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6 Things to Cook if You’re Broke

When our money was tight, I came up with 6 things to cook when you’re broke. These are great recipes that won’t break the bank, they taste great, and will feed quite a few people. Read below for the recipes and a few tips on how to save some money if things are a bit tight, or you don’t want to spend a fortune on dinner.

Here's a list of 6 cheap things to cook when you're on a budget. You and your family will fill up on delicious meals.

If you’re looking for filling meals to cook when you’re broke or budgeting, you came to the right place.

I’ve been there. I know it can be tough to make ends meet. You’re not alone.

And, there are plenty of ways to keep your family fed and full. These are all pretty easy, cheap, and delicious meals to cook.

  • I purchase a lot of my items at Aldi’s grocery store. I save a ton of money going there to shop, so I am basing my prices on what they would charge. They don’t do BOGO, so you might need to go to a store that offers BOGO for the hot dogs, pasta, and maybe the canned food. You will save quite a bit.
  • I am also assuming that you will have ketchup, milk, mustard, and items that you keep around the house on a regular basis. Although, I factored a little bit into the prices that you will pay for the meals.
  • It helps to plan your meals out ahead of time, as well. The Aldi’s I shop at sells veggies in a bunch. So, you’ll be getting four or five onions, as well as tomatoes, etc. You can use those items in other meals and freeze them, so you’ve not only saved money but if you’re short on time, you’ve got a meal on hand!
  • I use my Crock Pot often because it’s handy and dinner can cook while I’m doing something else, or while I’m out and about. It’s wonderful to come home to a cooked meal.

Weenies and Beans

  • 1 lb. pkg. weiners (cubed)
  • 1/4 cup onion (diced)
  • 3 – 16 oz. can of pork and beans
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Throw it all in the slow cooker and heat on low for approximately 3 to 4 hours.

  • Cost is about $8
  • Makes 6 servings

Macaroni and Cheese (old faithful)

Pasta is a great meal and it will fill you up every time.

The nice thing about this meal is that you will be buying butter, milk, and breadcrumbs, and you will have some leftover for one or two other meals that call for the same ingredients. 

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni (buy the pasta when it’s BOGO)
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole)
  • 4 cups cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1 stick of butter (separate into 4 Tbsp. each)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese (cubed)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Cook the elbow macaroni according to the directions on the package in a large saucepan. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the milk, cheddar cheese, 4 tablespoons of butter, cream cheese, and salt and pepper and mix until everything is melted.

Pour into greased casserole dish.

Melt the remaining butter (4 tablespoons) and mix with breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Pour the breadcrumb and butter mixture on top of the macaroni. Bake for 30 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

  • Cost is about $7.50
  • Makes 4-6 servings

Macaroni and Saucy Beef

The great thing about this meal is that you can use the other package of elbow macaroni noodles that you bought as a BOGO. Savings are rollin’ in already!

I buy my meat and chicken from a local grocery store that offers it on sale one day a week. It’s a great deal and I will buy quite a few and freeze the beef and chicken for other meals.

The store is usually higher priced on most items, so I was surprised to see the sale each week. But, I like their meat and chicken better than any other store, and I’m able to get a great deal on it–better than anywhere else. So, be sure to check out the sales everywhere.

Walmart tends to have good sales on meat and chicken, as well.

Sometimes, the mom and pop stores will offer a reward program and have a day that ground beef is on sale.

  • 1 – 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (free if you bought BOGO)
  • 1/2 onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup green pepper (chopped)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 – 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Brown the beef in a large skillet and drain the grease. Add it back to the skillet. Add the uncooked macaroni, onion, green pepper, and salt and pepper. Cook for about five minutes. Add the water, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes or until macaroni noodles are tender.

  • Cost is approximately $6-7
  • Serves 6-8 people

Hot Dogs and Beans

This might be the most simple and cheap meal, yet. Seriously, it will take you ten minutes to prepare it, and the hot dogs are dirt cheap.

  • 1 pkg. hot dogs (free if you got the BOGO)
  • 1 pkg. hot dog buns
  • 1 – 8 oz. can barbecue beans
  • 1/4 onion (diced)
  • Handful of shredded cheddar cheese

Cook the hot dogs on the grill (if you’re in a time crunch, you can put them in the microwave). Cook the beans in the microwave according to the directions on the can. Toast the buns. Once you put the hot dog in the bun, cover with beans, cheese, and onions.

  • Less than $2.50 (if you get the hot dogs BOGO, you will pay around this price).
  • Feeds 4-6 people

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is a filling meal, and really not that hard to make. The nice thing about it is that you can substitute the chicken with ground beef if you’d like to.

When I make this, I buy a package of two rolled pie crusts for the top and bottom. If you want to save even more, you can make a pie crust at home for a fraction of the cost. Here’s the link to the Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust if you want to make it at home for a lot less than purchasing the premade crusts.

  • 2 – 9-inch rolled pie crusts. (They are normally sold two in a pack).
  • 2 cups cooked chicken (diced) Add more if you like a lot of chicken.
  • 2-1/2 cups frozen mixed veggies
  • 2 – 10.5 oz. cans cream of chicken soup (here’s the recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Roll out your bottom pie crust in a large pie pan. In a separate bowl, add the chicken, veggies, milk, soup, and salt and pepper and mix. Pour everything into the pie crust.

Roll out the other pie crust and cover. Pinch the edges together to seal in the food. Brush the top with the beaten egg and cut a couple of slits in the top to help vent the heat. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is golden.

