When I first moved into my first apartment, I had a lot of reality checks. Some I was semi-aware of (why is furniture SO expensive anyway?) and others I wasn’t, such as grocery shopping.
And so based on my experience, I’ve gathered 25 of the cheapest meals from around the web, so you can not only dine in style, but you can slash that grocery budget too.
Table of contents
- 25 of the best cheapest meals
- Expert tip: Get creative with your emails
- Why cut costs on food?
- Additional tips to cut costs
- What meal is the least expensive?
- Can I buy enough groceries for the week for $50?
- What is a cheap meal that is most easy to make?
- Inexpensive food idea articles
- Try out this list of the best cheapest meals!
Keep in mind that cheap doesn’t mean unhealthy, unsavory, or lacking flavor! These are delicious and healthy meals that can also work as cheap easy meals, especially if you have kids or a large family.
Even if you have lots of room in your budget for groceries, this list of the cheapest meals can help you save more money while you’re grocery shopping on a budget!
25 of the best cheapest meals
These ideas are not only budget-friendly but also classic and simple to make. So check out these easy recipes that will make breakfast less stressful.
Cheapest meals for breakfast
Let’s start with the most important meal of the day…breakfast! Here are some cheap breakfast ideas for families that are easy to make and that taste delicious.
1. Breakfast casserole
A breakfast casserole is easy, and you may get multiple meals out of it! One of my favorites is this four-ingredient breakfast casserole with biscuits. It’s perfect to add to your list of cheap easy meals.
2. An oatmeal bar
Oatmeal is such a cheap staple by itself (either in a canister or by bulk) you can afford to jazz it up a little.
The Modern Honey website shares tons of different ideas for toppings, and none of them break the bank. You can always sub fruit out or in, depending on what’s in season, to make it even cheaper.
We also found this delightful lemon bar recipe that’s super easy to make!
Pancakes are always a cheap and easy favorite. For example, this pancake recipe from All Recipes is low in cost but high in flavor once you add in some butter and syrup.
4. Yogurt and fruit
This simple yogurt recipe teaches you how to make homemade yogurt with only two ingredients.
Top some homemade yogurt with honey or fruit, and you have a cheap on-the-go breakfast. Yogurt is also great in breakfast smoothies, which are filling and easy too.
5. Breakfast scramble
One of the easiest ways to save money at any meal is to cut meat, and this breakfast scramble from the Urben Life does just that. Just substitute the egg alternative for a dozen regular eggs, and this meal also comes in under $10 to make.
Plus, this yummy scramble contains healthy ingredients like mushrooms, red peppers, spinach, avocado, baby red potatoes, and eggs. And eggs contain protein. So it’s a win-win!
Cheapest meals for lunch
Whether you prefer hot or cold lunches, these ideas are sure to please! Plus, for some of them you can easily make extra and have leftovers for a few days.
There are so many different variations of wraps out there that you could easily make a different one every day for a month and not even have scratched the surface.
If you snag bacon when it’s on sale, you can make these bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado wraps in a snap.
7. Burrito bowls
If wraps aren’t your thing, try a burrito bowl. You can always grab rice and also beans for a fraction of the price of other foods.
Grab cheese when it’s on sale and a bottle of salsa, then voila! Instant lunch for a week for under $5. You can even get creative by adding guacamole in addition to other toppings to keep this meal interesting.
You can also try this chicken burrito protein bowl recipe if you aren’t sure where to start.
Soups and stews are top on the list of cheapest meals to make. Try this slow cooker chicken tortilla soup, which promises to come in at $1.63 a serving.
Remember, you can buy managers’ special chicken breasts or even chicken thighs to save more money on buying your meat!
Salad doesn’t have to be expensive or tedious. Check out this recipe for a chickpea tuna one. Chickpeas and tuna are both packed with lots of nutrition for a fraction of the price.
We can’t imagine this meal being too expensive, but we can imagine it being extra tasty. And it’s also a great spin on a regular tuna salad!
As mentioned above, there are various wraps for just about anybody, but we also wanted to share pinwheels because they are more fun and less messy.
