Cheap Meals For When You Are Broke

 

Most of us have had at least one time in our life when we were downright broke and need the best cheap foods. It’s not just college students who suffer.  There are times when we are almost too broke to eat and need some extremely cheap meals. 

When it comes down to it, what are the cheapest foods to buy?

Whether it was when you were a starving student, a single mom, couldn’t work for a time, or had more month than money, there may be a time in your life when you ask yourself what to eat when you are broke.  If you need meals when you have no money, you’ve come to the right place for ideas.

affordable pasta for dinner

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CHEAP IDEAS FOR MEALS CAN HELP YOU WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH

There have been many times in my life where the only place in our budget that I could make room was our food budget. We’ve had times where it almost felt like we were too broke to eat, especially before I discovered the life changing power of blogging and making money from home

So, I’ve learned to be creative with cheap meal ideas.  Because you still want to be able to eat food when you’re broke.  Not only do our bodies need it, somehow it brings us a little joy in the middle of financial troubles.

Don’t get discouraged during these times. It can really pay off (literally!) to eat a “rice & beans” diet for a short time to avoid going into debt.

The last time we had to pull out all the stops on our grocery budget was last year when my husband spent 8 weeks at school for his apprenticeship. We were determined to get through the 8 weeks without putting anything on our credit cards even though we were not pulling in a full-time income.

Thanks in part to cutting back on our groceries, we were successful.

 


Other great money saving posts:

COUPONS HELPED US TOO

Even though there aren’t a ton of savings when it comes to couponing here in Canada, every little bit helped and I was sure to use what coupons I could find.

It was about that time when I started using CHECKOUT51, a coupon app I could download to my phone and get cashback for groceries I bought.  I love that this free app works for both US and Canadian residents!

All you do is upload your receipt after shopping and claim your offers.  How easy is that?

Be sure to download Checkout51 so you can save money on your next grocery shopping trip.

 

You can also get cashback for shopping when you use another apps – IBOTTA (this one is great for groceries!)

SAVE BY PLANNING AND BEING PREPARED

Early on in my frugal living journey I discovered the more I was prepared, the more I saved money in the kitchen.

If I had to guess, I would say that:

  • YOU want to save big money and you know that the way you grocery shop and cook can be a step forward to your own personal financial freedom. 
  • You want to do all that you can to save extra money for your family so you can pay your bills, live within your means, maybe take a trip or buy a big ticket item.  Maybe you want to pay down debt. 

That’s why everyone needs a good recipe book full of FRUGAL recipes.  Recipes you can make with CHEAP ingredients.  The Budget Bytes Cookbook is full of recipes like that.

Also, they have a website with many recipes as well.

This list below of cheap dinner ideas aren’t necessarily the healthiest but they are some of the cheapest things to eat when you’re broke. Hopefully these are not the only things you will need to eat for the long-term, but many of these meals include the cheapest food to buy on a budget.

when you are broke and you are just going through a season of hard times you do what you have to do to get through. And sometimes that means less healthy meals.

When you get back on your feet again or have a little more disposable income you will be able to add more nutrient packed meals to your diet. Still, some of these cheap meals do offer a good dose of nutrition.

From the list of food ideas below you can make one each day for lunch and one each day for dinner and you’ve got yourself a super cheap meal plan for a week or two.  After you’ve made them all you can start all over again if you like.  These are also excellent ideas for those with large families.

HOW TO GET FOOD WHEN YOU HAVE NO MONEY

But what if you have absolutely NO money for food?  That’s when you need to look to your community for help.  If you live in the US you can acquire food stamps from your local SNAP office to help you during tough times.  If you live in Canada you can go to a food bank and they will give you some food to help get you through.

So, what should you make when you are broke and need to shop for the cheapest food to buy on a budget?

 

Rice & Beans.

Okay. You knew this would be on the list. Let’s just get it out of the way. Don’t let rice and beans scare you. This is actually one of my kids’ favorites and it’s an easy meal. We mix black beans in rice, add salsa and maybe some cheese and it tastes delicious!  For added nutrition use brown rice as one of your main ingredients instead of white rice.

Frittatas.

We have chickens so there are always a lot of eggs around here. But even if you don’t have chickens eggs are pretty cheap. Frittatas are so versatile. Just add any kind of vegetables you have in your fridge. My favorite frittata is tomatoes, spinach, and onion.

