30 Frugal Meal Ideas (for when you’re broke) + Video

A collage of frugal meals.

Check out this list of 30 extremely frugal meal ideas for when you’re broke and need to feed your people on a small budget. Here you’ll find lots of cheap breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas, so read on to save money my friend.

A collage of frugal meals.

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30 Frugal Meal Ideas (for when you’re broke)

Most people overspend on food simply because there are too many options at the grocery store. Think about what our ancestors ate: meats, vegetables, breads, soups, etc. They kept it simple because they didn’t have a lot to choose from.

If we take a page from history and limit our dining options as our grandparents probably did, then we’ll end up healthier and be able to save a lot of money in the process.

WARNING: If you’re afraid of carbs then this list is not for you. When you have no money, carbs are your friend because they’re cheap and filling.

Also, if you’re interested in getting cash back on grocery purchases that you’re already buying such as milk or produce then you’ve got to check out IBOTTA.

I use this app regularly to save money on my grocery bill. No coupons needed. They have offers for almost every store and you can even use it when you do a grocery pick up at Wal-Mart. Now on to the frugal meal ideas!

Want more Cheap and Frugal Meal Ideas and Recipes? Here are a few of my favorites:

40 Groceries to Stop Buying and Start Making to Save Money
50 Cheap and Easy Recipes for When You’re on a Budget
35 Frugal Recipes to Make When You’re Broke
35 Frugal Foods to Buy When You’re Broke

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A collage of frugal breakfasts.


Egg Muffins with Toast

Baked Oatmeal or Regular Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

Brown Rice with Butter and Sugar

Cinnamon Sugar Toast with Yogurt

Banana and Yogurt

Scrambled Eggs with Sautéed Veggies

Pancakes with Fruit

Fried Potatoes and Eggs

Homemade Biscuits and Gravy

Homemade Waffles

A collage of frugal lunches and dinners.



Cheese and Crackers with Fruit

Pasta Salad with Fresh Veggies

Turkey or Ham Sandwich and Fruit

Beans on Toast

Baked Potato and Side Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad with Veggies

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Peanut Butter and Jelly with Fruit

Homemade Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fruit


Spaghetti with Homemade Tomato Sauce and Homemade Bread

Beans and Cornbread

Homemade Bean and Cheese Burritos

Vegetarian Chili

Chicken Noodle Soup and Homemade Bread

Super Simple Beans and Rice

Homemade Vegetable Soup and Homemade Bread

Breakfast Bowls

Spanish Rice with Beef

Chicken Legs  with Veggies and Homemade Biscuits

I hope you’re inspired by this list to keep your meals simple and save some money in the process. What meal ideas would you add? Be sure to check the comment section below for tons more ideas!

These inexpensive meal ideas will get you through when your wallet is empty!

