5 Simple Dinners (Each Under $5)

Your responses on the last post, Frugal Living, were phenomenal! So, I’m extending off that with some more money saving tips (especially for those of you with families)!

Now, the grocery budget can be flexible compared to other monthly costs. So I’m going to show you a weeks worth of delicious dinners that you can make for cheap!

What makes these dinners affordable?

To make the most of your groceries, stretch it out and waste less.

  • Divide packs of meat to stretch it further
  • Have staples always available; potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, beef/chicken bouillon cubes rice, bread, oatmeal, eggs, milk, sugar, flour….
  • We usually have a main course, starch, a veggie, and fruit for dessert
  • Drink milk (it’s filling)! It’s currently super cheap where I shop ($1.49/gallon)
  • I keep recipes simple/use main ingredients
  • We eat leftovers for lunch or the next day’s dinner
  • We sometimes turn our leftovers into a new dish

In this post, I’m going to include the cost (based on shopping at Aldi) so you can see why each recipe costs a particular amount. We won’t get too nitty-gritty. Although, I’ve add up the cost of the staple foods that I buy weekly in the meal total.

So here are your 5 simple family-friendly dinners, all for $5 and under:


5) Simple Mac with Tomato Sauce and Ground Beef ($4.14)

(At our house we call this “spaghetti” since it’s pretty darn close. So easy to make extras of, and is so filling! Dishes like this are what I call comfort food.)

Photo Credit: Momma Bird Blog

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Costs: Elbow Mac $1.99, Tomato paste $.33/can, (1/2 lb) Ground beef sold at $2.99/lb.

Main Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups elbow mac
  • 2 Cans of 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 12 oz. water
  • 1/2- 1 lb. ground beef (your preference)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Minced garlic
  • Italian seasonings

Add these if you have:

  • Chopped Onion
  • Sliced Mushrooms
  • Other chopped veggies like zucchini

Step 1: Boil medium pot of water, and add a pinch of salt and 2 cups of elbow mac. Turn heat down to medium. Cook for the time indicated on box (usually 6-8 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Step 2: In a separate sauce pan, add oil and saute onions and garlic. Then add ground beef to brown. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. (After it’s cooked, you may drain the fat, but I leave it for flavor if it’s not too much.) Then add mushrooms and other veggies.

Step 3: Add to the ground beef and veggie mixture, tomato paste, 12 oz. of water, Italian seasonings, and salt. Set on medium heat to simmer, and stir occasionally.

Step 4: Drain water from mac when done. Combine with sauce and stir. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve with veggies!


4) Crock-Pot Ham and Bean Soup (with leftover, frozen ham, $4.76)

(This seriously has enough servings for several days for the whole family. Soups are some of my favorite leftovers, so I often make way more than necessary!)

Photo Credit: Momma Bird Blog

Cook Time: 20 minutes of prep, 6 hours in slow cooker

Serves: 10-15 servings

Cost: Dried beans $1.99, Carrots $.99, Celery $1.29, Can of diced tomatoes ($0.49)

Main Ingredients: 

  • The frozen ham broth, bones, and scraps of meat that I’ve encouraged you to freeze (Or buy a small portion of ham for this. Look for a “butt portion” or “ham shank”)
  • 32 oz. bag of dried Great Northern Beans
  • 6 Chicken flavored bouillon cubes
  • 6 Cups of water
  • 3 Large Carrots peeled, and chopped

Add if you have these: 

  • 1 Can 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • Minced Garlic
  • Pepper

Step 1: First, rinse the beans. You can add the beans to the slow cooker (with 8 total cups of water).

Or you can opt. for a quicker cooking method that requires an extra step. According to thekitchn.com, you can quick soak the beans in 1 hour; boil a pot of water (enough to cover the beans by 2 inches), cook for 1 minute, and let the beans sit for one hour with lid on. Then add to the crock.

