Sep 6, 2022

Cheap Eats on a Budget

Here are my favorite cheap and easy dinner ideas on a budget.
Featured Recipe Image

jump toRECIPE

Cheap Eats on a Budget 

Whether you’re spending the majority of your income on rent, saving for a big purchase or just trying to stretch your budget a little further, I recommend using these recipes that make the most out of a few inexpensive ingredients. In addition to my favorite cheap eats, check out more easy meals with these weeknight dinners

Tips for Cooking More with Less: 

  • Know what to look for. So, while vegetarian recipes using beans like chickpeas for protein are often cheaper than meals using fish or meat, there are inexpensive but flavorful cuts of both. Also, look for chicken thighs, ground pork or beef and top round beef that can be used for braising. 
  • Stock your pantry. Keeping some basic spices, vinegar and oils in your kitchen allows you to make the most with leftover ingredients, cutting down on food waste. When you have the kitchen basics you will need to buy fewer each week. Learn more about my staples here. 
  • Start with grains and pasta. Starting with a base of white rice, quinoa or spaghetti is a great place to begin. 
  • Buy in bulk. If you have the room, it’s often cheaper to buy things like grains and beans in larger quantities. 
  • Know how to store fresh produce so it doesn’t go to waste. I recommend storing potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place. Also, eep onions on the counter away from other produce – they produce a gas that causes other produce to ripen/ rot faster.
  • Avoid pre-cut/ packaged produce. Avoid pre-cut vegetables like squash and instead opt to cut them yourself. You will get more for less! 
  • Use your freezer. Rather than tossing any leftovers or letting them sit in the fridge for a week before trashing them, save portions in labeled freezer-safe bags. 

Note: The cost for these recipes is inclusive of the whole recipe list including bottles of condiments. The majority can be made much cheaper if your kitchen is already stocked with a few basics. 

My Favorite Inexpensive Meals

cacio e pepe spaghetti for Cheap Eats on a Budget
Cacio e Pepe 

Approximate cost = $19 or $9.50/ serving 

Cacio e pepe is a simple dish made with spaghetti and a sauce created from butter, black pepper, pasta water and Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. Also, eat on it’s own or pair with a simple kale salad, garlic bread or add roast chicken thighs.

homemade marinara sauce over spaghetti for Cheap Eats on a Budget
Simple Marinara Sauce

Approximate cost = $10.73 or $1.78/ serving 

Serve this simple and flexible marinara sauce over your favorite pasta shape or crispy polenta

beef chili in a bowl with sour cream cheese avocado and green onion with fritos chips
Classic Beef Chili

Approximate cost = $37.56 (without toppings) or $3.76/ serving 

Beef chili is a cozy fall or winter recipe. I like to eat it in bowls with all the toppings then serve leftovers over baked russet or sweet potatoes. Moreover, you can even serve it ladled over a hot dog topped with cheese.

ground pork larb with shallots and herbs for Cheap Eats on a Budget
Pork Larb 

Approximate cost = $20.53 or $5.13/ serving 

Pork larb is one of my favorite quick dinner recipes. I serve this pork larb recipe over white rice with sliced cucumber to turn this dish into an easy entrée. Also, omit the fried shallots for a shortcut.

smashed burgers beef patties with tomato pickles lettuce and cheese on potato buns
Smash Burgers

Approximate cost = $20.82 or $5.20/ serving

Smash burgers are a crowd-pleaser recipe! The patties are smashed with the back of a metal spatula to form a crisp exterior and then topped with American cheese, served with tomato, lettuce and pickles. The cost decreases if you already have condiments

cheap eats on a budget creamy gochujang noodles
Creamy Gochujang Noodles 

Approximate cost = $29.33 or $7.33/ serving 

Try adding some ground pork or spinach. A little gochujang goes a long way. Once you buy a container for these noodles, gochujang can be made into multiple dishes like this braised chicken leg recipe.

