Skip To Content

People Are Sharing Their Favorite "Broke 'Til Payday" Meals, And They All Sound So Good

"It makes my budget meal seem more decadent."

A while back, we rounded up some of people's favorite "broke 'til payday" recipes for those times when there's too much month at the end of your money. In the comments, the BuzzFeed Community shared even more cheap, tasty, and filling dinner ideas. Here's what they had to say:

1. "Chickpea curry is my go-to cheap meal. Cans of chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and coconut milk, an onion, some garlic and spices (I use garam masala, cumin and curry powder). Throw in spinach if I have it in the fridge, serve with rice and/or naan depending what I have on hand."

woman serving bowls of chickpea curry on rice

2. "My mom used to make this. It’s a cheaper version of Hungarian goulash. Instead of using expensive cuts of meat, we use hot dogs. Basically: chop an onion, pan fry until soft, add paprika and garlic powder. In the onions, pan fry the sliced hot dogs until browned. Then add diced potato and water. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender."

"As it is cooking, the broth sometimes needs more garlic/salt so add those to taste. This has become one of those cheap and easy meals I still make on days when funds are low since half a pack of hotdogs and three potatoes give me about 2.5 servings."


3. "Boxed mac & cheese with canned tuna or salmon, and whatever frozen veg I have available. If I have cheese, I'll add some extra — it makes my budget meal seem more decadent."

bowl of macaroni and cheese

4. "Pantry soup. I use whatever is left over at the end of my last planned shopping trip (random vegetables, beans, maybe a grain, sometimes meat scraps), throw it all in a pot and leave it to cook on low when I'm home. Season it as you like and you'll have dinner and leftovers for a few meals (I usually take mine for lunch at work)."

"The last time I made it I used baby carrots, half an onion, a can of black beans, some lentils, leftover barley, spinach, a can of tomatoes, and some okra. It works better if you have stock/broth/bouillon cubes or a stock concentrate of some kind, but it'll work just fine with plain water too.

If I feel like putting in the effort, I'll also throw together some baking powder biscuits (the recipe on the side of the can)."


5. "My go to foods if I'm running low on food at the end of the month are always either biscuits and gravy or scrambled eggs and bacon for supper."

plate of biscuits and gravy

6. "I always make 'leftover' chili. Say you have leftover chicken (or whatever you have in the fridge) a can of tomato sauce, any other leftover things you want, whatever veggies you have, then add a little garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Top it off with some cheese and sour cream. You can make it spicy or mild whatever."


7. "Definitely homemade chicken soup. I take a rotisserie chicken and rip it apart with my bare hands like the animal I am! The meat goes in the fridge; bones, skin, and everything else goes in the pressure cooker with an onion, garlic, and peppercorns (if I have them)."

pot of chicken soup cooking

8. "I make black beans or kidney beans with brown rice, chili powder, and coconut oil. Lentil soup with carrots, onions, and celery. Canned chickpeas for a simple salad with cucumber, edamame, salt, and pepper. Dried pasta for spaghetti sauce. Or veggie pasta with butter. By in bulk thick rolled oats. I’m picky about texture so even when I have these things, I might not eat them but it’s good to have to get through the last few days of the month. I’m on disability and get food stamps."


9. "When I was in university, I became known for my black beans and rice, topped with chopped up tomatoes and grated cheese. When cooking the black beans, be generous with the onions, black pepper, and garlic. It's a cheap and filling meal and is good for potlucks as well."

plate of black beans and rice

10. "I make mini pizza pies from tortillas, flour or whole wheat, but any bread is fair game. Bagels, English muffins, French bread, toast, etc. Spread some marinara sauce and sprinkle some shredded cheese then pop into a toaster oven for 10 minutes and voila! You can also add toppings."


11. "I use frozen burgers to make a pantry bolognese pasta with tomato paste and frozen/canned veggies. You just need to let the burgers cook and then shred them before adding the rest of the ingredients."

frozen burger patties with paper in between

12. "I make refried bean tortillas frequently, and I've never seen anyone other than my mom who taught me know how to make them. You take a tortilla and spread refried beans on it, and then spread a layer of salsa on it. Then you sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and broil it until the cheese is melted (about two minutes). Lastly, you fold it over kind of like a quesadilla. It's really good!"