This turkey pesto pinwheel looks like it’s going to be happening in my near future. I always suggest grabbing turkey from the deli because you can buy what you need and pick whatever’s on sale.
Cheap easy meals for dinner
Dinners can get expensive fast. So we rounded up easy dinner ideas that are good for the budget and yummy in the tummy!
11. Grilled cheese
Nothing says an easy dinner like grilled cheese. You need two slices of bread, some butter, and a slice of cheese to toast up on the stove. You don’t even need to use the oven for a cheese sandwich!
A meal like this can feed an army for less than five bucks, but we found fancier grilled cheese recipes if you are feeling adventurous. You can even serve it with tomato soup for an extra filling meal.
12. Skillet meals
Skillet meals are cheap and fast to whip up any dinner on a weeknight. For instance, this one-pot cheesy chicken broccoli and rice have three staple ingredients that are pretty cheap on price but not on flavor.
13. Sheet pan dinners
Like skillet meals, sheet pan dinners are a fast and cheap way to make dinner any night of the week. You can make easy chicken fajitas with this recipe or go even easier with this sausage, potato, and green beans bake.
Spaghetti is known as one of the cheapest meals to make on the planet that you can make with pantry staples. With a bottle of sauce available for under $2 and a box of pasta under $1, who’s to argue?
But for a little bit more, you can make your homemade sauce with meat. Got kids or a large family? Definitely add this to your list of recipes.
Sure, you could pick up some pizza somewhere fast and quick, but the key to making a frugal pizza is in the homemade dough. Check out this recipe from the Family Balance Sheet for $2.50 pizza or spend slightly more and make kid-friendly ones on garlic toast.
Try making a cauliflower pizza crust for a healthier alternative!
16. Baked potato bar
Potatoes are a cheap and filling vegetable. One of the most inexpensive and fun ways to serve up potatoes is in a baked potato bar.
Toppings such as cheese and sour cream can be purchased as store brands, while onions, bacon, and beans can be purchased when on sale or in season.
You can hit your sweet spot with some sweet potatoes and top them with brown sugar and marshmallows!
As a Latina, tacos were a staple in my house growing up, along with almost any type of soup. Tacos meant we could make ground beef stretch farther with potatoes.
Soup meant we could eat whatever vegetables were leftover from the week (Spoiler, it was always potatoes).
You can add whatever you have on hand to your tacos, including black beans, cheddar cheese, bell pepper, and also other common ingredients.
You can easily make your taco seasoning that tastes way better than the store’s and toast up some corn tortillas or tostadas. If you would like to up the ante, we found this recipe for some baked ones that are still frugal.
Just like tacos, quesadillas can be made frequently and are a cheap dinner idea. One way that I love to bulk up a quesadilla is to add sauteed veggies.
I like to pick whatever veggies are on sale and use up some cheese or tortillas that can be found with 10 for a dollar or two. Cheesy chicken quesadillas can be a filling meal that doesn’t break the bank.
All of the chili ingredients are cheap themselves, so it only makes sense that it’s on our list. Any beans will work, and you can substitute ground beef for ground turkey or leave it out.
You can also grab tomato sauce on sale along with whatever type of onion or pepper you want. Toppings are optional, but sure do make the meal. Don’t forget the chili powder!
20. Ham and cheddar croissant roll-ups
Looking for cheap recipes for families that are super simple to make? Try these ham and cheddar croissant roll-ups!
Grab just enough ham and cheese that’s on sale, along with a package of croissant rolls, to make this easy dinner a tasty yet frugal one!
21. Egg roll in a bowl
An egg roll dinner recipe can be made using rice which is an essential frugal staple. This recipe from Project Meal Plan allows you to use rice as a filler to make the meal go even further.
Try using brown rice for a healthier option. Brown rice has a bit more fiber which is good for you.
It also allows you to use up any leftover veggies you didn’t get around to using in other recipes.
There’s nothing quite like a well-cooked burger! Ground beef is one of the cheapest meats you can purchase for entrees. A pound of ground beef can cost up to $5.
