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cheap dinner recipes

Cheap Dinner Recipes

Below are 31 quick, easy, tasty, and inexpensive dinner meals you can make for the whole family in less than 30 minutes! You will love these cheap dinner recipes!

Meal planning and making inexpensive meals really are two ways that you can help to reduce your monthly expenses and balance your family budget. In addition to cutting entertainment costs if needed, spending less money on groceries and eating out are the best ways to cut your spending so you can save more money!

By making inexpensive meals like those included in the cheap dinner recipes highlighted below in this article, we are able to feed our family of five for less than $300 a month. We can then use that extra money to put toward reaching our important financial goals!

My hope is that by saving money as you make inexpensive meals, you will be able to work more quickly toward reaching your own family’s financial goals, as well!


Tip: Pin the image above to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to this article on cheap dinner recipes later!


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31 Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes You Can Make for under $5

 One of the best ways to save money on your dinner meals is to keep things simple! This isn’t the 1950s, and you don’t have to make a three-course meal every day for dinner! Today’s families are busy, and keeping things easy will help save your money and your sanity! Your family will love meals made from these cheap dinner recipes!


1. Easy pasta carbonara

If you have never tried pasta carbonara, then you need to give this recipe a try! A simple pasta carbonara features spaghetti noodles, bacon, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and seasonings like garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. This dish is a cheap, easy, and tasty dinner idea! (Everything tastes better with bacon; am I right? :)) You can find a simple and inexpensive pasta carbonara recipe here.


2. Chicken stir fry over rice 

So easy! So tasty! 🙂 We normally just wing it and throw in peppers along with whatever other vegetables we have on hand that sound good, but you can find an easy chicken stir fry recipe here. Serve over cooked white or brown rice, and omit or substitute roasted peanuts to save money. (You can save even more on peanuts if you buy the kind you have to shell, as we often do.)


3. 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner

I love this dish because it is so fast to make! It is one of my quick go-to recipes from Campbell’s (except that I use the store-brand cream of mushroom soup to save money, of course! :D). You can find this simple 15-Minute Chicken and Rice Dinner recipe here.


4. Chicken and broccoli alfredo

We make this simple and tasty dish following the Campbell’s chicken and broccoli alfredo recipe here. It’s great as a one-pot dinner, or we often eat it with toasted garlic bread. Eat with green salad to get in more veggies.


5. Ramen noodles with chicken and vegetables

I know that ramen noodles are not really healthy, but they are super cheap and they are super easy. We make eating them healthier by adding cooked chicken and favorite vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, corn, and sometimes peppers.


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6. Beef and cheese goulash

This is another cheap, easy, and tasty dish, and it feeds a lot of people! We like an easy recipe such as the cheesy beef goulash recipe here (I omit the bay leaves if I don’t have any on hand). You can half the recipe if you are feeding your family of just four or five. (Or make the full recipe so you can have leftovers. I love leftovers! :))


7. Tacos

Traditional tacos are even cheaper if you make them using your own homemade tortilla shells. You can find a simple, tasty recipe for tortillas here (you can skip the rest time if you want dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes :)).



8. Taco soup with tortilla chips

This is one of our favorite easy and cheap dinner recipes, especially during the colder months. To  make this meal, simply brown a pound of hamburger, drain it, and add taco seasoning. Then add a can or two of diced tomatoes, a can of red kidney beans, a can of chili beans (or other beans), and a can or two of corn,  (Do not drain any of the cans before you add them to the pot.)

Or you could use a simple taco soup recipe similar to this one if you like a little more of the tomato flavor to come out.


9. Chili and cornbread

When time is tight, we eat one of our favorite chili brands from the can. To make it stretch even farther, I add an extra can or two of chili or kidney beans to the pot, as well.

Or when I have a little more time, we love a simple chili recipe like this one.

I have made cornbread from scratch, and it is great, but more often than not we make it from the box because it is easier.


10. Homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade (or inexpensive) rolls or bread

We generally make a simple chicken noodle soup over the stove, and you can find a quick and easy tasty homemade chicken noodle soup recipe here.

