cheap meals

Easy and Cheap Meals on the Go!

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Gone are the days when you have to break the bank to eat a sumptuous and healthy meal. Today, there are easy meals to prepare within a few minutes using inexpensive and flavorful ingredients. Considering how cheap they are, you may have some preconceived notions about these meals, but you should know that cheap doesn't mean unhealthy or tasteless.

If you want to start saving money due to interest rates, you might want to start now. Before the pandemic, only 36% of Americans cook at home on a daily basis, which is extremely low. However, after the pandemic, over 56% of Americans started to cook more often.

Below are budget-friendly dishes when you're short on time and money. They contain vegetables, lean proteins, and low carbs; these meals will satisfy anyone's cravings.

What Is the Cheapest Meal to Make?

From skillet lasagna to quesadillas, below are some of the cheapest meals to prepare. Besides being budget-friendly, these meals are easy to prepare with readily available ingredients.

Furthermore, they're nutritious and support healthy living. With many cheap meals available, we've come up with a list of some of the cheapest, their ingredients, recipes, and nutritional profiles. Let's get started!

Skillet Lasagna

Skillet lasagna is a pasta dish made from stacked layers of pasta, sauces, and ingredients, including meats, melted cheese, and vegetables. The traditional meal is a rich source of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Skillet lasagna is an absolute comfort food that you should try.

The Italian pasta seems perfect for weeknights. It's super easy and doesn't require much preparation, unlike a conventional lasagna. You don't have to pre-boil noodles or coat them meticulously. Skillet lasagna is considered healthy if prepared with many veggies, homemade tomato sauce, and ground turkey.


  • Ground beef or turkey
  • Garlic, minced
  • Ground pepper
  • Onion, chopped
  • Italian seasoning
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Shrimp Scampi

The sweet acid taste of lemon combines with the spicy flavor of garlic to make a crave-worthy meal. Both are covered in butter sauce, making you lick your plate clean. Shrimp Scampi is an American-Italian dish that is a perfect side for crusty bread and vegetables, and it's also a great topping for rice and pasta. Scampi is an Italian word for langoustines or Dublin Bay prawns.

The shrimp-like crustaceans are abundant on the Italian coast, hence the meal's origin. Each serving of shrimp scampi contains 508 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 522 milligrams of sodium. It also contains antioxidants and Omega-3-fatty acids, which support brain and cardiovascular health. Shrimp scampi is easy to pull off within 10 minutes with basic ingredients.


  • Shrimps
  • Garlic (minced)
  • Butter
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Parsley
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Black pepper
  • White wine or broth
  • Kosher salt

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes


Quesadillas rank among the cheapest meals to make at home. The classic Mexican dish makes a quick lunch or supper, and it serves as a go-to meal when you feel lazy to prepare a proper meal. Also known as little cheese, Quesadilla is a toasted or fried tortilla filled with melted cheese, chicken, onion, or any filling.

The light meal can serve as a side for large meals. Depending on your preference, there is a broad range of recipe ideas, from tuna sweetcorn and vegetarian (cheese and mixed veg) to traditional Mexican Quesadilla (cheese and tomato salsa).


  • Medium flour tortillas
  • Margarine or butter
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • Chicken pieces (optional)
  • Diced fresh tomatoes (optional)
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Apple cider vinegar (optional)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Bean Tostadas

Next on our cheap and easy meals list is bean tostadas, a meatless meal drizzled with sour milk and topped with lettuce and beans. This homemade dish mixes smooth beans, crispy tortillas, cold lettuce, and sour cream. If you're craving a Mexican delicacy and want to stay away from saturated fats and sodium, beans tostadas is an excellent choice.

This dish is enriched with proteins and vegetables; thus, it's healthy for the body. Tostadas and tacos are similar due to how tortillas and toppings are combined. Irrespective of the similarity, tacos are folded while tostadas are left open. Bean tostada is a double win whether eaten as a snack, main meal, or appetizer.


  • Tostada shells
  • Tomatoes
  • Refried beans
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Onion
  • Tortillas
  • Olive oil

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes


Have you seen a frying pan sizzling from a fajita? Guess the sight makes your mouth watery. With little preparation and minimal cooking time, you'll have this dish on your dining table in no time. It should be part of your staple meal if you enjoy grilling vegetables. Fajitas aren't only cheap, they're healthy, and the veggies used are available all year round.

