Figuring out how to work frugal dinners into your meal plan is a great way to save money and stick to your tight budget but where do you even begin? Lucky for you, this post contains some of the best frugal meal ideas that are perfect for dinner and many that save well for leftovers!
Keep reading for 55+ of the best, easiest frugal dinners that’ll save you money.
Before diving into this post, I want you to know that it is possible to make delicious frugal meals. They do not have to be bland, tasteless dishes at all. In fact, many of the frugal dinner ideas on this list are bursting with flavor!
The recipes below will make the whole family happy and keep their bellies full for a while.
Not only have I included ideas for some frugal recipes, but I have included an essential shopping list for the most budget-friendly of meals as well as some great tips for eating on a budget.
Let’s get to it!
Looking to live a more frugal life overall? Read my post on the best tips for frugal living next.
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Financial anxiety is one of the worst kinds, right? It used to keep me up at night for years. I was desperate to find a fix but nothing was working until it did. Luckily for you, I kept a note of everything I did along the way and now I am here and ready to teach you how to build your emergency fund (amongst many other things). For everything from the basics of understanding your finances, to creating your monthly budget, I have covered it all. Click the button below to learn more!
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Best Budget-Friendly Pantry Staples
An easy way to save a whole lot of money on your groceries is by spending your money wisely. You can do just that by checking out the following list of affordable pantry staples to keep a stock of that in turn make for some inexpensive ingredients for cheap meals!
Here are some cheap ingredients to keep on your grocery list:
- Canned Tomatoes
- Lentils (Dried)
- Canned Corn
- Peanut Butter (Jarred)
- Dried Pasta Sauce Mix
- Shelf-Stable Broth (Boxed or Canned)
- Instant Rice
- Canned Chickpeas
- Shelf-Stable Tofu (Vacuum-Packed)
- Instant Oatmeal Packets
- Bell Peppers
- Sweet Potatoes
- In Season Produce (Varies by Season)
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Ground Turkey
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Salmon
- Popcorn (Air-Popped)
- Rice Cakes
- Nuts (Assorted)
Best Tips for Eating on a Budget
Even with the best frugal dinner ideas, you have to have an idea of how to plan costs when it comes to spending your hard-earned money on food.
Plan your meals and grocery shop the smart way with these tips for sticking to your food budget:
- Embrace Batch Cooking: Cook large batches of meals and freeze individual portions. This not only saves money but also provides quick and convenient dinners on busy nights.
- Plan Theme Nights: Organize theme nights like “Meatless Monday” or “Taco Tuesday” to focus on affordable ingredients and simplify meal planning. We will do anything to make this process easier, right?!
- Explore Global Flavors: Opt for budget-friendly international cuisines. Dishes like stir-fries, curries, and rice bowls often feature inexpensive ingredients and add variety to your menu.
- Master the Art of One-Pot Meals: One-pot wonders not only save on cleanup but also allow you to create delicious and budget-friendly dinners using a single pot or pan.
- Grow Your Own Herbs: Cultivate a small herb garden to enhance flavors without spending extra money on store-bought herbs.This is a super easy way to continue to add fresh flavors to those, otherwise, “bland” cheap dinners.
- Shop Seasonal and Local: Base your meals on seasonal and local produce, as they tend to be more affordable and flavorful.
- DIY Spice Blends: Create your spice blends at home to add depth and flavor to your meals without the added cost of pre-packaged spice mixes. Easily do this by Googling whatever spice blend you need (Italian Seasoning or BBQ rub for example).
- Repurpose Leftovers Creatively: Give leftovers a makeover by transforming them into new dishes. For example, turn roasted vegetables into a frittata or use yesterday’s rice in a stir-fry.
- Shop Smart with Sales and Coupons: Keep an eye on sales, discounts, and coupons when grocery shopping. Planning your meals around discounted items can significantly cut down your dinner expenses.
- Invest in Versatile Ingredients: Choose ingredients that can be used in multiple meals. For instance, a whole chicken can be roasted for one dinner, turned into soup the next day, and used for sandwiches later in the week. That is one easy way to save on groceries!
55+ Frugal Dinners to Try Out
Your weekly meal plans will never be inefficient again after you take a read through these frugal recipes. I have included slow cooker meals, meatless meals, frugal dinners with simple ingredients, and healthy recipes that are not much money.
I hope you find a few new recipes to add to your rotation!
Easy Frugal Dinners
Frugal meal planning is easier than ever thanks to this list of 20 deliciously simple frugal family meals.
- Baked or Air-Fried Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs are often the cheapest cut of chicken (with whole chickens being a bit cheaper). Baked chicken thighs are coated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, herbs and spices, then roasted to crispy perfection. A great frugal choice with a less expensive cut of meat and it primarily uses ingredients that are probably already in your pantry.
