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cheap meals for weight loss

 


Cheap Meals for Weight Loss

In this article I am going to talk about some of my personal favorite cheap meals for weight loss. This is how I lost more than 80 pounds on a very tight budget! Find out how you can get back to a healthy weight without spending a ton of money and breaking the bank!

You can use the cheap meal ideas in this article to create a budget-friendly simple meal plan to lose weight. You do not have to spend a bunch of money on special pre-made weight loss meals that cost a fortune. Simply count calories and exercise, and you can lose weight cheaply and effectively! 

You will also find in this article several healthy recipes for weigh loss on a budget. Particularly in the section on cheap dinner meals for weight loss, I include recipes and meal ideas that are ideal for losing weight without spending a bunch of money. You can use these healthy recipes to lose weight fast!

And it does not have to take a lot of time, either. When possible, try to build your exercise into your daily routine! One of my favorite ways to do that is that I exercise while I work! Check out this related article on how to lose weight on a budget and busy schedule: Burn 800+ Calories per hour with This Awesome Weight Loss Hack!

 

Tip: Pin the image above so that you can easily refer to this article on cheap meals for weight loss later!

 

35 Cheap Meal Ideas for Weight Loss

You really can lose weight cheaply and easily! And in this article, I discuss some of my favorite cheap meals for weight loss! You definitely do not have to buy expensive foods to follow a special diet plan (as several people I know have done in the past).

In fact, it is much better if you don’t, because that will make your long-term weight management more sustainable. Sticking to foods you already eat and love will make it easier to course correct in the future if you need to to lose a few pounds and get back to your ideal weight.

Another of my simple rules of thumb to help guide me in my decisions of what to eat when considering cheap meals for weight loss is this: I try to eat no more than 300 calories for breakfast or breakfast/morning snack, 400 calories for lunch or lunch/mid-afternoon snack, and 5 00 calories for dinner or dinner.

This helps me to easily do portion control for the three meals of the day. Generally, dieticians recommend that when trying to lose weight, you eat no fewer than 1,200 calories per day. Eating fewer calories than that can have negative consequences on your long-term health.

Find ideas for cheap meals for weight loss below.

 

Check out these related articles:

 

How Can I Lose Weight Fast and Cheap?

The good thing about weight loss is that when you get right down to it, there really are just two primary factors: how many calories you consume and how many calories you burn.

If you want to lose weight fast, then one of the best ways to do that is to limit the number of calories you eat to 1,200 calories a day. And the suggested meals in this article follow a 1,200 calorie meal plan.

All of the meals in this article are also very cheap, so that you should be able to eat for less than $3 a day with these cheap meals for weight loss as your diet plan.

 

What Should I Eat at Dinner to Lose Weight?

This article contains many ideas to answer this question of what should I eat at dinner to lose weight?

In the section on cheap dinner meals for weight loss, you will find quick, easy, and inexpensive meal ideas for weight loss.

 

What Are the Best Meals for Weight Loss? (Best Cheap Meals for Weight Loss)

If you are looking to lose weight without breaking the bank, then you will find in this article some of the best meals for weight loss.

Below is my simple (and effective; I have lost more than 80 pounds following this plan) diet plan featuring cheap meals for weight loss success.

Read on to learn some great cheap meals for weight loss.

I like to keep things simple, and so I no longer write down everything that I eat and how many calories each thing has (though I definitely did do that for at least the first few months when I was initially working to lose all that weight).

Instead, I simply make sure that I eat no more than 300 calories for breakfast/morning snack, 400 calories for lunch/afternoon snack, and 500 calories for dinner, as a general rule of thumb.

I am a big advocate of keeping things simple, because I really think it helps people to stick with and accomplish their goals.

Note: If you want to lose weight and do it on a budget without spending a ton of money, also check out this article with 15 tips for how to lose weight on a budget!

 

Breakfast Ideas for Cheap Meals for Weight Loss

Simple and cheap breakfast meals that you can eat for weight loss on a 1,200 calorie diet plan include the following ideas.

Fresh or frozen fruit and yogurt

Many pieces of whole, medium-sized fruit are 100 calories or less. This includes various varieties of apples, bananas, peaches, nectarines, plums, oranges, and more.

