16 Cheap Dinner Ideas That are Light on Your Budget

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

cheap dinner ideasLooking to save money on food? Here are some of the best cheap dinner ideas that are not only easy to make but also delicious as well.

Whether it is to cut your spending or to get your monthly budget under control, saving a few extra bucks each meal goes a long way because you eat 3 meals a day for 30 days a month.

At $1 per meal, you have a total savings of $90 per month. And, by the end of the year, you get to save more than $1,000 just by doing that alone.

Not bad, eh?

Here are some great low-cost recipes to get your started.

Related Content


Buffalo Ranch Chicken Pasta Recipe

This is a great low-cost dinner meal you can create when you want something hearty but don’t have a lot of time to make it. The meal takes less than 30 minutes to make. And, you’ll be able to enjoy ranch along with Buffalo wind sauce.

The recipe makes 6 servings which are perfect for a bigger family. You can likewise scale it down. Or, keep some of the leftovers for the next day.

Often, the biggest problem with food when you’re on a budget is serving size and satisfaction. This dish solves both those issues.


Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Skewers

This is another awesome recipe that the kids won’t be complaining about. Although most kids aren’t fans of spicy foods, this seems to be an exception. Maybe it’s the skewers?

My kids love it when we grill, be it indoors or outdoors. I think the interaction with the food really gets them to get into the dish better.

In any case, this is a wonderfully light meal (unless you stuff yourself with lots of skewers) with an amazing kick to it. Do adjust the heat level to your taste. Because the kids prefer it mild, we tend to make two bags of marinades for the shrimps.


Three Cheese Skillet Nachos

This one pan wonder is one of the things I love about budget cooking. It forces you to be creative. And, who doesn’t like nachos?

I’ll be honest though, it’s the cheese that attracted me to this dish. You’ve got cheddar, pepper jack and queso fresco. I mean, how can a dish with that much cheese taste bad, right?

That said, this is a wonderful dish you can put together in 25 minutes. It’s easy to create, low cost and delicious.


One Pot Chicken Risotto

Another dish I can’t get enough of is risotto. When it comes to rice dishes, I’m a sucker for well-made risotto and crunchy on the bottom paella. Unfortunately, the two dishes aren’t all too common because they take time to make.

So, this is something you can save for special occasions. Or, when you feel like you want something comforting. The main ingredients of the dish are rice and chicken, the rest are for flavoring. This makes it budget-friendly.



I’ll admit that I had to google “Shakshouka” the first time I came across this recipe. So, I won’t judge if you do too.

In any case, Shakshouka is an amazingly hearty, spiced tomato dish that’s often served for breakfast in some Mediterranean countries. Although, we love having it as a side dish for dinner as well.

While it looks filling (maybe because it looks like pasta), it’s actually fairly light since the bulk of the dish is spice tomato sauce. I do love the texture once the yolks break and mix with sauce. As they say, “that’s where the magic happens.”

With just 129 calories per serving this recipe is not only delicious but also nutritious. It has more than 50% of your vitamin C daily requirement. Plus, you get 30% of vitamin A and 17% of iron as well.


Lemon Butter Cod

This baked cod recipe is simple yet flavorful. Best of all, it’s low cost and the oven does all the work for you.

This makes it a perfect dinner meal when you’re busy with the kids or have extra chores to finish around the house while making dinner.


Three-Bean Chili

Chili is an all-time favorite family dish because we used it to save money back in the day. What’s great about is that beans are cheap. And, the chili is filling so you don’t have to worry about feeling hungry an hour or so after dinner.

When it comes to chili, everybody’s got their secret recipe. And, this is quite a good one. For me, the beer makes a whole lot of difference. You can try different kinds to see which you like best.


Sweet & Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs

if you have kids, this is something they’ll keep asking you to make. I know my kids do.

The chicken is oven-roasted which means you don’t have to hover over the pan while it cooks. This gives you a lot more free time when you come home.

But, make sure to marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes. I’ve found that the more flavor you want, the longer you’ll have to marinate it for.


Pressure Cooker Lentil Soup

Like beans, lentils are another cheap source of vegan and vegetarian protein. And, they’re likewise healthier for you if even if aren’t on a no-meat diet. This makes them a great choice for meatless Mondays.

Even better, this pressure cooker lentil soup takes just 20 minutes to make from start to finish. That means you can quickly get warm and comforted even during the colder months of the year.


Easy Weeknight Chicken Tacos

Tacos are no doubt one of the best foods ever created. Just think about it. They’re cheap and easy to make. Plus, you get to choose what you want to put in them and what kind of salsa to put on them. Of course, you can also make them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And, have them on the go if needed.

These are just some of the things that make these tacos wonderful. But, the best thing about them is that they’re delicious. We love them and the kids can’t get enough of them.


Italian Chicken Bake

Simple and easy to make this is a great alternative to chicken parmigiana. It’s easy to make and you only need 4 ingredients. Plus, it takes just a few minutes to prep.


Potato Tacos with Massaged Kale

This is something I wasn’t sure about the first time I read about it. But, it works!

Basically, it’s a taco without any protein in it. No meat, no chicken, or even fish. Instead, you fill the taco shells with mashed potatoes. And, if it sounds like some vegan just concocted it in their kitchen, guess again, they’re actually a thing. And, they’re called Tacos de Papa.

Anyways, the potatoes make them more filling than your regular taco (not to mention cheaper). And, they’re perfect if you’re on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Plus, you have the kale and avocado which add a lot of nutrition to it.


Roasted Veggie and Black Bean Tacos

Tacos are a popular food to have when you’re on a budget. You can probably tell from the way your favorite Mexican restaurant charges for them. Often a set of 2 to 3 tacos cost just a few bucks, making it much cheaper than most of the other items in their menu.

And, this is another cheap dinner dish you can make at home. But this time, instead of using mashed potatoes, you’ll be enjoying it with black beans. And, in place of the raw avocado and kale, you’ve got roasted veggies.

So, it’s still a taco (and a cheap one at that). But, a very different one in taste and texture.


Dump-And-Bake Chicken And Mushroom Casserole

This recipe is perfect for busy nights when you don’t have a lot of time to prep or watch over the food while it cooks. Total prep time takes 5 minutes. And, you let the oven do the rest from there.

The best part about it is that you still end up with a hearty chicken pasta dinner that’s loaded with mushrooms.

Cooking pasta and chicken takes time. And, with the latter, you’ll need to make sure it’s cooked through without getting too dry, especially with chicken breasts. This is one way to get around having to do all the work when you’re tired or have to tend to the kids or household chores.


Easy BBQ Short Ribs

Who says you can’t enjoy awesomely great tasting food for the cheap?

That’s the case with these BBQ short ribs.

The only drawback is that they take 3 hours to make. But, I can guarantee you that if you’re patient enough, they’re well worth the wait. Besides, the oven will do all the cooking. All you need to do is create the sauce, season the ribs, prep the oven, and wait.


PF Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is a copycat recipe that will save you the extra cost of ordering takeout from your favorite Chinese fast-food chain. Plus, because you’re creating the dish yourself, you know everything is fresh and hasn’t been sitting around for days.

I love that this is an amazingly deliciously healthy dinner you can enjoy without packing on the pounds. You can also add more sriracha if you want it more spicy or up the hoisin sauce if you prefer savory.

Either way, you get to enjoy a low cost, healthy and tasty meal in just 20 minutes.



If you noticed many of the dishes are similar to something you’ve eaten before. The key to creating cheap dinner meals is getting creative and understanding which low-cost ingredients you can substitute for the expensive ones. That way, you can still enjoy the dishes you love without spending as much.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons