Your food budget is likely one of the largest chunks of your regular spending, because you have to eat. There are ways to enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank, though.
To stretch your food dollars, shop sales and shop from a list. Don’t shop hungry or impulse purchases will be more tempting. Doubling a recipe doesn’t add much cost but you’ll save a ton of money eating leftovers. Bring a loaf of bread and your favorite sandwich fillings to work on Monday and your lunch is set for the week. Save odds and ends of fruits and vegetables for making stock, adding to pizza, or blending into smoothies.
Consider cutting back on meat — beans, eggs, and some dairy products are cheaper proteins yet just as satisfying. Sauces and dressings like balsamic vinaigrette, hot sauce, and mustards pack a lot of flavor for a small price.
Search sites like Budget Bytes and Tin Can Cook for your next great culinary masterpiece on the cheap. For some instant ideas, feast your eyes on the following delicious meals that will help you stay on budget.
1. Beans and Rice
This standard inexpensive meal can flavored with chilies, cheese, and hot sauce. Don’t get bored by it — repurpose leftovers for tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.
2. Egg and Bean Burritos
Open a can of black beans or use leftover beans and rice. Add a scrambled egg and wrap it all in a tortilla.
Pasta is a blank slate that you can add any sauce to — alfredo, pesto, or marinara. Add cheese, grilled chicken, and your favorite vegetables, and you have restaurant quality for a tiny price.
Whether you use meat or make it vegetarian, load up chili with inexpensive-yet-filling beans and consider using roasted potatoes or butternut squash, too.
Oatmeal has everything you need for a hearty breakfast, especially if you mix in fruit, nuts, milk, and even a few chocolate chips. Forego the instant packets and buy rolled or quick-cooking oats.
6. Vegetable Soup
Use up some veggies and herbs in your fridge before they go bad and if you’re a die-hard carnivore add some bacon.
7. Lentil Soup
Lentils pack in plenty of low-fat protein and fiber. Make a veggie soup with flavorful onions and garlic alongside some carrots or winter squash or make a lentil soup with sausage.
8. Tuna Melt
This simple sandwich is packed with protein and comforting melted cheese. Stock up on canned tuna when it’s on sale so you always have some on hand.
9. Chicken Soup
Buy some inexpensive chicken parts that you cook yourself or get a rotisserie chicken on sale and add some potatoes and carrots. You’ve got yourself a classic comfort food.
10. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Whether you go for the same brands you loved as a kid or opt for fresh and organic, this is still one of the cheapest meals out there.
Anything you can put in a taco, you can put in a quesadilla with some melty extra cheese.
12. Pot Roast with Vegetables
A pot roast over the weekend leads to a week’s worth of amazing sandwiches.
13. Omelets or Frittata
Eggs are a powerhouse of cheap nutrition. Mix in vegetables, cheese, or lunch meats, and load your plate with a seasonal fruit salad for a refreshing side dish.
14. Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Roast a whole chicken and use the leftover meat for sandwiches, tacos, or pizza a few days later. Save the bones to make a stock that adds tons of flavor to soups.
Pizza is a great for using up leftovers. The crust is easy to make and can be stored in the freezer so you have it for easy weeknight meals. Then top it with whatever you’d like!
16. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
Simple and delicious, it doesn’t matter if you use a specialty cheese and make your own soup or buy whatever’s cheapest.
17. Sausage and Peppers
Cook up some sausages with bell pepper and onions and serve it all on a hearty roll for a satisfying sandwich. To change up the flavors, try chorizo or kielbasa.
This classic bacon sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and a little mayo is simple and satisfying.
19. Green Salad
Lettuce is cheap and buy your favorite fresh vegetables on sale. For protein add bacon, chicken, lunch meats, hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, or cheese.
20. Potato Soup with Bacon and Cheese
It’s a creamy, cozy twist on a baked potato that’s easy to reheat for lunch, too.
This American staple can be customized in so many ways, you could eat a burger every day and never have the same one twice. Buy whatever meat is on sale and don’t be afraid to change it up – try pork and pineapple instead of beef and a tomato slice.
Look for a taco seasoning recipe to mix up yourself or buy your favorite in bulk when it’s on sale. Make your chicken or beef go further by mixing in black beans.
23. Garlic Herb Chicken Breasts
Chicken breasts are usually one of the more inexpensive cuts of meat. Marinate them in your favorite salad dressing or in olive oil with some herbs and garlic. Then grill or roast them for a main course and save the leftovers for salads, sandwiches, or rice bowls.
24. Rice Bowls
These one-dish meals can be made in advance for lunches on the go. Make a batch of rice and get creative with the veggies and proteins you mix in.
25. Sheet Pan Chicken and Vegetables
Bone-in chicken breasts or thighs are usually cheaper and more flavorful than boneless. After marinating the chicken in salad dressing, spread the pieces on a baking sheet with some winter vegetables and roast it all together.
26. Bacon and Egg Sandwiches
This is a perfect meal for a busy morning or a lazy evening.
This dish is great for getting one more meal out of leftovers or kitchen scraps. Or keep it simple with noodles, tomato sauce, and ricotta cheese.