47 Easy and Cheap Meals That You Can Make Today On A Tight Budget

47 Easy and Cheap Meals That You Can Make Today On A Tight Budget

Are you looking for easy and cheap meals that you can make today on a budget? 

I sometimes feel like I am stuck in a food rut where I keep cooking the same things over and over again. Or I find myself staring at the fridge at 5pm, unsure of what to make for dinner.  Sound familiar? Please tell me that I’m not the only one. 

But I do have to say that I am the master of throwing a meal together using whatever ingredients we have.  And it usually comes out pretty darn good.  

But life is so much easier when I don’t have to think about what to make or have to come up with a last minute meal.  

It’s nice to have that recipe arsenal of budget friendly family meals at the ready for when life gets busy.  Which is why I have compiled this list of cheap, easy meals that you can make today.  

These recipes use ingredients that you most likely already have on hand and that don’t cost a fortune.  

Some of the links below are affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate we will earn a commission from qualifying purchases if you decide to make a purchase through our link, at no additional cost to you.

How to have a stress free week of cooking

I’ve also found two great ideas to decrease stress at mealtime: 

  1. Meal Plan
  2. Meal Prep

These two simple strategies will get you organized, decrease the mealtime stress, and get dinner on the table fast.

Meal Planning

Planning your meals ahead of time can be beneficial in many ways.  Already knowing what you are going to make for the week makes it easier to come up with a shopping list.  And having a shopping list, makes that trip to the grocery store so much faster, saving both time and money.  

The best plan of action is to meal plan for the entire week and make your grocery shopping list at the same time.  

Deciding which meals or recipes you will make on each day of the week will take the guesswork out of your day.  

Going in with a plan and being organized gives you more time for the other things that are more important in your life.  

Easy Meal Prep Ideas

Meal prepping will help to decrease the time spent making each meal as well as cut down on cleanup time, which lets face it, is everyone’s least favorite part of cooking. 

If you have planned out your meals for the week, made a grocery list, and bought all of your ingredients then it’s time to meal prep. 

A great meal prep idea is to find a day that is not too busy and use this day to get as much prepped for the week as possible.  

What can you prep ahead of time? 

  1. Wash and cut all the vegetables that you need and put them in containers labeled with which meal it goes with. 
  2. Prep and marinate your meats
  3. Cut all large fruits so that they are ready to snack on  – Pineapples and Melons
  4. Put your leftovers into individual containers to grab the day.
  5. Make ahead freezer meals are also great to prep, freeze, and have ready to put in the oven. 

Yes, meal prep takes time but it also makes cooking your actual meals much faster with less cleanup.  I always say that I’d enjoy cooking even more if I had a sous chef, which isn’t going to happen so this is the next best thing.  

How “Make Ahead Freezer Meals” Can Save You Time:

Have you ever made freezer meals?  

I don’t do it very often but am always happy when I can take a meal out of the freezer to defrost in the morning and then pop into the oven at night.  

A quick tip: If you are going to take the time to make one meal that is freezable (think casserole, lasagna, etc) then why not make two and freeze one to cook at another time? 

Easy, Cheap and Frugal Recipes For Any Budget:

Whether you are looking for cheap meals for large families, budget friendly healthy meals, or just an easy prep recipe for a quick dinner, you are sure to find something on this list to try.  

The recipes range from vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, to comfort food.  The one thing they all have in common is that they are simple recipes that use readily available ingredients

** Recipes that we make and love

Quick and  Easy Breakfast Ideas

1. Low Carb Keto Egg Muffins 

See how to make easy Keto Egg MUffins for a grab and go breakfast that you can meal prep.  This method (with variations) makes the best breakfast egg muffin cups recipe. 

Muffin Tin filled with Egg Muffins
Low Carb Keto Egg Muffins – Wholesome Yum

2. Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oats (Crockpot)

This Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oats Recipe is a simple 5-ingredient dish that is largely hands off.  After cooking in the crockpot overnight, you can top it however you wish.  Simple, wholesome, and budget friendly.

3. Chunky Monkey Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Liven up your morning with this Chunky Monkey Quinoa Breakfast Bowl.  The combination of creamy peanut butter, sweet bananas, and rich dark chocolate will send your taste buds into overdrive.  It’s super nutritious too!