  • Cost is approximately $11 (if you make the pie crusts at home, you will save about $4-5)
  • Serves 4-6

Beef Stew in the Crock Pot

This is one of my favorite meals, and it’s so easy to make. It is a little more expensive up front, but you will have plenty of leftovers.

  • 3 lbs. chuck roast
  • 6 large potatoes (cubed)
  • 1 cup carrots (diced)
  • 1 cup celery (diced)
  • 2 tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 onion (diced)
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (optional)
  • water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic, chuck roast, red wine vinegar, and water to the Crock Pot. Fill the water almost to the top. Sprinkle a handful of salt and pepper on top. Cook on low for approximately 10 hours, or on high for 5 hours.

  • Cost is approximately $20, but you will have plenty of leftovers
  • Serves 8-9 people

If you can shop at stores like Aldi’s, you can save a ton of money. Buy the chicken and beef on sale, and get what you can on BOGO. Watch the sales, and you will be able to save quite a bit of money on these meals. Your family will be well fed and happy.

Let me know how you like the recipes in the comments. If you switch up an ingredient, I’d love to hear about it!

Check out Meal Plan Monday on one of the following sites:

Southern PlateSouthern Bite, and Julia’s Simply Southern

For more recipes check out Southern Home Express and South Your Mouth

Barbara Norred

Tuesday 24th of January 2023

I make my Chicken Pie different and makes a lot. I boil two Boneless skinless chicken Breast in water and use the broth to make my Pie after the Chicken is done take it out let it cool add to the Broth two 10 oz of Cream of Chicken Soup and three cans of mixed Vegetables pepper and Chicken Seasoning and add the Chicken Breast that has been shredded are cut up back to the Pot Spray a Big Casserole dish 9' by13' pour the Chicken and Vegetables mix in the Casserole Pan .Mix 1 1/2 Cup of Self Rising flour and 1 1/2 of Milkand Pour over the Pie and Bake for 45 minutes until 1hour are until Crust is Browned. Its Delicious and not too expensive we like to eat with Pear Salad.


Saturday 29th of July 2023

@Barbara Norred, I make mine similar to you. I pressure boneless chicken breasts in chicken broth. When done, I let it cool until I can shred or cube. I make a roux with butter & flour in a skillet, slowly add the chicken broth from pressure pot stirring with whisk until right thickness & smooth. S & P. I don’t add soup. I do everything else according to the recipe except the “southern gal” in me precooks the frozen veggies 10 min on stovetop, drains water & adds to mixture. I also use frozen peas & carrots alternately. I’m used to soft cooked veggies growing up in the south; esp. in pot pies! Julie, thanks for posting recipe. A friend asked for my ch pot pie recipe & yours is the closest I’ve seen so I shared it. All of you who have several stores to shop sales & esp. for meat are fortunate . We have 2 stores. Walmart (chicken is not good) & Albertsons (expensive & out of stock frequently). We have our own grass fed range free organic beef in the freezer. We get 1/2 beef at a time. Finding good chicken is sparse. Only when Albertsons has Open Nature whole air chilled chickens in stock, I grab a couple of 3 - 5lb ones. I roast the 5lb ones. I season them then baste in fresh orange juice & a little fresh lemon juice as it cooks on Conv. Roast. The citrus makes delicious drippings for gravy & a very moist chicken. It’s just 2 of us so it lasts us 2 meals with some cream chicken on toast for lunch. The 2 furry kids get the last of what we can pull off the chicken (they got the giblets stewed & blended in the mini Ninja chopper up front). We have fresh asparagus, mashed potatoes & gravy with the chicken. A 5lb costs around $11. I use the 3lb ones for chicken & dumplings and Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup. It’s summer so we split the 3lb ones into halves & grill/smoke on the pellet grill. I buy fresh thighs (bone & skin) for a sweet n sour chicken baked in oven. You can use a cut up chicken but thighs get the brown, caramel texture perfect for finger licking. I buy Open Nature boneless skinless breasts fresh when available but always have a bag of frozen ones. They’re no longer in 5 lb bags & the brands have changed. Our chicken selection is a sad one. I’m so glad I’m not having to choose beef. And the prices are outrageous! Ground beef from the store is so iffy. It’s fresher & pinker to buy the1 lb rolls. Our beef is ground 90% lean & packaged in 1.5lbs. It’s perfect for us. I double most casseroles & freeze one. We find retirement a time of asking “What’s for dinner?” more often. Running to town to grab take-out is not feasible with inflation ➕we live in a tourist town. Everything inflates more May -Sept. I try to think ahead & stay organized but health issues keep me from shopping . I make “pick-up grocery orders”. Hubby makes short trips for produce, chicken I put on the list & he chooses pork chops. I don’t want a “shopper” choosing those things for me. Packaged, canned, dairy, frozen are ok. It saves my back & legs painful miles. Thank you all for sharing. I love this site & your southern recipes, Julie. My roots are southern but my branches moved west.

Julie Pollitt

Wednesday 25th of January 2023

That sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Stan Quick

Monday 21st of February 2022

I buy when meat and vegs are on sale. I then create dump packs for both crock pot and stir fry dinners and freeze them. I get some variety and can benefit quite awhile from sales and some advanced planning.

Julie Pollitt

Monday 21st of February 2022

Dump packs are a great idea! Very good ideas, thanks for sharing! I go to Fresh Market on Tuesdays. They always have ground chuck and chicken on sale.

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