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45 Dinners That Cost 5 Dollars or Less

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 and keep the grocery bill low.

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! Also, inflation can have a huge impact on prices in your area.

Some of these meals are at-cost. Meaning, what you pay for the entire package of an ingredient is part of the total cost of the recipe. So if you buy a bag of cheese for $2.00, that whole $2.00 is included in the $5.00 meal even if you only use part of the bag.

Other recipes below only calculate the cost of ingredients actually used. Make sure you look for those!

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!

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

Extra tips to stretch the grocery budget

Make a meal plan

This sounds so obvious, but knowing what you’ll cook every week can help you save money because you’re not buying lots of random ingredients.

You can plan weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. Find what works for you!

Stick to your grocery list

This one is huge, as it’s so easy to get to the grocery store and want to buy all the things that look amazing.

Bring your shopping list with you, whether it’s on paper or on your phone. I’ve had people tell me they actually prefer shopping online, because they’re not tempted by all the food in the aisles!

Have a leftover night

When I make my meal plan, I always include a night for leftovers. I cook a ton of delicious meals that have LOTS of servings, so sometimes that means we’ll eat them for both lunch AND dinner another day.

If you have a large family and don’t always have leftovers, consider making breakfast for dinner one night instead. Pancakes are super cheap and is usually one of the family favorites!

Stock up on pantry staples

Every time you’re at the store, buy one or two extra items for your pantry. These could be extra spices, boxes of pasta, or cans of beans.

With food always in your pantry, you can usually make an entire meal and not have to spend extra money that week.

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 sandwich

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 (Or other deli meat): $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 noodles: $1.00
  • Jar of spaghetti sauce: $1.00
  • Small bag of Italian 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! You can also use any leftover chicken in a salad or quesadilla.

  • 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 (Both white rice and brown 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

26. Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef: $2.59
  • Parmesan cheese: $.30
  • Bread crumbs: $.30
  • Milk: $.10
  • Seasonings: $.10
  • Total: $3.39

27. Pepperoni pizza bites

  • Flour: $.07
  • Baking powder: $.02
  • Milk: $.14
  • Egg: $.13
  • Parmesan cheese: $.60
  • Mozzarella cheese: $.52
  • Pizza sauce: $1.00
  • Pepperoni: $2.29
  • Seasonings: $.20
  • Total: $4.97

28. Pizza quesadillas

  • Tortillas: $1.79
  • Pizza sauce: $1.00
  • Pepperoni: $1.00 (Half the bag)
  • Mozzarella cheese: $1.00 (2 cups)
  • Total: $4.79
Image of biscuits and gravy on a plate

29. Biscuits and gravy

  • Biscuits: $1.39 (or much less if you make your own!)
  • Ground sausage: $1.99
  • Flour: $.04
  • Milk: $.28
  • Total: $3.70

30. Red beans and rice

  • Wild rice: $1.20
  • Kidney beans: $.59
  • Half an onion: $.20
  • Chicken broth: $.50
  • Diced tomatoes: $.55
  • $3.04

31. Homemade chicken nuggets

  • 1 pound chicken breast: $1.89
  • Panko bread crumbs: $.35
  • Parmesan cheese: $.41
  • Oil: $.05
  • Flour: $.05
  • Eggs: $.26
  • Total: $3.01

32. Garlic bread pizza

  • Garlic toast: $1.79
  • Pizza sauce: $1.00
  • Pepperoni: $1.00 (Half the bag)
  • Mozzarella cheese: $1.00
  • Total: $4.79

33. Enchilada crescents

  • Ground beef: $1.30 (Half pound)
  • Green chiles: $1.00
  • Enchilada sauce: $1.00
  • Crescent rolls: $1.39
  • Shredded cheese: $1.00
  • Total: $5.69

34. Bean and cheese burritos

  • Refried beans: $2.00 (Recipe for homemade beans is above)
  • Tortilla shells: $2.78
  • Cheese: $.50
  • Total: $5.28

35. Ham and cheese foldovers

  • Puff pastry: $2.00
  • Ham: $2.00
  • Cheese: $.50
  • Egg: $.13
  • Total: $4.63

36. Chicken and rice casserole

  • Chicken: $3
  • Rice: $.50
  • Cream of mushroom soup: $.65
  • Shredded cheese: $.50
  • Total: $4.65

