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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

3 Quick and Easy $1 Meals

If you're looking for affordable meals for your family, you can't beat using $1 ingredients. Check out some of the ideas below to save money and eat well on a tight budget.

I'd like to go ahead and throw out the disclaimer that these initially would have been $1 for each ingredient, but Dollar Tree has recently had to increase its prices to $1.25 for most items. However, despite the 25-cent increase, most of the items still remain available in their frozen and pantry sections, and you'll still be saving a lot more in most cases than shopping in standard grocery stores for the same products.

Let's get to it!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

A classic that most families enjoy, including the pickiest of picky eaters. My little one may shun the meatballs, but she'll still wreck the saucy pasta while the rest of us enjoy the beef. This is by far one of the easiest dishes to make, and it's even more appealing when you're only paying $4-$5 total instead of buying over $10 worth of ingredients elsewhere.

What You'll Need:

  • 1-2 bags of frozen meatballs

  • 1 package of spaghetti pasta

  • 1 container of spaghetti sauce*

*If you're unable to find spaghetti sauce, you can also use marinara as a substitute and just season it to taste.

How to Make It:

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package's instructions, and drain well after cooking.

  2. Preheat your oven, and cook the meatballs according to the package's instructions.

  3. Combine your pasta and meatballs with the premade spaghetti sauce. To help the meatballs grab the flavor more, you can also simmer the sauce before this step and let your meatballs cook an extra minute or two while mixed into the same pot.

If you're comfortable with modifying recipes, feel free to simmer your spaghetti sauce (or marinara) before use and add the following for a flavor boost: 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar, onion powder, and garlic powder. (I prefer to use those last two quite generously in my own meals, so just season to fit your tastes.)

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is another well-loved dish by most people, and it's actually quite versatile if you're feeling adventurous and want to add a bit more to the mix.

What You'll Need:

  • 2-4 cans of chicken (depending upon how meaty you want your soup to be)

  • 1 package of egg noodles

  • 2 containers (32oz. or other large size) of chicken broth

  • 1 can of veggies (ideally carrots or mixed vegetables)

How to Make It:

  1. In a large pot, pour in the chicken broth and season it with a little bit of salt. (If you have chicken bouillon cubes, toss one or two in to really boost the flavor!)

  2. Bring the broth to a boil and add your egg noodles, cooking them according to the package's directions. However, DO NOT DRAIN THEM! You're making soup, so keep the broth.

  3. Halfway through cooking the pasta, add in the canned chicken. If you'd like a bit more texture, you can also pan-fry the canned chicken in a bit of olive oil to add a bit of crisp and some extra flavor.

  4. During the last minute or so of boiling the pasta and chicken together, add in your canned vegetables. These can be whichever vegetable combo you prefer, whether solely just carrots like many chicken noodle soup recipes call for, or you can use mixed vegetables or just one particular specific veggie you like. However, it goes without saying that you should probably try to choose an option to complement the flavors of the dish well.

  5. After you're done boiling all of the ingredients together, remove the pot from the heat and place a lid over the top. Allow everything to cool down and the flavors to continue to blend.

This one typically doesn't take very long and is great when you're in the mood for something familiar, comforting, or just plain great for sick weeks or cold weather.

Homemade Pizza

My oldest kid's absolute favorite: homemade pizza. My partner is one of those "ugh, not pizza again people," but I am so down for it 24/7 just like the kids. My preteen's favorite about this though is that she is not only getting pizza, she's also getting to make it herself without much difficulty! Everyone's happy when homemade pizza is involved.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 premade pizza crust

  • 1-2 bags of shredded cheese (depending upon your cheesy-overload preferences)

  • 1 can of pizza sauce

  • any toppings you want (pepperoni, pineapple, bacon bits, etc.)

How to Make It:

  1. Preheat your oven to whatever is stated on the packaging's directions on the pizza crust. Get out your pizza pan to begin assembly. I strongly recommend lining it with aluminum foil to give you an easy cleanup.

  2. Brush your pizza crust with some olive oil or butter. (Nonstick spray works too, but doesn't taste quite as good, IMO.) If you want to season your crust with a bit of garlic powder, salt, or other flavorings or herbs, now is the time to do it. Place it onto the pizza pan.

  3. OPTIONAL: You don't have to further season your pizza sauce, but I strongly recommend it. Pour the sauce into a suitable size bowl and mix in a little bit of sugar, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. Mix well until evenly distributed.

  4. Evenly spread your pizza sauce onto the pizza crust, being sure to leave adequate crust space so your toppings and sauce don't overflow in the oven.

  5. Add your cheese (however much you'd like) and any toppings.

  6. Place your pizza into the oven and cook according to the pizza crust packaging's directions.

  7. Slice and enjoy!

The other great thing with homemade pizza is that you can customize it however you'd like and make the entire family happy. Also, a note because pineapple on pizza causes outrage: don't pair pineapple with red tomato sauce. That's just gross. The outrage is well-deserved. If you want an amazing flavor combo, use a garlic parmesan or other creamy alfredo-like sauce, and then add pineapple and bacon bits, and you will be amazed. It's one of our absolute favorites!

*More of these posts will be added in the future, so be sure to check back for additional affordable meal ideas!

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