When you are the one buying groceries and preparing meals it does not take too long to realized how much money is spent on groceries. Especially when you have a large family. This prompted me to start planning cheap meals on a budget to make sure I stayed within the limits of what I could spend at the grocery store. The first step to staying on a budget with cheap meals is to plan ahead.
When you are trying your best to stick to a budget, you have to plan ahead. If you go into the grocery store without a plan or list you will end up purchasing more items than intended that may cause you to go over budget. Below is a list of things you should think about and plan before purchasing your groceries.
- Search the sales at your grocery stores, and plan your meals around what is on sale
- Make a menu for the amount of time you are shopping for
- Load coupons to your loyalty shoppers card, cut them out of the paper, or print them from online sources such as https://www.coupons.com/, or https://www.pggoodeveryday.com/coupons
- Buy the store’s brand items for what you can. These will always be cheaper
- Consider ordering online for delivery or pick up
Making a plan can not only help you stay on budget, but it will also speed up the amount of time you spend physically in the grocery store. If you order online this will always help you with staying on budget by controlling impulse buying since you will not actually be walking through the store to pick up random items you do not actually need at the time.
Ground Meat Meals
Ground meats are great to make budget-friendly meals. You can use ground beef or turkey interchangeably usually, or at least I do. It will depend on which is on sale as to which I use for the week. Some of my favorite go-to ground meat meals are below.
- Sheppard’s Pie – This is a combination of ground meat with seasoning and mashed potatoes on top, then baked for a few minutes. (Real Simple)
- Spaghetti or baked spaghetti – Jar sauce with ground meat cooked in, and cooked noodles. This is super simple. (Taste Of Home)
- Stroganoff – Egg noodles with ground meat and a creamy sauce make this come together. (Taste of Home)
- Sloppy Joes – Ground meat, a can of sauce, and hamburger buns are all you need for sloppy joes. You can also use sandwich bread if you have other uses for it during the week. This will save you on the purchase of more bread. (Manwich)
- Meatloaf – Ground meat, tomato sauce, seasoning, one egg, and quick oats are all you need for meatloaf. You can use the quick oats to make oatmeal for breakfast for the week. (Hot Cooking Tips)
- Tacos or enchiladas – Ground meat, seasoning, tortillas, toppings of choice. (Old El Paso)
- Chili – Use chili beans from a can or dried beans soaked in water overnight, chili started sauce, ground meat. (Budget Bytes)
- Cheeseburger Crescent Ring – Store brand crescent rolls, ground meat, cheese, condiments of choice rolled up and cooked. (Pillsbury)
These are just a quick very basic overview of what the general idea of what these meals are made up of. My budget tip is to buy bagged instant mashed potatoes like the Idahoan brand. They only require water to make them and they taste fantastic. This will save you money on the extra purchase of milk and butter just to make mashed potatoes.
Chicken or Turkey Meals
Again here with chicken and turkey, you can use them in the place of each other. While they are similar they each have their own taste. Some people prefer one over the other and that is quite alright. These meals can use either, or you could make the meal with one and next time with the other to keep the dish interesting.
- Pot Pie – Pie crust or a bread topping filled with vegetables, meat, and a creamy sauce. This qualifies as comfort food for me. (Big Oven)
- Any Marinade And Bake – Marinate for a few hours and bake or grill. (Mrs Dash)
- BBQ – Any bbq baked into your meat.
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches – Meat of choice, mayo, onions, relish, and 1 boiled egg. (Betty Crocker)
- Chicken or Turkey Noodle Soup – A broth with meat, vegetables, and noodles. ( More Or Less Cooking)
- Cheesy Chicken or Turkey Rice Casserole – Rice, cheese, mixed vegetables, and meat baked together for a short time, and dinner is done. (All Recipes)
- Quesadillas – A tortilla filled with salsa, meat, cheese, and browned…Yummy! (The Spruce Eats)
- Chicken Marsala – Chicken pan-seared with mushrooms and a wine sauce. (Mom Of 6)
These are just a few ideas about budget-friendly meals with chicken or turkey. There are really hundreds of ways you could prepare these meats to still stick with a budget and not feel like you are cooking the same thing week after week. Here are a few tips on how to do that.
- Different breading mixes like Shake N Bake
- Different marinades. You can make up your own, or simply use different types of dressings. I have some ideas here for what to marinade chicken with
- Different cooking ways. Switch around from baking, broiling, grilling, and pan searing. Many times I even boil chicken or turkey to cook it quickly to add to a soup or casserole. If you have a pressure cooker or air fryer use that way too
Vegetarian meals are not my personal go-to. I have too many people in my family who like to have meat with every meal, but every once in a while I can sneak one in on them.
- Broccoli and Cheese Quiche – A pastry crust filled with custard cheese and vegetables. (Food Folks And Fun)
- Tofu Salad – Marinated tofu chopped and placed over a salad. (All Recipes)
- Vegetarian Pizza – This here is a simple idea of taking a flatbread and adding just a couple of ingredients to make it “pizza” (Fork In The Kitchen)
- Veggie Stir Fry – Tender crisp vegetables tossed in sauce combined with noodles or rice. (Best Cheap Recipes)
- Bean Burritos or Bowls – Beans and cheese wrapped in a tortilla served warm (A Mindful Mom)
- Meatless Marinara – A vegetarian sauce you can use for baked ziti, pizza sauce, or anything else you would want a red sauce on. ( A Couple Cooks)
- Stuffed Bell Peppers – The best about stuffed peppers is you can make them with different flavors in them and never feel like you are eating the same thing. (Yummly)
- Baked Potato Bar – Baked potatoes topped with all of your favorites. (Super Healthy Kids)
I am not suggesting that any of the above are completely vegetarian or vegan-based meals. You will need to check the exact ingredients to make sure you are preparing what best fits your style of eating. My all-time favorite is a veggie pizza. Seems like I can manage to get that one to myself about once a month at my house.
Seafood can be a great way to switch up the normal meals you make and incorporate it in budget-friendly. In my house, we really like fish so it doesn’t matter too much what kind or how I fix it, it will go over well.
- Tuna Salad
- Baked Fish fillets
- Salmon Patties or also known as salmon croquettes
- Salmon Burgers
- Shrimp Alfredo or Shrimp Stir Fry
Most people believe that you can not buy seafood on a budget. You can though, and you can find more information and even more seafood recipes here.
Plan, Budget, Eat
When you are planning cheap meals on a budget it is best to start out with a plan. At the beginning of planning, I suggest making sure that you plan out every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the week. Write this down on a paper that you can hang up on your refrigerator or tape it up on the pantry wall, to make it visible. I have a whiteboard like this that I keep on my refrigerator for my meal list. Cheap meals or budget-friendly meals are really all about the plan and execution of the said plan. When you do this well, every once in a while you have probably saved up enough to splurge on a meal that is maybe not quite so budget-friendly.
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