When it comes to finding the cheapest meals to make, it can be hard to know where to start. This is why having a quick list of more than 50 frugal meals to refer to can help to save you a ton of time – not to mention money.
In fact, we’ve gathered 65 of the best recipes to help you build your own frugal meal plan.
And what’s particularly good about these is that not only are they healthy and filling, but most of them make great leftovers too.
When you’re trying to save money, this can be a game changer. After all, it’s super easy to just grab a container of leftovers as you’re running out the door to work rather than making your own separate lunch every day – or, worse, buying take out for lunch.
So keep reading to find your next frugal meal ideas!
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How to make cheap meals on a budget
There are definitely some things you can do to bring your grocery spending down, especially if you’re trying to live on a budget. And given that food costs are in the top three expenses in most households, it’s always a good idea to see where you can make cuts here.
- Use cashback apps when you buy groceries. If you’re not using a cashback app for your grocery shopping, you’re basically throwing away free money. Our top pick for this is Ibotta. With thousands of partner retailers for both online and in-person shopping, you can easily get money back on things you’re likely buying already. And as an added bonus, you’ll get a free $20 just for signing up!
- Base your meals around cheap staple ingredients. You don’t need fancy ingredients to have a delicious, filling, frugal meal. Instead, base your meals around cheap ingredients that, ideally, you can buy in bulk. You can see a full list of these in our article on cheap food ideas.
- Meal plan. Planning out your meals can save you so much time and money. In particular, it helps you to make sure you’re only buying exactly what you need at the supermarket (so no wastage!). You can also build your meals around certain similar ingredients, rather than spending more on individual ones. And keep reading to find out our top meal planning hack…
- Only go to the supermarket with a shopping list (and stick to it). That way, you’ll only buy what you need – no more, no less. It also means you won’t forget anything so won’t have to go back to the supermarket until you really need to. As studies have shown that people tend to spend more the more times they go to a shop, this in itself can be a money saving technique.
- Meal prep. By spending a few hours on the weekend making your meals for the rest of the week, you’ll save a ton of time. While it may seem like a bit of work at first, you’ll soon get in the habit once you see how easy it makes meal time during the week.
- Make extra so that you have leftovers. You can do this as well as or instead of meal prepping, but either way, having leftovers on hand can be a gamechanger when it comes to saving money, as it makes it much less likely that you’ll order expensive takeout. So add a bit extra to each recipe when you make it, just to always have some leftovers ready to go in the freezer.
- Cook what’s in your pantry first. You probably have enough items in your pantry at the moment to make dinner rather than going to the store and buying even more things. In fact, this can be a great no-spend challenge idea!
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Ibotta’s a completely free app that gives you cash back on what you’re buying already – groceries, medicine, clothes and more.
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When it comes to meal planning, the one downside is that it can really take a lot of time and energy to do. In fact, the thought of having to think of even more meals is the main reason most people stop doing this.
And this is why I recommend the $5 Meal Plan as an easy solution. It only costs $5 per month and they’ll send you a weekly meal plan along with all the recipes AND a shopping list based on this.
As an added money saver, every meal only costs around $2 per person – and Erin, the creator of $5 Meal Plan, says she feeds her family of six on the same meal plan for only $5 per meal.
To try out $5 Meal Plan, grab a free 14-day trial just by signing up here!
Frugal meals: Vegetarian
1. Mexican red bean casserole
When it comes to frugal plant based meals, anything with beans is going to be good for your wallet, good for you – and, not to mention, tasty! And this Mexican red bean casserole is a perfect example of a nutritious vegetarian meal that’s actually cheap.
2. Lentil dahl
This simple and delicious lentil dhal is made with just a few pantry ingredients. Red lentils are cooked with fragrant spices, and creamy coconut milk until a creamy and thick texture is reached. In addition, if you’re looking for 30 minute frugal vegan meals, this dhal could be for you as it’s both vegan and gluten-free.
3. Italian pasta salad
This Italian pasta salad recipe can be thrown together in no time at all. If you need frugal meals for a crowd, this one can easily be scaled up to fit any type of gathering or even a simple family dinner.
4. Cheese manicotti (cannelloni)
If you are looking for a hearty meal, these cheese manicotti will hit the spot. Made with ricotta cheese, homemade tomato sauce, and pre made lasagna sheets will become a family favourite
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5. Beetroot salad
How about frugal meals from Australia? This beetroot salad makes a fresh addition to your summer menu. Perfect for a BBQ or when you need something light and easy – on a budget.
6. Curried couscous
Curried couscous is cheap, easy and quick to rustle up with cupboard ingredients and frozen vegetables. When it comes to frugal meals for vegetarians, this may be one of the easiest.
