grilled cheese and tomato soup - our favorite easy and cheap meals

The common American family spends greater than $6,600 per yr on meals, in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That makes up roughly 10% of the median family revenue in America.

This is especially noteworthy from a private finance perspective as a result of meals is among the main family bills for which frugal selections could make a enormous distinction. Committing to getting ready most meals at dwelling, coupled with a wise and smart grocery retailer technique, can considerably reduce the sum of money spent yearly on meals. Even slicing your meals spending by 30% can save $2,000 per yr.

The problem, in fact, is effort and time. For busy households, meals preparation is a activity that’s typically relegated to others just by grabbing takeout, getting supply, or shopping for premade meals. The resolution isn’t to desert them solely, however to maneuver towards a larger reliance on very cheap and simple to arrange meals. The simplest way to do that is to middle your meals on low price and simple to arrange elements, akin to beans, rice, eggs, hen, pasta and oatmeal, and intensify them with all kinds of flavorings and elements. If the core of your meal is cheap, then your complete meal shall be!

Prices listed on this article had been taken from Walmart.com on the time of writing, with the intention to roughly standardize nationwide pricing. The recipes themselves are ones utilized in our family kitchen, largely from handwritten notes.

Breakfast meals

Breakfast meals are cheap and quick meals our household makes use of that work nicely for household breakfasts, centered on utilizing eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and different cheap elements. These can be utilized for different meals as nicely, however these typically come out initially of a college day, as the youngsters are getting up and prepared for his or her day.

Scrambled eggs

Simply crack a number of eggs right into a bowl (three per particular person is an effective quantity) and quickly stir them with a fork till the yolk is nicely mixed with the egg white. Add a small quantity of salt: only a pinch. Put a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium warmth till the butter is melted, then pour within the eggs. Every minute or so, gently scrape the underside of the skillet with a spatula to drag the cooking eggs off of the underside (in order that they don’t burn). When the eggs seem like moist however strong, serve them. You can sprinkle some cheese or different flavorings on on the finish, as per your alternative.

1 dozen eggs – $1.99

1 tablespoon butter – $0.12

1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80

Total price to serve 4 – $2.91

Slow cooker metal reduce oats

This makes use of a small gradual cooker. Just put 1 1/2 cups metal reduce oats, 2 cups of milk and 4 cups of water right into a gradual cooker simply earlier than mattress. To that, add no matter flavorings you want. We typically add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, 2 or 3 overripe mashed bananas, and a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter, as our household loves peanut butter-banana oatmeal. Aside from the oats, milk and water, you possibly can add just about something you want. Just set the gradual cooker on low simply earlier than you go to mattress and also you’ll get up to excellent oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups metal reduce oats – $0.26

2 cups milk – $0.30

Flavorings of alternative – $1.00 (est.)

Total price to serve 4 – $1.56

Egg and bean burritos

Make the scrambled eggs upfront, as described above. Along with them, set out a package deal of flour tortillas, some heated beans, some shredded cheese, and a few salsa, and permit folks to assemble their very own egg and bean burritos. These are very moveable for a grab-and-go breakfast.

Scrambled eggs with cheese – $2.91

15 oz. black beans – $0.58

Salsa – $0.94

8 flour tortillas – $1.63

1 cup shredded cheese – $0.80

Total price to serve 4 – $6.86

Overnight oats

This is one other very simple in a single day breakfast that’s nice throughout the summer time, because it’s a cool breakfast. Pull out a big consuming cup or a jar, add 1/2 cup rolled oats, then add no matter elements you want, adopted by 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup milk. Cover the cup and put it within the fridge in a single day. In the morning, it’s scrumptious. For flavoring, any and all fruits, nuts, and nut butters will work – once more, we regularly use peanut butter and bananas with a little bit of vanilla flavoring.

2 cups rolled oats – $0.52

2 cups milk – $0.30

1 cup yogurt – $0.85

Flavorings of alternative – $1.00 (est.)

Total price to serve 4 – $2.67

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Soups and stews

Soups and stews often benefit from our household’s trusty gradual cooker, as you possibly can dump within the elements for a soup early within the day, flip the gradual cooker on low, and luxuriate in a pleasant soup within the night. The recipes right here that embrace beans make the most of dry beans, which, if soaked in a single day in water the evening earlier than and cooked with extra liquid as per the bean package deal instructions, end up extremely nicely.

Lentil stew

Note that dry lentils don’t require soaking like different beans! You use dry ones proper off the bat with this recipe. Just combine these elements into the gradual cooker and prepare dinner on low for six hours. It’ll produce a reasonably thick stew.