One cup of fresh or frozen strawberry halves is only about 50 calories, and a cup of blueberries (which would be a lot of blueberries! I would mix that up with other fruit like strawberries or bananas, since they are cheaper :)) is about 85 calories.

A cup of mixed fruit is generally also 100 calories or less, and a cup of mixed berries (like the bags you get from Walmart, such as Great Value, or from Dole) is generally about 80 calories.

Some of these fruits you can cut up and eat directly in your yogurt, like bananas, strawberries, and other fresh or frozen berries.

I like to eat my fruit with Dannon Light and Fit yogurt, which has only 110 calories per cup.

With a cup of yogurt at about 100 calories and whole fruit or cup of cut fruit at about 100 calories or less, this leaves me 100 calories for a snack later in the morning.

For that morning snack, I usually eat another piece of whole fruit or baby carrots or something similar.

 

Oatmeal

Many of the packets of flavored instant oatmeal that you get, such as maple and brown sugar (160 calories) or apple cinnamon (130 calories), are around 150 calories. If you eat one of these packets of oatmeal and a piece of whole fruit, that keeps you within your 300 calorie breakfast allotment.

However, if you want a heartier breakfast with more oatmeal, then you can eat 2/3 cup regular oatmeal mixed with a tablespoon or two of artificial sweetener like sucralose (the Great Value kind is pretty cheap and really lasts a long time!), and just cook that in the microwave for a minute or two, instead (depending on the power of your microwave).

 

2 Ingredient Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Another cheap and easy oatmeal option is to eat 2-ingredient banana oatmeal cookies, where you mash up banans and oatmeal and form them into balls and bake them for about 8 to 10 minutes.

 

Banana and oats

And an even simpler variation of that that I eat quite regularly (even when I am not counting calories) is mashed up bananas and oatmeal, not baked. I mash up one banana with about 2/3 cup oatmeal, and it is naturally sweet and yummy!

 

Toast and jam

Another cheap option for low-calorie breakfast is to eat a couple of pieces of toast (usually 100 calories or less for a simple slice of wheat or whole wheat bread) and sugar-free jam (usually about 10 calories per tablespoon).

If you eat the bread like the one we do that is about 80 calories, then two slices is 160 calories, and two tablespoons of jam (one per slice) is another 20, so that leaves you just over 100 calories for a piece of whole fruit or cup of cut fruit later in the morning for a snack.

 

Fried eggs with toast

Again, for about 160 calories, you can have two pieces of regular wheat or whole wheat bread, and a medium egg is 70 calories. So two medium eggs is 140 calories, plus 160 calories for the toast, and that gives up our 300 calories for breakfast! 

 

Toast with avocado

Even though avocados have gotten quite a bit more expensive in the last few years, you can still have a pretty inexpensive breakfast eating toast with avocado.

If you eat two slices of wheat breat (about 160 calories) and half of a medium avocado (about 160 calories), that is a total of 320 calories, which is close enough to our 300 calorie goal.

Or you can have one slice of bread and half an avocado with slices of tomato, and have another great breakfast option for less than 300 calories!

 

Cereal and milk

Cereal and milk can be a pretty inexpensive and low-calorie way to go, if you get the right cereal.

For example, a cup of toasted Os (the generic version of Cheerios), which is not laden with sugar like many breakfast cereals, has about 110 calories. Add a cup of nonfat (skim) milk, and that is about 80 calories. So you can have a cup of cereal and cup of milk for less than 200 calories, and then eat a piece of whole fruit later in the morning for a snack.

 

Bagel with jam

You can get the slimmer, lower-calorie bagels that have only about 110 calories, but they are more expensive than the regular bagels.

Sara Lee blueberry bagels, for example, have about 260 calories, and with two tablespoons of sugar-free jam, that keeps us within our 300 calories allotted for breakfast.

 

Hard-boiled egg with cheese in a tortilla

This is another great option to include for a cheap meal for weight loss. A medium-sized flour tortilla is about 100 calories (but watch this; some fatter tortillas are quite a bit more than that!), a slice of low-fat (pre-sliced) cheese is around 80 calories (depending on the type of cheese), and a large egg is about 80 calories. 

