7 Dirt Cheap Meals to feed a Family for Under $50


Sometimes we all need dirt cheap meals for a while.

dirt cheap meals

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I know how discouraging it can be to look at your bank account and discover that you have more month than money. I understand the stress it can cause when you are trying to decide where to cut when there really is nowhere to cut back on.

That’s why today I want to share a meal plan for a week for you and your family when money is insanely tight.  I’m always on the look out for cheap meals for a family, and today I’ll share with you some frugal meals for a week.


Also, I want to recommend downloading Ibotta or CHECKOUT51 which are basically like coupon apps.  It’s completely free and you get cash back when uploading your receipt for certain products.   It can help you save on groceries!

Sometimes there isn’t much more room in our budget to save money, so I like to find little ways to make money.  I’ve used Swagbucks for years.  It isn’t going to make you rich, but you can earn points towards gift cards or cash for doing very simple things online like watching videos, searches, doing surveys, and more.  I have used this site to earn money towards groceries, Christmas gifts, and sometimes just some gift cards for some Starbucks – cause this girl loves her lattes.  You can sign up for free here.

But, aside from making some extra cash, sometimes we just need a week or a couple weeks of dirt cheap meals for a family. That’s why I’ve come up with this 7 cheap dishes menu plan to feed your family dinner for the week for under $50 dollars.

I am including the 7 day meal plan, along with the grocery list.  These are some basic, cheap easy meals on a budget.

Here’s the thing.

  • You need quick, CHEAP meals the whole family will love. 
  • You need to feel like you can work towards more financial freedom and it can start in the kitchen.
  • You need someone who’s been there, done that to show you how they did it.
That’s why you’ll want to check out the $5 meal plan.  It’s created by a mom with 4 hungry boys, and she knows how difficult it is to save money and keep everyone full! All you do is pay 5 dollars a month and you get weekly meal plans, shopping lists, and recipes right to your inbox. 
How does this save you money, you may ask if you are PAYING $5 a month? Well, meal planning is SO SO important in saving money in the kitchen.  If you don’t meal plan you are bound to overspend at the grocery store.  But here’s the thing – we don’t all have time to meal plan.  So that’s where you can let someone else do it for you.  Also, did I mention they have a 14 day free trial so you can test it out with no expense to you?  You can read all about it in more detail here.

This meal plan in this post below would feed my family of 5. However, my oldest child is 11, so if you are feeding 3 teenage boys you may need more food than this.

This plan is just for dinners. If I am really strapped for cash I would rely heavily on oatmeal for breakfasts, and sandwiches for lunch. I would probably make my own bread during this time. You can check out THIS post if you need a tutorial on how to make your own bread.  But if you need a dirt cheap dinner, this is the plan for you.

I do want to mention that this is in Canadian dollars, but if you are in the US, from my understanding groceries are cheaper. Of course, these numbers are all based on where you live as well. I know there are areas in Canada that pay much higher grocery prices (like the Northwest Territories and Yukon, for example) than where I live in Canada. So do take that into consideration. This also does not take into account any coupons or sales you may have going on at the time as well. With some good deals you could score these groceries at a cheaper price.


MONDAY: Roasted whole chicken, baked or mashed potatoes, and cooked carrots

TUESDAY: Eggs, toast, fried potatoes

WEDNESDAY: Chicken and rice with carrot sticks on the side

(Cook rice according to directions, warm up chicken and mix. Add some stock and sauteed onions if desired.)

THURSDAY: Potato soup and biscuits

(Throw peeled and diced potatoes into a pot with sauteed onions and chicken stock, salt and pepper, and rosemary if you have any, and let cook until potatoes are soft, then use an immersion blender to puree the soup.)

FRIDAY: Spaghetti and biscuits

SATURDAY: Rice and black beans topped with salsa

(Cook rice according to directions, warm up black beans, mix together and top with salsa)

SUNDAY: Chili made with chicken

(Toss into a pot or slowcooker canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, can of corn, can of black beans, diced onions, chili powder, and leftover chicken, shredded or diced up. If you have garlic powder add some of that as well. Cook for at least a few hours.)

dirt cheap meals

This menu plan is light on the vegetables. Here’s the thing, this kind of menu is hopefully something you only need in the short term, and sometimes in the short term we can’t afford the healthiest diet. We don’t need to live off of cans of ravioli, but we may be consuming less vegetables than we would want ideally. So just remember, sometimes you just do what you have to do to get through a tough spot. When you have a little more financial room you can be a little more choosy in your spending.

