January is coming up and it is the time for goals and tightening of the belt– in more ways than one. Probably the biggest one that every one thinks about and plans for is tightening of spending. Christmas brings a lot of spending and usually in January everyone tries to rebuild their bank account with limited spending and other strategies.
In January you can find certain challenges going on like, “No Spend January,” “Eat Your Pantry Challenge,” and much more.
It is unrealistic for me to do a pantry only challenge, and I have already decided to try a “No-spend” year, but I have a lot of plans and it is a good time to just buckle down and get back into the habit of making good financial choices. So here we are, we are going to tackle $5 meals in the month of January. This may not be gourmet meals. These will take a little more time to prep. This will all depend on your area and what your area charges. But the point, the nit-picking point, in all this is to do your best and keep the cost low. So, without further adieu, here are 30 $5 meals you can make.
Breakfast Bake: Recipe here
The best way to get the most out this is to cook your potatoes before hand (Instapot to the rescue) and then shred them for the hashbrowns or dice them for the country style potatoes. For breakfast sausage, get the Great Value Pork Breakfast Sausage for $2 a roll and only use half per casserole
Muffins and boiled eggs and fruit: I have a couple stand by recipes for when I am pinching pennies; applesauce muffins (I use applesauce), and banana oatmeal muffins. Each recipe usually makes 12-14 muffins for our family. Each of the kids get 2 muffins, 1-2 boiled eggs, and some kind of fruit for breakfast. Hubby and I usually only eat 1 muffin and 2 boiled eggs.
Quiche: You can get a 2 pack of pie crusts for less than $2! (Make your own if you feel up to it, but I am NOT a morning person and this is amazing– however, not gluten free, but I have made crust-less quiche countless times). Between 1 pie crust, 8-10 eggs, 1/2 cup cheese, 1/4 bag of frozen spinach, salt, pepper, and bacon bits (I use half bag and save the other half for potato soup), you have less than $5 meal.
Yogurt and Granola: I buy the 32 oz tubs for $1.97 and 1 bag of the granola for $2.27 for a 11 oz. Making it is best, but I am not always on my game, lets be honest. This alone is NOT enough for my kids. So this is usually a breakfast we eat on Sundays. We have limited time to eat and get out the door for church. After church, they are hungry, so we have an early lunch and a larger filling meal. Do you have a day where you just have to get out the door? Would this work in that. Still cheaper than driving through McD’s or cereal and milk (averages $7 a meal for our family!)
Biscuits and gravy with breakfast sausage: I have a simple recipe I use, but if you want a simple solution just grab the store brand of Pilburys and pop it in the oven. Gravy is so simple to make. First cook your sausage up; save the grease. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the pan. Sprinkle 2-3 TBSP of flour over it, whisk in about 2 cups of milk in. Add a dash or 2 of salt (the grease add enough), and I like more pepper taste so I use about 1 tsp of black pepper. Cook til desired thickness. You can add more flour (1 TBSP at a time) if its too thin, or a splash of milk at a time if its too thick. Serve and enjoy.
Scrambled Eggs and Toast: My kids feel like I am serving a feast if I use English muffins instead of bread for toast. Its simple but its so much fun if you add a cup of tea to the table along with it.
Smoothies and Breakfast cookies: My kids love smoothies. However, a smoothie alone is not enough to fill their tummies. In an hour they are scrounging the fridge for food. These breakfast cookies have really helped this go a bit further.
Breakfast Burritos: This is not a gluten free recipe, but I can share with you how *I* make this gluten free. But its pretty self-explanatory- Scramble some eggs, brown up some sausage and mix them together. Add it to some tortilla and sprinkle some cheese and taco sauce on top.
HOWEVER, to make a gluten-free version of this. Make 2 eggs, over easy and while they are cooking, warm up 2 corn tortillas. Add the cooked eggs on top of the warmed tortillas and add some salt, pepper, and dash of paprika. Slice up 1 avocado and place 1 slice on each tortilla with the egg. The kids love this and it really doesn’t take that much longer to make. You want to eat this as it gets done because the warmed tortilla is what makes this delicious.
Fried Potatoes and Ham. This is best made with leftover soft potatoes. If you don’t have any, cook a few up in the instapot and dice them well. In a large frying pan add some cooking oil, diced potatoes (a good rule of thumb is one small-medium potato per family member), and diced ham. Sprinkle with Lawry’s salt, or an equivalent of that. Cook/fry until potatoes are heated through and a bit browned. Kids also like to eat this with a warmed corn tortilla.