Poor Man’s Supper.

This is a favorite at our house. Fry up some diced potatoes, onions, and chopped up hot dogs. Season with garlic, salt, and pepper. Then pick out the onions for your kids. Or is that just a thing at my house?  Either way this is a great idea with basic ingredients that you probably have on hand.

Potato Soup.

Potato soup can be as simple or as fancy as your budget and tastes allow. All you need for the bases is potatoes, broth, and onions. Depending on how much money you have you can add bacon, cream, and cheese. Bake a nice, homemade loaf of bread to go with it.Potato soup for cheap meals

Pasta.

Pasta is super cheap. And delicious. We add hamburger meat to our sauce for a more hearty meal with some protein, but there have been times we have had to forego the meat. The kids never seemed to mind. It was still yummy. πŸ™‚

Loaded Baked Potatoes.

Make up a baked potato bar so that everyone can put on their own toppings. You can use whatever you have on hand. Broccoli and cheese. Chili. Sour cream and cheese. The options are endless.  Use sweet potatoes for more nutritional value if the budget allows.

 

Fried Spaghetti.

If you have leftover spaghetti, fry it up with some garlic, olive oil, and salt. Some people like to put a bit of sauce in too, but I prefer it without. This is actually one of those meals that is a guilty pleasure for me. I don’t care how much money I have, I will always make room for fried spaghetti in my life.

Squash Soup.

Squash, broth, and onions will make the most comforting soup. We eat this in the Fall, but it would be delicious any time of the year. I’ve seen different recipes include things such as apples, bacon, parsnips, and carrots in squash soup. Pair this with some homemade bread.

Sandwiches.

Egg salad, peanut butter, meat, tuna, salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, etc. The sky is the limit here. My mom used to make us soup and sandwiches when were kids and she would cut up all the sandwiches and put them on a plate in the middle of the table.

I don’t know why, but they just tasted better this way.  Whatever is on sale that week at your local grocery store, add it to your grocery list to make it the weekly sandwich option.

Eggs & Toast.

This is a meal that is perfect any time of the day, not just for breakfast. And if you are lucky enough to have your own chickens and make your own bread, it’s a pretty cheap meal.

Eggs and toast

Pancakes.

Pancakes for lunch or dinner? Why not?  My kids LOVE when I make pancakes, no matter what time of day. When we eat pancakes for dinner it feels like a big treat.  The bonus?  Pancakes are insanely cheap to make.

Oatmeal.

Again, oatmeal once in awhile for dinner never did anyone any harm.  Actually, oatmeal is extremely healthy, and it’s fast to make.  Oats are definitely one of those cheap foods to buy when you are broke.  You can add a ton of toppings to spruce it up like fruit, or cinnamon, or raisins – or eat it plain.  Either way, it’s so frugal.

Leftover Chicken Noodle Soup.

We love to buy a whole chicken and then stretch them to make a few meals out of them.  If you have some leftover chicken it’s a great time to make chicken noodle soup. 

All you really need is some chicken, some egg noodles, maybe some carrots and onions (though, you could do without those too) and some broth – which you can make yourself from the chicken bones.  You could also try making this with ramen noodles if that’s all you have.

So there are 13 cheap meals to get you going the next time you are feeling like you may be too broke to eat and the only place to cut is your grocery bill. Funny enough, when we are on our tightest budget our kids talk about how delicious the food is.

No one in this house ever seems to complain when we are on a rice & beans type of budget because they have full bellies and they actually enjoy the most frugal meals we can make.

The list above also qualifies as some cheap student meals.  So if you are a poor college or university student, try a few of the meals above.  I also have a super cheap family meal plan for those of you who have a whole crew to feed.  A cheap family meal plan is just what you need to beat inflation.

COOKBOOKS WITH CHEAP MEALS

If you are looking for a little more help for what kinds of meals to make when you are broke don’t forget to check out the Budget Bytes cookbook.  It’s one of those recipe books you’ll pull out again and again, especially when payday feels like a long way away!  It uses cheaper foods that you can buy to make cheap family meals.

I also love this 5 dollar meal plan option.  All you do is pay 5 dollars a month, and each week they send you a weekly meal plan.  I know there have been times I have wasted too much time and money on dinner because I didn’t have time to meal plan and prepare. 