3 carrots, reduce into discs – $0.43

3 celery stalks, sliced – $0.46

1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70

2 tablespoons olive oil – $0.06

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning – $0.10

1/2 teaspoon paprika – $0.06

1 1/2 cups dry inexperienced or brown lentils – $0.80

4 cups water – $0.00

1 28 ouncescan crushed tomatoes – $0.87

1 15 ouncescan diced tomatoes – $0.72

1 tablespoon salt – $0.01

Total price to serve 4, with a lot of leftovers – $4.21


Chili with out meat is an extremely cheap and easy meal to make, whether or not in a gradual cooker or on a stovetop. Chili con carne (chili with meat) provides to the value, however not unbearably so. There are a lot of variants to chili, however nearly none of them are pricy. Here’s the one we use, which cooks in a gradual cooker for about six hours after the beans soak in a single day. If you don’t need to do this, use 2 cans of cooked beans to exchange 1 cup dry beans. If you need extras to serve with the chili, like crackers or cheese, that may add a bit to the price, but it surely’s nonetheless an important low-cost meal.

1 cup dry black beans – $0.54

1 cup dry pinto beans – $0.54

2 15 ouncescans diced tomatoes – $1.44

1 15 ouncescan tomato sauce – $0.72

1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70

1 packet chili seasoning – $0.50

2 cups water – $0.00

4 cups extra water (if utilizing dry beans) – $0.00

Total price to serve 4, with a lot of leftovers – $4.44

Optional – 1 lb. cooked floor beef – $2.67

Ham and beans

This is one of the best use of leftover ham after the vacations, and an important purpose to chop up any leftover ham and freeze it for the longer term. You should purchase a single pound of ham and dice it your self for $3-$4, which continues to be low cost, however utilizing leftover ham is the true trick to creating this low cost. Just soak the beans in a single day, drain them, then prepare dinner this recipe in a gradual cooker on low for six hours.

1 lb leftover ham, cubed – $0.00 (or $2.98)

1 yellow onion, diced – $0.70

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder – $0.11

1/2 teaspoon salt – $0.01

1/2 teaspoon black pepper – $0.01

1 lb dried nice northern beans – $1.89

6 cups water – $0.00 (optionally, use vegetable broth)

Total price to serve 4 generously – $2.72 (or $5.70)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Making your individual tomato soup is easy. Just take an onion and chop it to measurement (I like to chop it into wedges, as a result of I like huge items of onion — the smaller you chop it, the higher). Get out a big pot, put it over medium warmth, and soften an entire stick of butter in there. When the butter is melted, add the onions and prepare dinner over medium warmth for 4 minutes. Then, add the crushed tomatoes, elevate warmth to excessive till it’s effervescent, then drop it to medium-low in order that it’s simply barely effervescent, and go away it for 40 minutes. While that’s going, make sandwiches. Just butter one facet of eight items of bread, assemble cheese sandwiches with the butter facet outwards, and prepare dinner them every over medium warmth in a skillet, flipping midway by when the underside is golden.

For the soup:

1 stick butter – $0.74

1 yellow onion, reduce up – $0.70

2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes – $1.74

Dash of salt to style – $0.01

3 cups water – $0.00

Total price to serve 4 very generously – $3.19

For the sandwiches:

8 slices bread of alternative – $0.57

2 tablespoons butter – $0.21

8 slices cheese of alternative – $1.40

Total price to serve 4 – $2.18

Pasta meals

These are quite simple and fast weeknight meals that my household ceaselessly enjoys. These are nearly all the time very low cost, and all the time accompanied with a facet or two, which you’ll examine on the backside of the article.

Three-ingredient mac and cheese

This relies on J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt’s wonderful three-ingredient mac and cheese recipe. Our dwelling model is barely tweaked, but it surely makes sufficient for the 5 of us with leftovers for lunch the subsequent day if served with a few sides. It’s really easy and so a lot better than boxed mac and cheese. Get out a big saucepan or small pot, add the mac, add water till the macaroni is simply lined, then convey to a boil over medium-high warmth. Stir continuously whereas boiling for six minutes, then add the evaporated milk, then stir continuously for 3 extra minutes. Stir within the shredded cheese and serve. This stuff is wonderful.

1 16 ouncesbox elbow macaroni – $0.78

1 12 ouncescan evaporated milk – $0.70

4 cups shredded cheese of alternative – $3.50 (can fluctuate relying on cheese alternative)

Total price to generously serve 4 – $4.98

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

This is so simple as it will get. Boil a field of pasta in response to package deal instructions. Drain the water. Add a jar of marinara sauce of your selecting. Serve. My household loves this and it’s easy sufficient that my kids typically put together it for dinner (we’ve got our kids absolutely take cost of some meal preparation in its entirety as a instructing instrument).

