Do Dollar Dinners Exist? 5 Cheap Meal Ideas to Prove Yes, They Do!

Do Dollar Dinners Exist? 5 Cheap Meal Ideas to Prove Yes, They Do!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, groceries account for up to 34 percent of the average American's regular income. That doesn't mean you're locked into being a statistic, however. Instead, it means your regular shopping trip is a great opportunity to save.

In fact, you can save a ton. The trick is to reorient your thinking. Things you thought every meal needs (like meat) turn out to be unnecessary in many cases.

Still skeptical? Here's proof. Feast your eyes on these cheap meal ideas that cost a buck or less per serving. While the recipes are originals, you'll find the ingredients are staples, and likely already in your cupboard.

Fried Rice

Get your protein in with this oriental staple by including eggs and heart-healthy veggies.


  • 3 eggs, beaten ($.25)
  • 1 C. cooked rice ($.18)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil ($.06)
  • ½ bag frozen mixed vegetables ($.44)
  • pinch sugar ($.01)
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce ($.06)

First, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and scramble the eggs until set. Next, add the rice and veggies until heated, about 7 minutes. Add the soy sauce and sugar, stir, and serve.

Thai Peanut Chicken

When not going meatless, try low-carb. Here's how.

  • ¼ C. Thai peanut sauce ($.09)
  • ½ Tbsp. butter ($.02)
  • ½ bag frozen stir fry veggies ($.39)
  • ½ a boneless, skinless chicken breast ($.51)

To make, heat half the butter over medium heat, and add the chicken. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, then flip. Add a ¼ C. water or broth if the meat begins to stick. Cover again and heat for another 5 minutes or until all juices run clear. Meanwhile in another pan, heat the rest of the butter on medium high heat, and sautee the veggies for about 6 minutes. Combine the dishes and stir in the sauce. Serve.

Bean Soup 'n' Cornbread

This comfort food will remind you of down-home cookin' – without the cost.

  • 2 muffins prepared from box of cornbread mix ($.016)
  • 1 can black beans ($.49)
  • 1 C. chicken broth ($.04)
  • ½ onion, diced ($.19)
  • 1/8 C. shredded cheddar ($.10)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. butter ($.02)

Start by heating the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Toss in and saute your onions for about 3 minutes, until soft. Add the beans and broth and reduce heat to low. Cover and heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve, and top with cheese.

Killer Quesadillas

Take a page out of Speedy Gonzales' book with this super quick, impossibly easy meal idea.

Simply grab 2 large flour tortillas ($.29), and sprinkle them each with a handful of Monterey cheese ($.39). Dust with taco seasoning ($.03), then lid each with matching flour tortillas (another $.29). Place on a lined baking sheet. Finally, pop these puppies into your oven to broil for about 2 minutes, watching carefully. Once lightly browned, cut into triangles, and serve.

Creamy Romano Fettuccine

Channel your frugal inner Italian with a hearty pasta meal.

  • 1/3 box fettuccine noodles ($.31)
  • ½ can cream of chicken soup ($.24)
  • ½ can cream of mushroom soup ($.24)
  • ¼ C. Romano cheese ($.19)
  • pinch chili flakes ($.01)

Prepare noodles according to the package's instructions. Strain, and return to pot. Add soups, stir, and serve. Garnish by topping with cheese and chili flakes.

Creamy Potato Soup

Super slurpable, this pottage will have you hoping for leftovers.

  • 4 medium white potatoes, peeled ($.23)
  • 4 C. whole milk ($.39)
  • ½ C. frozen chopped onions ($.20)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter ($.04)
  • 1 clove fresh garlic ($.05)
  • pinch thyme ($.03)
  • pinch rosemary ($.04)
  • salt and pepper to taste ($.02)

First, heat the butter over medium heat. Cube the potatoes and saute with the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary for about 5 minutes. Add the sauteed mixture, the thyme and rosemary to a large pot, and fill with water until potatoes are covered. Boil until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and let set for 15 minutes, then transfer to a blender and pulse. Stir in milk, and blend again until desired consistency is achieved. For thicker soup, return the mix to heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Food for Thought

Perhaps more important than knowing recipes, you should be aware of common fluctuations in the price of familiar edible grocery items. For example, did you know the price of ground beef has doubled in the last 4 years? So Mom's go-to recipes may be comforting, but they're not necessarily the best for your budget today. For cheap meal ideas, know your prices. Keep the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics site bookmarked to refer back to while making your grocery list.

Once you've crafted your culinary masterpiece, tweet a picture to your frugal friends @CoosaValleyCU for some encouraging kudos. We are, after all, in this together. Now, please pass the pepper!

Image Source: Flickr