Keep calm and save on with these 27 budget dinner ideas

Photo of author

| Published:

Budget dinner ideas are your financial lifeboat in a sea of pricey groceries. With these 27 recipes, you’ll keep calm and save on, all while serving up great meals that won’t have your bank account giving you the side-eye. Forget about fancy ingredients that cost an arm and a leg; we’re focusing on good food that keeps your cash where it belongs — in your pocket.

Close-up of a creamy macaroni salad with tuna and a sprinkle of paprika and chopped parsley in a white bowl.
Tuna Macaroni Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

A casserole dish filled with tater tots, shredded chicken, and corn, topped with melted cheese and green onions.
Chicken Tater Tot Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole is a hearty and easy-to-make dish, perfect for a comforting weeknight dinner. It combines shredded chicken, cream of mushroom soup, spices, and frozen corn, all topped with cheddar cheese and tater tots. This dish is quick to prepare, taking less than an hour from start to finish, but it’s also budget-friendly and a great hit with both kids and adults. The casserole can be made ahead and frozen for later use, making it a great choice for busy schedules.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole

Stuffed bell pepper casserole in a pan with a wooden spoon.
Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole is a smart pick when you’re watching your budget. It uses affordable ingredients like ground beef, rice, and bell peppers and takes about 45 minutes to prepare. Easy to make and great the next day, it’s a practical way to stretch your budget further. With its rich flavors and simple ingredients, this dish ensures you can have a nutritious meal without breaking the bank. It’s perfect for large families looking to eat well for less.
Get the Recipe: Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole

Sausage and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Sausage and veggies sheet pan dinner with a spoon.
Sausage and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The Sausage and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner is a quick and simple meal that packs a lot of flavor, perfect for busy weeknights. It involves roasting sausages alongside a medley of vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, and sweet mini peppers on a single sheet pan. This cooking method allows all the ingredients to caramelize, giving them crispy edges and tender interiors. Prepped and cooked in just 30 minutes, this meal is not only convenient but also low in carb and high in protein, making it a great choice for a nutritious dinner.
Get the Recipe: Sausage and Veggies Sheet Pan Dinner

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Slow cooker split pea soup in a slow cooker with a spoon.
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Set up this Split Pea Soup in the morning and come back to a ready meal. It’s one of the best ways to use what you have and cut costs. The recipe can be adapted for vegetarian diets by substituting chicken broth with vegetable broth and omitting the ham. It’s rich in nutrients from split peas, carrots, celery, and onions, giving it a good source of fiber, protein, and vitamins. This soup is perfect for busy people who want to come home to a comforting meal without spending a fortune. It’s also perfect for meal prepping and saves on groceries.
Get the Recipe: Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Garlic Butter Chicken Bites

A plate of garlic butter chicken bites.
Garlic Butter Chicken Bites. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

These garlic butter chicken bites are quick and economical. Cut some chicken breasts into pieces, cook them fast, and toss in garlic butter. They’re ready in 20 minutes, and you only need one pan, which makes cleanup easy. Pair them with rice or veggies for a full meal that doesn’t hit your wallet hard. Cooking with basic ingredients like chicken and garlic allows you to buy in bulk and save money, these bites are perfect for a high-protein meal.
Get the Recipe: Garlic Butter Chicken Bites

Reuben Bowls

A bowl of coleslaw with creamy dressing, garnished with green onions, served in a ceramic bowl with a fork.
Reuben Bowls. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

For a dinner that’s quick, easy, and keeps your spending in check, these Reuben Bowls are a great go-to. You can have them on the table in just half an hour. Brown up some deli corned beef, throw it together with coleslaw or shredded cabbage, pile on the sauerkraut, melt some Swiss cheese on top, and give it a good drizzle of Thousand Island dressing. If you’re all about saving a few extra minutes, grab a bottle of dressing from the store instead. Simple, straightforward, and sure to be a hit at dinner without costing you an arm and a leg.
Get the Recipe: Reuben Bowls