But this is also a great slow cooker dish, as well. You can find a cheap and easy slow cooker chicken noodle soup recipe here.



 11. Noodles or mashed potatoes with stroganoff

We generally eat this dish with corn (sometimes on the cob but more often than not from a can) and often with rolls or simple bread and butter (margarine). Of course you can find tons of hamburger gravy and stroganoff recipes online. The way we make ours is very similar to this simple Ground Beef Stroganoff recipe (we also include cream of mushroom soup in ours, and we omit the fresh mushrooms if we don’t have any on hand).


12. Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas are another one of my favorite cheap dinner recipes! We generally make fajitas with green and red peppers (or whatever peppers are the least expensive at the time we are grocery shopping), onions, broccoli, carrots, avocados (if they are a good price), salsa, or other vegetables we have on hand. You can find an easy chicken fajita recipe here.


13. Spaghetti with green salad and garlic bread

Spaghetti is one of our favorite quick and easy go-to meals! We most often make spaghetti the way my mother did. We use a pound of ground beef, a can of tomato sauce with maybe half a can of water, a packet of spaghetti seasoning (though we have made our own, which is cheap and easy!), and a small can of cream of mushroom soup. Sometimes we include mushrooms (fresh or canned) and peppers (most often green peppers, since they are the least expensive), as well.


14. More Better Mac and Cheese

This is my family’s favorite way to eat good old macaroni and cheese. To traditional macaroni and cheese we add broccoli and carrots and sometimes cut up polish dogs or hot dogs, chicken, hamburger, or another meat. We also sometimes add onions and green or other colored peppers. We sometimes add ranch to shake things up a little, and I like to add salsa to mine before eating it to get even more vegetables. Yum!


15. Chicken Patty Parmesan with rolls or French bread and green salad

This is a simple meal where you take 8 ounces of cooked spaghetti noodles or another pasta of your choice, mix them with a small can and a half of tomato sauce, put them in an 8 by 8 inch casserole dish, layer four microwave-cooked (previously frozen) chicken patties over that, drizzle over with the remaining half a can of tomato sauce, cover that with half a cup (or more if you want) of shredded cheese, and top that with a fourth cup (or more if you want) Parmesan cheese. Serve with toasted garlic bread and your favorite green salad.

16. Mom’s Beef Stew

My own mom’s beef stew, that is. 🙂 We make it using a pound of hamburger, sliced potatoes and carrots, corn, onions, quick barley (optional), and a small can of cream of mushroom soup to make it thicker and creamier. Salt and pepper to taste. You can also use frozen mixed vegetables to make the prep for this meal even easier.

To prepare, brown the hamburger with an onion, and drain. While you are browning the hamburger, boil the chopped potatoes, carrots, and barley. After the vegetables in the pot are tender, add the mushroom soup, browned hamburger, and frozen mixed vegetables, if using. Heat until warmed through, and enjoy! 


17. Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are another of our favorite cheap dinner recipes. I like this simple Sloppy Joe recipe, but of course there are many, many variations.


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18. Meatball Sub Soup

You can find a simple recipe for Meatball Sub Soup here. You can slice French bread and dip it into the soup if you want to use a simpler substitute for baguettes (like we do).


19. Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie

I love homemade chicken pot pie (the baked kind)! And it is not hard to make, but it does take a little more effort than I want to give for dinner on most busy weeknights.  So this quicker version of this classic meal is awesome! You can find a simple Stovetop Chicken Pot Pie recipe here.


20. Parmesan Chicken with Rice

This is another great chicken and Parmesan (and chicken and rice) recipe. You can find a simple Parmesan chicken with rice recipe here.


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21. Grilled cheese (with lunch meat, if desired) sandwiches and tomato soup

Grilled cheese is another favorite cheap dinner recipe; actually, it’s so simple you don’t even need a recipe. You simply need your favorite bread, cheese, butter or margarine (optional, to coat the bread and give it a more toasted color), and spinach (also optional, but it is yummy and makes this kid-friendly dish more nutritious). 🙂


22. Quesadillas (traditional or lunch meat and cheese)

All you need for this easy dinner are flour tortilla shells, cheese (that you shred), ham or other favorite luncheon meat (optional), and spinach (also optional, but, like the grilled cheese sandwiches just above, it is yummy and makes this kid-friendly dish more nutritious).


