Healthy Meals Under $5? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 23 Old 11-16-2012, 03:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Can you cook a healthy meal for less than $5?


Help us pull together some great recipes for an article on eating on a budget by posting your frugal meal ideas!


Suggestions should...


  • be able to feed a family of 4 (or more) for breakfast, lunch or dinner (one-dish meals including soups, stews, casseroles and hot dishes are welcome)


  • be able to be made entirely of ingredients that can be purchased for $5 or less (without the use of coupons or bulk pricing)
  • be wholesome 

Make sure you include all of the ingredients and directions in your post and we'll credit you in the article when it goes live next month.:) 


This thread is also being shared on facebook and twitter.

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#2 of 23 Old 11-16-2012, 05:03 PM
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Love this post as we strive to do a lot of meals for a family of 5 (one is a baby just starting to eat solids) for under $5. My newest favorite is a chickpea stew that was a hit for all, baby included! The best part is that this is a crock pot meal so you can throw it together in the morning, have a busy 8 hour day and a delicious, healthy, and inexpensive meal for the family at the end of the day!


Curried Coconut Chickpea Stew


1 can chick peas .65

2 medium sweet potatoes > 1.00

1 cup brown rice .50

1 onion and 2 cloves garlic .25

1 tablespoon curry powder

salt and pepper to taste

1 can coconut milk 1.80


Total cost: $4.20 plus a bit extra for the curry powder :)


In a crock pot combine the diced onion, garlic, sweet potato, and rinsed chickpeas. Add 3 cups of water, brown rice, seasonings and stir well. Cover and simmer on low for 6 to 8 hours. 15 minutes prior to serving stir in the can of coconut milk and let it all mix together. The milk adds a delicious dairy-free creaminess to the stew that makes it very satisyfing while being totally vegan to boot! Mmmm

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#3 of 23 Old 11-16-2012, 08:17 PM
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Do you peel/cut up the sweet potatoes? 

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#4 of 23 Old 11-17-2012, 05:37 AM
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yes..I don't peel it, but cube it up :)

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#5 of 23 Old 11-17-2012, 12:39 PM
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This is a bit vague compared to Avismama's recipe but it is a standby for us - inexpensive, vegetarian & quick - I'm sure it comes in under $5, if you consider the stock is something in the cupboard/fridge...but afraid I couldn't cost it all out for you


Minestronesque Bean Soup


I say "esque" because it is made with kind of whatever's around but basically:



about Tbs olive oil (or veg oil of your pref)

1/2 onion

celery stick

1 x 400g tin chopped tomato

1 litre vegetable stock (I use homemade if I've got it, otherwise Marigold Organic Stock Bouillon Powder - it's about £2 in the UK for a container that makes 7.5L)

1 x 400g tin beans

1 carrot

handful of green beans

small potato

(+/- any other veg you've got around)

about a cup of pasta - I prefer small sized like macaroni but any will do

*various herbs/spices

salt & pepper to taste



Dice all veg. Heat olive oil in soup pot. Add onion & cook til translucent (5-10 min). Add celery, cook a few minutes more. Add tin tomato, stock, then beans & all veg. Cook til veg done - usually 10-15 min will be sufficient. Add any herbs/spices at end of cooking. Sometimes I do oregano, for a more minestrone flavour. Fresh basil can be nice in the summer if you're growing it. Lately I've been adding some smoky paprika which is very yummy. You can play around!

I prefer to cook the pasta separately & add it to the bowls of soup because if you've got any leftover the pasta gets all swollen & flabby in the soup if stored in the fridge.

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#6 of 23 Old 11-17-2012, 01:51 PM
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awesome idea!


Homemade Lentil Soup


1 1/2 cup of lentils (bought in bulk)

1 container of chicken broth (or homemade which would equal 4cups)

4 carrots

2 potatoes

1 onion

1 large handful of spinch (bought in bulk)


Dice veggies, add lentils and stock. cook over low heat for at least an hour or two so the soup has time to thicken. Add spinach the last 5 minutes.



totally yummy and nourshing.

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#7 of 23 Old 11-18-2012, 01:39 PM
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not sure if it's under $5 but it's affordable and I pretty much have all this stuff at my house always!