Cabbage and Sausage

A pan of cabbage and sausage garnished with fresh herbs.
Cabbage and Sausage. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The dish, Cabbage and Sausage, is a quick and hearty one-pan meal that’s ready in less than 30 minutes. One pan and a few simple ingredients like affordable cabbage make this a go-to for a delicious, low-cost meal. Perfect for a cozy dinner, it combines the soft, sweet taste of cooked cabbage with the robust, meaty flavor of sausage, all enhanced with a touch of spices and a splash of apple cider vinegar for a little zing. It’s particularly great for weeks when the budget is tight, but you still want something good to put on the table.
Get the Recipe: Cabbage and Sausage

Tuna Macaroni Salad

A close-up image of a bowl of tuna pasta salad garnished with herbs and sprinkled with spices.
Tuna Macaroni Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

When your budget’s tight and you’re looking for a great dinner option, this Tuna Macaroni Salad has got your back. It’s a breeze to whip up in 40 minutes with ingredients that are probably already in your kitchen. Perfect for those busy weeknights, this dish is all about tossing together some elbow macaroni with canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, sweet relish, and mustard. Plus, you can make it your own by swapping out ingredients to match what you’ve got on hand. It’s the kind of recipe that makes your wallet relax.
Get the Recipe: Tuna Macaroni Salad

Shake and Bake Pork Chops

Two shake and bake pork chops on a plate.
Shake and Bake Pork Chops. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This recipe for Shake and Bake Pork Chops is a quick and straightforward method to make juicy, crispy pork chops without the need for frying. The dish involves coating the pork chops with a mix of breadcrumbs, spices, and a thin layer of mayonnaise to ensure they stay moist while getting a delicious crust. It’s a great meal choice for busy weeknights since it only requires 25 minutes from start to finish. Buy the chops in bulk to save more money. It’s a great way to make a quick dinner that feels special without the high cost.
Get the Recipe: Shake and Bake Pork Chops

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

A fresh Caesar salad with chicken, croutons, tomatoes, and dressing, served in a large white bowl with a fork.
Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This pasta salad is a smart pick when you’re looking to save money and whip up something fast. It mixes chicken, croutons, and tomatoes in a delicious dressing and is ready in just 25 minutes. Great for a speedy dinner at home, this dish uses pre-cooked chicken and store-bought dressing to cut down cooking time. By using simple ingredients and quick prep methods, you’re not just saving time; you’re also keeping your grocery bill low.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Loaded Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

Loaded broccoli cauliflower casserole in a baking dish garnished with green onions.
Loaded Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The Loaded Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole is a quick and easy affordable dish that combines steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a rich cheese sauce and crispy bacon, all baked to a golden perfection. This casserole can be whipped up in just 30 minutes, making it a great choice for a weeknight meal. It’s perfect for making ahead and fits right into a tight budget. Not only is this dish great for using up any extra cheese or veggies you might have, but it also means you can buy ingredients in bulk and use them in multiple meals.
Get the Recipe: Loaded Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole

A casserole dish filled with pasta and peas.
Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Whip up this Tuna Noodle Casserole with things you probably already have, like noodles, canned tuna, and peas. It’s fast, filling, and won’t hit your wallet hard. A great choice for a last-minute dinner that’s easy to make. This dish also works well for bulk cooking, which means you can save by buying ingredients in larger, more economical quantities. The casserole also stores well, making it perfect for leftovers and even freezing for future use. This makes it a practical choice for busy weeknights, giving a hearty meal with minimal effort. It’s a simple way to make your food budget last longer.
Get the Recipe: Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole

Crock Pot Taco Soup

A crock pot of taco soup.
Crock Pot Taco Soup. Photo credit: Plays Well With Butter.