whole drumsticks and thighs in braising pot filipino chicken adobo
Filipino Chicken Adobo

Approximate cost = $18.66 or $4.67/ serving 

Chicken drumsticks and legs are both inexpensive cuts that are simmered in a simple garlic, soy and vinegar based sauce until the meat is tender.

spaghetti with rapini anchovy and chili oil topped with breadcrumbs
Spaghetti with Rapini, Anchovy and Chili Oil

Approximate cost = $27.60 or $4.60/ serving 

This twist on the Italian spaghetti, agilo e olio, which translates to “garlic and oil pasta”, is made with the addition of rapini or broccoli rabe, chili oil, anchovy and breadcrumbs. The addition of tinned fish adds a savory, umami element.

spaghetti squash lasagna boats cheese pull
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

Approximate cost = $24.63 or $6.15/ serving 

This spaghetti squash lasagna boat recipe has the comforting flavors of your favorite lasagna while keeping it on the healthier side. Swap the homemade marinara with store-bought or your other favorite sauce.

sichuan pan-fried green beans with ground pork over white rice
Sichuan Pan-Fried Green Beans

Approximate cost = $16.15 or $4.03/ serving 

This is a common budget friendly meal in my house. Green beans are pan fried with ground pork in a soy-based sauce. Serve over white rice for an easy and complete dinner. I like to add a little chili crunch or sambal for additional spice.

white bean and kale tomato soup with bread slice and basil
White Bean and Kale Tomato Soup

Approximate cost = $25.37 or $4.22/ serving 

This soup is made from just a few ingredients thrown together but tastes like you spent all day making it.

Mexican chicken street tacos with onion and cilantro topping
Mexican Chicken Street Tacos

Approximate cost = $18.57 or $4.64/ serving 

This recipe shows how simple seasonings can take chicken thighs to a whole new level. These street tacos are served with a mixture of onion, jalapeño, cilantro and lime on corn tortillas. 

budget eats soy noodles with broccoli and cashews
Cold Chinese-Inspired Noodles

Approximate cost = $23.06 or $3.84/ serving 

This family favorite is one of my go-to recipes to make for potlucks or to serve for a crowd.

Taiwanese three cup chicken
Three Cup Chicken

Approximate cost = $28.03 or $7.01/ serving 

Three cup chicken is an easy recipe made by stir-frying boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a syrupy sauce made with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil with garlic, ginger, green onion, chilies and basil leaves.

Pesto pasta salad
Pesto Pasta Salad

Approximate cost = $20.38 or $3.39/ serving 

Store-bought pesto combined with spinach, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes makes for a great pasta salad that comes together in 15 minutes. Serve on its own or with roasted chicken thighs.

Kimchi tuna salad sandwich melt for Cheap Eats
Kimchi Tuna Salad 

Approximate cost = $23.99 or $5.99/ serving 

Canned tuna is a great inexpensive way to add seafood to your diet as it is packed with vitamin D, iron and more. I recommend buying kimchi at an Asian market, it will be much cheaper than you can find at places like Whole Foods.

whole roast chicken for Cheap Eats
Lemon and Garlic Spatchcocked Chicken

Approximate cost = $16.96 or $4.24/ serving 

A whole chicken is much cheaper than buying multiple cuts with the average cost at $1.28/ pound since you aren’t paying for someone to take the time to butcher it. I like to eat roast chicken with roasted vegetables and potatoes or a side salad and then use leftovers in soups like this chicken and dumpling soup or in various dips.

creamy black bean soup for Cheap Eats
Creamy Black Bean Soup

Approximate cost = $25.57 (with toppings) or $6.39/ serving

This protein packed soup is easy to make and can be served with or without toppings. Without toppings this soup comes out to about $16.20 total. This is a great clean out the fridge meal to make before taking a trip since it’s made with shelf stable ingredients.

Follow me on Instagram for more updates!

Rate + Review


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *