Five meals under $15!

Money has been tight in our house as of late.  I’ve had to be really conscientious about how much I’m spending.  I run all my errands in one shot and make sure that all the places I need to go are close enough together so that I can hit everything in one trip – without driving across town.  I replaced all of my old, incandescent light bulbs with newer, energy-efficient bulbs.  I learned to keep my thermostat down to a reasonable temperature and wear sweats, rather than shorts, in the house.

Another area that needed to be revisited was my food bill.  Three years ago I was able to buy two weeks’ worth of groceries for roughly $150 total.  Now, it’s a challenge to keep it under $150 per week!  We eat mostly whole foods (versus pre-packaged meals) so couponing only really helps with toiletries and other household goods like toilet paper and laundry soap.

Since I get paid bi-weekly, I’ve learned the importance of making meal plans.  I wanted to share some recipes with you that I threw together for this pay cycle.  All five of them cost less than $15 per meal to make and most are under $10!  I’ve also included a recipe for my favorite French bread.  We make this daily so that we always have fresh bread in the house.  There are only two of us in the house so these portions may seem small but most of these meals can be doubled and will still be under $15.

Here are the meals, from most to least expensive:

Bean Burgers $12.20 for 8 burgers
Chili $8.66 for 8 bowls
Fry Bread Tacos $4.99 for 6 tacos
Simple Chicken Soup with Dumplings $4.71 for 6 bowls
Lactose-free Quiche $3.57 for 1 pie (8 slices)
Easy French Bread $2.45 for 2 loaves

You may be wondering why there is no meat on this menu.  We eat mostly vegetarian although I do sometimes throw in poultry or fish.  Don’t hesitate to add any meat you want to these recipes.  If you have a crock pot, you can save tons of money by buying the cheaper meat cuts (chicken thighs, pork shoulder, chuck eye steak, etc.) and slow cooking them.  Even the cheapest meats come out juicy and tender when cooked in a crock pot! I’m also lactose intolerant so I use Lactaid brand milk and aged cheddar (naturally lactose free if aged over 24 months!) but any milk or cheese can be substituted for all of these recipes.

I would love your feedback so please don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything that you would add or omit to the recipes.  If you’re interested in seeing a sample of the shopping list and meal price breakdown, it can be found here.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!


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19 thoughts on “Five meals under $15!

  1. Pratibha says:

    Truly enjoyed reading your today’s practical approach. So right. I myself have also seen over the years that fresh home made food is so much cheaper, healthier and tastier for the family. Enjoy some of my recipes if you wish. You may like them . Hope to see you around Wish more of us can do the same..

    • msmchugh1 says:

      Pratibha , thank you for your comment!

      I’m always looking to expand my cooking skills and can’t wait to try some of the recipes on your blog – like the Faradi Bataka Ni Pattice. It sounds delicious!

    • lrodlez says:

      I love these recipes that you shared for meals under 15 bucks. I have shared this blog on my post since I’m always looking for ways to make easy meals that are afforable and healthy for my family. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

      • msmchugh1 says:

        Thank you for your kind words, and for sharing! It’s true that we have less and less time to spend preparing healthy meals for our families. You may want to have a look at the PDQ Vegetarian Cookbook. Most of the recipes are prepared in 30 minutes or less and you can always tweak them too incorporate meats if you so chose.

  2. chinhsinshih says:

    This is a great post! My boyfriend and I faces challenges in buying grocering and cooking for only two people. We both work full time and going to school full time. So the majority of the week, we get fast foods because it’s just easier and quick. Well, school is over for me starting next week, I guess I have more time now to make him a nice meal when he gets home from work!

    • msmchugh1 says:

      Fast food is so much easier but you will feel so much better once you cut it out of your diet. I’ve also found that fast food is getting expensive! It’s no longer the cheap, easy alternative. Last year, I ran a spending report in quicken (since I can’t balance a checkbook to save my life haha) and found that I had spent almost $1000 in fast food, mostly from eating out at lunch. Can you imagine? I could have used that money to take my son on vacation!

      Congratulations on finishing school and I wish you nothing but the best in the next chapter of your life!

  3. cawiechert says:

    Hi! I will definitely be following your blog as I hope to make some improvements/changes to my family’s eating habits over the next 18 months! Nice job & keep it going 🙂

  4. Loved your blog post! You definitlely provided me with some good ideas!!! I am also lactose intolerant but didn’t know that you could eat cheese!!! What brand of cheese are you buying? I drink almond milk because even Lactaid hurts my stomach. The only dairy I am able to consume right now is yogurt!!!

