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10 Cheap Meals You Can Make Until Your Next Paycheck

10 Cheap Meals You Can Make Until Your Next Paycheck

You really have to learn how to budget your money when living outside your parents’ place, especially with food. Remember in K-12 how breakfast and lunch were guaranteed. Here are ten cheap meals that I usually make when I’m on my last $30.

1. Spaghetti

This dish is a classic and personally one of my favorites! It’s one of those cheap meals that you can stretch for a few days, especially on the second day when it tastes the best. I’ve eaten it up to five days old, and it was completely fine. When you’re really on a budget, it only requires three ingredients: spaghetti pasta, spaghetti sauce, and meat or vegetables if wanted. I usually use a whole container of pasta and one pound of ground beef. And if you really want to ball on a budget, you can pick up a loaf of French bread or garlic bread that’s usually $1-2 in the breadbasket near the grocery store bakery. In total, you should only expect to spend $10-15 max.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

2. Taco Salad

I could have just said tacos, but when you consider this. Making tacos is like folding dress shirts, and making taco salad is like throwing your underwear in the drawer because only weirdos and Victoria’s Secret employees fold underwear. There are also more flavors of tortilla chips than taco shells (or tortillas if you prefer). I kind of cheat and get the scoop chips; they’re easier to hold the ingredients in. You can put whatever you like on the taco salad, but I like just about everything on it from cheese to guacamole. The messier, the better! A basic taco salad with tortilla chips, lettuce, cheese, tomato, and seasoning is about a $10-$15 store run.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

3. Hamburger Helper

I like to consider this set of next cheap meals a cousin to the spaghetti. It was one of the first meals my mom let my brother and me cook on our own. With the directions on the box, we were practicing both our reading skills and cooking skills! In this line of food, it ranges from beefaroni to stroganoff, just anything that requires pasta and ground beef. Each box serves five and is under $2 at Walmart. If you live by yourself, that’s dinner for the work week! Along with a couple of bucks, you’ll have to buy the meat and any seasonings you need separately.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

4. Tuna Helper

If you couldn’t tell, I love this line of Betty Crocker box products. These Helper meals only take half an hour to cook which is another reason why I recommend them. Like the one mentioned above, there are several options with the Tuna Helper, but my personal favorite is the Tuna Creamy Broccoli. In this recipe, you’ll need two cans of shredded tuna, milk, butter, and water. For my taste and texture, I like to add sweet peas and put breadcrumbs on top and let it turn into a casserole in the oven. Five servings should last you five different meals, but it’s hard to just eat one serving. All together this cheap meal should only cost you up to $10.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

5. Chicken Alfredo

There’s a Chicken Helper version of this cheap meal too, but let’s give that brand a rest. This recipe is still cost-effective outside a box. You’ll need some fettuccine pasta, chicken, and a jar of Alfredo sauce. If you want, you could make your own Alfredo sauce at home by Googling a recipe. It’s pretty simple, and it’ll make you feel like a real chef. To add in another element, I like to add in some fresh spinach. It’ll help prevent you from eating more than one serving when you’re trying to make it last. If you’re pressed to only a few bucks, it doesn’t hurt to get the super affordable canned, diced chicken. While watching the cooking series Chopped, I learned that if you rinse the chicken and a little milk, it’ll take the tin can taste out. This delicious meal can cost you about $8 on the simple side.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

6. Chicken Quesadilla

Another chicken meal is this sophisticated grilled cheese. A 6-8 pack of tortillas range is about $1.50 to $2.50 at Walmart. Next, you can select a cut of chicken of your choice. I like to get just a few chicken breasts, but you can also shred canned chicken pretty easily. I could honestly eat quesadillas any time of day, but for breakfast, I like to eat them cold and dip them in sour cream mixed with green onions. If you already have bacon, that’s also great to throw in the mix, just prepare them first and use the bacon fat to fry the tortilla. It adds more flavor than ingredients actually present.  At it’s simplest it could cost you $5-7.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

7. Egg Salad Sandwich

Unlike pasta, you’ll have to eat this one for lunch for the next few days, unless you want your fridge to stink. To make an egg salad, you’ll need eggs, mustard, mayo, and seasoning to taste. My favorite bread to put this on is French bread. A fluffy, soft loaf is best for this affordable meal to make the texture light and airy. For sweetness and a bit of a crunch, I like to add sweet pickle relish to it which I keep on stock for my love hotdogs. If you prefer a fresher taste, a diced Granny Smith apple can also fit in. Although all the recipe is made mainly of soft foods, it doesn’t feel mushy or like baby food when done right. I would highly suggest dicing the boiled eggs for the perfect texture balance. I usually have most of these ingredients in my fridge and only have to buy the bread if I don’t want to use the sliced bread I always have. If you have to run to the store, this sandwich should cost you about $10.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

8. Hotdogs

Whether you consider this food a sandwich or in a category of its own, it’s another cheap meal with tons of options – or expansion packs as I like to call them. Hotdogs are a great protein to always have in the refrigerator. I prefer to get all-beef dogs which are a little over $3, but if funds are tight, it’s easy to get an 8-pack of pork ones for a buck. For all the possibilities, condiments and cans of beans range anywhere from just under $1 to a few bucks per item. So if you want a different dog for each day, it will only cost you about $10. I usually only spend half that.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

9. Fried Rice

To me, this is the simplest of the cheap meals. You basically throw everything in the pan, let it caramelize, and cook until smells irresistible. Like hotdogs, there are so many things to put in it. My mom likes to used fried rice to recycle leftovers. Once there were leftover meatballs from spaghetti, and she put in there with green bell peppers, white onions, and eggs. It was fire! I never would have thought to put those things together. It was like she was on Chopped, and those were the mystery basket ingredients! Prices may vary, but for me, I usually already have it, so it’s free.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

10. Ramen

Wait, it’s not what you’re thinking; it’s not just the 10 cent noodles with the little flavor pack. You ever wonder why you weren’t full after one square? Ramen noodles are actually Japanese soul food that is meant to serve as a soup base and be mixed with other ingredients! It wasn’t until after World War II that it was commercialized and sent out to refugees in affected Asian countries. One way my best friend taught me to remix ramen was to drain the noodles after cooking them, add butter, the chicken season packet, and hot sauce. And boy did they taste like hot wings! Just imagine if I added chicken. The way I usually make fulfilling ramen is to drain them, add 2 slices of cheese, 1 cup of sweet peas, pepper, and 1-2 hotdogs and stir until everything is lightly coated in the melted cheese. Everything will be about $5 and can make 3-6 servings, the cheapest of the cheap meals.

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Budgeting money for food can get tight on a non-pay week. Here are 10 cheap meals that will help stretch your buck to the next paycheck.

What cheap meals do you make under $20? Let us know in the comments below!