- Egg Roll in a Bowl: This One Pan Egg Roll In a Bowl is a great frugal meal option with budget-friendly cabbage and carrots as the bulk of the dish and ground beef or sausage adding some additional flavor.
- Stuffed Peppers: Bell peppers are typically inexpensive and serve as a great “bowl” for some fixings such as ground beef (when it is on sale), some spices, rice, tomatoes, and other diced veggies.
- Roasted Half Chicken: This roasted half chicken recipe creates the most delicious, golden brown, juicy result you’ve ever tasted, and by buying a whole chicken rather than parts, you’ll be saving money!
- Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: This can be a meatless option or you can add your favorite meat that is on sale (I love using ground sausage and it is usually on sale). Make your own pasta sauce by using cheap canned tomato sauce and spices.
- Easy Chicken Cobbler: This viral TikTok Chicken Cobbler Recipe is a delicious one pan meal that combines buttery biscuits, mixed vegetables, and shredded chicken into one hearty dish! Inexpensive and quick to prepare.
- Oven Baked Whole Chicken and Baked Veggies: This is our favorite frugal meal. Whole chickens are usually much cheaper per pound than cuts of chicken and provide you with so much substance! Choose a seasonal veggie such as green beans or carrots to bake alongside it.
- Cheesy Chicken Taco Spaghetti: This easy Chicken Taco Spaghetti Casserole is delicious and affordable. Made with pantry ingredients like canned chicken, pasta and taco seasoning, your family and wallet will love this recipe.
- Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chili Mac: This Gluten-free Chili Mac is a great part of any frugal family meal plan. Pasta and ground beef are the main ingredients and cheese is optional, so you can save some money by omitting that. The dish tastes amazing with or without it!
- Loaded Chicken and Biscuit Bake: Get dinner on the table in no time with this Loaded Chicken and Biscuit Bake recipe! With just seven simple ingredients, this casserole brings together chicken, creamy sauce, and flaky biscuits for a satisfying meal. It’s a quick, budget friendly, family-friendly bubble up bake perfect for any night of the week!
- Garlicky Cabbage Stir Fry: Instead of buying a frozen side dish for $4 that serves 2 people, you can make 4 servings from scratch for a fraction of the cost.
- Tuna Noodle Casserole: Made with pasta and canned tuna fish plus a few fresh and frozen veggies, this homey casserole is delicious and budget friendly.
- Asian Chicken Thighs: These Asian chicken thighs have a simple but flavorful marinade made from pantry staples, and bone-in skin-on chicken thighs are a very inexpensive way to feed the family.
- 20 Minute One Pot Tomato Orzo: Just one pot, tomatoes, orzo, and cheese is all you need for this delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal!
- Bucatini All’Arrabbita: Pasta all’arrabbiata is a classic Roman dish characterized by its fiery and bold taste. The heat of Italian red chili peppers melds beautifully with the tang of tomatoes, creating a rich and spicy sauce made from just 4 low cost staple ingredients.
- Ground Beef, Potato, and Green Bean Casserole: This ground beef, potato, and green bean casserole is full of the savory, comforting flavors we all love but without any of those store-bought, canned cream soups. It’s budget friendly, relying on inexpensive, commonly stocked ingredients. That budget friendliness can be stretched even farther by cutting down on the amount of ground beef and adding in a few more potatoes or green beans!
- 4 -Ingredient Easy Stove Top Stuffing Meatloaf: At just over 1 dollar a serving, this simple and flavorful meatloaf is an easy way to pack in the protein!
- Smoked Sausage, Potatoes, and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner: Prep this super easy sheet pan meal in only 15 minutes with simple, budget-friendly ingredients like kielbasa sausage, potatoes, onions & bell peppers. Serve with a leafy salad & your favorite dressing for a cozy meal that doesn’t cost a lot.
- Cheesy Spaghetti Stuffed Peppers: Tender Italian stuffed peppers filled with spaghetti, ricotta, Parmesan, and Ragu Homestyle Thick and Hearty Four Cheese Sauce.
- Crockpot Cabbage and Ham: This easy dinner recipe combines budget-friendly cabbage with hearty chunks of ham, onion, apple, and a touch of apple cider vinegar, creating a flavorful and satisfying dinner experience, with only 15 minutes prep time!
Healthy Frugal Dinners
- Crockpot Chili: Use some of those super cheap dry beans to make up your own hearty chili recipe easily!
- Slow Cooker Lentil Ham Soup: This easy crock pot lentil soup uses leftover cooked ham or a ham bone, which is frugal, and lentils are inexpensive.
- Chunky Soup: It is so simple to make your own soup. Add chunks of your favorite veggies, a can of tomatoes, and some of your favorite canned beans to a large pot with some chicken broth and you’ll make a yummy soup in no time!
- Cheesy Veggie Lentil Stew: Nourishing and hearty, this cheesy veggie lentil stew in the Instant Pot is a wonderful comfort food for lunch or dinner. Keeping the meal meat-free keeps the cost down!