1 16 oz. field spaghetti – $1.28

1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28

Total price to serve 4 – $2.56

Chickpea pasta

This is a pasta meal that’s a bit extra complicated than the spaghetti with marinara sauce, however follows the identical concept. You’ll want a blender and a saucepan along with the pot for cooking pasta. Just prepare dinner a package deal of angel hair pasta in response to package deal instructions. Meanwhile, put two cans of chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons cumin, a splash of salt and pepper, and the juice of a lemon right into a saucepan and prepare dinner over medium warmth for 5 minutes. Put half of the chickpeas and all the liquid right into a blender and puree it, then combine the chickpeas, liquid and pasta all collectively and serve.

1 16 oz. field angel hair pasta – $1.28

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas – $1.76

1/4 cup olive oil – $0.38

1 lemon – $0.40

2 teaspoons dried cumin – $0.08

Dash of salt and pepper – $0.02

Total price to serve 4 generously – $3.92

Cheese lasagna

We typically assemble this within the morning, pop it within the fridge, and bake it within the night. All you want is a field of no-boil lasagna noodles, a small container of ricotta or cottage cheese, 4 cups shredded mozzarella, and a big jar of marinara sauce. We’ll typically add a layer of greens, too – I significantly like including a layer of mushrooms.

Just pour 1/3 of the jar of sauce into the underside of a 9″ by 13″ pan, put a layer of no-boil noodles on high, then 1/3 of the cottage or ricotta, then 1/3 of the greens if utilizing, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Just repeat these layers twice extra — sauce, then noodles, then cheese, then greens, then ricotta. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour lined with aluminum foil, eradicating the foil for the final quarter-hour to brown the cheese a bit of.

1 16 oz. field no boil lasagna noodles – $1.97

1 20–27 oz. jar marinara sauce – $1.28

4 cups shredded mozzarella – $3.20

1 15 oz. container cottage or ricotta cheese – $1.17

8 oz. sliced mushrooms – $1.96 (or one other vegetable)

Total price to serve 4 generously with a full meal of leftovers – $9.58

Bean and rice meals (400 phrases)

These meals depend on beans and rice, two of probably the most cheap staples in your kitchen. Dry beans and rice are simple to arrange (you largely simply add water, put them over low warmth, and wait) and supply tons of diet for the greenback. We invested in a rice cooker as a result of we prepare dinner rice so typically; a superb rice cooker makes rice extremely easy to make.

Sticky rice, greens, and soy sauce

This is extremely easy, but my complete household enjoys it. This typically turns up as a fast lunch, one which my youngsters typically put together. Simply prepare dinner two cups of raw rice in response to the package deal instructions. Take a package deal of frozen greens and prepare dinner them in response to package deal instructions. Then, add three tablespoons of soy sauce to the cooked rice and blend within the steamed greens. It appears comically easy… but it surely’s tasty and quick and low cost!

2 cups raw rice – $0.52

1 bag frozen combined greens – $1.19

Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have a lot of leftovers)

Total price to serve 4 – $3.70

Red beans and rice

There are some fantastic pre-made kits for this — principally a mixture of seasoning, dry pink beans and dry rice — and I extremely suggest them, particularly on sale. If you need to make your individual any time, it’s simple.

Just convey two cups of water to a boil, add 1 cup raw rice, cut back warmth to low, cowl, and let it sit on low warmth for 20 minutes. Get out a skillet, add 1 pound of sliced kielbasa, and prepare dinner over medium-high warmth for 5 minutes. Add a chopped onion, chopped bell pepper, 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, and a 15 oz. can diced tomatoes. Add a splash of oregano, salt, pepper and garlic powder and let this all simmer collectively for quarter-hour. When the rice is completed, you possibly can both combine all of it collectively or serve the beans over rice.

1 cup raw rice – $0.26

14–16 ounceskielbasa – $2.87

1 yellow onion, chopped – $0.70

1 inexperienced bell pepper – $0.88

2 15 oz. cans kidney beans – $1.76

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes – $0.88

Dash of oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder – $0.02

Total price to serve 4 – $7.37

Cheesy risotto

This is an especially kid-friendly recipe that we generally function the principle course with just a few sides. It additionally works as a facet for one thing else, for those who’d like.

Heat the butter in a big saucepan over medium-high warmth till melted. Add the onion and stir repeatedly for 8 minutes, seasoning with the salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir for two minutes. Add 2 cups of broth and stir repeatedly for 10 minutes, then add the remainder of the broth and decrease warmth to a simmer for an additional 10 minutes, stirring as soon as about midway by. Stir within the grated Parmesan and serve!