This 5 dollar meal plan does it for you, along with recipes and shopping lists.  Oh, and they also have a 14 day free trial so you can test it out.  

I hope these cheap meals help you stay within what may be a tight budget right now and will help fill your belly when you are broke.

 

 

 

123 thoughts on “Cheap Meals For When You Are Broke”

      1. I made corn tortillas pizzas to save money. I need gluton free. This way is the cheapest gluton free pizza. My favorite is cheese and mushroom. If I have red onion great if not yellow onions are fine. Olives and whatever you can will do great.
        But thanks for your ideas too. I never thought of cheese on beans and rice. Good idea. Thank you!

  1. Have you ever had Graveyard Stew? This is hot milk with butter and pepper and salt with pieces of toast floating in it. These are the coffins. It is delicious, filling, and has lots of calcium and Vit D for growing children.

    1. I have never heard of graveyard stew! It sounds interesting. Here in Canada most of us are Vitamin D Deficient so anything that adds vitamin D is good for us! πŸ™‚

    2. In my area that stew is called Milk Toast. Our Mother loved the stuff but to my sister, brother and I it was the nastiest stuff ever. We refused to even try it! Anyway, glad you and yours enjoy it. Have a nice day!

    3. Beth Wiggington

      Have had Graveyard Stew! My dad floated his toast in warm milk. Sprinkled cinnamon on the toast. We grew up in Indianapolis, IN. Never heard of this recipe afterwards until now.

      1. We poach eggs in milk and serve over buttered toast with salt and pepper. The eggs can be cooked to any degree you want. I sometimes stir them and break them when partially cooked then cook a little longer because I like my eggs cooked hard.

        1. Oh my goodnes that’s Colombian Changua! Never heard an american mention such a thing. I prepare it with diced potato and green onion and then top it with the egg, chopped cilantro and home made croutons. My husband is Colombian so i learned to make it. My USA family wont touch it but its a fav of my little ones.

  2. I’ve had a little different version of Poor Man’s Supper. When I was little, we didn’t have much money (I never knew it at the time) and we had this meal alot, but added eggs to it to make kind of a scramble. We also had chickens. My mom taught me how to make it and I was thrilled to be able to make supper and she suggested I make it about once a week. I now realize she was just glad to be able to have a “night off” from cooking every now and then. (: It’s still a favorite of mine.

    1. hmm…I need to start doing that with my kids….then I could have a night off too. lol. I’m sure your mom appreciated the help!

  3. My husband’s family were very poor and there were 10 kids. One meal but I don’t know the name that his mom made was with cream corn, diced potatoes and ground beef. She would cook the beef in a large pot till browned then add lots of water and lots of diced cooked potatoes and the cream corn. It is more lije a thick soup that went a long way when feeding 10 kids. My kids loved it and when seasoned with salt and pepper, chopped onion or chives it is actually tasty. I sometimes made hot biscuits to go with it but they only used bread. Adding the water stretch the meal further. s

    1. I do find it amazing how a lot of those foods that our parents made or we make for our kids during the roughest of times are ones they actually really love. I imagine with 10 kids your husband’s family really had to stretch that food.

  4. We had something called “Yankie Hash”: Cut up boiled potatoes with onions, partially drained, then a can of corned beef added in. I think that cabbage would also work well added in.

    1. Yes, cabbage seems to go hand in hand with corned beef. I have never heard of Yankie Hash. As a potato and onion fan it sounds pretty good to me. πŸ™‚

      1. A meal my mom used to make was hotdog in tomato sauce…she’d slice up the hotdogs and sauteed them for a few minutes, then Added a little bit of tomato sauce and spices like salt and pepper, garlic powder and cumin. We’d eat that up with fresh made tortillas. So good.

    2. My mom, who grew up during the Depresssion, made a dish similar to this which she called “Corn Willie.” She fried chopped onions, and added a can of cream style corn and a can of corned beef. Delicious!