13. "One of my faves is to heat up some cream of mushroom soup, add in some onion and garlic and then mix in some cooked ground meat. Serve over toast or biscuits and a side of veggies. So yummy."

bowl of cream of mushroom soup

14. "Not a recipe, but, I buy frozen egg rolls in bulk when they are on sale so there are always some on hand. Bake a few egg rolls with a 90 second rice pouch and you have a good and cheap meal."


15. "Pantry style chicken a la king. You just need toast, frozen peas, chicken tenders/nuggets, cream of chicken soup. Heat the peas and soup, cook the chicken. Mix chicken and peas into heated soup, pour over toast, eat with a fork. Also works well with black pepper or red pepper flakes sprinkled on top."

bowl of chicken a la king

16. "Curry bean soup. Dump mixed dry beans in pot, hydrate overnight, then cook all day with curry powder and other spices based on personal preference. Add one can of coconut milk or other cream and any veggies you have on hand later in the cooking process. Serve on rice."


17. "Bowls. Rice plus whatever veggies you have around (this is super easy because you don't even need to cook them) plus protein and sauce equals infinite easy meals."

rice bowl with tofu avocado corn carrots and edamame

18. "Creamed chipped beef on toast, probably more commonly referred to as 'shit on a shingle'. It was a weekly staple growing up in the '70s and '80s, and very filling."


19. "I take cornbread mix and make it according to the instructions and pour batches of it into my waffle maker. When they are done and brown, I top them with chili, cheese, and some sour cream. It is the perfect comfort meal."

waffle cooking in a wafflemaker

20. "One meal my mom used to make for us on a budget was something she called open face: egg noodles, cream of chicken soup, and chicken, cooked and mixed together and served on top of a slice of white bread and a dollop of mashed potatoes."


21. "Try pastina people!!!! Cheap, filling and very yummy! Just need a stock cube, milk, butter, and pasta!"

bowl of pastina made using orzo

22. "My favorite broke until payday meal is 'fancy' ramen. We have this at least once a week. Fry up whatever veggies you have (this is a great way to use up leftover mushrooms, peppers, coleslaw mix, onions, etc.), cook up a protein or quick fry to heat up a leftover (if I have a solo chicken breast/thigh or fast fry beef I will cut it into bite site pieces and marinate it for 30 minutes in soy sauce, garlic and ginger. I used the minced options in a jar because they are way most cost friendly)."

"Cook up my ramen noodles and still everything together. Sometimes I'll have a fried egg on top. It's a great way to use up veggies that might go bad or leftovers. Always super filling, mine is usually good for two meals, and it's easy to change for a bit of variety."


23. "My grandma used to make me white rice, two eggs over easy, and amarillos (platano maduro, aka sweet plantains). Simple, delicious and inexpensive before inflation, lol."

dish of fried sweet plantains

24. "I love to make chicken and rice with my instant pot. I throw roughly a pound of whatever chicken I've got kicking around in the instant pot with half a cup of broth, a chopped up onion, a can of tomatoes and whatever other veggies and seasonings I feel like, and while that's going I cook a pot of rice on the stove."

"The chicken will finish cooking about the same time as the rice, so I take it out to cool so I can debone it if necessary and chop or shred it, and I put the rice in the cooker and mix it with the juice/broth from cooking the chicken and veggies. I let the flavors meld together for about ten minutes while I cool and cut/shred the chicken, then add it into the rice along with some olives, capers, chopped pepperoncinis, or lemon juice for acid. it's simple and a complete meal since it's got protein, carbs, and veggies. One pot makes enough for at least four meals, but usually closer to five or six."


25. "A staple for my sister that lasted throughout college and now as a single mom of two toddlers is bowtie pasta, chicken, broccoli, and parmesan cheese. Just dump it all together and you're good."

bowtie pasta with broccoli

26. "Mine is a can of tuna mixed with gochujang, kimchi, sriracha, spices, and mayo (or hummus) and eaten with rice, wrapped in roasted seaweed."


27. "I love besan chila (Indian gram flour pancakes). I like to do a batter with 2/3rds gram flour, 1/3 wheat flour, water, dried coriander, chili powder, salt and pepper. You cook it like an omelette or pancake. It's sooooooo good. I like to dip it into day old vegetable madras."

plate of besan chila

What's your favorite low-cost dinner? Tell us about it in the comments!