10 of the Best Budget Recipes for Keeping It Cheap

With inflation on the rise, more people are attempting to budget. This can be hard to do with the temptation of fast food and easily accessible eats from food delivery apps, but home cooking not only saves you money, 8 out of 10 times, it also results in healthier meals, devoid of the insane amounts of preservatives, sodium, and who-knows-what that many “cheaper” food chains pack into their food. 

Still the question remains: Can you eat well without breaking the bank? The answer is YES! And you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or variety in order to do it. Whether you’re cooking for the whole family or just looking for cheap dinner ideas to keep your grocery budget in line, Steamy Kitchen’s got you covered. We’ve put together some of our favorite budget recipes just for you. These 10 recipes make the most of pantry staples and inexpensive ingredients so you can create budget-friendly meals to add to your meal plan rotation.

Chicken Fried Rice

But first, let’s talk about some practical tips to eating cheap in general.

Some Tips for Eating Cheap

To embrace a small budget, you don’t have to skimp on flavor or nutrition. Here are some tips to help you keep your food costs low:

  1. Embrace Those Pantry Staples: Rice, pasta, beans, and canned tomatoes are all super versatile foods that can be used in countless recipes. They’re also not very expensive and have a long shelf life.
  2. Buy Groceries in Bulk: Chicken thighs, ground beef, and rice are items that are generally cheaper when bought in larger quantities. Divide them into smaller portions and make use of your freezer to keep them good until it’s time to use them.
  3. Love Your Leftovers: Don’t toss those leftovers! You can make some new and exciting dinner recipes from them! Turn leftover rice into fried rice and extra veggies into soups or casseroles. In fact, Steamy’s got a whole collection of ideas on how to love your leftovers!
  4. Make a Meal Plan: Making a meal plan not only saves you time and money, but it also helps you avoid any impulse purchases and cuts down on food waste!
  5. Take Advantage of Sales and Coupons: Be sure to keep an eye on your local grocery stores’ ads in search of sales and coupons that can help you save money. Signing up for free memberships to take advantage of exclusive offers and digital coupons can often save you 20%! And don’t forget to stock up on those non-perishables when they’re on sale.
  6. Cook at Home: Like we mentioned, eating out can get expensive. Cooking at home is the best way to save money AND it ensures you know exactly what’s in your food.
  7. Make One-Pot Meals: Meals like chili, soups, and stews are not only some of most comforting foods out there, but they’re also budget-friendly. And you can make them with simple ingredients in large portions, which leaves you leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. In fact, we’ve got a guide with tons of slow cooker recipes to keep you on budget with minimal effort. Click here to check out our Quick and Easy One & Done Crock Pot Dinners.

Now, let’s get to those cheap and easy recipes!

 

10 Cheap Steamy Kitchen Recipes

Roasted Asparagus

roasted asparagus

Looking for a super cheap, though rather fancy side dish for your dinner meal? This roasted asparagus is surprisingly simple and very budget-friendly. And the recipe calls for just a handful of ingredients, while not skimping on flavor. All you need is asparagus, salt, black pepper, butter, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Most of which is probably in your pantry right now! It’s a side dish that pairs well with just about anything.

Check out the full recipe here!

Baked Potatoes in the Microwave

three baked potatoes on a grey plate.

Looking for another great side dish to those easy weeknight dinners? Baked potatoes are basically a blank canvas. They become whatever you want them to be. You can load them up with sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon bits. Whatever! The world is your baked potato. And the best part? You can cook them in the microwave in just minutes. Talk about a ridiculously easy and budget-friendly meal.

Check out the full recipe here!

Grapefruit, Avocado, and Arugula Salad

grapefruit avocado arugula salad recipe

Looking for a beautiful precursor to the upcoming main course (or perhaps just a light lunch?). This vibrant salad is wildly low-cost without tasting cheap by any means. It’s a combo of citrusy grapefruit, creamy avocado, and peppery arugula that’s super light yet refreshingly satisfying. Top it off with a homemade Grapefruit Shallot Vinaigrette (we show you how!) or use up any light dressing that’s in your fridge or pantry. Also, you just can’t beat getting healthy greens in your diet without spending a lot.

Check out the full recipe here!

Zucchini Carpaccio

Zucchini Carpaccio

Here’s another light and refreshing appetizer / salad that feels ✨extra fancy✨. Top thinly sliced zucchini with nuts, crumbled cheese, fresh or dried herbs, salt and pepper and finish it off with a little drizzle of lemon and olive oil. It’s a high-end restaurant vibe without having to pay high-end restaurant prices.

Check out the full recipe here!

Quick 10-Minute Vegetable Fried Rice

Simple, Quick 10-Minute Vegetable Fried Rice Recipe

Want something a little heartier? Veggie fried rice is a staple of budget cooking that’s both quick and tasty! And it only takes 10 minutes to make! With a handful of ingredients, you can whip up an amazing dish that can be used as a main course or side (your choice!). Whatever you choose, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be enjoying some immense flavors while still keeping your wallet happy. It’s also a great choice for feeding the entire family!

Check out the full recipe here!

Meat Fried Rice Four Ways

Vienna Sausage Fried Rice

Love fried rice but want to make it even heartier without breaking the bank? Then you’ll love this guide to making meat fried rice in 4 different ways, all of them budget-friendly. It even allows you to use up that leftover white, jasmine or brown rice in your fridge! It’s an extremely versatile dish that truly allows you ditch the grocery store run and just love your leftovers.

Check out the full recipe here!

Quick and Easy Tortilla Pizza

pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil on a white plate.