So you could eat your egg and melted slice of cheese in a flour tortilla, and then have a handful of baby carrots or cup of raw, chopped broccoli or similar thing as a mid-morning snack, and stick within a 300-calorie breakfast plan.

 

Lunch Ideas for Cheap Meals for Weight Loss

To save money and time, I like to keep lunch really simple (whether I am working to lose weight or not!).

By keeping lunch simple and cheap, I am able to save a ton of money every month by not going out to eat every day at work!

So here are some simple ideas for low-calorie lunches on a budget.

Again, when doing a 1,200-calorie diet, I allocate 400 calories to lunch or lunch + afternoon snack.

 

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a piece of whole fruit and veggies

Two pieces of regular wheat or whole wheat bread (depending on the brand) can be abourt 160 calories total, plus one tablespoon of peanut butter (which you can get by on if you spread it pretty thin) is about 90 calories, plus one tablespoon sugar-free jam is 10 calories. So that is about 260 calories.

Then if you eat a piece of medium-sized whole fruit that is generally less than 100 calories. Top that off with a handful of baby carrots or cup of your favorite vegetables or a simple salad with low-calorie dressing.

 

Luncheon meat and cheese sandwich with whole fruit and veggies

Another inexpensive option for lunch when looking for a cheap meal for weight loss is to eat a meat and cheese sandwich with fruit and veggies.

Calories vary depending on the type and brand of luncheon meat, but you can eat a good amount of most luncheon meats (like, three or four slices) for under 100 calories. One slice of pre-sliced cheese is generally about 80 calories (though some, like provolone, have fewer calories), and two slices of simple wheat bread is about 160 calories. A large handful of spinach or lettuce adds less than 10 calories.

So that gets you up to about 350 calories, which leaves you 60 calories for a simple green salad with low-calorie dressing, a handful of baby carrots, a cup of vegetables, or a small fruit or half of a medium fruit.

 

Meat and cheese wrap

A simple variation of a meat and cheese sandwich (described just above) is to create a wrap. This can save you 50 to 60 calories, too, if you use a single medium flour tortilla (at about 100 calories) instead of two pieces of bread.

 

Quesadilla

Another simple lunch option is a cheese quesadilla or meat and cheese quesadilla.

With a medium flour tortilla cut in half (about 100 calories) and two slices of pre-sliced cheese (about 150 to 160 calories total), the main part of your lunch is about 250 calories.

Then you can eat a piece of medium fruit with about 100 calories and a serving of vegetables for about 50 calories.

 

Tuna sandwich

There are about 80 calories in a half can of tuna, and about 70 calories in two tablespoons of light mayo. That adds up to 150 calories. Then if your piece of wheat or whole wheat bread has about 80 calories, that would be 160 for two slices. So your tuna sandwich will be just over 300 calories. That leaves you 100 calories for a medium piece of fruit and a handful of baby carrots or a cup of vegetables or a small salad with a tablespoon or two of light vinaigrette dressing (which is about 25 for two tablespoons).

 

Egg salad sandwich

If you boil two eggs to include in your egg salad sandwich, that is about 150 calories. Then, with one and a half tablespoons of light mayo, that is another 50 calories or so. That adds up to 200 calories.

Then with two pieces of wheat or whole wheat bread, that would be an additional 160 calories for two slices. So your egg salad sandwich will be just over 350 calories. (Or make it a wrap, and save about 50 or 60 calories.)

That leaves you about 50 calories for a handful of baby carrots or a cup of vegetables or a small salad with a tablespoon or two of light vinaigrette dressing (which is about 25 for two tablespoons) or a half a piece of medium fruit.

 

Chicken salad sandwich

One average boneless, skinless chicken breast is about 270 calories. If you use half a chicken breast to chop it up and add two tablespoons of light mayo to make your chicken salad mixture, that is about 210 calories.

Then add your favorite seasonings, and spread it on a slice of wheat bread. Cover with another slice of bread, and that is 370 calories for your chicken salad sandwich.

Then you would have about 30 calories left allotted for a serving of vegetables.