    • msmchugh1 says:

      I had no idea either until a friend of a friend mentioned it over breakfast. It felt like Christmas and my birthday suddenly fell on the same day this year! I usually get whichever brand is cheapest at the grocery store but aged cheddar is a little more expensive. I try to go to BJs at least once a month to get a big brick since it’s much less expensive than the smaller bricks in the grocery store. you’re lucky to be able to eat yogurt; that hurts my stomach more than anything else.

      I like almond milk too but it has so much sugar that I purchase it only as a rare treat. If you Google the dangers of cow’s milk, you will find a lot of information as too why it hurts our stomachs. It’s actually really disgusting!

  5. DailyJae says:

    I really liked the links you’ve added as well as the cost and yield for each recipe. I was surprised to see that eight bean burgers can only cost $12. In restaurants, $12 is the price of one burger! Instead of mentioning that you’re lactose intolerant, I would just say “For those who are lactose intolerant…” But great post!

    • msmchugh1 says:

      To be honest, this was the first time I have ever broken down my meals by price like that and the results really surprised me! You’re absolutely right about burgers; even at the grocery store, you pay close to $6 for four!

      It’s interesting that you say that I should leave out the “I” in my blurb about the recipes being lactose-free. Can you expand upon that?

  6. emilyrich3 says:

    One thing you may want to consider looking into is getting bargains at farmers’ markets, or even sharecropping. Many of the farmers around me will deliver money to our home weekly if we donate to them at the beginning of the season. The foods often change so it keeps things interesting, and it’s a great way to support the local economy as well.

    • msmchugh1 says:

      You’re absolutely right! I get great deals at the Farmers’ Market in the summer but our growing season in New Hampshire is very short. I should purchase, blanch and freeze more of the cheap produce to be used in the winter months but I just don’t have the patience.
      I’ve also looked into sharecropping but I’ve found the initial investment to be more than I can ever afford. Wouldn’t it be great to have a community garden where all the neighbors pitch in and share the crops?

  7. What a great post! Very helpful tips. I loved that you featured a few recipes that are quick, easy, & inexpensive. Lately I’ve been walking the fine line of becoming a vegetarian so your recipes are very helpful.

  8. nadith says:

    thought I’d make some quick suggestions for those interested. buying in bulk is always a great idea to begin with, and if you have trouble storing there are food safe buckets at lowes for about $3 a piece tops. Personally I tend to get a good deal in bulk, whether it be because I cook or because I am from Alaska, I don’t know, but it is green and saves money.
    For burgers a way to extend them is to use oats in the meat or beans, as this will firm up well and carry flavor as well as texture. (and you can save the bread for your own consumption since it is more work to make).
    I will totally vouch for crock pots, they can make amazing breakfasts over night, and great meals without much fuss or work. It takes time and planning though. One thing to make this easier is some meals you can make and freeze forever, like soups, casseroles, and such. Don’t be afraid to make a meal, only to save and eat later. Many things cooked in crock pots, or stews, or other spiced foods tend to gain in flavor when given a day to 3-days to exchange nutrients and flavors.
    I make granola which you can use as a breakfast cereal, but also as toppings, or mix in with yogurt, smoothies, add to fruits or pies. When I am in a hurry it is nice to have a well balanced meal in a short order.
    Finally since a lot of people mentioned both money and time an issue, there is a bread which while not the best crumb or texture, it a pretty good expansive hard crust bread which takes very little time. Now, I appreciate bread and making it, the nature and style, the flavor, texture and nature. This bread won’t be as absorbent but when you want a bread for snacking or spreads, to go with other foods, this one can be fresh and ready simply, and often waiting for you (otherwise I really like farmgirls toasting bread). The recipe is mostly the time it takes to cook, and rise by itself, otherwise you simply mix the ingredients, leave it alone, then cook it. Here is the bread recipe for the no-knead bread.
    Thanks for sharing, I honestly have always had a passion for cooking and the nature of how, what, and the means of what we cook.

    • msmchugh1 says:

      Great tips! thank you for sharing!

      Did you know that you can cut your bread’s rising time down to 15 minutes by letting it rise in the microwave? If you run the microwave for a minute and then put the rising dough in the newly warmed microwave, the first round of rising will only take 15 minutes! We always make our own breads and my son loves that trick since he doesn’t have to wait around as long. It’s really the best thing since sliced bread!

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