      1. Corned beef seemed to be popular in those days. It’s amazing how so many super frugal meals are insanely delicious. πŸ™‚

  5. fried potartoes and eggs.
    fried eggsandwuch
    pancakes or waffles.
    grill cheese and tomato soup
    clean out the frig and make veggie soup add canned beans for the protein.
    chicken and rice
    rice or bread pudding
    amish baked oatmeal

  6. My favorites as a kid where brown beans and biscuits and macaroni soup. Brown beans and biscuits dried kidney bean that where soaked and than cooked with salt pork and water very filling and cheap with homemade drop biscuits and than macaroni soup simple and cheap macaroni whole tomatoes salt pork onions salt and pepper and water simple but cheap and it stretched for a large family these where thing my dad grew up on being a one of nine

    1. It’s the most basic meals that we remember as our favorites! It works out perfectly that way, because we don’t remember feeling deprived. πŸ™‚ Your Dad definitely came from a large family. πŸ™‚

      1. We had many frugal meals-we had spam and potato casserole, red beans and rice, beanie weenie casserole, chicken rice broccoli cheese casserole (with very little chicken), split pea soup, ham hock and white bean soup (back when the butcher would give away the ham hock), and finally $hit on a shingle- dried chip beef from a jar (that after washed we used as juice glasses)-they are the ones with stars around the top-so the beef was warmed and served on toast with white gravy on top-:)

  7. We had macaroni and homemade canned tomatoes mixed together…..it was delicious…still get hungry for it….

    1. That’s a popular dish here too, though we do add a few things to it. Cheap and filling and delicious!

    2. Heather A Hurst

      Macaroni and tomatoes!!! I add lots of butter and salt and pepper. We grew up eating this and is still one of my favorites!!!

          1. Reading all the post and that is what a lot of us grew up on and we really don’t know we were poor. My favorite is cornbread and milk.

        1. My mom would make this without draining the water from either the tomatoes or the macaroni(she used just barely enough water to cook the macaroni). If there was leftovers, she would put it in a casserole dish, add chunks of cheddar cheese and bake for another meal.

          1. I forgot to add that she put milk in it for the first meal (without draining the water).

      1. Kathleen Hanford

        Mom would cook macaroni in as little water as possible. When done, don’t drain. Add milk and tomatoes. If any was left over, pour it into a casserole and add cheese of choice, bake until hot for another meal.

  8. I’ve almost never seen fried spaghetti mentioned elsewhere! In our house, dad would take leftover cold spaghetti noodles and fry them in oil with chopped onions, and top with ketchup (he put ketchup on everything πŸ™‚ salt and black pepper. Still absolute comfort food to me, and like you said even not when broke… I don’t even wait for leftover spaghetti, and will cook pasta specifically to make this. Love it!

    Baked potatoes with sour cream and BBQ sauce, might sound odd but yummy!
    Big pot of oatmeal with chopped apples and nuts, and toast. Breakfast for dinner

    1. I think the baked potatoes with sour cream and bbq sauce sounds delicious but I’m one of those people who loves adding sauces to anything and everything. πŸ™‚ Your comment also has me craving fried spaghetti. I might have to make some tomorrow. πŸ™‚

  9. Hawaiian Haystacks with all the leftovers in the fridge.
    Breakfast and smoothies with whatever frozen, fresh, or canned fruit &/or a little jam I can find.
    Leftover casserole, the name says it all.
    Double grilled cheese sandwiches, with two kinds of cheese on them and any kind of soup.
    Polish sausage, green beans, potatoes, and onions cooked in the crockpot.
    Mexican rice, refried beans, fried potatoes.
    Bean and rice burritos
    Tostadoes with beans, and anything you have on hand.

  10. My grew up a poor family of 6 – we ate some foods that my mom stretched to feed all of us……one I remember the most was macaroni and tuna to feed a family of 6 – to this day, it’s a cheap meal. She also made meatballs and rice – regular white rice and everyone got a meatball, cut up and mixed together…….both to this day are cheap meals

  11. My mom made fried up ground beef with rice, peas, and cream of mushroom soup and served it on, or with, toast.

    1. My family members all love mushroom soup meals. πŸ™‚ Me, not so much. But it is handy to have and affordable!

    2. Heather A Hurst

      My mom always made cream soup casseroles – she would do ground beef, cream of mushroom soup, egg noodles and mixed veggies or she would do canned chicken, cream of chicken soup, egg noodles and mixed veggies. I still make them now. Cheap, easy and good with bread and butter or cottage cheese.

  12. Our meal was hamburger,rice and ketchup. 6 kids to feed so it had to go a long way. My brothers still eat it today. My dad would also make a huge potato salad with tuna and hard boiled eggs from grandmas chickens. That was dinner. For 8 and we never knew we were poor.

