17 Inexpensive Meals for When You’re Low on Cash

Written By Jill Taylor

Eating well on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor or nutrition. With a little creativity and smart shopping, you can enjoy a variety of delicious meals that won’t break the bank. Here are 17 cheap meals ideal for when you’re trying to save money.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

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With only a few simple ingredients, including pasta, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and parsley, you can create spaghetti Aglio e Olio in under 20 minutes and for a really low price! This dish is also versatile and can be customized to include any vegetables or proteins.

Lentil Soup

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Lentil soup is nutritious and packed with protein. Verywell Health says, “lentils are also a great source of fiber, phosphorus, iron, and lysine (an amino acid).” It’s a cheap meal and can be made in large batches and frozen for the future. You can also add vegetables like carrots, onions, and celery.

Vegetable Stir-Fry

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If you’re not the best cook, this one’s for you! To make a complete meal, throw a bunch of seasonal or frozen vegetables in a frying pan and serve with rice or noodles. The fast cooking method also helps preserve the vegetables’ nutrients and flavors.

Chickpea Curry

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Chickpeas are budget-friendly and rich in protein, making them a great main ingredient for a curry. Use any spices you might already have in your kitchen, like cumin, coriander, and turmeric, to add some extra flavor to this dish, and pair it with rice or flatbread.

Mac and Cheese

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Luckily, you don’t have to miss out on your favorite comfort food if you’re on a budget. Homemade mac and cheese is easy and cheap to make. You just have to combine the basic ingredients of pasta, cheese, milk, and butter, and voila!

Black Bean Tacos

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You can get either canned or dried black beans for a low price. The Spruce highlights that “dried black beans can be stored indefinitely,” so you could save more money by bulk buying without any risk of waste. Serve the beans with tortillas or homemade taco shells and simple toppings.

Egg-Fried Rice

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You can save money by making egg-fried rice with leftover rice and vegetables. Eggs give you a protein boost without costing much, and you can season the dish with soy sauce and a touch of sesame oil to take it to another level.

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

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This might sound like a weird combination, but trust me, it’s tasty! Peanut butter and banana sandwiches combine staples that you likely already have in your kitchen for a quick and filling meal. They’re also a great source of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.

Vegetable Frittata

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Don’t let anything go to waste! Use up your eggs and vegetables to make a versatile and affordable vegetable frittata. This dish can be served hot or cold and is great for any time of the day. Try to make it your own with cheese, herbs, or meats.

Baked Potatoes

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According to the BBC, “potatoes offer a more favourable nutrient-to-price ratio than many other vegetables, and are an important staple across the world.” Baked potatoes are simple to prepare, filling, and versatile, with many options for toppings like cheese, beans, sour cream, and chives.


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You’ll be glad to hear that one of your favorites, pizza, can actually be pretty cheap! Instead of buying it from a takeaway, make your own with inexpensive store-bought dough, tomatoes, cheese, and vegetables. You could even make it a fun activity for the whole family.

Bean and Cheese Burritos

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When you’re low on cash, bean and cheese burritos are the answer! The main filling ingredients, refried beans and cheese, are affordable, and you can have cheap options like salsa or rice on the side. These burritos can also be frozen and reheated for a convenient meal.

Ramen Noodle Stir-Fry

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Try upgrading instant ramen noodles by adding fresh or frozen vegetables to make a delicious and inexpensive meal. You could also add an egg or tofu for a bit of extra protein and enhance the flavor with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

Chicken and Rice

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Chicken and rice is a simple one-pot meal using affordable chicken thighs or drumsticks and some herbs and spices to add flavor. Cleveland Clinic says that chicken and poultry can actually reduce stress and anxiety, so this might be an ideal dish to quiet your money worries!

Tomato Basil Soup

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You can make a great meal with ingredients as limited as canned tomatoes, garlic, and fresh basil. Tomato basil soup is a tasty and nutritious meal that’s especially good when you’re feeling under the weather—and it costs barely anything!

Tuna Salad Sandwiches

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You can’t go wrong with canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise, celery, and seasonings of your choice! You could put the tuna salad in a sandwich or serve it with crackers for a light meal. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try adding pickles, onions, or hard-boiled eggs for extra flavor.

Savory Oatmeal

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Oats aren’t just for breakfast! Try a savory version with cheese and vegetables for a cheap meal that’s good for you. Cooking the oats with broth instead of water will also make them tastier, and topping the dish with a fried egg will include protein.

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