30 Budget friendly meals

30 Budget Friendly Meals

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Eating well on a tight budget may seem challenging, but it’s possible with smart planning and simple ingredients. These 30 quick and easy meal ideas prove that delicious, satisfying dishes don’t have to break the bank.

From humble pantry staples like lentils, beans, eggs and canned tomatoes to affordable proteins like ground meat and tuna, these recipes transform basic ingredients into flavorful fare. The key is boosting nutrition and taste by incorporating fresh or frozen vegetables, vibrant herbs and spices, and hearty grains.

You’ll find comforting classics like thick lentil soup, saucy spaghetti with marinara, and savory chili con carne. As well as globally inspired favorites such as vegetable stir-fries, chickpea curries, and zesty burrito bowls. Meal preppers will love the make-ahead potential of dishes like tuna pasta salad and egg salad sandwiches.

Whether you’re cooking for one or feeding a family, these delicious and economical meals have you covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Let’s dive into 30 wallet-friendly recipes


1. Lentil Soup

Lentil soup

(Hearty, earthy, and comforting taste)

  • In a pot, sauté 1 diced onion and 2-3 minced garlic cloves in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft, 2-3 mins.
  • Add 1 cup dried brown lentils, 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, 1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, 2 carrots sliced, 2 stalks celery sliced, 1 tsp ground cumin, and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 mins, until lentils are very soft.


2. Egg Fried Rice

Egg fried rice

(Savory with pops of flavor taste)

  • Cook 2 cups long grain rice according to package instructions.
  • Allow to cool completely. In a large skillet or wok, scramble 3 eggs over medium heat, then transfer to a plate.
  • Add 2 tbsp vegetable or sesame oil to the skillet.
  • Add 1/2 onion diced and sauté 1 min.
  • Add 1 cup frozen peas/carrots mix and 2 cloves garlic minced.
  • Sauté 2 more mins. Increase heat to high, add cooked rice and 2-3 tbsp soy sauce.
  • Toss to combine, then stir in scrambled eggs.

3. Baked Potatoes

Baked Potatoes

(Fluffy insides, crisp skin taste) 

  • Scrub and prick several russet potatoes with a fork.
  • Rub with olive oil and season with salt. Bake directly on the oven rack at 400°F for 50-60 mins until pierces easily with a fork.
  • Top with desired toppings like steamed broccoli, shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, chopped chives, and sour cream.

4. Spaghetti and Marinara

Spaghetti And Marinara

(Classic herbaceous marinara taste)

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cook 8oz spaghetti noodles per package instructions until al dente, usually 8-10 mins.
  • Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water. In a saucepan, sauté 2 garlic cloves minced in 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat 1 min.
  • Add 1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes, 1 tsp dried basil or 2 tbsp fresh chopped, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional), and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Simmer for 15-20 mins while pasta cooks.
  • Toss drained spaghetti with sauce, adding reserved pasta water as needed to loosen sauce.


5. Black Bean Quesadillas

Black bean quesadilla

(Creamy and zesty taste)

  • Rinse and drain 1 (15oz) can black beans.
  • In a bowl, mash half of the beans with 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and salt/pepper.
  • Layer the bean mixture and 1 cup shredded cheese like cheddar or Monterey jack between two small tortillas or one large tortilla folded over.
  • Cook quesadillas in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2-3 mins per side until crispy.


6. Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna pasta salad

(Bright and tangy taste)

  • Cook 8oz pasta like rotini or penne per package instructions until al dente.
  • Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add 2 (5oz) cans tuna drained, 1 celery rib diced, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1/2 cup mayo, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional), and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Toss gently to combine.

7. Veggie Stir Fry with Tofu

Veggie stir fry with tofu

(Bold and umami taste) 

  • Press and cube 1 (14oz) block extra-firm tofu between paper towels for 15 mins to remove moisture.
  • In a wok or large skillet, heat 2 tbsp vegetable or sesame oil over high heat.
  • Add tofu and cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
  • Remove tofu from the pan.
  • Add chopped veggies like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, and 2 tbsp water or broth.
  • Stir fry for 5-7 mins until crisp-tender. Return tofu to the pan and add 2-3 tbsp soy sauce. Serve over rice.

8. Burrito Bowls

Burrito bowls

(Hearty and customizable taste) 

In a large bowl, layer 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown), 1/2 cup warmed canned black or pinto beans (drained/rinsed), shredded lettuce or spinach, diced tomatoes, avocado or guacamole, shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, salsa or pico de gallo.

9. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Grilled cheese and tomato soup

(Ultimate comfort combo taste) 

  • Make grilled cheese sandwiches by buttering the outsides of 2 slices of bread, and layering sliced cheese like cheddar or Gruyere in between.
  • Cook in a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 mins per side until the bread is crispy and the cheese is melted.
  • For the soup: In a pot, sauté 2 garlic cloves minced in 2 tbsp butter 1 min.
  • Add 1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes, 1 cup milk or cream, and seasonings like 1 tsp dried basil, 1/2 tsp oregano, and salt/pepper to taste.
  • Simmer for 10 mins to allow flavors to develop.