    1. Yes, when you have eggs from chickens you raise the eggs make their way to the dinner table quite often. πŸ™‚

  13. I made Mommy Soup, a container in the freezer that any leftovers went into, chicken, meatloaf, green beans with juice, potatoes, salads, whatever was left after a meal, when it reached a level in the freezer container, I would heat it into soup starter and we would decide if it needed seasoning, spice, etc. Most time it was really good, many times my little ones would ask when can we have Mommy Soup again.

    1. I’ve heard of this and always wanted to do it but always forget to put the leftovers into it. πŸ™‚ I never heard it called Mommy soup though. πŸ™‚

    1. hmm….I have the hard copy and it is an actual cookbook for sure, though I do not have the eBook. I recommend emailing the writers of the book – they are over at http://www.livingonadime.com which is the link you would have bought it through. I am sorry you had a bad experience with it. Be sure to contact them and I am sure they will help you out.

      1. Sounds like what we eat down south. Milk gravy smothered over biscuits or toast. When you have it ground sausage. During thanksgiving shreded turkey over some rolsd or bread or biscuit smothered in gravey. Chiken or milk gravy. Mmmm!

  14. To feed a crowd of homeless folks we hosted at a Community Church (they went back for seconds in the middle of the night!)—Chilled Mac, Tuna, & Eggs—Large box of macaroni, cooked; as much canned tuna as you can afford; several hard-boiled eggs, sliced. Mix all together, adding a lot of mayo or Miracle Whip, stir well. Keeps several days in fridge, if it lasts that long! Hearty and also
    high-protein. Optional to serve with salad and/or fruit to round out the meal.

    Penny Eggs–a children’s favorite. Slice hot dogs into “pennies,” fry in butter, then add lots of eggs and scramble all together. Hearty meal, great after kids played outside in snow. Serve with toast, and perhaps cocoa or milk to drink.

    Can’t wait to try your Fried Spaghetti!

    1. My mom made a similar recipe for Tuna Mac Salad, which also had about a head of celery for some nice crunch. Very simple and very rich tasting, made with salad macaroni, although any pasta likely would work, of course. With tuna, eggs and macaroni, and mayo. It was always very popular at potlucks and made a lot.

  15. Patricia Seeland

    I have no name for it but my mother would fry up ground beef with onions, salt and pepper. Add water ( I now add beef broth instead for gravy). Pour over a slice of bread for a family of 7. I sometimes do it today for a quick meal for a single person. Add left over salad and vegetable is a great meal.

      1. Monika Gunn-Holloway

        I love to make Clean-out-the Refrigerator Soup. I learned this from Mama. When I make it I put everything that’s left over in the fridge it. I’ve even added leftover grits! You can’t see it, just thickens it. I also add finely chopped collard greens. It is pretty floating in that sea of red tomatoes and vegetables. Also I like to use ground beef. It doesn’t take much, and you get meat with every spoonful!

        1. Such a smart idea. A great way to use leftovers and make sure nothing goes to waste. It’s interesting, here in Canada I don’t even know if you can buy grits. I didn’t know what grits were until I took a trip out to the US one day!

  16. Grandma always gave us leftover white rice with butter, milk and sugar as a breakfast cereal. Still a favorite comfort food for me. Or when recovering from an illness and in need of something light.

    A cheap supper meal is a lb. of hamburger browned with onions if you’re into them, and then toss in a bag of slaw, gently warm and seasoned to taste. My crew cleans the pan every time. Slawburger. You could serve on a bun, but I don’t… thereby making it a low carb meal. Feeling fancy? Add a drained can of water chestnuts.

    Another is a package of weenies sliced into rounds, browned with onions and a large can of Ranch Style Beans. We serve with grated cheese. Beanie Weenies.

    Fast and cheap… Brown lb. of burger, onion, with a package of brown gravy mix and a lil bit of water. Serve on hamburger or homemade buns. Loose Meat Sandwich.

    1. The hamburger with the bag of slaw sounds delicious! I’m definitely going to have to try that one. I wonder if a bit of sauce, something like soy sauce or even BBQ sauce on that would add to it?

      1. Search up a recipe for “crack slaw” – that’s this! It’s so good with soy sauce and (powdered) ginger. If we have it, we add frozen pepper and onion blend (hey, I work full time and take shortcuts where I can!) One of my favorite healthy meals when money is tight and the kids love it too!

