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25 Dinners That Cost 5 Dollars or Less

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Are you low on funds this week? Read this list of 5 dollar dinners to give you ideas for cheap meals!

Whether you’re struggling to make ends meet or just looking to save some money, I think we all need ideas for cheap dinners. Ways to stretch our grocery budget every week.

Back when we ate for $37 a week, I felt like the master of coming up with cheap meals! I’ve come up with a list of over 20 dinners you can make for $5.00 or less, almost all of which are kid friendly!

Picture of a Sloppy Joe

Are these recipes healthy?

Keep in mind that some of these may not fit in with your lifestyle; that is, they may not be the healthiest option for your family. If you don’t like plain cheese quesadillas, add a can of beans or some chicken, keeping in mind that may take you over $5.00.

There are always healthier options, but when you’re low on money, you do what you can with what you have!

These are also all main dishes, which means you can add any vegetable you may have in your house for a more well-rounded dinner.

Do these recipes really only cost 5 dollars or less?

Disclaimer: I live in Ohio and have access to an Aldi. Your prices may not be this low, so do your research!

The prices I’ve come up with below are based on what I’ve found at the grocery store Aldi; your store’s prices may vary. I’ve also tried to stay true to the actual cost. Some recipes elsewhere may say they only cost $5.00, but don’t take into account that you pay $2.00 for cheese but only use about $.50 worth for the recipe.

The prices below also don’t include seasonings. My local Dollar Tree sells jars for $1.00 each and they’re bigger than what I can find at Aldi!

I’ve tried to make sure each recipe stays around $5.00 even after buying more than what you need. Look at it this way: you now have leftover food to create another meal! Another great way to save money.

Looking for other healthy meal ideas? Be sure to download my FREE Healthy Meal Plan!

20 Dinners That Cost 5 Dollars or Less

Image of pancakes sitting on a plate, topped with berries

1.) Pancakes

We like cooking these with our griddle because we can fit 6 at a time! This is a meal that my whole family enjoys on Saturday evenings.

  • Box of pancake mix: $2.00
  • Bottle of syrup: $1.59
  • Eggs (as a side, for protein): $.48-$1.00

2.) Sloppy Joes

This is such an easy recipe. You can use ground beef or ground turkey, depending on what you like and which costs less money. For a little extra nutrition, you can also add diced bell peppers!

  • Ground turkey: $1.89
  • BBQ sauce: $1.00
  • Hamburger buns: $1.00

3.) Grilled cheese and tomato soup

This is comfort food at its finest. A budget-friendly recipe- and the best thing is, you’ll have plenty of bread and cheese left to make more sandwiches!

  • Bread: $1.00
  • Cheese: $2.00
  • Can of soup: $.89
  • Butter/Margarine: $1.00

4.) Salad

Salad is tricky because lots of vegetables can get expensive. I added beans here, but feel free to substitute with chicken breast or another kind of protein.

  • Iceberg lettuce: $1.00
  • Tomato: $.99
  • Canned kidney beans: $.59
  • Dressing: $1.29

5.) Grilled ham and cheese

These sandwiches don’t take a long time to make and I LOVE grilled sandwiches. The ham adds some extra protein.

  • Bread: $1.00
  • Deli ham: $2.49
  • Sliced cheese: $2.00
  • Butter/margarine: $1.00

6.) Spaghetti

This could make a good meal prep recipe, too! Just divide everything into containers and you can bring them into work.

  • Box of spaghetti: $1.00
  • Jar of spaghetti sauce: $1.00
  • Small bag of meatballs (Optional): $2.50-$3.00

7.) Mac and cheese with tuna and peas

This one is simple and can stretch the budget! Feel free to use a carrot and pea blend instead, or canned chicken instead of canned tuna.

  • Box of mac and cheese: $1.00
  • 1 can of tuna: $.69
  • Bag of frozen peas: $1.00

8.) Spanish rice with ground turkey and diced tomatoes

This was a new recipe for me and it was quite good! You can add a dollop of sour cream if you have any.

  • Box of Spanish rice: $1.00
  • Ground turkey: $1.89
  • Can of diced tomatoes: $.59

9.) Baked potatoes

Baked potatoes are so versatile. Here, I added broccoli, sour cream, and butter. But you could replace one of those with cheese, bacon bits, or other favorite toppings.

  • Potatoes: $1.99
  • Sour cream: $.99
  • Bag of frozen broccoli: $1.00
  • Butter: $1.00

10.) Egg noodles with butter and Parmesan

This was one of my husband’s favorites growing up. Add a little bit of garlic powder or pepper to spice things up too! This is one your entire family will hopefully enjoy.

  • Egg noodles: $1.29
  • Butter: $1.00
  • Parmesan cheese: $2.49
Image of shredded chicken in a large bowl

11.) BBQ pulled chicken

This is easily made in our slow cooker and shredded using our KitchenAid mixer!

  • 1 pound of chicken: $1.99
  • Bottle of BBQ sauce: $1.00
  • Hamburger buns: $1.00

12.) Quesadillas

Again, this recipe is very versatile. Use corn tortillas or flour tortillas. Use a different kind of cheese or protein. Whatever you like!

  • Tortilla shells: $1.49
  • Shredded cheddar cheese: $2.00
  • Can of black beans: $1.00
  • Sour cream: $1.00

13.) Tuna melts

This will take you over $5.00 if you don’t have butter

  • Bread: $1.00
  • Can of tuna: $.69
  • Mayo: $2.00
  • Cheese: $1.79
  • Butter/margarine: $1.00

14.) Smoked sausage and potatoes

Use leftover potatoes as baked potatoes above! Talk about saving money!