Yummy Pie


1 lb ground meat (I get what ever's cheapest and buy when it's about $2.49 or 3.49)

bag mixed frozen veggies (.99)

can tomato sauce (.50)

half bag frozen spinach or handful or two of fresh (.80)

bisquick mix (not sure how much just one batch of biscuits would be, you could also make them homemade but thenit wouldn't be a quick meal and this is always a last minutemeal for me))

salt and pepper

onion (.20?, i buy them by the bag, so one onion is pretty cheap)


cook meat in skillet (use one that can transfer to the oven, i use cast iron)

part way through cooking add onion. drain. add veggies, tomato sauce, salt and pepper.

continue cooking in skillet.

meanwhile mix together one batch of biscuits, cut in fun shapes and then place biscuits on top of food.

toss it all in the oven at 350 and cook until biscuits are done.

Courtney and Cree, baby made 3, added one more then there were 4, sakes alive, then we had 5, another in the mix now we have 6!

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#8 of 23 Old 11-18-2012, 06:52 PM
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An inexpensive meal for us is chicken soup and whole wheat rolls or bread. 


The soup is pretty basic:

whole chicken - $3 if not organic

onion, carrots, celery - $1.50, maybe more if we purchased smaller packages

spices and a handful of rice to toss in - $.50, likely less

I just make a stock from the chicken, spices, salt, and leftover bits of vegetables I keep in the freezer. Then I strain it, add the chopped up chicken back in, add the diced fresh veggies, add a handful of brown rice (other grains work too), and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the rice and veggies are done.


The rolls are just whole wheat flour, dry yeast, milk or water, and salt. All total perhaps $2.50, including butter. I buy nice flour but with inexpensive flour and no butter it would only be $1 or so.


I generally make this meal with a local organic chicken and organic vegetables/rice. I use organic milk and organic grass fed  butter for the rolls or bread. All total it adds up to about $11 and feeds seven people dinner with enough leftovers for most of those people to have it again for lunch the next day.

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#9 of 23 Old 11-18-2012, 07:44 PM
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#10 of 23 Old 11-18-2012, 07:56 PM
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#11 of 23 Old 11-18-2012, 08:14 PM
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my favorite meal for 5$ hmmm good question likely macaroni and diced tomatoes. 


you can also add cheese if you want. 


literally size adjustable and you can add whatever you want for extras in it :) 


-elbow macaroni

-tomatoes (you can used canned if you want or use fresh and dice your self) 

-tomato juice (optional - i use if i don't have much liquid when i make it, i like the juice lol) 



cook macaroni drain add tomatoes and juice VIOLA! 


i also add some basil to it on occasion. 


total cost: 

macaroni - 2$ 

tomatoes - for me free (yay gardens!) canned from store around 1$ for the big can

tomato juice (again i get it free yay gardens) - 2$ 


The amount listed above would make a HUGE pot i make enough for a family of 8 in one sitting and eat left overs for a few days. its also FAST to make 6 minutes and done! 


note: right now its just me and hubby i make this when the guys come over to watch the game etc. feeds everyone and as long as you like tomatoes its perfect. 

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#12 of 23 Old 11-20-2012, 08:26 AM
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Greens and Beans


I don't know the exact cost but I'm sure it's under $5. Vegetarian, gluten-free, and super fast.


Saute some onion and garlic in olive or coconut oil. Add some red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt.

Add greens (chopped fresh kale, spinach, or collards). Cook until wilted.

Add 1.5-2 cups garbonzo beans, heat thoroughly. (I make my own from dry beans, but you could use canned if you wanted - 1 can's worth.)


Serve with a sweet potato, fried egg (over medium for a nice runny yolk), brown rice, or quinoa. 


Simple and surprisingly tasty and filling! I actually like it served over the sweet potato and topped with the egg :)

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#13 of 23 Old 11-20-2012, 04:00 PM
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Pigeon Peas and Rice-GLUTEN FREE AND VEGAN


1 can of pigeon peas or kidney beans

3 cups of rice

1 small onion diced

small knob of ginger grated

2-3 cloves of garlic minced

Dried thyme(to taste. I use 2 tsps)

Dash of Jamaican seasoning

1 hot pepper(if you like spice)


Rinse the peas.