7. Red lentil bolognese
Hearty, wholesome and full of flavour, this vegan red lentil bolognese is cheap and easy to make and is a firm favourite for a healthy weeknight meal. It’s a great frugal meal for a family of 6, for example, as you can easily fill them up with very little cost.
8. Tahini pasta
Need a quick, easy and tasty vegan dinner? Treat your taste buds by combining fresh vegetables, tahini and vegan bacon for this vegan tahini pasta.
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9. Sweet potato chilli
A warming, hearty and healthy vegetarian sweet potato chilli. It’s easy to make and freezer-friendly so you can rustle up a large batch and have a few extra portions on hand for another day. This makes it great for healthy frugal meal planning, as you can easily make a ton of it on the weekend ready for weekday lunches or dinners.
10. Vegetarian ramen soup
This simple vegetarian ramen soup is cheap and easy to make. The flavor combinations are amazing too.
11. Pasta and beans
Three ingredients and a few pennies a serving might make you think you have to sacrifice flavor and nutrition to have such cheap food, but it’s the opposite with these pasta and beans! So inexpensive, nutritious and tasty – if you need a frugal kid meal, give this one a try!
12. Chana pulao
Chana Pulao is a great go-to recipe when you want a seriously quick and painless brunch or dinner but also one that’s tasty and filling. No long list of expensive ingredients to spoil the fun, especially if you’re cooking for a group as it’s a great frugal recipe for a family of 4, 5, 6 or more!
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13. Lemon chickpea and rice casserole
A super easy dump-and-bake frugal 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!
14. Buffalo chickpea sandwich
This easy buffalo chickpea sandwich is the perfect frugal meal for lunches for any kids or adult! Made in under 10 minutes, this sandwich is full of nutrition and plant based protein to keep you full for hours.
15. Black bean sheet pan tacos
For another great frugal vegan meal, black bean sheet pan tacos are an easy, healthy recipe to add into your weekly night meals. Sheet pan peppers, Portobello mushrooms, onions, and so much more, all baked together on one pan for a simple to make meal.
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16. Pesto pasta
Looking for a quick and frugal dinner meal? This pesto pasta is so delicious, budget-friendly and easy to make.
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Mujadara is a Middle Eastern lentil rice dish served with flavorful caramelized onions that were fried in olive oil. This simple dish is naturally vegan, made with just pantry ingredients so it’s incredibly frugal, and it’s ready in just 30 minutes!
18. Sweet potato curry
Creamy coconut sweet potato curry made with very simple ingredients in less than half an hour! This family-friendly sweet potato curry is so comforting, easy to make and delicious – the perfect frugal veggie meal!
19. French onion noodle casserole
The humble egg noodle is the basis for this low cost ‘almost no prep time’ homemade crispy, crazy food French onion noodle casserole.
Thrifty meals on a budget with the Instant Pot
When you’re looking to save money by cooking frugal meal recipes, it can sound a bit counter-intuitive to talk about using an appliance that, well, costs money.
But there really are a ton of great, budget-friendly Instant Pot recipes out there. And given how much money (and time!) these can save you overall, it’s definitely worth taking a look at the Instant Pot.
(Also, given it can double as a slow cooker or crockpot, we’ve thrown in a couple of these frugal meal ideas below as well.)
20. Chicken fajita pasta
Instant Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta is a comforting and cheesy dump and start recipe. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight dinner!
21. Lemon garlic chicken
Instant Pot lemon garlic chicken is a quick and flavorful dinner meal! In less than 30 minutes, you’ll have zesty chicken thighs on the table!
22. Swiss steak
See how to make the best Swiss steak in the instant pot that is loaded with cubed steak, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
23. Hamburger helper
Make this budget-friendly Instant Pot Hamburger Helper in under 30 minutes. It’s loaded with pantry staples aka hamburger meat, Italian seasoning, and cheese for a frugal meal the whole family will love. Even if you’re living stingy, at least a bit, you can still enjoy great food!
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Yes you can even make pasta using your Instant Pot! This delicious alfredo recipe is a one pot meal you can get in only 15 minutes. Feel free to use tofu instead of chicken for a vegetarian meal.
25. Pulled BBQ chicken
This Instant Pot pulled BBQ chicken is the easiest weeknight meal and a frugal meal for families as an alternative to traditional barbecue pulled pork. It is sweet, a little spicy, and the sliced onions add so much flavor. It is perfect in a taco, on a salad, or to make sliders or sandwiches with.