10. Chili con Carne

Chili Con carne

(Rich and smoky taste)

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook 1 lb ground beef or turkey until browned and crumbled, 5-7 mins.
  • Drain excess fat. Add 1 diced onion and 3 cloves minced garlic.
  • Cook for 2 more mins.
  • Add 2 tbsp chili powder, and 1 tsp each of cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook for 1 min to toast spices.
  • Then add 1 (28oz) can of crushed tomatoes, 2 (15oz) cans of beans like kidney or pinto (drained/rinsed), and 1 cup of beef or chicken broth.
  • Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer for 30 mins, up to 1 hour for deeper flavor, adding more broth as needed for desired consistency

11. Fried Rice

Fried Rice

(Crispy and savory taste)

  • Use 3 cups of cooked rice.
  • Scramble 2 eggs, remove.
  • Add oil, sauté onion, garlic, and frozen veggies.
  • Add rice, 2 tbsp soy sauce, scrambled eggs.

12. Veggie Pasta

Veggie pasta

(Light and fresh taste)

  • Cook pasta al dente.
  • In a skillet, sauté garlic in oil, and add zucchini, bell pepper, and spinach until tender-crisp.
  • Season with salt/pepper, and red pepper.
  • Toss with drained pasta.

13. Baked Chicken and Roasted Veggies

Baked Chicken And roasted veggies

(Simple and nourishing taste)

  • Place chicken on a baking sheet. On another, toss chopped potatoes, carrots, and broccoli in oil and seasonings.
  • Roast both at 400°F until chicken is 165°F.

14. Bean and Rice Burritos

Bean and rice burrito

(Hearty handheld taste)

  • Cook 1 cup rice and 1 can each black/pinto beans.
  • Roll rice, beans, cheese, and salsa into warm tortillas.

15. Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg salad sandwiches

(Cool and creamy taste)

  • Chop 6 hard-boiled eggs.
  • Mix with 1/4 cup mayo, 1 tbsp mustard, 2 tbsp relish, and salt/pepper.
  • Stuff between bread slices.

16. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons

Tomato soup and grilled cheese croutons

(Nostalgic indulgent taste)

  • Make grilled cheese. For soup:
  • Sauté garlic in oil, add tomatoes, broth, cream, and basil.
  • Top with grilled cheese croutons.

17. Chickpea Curry

Chickpea Curry

(Fragrant and warmly-spiced taste)

  • Sauté onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, cumin, garam masala.
  • Add 2 cans of chickpeas with juice and diced tomatoes.
  • Simmer until thickened.

18. Tuna Melts

Tuna melts

(Indulgent and gooey taste) 

  • Mix 2 cans of drained tuna with 1/4 cup mayo and 1 cup of cheddar.
  • Spread onto bread, then broil until cheese melts.

19. Lentil Sweet Potato Stew

Lentil sweet potato stew

(Earthy and deeply savory taste)

  • Sauté onion, garlic, cumin, paprika.
  • Add 1 cup lentils, 1 diced sweet potato, crushed tomatoes, broth.
  • Simmer 25-30 mins.

20. Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers

(Protein-packed taste)

  • Cook 1 cup rice.
  • Brown 1 lb beef/turkey with onion, garlic, salt/pepper.
  • Mix meat with cooked rice and tomato sauce. Stuff into halved bell peppers and bake.

21. Pancakes/Waffles


(Sweet and savory comfort taste)

  • Follow the pancake or waffle recipe, and cook until golden brown.
  • Serve with syrup, berries, eggs, and bacon.

22. Loaded Baked Potatoes

Loaded Baked Potatoes

(Supremely satisfying taste)

  • Top hot baked potatoes with steamed broccoli, cheddar, bacon, sour cream, and green onions.

23. Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice

(Endless fresh possibilities taste)

  • Sauté frozen veggies in oil with garlic and soy sauce.
  • Add cooked rice and scrambled eggs or tofu.
  • Toss to combine.

24. Minestrone Soup

Minestrone soup

(Classic veggie-packed taste)

  • Sauté onions, garlic, celery, carrots.
  • Add tomatoes, beans, broth, small pasta, spinach.
  • Simmer until pasta is cooked through.

25. Turkey Veggie Wraps

Turkey veggie wraps

(Fresh and crunchy taste)

  • Fill tortillas/wraps with sliced deli turkey, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded carrots.

26. Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joe

(Messy and nostalgic taste)

  • Brown 1 lb beef/turkey with onions.
  • Mix with ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, and vinegar.
  • Simmer until thickened, spoon onto buns.

27. Veggie Tofu Stir Fry

Veggie stir fry tofu

(Vibrant and crisp-tender taste)

  • Quickly stir fry cubed baked or pan-seared tofu with vegetables like broccoli, and snap peas, in soy sauce and garlic over rice.

28. Taco Salads

Taco salads

(All the nacho-y flavors taste)

  • Layer chopped lettuce, seasoned taco meat, beans, tomatoes, cheese, and crushed tortilla chips in a bowl.

29. Zucchini Boats

Zucchini boat

(Garden-fresh delight taste)

  • Halve zucchinis lengthwise and scoop out seeds.
  • Fill with cooked rice/veggie or meat sauce mixture.
  • Top with cheese and bake.

30. Shakshuka


(Warm rustic comfort taste)

  • In a skillet, sauté peppers, onions, garlic, cumin, and paprika.
  • Add diced tomatoes, then crack eggs into skillet.
  • Cover and cook until eggs are set.



With these 30 quick, easy, and delicious meal ideas, you can enjoy flavorful and satisfying dishes without breaking the bank. From hearty soups and stews to light and fresh salads and bowls, there are plenty of options to please every palate.

The key is keeping things simple by using affordable pantry staples like beans, lentils, eggs, and canned tomatoes as the base. Then build flavor with fresh or frozen vegetables, herbs, spices, and small amounts of tasty proteins like tuna, chicken, or ground meat. Stretching ingredients by bulking up dishes with filling grains, pasta or potatoes also helps make these meals budget-friendly.

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