  • Smoked sausage: $2.50
  • Potatoes: $1.99

15.) DiGiorno pizza

Yes, frozen pizza counts! It’s a good, fast weeknight dinner.

  • $5.00

16.) Chicken and fries

Honestly, John and I enjoyed this once per week when we first got married. It was an easy dinner while we were still learning how to cook.

  • Frozen chicken nuggets: $2.50
  • Frozen fries: $2.00

17.) Beans and rice

I LOVE this type of budget meal. I always keep dried rice and beans in my pantry so I can easily put together a meal.

  • Can of black beans: $.69
  • Bag of rice: $1.79- We cook rice in our rice cooker to save time and energy!
  • Diced tomatoes: $.59
  • Onion (Optional): $1.59

18.) Cheesy beef skillet

I found this recipe on the Kraft website and it’s become a favorite comfort meal!

  • 1 box of mac and cheese: $1.00
  • Ground turkey: $1.89
  • Diced tomatoes: $.59
  • Taco seasoning: $.39
  • Brown ground turkey as the macaroni boils. Add macaroni to the turkey, as well as the cheese powder, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Image of pizza bagels, topped with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and jalapenos

19.) English muffin/bagel pizzas

Can be easily made in a toaster oven for a quick meal!

  • English muffins/bagels: $2.00
  • Pizza sauce: $.99
  • Mozzarella cheese: $2.00
  • Pepperoni: Optional, but will take you over $5.00

20.) Two timin’ pasta

  • 1 box of pasta: $1.00
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce: $1.00
  • 1 jar of Alfredo sauce: $1.29
  • Mozzarella cheese: $2.00
  • Mix both jars of sauce together, then pour over boiled pasta in a casserole dish. Top with Mozzarella cheese, then bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes

21. Red Beans and Rice

Even though this recipe uses many different spices, you can customize this any way you want. I typically don’t have adobo seasoning so I use spices like cumin and chili powder!

  • 1 can kidney beans: $.59
  • 1-lb bag of rice: $1.00
  • 15-oz can of tomato sauce: $.60

22. Scrambled Eggs With Veggies

Breakfast for dinner is a SUPER idea! Breakfast foods are typically cheap, which can make a great dinner option too. Feel free to customize this with whatever vegetables you want- I’ve also added rice at times for a breakfast fried rice!

  • Eggs: $1.59
  • Mushrooms: $1.59
  • Bell pepper: $.59

23. Vegetable Soup

What I love about vegetable soup is that you can add pretty much anything and it’ll work. I add beans for protein, but you could also add pasta for some starch.

  • Large bag of frozen mixed vegetables: $1.50
  • 2 cans white kidney beans: $1.18
  • 1 box elbow macaroni: $1.00
  • Broth: $1.29 (Or save money by just using water and spices)

24. Oatmeal

Oats are super filling from the fiber and protein! You can use milk or water to cook them, and add your favorite foods. I suggest some sort of fat like peanut butter to make this more filling.

  • Rolled oats: $2.49
  • Peanut butter: $1.00
  • Bananas: $.50

25. French Toast

Another fun breakfast-for-dinner idea! You can top this with cinnamon sugar, and definitely fruit to make it more filling!

  • Loaf of bread: $1.00 (You can also make your own bread)
  • Half gallon milk: $1.59
  • Eggs: $1.59
  • Syrup: $1.00

Would you add anything to this list of cheap dinner recipes? Share recipes with us below!

Like this post? Be sure to check out 20 MORE dinners that cost 5 dollars or less!

Pamela H.

Tuesday 19th of October 2021

Since you mentioned Dollar Tree, get their Mac & cheese with the cheese sauce packet instead of the version with cheese powder! In the Spanish Rice recipe, use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes. Again, D.Tree sells small jars of Pace salsa or you can try one of the other brands they sell. Dollar Tree often has John Morrell smoked sausage for $1 as well as canned baked beans. Slice up the sausage into rounds, brown them a bit in a pot, then pour in the baked beans & simmer til hot. Serve with butter bread & maybe a small salad. Aldi has tall cans of baked beans in several varieties too. Dollar Tree often has small bags of meatballs in the freezer section...the ones I tried weren't bad.


Wednesday 20th of October 2021

Great ideas, Pamela! Thank you!!


Monday 21st of June 2021

This is great, just what I was looking for-thanks!


Friday 26th of March 2021

I remember having lentil spaghetti sauce in college. Cheap, vegetarian, and served a group. Also, went to Smart and Final and bought a number 10 can of corn for about 3 dollars and mixed it with a number 10 can of chili for about 7 dollars, and served about 30 high school kids. Pork loin has been under 2 dollars a pound locally. I soak the meat in brine for several hours so it isn't tough.


Friday 26th of March 2021

Nice! Cool idea on the chili. =)


Tuesday 31st of March 2020

Chili Mac 2 boxes of shells and cheese 1 can of chili (with or without beans) Feeds 4 comfortably


Tuesday 31st of March 2020

Oh yum! That's a good idea!


Monday 16th of March 2020

I’ve found some really good ideas here! I like to slice up smoked sausage and sauté it with chopped cabbage in olive oil with salt and pepper.


Tuesday 17th of March 2020

Oh man, that sounds really good!!

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