23. Barbecue Chicken Tostadas

If you love barbecue chicken, then you will love this cheap dinner recipe that you can make in 20 minutes or less. You can find a great recipe for Barbecue Chicken Tostadas here.


24. Biscuits and gravy

This is one of my favorite meals. My husband makes the gravy while I make the biscuits, and we can have it on the table in about half an hour. Though it takes a little longer than the other foods here, it’s worth it! Some might consider this primarily a breakfast food, but we probably make it as often for dinner as we do for breakfast. 🙂

Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
3 oz. butter
1 cup buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients, gently knead in butter, and add milk. Gently knead on floured surface—don’t overknead. Bake 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Makes about 6.

½ pound ground sausage and bacon (total, or just ½ pound sausage)
4 hard-boiled eggs, diced (optional, but so delicious!)
2 T. butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups milk
Salt and pepper

Directions: Cook sausage and bacon; remove and put grease in pot. Add butter and melt. Add flour a little at a time. Cook 2-3 minutes, and then add milk a little at a time. Stir. Add sausage and bacon and cut-up eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste.


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25. Hot dogs, brats, and fries

The kids eat hot dogs, we eat brats, and we all love fries. At the local discount store where we do a lot of our grocery shopping we can often get brats for $1.50 or less a package, about half off the normal price. Even full price, my husband eats two brats and I eat one, so this meal is still well under $5 for our family of five.

Since I don’t like to have to keep hot dog buns on hand, we generally eat our brats and hot dogs with bread rather than buns. To me they taste just as good, and they are also cheaper that way! (We do the same thing with bread instead of hamburger buns, for the same reasons.) We cook our fries over the stove instead of frying them in oil to make this (not healthy but tasty!) dish a little bit healthier.


26. Lemon pepper chicken with rice

Another family favorite cheap dinner recipe is lemon pepper chicken. This is another easy dinner option that you can make in about 20 minutes. You can find a tasty lemon pepper chicken recipe here.


27. Creamy chicken and mushroom soup

This yummy soup is perfect for cool nights, and it can be on your dinner table in just 20 minutes ! You can find the recipe for Creamy Chicken and Mushroom soup here.


28. Egg fried rice

You can make this simple, cheap dinner in just 15 minutes, so it is perfect for those busy evenings after work and school. There are many variations, but I like this easy egg fried rice recipe.


29. Cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole

This is another one of our family favorites. It is so creamy and good! Find this 30-minute cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole here. (If you need to cook the chicken, you can boil or saute it on the stove in about 15 or 20 minutes.)



Meal Planning Made Even Easier: Consider Using an Inexpensive Meal Planning Service

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create an inexpensive meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like $5 Meal Plans could be a great option for you. $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month, and they do all of the planning for you!

They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool! With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And the service comes with a 14-day free trial, so you have nothing to lose! If this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out $5 Meal Plans here.

If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out per month, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.

30. Quick Bean and Rice Burritos

Of course I had to include a beans and rice recipe. 🙂 These burritos are tasty and filling and can be on your table in less than 30 minutes. You can find a simple Quick Bean and Rice recipe here.


31. Easy Beef Enchiladas

We love these simple beef enchiladas that you can make in about 30 minutes. Cook one pound of hamburger with half a large onion or one small onion in a large skillet. While the hamburger is browning, pour one-third of a can of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.

When the hamburger is browned, stir in a can of refried beans and a small can of tomato sauce. Add in taco seasoning (from a packet, or make your own!).

Then spoon the enchilada mixture evenly into eight large flour tortilla shells, and roll them up and lay them horizontally in the casserole dish. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the rolled tortillas, and cover with one cup of shredded cheese. Top with sliced olives if desired.

Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, or other favorite toppings.



These 31 quick, easy, and cheap dinner recipes will help you to get food on the table fast for your hungry family! Feed your family quick, delicious, inexpensive meals every day of the month for under $5 a meal! 


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