 

Simple green salad

You can eat a ton of green salad for not very many calories, which is why it is such a popular diet food! For example, you can eat a cup of spinach or lettuce for less than 10 calories!

So start with two or more cups of spinach, add in a cup of chopped broccoli for about 30 calories, one cup of chopped carrots for 50 calories, a cup of chopped cauliflower for 25 calories, a couple of tablespoons of low-calorie dressing, and you have a huge salad for less than 200 calories.

Then you can have a piece of medium fruit on the side (such as apple, banana, orange, or peach) for less than 100 calories, and even tear up a piece of sliced cheese (sliced cheese is just easier when you are on a diet because the calories are already calculated so easily for you) and add it for less than 100 calories. And there is your 400-calorie lunch!

Dinner Ideas for Cheap Meals for Weight Loss

This section is super helpful if you are looking for ideas on what to eat for dinner to lose weight?

Again, as I mentioned above, to keep things simple, I allocate 500 calories to dinner when I am following a 1,200 calorie diet plan. The suggestions below fall within that allotted calorie count.

When I am on a low-calorie diet, I keep my dinner options really simple, to help me be successful in counting calories and therefore losing the weight that I want to.

And if we get invited to dinner at someone’s home, for example, I am not afraid to take my own simple dinner, such as a salad I make in a few minutes at home, or a simple lunch meat sandwich and fruit. This is a very simple way to keep from getting derailed from your diet. So please do this to help youself stay on track! 🙂

 

Mixed veggie and chicken quesadillas

This is a great way to get extra nutrition into this quick and easy cheesy dish. The recipe calls for using a pouch of Libby’s frozen vegetables (which I believe is no longer sold), but you can use the equivalent amount (13 ounces, or roughly 1.5 cups) of whatever fresh or frozen vegetables you have available. One serving of this dish has just over 400 calories.

If you do not have Monterey Jack cheese on hand, you can substitute cheddar cheese, which adds just an extra 15 calories to the dish. You can get this quick and easy mixed veggie and chicken quesadilla recipe here.

 

One Pot Teriyaki Chicken and Noodles

This is an easy and versatile (and quick!) cheap meal for weight loss. A serving has just over 400 calories, and because this recipe serves 6, you will have enough for leftovers! You can also switch out the vegetables if you like or if there is one that you do not have on hand, such as the snap peas. (And if you do not have fresh ginger on hand, you can omit that as well, and the recipe still tastes great!) Ready in just 25 minutes and requiring just one pan, this recipe is a great one for busy nights! You can get this one pot teriyaki chicken and noodles here.

 

Pan-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

This is another cheap meal for weight loss that features chicken and vegetables. And it is another one-dish meal, which helps with easy cleanup! The recipe calls for chicken thighs, which are even less expensive then chicken breast, but you can sub chicken breast if that is what you prefer or have on hand.  The rosemary and paprika help to give this dish great flavor.

You can get this pan-roasted chicken and vegetables recipe here.

 

Easy cheesy beef and pasta

Don’t let the title scare you; this recipe, despite its cheesy goodness, has just 470 calories per serving. It is made with lean ground beef, onion, red bell pepper, pasta, milk, cheese, tomato sauce, and seasonings to help give it a great flavor. You can get this easy cheesy beef and pasta dish here.

 

Tortilla Pie

This is a simpler take on traditional lasagna, and the result is a hearty, tasty comfort food on your table in just 30 minutes. You can substitute the reduced-fat ricotta cheese for low-fat cottage cheese if you do not have any ricotta cheese on hand (or want to save some money), and the total calorie difference is about 100 fewer calories, or 25 fewer calories per serving, for the cottage cheese. Also, be sure to look at the number of calories that you get in the brand of whole wheat tortillas that you purchase, as this can vary (even when the size of the tortilla is about the same, at 8 inches).

If you do not love the taste of cilantro, you can choose to omit it (like I do). 

You can grab this easy tortilla pie recipe here.

 

Other Easy and Cheap Dinner Meals for Weight Loss

 If you want to make even simpler (and often even less expensive) options than those listed above, the dinner ideas that follow are additional cheap meals for weight loss that you can make quickly and easily and show that even when trying to lose weight, you can make really simple, affordable, budget-friendly meals. 

