Cheapest full meals that serve the most food for me is Red Beans and Rice. Made this a lot in college. This meal goes really well with homemade cornbread.
Makes 6 hefty servings, 8 or 9 for a normal person
1lb Red Beans
1lb Smoked Sausage
1lb Ham (cubed or diced)
Cooking Oil (I use olive oil)
1-2 Bell Peppers
1 Med-Lg Onion
4-6 Cloves of Garlic
1 tsp Thyme
1 Tbsp Parsley
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp of seasoning (Tony's Chacheres, Louisiana brand, Slap ya Mama, etc. I use Tony's)
1.5 Cups Dry Rice
(Optional) 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
(Optional) 1 Tbsp Bacon Fat
1) Quick soak the beans if you don't soak them overnight. Quick soaking is putting your 1lb of red beans in a pot, cover with a few inches of water. Throw in 1.5 Tbsp of Salt and bring to a high boil, boil it for 2 minutes with no lid and then remove the pot from heat and let it sit for 1 hour with the pot lid on. After an hour, drain the pot into a strainer.
2) After quick soaking, add 3 cups of water and your beans to a stockpot, put in 1 tsp of salt and bring to a simmer. In a separate cast pan, put some cooking oil and heat up on the side.
3) Chop up all the vegetables (mince your garlic) and put them in the stock pot while the pot is coming to a boil, cut up the sausage, combine all the meats in the cast pan and brown them (I have a 12" pan, so I do all the ham in one rotation and all the sausage in another rotation).
4) Once you've browned the meat, combine everything in the stock pot. You can pour the oil from the cast pan into the pot too or add about 1 Tbsp of bacon fat to the pan if you keep bacon fat. Adding the olive oil is nice, but I don't know if I'd want regular vegetable oil in there.
5) Add all the spices to the pot. Keep the pot stirred at least every 15 minutes. On the side, make a pot of rice with 1.5 cups dry rice and 3 cups of water. It should take about 25 minutes total to make your rice.
6) Let it simmer for at least 1 hour after combining meat, but it's safe to eat after you've made your rice if you're on a time crunch. Simmering longer makes the texture creamier.
All in all, this recipe used to be cheaper, but it's still not bad.
Beans are $2
Meats are maybe $8-10
Vegetables and spices are maybe $4-5
Rice is almost nothing
Call it under $20