Let’s talk about the list above a bit. You will notice on Monday I have a whole chicken. You are going to S-T-R-E-T-C-H that chicken as far as possible, with three meals from one chicken. The first meal you will want to go light on the chicken and heavy on the potatoes to fill everyone up.

After that meal is completed, you will want to take the rest of the meat off the bone and portion it into two other meals. You will also use the carcass to make some stock for that potato soup we are going to make on Thursday.

To make the chicken stock, just toss the bones into a crockpot and fill with water. Add a cut up onion and some carrots. If you have any other vegetables nearing the end of their life in your fridge, put them in the pot too.

Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste and cook on low for 10-12 hours. Once finished you can strain the stock and take the bones out. Store it in the refrigerator.

Do that on the Tuesday and you will have stock ready for your soup on Thursday.

On Wednesday you can use one portion of chicken for the chicken and rice. It isn’t a fancy meal, all you need is the chicken and rice and some salt and pepper. Use any other seasonings you want depending on what you have in your cupboard. Cut up some raw carrots for the side.

You will use the last portion of chicken for your chili. While you are probably used to using ground beef in your chili (it’s a favorite around here!) with only $50 for 7 meals we have to use what we can. Chicken in chili is actually quite delicious.

For the meals that call for biscuits, try out THIS RECIPE.  I love biscuits for how cheap they are to make and how everyone LOVES them. My kids love them with butter or jam as a snack around here. When you need to live off of this meal plan, be sure to make extra biscuits for snacks in between meals!

The spaghetti in this meal plan is just with a simple can of sauce. Adding hamburger meat and vegetables to spaghetti sauce really makes for a hearty meal, but when you are in a desperate situation the noodles and sauce will meet your needs.

This is a very basic menu, with the thought in mind that your cupboards are empty and you only have $50 for 7 dinners. But – if you have a bit more room, I would add cheese to the list for topping your rice and black beans and potato soup with. I would probably buy soy sauce too for the chicken and rice. My kids just prefer butter on their rice anyhow, though.

I am going to give you the grocery list you need to make these meals. This list is written with the idea that you may not have any of these products in your pantry. The truth is, you probably do have salt and maybe sugar and chili powder in your cupboards, but if you don’t, this will still fall under $50.


canned tomatoes

2 cans of black beans (one for chili and one for rice/beans)

1 can corn (for chili)

chili powder

1 can tomato sauce (chili)

1 can pasta sauce (spaghetti)

bag of pasta

bag of onions

whole chicken

bag of carrots

bag of rice

10 lb bag of potatoes

jar of salsa

1 carton of eggs

1 loaf of bread

bag of flour



2 litre Milk (for potato soup and biscuit recipe)

This post contains affiliate links.  Please see our full disclosure policy HERE.

Again, if I had more room in my budget, I’d buy butter instead of margarine. It’s better for you. 🙂 But, again, you do what you can with what you have. And personally, I am not going to go into debt just so I can have butter. 🙂

While I usually recommend buying in bulk, when money is extremely tight you will want to buy smaller sized packages to stay within budget. Make sure you buy as close to what you need as possible.

For more dirt cheap meal ideas and recipes, I love to use one of my favorite recipe books, Dining on a Dime, Like I mentioned up above.

 When I first bought it years and years ago they only had it in hard-copy, but now they have it in eBook form, which is great because it’s cheaper and you get it right away!  Anyways, I have used this recipe book many times over the years when money has been tight and I didn’t know what to make that fit into the budget.

It can feel disheartening when you are struggling to buy groceries for a time. Hopefully these dirt cheap meals will help you feel more prepared in dealing with an extremely tight budget.


Related: What to eat when you are Broke



7 Dirt Cheap Meals to Feed a Family Dinner for a Week for Under $50
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7 Dirt Cheap Meals to Feed a Family Dinner for a Week for Under $50
7 ridiculously cheap meals you can make for your family. Includes grocery list.

7 thoughts on “7 Dirt Cheap Meals to feed a Family for Under $50”

  1. This is really something, almost like a pioneer menu the Ingalls might have. Exactly what I was looking for..! Home cooking on a budget is far healthier than the $1 menu many opt out for. Thank you, this information is valuable,and a blessing.

  2. One thing I forgot.. with canned goods costing $1 or more, using dried beans, and lentils cost less, also frozen mixed veggies can save you money.

    1. I too prefer butter. I buy heavy whipping cream 1qt and pour in mixer stand. Mix Pour off buttermilk and butter is left behind. You can salt the butter if you want. I usually get about 2 c. Butter and maybe 2 cups buttermilk

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