Casserole topped with green onions and cheese in a yellow dish on top of a wood cutting board.

15 Cheap Meals For Anyone on a Budget

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Going out to restaurants and eating fast food can be incredibly expensive. One of the most significant ways to stretch your budget is by making cheap meals at home.

To save money on groceries, you need to get creative by cooking cheap recipes. 

People commonly associate eating on a budget with eating things like packaged ramen, canned chili, or pasta every night.

Before you go out and buy enough ramen to last a month, there’s a better way to stretch your food budget. You can still enjoy fresh, flavorful, and delicious home-cooked meals without breaking the bank.

Cheap Meals to Make

Below you’ll find cheap breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. While these easy recipes might use inexpensive ingredients, you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing taste.

There are some great family-friendly meals included too.

Cheap Breakfasts

Shortcut Apple Fritter Bread

Who doesn’t love a good shortcut? Especially when it involves making gooey and wonderful apple fritter bread.

Many apple fritter bread recipes use 14 or more ingredients; this recipe only has five and is much easier to make.

This recipe costs only $1.01 per serving and uses pre-made biscuits and apple pie filling.

Get Recipe From Easy Budget Recipes

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

This filling casserole recipe is hearty and made with sausage, eggs, cheese, and a bottom layer of crescent dough.

Not only will it keep you full for hours, but it’s also an easy dish to make to feed a big family and kids.

Get Recipe From The Lazy Dish

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

You can’t find an easier breakfast with only five minutes of prep time to throw all the ingredients together.

One commenter wisely pointed out that this recipe is inexpensive because, besides the almond milk, all the ingredients are non-perishable, so you can use them to make multiple batches.

Get Recipe From Minimalist Baker

Spinach, Egg, and Cheese Bites

These egg bites are loaded with protein and will give you the energy you need to start the day.

Store them in the fridge and reheat them in the microwave when you need a quick breakfast.

Get Recipe From Real Housemoms

Cereal Bars

Ready in only ten minutes, these cereal bars are kid-friendly and delicious.

Since you can use any cereal, this recipe is incredibly versatile. Changing the cereal will make it so you’ll never get bored of these bars.

Get Recipe From I Heart Naptime

Cheap Lunch Recipes

White Bean Salad

Made with simple ingredients you may already have in your pantry, this white bean salad is appetizing and healthy.

Since it only takes ten minutes to make, it’s also an excellent lunch to prep ahead of time in a big batch, so you’ll have lunches all week long.

Get Recipe From Simply Recipes

Pizza Bagel Bites

If you have kids, finding a lunch they love that the adults find tasty too can sometimes be challenging.

Kylie from Midwest Foodie mentioned a great tip: “Let your family make their own bagel bites! This is one of our family’s favorites because we can get each top of our bagel pizzas with whatever we want.”

These pizza bites will win everyone over in your household, and you only need four ingredients to make this delicious lunch.

Get Recipe From Midwest Foodie

Tuna and Egg Salad

Canned tuna is a cheap protein source and a wonderful pantry staple to stock up on when you see it on sale.

Kim from Kim’s cravings highlights some other creative ways you can serve this classic salad besides using bread to make a sandwich.

Serve the salad on cucumber slices, stuffed in an avocado, or as a lettuce wrap for a yummy keto or low-carb lunch idea.

Get Recipe From Kim’s Cravings

Pesto Pasta Salad

Pasta is another cheap grocery item to make sure you always have on hand.

Pesto, pasta, cheese, fresh greens, and crunchy bell peppers complement each other perfectly; you’ll love every bite.

This flavorful pesto salad is a great way to get your daily veggies.

Get Recipe From Gimme Some Oven

Ranch Chicken Tenders

Chicken tenders baked to crisp golden perfection with buttermilk ranch flavors are ready in only 25 minutes.

Whether you eat them hot or cold, they’re perfect for dipping in ranch or your favorite sauce.

Enjoy these chicken tenders for both lunch and dinner.

Get Recipe From The Frugal Girls

Cheap Dinner Ideas

Carne Asada Tacos

Marinated overnight and cooked on the grill, carne asada tacos have just the right smokey flavor.