Taco soup is a winner for anyone on a budget who wants to keep things simple. Start with budget-friendly ground beef and throw in some canned tomatoes and other pantry items. Set it in the Crock Pot and let it do its thing. You’ll have a hearty soup that’s not only cheap but also freezes well for future meals. It’s flavorful and warming and can be customized with various garnishes like sour cream, cheddar cheese, or avocado slices. This makes it perfect for planning ahead and avoiding the temptation of more expensive takeout on busy days.
Get the Recipe: Crock Pot Taco Soup

Baked Ravioli

A close-up of a cheesy baked ravioli garnished with herbs, with a fork lifting a portion to show the melted cheese.
Baked Ravioli. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Baked Ravioli is a perfect dish for busy weeknights. It’s a comforting meal that’s easy on your wallet and doesn’t take long to prepare. Just layer frozen ravioli with marinara sauce and cheese, then bake until bubbly. It’s a solid choice for a busy night and a smart way to use leftover veggies or cheese. By using frozen ravioli, you can take advantage of sales and stock up, which helps reduce meal costs over time, making it a great strategy for budget-conscious cooks.
Get the Recipe: Baked Ravioli

Chicken Corn Soup

Two bowls of chicken corn soup garnished with parsley.
Chicken Corn Soup. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Chicken Corn Soup is a perfect choice for anyone looking to save money and time in the kitchen. It combines chicken, creamed corn, and corn kernels in a rich, flavorful broth. Quick to prepare, this soup can be on your table in less than 30 minutes. Making this soup in bulk can extend your food budget as you can freeze extra portions for future meals. This recipe is particularly good for using leftover chicken, making it a smart way to reduce food waste and stretch your dollars further. It’s a straightforward, no-waste way to make a filling meal.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Corn Soup

Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats

Bacon ranch chicken salad cucumber boats lined up on a plate.
Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Try these cucumber boats for a creative, budget-friendly meal. They combine canned chicken, cooked bacon bits, cheddar cheese, and homemade ranch seasoning in cucumber halves. They’re quick to make and light on your budget, making them a great option for a simple meal that uses what you have at home. This dish not only cuts down on carbs but also helps you use leftovers effectively, ensuring nothing goes to waste while keeping your meals exciting and affordable.
Get the Recipe: Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad Cucumber Boats

White Bean Soup

A bowl of white bean soup with carrots and croutons.
White Bean Soup. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

White Bean Soup is a perfect choice when you need a budget-friendly meal that’s quick to prepare. Using canned beans, spinach, and veggies, this soup becomes creamy and smooth without the need for actual cream, all in about 40 minutes. It’s not just easy on your wallet but also a great way to make a filling meal without spending too much time in the kitchen. Plus, using pantry staples like canned beans means you can stock up and save on groceries.
Get the Recipe: White Bean Soup

Canned Chicken Patties

Chicken patties with broccoli on a plate.
Canned Chicken Patties. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

If you’re tight on money and time, these Canned Chicken Patties are perfect. Made with canned chicken, eggs, Parmesan, and your choice of sunflower seed meal or almond flour, you can have a delicious meal ready in about 20 minutes. It’s a simple recipe that’s great for any meal and can be served with any side dish you like. Cooking with canned chicken is a cost-effective way to include protein in your meals without stretching your budget. This dish is not only a great choice for adults but is also kid-friendly, making it a versatile option for any meal.
Get the Recipe: Canned Chicken Patties

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Chicken pot pie soup in a white bowl with a spoon.
Chicken Pot Pie Soup. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup gives the comforting taste of a traditional chicken pot pie without the extra effort and cost of making a crust. This recipe brings together chicken, vegetables, and a hearty broth in a less expensive and easier-to-prepare format. Ready quickly, it’s a great solution for busy nights and perfect for using leftovers efficiently to stretch your dollar further. Plus, it’s a warming dish that feels like a treat without costing you a fortune.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Creamy Ground Beef Skillet with Cauliflower Rice

Creamy ground beef skillet with cauliflower rice with a wooden spoon.
Creamy Ground Beef Skillet with Cauliflower Rice. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

For a meal that’s easy on your budget and can be made in 30 minutes, try the Creamy Ground Beef Skillet with Cauliflower Rice. It combines budget-friendly ground beef with cauliflower rice and mushrooms in a cheddar cheese sauce, all cooked in a single skillet to simplify cleanup. This dish not only saves time but also minimizes your spend on ingredients while still being hearty and filling. It’s perfect for a busy weeknight when time and money are limited.
Get the Recipe: Creamy Ground Beef Skillet with Cauliflower Rice