37. One Pot BBQ Chicken Pasta

  • Bacon: $.75
  • Chicken: $1.88
  • Garlic: $.05
  • Onion: $.25
  • Chicken broth: $.50
  • Diced tomatoes: $.55
  • Milk: $.10
  • Pasta: $1
  • BBQ sauce: $.25
  • Shredded cheese: $.50
  • Total: $5.83

38. Sour Cream Enchiladas

  • Sour cream: $.50
  • Tortillas: $1.39
  • Shredded cheese: $1.00
  • Enchilada sauce: $1.00
  • Total: $3.89

39. Chicken Noodle Soup Casserole

  • Pasta: $.75
  • Bay leaves: $.10
  • Butter: $.33
  • Celery: $.30
  • Carrots: $.30
  • Garlic: $.10
  • Flour: $.05
  • Milk: $.11
  • Chicken: $1.88
  • Shredded cheese: $.75
  • Total: $4.67

40. Muffin Tin Cheeseburgers

  • Butter: $.11
  • Buns: $1.00
  • Bacon: $.30
  • Ground beef: $2.59
  • Onion: $.20
  • Cheese: $1
  • Ketchup: $.05
  • Relish: $.05
  • Total: $5.30

41. “Poverty Meal”/Goulash

  • Onion: $.30
  • Garlic: $.05
  • Olive oil: $.02
  • Ground beef: $2.59
  • Stewed tomatoes: $1.10
  • Macaroni: $.50 (Half a box)
  • Total: $4.56

42. Chili Dog Casserole

  • Buns: $1.00
  • Hot dogs: $1.00
  • Chili: $1.00
  • Shredded cheese: $1.00
  • Total: $4.00

43. Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • Pork: $3.00
  • Onion: $.20
  • BBQ sauce: $.50
  • Garlic: $.05
  • Buns: $1.00
  • Total: $4.75

44. Hawaiian Fried Rice

  • Ham: $1.50
  • Onion: $.30
  • Bell pepper: $.60
  • Oil: $.05
  • Eggs: $.39
  • Rice: $.40
  • Pineapple: $1.00
  • Total: $4.24

45. Broccoli, Ham, and Mozzarella baked with Eggs

  • Broccoli: $1.79
  • Ham: $1.50
  • Mozzarella cheese: $.50
  • Eggs: $1.04
  • Total: $4.83

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

Toni P

Sunday 27th of August 2023

I know you said that prices elsewhere could be different...but there is not a single recipe on there that would cost me $5. I'm in Texas and everything would cost me at least 3 times that. All your recipes sound amazing though! And I am definitely going to add some of them to my stock pile! Might even make one tonight! Thanks for all the good stuff!


Monday 28th of August 2023

This was also written pre-pandemic, and things were much different then! I'm glad you found a few new recipes, though!

Stacy Powell

Thursday 23rd of February 2023

Spanish Rice with Fajita Chicken and cheese (3-4 servings)

1/2 jar salsa $1.06 3/4 C Uncooked Rice (recommend Jasmine) $0.46 16 oz Chicken broth $0.67 2 TBSP Corn oil $0.10 4 oz Mexican blend cheese $1.00 1/2 lbs taco seasoned chicken, cooked, cubed (or shredded) $1.89

Total $5.18

Heat oil in large deep skillet, add rice, cook until rice is opaque and some have light brown coloring, add chicken broth, chicken and salsa, heat to light boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer with lid on for 20-25 minutes until rice is fully cooked and soft (do not remove lid to check rice until at least 20 minutes has passed). Spoon desired amount onto plate and coat with cheese. You can microwave in 10 second intervals to melt cheese if desired.

It's a little more expensive but for convenience, you can also use chicken from a deli cooked rotisserie chicken. Since you add it to the rice broth and salsa mix while the rice is cooking, the chicken will also pick up the flavoring while the rice is cooking.

Ada woodcock

Monday 29th of August 2022



Thursday 14th of July 2022

Where do you shop? A pack of buns is $3.85 where I live. Cheese is $2.65, hamburger is $5.00. eggs are $3.85 as well!! I wish I was closer to the store you're going to!!


Friday 15th of July 2022

Prices will vary depending on where you live! I live in Ohio where the prices aren't too crazy.


Wednesday 13th of April 2022

As I read this in 2022 I am astonished at the grocery prices. Just a pound of hamburger meat at my local Walmart is over $5

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