Pour the coconut milk into a measuring cup. Add enough water to measure out 6 cups of water

Sautee onions garlic ginger thyme and Jamaican seasoning. When onions start smelling add rice and mix. Stir in beans and coconut milk/water mixture. Bring to a boil and then simmer until water is evaporated. Stirring occasionally.




Red Lentil Coconut Soup-GLUTEN FREE AND VEGAN


1 diced onion

1 knob of ginger diced

3 cloved of garlic diced

1 or 2 carrots diced depending on size

Curry powder and corriander to taste

1 cup of red lentils

3 cups of water

1 can of coconut milk


Sautee onion,garlic,ginger and carrots. Add spices. When veggies get tender Add red lentils and stir. Then add water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until soft. Add coconut milk and blend with immersion blender and heat back through




Black Bean Soup with Masa Dumplings-GLUTEN FREE easily made vegan


1.5 cups of DRIED black beans soaked over night


1 small onion diced

1 celery stalk diced

garlic diced to taste

chili powder to taste

Spoonful of tomato paste.


Bring the soaked beans to a boil with 3 cups of water when almost cooked add onion,garlic,celery and chili pepper. Cook until veg is tender. Add tomato paste. Add one more cup of water. Bring soup to boil.  Add dumplings

1 cup masa flour

1 egg or egg replacer

1 tbs oil

2 tsp baking powder

Mix together and add enough water to make it into a playdough texture


Drop the dumplings in and simmer on low-med until cooked.


Add frozen corn into bowls and pour soup over.

Top with diced avocado,black olives,diced tomatoes,salsa,quacamole,cilantro...Whatever you have on hand or is on sale cheap



Potato Chickpea curry-GLUTEN FREE AND VEGAN


1 onion diced

3 cloves of garlic minced

knob of ginger minced

Garam masala and Corriander to taste

2 large potatoes partially boiled and cubed(great use for leftover boiled potatoes)

1 can of chickpeas

1 can of tomatoes

1 Can of coconut milk


Sautee onion,garlic and ginger until translucent. Add spices. Add potatoes and chickpeas and coat with spices. Add Canned tomatoes and coconut milk and simmer until potatoes and onions are cooked though.


Serve on top of cooked rice

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#14 of 23 Old 11-23-2012, 11:39 AM
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I try to keep a variety of hearty, healthy, and inexpensive breakfast ideas on hand.  Here is one of my favorites (it's quick, too!):




For a family of four


4 cups of cooked short grain brown rice

(about 2 cups dry)


1 1/4 cups chopped nuts and seeds

(a combination is best of sunflower, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)


2 tablespoons of olive oil


3/4 cup of raisins


1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon


1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom - or to taste.  This spice really sets this dish apart from other hot breakfast cereals.  Don't omit it, but if you are timid, start with a smaller amount.


Pinch of sea salt


1 apple - unpeeled, cored, and cubed


1 pear - unpeeled, cored, and cubed


Make sure rice is still hot from cooking or reheated gently in a pan with a bit of water.


Roast nuts is a dry skillet until they begin to turn dark, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.


Heat olive oil in skillet.  

Add raisins and stir until coated. 

Add cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.  Stir to mix well.

Saute at medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30-60 seconds until raisins start to expand.


Add apples and pears and saute, covered, for 3 minutes.


Put cooked rice, roasted nuts, and fruit mixture into a large bowl and mix well.


If you have coconut milk on hand, a couple of tablespoons in each serving adds to the flavor and creaminess.



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#15 of 23 Old 11-23-2012, 01:46 PM
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Here's mine: (I'm really not sure what it costs, but I'm sure it's under 5) It can be vegan and is gluten free :)


1 cup brown rice (cooked in the liquid from the corn, if you use canned)

I can (or cup) black beans (drained and rinsed)

I can (or cup frozen/fresh) corn

I can (or whole) tomato, skinned and diced

I envelop (or equivalent) taco seasoning.