        We’re having a tight week and I found this blog post on pinterest – great post, thank you so much for these ideas πŸ™‚

        1. I feel like I have heard of crack slaw but I am going to have to google it to check it out again. I love finding healthy meals that don’t break the bank. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thank you for this list! And if anyone is ever worried about B12, Garden of Life has a spray that only costs $12 and it has over 100 servings (for an adult. You will have to look up how much a child can have.)

    The B12 is completely derived from food so you can absorb it.

  18. Humpties: dumplings made with flour and milk, cooked in tomato juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until juice thickens a little.
    Goo-k: browned hamburger mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Eat it on buns like a soppy joe.
    Breakfast for supper.
    Pizza bake: whip up some bisquick, layer in pan, pour tomato sauce over, add pepperoni and cheese and bake until
    Biscuit mix is cooked.
    These were my mother’s cheapest meals.

  19. To give my Mom a night off, my Dad would sometimes make us kids(all 11 of us) a dish called American chop suey. Basically a base of ground beef, onions, tomato paste and pasta or egg noodles. You can add whatever veggies you have on hand. Hearty, cheap and delicious!

  20. When my husband and two little kids and I were in grad school, we lived on pinto beans cooked in a slow cooker all day with streaked meat, an onion, chili powder, and water. I made corn bread to go with this. I also recommend a cookbook called Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown.

  21. One thing I like to do that makes a cheap meal is my version of fried spaghetti. I take what ever noodles, rice, spaghetti noodles, cooked potatoes, leftover hashbrowns, even leftover Kraft dinner. I save all the bits and fry it up with onions in a bit of oil or butter till hot and browing just a bit on the edges, and throw a scrambled egg over it all, cook till the egg is done. We like Kraft dinner the second day better than the first day done up this way. Of course if you have any veg left, you can toss that in too. or add a few tablespoons of frozen peas.

  22. Any meal tastes better with biscuits or homemade bread or buns. There are good recipes in pinterest for them. I also make my own pita breads, so easy to make. If you are not handy, you can buy frozen bread dough, buns dough and pizza dough in the freezer sections. And best of all, and any of these make a simple soup or leftover taste sooo good.

    1. yes, I love to pair homemade breads with soup, stew, or chili. Homemade bread is so good. we don’t eat a lot of it in the warmer months because baking it all the time heats our house up too much, so we are looking forward to the next few weeks as it gets colder so we can enjoy our homemade bread again. πŸ˜‰

  23. I came late to this discussion but I don’t recall seeing dumplings here. My mom would take flour, add some eggs and milk to make a sticky dough. Drop by spoonful into boiling water and cook until they are set. Time varies depending on how many dumplings are cooking. We ate them with store brand margarine lightly salted. They were heavy and filling. We loved them and I still have to make them every now and then but now I use real butter! Mom was German and I think they were like giant Spaetzle. My husband thinks I am crazy, but all my cousins still remember them.

    1. Kathleen Hanford

      My mom would take flour and egg mixed together with a little salt, drop small spoonsful into boiling chicken noodle soup. She called them “rushing dumplings”. Even my grandchildren love them.

  24. For Sunday dinner I bought a smoked ham. The leftovers were then sliced and cubed. The slices were used for breakfast or another meal for supper. The cubed ham were seasoning for red beans. Left over red beans turned into chili for another night, the chili was used on hotdogs for another night.
    Ham
    Sliced Ham
    Red Beans
    Chili
    Hotdogs
    Five or six meals with one ham. Depending on size of ham you might get more meals.

  25. A family favorite for us is chicken and dumplings over mashed potatoes. My parents would get up early and make the noodles (dumplings). Roll the dough out and cut the noodles. While drying, I would always try to sneak the dough. later that day we would pressure cook a whole chicken and then separate the meat from the bones. We would then put the dough and the chicken in the boiling broth and once the dumplings were ready add a milk and flour mix to the broth until it became gravy consistency. Then we would season it and serve over homemade mash potatoes. It is still a favorite!

    1. I’ve heard of noodles and milk from quite a few people! I imagine it was cheap to make, especially if you had your own dairy animal!

  26. My mom would have “Garbage Night,” where she pulled all the leftovers and bits and pieces out of the fridge, warm them up, and set them on the counter. We were free to pick whatever we wanted.