A breakfast bowl filled with quinoa, bananas, and chocolate
Chunky Monkey Quinoa Breakfast Bowl – Vegan Huggs

4. Banana Pikelets

These healthy Banana Pikelets are super easy to make with just a handful of ingredients you probably already have at home.  They freeze well and make excellent budget and family friendly breakfast, lunch, or snacks. 

**5. Easy Overnight Oats

Learn how to make the perfect overnight oats that are loaded with flavor.  I love all of the different mix-in options to try each day of the week.  Plus, overnight oats are the best time saver for those quick breakfasts before leaving the house.    

Low Cost Lunch and Brunch Recipes

6. Napa Almond Chicken Salad

This absolutely delicious chicken salad was inspired by the Napa Almond Chicken Salad at Panera.  It is easy to make at home and tastes so much like the restaurant version. 

A plate with an almond chicken salad sandwich on it
Napa Almond Chicken Salad – From Valerie’s Kitchen

7. Lazy Falafel (Vegan & GF)

This Lazy Falafel recipe is super easy to make.  It will take up less than 30 minutes of your time and tastes every bit as delicious as the traditional version.  

Vegetarian Falafel with a side salad and sauce
Lazy Falafel – Rhian’s Recipes

8. Tassili’s Raw Spicy Kale Salad Wrap

With less than 10 ingredients, this recipe is easy, fast, and simple to put together.  Delicious and nutritionally dense, this Raw Spicy Kale Salad Wrap makes a great lunch or dinner. 

Someone holding a Raw Kale Wrap Sandwich
Raw Spicy Kale Wrap – VGN Way

**9. (How to Make) Frittatas

We make frittatas every week and eat them for breakfast or brunch. They are so simple to make and once you have the method down, you can add in whatever meats and veggies that you want.  It’s a great way to clean out the fridge and get a meal on the table fast. 

10. Chili Garlic Tofu Scramble

A delicious protein rich recipe that is light, healthy and budget friendly.  It only takes 20 minutes to make and is great for either lunch or dinner.  

A bowl of chili garlic tofu scramble with rice and cucumbers.  The cooked dish of Chili Garlic Tofu Scramble and a bowl of cucumbers on the side.
Chili Garlic Tofu Scramble – Go Healthy Ever After

11. Panera Steak and Arugula Sandwich

This oven baked steak and arugula sandwich is like a baked grilled cheese (but better!).  This sandwich is a great high protein option for lunch or dinner.  It can be made with leftover steak and tastes even better than the Panera version.  Nutrition facts included!

12. Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Pesto Tart (GF)

A vibrant, beautiful tart packed with flavor and completely gluten free!

A cutting board with a Spinach and Goat's Cheese Arugula Tart on it.  Pizza cutter is placed on the side.
Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Pesto Tart – A Mummy Too

Simple Soups, Salads and Side Dishes

13. 5 Alarm Firehouse Chili

This easy and budget friendly meal is full of flavor.  You will love that it can be made ahead of time, is a one pot recipe, and is great for those make ahead freezer meals.  

A bowl of chili topped with sour cream, green onions, and tortilla chips
5 Alarm Firehouse Chili – Foodology Geek Kitchen

14. Poor Man’s Stew – Slow Cooker

Poor Man’s Stew is a budget friendly meal made with ground beef and costs less than $2 per serving! It’s very simple to make and Whole30 and Paleo compatible.  This recipe can be made in the Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Dutch Oven. 

15. Zuppa Toscana Soup

This healthy and easy to make Italian soup has been made into a simple Instant Pot recipe. 

Amazon picks to simplify your cooking:

16. Easy Vegan Chickpea Salad 

This chickpea salad is a tasty, healthy, and cheap make ahead dish that you can serve as a high-protein lunch or side dish.  It can be made in about 5 minutes when using canned chickpeas.  

17. Cannellini Bean Salad

This Mediterranean inspired Cannellini Bean Salad is made with canned beans and a few other flavorful ingredients.  Ready in 5 minutes it is the perfect no cook Vegetarian side dish for gatherings and busy weeknights.  

A glass bowl full of Cannellini Bean Salad
Cannellini Bean Salad – Cook At Home Mom

18. Watermelon Feta Salad

This refreshing sweet and salty Watermelon Feta Salad is a perfect summer salad to serve for backyard parties or BBQs.  Made with just 5 ingredients and ready in 15 minutes. 

