3 Easy Dollar Tree Meals You Can Make for $5 or Less

Jaime Bacon
by Jaime Bacon

I'm bringing you three Dollar Tree meals you can make this week. Dollar Tree meals are cheap, easy, and can be a great way to help you keep your grocery budget in line. These three extreme grocery budget meals are all $5 or less per meal.

Meal criteria

I have three different criteria that I need to use. Number one, each meal has to cost $5 or less. Number two, each meal has to feed between three and four people, and number three, each meal needs to be reasonably healthy. So let me show you my three meal ideas.

Dollar Tree meal ideas

Dollar Tree meal ideas

For one meal I bought some yellow rice and a can of tamales. Then I bought some black beans to go in it for some extra protein and some fiber. I also bought plain okra, which I haven't cooked before. I'm going to add it to this first meal. I will shred some Pepper Jack cheese to go on top. 

For the second meal, I’m using Dollar Tree potato gnocchi. To go with it, I bought a can of Hunt's garlic and herb pasta sauce and veggie meatballs. Then for some extra veggies, I bought a bag of frozen peas and carrots. As a side, I bought some spring rolls. 

For our third meal, I picked up some deluxe shells and cheese. Mac and cheese can be part of a healthy diet. I also bought two cans of tuna to go in it for some protein, and then a bag of frozen broccoli to go in it. I also bought baked soft pretzels as a different side dish to go with mac and cheese.

So let's get to the meals. 

Macaroni and cheese with tuna and a pretzel

Macaroni and cheese with tuna


  • 1 box deluxe shells and cheese
  • 2 cans of tuna, drained
  • 1 16-oz bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • Frozen soft pretzels


I started by boiling the water for the shells and cheese and preheated the oven for the pretzels.

Then I put the pretzels in the oven (check the cooking time and temperature on the package) and cooked the shells for a few minutes, adding the bag of frozen veggies toward the end to heat them. The total cooking time for the pasta was about 7 minutes. 

After draining the water, I added everything back to the pot and added the cheese sauce and the two cans of tuna. By this time, the pretzels were done!

Overall, this dinner was really good. I ended up getting four really big servings out of it. The serving size was about two cups. Those pretzels were awesome. You get six of them in the box for a whole dollar. They were delicious. Overall, I recommend this dinner, and I will probably make it again in the future. 

Gnocchi with veggie meatballs

Gnocchi with veggie meatballs


  • 1 package gnocchi
  • 1 can Hunt’s spaghetti sauce
  • 1 box frozen veggie meatballs
  • 1 16-oz bag of frozen broccoli
  • 1 box of frozen spring rolls


First, I preheated the oven for the spring rolls and boiled water for the gnocchi. I placed the spring rolls on a cookie sheet. They only take 6-7 minutes to bake.

Once the spring rolls were in the oven, I added the gnocchi to a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drained and added the spaghetti sauce. I added a whole can but think I’ll use only a half can next time. 

Then I heated both the broccoli and the meatballs in the microwave, cooking each separately. When the broccoli is done cooking in about 5 minutes, microwave the meatballs.

Once everything was fully cooked, I put the gnocchi on a plate, topped it with some meatballs, and placed the broccoli and spring rolls on the side.

I thought this was just an OK dinner. I mixed three different flavors with the Italian, the Asian with the spring rolls, and then Indian with the veggie meatballs. I didn't realize they were like an Indian flavor, so that was okay because the meatballs were very flavorful. They were a little spicy, so if you like spicy, those are for you.

I think the spring rolls were the star of the meal, though. They were nice and crispy from being in the oven.

Tamale bowls recipe

Tamale bowls


  • 1 can Hormel tamales
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 bag yellow rice
  • 1 16-oz bag of frozen okra
  • 1 block Pepper Jack cheese


First, I boiled water in a pot and began cooking the entire bag of rice according to the directions. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to cook.  

Instead of heating the okra in the microwave, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and started to roast the okra. I heard that roasting gets rid of some of the sliminess of it, so I sprayed it with cooking spray and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. It takes about 20 minutes to roast.

Next, I cut the block of Pepper Jack cheese into small cubes.

Then I opened the can of tamales, took off the paper from each one, cut them into smaller pieces, and added them to a large bowl.

Once the rice was cooked, I added the tamales and the can of drained and rinsed black beans and stirred it all together.

By this time the okra was done, so I assembled each bowl by adding about a cup and a half of the tamale mixture and then maybe a half cup of the okra and sprinkled some of the cheese on top.

This one was my favorite of the three Dollar Tree meals that I made. I would make this again, probably without the okra though. 

Dollar Tree meals for $5 or less

Overall, I think these meals went pretty well. Hopefully, these meals have inspired you to make your own Dollar Tree meals by finding different ingredients that are only $5 or less for each meal.

What is your favorite extreme-budget meal? Share your recipe in the comments, we love to hear from you!

Join the conversation
  • Millie Millie on Oct 14, 2022

    I would love to try the pretzels and tamales. Years ago I used a box of Kraft Macaroni and cheese, prepared and added a pound of cooked ground beef to it and my kids loved it. Now that they’re adults they make it for their families and it still a favorite meal. I still make occasionally but use less than a pound of meat for just the two of us.

  • Lisa House Lisa House on Oct 27, 2023

    Carbohydrate heavy meals are not healthy for any of us. Don’t serve pasta and potatoes at the same time.