26. Lemon and garlic chicken
Making a whole chicken in your crockpot or slow cooker is easier than you think. Plus, buying a whole chicken is often more economical. And after you’ve made this lemon and garlic chicken, you can also use leftovers to make casseroles, chili, and other dishes. You can even use the carcass for stock, if desired.
27. Chicken stroganoff
This crockpot chicken stroganoff is one of the most inexpensive and easiest frugal crockpot meals to make in your crockpot or slow cooker. It goes great over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
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28. Applesauce chicken
Two simple ingredients infused together with the help and ease of the slow cooker. Savory and sweet, this applesauce chicken will soon become a family favorite. Paleo and gluten-free with no refined sugars – a great healthy frugal meal for the family!
29. Salsa chicken
The most delicious, moist, and easy slow cooker chicken yet! Slow cooker salsa chicken requires just a few ingredients: your favorite salsa, some spices, and the chicken! The perfect healthy, gluten-free, paleo weeknight dinner to please everyone!
30. Chicken spaghetti
Step up your weeknight pasta game with this dump and start Instant Pot chicken spaghetti. It goes from pantry to table in under 30 minutes and is great for meal prep.
31. Shawarma wraps
When looking for how to make cheap meals on a budget, chicken shawarma wraps could be your answer. No need to marinade – instead, put everything in the Instant Pot and smother in yogurt sauce!
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32. Beef stew
You can make a hearty, healthy, and delicious beef stew in your Instant Pot in under an hour…using frozen stew meat and fresh vegetables. This frugal recipe is so easy to make and perfect for a weeknight meal, especially if you’re looking to drastically cut expenses.
33. Sausage and lentil casserole
See just how to make a deliciously healthy sausage and lentil casserole in the Instant Pot pressure cooker. Loaded with sausages, red lentils, and vegetables, this is Instant Pot one pot dinners at its best.
34. Vegetarian chilli
This easy slow cooker vegetarian chilli is a dump-and-go crockpot meal you can set and forget! This healthy three bean chili is vegan, gluten-free, allergy-free, and full of plant-based protein, veggies, and bold Southwest flavors! A comforting dinner for a crowd or meatless make-ahead and freezer-friendly meal you can meal prep, making it perfect for the frugal mom looking for crock pot meals.
Extreme frugal meals with tuna
35. Tuna pasta
This canned tuna pasta recipe is quick and comforting. The perfect frugal meal on a budget when you don’t have a lot in your pantry!
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36. Open-faced tuna melts
These quick and easy open-faced tuna melts are made with cream cheese, no mayo, a little kick from the jalapenos and are the perfect last minute dinner or lunch. You can make them ahead and reheat, so they’re also perfect for the lunch bag! They are also Weight Watchers friendly.
37. Tuna patties
These aren’t your ordinary tuna patties. These are light, crispy, unbelievably tasty, and oh-so-easy to make. Not only are the patties economical, but they are also perfect for a frugal easy meal on busy nights. Pair these burgers with a salad for a healthy low-carb meal.
38. Tuna pesto pasta salad
This tuna pesto pasta salad is fresh, hearty, and satisfying. And with it being so affordable, easy, and abundant, it will be your new go-to family meal!
39. Tuna pinwheels
These veg-packed tuna pinwheels are perfect for school lunchboxes! They’re made with canned tuna, canned chickpeas, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and cream cheese, all rolled up in a tasty tortilla wrap and cut into bite size slices.
These are also great when preparing some frugal camping meals if you’re looking for something cheap and healthy to take on your next hike.
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Frugal chicken meals
40. One pan Spanish chicken
This Mexican inspired one pan Spanish chicken meal is ready in just 30 minutes!
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41. Cajun chicken alfredo
Cajun chicken alfredo from scratch is creamy and spicy! Made with homemade cajun seasoning & linguini noodles, it’s perfect as a frugal dinner meal idea at home!
42. Chicken fried rice
This chicken fried rice is an affordable recipe that is cheaper and faster than take out – not to mention perfect for using up leftovers!
43. Chicken couscous
This chicken couscous meal is yummy, herby, and full of flavors. A perfect frugal healthy meal for large families.
44. Chicken legs with chickpeas and quinoa
If you’re looking for frugal meals with chicken, chicken legs are some of the cheapest parts of the chicken you can buy! Make this flavorful, delicious meal of chicken legs with chickpeas and quinoa – and enjoy your meal!
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45. Chicken and biscuit casserole
Grandma’s chicken and biscuit casserole recipe is like chicken pot pie but better, not to mention easier to make! With creamy bites of cooked chicken and paired with your favorite vegetables, the filling is then topped with easy drop biscuits for a fluffy finish.