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  1. Haluski...noodles mixed with fried cabbage,onions abd butter. You could add fried sausages and potatoes...but haluski is great on its own.
  2. I make "Rice Stuff" which is a simmered rice dish with whatever veggies and meat I have on hand. It I make Hash with potatoes, ground meat and corn. Learned the Hash from my mom. :)
  3. Great ideas -- breakfast for dinner is definitely a go-to in my house. Morning breakfasts are usually skipped or just something quick like granola bar or fruit, but for breakfast for dinner I do scrambled eggs w/ veggies or frittata.
  4. What a helpful list! Thanks. I am new to checking out your site. You have a wealth of information and tips. Thanks for sharing.
  5. Are you a fan of quesadillas, or would you consider them to be too pricey with cheese being a main ingredient?
  6. VEGETABLE SOUP Brown a lb of hamburger meat and 1 chopped onion then add 1 can veg-all 1 can corn 1 can carrots 1 can beans of choice 1 large can crushed tomatoes 1 can tomato sause 2 cups water Season to taste Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes Eat with cornbread. Yum yum DO NOT DRAIN CANS OF VEGGIES.
    1. I know it's high in sodium but I like Spam diced and fried, mixed with peas (or favorite veggies)and rice. Season with your favorite seasoning and serve with fruit or salad. (I enjoy mine with a few spoons of my salsa for extra veggies and flavor)
  7. One of our meals is egg gravy on toast. You make a gravy base with a stick of butter and about 3 heaping tablespoons of flour.Add about a quart of milk, onion powder,garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Just before it becomes thick add about 8 diced hard boiled eggs. Serve on toast.Everyone in my home that has tried it likes it!
  8. Lentil soup. Bag of lentils prepared as package. One carrot chopped 1/2 onion and one stalk celery just thrown in you can add a package of sliced hot dogs or kielbasa. I like to cook much longer than recommend, as I like the lentils soft
  9. How do I become frugal with a gluten allergy. Gluten free is so expensive and we're trying to do low carb which is even more expensive because we're already way over weight and can't afford health wise to live off of rice and potatoes. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
    1. I would focus on the less expensive meats such as chicken thighs and also the cheaper vegetables like carrots. You could also buy lots of frozen vegetables as they tend to be pretty inexpensive. Soups make a whole meal and are healthy without costing much. Also, try buying in season and choosing gluten free grains such as rice and oats. You can also swap out pasta for spaghetti squash. Hope this helps! Maybe some other commenters can chime in with more tips for you.
    2. I found that the only way to eat cheaply with an allergy or special diet is to learn how to make the specialty foods. You might see if gluten-free flour or making your own gluten-free flour mix would be cheaper, and from there, making your own bread would be cheaper. I have a friend who is doing this and she makes four loaves once a week for her family. It is a different way of baking, so the "dough" doesn't get kneaded and is much more like a batter, so she just mixes it and pours it into bread pans and bakes it. It is cheap and the bread keeps freezes well, too.She makes other gluten free products by hand, also. I've heard doctors say that the healthiest diet is when half your plate is fruits and vegetables (they are not counting potatoes as a veg). It sounds expensive but it isn't as much as you'd think because it fills you up better, and there is always the option of gardening some veg. Anyway, for others who might be reading out there, DIY for special diets is the way to save money, whether you are making vegetarian sausages, vegan butter, dairy-free milk, or whatever your needs are. Grocery stores charch an obscene amount for these things, just because they can get away with it. I've made a lot of these things and its really not hard to do.
  10. I grew up often eating "spaghetti with tunafish." Basically saute a can of tuna in some butter and olive oil, and add a bunch of dried oregano. In the meantime, make a pot of spaghetti. When the spaghetti is done, turn off the heat on the tuna and add a chopped clove of garlic. Pour the tuna on the spaghetti and serve with parmesan cheese. Fast, easy, and filling. I also love to make egg rice -- brown rice toasted in a skillet and I scramble an egg into it. If I have leftover veggies I'll toss those in too, but it's fine plain! I shred leftover chicken and mix it with Greek yogurt and curry powder, and we'll eat that on toast, too. :) This is a helpful list, thank you!
  11. eggs are very frugal. I need a protein at breakfast so I will often eat a hard boiled egg with a dash of hot sauce or 2 deviled eggs. sometimes I'll add a slice of dry wheat toast and my mug of plain tea. I'm full until lunch time. I also shop at a butcher shop where I can get just 1 chicken thigh or a 1/2 pound ground beef. sometimes I'll buy 4 shrimp for a fried rice dish. I'll coursely chop the shrimp and add.
  12. Every good ideas! Growing up my Mother had several more we had. Mustard and mild onion sandwiches, in spring dandelion greens as salad in sandwiches and cooked. French toast showed up for supper or Sunday brunch with homemade syurup. Also when she made bread there was always a big pan of cinnamon buns. Hope this is ok to post
  13. rice with some chopped up ham, ,lentil soup .noodles and cabbage stir fry left over rice with refrigerator leftovers
  14. A few things we do: ~Creamed tuna over toast: a can of tuna, can of cream mushroom soup, lemon pepper, bit of garlic, then dilute with water, heat. Serve over whole wheat toast ~Lentil tacos with squeeze of lime, bit of cheese and chopped lettuce or cilantro, even sour cream if we find it on a good sale ~Prudent homemaker oatmeal 'steaks', look it up online....great meat substitute even men would like ~Dutch pancakes.....we call them puff oven pancakes.....mostly eggs, a bit of flour, milk, salt. We like them just plain with butter, but some people top with syrup, or fruits ~Cooked millet with butter and sea salt is a fave breakfast for us ~Blender wheat pancakes with applesauce ~Golden wheat patties....a recipe I made up years ago using cooked whole wheat berries and even my kids like it....sometimes we call them big sky burgers ~Tunacakes (sortof like salmon cakes/patties), garlic mashed potatoes, green beans ~black bean burgers with steak sauce, on buns
  15. Another great one is to make sherpards pie out of the leftover vegetable soup. Or with leftover chilli I make a chilli and cornbread casserole.
  16. I would add Spanish rice and beans Red rice, homemade pizza dough I made a dish we Mexican casserole that is any meat left over from the week chopped fine and sauteed with onion add Pato sauce or tomato sauce with mild chili then add french style green beans with liquid simmer until reduced serve with rice and tortillas
  17. I cook everything from scratch and try to be as frugal as I can. If you like meatloaf but want to stretch it, make some rice with similar seasonings as the meatloaf and crumble some of the meatloaf over the rice. I call it meatloaf pie. I am able to stretch a pound and a half meatloaf over three meals. Also sausage and country gravy over toast is good for supper. Corn pudding casserole and smoked sausage is pretty inexpensive. I almost always have homemade soup that can be served with warm bread or rolls. I make chili and add hot dogs and ground beef and serve it over Fritos. Homemade chicken pot pie is one of our mainstays. I love to cook and enjoy being frugal but still want it to taste yummy.
    1. I make meat loaf in a muffin pan so I can control portions. Also when I fry or bake certain meats for recipes, I take out a portion or two of the meat to use for other recipes. A example is when I fry up a roll of ground meat for something like tacos. After the meat is done cooking and before I add anything, I would reserve 1/4 cup for something like a spaghetti with meat sauce.
  18. These ideas are so great! Especially now during this crisis. I will definitely be making a lot of these for my family to save money. We are gluten-free but it will be really simple to make substitutions for not much of a difference in cost. Thank you!
  19. I make a big pot of black bean soup. Soak your own beans rather than use the canned ones in that awful brine. Besides onions, carrots, celery and corn I chop up any left over veggies and throw them in. Kids and grandkids love this.

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