If you’re someone that does batch cooking, you can freeze the marinated meat, then defrost and throw it on the grill when you want a quick supper.

Get Recipe From Good Cheap Eats

Vegetable Stir Fry

Meat can be costly; that’s why having a night or two of meatless meals a week can save you money.

Enjoy the stir-fry alone or with rice, noodles, ramen, or zoodles to make this meal even more filling.

Get Recipe From The Recipe Critic

Poor Man’s Lasagna

Cheaper than traditional lasagna, poor man’s lasagna is so easy to make you’ll want to make it over and over again.

This recipe is a creative spin on lasagna, made with penne pasta, sauce, herbs, ground beef, and multiple types of cheese.

Get Recipe From Fabulessly Frugal

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Incorporating some homemade soup recipes into your meal rotation is a smart choice when living a frugal lifestyle.

Making a double batch will last you multiple dinners, and you can even bring the leftovers for lunch.

Costing only $1.63 per serving, this is one of the cheapest soup recipes out there.

The secret to this cheap soup is that there is only a single chicken breast in the entire soup, but since it has beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, and other ingredients, you won’t even notice the small portion of chicken.

Since chicken can be an expensive ingredient, limiting the amount is a genius idea.

Get Recipe From Budget Bytes

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Making a recipe that requires buying ingredients, you don’t already have can be expensive.

It’s best to find some recipes that use items you already have in your fridge or pantry, such as these meatballs.

This recipe even gives you substitution ideas, so if you don’t have one ingredient, you can easily swap it out for something else you already have on hand.

Get Recipe From Fun Cheap Or Free

Cheap Meal Tips

Now that you have some inexpensive recipes, here are some easy tips that’ll help you save even more money on meals.

Always have a spare meal on hand in the freezer that you can make in a pinch. 

If you’ve had a long day and don’t feel like cooking, it’s tempting to order takeout.

By having a freezer-friendly meal you can make with little effort, you’re less likely to spend money on eating out.

Find some cheap snacks to enjoy between meals.

Finding some snacks to buy that are inexpensive yet satisfying will help you eat less when dinner rolls around.

Smaller portions of your meals can help stretch your budget and also mean more leftovers for the next day.

Learn how to find inexpensive recipes easily. 

Many of the recipes on this list are from blogs specializing in cheap recipes. But besides the obvious of finding recipes on frugal living blogs, how else can you spot inexpensive recipes?

Here are some tips for spotting budget-friendly recipes.

  • Look for recipes with a small list of ingredients. Shoot for recipes with five or fewer ingredients or at most seven ingredients.
  • Don’t buy special ingredients or herbs for one dish. If a recipe calls for a specific ingredient, but you know you won’t use any leftovers of the ingredient because it’s not something you commonly use, skip that recipe.
  • Pay attention to recipe reviews. Reading reviews and comments will save you from possibly making a bad meal that you don’t like, which can lead to food waste.

Don’t forget about simple ingredients. 

With hundreds of choices at the grocery store, it’s easy to forget about basic ingredients. However, opting for versatile ingredients you can use in multiple dishes is cost-effective.

Here are some simple and cheap ingredients to stock your freezer, fridge, and pantry with:

  • Beans and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Rice

Find recipes the entire family enjoys.

While not always possible, cooking just one meal that everyone in the family loves is much cheaper than cooking separate meals.

If you’re cooking a separate meal for the kids, that’s a lot of ingredients to buy, not to mention more work.

Find some kid-friendly meals that the adults in your household will also enjoy.

Final Thoughts

Cutting down on food costs is an effective way to save money. However, eating cheap doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy meals you and your family love.

These recipes have two things in common; affordability and flavorful 

Enjoy one of these amazingly cheap recipes this week. Now that you know how to find cheap recipes, you’ll never run out of ideas again.

This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.

About the Author

Annie Brown is a frugal living expert and the founder of Savvy Honey.

Her expert advice has also been featured in Yahoo Finance, BuzzFeed, GOBankingRates, Woman's Day, MSN, The Spruce Crafts, and more.

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