 

Chicken salad

Chicken salad is a great cheap meal for weight loss. It is simple and yet can be quite versatile.

As I mentioned above, an average-sized boneless, skinless chicken breast is about 270 calories. Chop that up, and it is the base of your chicken salad.

Add a couple of cups of spinach, and that is about 15 calories. Add a half a cup of chopped carrots, and that is 25 calories. A cup of chopped broccoli is another 25 or so calories. Add a chopped roma tomato to that, and you will add another 35 calories.

That brings us to 370 calories. Add two tablespoons of light vinaigrette salad dressing for another 25 calories or so (round up to 30 calories to keep the math easy :)). That brings your calorie count up to 400 calories.

Then you could have a medium piece of fruit for less than 100 calories, and that would keep you to your 500 calories.

 

Grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables

Again, one average boneless, skinless chicken breast is about 270 calories. Grill it up on the stove or the grill, and add your favorite seasonings.

Serve with your favorite steamed vegetables. One cup of steamed vegetables is about 50 calories.

So you could eat two cups of steamed vegetables for 100 calories, which would bring your calorie count to 370 calories.

Then eat one or two servings of fresh or frozen fruit to round out your meal and get to your 500 total calories for dinner.

 

Spaghetti with green salad

Normally we make homemade spaghetti sauce, but you can keep calorie counting simple and still keep your meal economical by buying a simple spaghetti sauce in a can or a jar.

One cup of cooked spaghetti noodles is 200 calories. One cup of meatless spaghetti sauce adds another 80 or so calories. That leaves you about 200 calories for a large green salad or a small green salad and a piece of whole fruit.

 

Chicken sandwich

An average frozen chicken patty has about 200 calories. A slice of pre-sliced cheese, again, is 80 or fewer calories. A big handful of lettuce or spinach on your sandwich is less than 10 calories, and a few slices of tomato on top of that is about 20 calories. So that is 310 calories or less. Add two pieces of bread and that brings you up to 470 calories, and then add a tablespoon of barbecue sauce is about 30 calories. That totals your 500 calories for dinner.

Or, another option I do a lot when I am on a low-calorie diet is to eat my chicken sandwich as a lettuce or spinach wrap. So instead of 160 calories for two pieces of bread, you can consume just 30 calories or less by substituting with spinach or your favorite lettuce.

That way, you can have calories left over to eat a piece of fruit and another serving of vegetables.

 

Simple green salad

As I mention above, you can eat a ton of green salad for not very many calories, which is why it is such a popular diet food! For example, you can eat a cup of spinach or lettuce for less than 10 calories!

So start with two or more cups of spinach, add in a cup of chopped broccoli for about 30 calories, one cup of chopped carrots for 50 calories, a cup of chopped cauliflower for 25 calories, a couple of tablespoons of low-calorie dressing, and you have a huge salad for less than 200 calories.

Then you can have a piece of medium fruit on the side (such as apple, banana, orange, or peach) for less than 100 calories, and even tear up a piece of sliced cheese (sliced cheese is just easier when you are on a diet because the calories are already calculated so easily for you) and add it for less than 100 calories. And there is your 400-calorie lunch!

 

Grilled chicken and salad

An average quarter-pound chicken breast has 300 calories. If you pair that with a huge salad with low-calorie dressing for 200 calories or less (as described just above), than you can have a cheap, delicious, and filling meal for 500 calories or less. 

Chili

Chili is a pretty cheap and easy option. It is especially easy if you use canned chili, and if you add a can of chili beans or kidney beans to your can of chili, it makes the chili even cheaper, with fewer calories.

A standard cup of chili is about 280 calories (but this can vary, so make sure you check the nutrition label!). But a standard cup of canned chili beans is only 220 calories. So if you add a half cup of chili beans to your cup of chili, that brings your calorie count to a little under 400 calories (280 + 110 = 390 calories).

Then you could add a serving of fruit or a couple of servings of vegetables, or even a serving of tortilla chips to use to scoop up the chili and eat it. There are about 10 calories per tortilla chip, so that is easy math (but make sure to check the nutrition label to make sure that is correct for the type of tortilla chips you have).