3 tablespoons butter – $0.31

1 yellow onion finely chopped – $0.70

Salt and pepper – $0.02

1 cup raw rice – $0.26

4 cups hen broth – $1.98

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese – $0.50

Total price to serve 4 – $3.77

Fried rice

This is our household’s favourite use of leftover rice and why we don’t sweat it if we prepare dinner additional rice. Just take three tablespoons of butter and soften over medium-high warmth in a skillet. When it’s melted, add 4 whisked eggs and prepare dinner till scrambled, after which take away the scrambled eggs to a separate plate. From there, add a bag of chopped frozen combined greens proper to the pan and prepare dinner for six minutes. Then, add 4 cups of leftover chilly chilled rice and 4 tablespoons of soy sauce and prepare dinner for 3 extra minutes. Mix the eggs again in and serve.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50

3 tablespoons butter – $0.31

4 eggs – $0.66

1 bag frozen combined greens – $1.19

Soy sauce – $1.99 (full bottle, you’ll have a lot of leftovers)

Total price to serve 4 – $4.65

Chicken and tuna meals

These 4 meals are targeted on hen and tuna, that are the least costly meat staples constantly present in grocery shops. If you need a discount, canned tuna and complete chickens are one of the best deal. Tip: If you’ve gotten a recipe that requires cooked hen, think about shopping for an entire rotisserie hen from the grocery retailer and tear it aside. You can get cooked hen for as little as $1 per pound doing this.

One-pot hen, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is a consolation meals that my mother and father made once I was youthful and we now take pleasure in as a household. It’s additionally an important use for cooked rice. Just combine the next in a casserole dish and bake at 350F for half-hour.

4 cups leftover cooked rice – $0.50

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – $3.20

1 lb. cooked hen (rotisserie) – $1.25

2 cups hen broth – $0.99

1 cup milk – $0.50

2 tablespoons melted butter – $0.20

Total price to serve 4 – $6.64

Chicken noodle soup

Egg noodles, cooked in hen broth, with some diced hen added. It’s so easy and but, so scrumptious. You can add diced greens as desired — carrots, celery and onions all work right here. Just get a 16 oz. package deal of egg noodles and prepare dinner in response to package deal instructions utilizing 6 cups of hen broth because the liquid and including the hen and greens earlier than cooking.

6 cups hen broth – $2.97

1 lb. cooked rotisserie hen – $1.25

1 16 oz. package deal egg noodles – $1.98

1 bag diced frozen combined greens – $1.19

Total price to serve 4 – $7.39

Tuna melts

This is one in all my household’s favourite meals, and it’s tremendous simple. OK, so this one goes a bit over $10, but it surely’s oh, so good. Just combine up tuna, mayonnaise, and pickle juice, then put a big teaspoon of the combination on every hamburger bun. Top with cheese, wrap every sandwich in aluminum foil, place the sandwiches on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Delicious!

4 5-ounce cans tuna, drained – $5.43

4 tablespoons mayonnaise – $1.59 for the total bottle

2 teaspoons pickle juice – $0.05

8 hamburger buns – $1.59

8 slices cheese – $1.29

Aluminum foil – $0.15

Total price for 8 sandwiches – $10.01

Tuna patties

These easy tuna patties fry very nicely in a skillet. Just add a tiny little bit of oil and fry these in a skillet over medium warmth till golden brown on either side, 5–6 minutes per facet. The patties are made by mixing the beneath elements and forming them into patties. You can serve them on the plate or on bread or buns as a sandwich (with a slice of cheese on high).

2 5-ounce cans tuna – $2.71

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard – $0.17

4 slices white bread torn into small items – $0.26

1 uncooked egg – $0.17

Dashes of salt, pepper, sizzling sauce, and lemon juice – $0.05

Total price for 4 patties – $3.36

What about sides?

These 20 meals can every present a predominant course, however what about facet dishes? We often pair our predominant dishes with two of the next gadgets, relying on what pairs nicely and what’s on sale.

Flash frozen greens in a microwave steamed bag, which often price $1.29 and are sometimes discovered on sale for $0.99. We often prepare dinner them for a couple of minute lower than the instructions on the bag then season them extensively with salt, pepper, and different odds and ends.

Fresh fruit together with apples, bananas, grapes, oranges — no matter’s on sale that week.

Fresh greens from our backyard are nearly all the time our facet dishes throughout the summer time months.

Baked potatoes simply should be wrapped in foil and baked within the oven at 350 F for as much as an hour, relying on measurement. They’re low cost and are fantastic topped with butter or bitter cream.

A facet salad, often a package from the shop after they’re on sale, is usually on our desk. Kits present a facet salad that’s ample for our household for $2 when on sale.

Yogurt is usually on sale, and we simply purchase no matter’s on sale. Containers of yogurt are a reasonable end to many meals.

Too lengthy, didn’t learn?

If you utilize cheap staple meals as a spine on your meals, there are tons of issues you possibly can put together for a household for a comparatively small quantity, with lots of the meals offering a lot of leftovers. Pairing these meals with cheap sides provides a ton of selection and not using a ton of pockets impression.

We welcome your suggestions on this text. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with feedback or questions.

Trent Hamm based The Simple Dollar in 2006 and nonetheless writes a each day column on private finance. He’s the writer of three books revealed by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his monetary recommendation has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.