Frugal meals with ground beef
46. Spanish rice and ground beef skillet
This easy Spanish rice and ground beef skillet is ready in just 30 minutes. As a great frugal rice meal, it’s made with just a few simple ingredients and is a dinner the whole family will love!
47. American goulash
American goulash is an easy, cheap, one-pot, classic comfort food made with ground beef, tomatoes, and macaroni noodles. Able to be enjoyed year-round, including to have delicious leftovers, this irresistible goulash recipe is guaranteed to win over even the pickiest eaters!
48. Cheesy ground beef and rice casserole
This cheesy ground beef and rice casserole is easy to make with pantry ingredients like cream of mushroom soup. Your family will love this quick dinner recipe – as will you if you’re trying to live cheap!
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49. Baked walking taco casserole
This baked walking taco casserole is the easiest one pot mexican dinner idea and it is loaded with flavor from the taco seasoning, green chiles, and enchilada sauce. And the best part is all of the fritos and melted cheese on top. SO good.
50. Poor man’s stew
Poor man’s stew is a cheap frugal meal made with ground beef that costs less than $2 per serving! It’s absolutely delicious, plus it’s very simple to make.
51. Ground beef pasta bake casserole
This ground beef pasta bake casserole is so amazing. It has everything you love like cream cheese and cream of mushroom soup.
52. Ground beef and green chili chili
This ground beef chili made with green chilies is prepared in the slow cooker. It is nutritious and affordable relying on pantry staples. In particular, if you’re looking for frugal gluten free meals, this could be for you.
53. Swedish meatballs
These perfectly browned little nuggets of yum are tender and juicy and brimming with beef-y deliciousness. Amazing Swedish meatballs in creamy gravy are easy, made in practically no time at all using ground beef or ground pork or a combination.
Cheap meals with pork/ham
54. Pork carnitas
These Pork carnitas are easy, healthy and delicious! Pork butt is a cheap cut of meat that has a huge flavor!
55. Ham frittata
A simple, inexpensive low carb breakfast is this ham frittata. It combines eggs, deli sliced ham, green onion and cheese. This frittata is packed with flavor with such simple ingredients and is perfect if you’re looking for frugal keto meals.
56. Pork chops
These easy Dr. Pepper slow cooker pork chops are the perfect recipe for busy nights. With only three ingredients, prep only takes minutes. Here’s how to make them!
57. Pork with creamy mushroom salsa sauce
This pork with creamy mushroom salsa sauce is an easy pork chop recipe using pantry ingredients like salsa, canned black olives, rosemary and cream of mushroom soup. It’s the perfect quick, easy and frugal dinner idea in under 30 minutes!
58. Lentil and ham soup
This simple lentil and ham soup recipe can be made in a crock pot or on the stovetop. It’s a terrific way to use a leftover meaty ham bone for a delicious frugal meal.
Frugal meal plan for breakfast
59. Banana pikelets
These healthy banana pikelets are super easy to make with just four ingredients. They freeze well and make excellent family friendly breakfasts or lunches.
Looking for frugal low carb meals? This feta and spinach omelette is the perfect keto staple meal for your easy sugar detox plan and one of my most favorite gut healthy foods and egg fast diet plan breakfast ideas.
60. Sheet pan eggs
This easy sheet pan eggs recipe that makes a perfectly healthy breakfast, brunch, or light lunch. It is a great breakfast meal to cook for meal planning as well as to feed a crowd.
61. Baked oatmeal
Best baked oatmeal lends itself perfectly to busy mornings as it comes together in just five minutes! Serve with yogurt and seasonal fruit.
62. Banana porridge
This banana porridge is the easiest, most delicious way to use up those overripe bananas! Put your own twist on it with your choice of toppings!
63. Egg tacos
These egg tacos are made from five affordable ingredients you probably already have on hand, making this great as a frugal meal idea for breakfast!
64. Chilli cheese toast
This melty, gooey, fiery chilli cheese toast is mind-blowingly delicious. The topping isn’t simply melted cheese – it’s a stunning combination of chilli, cheese, spring onions, soy sauce and mayo that will have you begging for more.
65. Eggs benedict casserole
Eggs benedict are delicious, but they can definitely be a bit fussy to make. This is why if you’re looking for a tasty frugal gourmet meal with almost none of the effort, this eggs benedict casserole recipe could do the trick.
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About the author
Anna is the founder of LogicalDollar and a personal finance expert, having been featured on Forbes, HuffPost, Reader’s Digest, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, CreditCards.com and many more. She’s committed to helping others get on the path to financial freedom using the experience gained from turning $60,000 in debt into a six-figure investment portfolio. Find out more.