Leftovers: I mention this first because seriously, it is an underrated meal! Sunday lunch and sometimes lunch and dinner is our leftover day! It is MY day of rest from household duties and there is always some kind of leftover to eat up. I also have been known to add a little more into the pot or pan to ensure that there is enough come Sunday.
Sandwiches: Sandwiches are my best friend. You can do grilled cheese, tuna salad, eggs salad, BLT (turkey bacon for economy), and the good old faithful PPJ. Perhaps I am being too simple here but seriously, Sandwiches are just easy. I love em. I have a different kid pick out what they want to make and it more likely to be a treat. Cut up some carrots, bell peppers, and celery with some ranch out and they will think that they have gone to a restaurant.
Soup: Soups can be simple and put together as I am helping with homeschool. Everyone is around the dining room table doing their work and I am chopping vegetables. Potato soup is my stand by and its just so good topped with some bacon bits and cheddar cheese. Sometimes I make a Pepper and Pine Tomato Soup if I have managed to go to Trader Joes because they have the best price on the main ingredient. I use chicken bullion and make my own broth for a fraction of the cost. Speaking of chicken– I will make a simple chicken soup for lunch after we have had baked chicken or any dinner where there is leftover chicken.
Bean and Rice Casserole: You knew there had to be a bean meal in here somewhere right? Beans don’t do well in our family so I am careful about how often I make them and what recipes. This has been, by far, our favorite recipe.
Spaghetti: I know, it sounds like a dinner dish, but I actually make it more often for a lunch since my husband is not a fan of red sauce. I will brown up the country pork sausage for affordability and flavor and add it to the red sauce. I also like to doctor it up with some more basil, any leftover pesto I have, and a splash or 3 of red wine vinegar.
Pesto Pasta (or rice) and Sausage: you can do kielbasa sausage or you can do Italian sausage. Rice will help cut costs but I think the pesto works best with Penne pasta. Its a very simple meal but the pesto adds so much flavor. If you have any shredded parmesean (that is found in the cheese section, not the green can) it is superb! But does add cost if you have to buy it specific for this meal.
Fried Rice: I like to make this with any leftover rice I have. Fried rice is best made with cold rice. It is simple to make and my kids LOVE it. Couple eggs, bag of mixed veggies, soy sauce (or liquid aminos) any leftover meat if you have it. IF you have leftover veggies, add it too! I like to add a splash sesame oil and rice vinegar.
Baked Potato Bar: Cook up one potato per family member (med-large works best). On the counter place sour cream, cheese, diced green onion, bacon bits, and chili warmed up. Its nice to have some diced veggies for some greens.
Macaroni and Cheese: Now, you can do the box method, or this Instapot recipe is really tasty and I usually have most of the cheese on hand anyway. I think it hit RIGHT at the $5 budget if I have to buy the mozzarella cheese.
Build your own Lunchable: This is my mom version of the fancy charcuterie boards. I will pop some popcorn (add some nutritional yeast for extra flavor and protein, also available at Walmart. ) and on a cookie sheet I will place, sliced cheese (I slice a block myself for some savings!), lunch meat, fruit (whatever I have– usually apples, cuties, or grapes), almonds already portioned in the reusable muffin cups I have, 5 ingredient peanut butter cookies, and cut up carrots, cucumber, or whatever else I have. I will typically make this towards the end of my menu. Then I can use a lot of random items and even leftovers! Sometimes we have a bit of yogurt leftover so someone can have that with topped honey. It is a fun smorgasbord of creativity.
Meatballs, Potatoes, and Broccoli: You can either bake potatoes (bake extra for leftovers for easier meal prep!), bake them like this (I use the green can of Parmesan and they turn out just fine), or make mashed, either way its potatoes and they will get inhaled. I buy the frozen broccoli and heat it up. For the meatballs, I like this recipe, but depending on the brand of Italian breadcrumbs you use, you may need to cut the salt back. It has ended up pretty salty a few times I’ve made it with the bread crumbs I use. This also uses less turkey meat which makes it a bit more affordable *. Once they are cooked, I add them to the instapot with 1/2 cup water and BBQ sauce. This is a higher end meal, but even if I go slightly over the cost of $5 for this one, I roll with it because I know I am under cost with some of my breakfasts and lunches. But it really is right on the wire there.
*If you buy the 3 lbs of turkey meat for $8 from Walmart, you will save some money and you will use the meat later on for other meals.
