Cheap Meal Ideas: What Is The Cheapest Meal To Make?

What is the cheapest meal to make?

This, or either ‘what can I cook on a tight budget?’ might be the two questions on your mind when you’re trying to cut your food bill and save money.

Sometimes, if you’re really wanting to challenge yourself when it comes to your food budget, you want to push yourself and see exactly HOW low you can go with your spending while still eating…well, at least semi decently.

So I took this on as a challenge!

I decided to create a post where I would write my cheapest meal ideas to date and share them with the world, in case it helped anyone that was trying to pay off massive debt, cut their spending in general, or save up for a next big purchase.

Related: 49 Cheap Dinner Ideas To Stay Within Your Budget

I actually had way more fun than I anticipated coming up with this list because its pretty easy to come up with some pretty nifty super cheap meal ideas if you know how to get creative with it.

I’ve listed some quick meal ideas that can save you money that should amount to under $5. These are probably as cheap as cheap gets unless you literally just have money for a can of beans (because hey, it happens).

These ideas make great cheap meals for one. It goes without saying, if you have a bigger family you’d have to multiply the portions.

Rice lentil and pea soup

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

For this cheap meal idea all you have to do is blend some cooked lentils with some onion slices, a bit of canned chicken stock OR chicken cube seasoning, a pinch of slat and pepper and then add in the peas for some easy and tasty lentil soup with plain white rice. Ready in about 20 minutes.


  • Plain white rice
  • Lentils
  • Onion slices
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper

Biscuit pepperoni cheese bites

You can get a can of biscuits just about anywhere. Add a few pepperoni slices to it, along with a slice of cheese or two and bake them for your own cheap meal version of pizza bites. 


  • One can of biscuits
  • One pack of pepperoni
  • Cheap mozzarella/American cheese

Cream of chicken, cabbage, and pasta shells soup

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

Dice the cabbage to the size of your liking and simmer it all together in 2.5-3 cups of water. You’ve got yourself some chicken soup with veggies! Add some baby carrots if you’re feeling extra healthy (or even peas).


  • Cream of chicken
  • Pasta shells
  • Diced cabbage
  • Can of peas
  • Baby carrots (optional)

Naan bread with refried beans and feta cheese

Get a slice of Nan bread, open and slather on a can of your favorite re-fried beans, then sprinkle some feta cheese on top. A quick hit and a total winner. Add an over easy egg on top for extra gooey goodness and protein. If this isn’t a dirt cheap meal I don’t know what is.


  • Naan bread
  • Refried beans
  • Feta cheese
  • Over easy egg (optional)

Parmesan ham and olive oil pasta

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

Make some cheap style spaghetti carbonara by sauteeing ham, some onion slices, and adding some freshly cooked spaghetti. Top off with your favorite cheap parmesan cheese. Add spinach as an extra health bonus!


  • Parmesan cheese
  • plain spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • Ham slices
  • Onion slices

Chickpea, lentil, and bean soup

Mix all legumes together and bring to a boil with one to two cans of chicken stock (either homemade or canned) to make a tasty legume soup. Add sliced onions and some chicken cube and cumin for extra flavor.


  • A can of chickpeas
  • A can of lentils
  • Spices (chicken cube, cumin)
  • A can of chicken stock

Tomato cabbage Ramen

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

Cook your traditional bag of ramen and add canned tomatoes, sliced cabbage, and a teaspoon of chicken cube for some hearty goodness.


  • Ramen
  • Cabbage
  • Tomato

Breakfast for dinner: Oatmeal apple bowl

Nowadays you can get a good tub of quick oats for a dollar or two. And who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner? When it comes to cheap meal ideas that you can make on a tight budget, food rules are MEANT to be broken. So try a nice filling bowl of oatmeal and a few apple slices for a hearty and easy dinner idea.


  • One cup of quick oats
  • Milk or water
  • Apple slices
  • A tbsp. sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Spiced roasted potatoes

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

Roasted potatoes can be a feast in and of themselves if you just learn to season them correctly. Either that or you can buy a ready made seasoning mix for less than a dollar at the dollar store and put those puppies in the oven.

It’s also a lot better for you than frying your potatoes.


  • Potatoes
  • Your favorite spice mix

Related: 53 Quick And Easy Meal Ideas That Are Perfect For Weeknights

Rice egg and soy sauce

All three of these ingredients can be found at your local dollar store. Its basically the cheap version of asian rice thats missing only a couple of ingredients (like cut up veggies, which you can add if you want).

After making a good bowl of white rice, sautee and scramble three eggs in a separate frying pan until finely minced. Add your rice, mix, and then add a touch of soy sauce for taste. DELICIOUS! 


  • One cup of plain white rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Three eggs

Tuna tomato toast

dirt cheap meals and cheap meals for one to make on a tight budget that are less than $5

When we’re talking about cheap meals you can make on a frugal food budget, tuna and tomatoes are a good and refreshing combination. While you might find yourself eating loaf bread a bit more often on this ‘cheap diet’ you can always get creative with what you put on top of it.

It doesn’t have to be just butter or jam. Make a quick tuna, onion powder and light mayo mix, slice some tomatoes on top of it and you’re golden.


  • Tuna
  • Tomatoes
  • Toast
  • Mayo
  • Onions
  • Salt and Pepper

Veggie and bean stir fry

stir fry doesn’t just have to be with chicken. You can stir fry some cut up veggies and your favorite type of beans for a wholesome meal. This makes a great meal for one and tastes even better when you sprinkle some cheese on it for extra taste. This also makes for a healthy dinner idea and not to mention beans in general are a good cheap food to buy when broke.


  • Your favorite veggies
  • Black or red beans
  • Cheese to garnish (optional)

Corn soup

Open three cans of corn, add some chicken broth, spices, and some sliced onions for some tasty corn based soup. Easy, cheap, and filling.


  • Can of corn
  • Can of chicken stock
  • Spices
  • Sliced onions

SIDE NOTE: When you’re cooking you’ll often run into conversion questions that you might not know off the top of your head. Especially when converting liquids. Here’s how to remember your kitchen conversions!

Cheap meal ideas don’t have to be complicated

I’m hoping you had fun reading the list and found some inspiration for your meal planning for this week. Some cheap meal ideas can really go a long way in terms of keeping not only your stomach but your wallet full too (see what I did there?). 

Is there any meal that stood out to you as better than the others in this list of meals for dinner? Leave a comment. 🙂

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