Eating Cheap: A Week's Worth of Inexpensive Meals(52519)Short on cash? Are you a starving student? Or maybe you're saving up for that next tank of gas!

Whatever the case, sometimes we all need to cut corners until the next paycheck rolls in.

These meals will fill you up without emptying your wallet. They should feed four hungry mouths.

While prices vary widely depending on your part of the country and your grocery store, you'll still find these dinners will stretch your food dollar to the max.

  1. Lentil stew. One package of lentils, a couple of carrots, a couple of potatoes, water. Place the package of lentils in a large soup pot and add the appropriate amount of water (1-1/2 cups water to one cup of lentils works best). Peel the potatoes and carrots, and slice to bite size. Add to soup pot. Season to taste. If you have it: Add a ham bone, a bit of leftover beef, bacon bits, bay leaf, or favorite herbs.
  2. Baked potatoes. Nothing complicated here. Buy large baking potatoes or just get a bag of potatoes on sale. If small, bake more of them per serving. Choose your favorite toppings: Simply butter, salt and pepper, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, bacon bits, or whatever is on hand.
  3. Cheese quesadillas. Make these with flour tortillas. Heat two tortillas in a skillet and remove one to a plate. Top the remaining tortilla with shredded cheese. When melted, about 1-2 minutes, place the other tortilla on top. Allow to cook for a minute or so, flip the whole thing over and cook the other side for another minute. Dump onto a plate, slice with a pizza cutter. If you have it: Add shredded cooked chicken to the cheese. Serve with salsa.
  4. Scrambled eggs. Get a dozen for less than one dollar. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Cook eggs in a skillet. If you have it: Add your choice of mushrooms, cheese, green pepper, or onion.
  5. Spaghetti and sauce. Here again, not too creative, but you can pick up a package of spaghetti and a can of sauce for less than two dollars. Add parmesan cheese on top.
  6. Tuna sandwiches. Frequently on sale, tuna provides a meaty dinner this week. For four filling sandwiches, use four of the smaller cans. Dump all of the cans into a bowl, add mayonnaise or salad dressing, along with some relish if you've got it. Stir, spread onto bread. I like to use ranch dressing.
  7. Grilled cheese sandwiches. Butter bread on both sides and place on a medium-heat grill. Add a slice of cheese. Splurge on an extra slice of cheese per sandwich!


  • Watch for sales on frozen vegetables. You can frequently pick up a one-pound bag for less than a dollar.
  • Slice a fresh tomato into wedges or a cucumber into slices to go with a sandwich. Any fresh vegetable will do.
  • Slice a piece of fruit for a healthy dessert.
  • Stop by Walgreen's and see what's on sale in their food aisle. They frequently have good deals on canned mandarin oranges which make a tasty dessert. Add a bit of coconut or a few marshmallows if you have them.
  • Walgreen's frequently carries canned mushrooms on sale, too.
  • How about lunch for a quarter? Check Walgreen's for ramen noodles.
  • Cake mixes and canned frosting are often priced under a dollar, especially the store brands. Your only additions will be a bit of oil (or applesauce if you're counting calories) and a couple of eggs (save from the meal above). For a couple dollars, you can have dessert for a couple of nights or snacks for a few days.