19. Wilted Spinach With Garlic

Quick, easy and versatile – This Sauteed Spinach Recipe is a must have in your recipe repertoire.  Just combine the spinach and spices for a tasty side dish.  It is ready to eat in about 10 minutes.  

A black bowl filled with Wilted Spinach, Garlic Slices, and Chilis
Wilted Spinach with Garlic – Framed Recipes

20. German Potato Pancakes (Vegan)

These delicious vegan German Potato Pancakes or Kartoffelpuffer are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  They only require 3 staple ingredients and 30 minutes to make.  They are perfect for a quick lunch, dinner, or side dish that everyone will love.  

German Potato Pancakes on a plate with a sauce on the side

**21. Easy Crunchy Asian Slaw

This non-mayo slaw has amazing flavor and is really easy to put together.  Prep the veggies and the dressing ahead of time, store separately then just stir it all together before serving.  

Easy and Cheap Meals For Dinner

22. Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks

Only 3 ingredients! When you bite into the juicy Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks with Whiskey Barbecue Sauce you will fall in love.  Tender chicken, cooked to perfection. 

A plate with 3 BBQ Chicken Drumsticks on it.  Forks set on the side of the plate
Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks – Home Fresh Ideas

23. Crockpot Lemon and Garlic Whole Chicken

Making a whole chicken in your crockpot is easier than you think.  This lemon garlic whole chicken is both delicious and comforting.  Leftovers can also be repurposed in a variety of ways.  

24. Instant Pot Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

This is a foolproof weeknight dinner that requires no continuous stirring or babysitting.  This creamy and flavorful risotto is easy to make and something that everyone will enjoy. 

A bowl of risotto with mushrooms and spinach
Instant Pot Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach – Nourish Plate

25. Easy Filipino Chicken Adobo

The iconic Filipino Chicken Adobo can easily be turned into a low-carb and gluten-free chicken dish.  It’s quick and easy to make plus it gets more flavorful after a day or two so it is great for leftovers. 

26. Easy Chili Garlic Noodles 

Chili Garlic Noodles is a very simple and tasty Asian noodle recipe that needs just a handful of basic ingredients and is ready within 30 minutes.  

A bowl of Chili Garlic Noodles
Chili Garlic Noodles – Green Bowl 2 Soul

27. Baked Southern Mac and Cheese

Rich and creamy mac & cheese topped with crunchy bread crumbs.  This indulgent dish brings comfort food to your table in less than an hour. 

A glass baking dish of Mac & Cheese
Baked Southern Mac & Cheese – Baking Beauty

28. Biscuit Pizza Puffs

These pizza puffs are perfect for the whole family as a meal or snack.  So good and easy! Made with simple ingredients and kid approved.

Mini Pizzas made on biscuits with cheese and pepperoni on top
Biscuit Pizza Puffs – Stef’s Eats and Sweets

29. Easy Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry

Homemade Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry is an easy 30 minutes weeknight dinner made with the best sauce ever.  It satisfies the “take out” craving and is loved by the whole family. 

A pan of Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry - Chicken, Broccoli, and Peppers
Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry – Little Sunny Kitchen

30. Caribbean Creole Chicken 

This Carribean Creole Roast Chicken is so easy – just give it a quick marinade then bake it in the oven. 

31. Quick Red Beans And Rice

By adding bacon (or sausage) onion and spices, you will be able to transform canned beans into a pantry dinner worth getting excited about.  And dinner can be ready in only 30 minutes.  

A pan with cooked red beans and a bowl of white rice on the side
Red Beans and Rice – Nibble and Dine

32. Cream Cheese Pasta

This is the best cream cheese pasta recipe using just a few ingredients and it is ready in about 15 minutes. 

33. Simple Recipe For Spinach Dal

A quick and easy dal with spinach that needs no curry powder or coconut, yet it is full of flavor with a creamy texture.     

Spinach Dal – Go Healthy Ever After

34. 10-Minute Gluten Free Chicken Fried Rice (GF)

This chicken fried rice is so quick and easy.  It is also a great way to use up leftovers. 

35. Lemon Chickpea and Rice Casserole (Vegan and GF)

A super easy dump-and-bake meatless meal for the family.  This Lemon Chickpea and Rice Casserole is a healthy, hearty, vegan, gluten free, and allergy free dinner idea.  Dairy-free, creamy, and zesty, this casserole recipe can be made ahead of time, is freezer friendly, and a comforting weeknight meal everyone will love. 

