Reducing your food costs is one of the best ways to lower your spending, and it’s easy to do when you have a list of delicious cheap dinner ideas that will get you excited about making dinner at home.
Many of these meals are more than just budget-friendly, they’re quick and easy for busy weeknights when you might be tempted to order carryout or run through the drive-thru. We all know that trap, and for anyone who needs to hear it… you definitely have food at home!
In this list, you’ll find cheap and easy dinner ideas for vegetarians, meat lovers, families, carb-conscious cooks, and more. There are even slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes, ones that make great leftovers, and some that are perfect for potlucks.
There are even a couple of cheap dinner ideas that cost less than $5 to make!
PS– I see some black bean and corn tacos (#7) in my near future.
Nothing says cheap quite like Ramen noodles, but this Quick Ramen Noodle Stir fry is a more dressed up and grown-up version.
It’s got green onions, ground beef, and sesame seeds, and stir fry means it’s going to come together quickly. You can easily turn this into a one-pan meal by adding some snow peas or carrots in too.
Being nutritious and inexpensive is one reason why having a good bean soup recipe is a must-have on your list of cheap dinner ideas. This hearty white bean soup makes for a perfect winter dinner. You can easily make a double batch and freeze your leftovers.
This recipe is from Budget Bytes, and I love this website because they give you a cost breakdown for every recipe on the site – and this rosemary garlic white bean soup costs under $5 for four servings!
This recipe literally only has three ingredients – pasta, pecorino romano cheese, and black pepper. Now we’re talking cheap and super easy.
The secret to this recipe is using splashes of the pasta’s cooking water to blend with the cheese and pepper into a creamy, cheesy, and delicious sauce. Adding a salad on the side would balance this cheap dinner idea out.
What really makes this vegetarian pad thai a great cheap dinner idea is that you can use up whatever vegetables you have sitting in the fridge. If you’re like me, then I know you’ve got something in there that’s about to go bad.
The eggs and peanuts add protein, vegetables make it nutritious, and noodles… who doesn’t love noodles?
This recipe hits all of your taste buds with a tangy, salty, and sweet sauce that looks beautiful tossed with lots of fresh veggies.
A frittata is a simple meal at heart – eggs, cheese, milk, and your favorite add-ins. This recipe gives you a template for making whatever kind of frittata your heart desires.
- Want lots of vegetables? You can add broccoli, spinach, or tomatoes.
- Want a meaty version? Throw in some ham or sausage.
- Do you just want to clean out the fridge? Use up whatever vegetables and cheeses you’ve got.
What you’ll love about this cheap dinner idea is that it makes great leftovers that you can eat cold, or it can be cooked in muffin tins for an easy grab-and-go dinner.
Read more at 36 Ways to Save Money Fast
Posole is traditionally a rich pork stew with hominy and chiles, and you can’t forget the toppings – lime, cilantro, and tortilla chips make it. This dish is a great way to use up leftover pulled pork or roasted chicken.
It’s a quick meal to make for busy nights, and you can make it even easier on yourself by putting it together the night before and reheat the next day.
Tacos are a staple at my house, and these ones are cheap and healthy. You’ve got black beans, an easy corn salsa (you can make it with frozen corn or leftover corn on the cob, and a cilantro “pesto” that has a tangy punch.
This is a great cheap dinner idea if you are entertaining, and would look beautiful with all of the components spread out on the table in bowls for a taco bar.
Instant Pots have made dinner exponentially easier, and this Instant Pot chili recipe will quickly become one of your favorite go-to cheap dinner ideas. This chili has a rich, smoky flavor with the addition of cocoa powder (don’t be scared!) and smoked paprika.
You can easily substitute the ground beef for ground turkey, and this is a great dinner to have for leftovers.
Read more at 7 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget
Yes, that says tofu, but before you scroll down to the next recipe, hear me out. This recipe teaches you how to prepare tofu in a way that actually tastes good… I promise! It’s marinated in a blend of soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and maple syrup, then pan-fried.
Make a side of steamed broccoli with this dish and you have a healthy, inexpensive option to Chinese take out.
Shakshuka is a North African and Middle Eastern dish that is simply tomatoes, onions, and spices with poached eggs. It’s incredibly flavorful, filling, and can be served for any meal of the day.