However, a dollar pack of buns, a bag of frozen fries, and whatever condiments you have in the fridge can have you under $10 with this dinner.
You can swap out the fries with a cut-up cucumber for a healthier side dish.
Casseroles are not only easy and cheap, but they are also an easy food to freeze one day and then defrost when you need a quick meal.
It’s significantly less expensive and healthier to do this than to rely on a frozen one. And this chicken noodle casserole from the Country Cook is easy, filling, and tastes good!
Casseroles make tasty, cheap meals for large families!
24. Lo Mein
When made with ramen noodles, you can buy them for 30 cents a pack, plus frozen veggies. A lo mein dish like this one is what we call frugal and is perfect when it comes to easy cheap dinner ideas!
25. Baked chili hot dogs
You can’t have a cheap meal list without hot dogs, but we decided to find an even better recipe for some baked chili ones.
You can have a side of mac and cheese with it for a frugal side dish. Try it out, and thank me later!
Expert tip: Get creative with your emailsIt’s easy to be creative with your meals and still save a lot of money. Remember that the key to saving money is to not let things go to waste and also to keep your meals interesting!
So explore easy meal combinations and leverage platforms like YouTube for meal planning and cooking ideas.
Why cut costs on food?
Food isn’t cheap. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) estimates that a moderate budget to feed a family of four can range anywhere from approximately $600 on the cheaper end of things and go past $1,100 per month.
Spending that much on groceries could easily be up to 20% of a family’s take-home pay or even more.
Since this is such a vast variable expense, it only makes sense to cut here when you can to lead to better budgeting. So it’s essential to find ways to make your grocery store visits more frugal!
Additional tips to cut costs
So now you have ideas for the cheapest meals to make, but there may still be room to save money in your budget. Here are some key tips!
Don’t make fun of the extreme couponers you see on TV. You can find deals by checking out the best coupon websites or checking your weekly mail, online, or even on a store’s app.
I’m known to march up to customer service if my coupon for pasta wasn’t applied correctly! I manage to save between $5 and $10 a week on my groceries and household items.
Once you’ve made your purchase, you check your receipt, and all savings are applied to the account.
You can then cash your account out via PayPal. It can take some time to accumulate enough cash-out points, but you can easily earn $20 a month with one of these.
Planning what you’re going to eat is one of the most shared tips because it works. Meal planning allows you to shop the ads, make sure nothing goes to waste, and gives you a list of items to buy so you aren’t distracted while at the store.
You wouldn’t drive somewhere without directions, so it only makes sense to have a plan here too.
Utilize the freezer
The key to making cheap easy meals is to utilize a freezer! Many items that you can buy on sale can be frozen to help extend the life of the food and allow you to stockpile when you can.
What meal is the least expensive?
All of the meals on our list are very inexpensive to make, including pancakes, soup, and sheet pan dinners.
Can I buy enough groceries for the week for $50?
That depends on the cost of groceries where you live and how many people you need to feed. It is more likely that you will be able to spend less if you live in a low-cost-of-living area and are shopping only for yourself or a small family. You can check out our ideas for what to buy at the grocery store to maximize your budget.
What is a cheap meal that is most easy to make?
Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of the easiest cheap meals to make. They are easy to put together and are also a very inexpensive option.
Inexpensive food idea articles
If you enjoyed this article about the cheapest meals, check out these articles:
- 35 Delicious Frugal Meals For Every Food Category
- Meal Planning On A Budget! How To Do It!
- 25 Cold Lunch Ideas Your Budget Will Love
- 8 Tasty Frugal Meal Plans To Try!
Try out this list of the best cheapest meals!
Feeding your family doesn’t have to be the most significant variable item in your monthly expenses budget. As you can see, it’s possible to prepare healthy and simple meals without spending a fortune.
We hope these recipes and tips will help you cut here and spend more on other areas. When you spend less on groceries, you can focus on things like how to pay off credit card debt fast and saving more money towards your big goals using fun challenges like the 200 envelope challenge.