 

Simple bean and cheese burritos

In 1/2 cup of refried beans there are about 180 calories. If you add a slice of pre-sliced cheese to that, that is another 80 or so calories, which brings you to 260 calories. A medium flour tortilla shell is about 100 calories, as I mentioned above, shich brings up to 360 calories.

That gives you 140 calories or so for a piece of whole fruit and a serving of vegetables (read items in the list above for more information on calorie counts for various fruits and vegetables).

Or if you want to go super easy, then you could even do frozen burritos. The number of calories varies dpeneding on brand and kind of burrito, of course, but a El Monterey beef and bean burrito has about 360 calories, for example.

 

Homemade chicken noodle soup

Of course the calories for homemade chicken soup can vary significantly depending on the recipe that you use. This chicken noodle soup recipe that I like has about 185 calories per one-cup serving.

 

Griled cheese sandwiches

Again, one slice of pre-sliced cheese is generally about 80 calories (though some, like provolone, have fewer calories), and two slices of simple wheat bread is about 160 calories. If you want to add vegetables to your grilled cheese sandwich (which I have done, and which is pretty good!), you can add a large handful of spinach and it adds fewer than 10 calories.

You can also add lunch meat to your grilled cheese sandwich, if you want (that is what we usually do in our family). Again, calories vary depending on the type and brand of luncheon meat, but you can eat a good amount of most luncheon meats (three or four slices or sometimes more) for under 100 calories.

So that gets you up to about 350 calories, which leaves you 160 calories for a simple green salad with low-calorie dressing, a handful of baby carrots, or a cup of vegetables and a small fruit or half of a medium fruit.

 

Quesadillas

I mentioned this meal option for lunch in that section above, but quesadillas are a great, simple option for dinner, as well.

 

Frozen pizza

If you generally have a regular pizza night in your family or if you just want to keep dinner really easy and pretty inexpensive, you can eat half of a Totino’s triple meat frozen pizza, for example, for about 350 calories. The thin crust helps to keep the calorie count lower than many of the other types of frozen pizza.

I include this example as a way to show you that even without eating traditional diet food, you can still lose weight by just using portion control and counting calories on the regular, simple foods that you eat.

Then you could eat a green salad to go along with it, or some whole fruit and a cup of vegetables.

Or you could eat about 3/4 of the Totino’s pizza for your dinner meal (without an accompanying salad or any other vegetables or side dish) for about 520 calories. This goes over the 500 calorie allotment, of course, but you can solve that by eating a little less for lunch (so, shave off 20 calories at lunchtime).

 

Hot dogs

I know most people do not think about hot dogs as traditional diet food, but I include this item in the list to show that really, you can eat many regular, inexpensive foods and still lose weight. The standard-sized hot dogs (like the Bar S variety) are actually only about 100 calories each. So you could eat two hot dogs for about 200 calories, put them in a slice of bread each for another 160 calories, and add a tablespoon of ketchup between the two for another 10 calories. That would total about 370 calories.

You could then eat a serving of french fries that you cook over the stove (without oil) for about 120 calories, and have another 10 calories left over for ketchup to dip the fries in. That would bring you up to your 500 calories.

 

 

Final Thoughts on Cheap Meals for Weight Loss

These cheap meals for weight loss that are part of a simple 1,200 calorie diet plan really can work to help you lose weight simply and cheaply.

You can use the recipes in this article for healthy recipes for weigh loss on a budget. I hope you are able to use these healthy recipes to lose weight fast!

When I first wanted to get serious about losing weight several years ago, I had over 80 pounds to lose. And I was able to do it by eating the simple foods listed above!

I was able to lose that weight (and have now kept it off for more than 10 years) by exercising more and counting calories on the basic, inexpensive foods that I ate. I didn’t buy any special diet foods or follow any diet plan or program.

And I feel that doing things that way really does make maintaining a healthy weight easier because you aren’t drastically changing what you normally eat and normally do.

 

Do you have simple, cheap meals for weight loss that you regularly prepare when you are working to lose weight? What are your favorite go-to foods and recipes and best tips for inexpensive weight loss?  I would love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment and let me know where you are at in your weight-loss journey!

 

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