For many people, food makes up one of the biggest line items in the budget. And I know from experience how frustrating it can be to try to reduce your grocery spending with little to no success. The good news is that with a little digging, there are plenty of frugal meals out there to help you stick to your grocery budget.
Here are 35 delicious frugal meals that we've pulled from some of our favorite frugal living blogs. Plus we also share a few additional budget grocery shopping tips!
Frugal breakfast meals
Breakfast is one of the cheapest meals of the day, and one of the most fun! Luckily, there are plenty of recipes to help you spice up your breakfasts on a budget.
Here are some of what I consider to be the best frugal breakfast meals to try:
- Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches | Tastes Better From Scratch
- Spinach Egg Muffins | Life Made Sweeter
- Peanut Butter Overnight Oats | Minimalist Baker
- Sausage Egg Hash Brown Casserole | Good Cheap Eats
- 5-Minute Microwave French Toast Mug | Budget Bytes
Frugal pasta meals
Pasta is a go-to cheap meal for many families, but it can get boring after a while if you always default to the same recipe. By branching out and trying some new pasta meals, you’ll make it easy to incorporate this ingredient into your regular meal rotation.
Here are some of the best frugal pasta meals to try:
- Protein-Packed Thai Pasta Salad | Darn Good Veggies
- Spicy Dragon Noodles | Budget Bytes
- Easy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | Baker by Nature
- Budget Macaroni and Cheese | Taste of Home
- Creamy Chicken Pasta with Bacon | Good Cheap Eats
Frugal chicken meals
Chicken is definitely one of the most versatile protein options out there, meaning there is no shortage of great chicken recipes to choose from.
Here are some of the best frugal chicken meals to try:
- Southwest Chicken Skillet | Skinnytaste
- Slow Cooker 5 Spice Chicken | Budget Bytes
- Chicken, Spinach & Artichoke Quesadillas | $5 Dinners
- Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken | Natasha’s Kitchen
- Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole | EatingWell
Frugal beef meals
Ground beef is a staple ingredient for many families. You can stretch it out over several meals, and buy it in bulk when it’s on sale to freeze.
Here are some of the best frugal beef meals to try:
- Ground Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry | Savory Tooth
- Slow Cooker Lasagna Tortellini Soup | Chelsea’s Messy Apron
- Unstuffed Bell Peppers | Budget Bytes
- Cheese Beef Goulash | Lil Luna
- Sloppy Joe French Bread Pizza | Yellow Bliss Road
Frugal seafood meals
Seafood gets a bad reputation as being too pricey for frugal shoppers, but it doesn’t have to be! There are ways to make seafood fit your budget.
Here are some of the best frugal seafood meals to try:
- Coconut Salmon Curry | $5 Dinners
- Easy Fish Tacos | Spend with Pennies
- Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya | Not Eating Out in New York
- Tuna Salad with Lemon Aioli | MyRecipes
- Blackened Tilapia | Food
Frugal vegetarian meals
Going vegetarian, even if just for one meal per week, is a great way to cut down on your grocery spending. And many vegetarian meals can be surprisingly filling.
Here are some of the best frugal vegetarian meals to try:
- Quinoa Fiesta Enchilada Bake | Skinnytaste
- Chili Garlic Tofu Bowls | Budget Bytes
- Mushroom Risotto | $5 Dinners
- Sweet Potato Burrito Smothered in Avocado Salsa Verde | Cookie + Kate
- Roasted Veggie Brown Rice Buddha Bowl | EatingWell
Frugal soup meals
Soups make excellent comfort food, and are often some of the cheapest recipes to make! You can make them in large batches and freeze the leftovers, leaving you with quick meals to turn to on busy nights.
Here are some of the best frugal soup meals to try:
- One-Pot Squash Soup | Not Eating Out in New York
- Cheesy Ham & Corn Chowder | Taste of Home
- Broccoli Cheese Soup | $5 Dinners
- Potato Leek Soup | Skinnytaste
- 30-Minute Asian Soba Noodle Soup | The Fitchen
Tips for frugal meals
Planning your meals is one of the best ways to cut down on grocery costs. Without meal planning, you often just end up buying foods you know you like to eat. The problem is that then you buy more than you need for the week, and food ends up going to waste.
When you plan your meals in advance, you can be conscious ahead of time of how many ingredients you’re buying. Plus you can make an effort to find multiple uses for a single ingredient, therefore reducing the number of things you’ll have to buy.
Shop with a grocery list
Like meal planning, shopping with a grocery list is essential to cutting down on food costs. Without a list, you’re inclined to just grab whatever looks good at the time. And if you’re hungry, this is likely to be even more extreme. When you use a list, you know in advance what you need and can buy only what you wrote down in advance.
Here’s why many people overspend on food: They meal plan and grocery shop with the best of intentions. They have a delicious meal planned for each night of the week. But then life happens, and suddenly they lack either the time or the energy to make that delicious meal they planned.
Meal prepping can help you avoid this trap, by having some of the work done for you ahead of time. You can meal prep by pre-chopping your produce, pre-cooking your meat, or cooking a batch meal to eat for several days at a time.
Try meatless Mondays
For many families, meat is the most expensive ingredient on their grocery list. And since many people eat meat at every meal, it can really add up.
A great way to cut grocery costs is to incorporate a meatless meal at least once per week. There are plenty of very low-cost alternative proteins. You could even take this one step further by challenging yourself to eat meat just once per day instead of at each meal.
Shop what’s on sale
Many people plan their meals without considering what’s on sale that week. This can be a huge mistake. Buying what’s on sale is an effective way of reducing your grocery spending.
One great tip is to pay attention to the protein on sale at your local grocery store. If you can find a great deal on a particular meat, you can plan all your meals for the week around that one ingredient.
Buy whole foods
It’s tempting to buy the pre-chopped produce, prepared foods, or single packaged services you can find at the grocery store. It takes a lot of the work out of it for you.
But if you’re on a grocery budget, shopping for these items can be harmful to your wallet. They often cost significantly more than if you just bought whole foods and prepared the item yourself.
Use cashback apps
Cashback apps like Ibotta or Fetch Rewards are an excellent way of getting money back for purchases you’re already making. To use these apps, you simply have to scan your receipts and you’ll get a small amount of cashback. Sometimes it’s only a few cents, but other times it can be considerably more. And it really adds up over time, putting money back into your wallet.
The bottom line
If you’ve tried and failed at sticking to a grocery budget, it can be easy to throw in the towel. But there are plenty of recipes out there that allow you to eat a delicious meal on a budget. And with the right frugal shopping hacks, you’ll have no problem cutting back on your food spending.