I cook the rice in a rice cooker with the seasoning and the corn juice (sometimes I use water, depends on my mood lol).

I then put everything into an appropriate sized pot or pan and cook. Sometimes I add ground beef, but this is great as is, and my picky kid eats it :)


You can also sprinkle cheese onto the individual servings or sprinkle with salsa. Sometimes I add salsa, esp if I have only a little. It's my go to Mexi-dish.


I was wondering (totally OT, so message me) if anyone could think of great alternative veggies to go with alternative seasonings and beans. Like what would work with gornazos or pintos or chili beans (hmmm, chili seasoning and tomatoes?).

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#16 of 23 Old 11-25-2012, 01:34 PM
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i live in rural, remote northern Canada in Iqaluit, Nunavut - your grocery prices make me gasp, the basic ingredients are very affordable. our food is so much more expensive, even by bulk sealift. to find out more about food insecurity in Canada's northern communities check out "Feeding my Family" on facebook or  Here are some inexpensive family meals that are good for warming up after playing outside in the snow. 

Caribou (tuktu) Stew GLUTEN FREE

1lb caribou meat from a local hunter or friend (you could substitute beef, moose or seal)

two medium onions

two garlic cloves

two tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup of vinegar or wine

bay leaves

1.5 L homemade stock (from bones, veggies, etc.) or stock cubes

salt & pepper

three big carrots

three long celery stalks

four large potatoes


heat a large skillet or stew pot to medium heat, add oil and diced garlic and diced onions. cook on medium until soft and a bit browned. add diced meat, brown well.  add wine or vinegar, stock, bay leaves and salt & pepper to taste. simmer on low/medium low for 2-3 hours til meat is quite tender. add water as needed if it gets too dry. this stew base can now be saved and stretched with more stock or water on other days. to complete the stew, peel and coarsely chop the carrots, celery and potatoes. add to pot on stove top and cook on medium until veggies are cooked through. Or, if you are using an oven safe pot, put the whole thing in the over on 375 for 30 min. Serves many.

French Creamy Vegetable Soup GLUTEN FREE

whatever veggies you have in the fridge that need attention (leeks, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, are all great, but try what you have)

1 L homemade stock (from bones, veggies, etc. ) or stock cubes

one onion

garlic cloves

salt & pepper 

1 cup cream or whole milk, could substitute almond or coconut milk

olive oil


Heat up a big pot to medium heat, add olive oil and diced garlic and onion. Saute til browned. Add about 6 cups of coarsely chopped veggies and saute til they are softened and a bit browned. add stock liquid and remove from heat. using an extra bowl, run the mixture through a blender or food processor. return mixture to the pot and add your dairy (milk, cream, coconut, whatever). Salt & pepper to taste. 


Other inexpensive meals we like are similar to a lot of the bean/rice/sweet potato based dishes already mentioned. The kids always like it when we have "Breakfast for Dinner", and I like it too because it's usually on extra busy nights when dinner is rushed but they think it is a treat. Waffles with yogourt, nuts and quick stewed fruit on top are a hit. To make stewed fruit just put some frozen fruit in a small saucepan with a bit of sugar, maple syrup, agave etc. and heat til saucy. Also a great way to use up apples that don't make the cut. Or fried eggs, toast and bacon. Or oatmeal with lots of nuts and dried fruit. 


Homemade baked macaroni & cheese is a good one too. Or Tandoori baked chicken thighs (cheaper than breast meat) with brown rice and cabbage salad. 


Happy eating!

Mother of Nora (7), Wynn (3) and Lena (1.5)

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#17 of 23 Old 11-25-2012, 07:41 PM
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Wow some really yummy meals here, and for less than $5 is amazing. I've been trying to come up with a meal to share, but I don't think I have anything for less than $5. The closest one I have is around $7...

Split pea soup

Home,add chicken stock 6 cups
1 lb split peas
1 onion
I celery stalk
I ham bone

Sauté celery and onion in a little butter or olive oil until softened. Add all ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. This is yummy and oh so filling smile.gif

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#18 of 23 Old 11-25-2012, 09:19 PM
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Our favorite inexpensive meal is shredded cabbage, chopped onions sauteed in olive oil w/Salt and pepper to taste and then serve with whole grain pasta (cooked separately).  

