cheap meals that last a week

Eat on a Budget: 10 Cheap Meals That Last a Week

It’s not easy trying to work, cook, and keep your house clean, especially when you’re on a budget. There are many days when you come home after a long day of work, and you don’t want to cook. On those days, you waste money and eat unhealthy food by ordering out.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. This list of 10 cheap meals that last a week offers meals that you only have to cook once and then reheat for the rest of the week, reducing your workload and ensuring you save plenty of money.

10 Easy and Cheap Meals That Will Last a Week

If you’re working a lot, or you’re tired after a grueling day of work, you want something easy to make, or that doesn’t take a lot of dishes. You also want something that stretches. Not only does a meal that stretches for a whole week save you money, but it means less cooking per week.

1. Lasagna

Lasagna

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Lasagna, and other pasta, are great stretch meals. They take a little time to prep but can be made well in advance so that you have to do no more cooking for the rest of the week. It’s even possible to make a huge batch and freeze it, though there is a slight change in texture afterward.

Another great option is to prep the lasagna and then freeze it before cooking. This reduces the change in texture and gives you an easy meal to reheat whenever you need it. Make the lasagna in a disposable metal baking tray, cover it with aluminum foil, and place it in the freezer. It’s like those lasagnas you buy in the store, but better tasting, and possibly a little cheaper.

To make a basic lasagna, all you need is some canned tomato sauce or spaghetti size, ground beef, lasagna noodles, an onion, ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan. One tray of lasagna makes about twelve servings, more than enough for a week of dinner for one person, and almost a full week for two. And if lasagna is too much work, you can get the same flavors in another, easier pasta dish with lasagna pasta.

2. Meatloaf

Meatloaf

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When you first look at a meatloaf recipe, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are rather simple. Most of the ingredients are spices to bring out the flavor. Many of which you might have, but if you don’t they can be bought for rather cheap and last for hundreds of meals before you have to replace them.

It only takes 15 minutes or so to prep and an hour to bake so it’s rather an easy meal. Each meatloaf provides roughly eight servings and you can serve it with some easy vegetables, like broccoli and cheese, green beans, or anything else you have lying around.

The best part is that meatloaf is a log of cooked ground beef. If you get tired of meatloaf, but don’t want to waste it, there’s so much you can do to repurpose the dish. Turn it into chili, shepherd’s pie, or a basic sandwich to make it a little more filling, and to use all of your leftovers.

3. Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

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Chicken and dumplings are a classic southern dish that’s easy and cheap to make. It’s a full meal as well, full of vegetables, dairy, protein, and carbs to keep you full even on a small serving. It’s not quite a dump-and-go recipe, but it is close.

You need some vegetables like celery, onions, and carrots to get started. Then, you add some chicken and chicken broth, cream and milk, and some biscuits and you’re ready to go! If you don’t want to add a can of evaporated milk, some other cream of soup works well, like cream of celery, cream of mushroom, or another can of cream of chicken.

In total, this dish takes about thirty minutes to make and only uses one pot. If you’ve used chicken for another dish that doesn’t have a lot of spices on it, throw it in the dish, or use a leftover rotisserie chicken. Generally, you get about six servings from the recipe, so you may want to make a double batch.

4. Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherds Pie

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Another classic, easy, and cheap dish to make is shepherd’s pie. It’s a slight step above a casserole and provides a mix of vegetables, meat, and carbs. This is another dish that uses a lot of spices, but you can omit it or get a spice mix for rather cheap if you want.

The rest of the ingredients are really easy. You need onions, ground beef, beef broth, tomato paste, flour, and vegetables. If you aren’t excited about cutting up a lot of vegetables, you’re in luck. All you have to do is buy a frozen veggie mix that has pas, carrots, and corn in it.

There’s another time saving tip when it comes to the potatoes. Peeling potatoes is fairly time-consuming. But if you get ones with softer skin, like red or golden, you can make smashed potatoes instead of mashed potatoes. Boil the potatoes, skin and all, mash it up and have a much simpler dish to make.

5. Egg Muffin Cups

Egg Muffin Cups

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Looking for a bit of breakfast instead of dinner? Consider making egg cups. Eggs are a cheap food and they stretch quite far when you mix them with other ingredients. For the basic recipe, all you need is eggs and cheese. After that, what you add is up to you.

