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Cheap Recipes: A Good Ol' Southern Dinner for 4 for Under $5

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Many of my cheap dinner ideas include chicken.

Many of my cheap dinner ideas include chicken.

Cheap Dinner Ideas

I’m all about some cheap dinner ideas, especially when I’m feeding the grandkids. Even though they’re young, they often eat as much as Hubby and I do. Sometimes we treat the kids to something special, but more often, my meal ideas include cheap recipes. As any good southerner knows, cheap meals don’t have to be bland and boring. Use some creative seasonings and a tasty cooking method or two to turn cheap recipes into delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive meals for your family. Be sure to take advantage of local sales and discounts, too. I search for bargains at butcher shops, supermarkets, and local farmers’ markets. Try out these cheap dinner ideas the next time you want to keep your family and your pocketbook happy!

Oven-Frying Over Conventional Frying

Practically everyone in the South loves fried chicken, but fried foods don’t often qualify as easy recipes for dinner. But what if you can have the same flavor of fried chicken without standing over a stove? The solution is to try out some oven-fried chicken recipes. I’ve tried several, and the one I’m sharing here is one of my faves. The chicken turns out tender and juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Hubby loves French fries, but when I think of easy recipes for dinner, I think more along the lines of oven-roasted potatoes. When seasoned and cooked properly, they’re incredibly yummy, and like my oven-fried chicken, no skillet-tending is required. It’s also convenient that the chicken and potatoes can cook at the same oven setting and for the same amount of time. When it comes to easy cheap meals, this one is hard to beat!

I use lots of easy recipes for dinner, like this sausage, rice, and beans.

I use lots of easy recipes for dinner, like this sausage, rice, and beans.

Oven Fried Chicken and Roasted Potatoes

With the right timing, the recipe for oven-roasted potatoes, oven-fried chicken, and green beans will all be done at the same time. If you want to add a little spicy heat to the recipe for oven-roasted potatoes, include some cayenne or chili powder in the seasoned oil coating. Follow the steps I include to make the most of your time.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

45 min

1 hour 5 min

4 servings


  • 2 pounds chicken thighs or legs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Lawry's garlic salt with parsley
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, powdered
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large baking pan with foil. I make two sections with the foil – one for the chicken and one for the potatoes.
  3. Rinse chicken in cool water and blot dry with paper towels.
  4. Place flour in a Ziploc bag.
  5. Combine bread crumbs, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, and sage on a pie plate. Set aside.
  6. Shake chicken parts in flour, then allow to sit at room temperature while you cut the potatoes.
  7. Cut potatoes into wedges and place in a large bowl.
  8. Cover potatoes with oil, garlic salt, onion powder, and rosemary. Toss well to coat.
  9. Arrange potato wedges in a single layer on the baking pan.
  10. Place butter in a microwave-safe container and heat until butter sizzles. This took 45 seconds in my microwave.
  11. While the butter heats, whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl.
  12. Remove butter from the microwave and pour it into the section of the pan for the chicken.
  13. Dip floured chicken parts in egg wash. Roll pieces in seasoned bread crumbs.
  14. Place skin-side down in butter. Bake for 25 minutes, along with potatoes.
  15. Remove pan from oven. Turn chicken over, stir potatoes, and continue baking for 20 minutes longer, or until chicken juices run clear. Use this time to cook the green beans.
  16. Drain chicken on wire racks or paper towels. Serve with roasted potatoes, green beans, and sliced tomatoes.

Southern Green Beans


  • 2 cans green beans
  • Ham, bacon, OR 1 packet jamon powdered ham flavoring
  • Diced onion, onion flakes, or onion powder, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or Splenda
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Drain beans and pour liquid into a large pot.
  2. Add small pieces of ham, bacon, or ham seasoning to the pot.
  3. If you use the powdered jamon, add a tablespoon of oil or butter.
  4. Bring the pot to a rolling boil and add onion and sugar.
  5. Add beans and salt and pepper.
  6. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low.
  7. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
The grandkids don't mind inexpensive meals, as long as they're tasty.

The grandkids don't mind inexpensive meals, as long as they're tasty.

Coming Up With Your Own Cheap Dinner Ideas

How do you come up with cheap dinner ideas? I pour over the weekly circulars from the local supermarkets. I find out which meats are the best value, and I find items on sale that can be used as sides. When I saw chicken thighs and drumsticks on sale this week, I thought about what would go well with chicken. A different store had ten-pound bags of potatoes for $2.99, so I grabbed a bag. That’s only 29 cents a pound! The same store had their brand of green beans for two for a dollar, and their fresh tomatoes were $1.69 a pound, so I purchased almost a pound, which was two medium tomatoes. I was all set to make some cheap recipes!

I was able to make a great meal for four for less than $5. Here’s the breakdown of my budget-friendly meal:

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs or legs...$1.98
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes………...$0.58
  • 2 cans green beans..……………...$1.00
  • 2 medium tomatoes………………..$1.30
Chicken thighs are great for meals on a budget.

Chicken thighs are great for meals on a budget.

Chicken Is a Wonderful, Cheap Protein

Many of us have to create meals on a budget. Even so, we want the entire family to enjoy the meal ideas we come up with, and we want to make sure the meals are nutritious. My typical meals include a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. The most expensive part of any meal is usually the meat or other protein, but there’s a huge range of prices for these items, and high prices don’t always mean high quality.

Take chicken, for example. Boneless, skinless breasts are often about four bucks a pound, while bone-in breasts with skin attached are usually about two dollars per pound. Legs and thighs are even cheaper, yet they provide the same quality protein as the more expensive chicken parts. If you don’t want the added fat from the skin, remove it yourself.

When compared to most other flesh, chicken is perfect for meals on a budget. Since poultry is so adaptable, you can make lots of different cheap meals with chicken. These might include baked chicken, grilled chicken, broiled chicken, stewed chicken, chicken and rice, chicken and dumplings, chicken and dressing, barbecued chicken, stir fries, casseroles, and fried chicken. I make all these inexpensive meals on a regular basis.

How cheap is chicken in your neck of the woods? This week, one of our local stores had legs and thighs on sale for 99 cents a pound. If you want to save even more money, buy a bag of leg quarters and cut them apart yourself. I can usually find a large bag of leg quarters for 69 cents per pound. When I get them home, I separate them into meal-size portions and freeze them.

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