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#19 of 23 Old 11-26-2012, 04:39 AM
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My favorite inexpensive & healthy meal is Turkey Vegetable Wraps.

What you will need:
(1) lb Ground Turkey or Chicken (we get cage free/hormone free/vegetarian diet fed)
(1) 16 oz bag Frozen Organic Veggies (mix with corn, carrots, peas)
(1) Box Cous Cous (plain or herb flavored) or 1 box Brown Rice & Quinoa Medley
(1) Cup Organic Cheddar Cheese
Organic Whole Wheat Tortillas

1.) Shred 1 cup cheese and put aside.
2.) Start cous cous or rice medley in saucepan and allow to simmer according to package directions while preparing the rest of recipe (usually about 20 minutes).
3.) Cook ground turkey in pan until brown.
4.) Meanwhile boil frozen vegetables in water until thoroughly warmed.
5.) Mix together vegetables, cooked cous cous or rice medley, and ground turkey in pan.
6.) Sprinkle shredded cheese over top of mixture and cover with lid for approximately 5 minutes.
7.) Serve mixture on wrap and enjoy!


I also have a lot of other organic, healthy recipes on  my blog (link on my profile)

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#20 of 23 Old 11-28-2012, 05:58 AM
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I find it easier to cook for less in winter when soups work. Here are a few of our favorites


Barley & Wild Rice Soup


1 tbspn olive oil

12 ounces white mushrooms

1 medium onion - diced

2 cloves garlic

8 cups water

1 package long grain and wild rice

1/4 cup barley

1 large sweet potato - cubed

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspon thyme

salt & pepper to taste


Prepare rice


Heat oil, add mushrooms, onion & garlic. Cook stirring for 8 minutes


Add the water, barley and wild rice and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes


Add last 4 ingredients and cook for 35 minutes. This is vegan, about $5 and can be made less expensive and probably a bit healthier by using long grain rice that isn't from a box, but this is just the way I have always done it and it is one of my "fast food meals"


Pasta Fagioli


Two Tablespoons Olive Oil

Two or three cloves of garlic

One large can diced tomatoes (Italian seasoned works well, but I usually go with plain to cut down the sodium)

One 12 ounce box of small shaped pasta (bow ties, shells, etc. - not elbow macaroni, it doesn't work)

One can of cannelini beans - drained & rinsed


Heat oil and add garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and saute for 7 - 10 minutes (until they seem cooked and have released some juices)


Add water and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and lower to a simmer and cook until pasta is finished.  If you didn't use italian seasoned tomatoes - add some pepper and italian seasonings now (I usually add basil & oregano) Add beans and cook until heated.


This is vegan, about $5 and can be made completely from pantry items quickly so I always have the ingredients. I never plan to make this meal - it is the one we eat when things get crazy and we are at risk of ordering food.

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#21 of 23 Old 11-28-2012, 06:15 PM
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Mmm that Barley and Wild Rice Soup sounds amazing!



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#22 of 23 Old 11-30-2012, 07:59 PM
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I make a similar pasta fagioli with tomato sauce, beans (kidney, red, pink, or garbonzo all work great) and several big handfuls of spinach. So good and my carnivore husband loves the beans instead of meat :) I've also done it by adding chili seasoning instead of Italian for a sort-of chili-mac. So tasty and easy!

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#23 of 23 Old 12-01-2012, 01:32 PM
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Vegetable stew:



- one onion (15 cents?)

- bag of frozen vegetables ($3)

- 2 tbs tomato paste, 1 tbs flour, 2 tbs oil, salt and pepper ($1 or so)

- chopped parsley - optional

Cook chopped onion and parsley in oil; add 3 cups of water. When the water starts simmering, add vegetables. Cook vegetables thoroughly. In a separate bowl mix 1 cup of cold water, tomato paste and flour; add to the pot. Let it simmer for another 5 min. Season to taste.


If you have 2 more dollars, you can buy hotdogs, cut them in pieces and add to the pot.


For $3, you can add a chicken breast cut in cubes.

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