- Slow Cooker Applesauce Chicken: This Slow Cooker Applesauce Chicken is the easiest family-friendly dinner recipe you’ve ever had! The sweet and savory combo of applesauce and chicken is dumped together and cooked right in your Crockpot with zero fuss! This no-fail chicken recipe is naturally healthy, gluten-free, paleo, keto-friendly, with no refined sugars! Meal prep and freezer-friendly for a stress-free meal!
- Mexican One-Pot Pinto Beans: These Mexican pinto beans use minimal ingredients and make a delicious and frugal base for a wide range of Mexican recipes. Perfect for making a batch and keeping in the fridge for the week.
- Cottage Cheese Mac and Cheese: This cottage cheese mac and cheese is a well-balanced meal that can feed the whole family. High in protein from the cottage cheese sauce combined with high protein noodles eliminates the need for an additional protein source. Cheap, convenient butternut squash cubes are puréed into the sauce so a veggie is included as well.
- 15 Bean Soup: 15 Bean Soup is a frugal healthy soup recipe everyone will love! You can buy the ingredients for under $5 at the store and feed a huge crowd!
- Bruschetta Chicken: This easy bruschetta chicken can be made at home with minimal ingredients. Healthy and easy on the budget!
Meatless Frugal Dinners
- Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches: I know, not the most creative but they are super filling and perfect for the whole family. Dinners do not have to take 30+ minutes to make and both of those options are pretty frugal foods.
- Orzo Mac and Cheese: A cheap, easy and delicious twist on a traditional mac and cheese recipe that is absolutely perfect for meal prepping in bulk for your family to cut down on grocery costs.
- Refried Bean Burritos: Select some budget friendly fillings, add your refried beans (canned or homemade), and wrap up your tortilla. Super simple and budget friendly.
- Pan Fried Tofu: Pan fried tofu is a filling side dish that you can make to supplement a meal or leftovers. Double the recipe to serve it as a main dish and it still costs less than $5 for 2 boxes.
- Street Tacos: Not a fan of refried bean burritos? It is super simple to make street tacos at home and they are super affordable! Cook your cut of meat in the crockpot for a hands-off dinner and all you need to do is dice up the onion and cilantro and cook your corn tortillas before serving.
- Stir Fried Rice: This might be the cheapest meal on this list! Keep it classic and you have a dinner that limits food waste and works well as leftovers! This easy recipe is a winner for any night of the week.
- Easy Indian Lentils: This Quick and Easy Lentil Curry is so delicious also budget-friendly, leaning on the humble and inexpensive lentil for the main part of the recipe.
- Old Fashioned Vegan Potato Soup: The best Old-Fashioned Vegan Potato Soup! This quick and easy creamy potato soup recipe is just like grandma used to make! Healthy, dairy-free, gluten-free, and allergy-free, this simple and budget-friendly potato soup is just 8 ingredients and made in 15 minutes! This homemade cozy rustic soup is perfect for lunch or dinner and completely customizable!
- Chili Oil Ramen: This chili oil ramen is flavorful and great on a budget. It has garlic & chili oil, which gives it a nice heat. Great for a lazy winter night & for the wallet!
- Meatless Baked Ziti: This meatless baked ziti is super inexpensive to make and feeds the whole family! Plus, it’s delicious and great for meatless Monday!
- Tofu Stir Fry: Tofu stir fry is crispy tofu cubes with colorful veggies in a honey garlic sauce. It’s a good frugal choice because tofu is an inexpensive type of protein, and the vegetables used in the recipe are inexpensive year round.
- Spaghetti Aglio E Olio: Spaghetti aglio e olio is a shining testament to the Italian concept that sometimes, less truly is more. It uses just a handful of easy-to-source ingredients and takes 15 minutes to make while packing a lot of flavor!
- Easy Black Bean Soup: This hearty soup can be on your dinner table in less than 20 minutes! Packed with black beans, vegetables, and spices for a rich and robust flavor. This vegan black bean soup recipe with canned beans is quick and easy making it the perfect weeknight meal. Simply puree the ingredients, heat, and eat. The best part is the leftovers can be cooked down for burritos or tacos.
- Lentil Soup: This frugal recipe features a budget-friendly pantry staple: dry lentils. With a few simple vegetables, spices and herbs this Mediterranean lentil soup will become a staple.
- Sweet Potato Wraps: This delicious vegetarian wrap makes use of budget-friendly roasted sweet potatoes, spinach, creamy hummus, smoky chipotle, cheese and crispy bell peppers.
I hope these meal ideas have helped you figure out how to feed your family more frugally.
One big way to begin frugal living is to gain control of your finances. I cover everything you need to know about tackling your finances in my Money Fit Moms course. It is FREE and you can read more about it here.