To make these egg muffin cups, you need a muffin tin and some spray. Generally, you use one egg per muffin hole. Scramble up all the eggs, add your favorite ingredients, and bake! They take roughly 30 minutes to make and create 12 servings. That means that you get 12 meals for a little over the price of a carton of eggs.

If you’re not sure what recipe to try first, there are a few good ideas to try including spinach and bell pepper, spinach, tomato, and mozzarella, and sausage and cheddar. Experiment with your favorite flavors, or with whatever vegetables and meats you have in the house.

6. Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole

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Tuna casserole sounds like a joke of a dish, with it being a major part of most sitcom TV shows, but it’s actually quite a good dish. If you enjoy tuna and tuna salad, then this is a great twist. To make the recipe, you need some pasta, celery, peas, milk, cream of mushroom soup, bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, and a can of tuna.

In one baking dish, you get six servings and it takes about thirty minutes to make. If you get tired of tuna before you run out of casserole, all you have to do is freeze it. Like lasagna, you can freeze it before it bakes, or you can freeze it after cooking the dish.

For those that grew up with the dish, they know it to be a tried and true comfort meal right up there with meatloaf. It’s got a mix of creamy, cheese, and savory flavors that will keep you happy and full.

7. Fried Rice

Fried Rice

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If you’ve ever gone to get Chinese food, you’ve probably had fried rice. Though it sounds like a dish that you only get when you eat out, it’s cheap and easy to make at home. It’s also the perfect dish to make when you have a lot of leftover rice.

Rice has a bad habit of turning crunchy and sort of gross the day after it was cooked. You might be tempted to count your losses and throw out the leftovers, but you can save money by keeping it and turning it into fried rice. It only takes a few ingredients to start the dish, and you can always add more as you need.

The basic ingredients include old white rice, butter, onions, garlic, carrots, peas, soy sauce, and eggs. For a little extra flavor, a little sesame oil adds a lot of depth. You can also add a meat of your choice like steak, chicken, pork, or shrimp. If you have a lot of extra vegetables going bad, you can throw them into your dish, like broccoli.

8. Pizza Toast

Pizza Toast

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Want a simple, comforting meal? Pizza toast is a classic. You get all the flavors of a pizza, but you only need some bread and basic ingredients. This dish works for kids, adults, and anyone needing a quick meal. Pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperonis are the basic ingredients, but it’s easy to experiment and add your own.

This is a great way to use bread that is a little stale or might get moldy soon. The best part is that every kid can make their own. Create an assembly line and have fun with the kids as they make their own pizza.

Make them early in the week and freeze them. Then, thaw them out early so your kids have a school lunch or an easy after-school snack. For adults, this makes a quick and easy meal to throw in your toaster without having to heat your whole home or having to spend a lot of time cooking.

9. Pancakes

Pancakes

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Another great breakfast dish is pancakes. You might not think about it, but pancakes last quite a few days in the fridge, and even longer in the freezer. If you want them fresh, you can make the batter ahead of time and pour it into a pan to cook every morning. Or, you can cook pancakes and freeze them, pulling them out when needed.

Pancakes are easy to make. Buy a premade mix that only needs some water, or make them yourself. The best part is that you can tailor them to your needs and favorite flavors, or those of your family. Add berries, chocolate chips, bananas, cinnamon, apples, or even bacon to add a few more nutrients and change up the flavors.

Take the day and make a few dozen pancakes. They will last you not only for a week, but for months, even if you eat a few in the morning. When you get tired of syrup, try honey, peanut butter, yogurt, jam, and more to keep the flavors different enough to make it easier to eat them every day.

10. Tater Tot Bake

Tater Tot Bake

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Tater tot bake, or tater tot casserole, is an easy, filling, and incredibly cheap dish to make. There are all sorts of recipes out there, some for dinner, and some for breakfast. With so many different options, as long as you have a bag of frozen tater tots and some food that’s about to go bad in your fridge or freezer, you can make a tater tot casserole.

If you’re scrambling for something to make, there’s a good chance you have ingredients in your home that will make for some sort of tater tot casserole. This recipe uses ingredients like ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and corn, but there are plenty of other options.

It only takes about 10 minutes to prep and an hour to cook and you have eight servings of salty, filling deliciousness. It only takes one or two dishes to set up, depending on the ingredients you use, and it will last you the whole week, or longer.

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