40 Frugal Recipes for Tough Times

We’ve all been through tough times. Sometimes a tough situation is financial, sometimes it is caused by overtaxing ourselves, or sometimes its simply a unique situation that is causing stress.

Regardless, any time that we hit tough circumstances, it’s incredibly important to find cheap and easy meal ideas that don’t require much thought.

Below I’ve compiled a list of recipes. Some are simple to whip up at last minute’s notice. Others are perfect for making ahead so you can save yourself some time and thought when you’re at your busiest. I’ve left notes about some of the recipes, while others require no comment and simply link to the recipe.

Let’s dive in!


Strawberry Overnight Oats for a Crowd

Freezer Breakfast Burritos – If you’ve got some extra eggs and some extra time, freezer breakfast burritos are a great meal to make. It’s like an insurance policy for those later days when you’re too tired to even think! Just pop a couple burritos out of the freezer and microwave to have an easy, quick, and filling meal.

Breakfast Rice – Did you panic buy a huge bag of rice and now you’re not sure what to do with it? Breakfast rice is a super-affordable, delicious and easy option.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins – Muffins are another great make-ahead that can be frozen for breakfast or snacks!

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Pancakes – Pancakes are an up-front time commitment to make, but they are so delicious and freeze well. Plus, making pancakes is an easy way to get kids helping in the kitchen and working on those math skills!

Scrambled Eggs – Scrambled eggs are so easy to make and very customizeable. Serve with salsa for a little bit of spice, or top with cheese or eat plain for a classic feel. I love making scrambled eggs for a last-second dinner!

Eggbake -This is so easy to make ahead, giving everyone in the family an easy, healthy option for breakfast even while everyone is still kind of sloth-y (is that a word?!) in the morning. Heat it up while you wait for your coffee to brew and you have a delicious, affordable meal to sit down to without having to break a sweat!

Cornbread – Top your cornbread with jam for a quick and easy breakfast. Or go Southern-style and serve it crumbled in a bowl with milk. You can also use it to make a breakfast sandwich with a fried egg and some sausage. There are so many tasty different ways to use cornbread for breakfast!


DIY Peanut Butter and Jelly Uncrustables

Microwave Baked Potato

Classic BLT Sandwich

Tuna Melt

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Build Your Own Subs – While generally hailed as party food, this is also a great way to feed a larger family for lunch. Then use your leftover tomatoes, lettuce, etc. to build a taco bar for dinner!


With Rice

Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry (Vegan)

Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls

Build Your Own Burrito Bowls – This recipe is perfect if you have different dietary needs among your family members! She uses taco meat, but you can mix it up with chicken, pork, or even steak or seafood if you’re feeling fancy!

Honey Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry – This stir fry is one of my favorites! A great way to use up veggies that are on their last leg–just throw in whatever you have on-hand.

Chicken Fried Rice


Lemon Garlic Pasta

Easiest Dinner Ever: Spaghetti Aglio, Olio, e Peperoncino

Pesto Chicken Pasta with my favorite Homemade Pesto (Make it with almonds, it’s cheaper!).

Beef Ramen Stir Fry

Creamy Bow Tie Pasta with Mushrooms, Spinach, Carmelized Onions


Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili -This is a super-easy recipe! It goes great with cornbread, and my little guy loves it. I’ve tried a lot of different chili recipes and this is the only one he’ll touch!

Leftover Hambone Soup

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup – Chicken Noodle Soup is my go-to comfort food. Serve with Easy Homemade Bread for a delicious, filling meal!

Egg-Drop Soup – This link will take you to a YouTube video by Clara, who makes Egg-Drop Soup the way they did in the Depression. She uses water as the broth. Personally, I prefer to use chicken broth, but either way works!


Canyon Casserole


Pork Carnitas


Hard-Boiled Eggs

Soft and Chewy Banana Bread Granola Bars

No-Bake Energy Bites


Crazy Cake – There are so many different versions of Crazy Cake out there! It’s a depression-era recipe that uses no milk or eggs. This cake is delicious, allergy friendly, and incredibly affordable to make!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Edible Cookie Dough

Do you have any favorite recipes you turn to when times are tough? I’d love to hear about them!

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