Step 2: Add to the crock; thawed ham, broth, bones, bullion cubes, (6 cups of water if you chose to add the precooked beans), canned tomatoes, chopped onion and celery, minced garlic, pepper, and carrots. Let cook on low for 6 hours (8 if you didn’t soak the beans), then serve!


3) Build Your Own Baked Potato ($3.83)

Sometimes this is served solo at our house if we feel like eating lighter, when when I’m not feeling well, or as a side. The kid’s love these and get pretty excited about picking their toppings!

Photo Credit: Momma Bird Blog

Cook Time: 1 hour baking time

Serves: 1 potato = 1 serving

Cost: 10 lb. bag of russet potatoes $2.99, Imperial stick butter $0.84

Main Ingredients:

  • Russet potatoes
  • Stick butter
  • Salt & Pepper

Add if you have:

  • Sour cream
  • Or ranch dressing
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Bacon bits
  • Sliced green onions

Step 1: Scrub potatoes/rinse, foil wrap individually, and bake on 450 degrees (place directly on the rack) for 1 hour.

Step 2: Prepare toppings (bacon, green onions…)

Step 3: When the hour is up, using oven mitt, squeeze potatoes to see if they are soft all the way through. Unwrap, slice and add butter, salt & pepper, and other desired toppings. Can be served with a sandwich, soup, or salad.


2) Creamy Rice Chicken Casserole ($2.49)

Photo Credit: Momma Bird Blog

Cook Time: 1 hour with cooking and baking

Serves: 6

Cost: Bag of white rice $1.49, Cream of chicken soup $0.49, Cream of mushroom soup $0.49

Main Ingredients: 

  • 2 Cups white rice
  • 4 Cups of water
  • 1 Chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 Chicken breast
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Minced Garlic
  • Cream chicken soup
  • Cream mushroom soup

Add if you have:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 Stalk of celery
  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 Cup sour cream
  • 1/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Or Grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, boil 4 cups of water, then add rice and bouillon cubes. Cover with lid and turn heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Saute onions, celery, and minced garlic with oil in a skillet. Then cube up the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper to fry over medium heat in the skillet. (You want to hear the meat sizzle when you place it on the skillet). Cover with lid and toss occasionally.

Step 3: Once rice is done cooking (and is soft), add cream soups, sour cream, and cheese. Then add cooked chicken, lemon zest, grated ginger, and extra salt and pepper to the rice mixture.

Step 5: Bake the whole mixture in a greased casserole dish on 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with a veggie and enjoy!



1) Sloppy Joes and Oven Baked Fries ($4.48)

Photo Credit: Momma Bird Blog

Cooking Time: 45 minutes with cooking and baking

Serves: 6

Cost:  1 Can of Tomato Paste $0.33/can, Hamburger buns $0.83, 10 lb. bag of russet potatoes $2.99

Main Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 1 Can of Tomato Paste
  • Hamburger Buns
  • 3-4 Russet Potatoes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Minced Garlic

Add if you have: 

  • Parmesan Cheese to fries
  • Garlic Salt to fries
  • 1/2 Onion to Sloppy Joes
  • 1/4 Cup BBQ to Sloppy Joes


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice potatoes, oil, and season (with salt, pepper, or garlic salt and Parmesan cheese)! Place in oven for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Meanwhile, in a pan with oil, saute onion and garlic. Add your ground beef, salt, and pepper. Once those are cooked through, stir in tomato paste, and BBQ. Add a smidgen of water to thin. Let simmer till fries are done, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Spoon meat mixture onto buns and serve with fries!





All this thinking of food has legit got my stomach grumbling now!

Again, these are totally adjustable, so don’t feel like you can’t add or take away from the recipe. Work with what you have! If you need to swap out tomato paste for diced tomatoes, do it!

And that is the power of having staple foods available and cooking from scratch! I hope these 5 simple recipes take away the stress of planning dinner this week!

(Currently reading this to my sarcastic husband who is saying “Just tell them to eat Ramen!” haha)

What are some other frugal meals that your family likes?






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