4 Extreme-Budget Meals For a Family of 4: Cook Dinner for $5 or Less

SouthernWife EverydayLife
by SouthernWife EverydayLife

I love creating extreme-budget meals and I have four new ideas for you. You can feed your family of four on a budget as I do. I went to Walmart and spent $15.36 for four meals. Four full meals for just over $15!

Groceries for the extreme-budget meals


I used a couple of pantry staples, like butter or margarine, oils, and seasonings and condiments for these meals, which are not included in these extreme budget recipe prices.

If you are having a hard time getting food on the table, here are four meals under $5. Here’s what I bought to make four budget meals:

  • 1 package of ground turkey (this is much cheaper than buying ground beef)
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 cans of pork and beans
  • 1 package Bar S frankfurters
  • 1 package Butterball turkey sausage
  • 1 small bottle of milk: $1.34
  • 1 box of three cheese potatoes
  • 1 bag California-style vegetable mix
  • 1 bag of broccoli florets
  • 2 boxes of Great Value brand mac and cheese mix
  • 2 packages of chicken-flavored ramen noodles
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 can of diced ham (find this cheap source of protein near the canned tuna)
Ingredients for beanie weenies with cornbread

1. Beanie weenies with cornbread

  • Jiffy mix: .60 cents
  • Pork and beans: .72 cents x 2
  • Hot dogs: $1.18 

Total: $3.22 (plus some milk and egg–we receive free eggs)

If you don’t have an egg, you can substitute ¼ cup of applesauce for one egg in the recipe.

How to make beanie weenies with cornbread

Mix everything in a pot

Put pork and beans into a pot. Cut up hotdogs and add to the pot.

Add seasonings such as brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard to jazz up the pork and beans. 

Mix everything together in the pot.

Making cornbread

Make the cornbread

Make the cornbread for another cheap, filling option. Put the batter into a baking dish.

Put it in the oven to bake while you’re making the beans.

Beanie weenies with cornbread

Here’s the final plate, a good dollop of hot dogs and beans on top of a slice of corn muffin cake. 

Ingredients for the sausage veggie ramen

2. Sausage veggie ramen

With three ingredients, we have a filling meal.

  • Ramen: .24 cents x 2
  • Sausage: $3.12
  • Mixed veggies: $1

Total: $4.60

Prepping the ramen

Prep ramen

Break up both packs of ramen and cover them with boiling water to soften the noodles. Let the noodles soak in all the water but don’t cook them all the way through.

Prepping the sausage

Prep sausage

Slice up the sausage and saute in olive oil in a pan.

Adding the ramen to the other ingredients

Extreme budget recipes

Put the veggies in the microwave for four minutes to soften them up.

Add in the veggie blend into the pan with the sausage and season with salt and pepper.

Add the softened ramen noodles to the pan. Add the two packets of ramen noodle seasoning for extra flavoring. Add a little water if necessary when mixing everything in the pan.

Extreme budget family meals

Here’s the final plate.

Ingredients for the ham and broccoli potato bake

3. Ham and broccoli potato bake

  • Box potatoes: .98 cents
  • Ham: $1.32
  • Broccoli: .98 cents

Total: $3.28 (plus some milk)

How to make ham and broccoli potato bake
Seasoning the ham and broccoli potato bake

How to feed a family of 4 on a budget

I only used half of the bag of broccoli florets. I added in the broccoli. I microwaved the broccoli to soften it up so I could cut it up. 

Season with garlic and onion powder, plus salt and pepper. Mix it all together.

Cook for 30 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix a few times while cooking. I think this dish could use some shredded cheese so if you have some, add it for extra flavor.

Ham and broccoli potato bake

Here’s the final plate.

Ingredients for taco mac and cheese

4. Taco mac and cheese

  • Mac and cheese: .34 cents x 2
  • Taco seasoning: .42 cents
  • Turkey: $1.82

Total: $2.92 (plus some milk)

Cooking the turkey in a pan

Cook up the turkey in a pan

When that turkey is cooked, do not drain. Add the package of taco seasoning to the pot.

Prepping the mac and cheese

Prep the mac and cheese

Boil water for mac and cheese in another pot. When the noodles are done, add them to the pot where the turkey has cooked. Then continue making the mac and cheese by adding the cheese. Add and mix everything together. 

How to cook mac and cheese
Easy meals under $5

Extreme-budget meals

Here’s the final dish. 

If you needed to stretch this meal, you could add in a can of drained black beans or a can of drained corn, or even a can of Rotel for extra food. If you have sour cream, add it on top.

Extreme-budget meals

All of these dishes were extremely easy to prepare and they were delicious. I want to add that it’s okay to feed your family extreme budget meals.

What counts is if your family is fed–that’s all that matters at the end of the day. These meals may not be the healthiest choice, but at least I know I can feed my family.

If you have it in your budget to add fresh fruit and veggies, do it! If you’re struggling, reach out to your local services, such as food banks and churches, or call 211. They’re there to help.

Join the conversation
2 of 5 comments
  • Ell33198363 Ell33198363 on Jan 12, 2023

    Thank you so much for sharing! Looked really good!

  • Cso51108026 Cso51108026 on Jan 13, 2023

    This is a great post!!!! I am going to take it to the extreme, just because of our own family finances, and share with you how, even with current prices, we've gotten it down even more!!! We moms gotta stick together, right???

    1 I can get chicken breasts cheaper at our "local" (hah - it's 30 miles away, but it's coming in cheaper enough that it's worth the drive!) Aldi than at Walmart. I am fortunate to have a stand mixer with a grinder attachment so I grind the chicken breasts. Once ground, I weigh and freeze it - I will mix 1-pound portions with breakfast and chorizo sausage spices and freeze, so I have ready-thaw-able breakfast or chorizo sausage.

    2 I keep corn flour and corn meal on hand because my daughter is gluten-free. It costs literally pennies to whip-up a batch of homemade corn bread (honestly, the EGGS are killing the costs, any more!!!)

    3 Skip the Pork-n-Beans and just go with 1 large can of Great Value or Aldi-brand baked beans... slice in the hot dogs, and NO ONE will question it!!! No one will notice, I promise!!!

    4 Taco seasoning costs literally PENNIES!!! Seriously - a quick online search for Copycat Taco Bell Seasoning Mix and you'll have it - honestly, probs 90% of us ALREADY have all of the ingredients in our own spice cabinets!!! Chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper... If you DON'T, they're all 99 cents at Walmart and you'll get dozens and dozens and dozens of uses out of them!!! Never pay 99 cents, or $1.26, or whatever, for a seasoning packet again (never mind that, if you make it, you can make more mild or more spicy, whatever your family prefers!!! Mix in a little chipotle powder, just to jazz it up, etc.!).

    I'm so grateful you posted this - more and more moms need to see that getting away from pre-packaged, processed, PRICIER (BECAUSE it's pre-packaged) is seriously the way to go (exception: mac-n-cheese! I'll admit, before anyone, that homemade is the BEST - but with dairy prices, a couple of boxes of the "orange stuff" just cannot be beat!!).

    Blessings!!! ~Chrissie