You can dress your Shakshuka up with chopped cilantro, feta cheese, and don’t forget some crusty bread or Challah to soak up the tomatoes.
If you’re looking for cheap dinner ideas that are also low carb, this is it. It’s also a one-pot, easy to clean up meal that makes for great leftovers.
Using pre-cooked sausages makes this recipe cook quickly, and you can use pork sausages, chicken sausages, or even veggies ones. You can also use whatever vegetables you have – bell peppers, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower would all be great additions.
Read more at Best Budgeting Apps and Personal Finance Tools
One of the great loves of my life is pizza. I could eat it any time of the day and with anything on it.
This pizza recipe doesn’t require any special equipment, but you will need to prep the dough in advance. Making your own dough will cut your costs, but you can also find premade pizza dough at most grocery stores. Trader Joe’s has a good premade pizza dough for around $2 and change.
Top this pizza with whatever you want – my favorite pizza toppings are tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and basil.
Crispy rice, a rich egg yolk, fresh vegetables, and a tangy sauce that brightens it all up and brings it to life… yum.
This recipe is full of pantry staples, like vinegar and soy sauce, and you can easily use dried ginger if you don’t have any fresh stuff. The cucumbers and carrots are amazing on it, but you can use any fresh vegetables you have in the fridge.
Chickpea sauce sounds a little weird, right? But, blending chickpeas with rosemary and garlic gives you a creamy sauce that rivals those with rich cream. And because it’s beans and pasta, you know it’s going to be a cheap dinner idea, costing less than $5 to make.
This recipe calls for dried beans, which cuts your costs even more, but you can easily use canned chickpeas if you forget to soak your beans overnight.
This cheap and easy dinner might be your next family favorite. It’s a healthier version of the classic chicken parmesan because you bake the chicken instead of frying it. And if you’re looking to cut back on carbs, serve it with just the chicken, marinara, and cheese.
This recipe is not joking about the “loaded” part – there is cheese, jalapenos, tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, corn, black beans, and ground beef. And just look at that picture! Doesn’t it look delicious!?
You can make this budget meal even cheaper by omitting the ground beef, which makes it a satisfying vegetarian meal. You can scale back on toppings, or add more, like radishes, avocados, tomatillo sauce, etc.
17. Easy Baked Ziti
Let’s talk cheap, easy dinner ideas for a second…
Between your job, your side hustle, and any other obligations, saving money by making food at home can sometimes be a struggle. This delicious, creamy, and saucy pasta dish has little prep work and then gets popped in the oven. Super easy.
You can even put it all together up to two days in advance and then bake when you’re ready.
If you don’t have a go-to vegetable soup recipe, this hearty vegetable soup is exactly what you need in your life. It’s packed with beans, veggies, a rich broth with tomato paste, lots of seasonings, and finished with some lemon juice.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the lemon juice! It brightens everything up with a little zing.
This is another budget-friendly dinner that can be made with whatever leftover veggies you have in the fridge, but you can’t go wrong with carrots and celery. If you want to get wild, throw in a handful of spinach or kale when it’s almost finished cooking.
The Instant Pot has been a game-changer for people who want quick and easy meals, and this one does not disappoint.
This cauliflower and butternut Thai curry recipe is an inexpensive stewed, spicy curry that would be great over rice or served with a side of naan. It’s also a great cheap dinner idea that works for a variety of dietary restrictions because it’s grain-free, dairy-free, low carb, and vegetarian. And it’s still delicious!
This might not be the most healthy option on this list of cheap dinner ideas, but oh boy does it look good. The idea is that you put all of your favorite cheeseburger fixings inside a tortilla, including pickles and special sauce.
These would be great for a crowd on game days. And for a meal in, you could balance it out with a salad, or not… you’re an adult – do what you want!
The final word on cheap dinner ideas
Once you’ve tried all of these recipes and still want to know more about how to eat cheap on a budget, here are some tips:
- Beans, beans, beans! They’re inexpensive, filling, and full of protein and fiber.
- Use everything in your fridge. Just because a recipe calls for a vegetable you don’t have, instead of running to the store, use something that’s been sitting in the crisper drawer about to go bad.
- Make enough for leftovers. Having leftovers for lunch or another dinner will make you less tempted to go out to eat or do takeout when you’re busy.
- Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Bottom line, meat’s expensive. With alternatives like beans or tofu, you can easily get the protein you need while saving money.