, it is important that you cut down all unnecessary outside food expenses. It is always cheaper to cook at home from scratch than buying it from outside.


Who doesn’t love waffles? They are my family’s favorite breakfast options.

Make them from scratch instead of buying the frozen ones to save money.

They are super cheap and easy to make. You just need 10 minutes to whip it up and serve for the whole family.


Oats are very versatile. You can make them savory as well as sweet.

I like to make a big batch of plain oatmeal on the weekend and top it with fruits like bananas and apples to use as a quick cheap and filling breakfast throughout the week.

Cereals with milk

Most of the cereals are cheap and you can also find coupons to get additional discounts on them. Cereals and milk are the quick breakfast that doesn’t cost much as well.

dirt cheap and easy breakfast meal ideas

Bagels with jam or cream cheese

 I can have bagels for any meal of the day. They are super affordable and quite filling.

You can top it up with jam, cream cheese, or butter. To make it more filling and healthier, you can also add a slice of ham or cheese.


Pancakes are yet another of my family’s favorite cheap breakfast meal.

Instead of buying the frozen, make them from scratch at home. Also, you can use water instead of milk to make it even cheaper.

It just takes 5 minutes to whip up all the ingredients and you can make a filling meal on a budget for your whole family.


You can prepare a big batch of muffins together and use it for a whole week. Instead of using a mix, make it from scratch to keep it inexpensive.

Try this homemade muffin mix recipe that can make a dozen muffins in just 92 cents.


You can make smoothies for breakfast by blending yogurt, fruit, veggies, ice, and other ingredients available. Use frozen veggies and fruits to keep the cost down.


Eggs are one of my favorite breakfast items. They are cheap, healthy as well as filling. You can cook various dishes using eggs such as egg and toast, french toast, boiled eggs, omelets, scrambled eggs, etc.

A quick tip: Buy your eggs from Aldi. They are cheapest at Aldi than any other grocery store.

Cheap food to eat when you are broke.

Potato hash

Potatoes are pretty cheap and filling as well. Just add some diced potatoes to a skillet to make a scrumptious potato hash. Top it with scrambled eggs if you like.

Dirt cheap lunch ideas

 With lunch meals usually discounted at restaurants, it gets a little harder to skip eating outside and carry your lunch for home.

But remember, those $5 for the lunches also add up fast and they can be easily saved by cooking these easy dirt cheap lunch meals.

Peanut butter jelly sandwich

What can be easier than putting together a peanut butter jelly sandwich for lunch?

You just need to spend a few minutes and you can pack a quick and easy meal for your lunch. Top it up with a banana to make it more filling.

Grilled cheese sandwich

One other easy and cheapest meal option is the grilled cheese sandwich. All you need is bread, cheese, and your favorite seasonings.


If you want to add bacon to your lunch, you can put together a BLT that won’t cost you much.

Paninis and Sandwiches

Paninis and sandwiches are perfect for lunch since it is convenient to take them to work plus, they are cheap.

You just need an electric grill and you can whip any kind of sandwich within minutes easily.


Quesadillas are so easy and cheap. Just add your favorite veggies, cheese, and meat in between the two tortillas. You can also add rice and beans on the side to make it a complete meal.


Salads are cheap if made at home. Instead of buying the cut veggies for the salad, buy them whole and prep them at home to keep the cost down.

Include some meat to add the protein content if your budget allows.

Cheap lunch ideas to feed large family

Chickpeas salad

Chickpeas are nutritious as well as filing. You can use the canned chickpeas to make a salad that will make a complete meal in itself.


Pasta is pretty cheap. You can add some veggies and meat to make it a complete healthy meal on a budget.

Tuna salad

Putting together a tuna salad is pretty easy and doesn’t cost you much. You can use canned tuna to save even more.

Sloppy joes

Sloppy joes can easily be made at home on a budget. You can skip the meat and add substitutes like lentils, veggies, or potatoes to make it more filling.

Fried rice

Fry the cooked rice with your favorite veggies and meat or just eggs and top it with some soya sauce to enjoy some fried rice for lunch.


Use the leftovers from last night and eat it at lunch. This will help you cut down on food wastage to save money.

Dirt cheap meal ideas for dinner

Here are some cheap meal ideas for dinner to save money on food:

Baked potato

As mentioned earlier, potatoes are one of the cheapest grocery items. You can make baked potatoes for dinner using a microwave in just 15 minutes.

I top it with my favorite vegetables to add more nutrition value

Quick chili

Chili is easy to make and it’s cheap as well. You can use this recipe to put together with just 5 ingredients.

Bean burritos

All you need is tortillas, cheese, refried beans, and rice to put together a bean burrito. You can skip meat (since beans already have protein) to make it a dirt cheap meal.

Dirt cheap and easy dinner ideas

Mac and cheese

Well, who can say no to mac and cheese?

You can make it from scratch or use the read to eat packages to put together mac and cheese for lunch or dinner whenever you want to have it.

Add some veggies like peas, broccoli, or carrots to add more nutritional value.


Stock up on canned soups using coupons or make a big batch of soup using a crockpot and freeze it to use it as an easy cheap meal at any time of the day.


Pizza is my family’s favorite dinner option.

You can buy pizza for cheap by using coupons and also make it at home from scratch to keep the cost down.

Chicken and broccoli

If you are looking for something cheap and healthy, you can try chicken and broccoli.

Just sauté chicken and broccoli together with some seasoning for a cheap and delicious meal.


Spaghetti is the cheapest food to buy when you are broke. You can cook it simply in red sauce and top it with some frozen veggies. Add some meat if your budget allows.

Black bean burgers

You can make burgers using the black bean patty instead of meat. It is cheap as well as nutritious meal option.



Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – Eggs and bagels or oatmeal

Tuesday and Thursday – Cereals with milk

Saturday and Sunday – Scrambled eggs and potato hash


Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – Salad with a grilled cheese sandwich

Tuesday and Thursday – BLT or peanut butter sandwich or Tuna salad

Saturday and Sunday – Pasta or veggie quesadilla


Monday –Mac ad cheese

Tuesday – Chilli

Wednesday – Pizza

Thursday – Burritos

Friday – Spaghetti

Saturday – Black bean burger

Sunday – Chicken and broccoli

Use these 35+ dirt cheap meal ideas to cut down on your food expenses. Most of these recipes will cost you $5 or less for the whole family and can really fit into any budget.

Ready to cut down your food expenses with these cheap meal ideas?

31 Cheapest meals to eat on a tight budget

Hi, I'm Anika. With my majors in Accounting and Finance, I'm here to empower people by sharing the simple and actionable money management and money-saving tips to live a debt-free financially independent life. I have been featured on popular websites like Bankrate and Authority Magazine.