8+ Cheap Emergency Meals You’ll Want to Always Have on Hand

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woman wearing mask at grocery store shopping for oranges and cheap emergency meals

The current pandemic situation has many people running to the store every chance they get in order to stock up on necessities and cheap emergency meals to feed their family while they’re stuck in isolation. This panicked behavior is completely understandable during these uncertain times, however, when everyone is doing this, it causes shortages at the stores which does not help anyone.

This got me to thinking about how everyone really should stock up on some essentials and items to make “emergency” meals all year round, just in case. I have come up with 8+ Cheap Emergency Meals You’ll Want to Always Have on Hand in case of an emergency just like this one that is currently facing our world.

Stock Up With Non-Perishable and Freezable Items

These meals have very few ingredients and you can use the cheapest form of those ingredients to make them really cost-effective to easily fit within your budget. For example, dishes that call for noodles can be made with ANY kind of noodle that is cheap because let’s face it, pasta is pasta!

These meals are also shelf-stable or contain items that can easily be frozen such as cheese and butter. I have also listed substitutions to make these items even cheaper. You can also sub the meat for a veggie to make these vegetarian or vegan. Bread items can also be subbed for gluten-free.

plate of spaghetti with meat sauce for cheap emergency meals

8+ Cheap Emergency Meals You’ll Want to Always Have on Hand


  • One box or bag of any pasta
  • The cheapest ground meat (turkey, beef, chicken, pork)
  • Any can or jar of pasta sauce.

Brown the meat, add the sauce, cook noodles as usual and combine.

*You can make this even cheaper by omitting the meat!


  • Any taco shells 12-18ct. package (soft or hard)
  • One packet of taco seasoning (or make your own)
  • One pound of the cheapest ground meat (turkey, beef, chicken, pork)
  • One bag of shredded cheese (or get a block and shred your own)

Brown the meat, add the taco seasoning and a bit of water, bake hard shells for about 10 minutes on 350 degrees. Add meat to your shells and top with cheese.

*You can make this even cheaper by using refried or any other kind of beans in place of the meat!


  • One pound of the cheapest ground meat (turkey, beef, chicken, pork)
  • One large can of tomato juice
  • One can of chili beans
  • One packet of chili seasoning (or make your own)

Brown the meat, add the tomato juice, beans, and seasoning and cook until hot.

*You can make this even cheaper by replacing the meat with an extra can of beans!

Black Bean Soup

  • Two cans of black beans
  • Juice from one lime (or a small bottle of lime juice)
  • One can of Rotel tomatoes (or store-brand equivalent)

Simmer all of the ingredients on the stove or in your slow cooker for about 2 hours on high. (If you can squeeze it into the budget, this is great served with a cheap box of cornbread!)

Chicken Fried Rice

  • One box or bag of any rice
  • Six eggs
  • One-fourth cup of any oil or butter/margarine
  • One to two chicken breasts, or thighs or three to four legs or wings with the meat removed

Pre-cook the rice and chicken separately. Warm the oil or butter in a pan on the stove and add all of the ingredients and mix together until hot.

*You can make this even cheaper by replacing the chicken with a can or bag of mixed veggies!

Tuna Salad Sandwiches:

  • One loaf of bread
  • 4 cans of tuna
  • One small container of relish (or finely chop any dill pickles)
  • One small container of mayo

Mix the tuna, relish, and mayo in a bowl. Use as much relish and mayo as you like. Spread some tuna mixture on two slices of bread to make a sandwich. This should yield about 10 sandwiches depending on how much mixture you put on each.

*Optional: add some dill weed and chopped celery if you have it on hand for extra flavor and you can also top it with pickles!

Bonus Super Simple and Cheap Meals to Have on Hand

  • Boxed Mac & Cheese
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
  • Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
  • Tuna Helper
  • Hot Dogs
  • Beans & Weenies (hot dogs and baked beans)

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Thinking about grilling out this summer? Check out these 10 Irresistibly Cheap Recipes to Make for an Epic Summer BBQ!

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