This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here
Looking for dinners to make when your cupboards are bare and money is tight? Here are some of our family’s favorite ideas. Best of all, most of these are super quick and easy ideas, too:
Meals to Make When Your Cupboards Are Bare
1. Grilled Cheese
You can use any kind of cheese and any kind of bread!
2. Eggs and Toast
This is an easy meal that even younger kids can make!
3. Loaded Baked Potatoes
Get creative with whatever you might have on hand that would work as a topping: taco meat, chili, beans, ham, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. You could even do chopped chicken, salsa, and cheese.
4. Any Pasta With Pasta Sauce
If you have any canned tomatoes or ground beef or onions, you can add it to the sauce. Then, serve it sprinkled with any kind of cheese you might have on hand.
The options are pretty ended here: Peanut Butter/Jelly (or PB & honey — we love to toast the bread for a little extra something!) Egg Salad, Meat/Cheese, etc.
Tip: Did you know you can freeze PB&J sandwiches?
Use whatever taco-like ingredients you have on hand: Ground beef or turkey with homemade taco seasoning, beans, lettuce, chips, tomatoes, cheese, etc.
7. Crockpot Sausage and Peppers
This is a staple at our house. If I have kielbasa in the freezer and I’ve gotten peppers on markdowns, I’ll chop up both and add some onions or potatoes or sweet potatoes (if I have them) and cook this with a little water and seasonings in the crockpot for 4-6 hours on low. You can you serve over rice or pasta (if you didn’t include potatoes).
8. Meat/Potatoes/Frozen Veggies Hash
This was a standby recipe at our family’s house growing up. If we needed a quick dinner, we’d brown some ground beef with onions, and then add some chopped potatoes and fry those until tender. Then we’d add corn or peas. I think this recipe originally came from the More With Less Cookbook.
We like to spoon refried beans into a baking dish and top with cheese and then heat these up in the microwave (or you can bake in the oven) until heated through and then serve with chips and salsa or spread onto tortillas to make bean and cheese burritos.
10. Breakfast For Dinner
Breakfast foods are always a quick and easy pantry meal idea, depending on what you have on hand. Pancakes, Waffles, or French Toast served with eggs and/or bacon (if you have any) and fruit. You could also do a big pan of Baked Oatmeal and top it with any fruit you have and serve it with yogurt or milk.
Tip: Have extra eggs on hand and some meat and cheese? Make these yummy Egg & Cheese Bites.
Pantry Meal Ideas From My Followers:
Betsy said, “We have what I call refrigerator quesadillas. Tortillas, cheese and anything else leftover– chicken, ham, zucchini, corn, etc. Stick it in between tortillas and cheese and you’re pretty much set!
12. Have a Chopped Competition
One of my followers, Amanda, said that they love to play Chopped when they are trying to use up what they have on hand. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, Chopped is a TV show where contestants are given random ingredients and they have to make a recipe with those ingredients.) What a fun idea!
13. Tortilla Soup
Charity said: “I almost always have bullion, diced tomatoes, canned black beans, an onion or garlic and some veggies (typically celery, carrots and corn) and a handful of rice and crushed tortilla chips around. We’ll top it with shredded cheese.”
14. Cheater Chili
Tanya said: “I always have the ingredients for ‘Cheater Chili’ in my pantry and boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix. A can of chili beans, a can of white beans, a can of kidney beans (or whatever kind you want really) and a jar of Pace Picante sauce. Heat until hot. I add ground beef when I have it or have time, but it’s great without it too.
15. Barbecue Cups
Amanda said: “We make Barbecue Cups — ground beef with bbq sauce, place on top of raw biscuit in a muffin tin add cheese to top, bake in oven.”
What are YOUR favorite budget-friendly meals to make when money is tight?
P.S. For more ideas, check out this post on my Facebook Page.