Lemon Chickpea Rice Casserole with one serving in a bowl
Lemon Chickpea and Rice Casserole – Strength and Sunshine

**36. Mediterranean-Style Garlic Shrimp

For a quick and easy meal, shrimp is our go to.  Shrimp take a minute to prep but cook really fast.  This recipe can be made even easier by meal prepping your ingredients ahead of time.  

Amazon picks for easy cooking and meal prep:

37. Instant Pot Chicken Enchiladas

Prepare chicken enchilada filling in the Instant Pot then assemble and bake in the oven.  This easy make-ahead meal can be prepped in advance and even frozen for later use. 

38. Vegan Kung Pao Chickpeas 

Chickpeas are cooked in a super flavorful yet healthy vegan kung pao sauce.  This dish is really easy to make and is better than takeout!

A pan and a bowl of Kung Pao Chickpeas
Kung Pao Chickpeas – My Plantiful Cooking

39. Vegan Enfrijoladas

This Mexican recipe is made using basic pantry ingredients.  It is a quick, easy, and inexpensive recipe that is vegetarian with a vegan option. 

40. Baked Feta and Tomato Pasta

Baked Feta Pasta is a popular recipe that is not only easy, it’s affordable and delicious.

A dish of baked feta and tomato pasta
Baked Feta and Tomato Pasta – Quiche My Grits

**41. Crispy Pork Carnitas

We love us some tacos in this house and use our slow cooker to make the pork.  It’s so easy and convenient to put everything into the slow cooker in the morning and forget about it until dinner time.  Crisp the meat in the oven before serving.  It’s so easy!

Simple Budget Friendly Desserts

42. Victoria Sponge Cake

A light and fluffy vanilla sponge cake is paired with a vanilla buttercream and jam.

A slice of a Victoria Sponge Cake on a black plate

  **43. Sea Salt & Olive Oil Brownie Cookies

This is a recipe that was given to me by a friend.  She made them for us the last time we visited her and my mouth is watering just thinking about them.  They are rich and chocolatey but have a little bit of sea salt for that sweet and salty mix that I love.  Try them – you will not be disappointed!

44. Lemonade Popsicles

These homemade Lemonade Popsicles are super refreshing.  With just three ingredients they are cheap and easy to make.  Perfect to cool off on a hot day. 

Lemonade popsicles with lemon slices on a counter
Lemonade Popsicles – Keep Calm and Eat Ice Cream

Easy Homemade Snacks 

45. Smoky Air Fryer Chickpeas

Up your snacking game with these Smokey Air Fryer Chickpeas.  They are quick, easy, healthy, and a little bit addicting.  No Air Fryer?  No worries, an oven method is included too!

A bowl of air fried chickpeas with Lemon wedges on the side
Smokey Air Fryer Chickpeas – Vegan Huggs

**46. Crispy Parmesan Garlic Edamame

Take your edamame to the next level by adding grated parmesan cheese, which crisps up as they bake in the oven.  Best if eaten the same day…which trust me, won’t be a problem. 

47. Easy Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

These no bake Cookie Dough Bites will satisfy your sweet tooth.  The recipe is egg-free, they take less than 5 minutes to make, and will last in the freezer for months.  

A bowl of no-bake cookie dough balls with chocolate chips
No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites – Bite Sized Kitchen

Final Thoughts On Creating Budget Friendly Family Meals

Don’t let the thought of cooking and getting a healthy dinner on the table overwhelm you.  

The best way to beat the dinner time stress is to Meal Plan and Meal Prep.  Using these tools will help you to be more organized and you won’t have to stand there staring into the fridge at 5pm wondering what’s for dinner.  

Another tip is to invest in the tools that will make your life easier.  Small kitchen appliances such as the Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, and Air Fryer may make cooking a little simpler for you.  By using these gadgets you will have less time spent standing at the stove and it will create more free time for you to take care of the other important things in your life. 

I hope you were able to find some new recipes that you love.

  And if you have any easy and cheap meals that you keep in your repertoire for those busy days, put the recipe in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you and am always looking for new recipes to try!

Related Articles On How To Stick To A Budget and Save Money:

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What you can do in one month to save money and transform your finances

Pin It For Later:

Pinterest Pin showing 3 different frugal meals that you can make today

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