Stir Fry: This is one of our favorite meals to make. Its cheaper to just buy a frozen mixed veggie, but I have used leftover vegetables to build my own. The key here is to make an amazing marinade. I use a Teriyaki recipe. Cut up to bit pieces 2 chicken breasts. Let marinade in the teriyaki for at least 1 hour, but preferably begin this at lunch and have it marinading all afternoon. At dinner time, cook one onion (we like it sliced thinly but diced is fine if you’re not a big onion fan– the flavor is the best though). Once it turns translucent, add diced garlic (either fresh or from the jar), and cook one minute more. Then add your chicken. While chicken is cooking all the way through, get your mixed veggies warming up (either microwave or in sauce pan), and begin your rice in the rice cooker or Instapot. Drain water from vegetables and add to stir fry mixture. Taste test to see if its needs any added soy sauce or pepper or whatever. Serve over rice and enjoy!
Taco Casserole: This is the recipe I use. Its simple and basic and cost effective.
Baked chicken, green beans, and rice pilaf: This is the baked chicken recipe I have been using and it works well. A whole chicken can run from $4.50-$5+ However, you can make 2 meals usually one chicken. The next recipe will be using the chicken carcass and leftover chicken. This will bring the cost down for both meals. Green Beans (frozen or canned), and Rice Pilaf, simple recipe here.
Take the chicken bones, add them to a dutch over and cover with water, add a bay leaf and a splash of apple cider vinegar, bring to boil, and then turn the heat to low and cook 4ish hours. Remove the bones and strain the broth. Save for later.
“Beef” Stroganoff: With your final pound ground turkey, make this “beef” stronganoff.
BBQ Pulled Chicken: This would go well with a coleslaw, potato salad, or a basic green salad. If you need a gluten free option, you can place this on top of baked potatoes, rice, or corn tortillas (yes, corn tortillas is a staple around here!) Between this and the meatball recipe, I usually go through 1 jar of BBQ sauce, because I add a little water to each meal and there is always so much BBQ sauce that is thrown away.
Keema: I got this recipe orginally from Pepper and Pine. She has since removed the video, but you can find it under this website, for now. However this is a pretty basic recipe. I do add some diced, cooked, celery with it. I think the added crunch is great. Use this on top of rice. Serve with a side of vegetables.
Recipe for Keema:
For every pound of ground beef (you can use any fat content), season with: (can also use ground turkey if you can’t find beef at an affordable price)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional and not shown in the video)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
Start by lightly frying a whole medium diced onion. Add beef with seasoning. Cook until nearly done (5 minutes or so), and add fresh chopped cilantro to finishing it off.
Minestrone Soup: Again, if you utilize the ground beef, or turkey, you get and get a great deal.
Minestrone is a good “leftover” soup. Got any leftover rice or pasta? Add it in. Any leftover vegetables? add them in. Clean out the veggie drawer! But if worst comes to worst, use the .50 can of mixed veggies and add them in last, just to heat them up. Brown your meat with 1 diced onion until cooked, add 4 cups of broth (chicken or beef depending on what you used), add a can of diced Italian tomatoes (you want the flavor), cut up 1 or 2 potatoes and add them in, and for seasonings I like to use Italian seasoning (about 2 tsp). If you are using “fresh” veggies, add them in now so they can cook. If you are using precooked veggies or canned, add them in about 5-7 minutes before serving. Add your cooked rice or cooked pasta in at the same time. If you have little pasta left in boxes, you can add them in and let them cook for the time allotted on the box.
Pork Tenderloin Tacos: I orginally got this recipe from Julia Pacheco. This has a higher cost up front, but I can get 2 meals out of it and it works well for our $5 budget. Walmart has the tenderloin for around $8. Salsa Verde you can get the 7oz can for .93 and pick up a can of tomato paste for .47.
When you make the pork tacos, use the can, fill it up with water and a little bit of chicken bullion and add it to the crockpot. Take half of it out and set it aside. You’ll do tacos with this mixture where you add the pork to corn tortillas, top with sour cream, cheese, green onion (all those baked potato fixings playing another role!), and serve and enjoy.
Enchiladas with leftover Salsa Verde tenderloin: With your can of tomato paste, whip up this enchilada sauce recipe. Pour about 2 TBSP out in a 9×13 pan and spread around. Take the salsa verde out. Heat up your corn tortillas. Add a spoon full to each corn tortilla and a bit of sour cream and cheese. Roll up and add to a 9×13. Top with rest of enchilada sauce and cheese and more green onion. Enjoy!
This meal ideas will take time and effort. In saving money we also need to add a bit more time. That isn’t always easy for everyone. If you want to spend a bit more you can get a pre-made teriyaki sauce, or enchilada sauce, or biscuits, but you do end up paying a bit more. I wanted to keep this at $5 a meal. This will work for our family of 7 in a pinch, but I think it is better suited for a family of 5. I hope this helps and remember this is to help! This doesn’t mean you need to live the rest of your life like this. Enjoy the savings and realize how blessed we are!