Broccoli Casserole

A casserole dish with broccoli and cheese in it.
Broccoli Casserole. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Broccoli Casserole is a cost-effective and comforting meal perfect for those looking to stretch their food budget. It combines fresh broccoli with creamy mushroom soup, eggs, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and shredded cheddar cheese, topped with cracker crumbs for some crunch. This dish is simple to prepare and can be a great way to encourage vegetable intake. It reheats well, making it perfect for meal prep and ensuring you get value from every ingredient.
Get the Recipe: Broccoli Casserole

Cheesy Beef Casserole with Cauliflower Rice and Spinach

Cheesy beef casserole with cauliflower rice and spinach being spooned out of a baking dish.
Cheesy Beef Casserole with Cauliflower Rice and Spinach. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The Cheesy Beef Casserole with Cauliflower Rice and Spinach is a quick, protein-rich dish that’s great for weeknight dinners without breaking the bank. It’s prepared in just 30 minutes and combines ground beef, cauliflower rice, spinach, and cheddar cheese for a filling and flavorful meal. This dish not only fills you up but also keeps you well, so you can enjoy leftovers another day. It’s perfect for busy families looking to stretch their food budget with meals that are both filling and nutritious.
Get the Recipe: Cheesy Beef Casserole with Cauliflower Rice and Spinach

Green Chile Chicken

Green chile chicken in a pan with a wooden spoon.
Green Chile Chicken. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Whip up this Green Chile Chicken in only 20 minutes using leftover or store-bought rotisserie chicken. With the added heat of green chiles and the richness of cheddar cheese, this dish is both flavorful and comforting. It’s an efficient way to use up leftovers, ensuring nothing goes to waste, which is great for anyone on a tight budget looking for a delicious meal without extra spending. Serve it over rice or stuffed in tacos for an easy and hearty dinner.
Get the Recipe: Green Chile Chicken

Cheesy Fajita Baked Chicken

Cheesy chicken fajita bake in a baking pan.
Cheesy Fajita Baked Chicken. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Enjoy a touch of Mexican flavor with this easy, wallet-friendly Cheesy Fajita Baked Chicken. This meal features oven-baked chicken breasts seasoned with chili, paprika, cumin, and other spices, topped with cream cheese and colorful mini sweet peppers, then finished with shredded mozzarella cheese. It cooks up in just 30 minutes, making it a great choice for a busy evening. Simple ingredients and minimal prep make this recipe for cost-conscious home cooks who don’t want to sacrifice flavor for affordability.
Get the Recipe: Cheesy Fajita Baked Chicken

Spinach Chicken Bake

A serving spoon serving of creamy spinach chicken bake.
Spinach Chicken Bake. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

The Creamy Spinach Chicken Bake is a budget-friendly and quick-to-prepare recipe, great for a busy weeknight dinner. This dish is made with boneless chicken thighs, cream cheese, spinach, and mozzarella, delivering a rich and hearty flavor. Ready in about 30 minutes, it’s perfect for a busy night and great for freezing leftovers, making it a smart pick for reducing food waste and saving money. This meal is a hit for families wanting to enjoy a comforting dinner that doesn’t strain their wallets.
Get the Recipe: Spinach Chicken Bake

Fried Cabbage with Bacon

A pan full of bacon and cabbage with a wooden spoon.
Fried Cabbage with Bacon. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

Save some cash and still enjoy a great meal with this Fried Cabbage with Bacon. This is a quick and flavorful meal that combines cabbage, bacon, and onion, which are sautéed to create a dish with balanced flavors and textures. It’s low in carbs, high in protein, and can be whipped up in just 25 minutes. This dish is not only easy to make but also very cost-effective, perfect for when you’re looking to stretch your budget further without compromising on taste or satisfaction.
Get the Recipe: Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Chicken with creamy mushroom sauce in a pan.
Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce. Photo credit: Real Balanced.

This Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce is perfect when you’re on a budget but want to cook something special. It features chicken thighs covered in a creamy mushroom sauce, enriched with the flavors of sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan. The dish is quick to prepare, taking little time and typically using ingredients you already have in your kitchen. This makes it not only easy but also cost-effective as it avoids the need for extra grocery runs. It’s a perfect weeknight dinner that feels luxurious without breaking the bank.
Get the Recipe: Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.