    1. It’s always hit or miss with those kinds of nights. You gotta get there fast to grab what you want before the siblings get it! πŸ™‚

  27. Mom also made what she called “Kush-Kush.” (She was from southern Louisiana) She would add a little water to a bowl of cornmeal, til it started to clump together, then fry it up in a little oil in her big cast iron pan, and serve it like hot breakfast cereal, with sugar and milk. Big-time comfort food for me!

  28. My Father (now in Heaven) was one of 15 Children born on Ontario, He was raised on a Farm. Mother (now with Him) told Me that at every Supper he had to have potatoes. I remember Mother making the potatoes and Father mashing them for mashed potatoes, they are still my favorite. I usually always have potatoes, I make mashed potatoes, smashed potatoes, hash brown potatoes, roasted potatoes, etc. I am a girl after my Father’s heart :). I won’t go into my Mother’s frugal recipes as hmmm let’s say Father knew best (after working on the CNR and I am assuming cooking during the two or so weeks at a time He was there). Spam cooked in bright yellow (block) margarine or spaghetti out of a can I did not like…. She did Her best I think. Father raised us three girls on His wages while Mother worked very hard at home. She also planned a once a year trip of one province at a time (We started with a tent and then graduated so to speak to a hard top trailer). As a Child I never saw the sacrifices that they made but I do now.

    1. I enjoyed reading about your family. Our family lived on my father’s salary and the hard work at home of both of them. We were poor, but almost everyone else in our neighborhood was, too. Mama sewed our dresses and shirts for my brother and dad; cooked from scratch and took good care of us.

  29. I should add that We always had a formal Sunday meal in the dining room. I can still remember the smell of the roast (not sure what other meat they made). We would come home after Church and they would prepare the meal. It was very formal and tense… Do not speak until spoken to etc. There were always the mashed potatoes if I recall correctly :). There was a dessert. Father use to ask Me what I liked. I liked brownies so if they went on sale at the store once in a while there would be some. Mother always made Christmas baking (bless Her heart) but she used that big yellow brick of margarine (it was not good) but of course we (mostly my Sisters) ate the cookies, etc….

    1. Margarine was so common back then – even I used it until about 5 years ago because it’s what I grew up on! But we have since switched to butter. πŸ™‚ Your parents sound like they did an amazing job with what they had. I, too, love potatoes. πŸ™‚

  30. I use to make creamed tuna. I purchased the tuna in oil. I squeezed the oil out of the can, added flour and milk and made the “creamed” part. Added the tuna and threw in a handful of frozen peas. After it was heated through I would take it off the stove and add a cut up hard boiled egg. Salt and pepper. I would serve this on toast, biscuits, but my favorite was toasted English muffins. My kids loved this as did my husband and I.

  31. I love all of the comments here!

    I always check out clearance areas for discount breads and fruits/vegetables especially overripe bananas which can be made into muffins, smoothies, and bread. A few years ago, I became much better at saving money by making nearly everything from scratch. I made muffins and oatmeal ( lots of baked oatmeal) for breakfasts, soups, homemade freezer burritos with only refried beans mixed with salsa and a little cheese if I had it, homemade pizza pockets with no knead bread dough for lunches ( or filled with meats and cheeses). Our favorite cheap suppers were lots of the things listed. Definitely scratch cooking basic food saves a ton. I even made my own chocolate syrup. I found lots of cheap ideas at http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com like basic muffins and scratch pancakes. I had little time but did things like cooked once to eat twice. Muffin batter can be frozen in the tin, popped out and baked later or baked muffins and cookies can be frozen. The key is waste nothing! Find a way to reuse everything. And if you find something that works, do it often, lol

    1. Gina – you are so right! I do a lot from scratch and most always use up cooked foods to make into something new. My husband sometimes teases me about it…so I informed him..”how else would you eat so well?” He’s stopped teasing. Since groceries have become more expensive, you have to save wherever you can! Good job!!!!

  32. We make Garbage Casserole. It is hamburger, carrots and potatoes. Cook and drain and then add some tomato juice or V8. You can also ad onion if you like.

  33. Mom made a soup we called Daddy’s soup because he really liked it. It calls for potatoes and onions fried in bacon grease, then add corn, either canned or cut off the cob and then add tomatoes, I usually use tomato juice, it was so good. We would have this when Mom was canning, usually at the end of the season, so if a jar of corn or tomatoes didn’t seal right, they would determine it was time for this soup. Everything came from the garden, it was so good. Today I like to add browned hamburger to the soup, but it is just as good without.