Fajitas are grilled strips of meat layered on a tortilla. This Mexican dish is considered healthy since it uses the healthiest cooking method: grilling. Grilled vegetables are good sources of vitamins. Shrimp and white meat chicken are best for fajitas since they don't contain saturated fat. Fajitas contain several nutrients, and they help improve eyesight, boost immunity, and lower cancer risk.


  • Beef flank steak or bite-size strips of chicken
  • Tortillas
  • Red or green sweet pepper
  • Thinly sliced onions
  • Cooking oil
  • Lime juice
  • Lime wedges
  • Kosher salt

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Lemon-pepper Chicken

While recipes for chicken breasts are usually bland, you can jazz up your meal using lemon pepper. No worries! This is healthy and delicious. Healthy lemon-pepper chicken is free from artificial ingredients like gluten, and it's also low carb, highly proteinous, and low in fat. Lemon-pepper chicken has several health benefits, such as reducing cholesterol levels, supporting cardiovascular health, and boosting overall health.


  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Medium lemon (thinly sliced)
  • Lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Maple syrup or freshly chopped parsley
  • Lemon pepper seasoning (optional)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15-30 minutes

Sloppy Joe

Many people have fond memories of Sloppy Joes. Sloppy joe is a sandwich made of ground beef, tomato sauce or ketchup, onions, and other seasonings, and it is a great lunch or dinner meal.

The comfort food has a tangy and sweet sauce, making you ask for more. Its nutritional value depends on the quality of the ingredients. Nevertheless, Sloppy Joe is a good source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. To derive maximum health benefits, use lots of veggies and lean ground beef or turkey.


  • Ground beef
  • Bell pepper
  • Homemade sauce
  • Onion
  • Garlic

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Fettuccine Alfredo

You can't get enough of Fettuccine alfredo. Classic and creamy, the pasta recipe is the real deal. Alfredo di Lelio was the first person to cook the Italian dish in his restaurant. Thus, the cuisine is named after him. It consists of fresh fettuccine, butter, and Parmesan cheese. The delicious, gourmet meal is a great food choice if you want to save money on groceries. It's a perfect antidote for hunger pangs.

Fettuccine alfredo is a rich source of protein, calcium, fiber, and vitamins. Each portion of the dish offers 18 grams of protein which supports muscle building and boosts immunity. You can serve fettuccine alfredo with roasted broccoli, meatballs, or a light salad.


  • Fettuccine pasta
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic (Minced)
  • Black pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Parsley (chopped)
  • Salt
  • Butter

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Though spaghetti and meatballs are mostly known as Italian-American meals, it's not a common food in Italy. The cuisine evolved from Italian immigrants who couldn't cook their favorite dishes due to missing ingredients, and they resorted to using meat since it was abundant in New York City. This dish isn't only easy, but it is one of the cheapest meals to make; it's weeknight-friendly and quick to prepare.

You should try this meal if you're a picky eater or feeling adventurous. Spaghetti and meatballs is a healthy dish that contains iron and protein derived from beef, carbs from pasta, and lycopene from tomato. You'll enjoy great health benefits using lean beef and modest portions of ingredients in your dish.


  • Egg
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Dried oregano
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Ground beef
  • Spaghetti
  • Parsley (optional)

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 -30 minutes

Southern Mac and Cheese

Creamy, cheesy, and flavorful best describe this dish. Made from 3 types of cheese, you're in for a nice treat when you eat Southern mac and cheese. Macaroni and cheese contain a significant amount of selenium which supports cardiovascular health, improves immunity, and the body's ability to detox. It also contains protein, copper, and manganese.

This nutritious meal pairs well with coleslaw, apple salad, and broccoli. For healthier benefits, use butternut squash sauce instead of cheddar cheese. You can also substitute cheese with yogurt.


  • Macaroni
  • Evaporated milk
  • Cup jack, cheddar, and mozzarella cheese
  • Seasonings like garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and onion powder

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

Note: Depending on the number of servings, the cost of preparing these recipes starts from $10.

Closing Note

Meals can be affordable and tasty at the same time. If you plan your meals in advance and keep a routine, anything is possible. Hopefully, this list of cheap meals inspires you to live a healthy lifestyle and save money.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you in the next post!

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She started her blog, The Money Dreamer, when she realized the 9-5 job was not the lifestyle she wanted anymore. After designing for a while, she wanted a more meaningful life, which was freedom, so she decided to venture out. She took action so that she can live her dream life and decided to help people to live theirs by helping them how to save, budget, and invest.

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