4 Quick, Easy & Cheap Meals for When You're Broke

Are you struggling to feed your family and need some new really cheap meal ideas? Today, we are going to be cooking up a few meals that are super, super cheap, so that you can feed your family on a really tight budget. These have minimal ingredients.

When you are struggling to just get a meal out on the table, all that matters is that your family is fed. You don’t need to use all these fancy ingredients. So I’ve just got the basics. I hope you enjoy these cheap meals for when you’re broke.

Ingredients for the macaroni and tomato soup

1. Macaroni and tomato soup

This one only has three ingredients and it’s going to fill tummies. It’s also kid-friendly. I’m going to use some elbow noodles and a can of tomato soup. I am making a single serving of this. Adjust it according to your family size.

You can use tomato juice instead of tomato soup if that’s a cheaper option. If you do use tomato juice, I wouldn’t add water.

Cooking noodles in soup

I’m going to add in two cans of water and one can of tomato sauce. Then, I’m going to bring it to a boil and cook these noodles through. 

Macaroni and tomato soup

I didn’t add any seasonings. This is a super basic, cheap meal idea. It literally has three ingredients, and it’s delicious.

Ingredients for the bacon and pea spaghetti

2. Bacon and pea spaghetti

Adding proteins can get expensive, especially if you are on a budget, but these bacon bits that we are going to be using are really inexpensive. There are a lot of shelf-stable protein options that are reasonably priced, and items that you can keep on hand to help with your budget.

We are going to make bacon and pea spaghetti. I’m going to use chicken bouillon, but you can also use chicken broth. We’re going to be using spaghetti. I chose to add peas, but you can change them out for whatever veggie you want. 

Adding chicken bouillon

I’m starting out with two cups of water and some chicken bouillon. Keep an eye on your water levels, you may need to add more as the noodles cook, so use your judgment.

I’m going to go ahead and add these noodles and get them boiling. After they start boiling, you can add in the peas as well. We are cooking the pasta in our broth and letting it soak in. This is going to give you so much flavor, without a lot of added cost.

Sometimes cheap meals with minimal ingredients can be pretty bland and boring. This recipe uses chicken broth to add flavor. You can also season with your heart, using whatever seasons you have on hand. The basics are really good – salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. 

Adding bacon bits to the spaghetti

I just taste-tested a noodle to make sure it was cooked all the way through. Now, we are going to add our bacon bits. I ended up doing just half of that bag, so if you buy these ingredients as a whole, you get two cheap meals out of these ingredients (depending on your family size). That’s a heck of a deal. 

Bacon and pea spaghetti

It was super, super simple to put together, yet delicious. 

Depression-era recipe

3. Poor man's stew

This one is definitely a cheap meal. It uses minimal ingredients and was pretty popular in the Depression era. These hot dogs were $1.18 a pack at Walmart. We’re going to use onions and a few potatoes.

The original recipe calls for tomato sauce. I didn’t have any, so I used spaghetti sauce. But, honestly, it gave it a really good flavor, and I didn't have to add in a lot of seasonings.

Heating up hot dogs

Now, I’ve heated some oil in my pan, and I’m going to add the hot dogs in to give them some color. 

Mixing onions and potatoes

Then, we are going to mix in our onions and potatoes. I’m going to give everything a mix and we are going to season it with salt and pepper. I kept it simple and basic.

Poor man's stew

I’m going to add in the tomato sauce, a little bit of water, and give everything a mix. I got this on medium-low heat. We are just going to put a lid on it and let those potatoes cook through, and all the flavors marry together.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s done. It was pretty good. I would definitely eat it if I was on an extreme budget.

Soaking pinto beans

4. Pinto beans

Last but not least is some pinto beans. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize how cheap and filling it is. 

I soak my pinto beans overnight in water and then put the beans into a crock pot and fill it up with water. I put a ham hock in there — they are normally a couple of bucks. You can even use bacon or canned ham if you need to.

I used seasonings from my cabinet and added a bit of chicken bouillon, then put the lid on and let them cook for about ten hours on low.

Thickening the beans

Before serving them, I like to ladle out some of the beans, immersion blend them, and then mix them back in to thicken them up. 

Cheap meals for when you're broke

The beans are a really, really good option if you’re on the struggle bus and just need to feed your family. People joke about eating “beans and rice,” but why not? To stretch these pinto beans, you can serve them over white rice. We serve ours with cornbread.

If you are struggling with feeding your family and providing meals, reach out to your local food banks and churches. If your kiddos go to public school, reach out to the school system. Do not feel bad or hesitant about reaching out. Those resources are there to help. Everyone needs help every once in a while. 

Cheap meals for when you're broke

I hope this video gave you the inspiration to feed your family with cheap meal ideas for when you are broke. Sometimes going back to the basics and using minimal ingredients to fill tummies is totally ok.

What are some cheap meals that your family likes? Let us know in the comments. 

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2 of 9 comments
  • Marna Marna on Mar 01, 2023

    How about weiners or brats cooked with sauerkraut. Beanie wienies was one of my kid's favorites. Another one that's cheap and good is baked potatoes smothered with heated canned broccoli cheese soup.

  • Barb Valley Barb Valley on Jul 02, 2023

    French Toast, Grilled cheese and tomato soup, pasta bake - pasta + tomato anything. Top with whatever cheese you have on hand and bake it. Spaghetti and Spaghetti sauce is another of our go toos.