  34. My mom grew up during WW2 and had 11 siblings. They knew how to stretch meals!! So we grew up on some of her favorites. Stuffed cabbage and peppers (my Polish husband makes the best!), goulash aka hamburger with onions, macaroni and stewed or canned tomatoes; chili (I make mine with one lb ground beef, 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can corn, 1 jar salsa and one packet of taco seasoning. Fry ground beef, add the other ingredients, stir over heat until mixed and hot. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and corn chips on top. Italian salad- cut up tomatoes, onion, green peppers and cucumbers. Toss with Italian salad dressing and serve with cut up salami and cubed mozzarella.
    There’s just a few of the dishes she made from her mom and that she got from her friends. We still cook that way a lot.

  35. My Grandma had to feed nine kids so meals like rice with milk (long cooking rice- not instant with milk heated & sugar optional) chili con carni which was pork n beans with tomato soup & hamburger served over potatoes or bread, Grandma’s spaghetti which was hamburger, elbow macaroni and tomato soup were all favorites that my Mom made for us growing up. these are meals I made for my kids and I still make today for my grandkids! Cheap, easy and comforting.

  36. Love this! We have definitely utilized all of these except for the poor mans supper, my parents called it β€œhobo dinner” and we used hamburger meat or any kind of ground.
    Also some other life savers for us have been goulash , chicky cheese (box of Mac and cheese and a can of chicken $1.50 for whole meal) , chili , and cornbread and beans!

  37. Nobody has mentioned homemade noodles with homegrown chicken cut up and cooked in the broth. My mother made the best and since she died, I haven’t found any as good. She also made the world’s best homemade raised doughnuts. We had lots of rice pudding, crackers and applesauce with milk on, cornbread.

  38. When I grew up, money was tight & my dad was “not” an earner. We lived in the projects. Mom made garbage soup which, to this day is requested by my kids & husband. It is started w/ Manishewitz dry soup, chicken necks (from whole chickens), I put in pieces of potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and any other leftovers. It is cooked for several hours (in hotpot) and finished off with tomatoes sauce. It is even better days after.` I also make my mother’s Potted Meatballs (so easy). Needless to say, during current economic times, the older, money-saving recipes are “tried & true!”

    Loved reading all these recipes! Thanks so much!!!!

  39. My husband developed his own version of Fried Spaghetti. He sauteed onion, garlic and celery then added whatever herbs we had on hand, like thyme, basil, oregano. Then he added the cooked spaghetti and when it was heated through, he sprinkled mozzarella cheese over it, fried it til it was a little crispy, turned it over and served it. If you have a can of olives, slice them and add before the cheese.

    Also, my very favorite meal is pinto beans, cornbread, fried potatoes, sliced onions and greens. We had it about once a week when I was growing up and I still love it. Our school cafeteria served it every Tuesday, and that was the only day I didn’t take my lunch. Those cafeteria ladies cooked from scratch and made superb cornbread.

  40. I was an only child of a single mother. I grew up in the 1980’s. Her mother grew up in the 30’s and 40’s. My mom would make cream of tuna on toast whenever I didn’t feel good, and it’s still my favorite comfort food. Just a can of milk, a can of tuna fish, an some garlic powder and dried onion flakes, poured over toasted bread. Super cheap, and quick and easy to make.
    I live in Montana, in the states, and receive a lot of food stamps (EBT card) and have recently been making big crock pot meals for myself and eating on them for days.
    Homemade split pea soup, with a pound of dried split peas, a quarter of a frozen deli ham chopped up, 2 carrots chopped up small, with garlic powder and onion powder. I ended up adding a bit of salt as well. It lasted me 4 days, and I didn’t have to order in, or eat anything else except for some homemade trail mix, and some fruit juice Popsicles for dessert.
    I live alone, and mostly eat alone, so I can eat the same thing for several days, but I could freeze left overs after a meal or two, and make something else for the next day in the crock pot instead.
    Clean water isn’t always available here, so I use a lot of the juice from cans to boil my pasta in, and put the sauce in with the pasta and cook it In the crock pot together too.
    Just a few money saving hacks I use. Of course, with more people to feed, the less leftovers you would end up with 😊

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