Maybe you have a very specific kind of craving: pizza. When marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese are calling your name, but you don’t want to spend OUTRAGEOUS prices on a pie, why not make your own homemade pizza? And good news: it’s a lot easier than you think! Using tortillas as your crust, you can customize your pizza with whatever toppings you have on hand and simply microwave it to create a super cheap and easy pizza pie! It’s quick. It’s satisfying. And it’s inexpensive. Done and done.

Check out the full recipe here!

Sheet Pan Roast Vegetables and Tofu

Sheet Pan Roasted Tofu and Veggies

When you’re looking to keep dinner costs down, sheet-pan dinners are one of the best meals out there. They’re healthy, packed with flavor, and perfect for the whole family. If you like crispy roasted vegetables and marinated tofu, this recipe is for you! (Also, did you know tofu is less expensive than most meats?) It’s a super simple dinner option (or side!) that’s extremely easy to prepare. Just toss everything on a sheet pan, roast until golden, and enjoy! Plus, you can use whatever favorite veggies you have on hand for this recipe.

Check out the full recipe here!

Gucci Prime Steaks from Cheap Choice Steaks

Grilled Steak

We get it. Sometimes you just can’t shake the craving for a luxurious steak dinner. And honestly, you don’t have to! We’ll teach you how to transform inexpensive cuts of steak into mouth-watering PRIME steak with nothing more than a clever marinating technique. Once you learn this trick, you may never eat regular steak again. It’s the perfect recipe for enjoying a premium meal at a fraction of the price.

Check out the full recipe here!

Miso Butter Shrimp

Miso butter shrimp

And last, but not least, is another beautifully high-end, delicious meal you can make for cheap. If you’re in the mood for seafood but don’t want to spend a fortune, our miso butter shrimp recipe is everything you’re looking for. Miso paste is not only inexpensive, but it adds a rich umami flavor to whatever you put it on, and the butter… well, the butter just makes everything better. 

Check out the full recipe here!

 

Reverse Meal Plan: A Smart Strategy for Budget Cooking

Start your budget shopping right from your fridge and freezer

Want to take budgeting even further? Do it smart with our Reverse Meal Plan

The Reverse Meal Plan method is all about starting your meal planning by “shopping” from your own kitchen first, way before you ever step foot in a grocery store. This means taking stock of what you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry and planning your meals around those ingredients. Then, you’ll only need to buy a couple more items to complete your meals. This not only helps prevent food waste, but it saves you time and money! Here’s how you can execute your own Reverse Meal Plan to make the most of what you already have:

How to Reverse Meal Plan

  1. Inventory Your Kitchen: Before you plan your meals, take inventory of the items in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Pantry staples like canned beans, pasta, and rice are some of the best, most versatile items you can use. Be sure to also focus on fresh ingredients that need to be used up soon.
  2. Plan With What You Got: Think about what meals you can make based on what you have. Got a can of beans and some ground beef? Perfect! That sounds like the start of a hearty chili. Got a bunch of veggies and some chicken broth? That’s a sheet-pan dinner or a veggie-packed soup waiting to happen. The world is your oyster. Be sure to consult Google for all the variations of what you can make using the ingredients you have on hand.
  3. Make a Shopping List: After you’ve planned your meals, make a list of the few extra items you’ll need from the grocery store. It’s important to stick to this list and avoid impulse shopping!
  4. Cook For The Long Haul: Try cooking techniques that help stretch your ingredients further. Using a Dutch oven or a slow cooker to make a big pot of stew can give you several servings for the week ahead. Also a good casserole recipe will allow you to combine multiple ingredients into one delicious dish.

The Benefits of Reverse Meal Plan

It Saves You Money: By using up what you already have, you have to shop for less, which can significantly lower your grocery bill and prevent you from overbuying.

It Reduces Food Waste: Reverse Meal Planning encourages you to use up your on-hand ingredients before they spoil, which helps to minimize food waste.

It Allows You To Get Creative: Working with a set amount of items engages your brain to come up with creative solutions, which may also prompt you to try recipes you’ve never tried before, and maybe even stumble upon a new family favorite.

It Saves You Time: Fewer trips to the grocery store means more time for important things (or just rest, which is also important!). And, once you get the hang of planning meals in advance, you’ll learn to streamline your cooking process entirely.

It Promotes Healthier Eating: Planning your meals around fresh ingredients you’re looking to use before they spoil means making healthy meals. You’ll resort to takeout A LOT less, and opt instead for something nutritious and satisfying.

 

​Ready to Start Saving?

​We hope this guide to budget meals helps you to cook from home and save some dough! 

Have you tried any of these recipes? Do you have some of your own cheap eats? If so, let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear about it!

Mastercard $100 Gift Card Giveaway

Enter below to win a $100 Mastercard Giveaway to put towards your next grocery shop!

 

7 Comments

  1. Would LOVE to WIN!!

    Reply
  2. You always have the best recipes.

    Reply
  3. A big pot of tomato-ey soup w/cooked sliced Italian sausage, lots of different fresh/frozen veggies including peppers & sauted onions, cooked smaller pasta & Parmesan cheese. Serve w/garlic bread. Freeze portions for “no-brainer” meals.

    Reply
  4. I am not a good cook. I remember when I heard the phrase….”The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”….I knew I was in trouble! LOL I cooked for my grandkids but they have simple palettes! Recipes are the best way to almost guarantee it’ll turn out edible!

    Reply
  5. Weird. This was a giveaway just the other day. For some reason, the entry form has disappeared.

    Reply
    • Hi Ron!

      Thank you for your valuable feedback and We sincerely apologize for experiencing some issues entering our giveaways. Your experience matters to us and we appreciate you taking the time to share it. Our tech team has been informed of your comments and will work to make the necessary improvements.

      Thank you again!

      The Steamy Kitchen Giveaways Team

      Reply
  6. I love to cook at home; all of your tips are correct.

    Reply

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Jaden Rae
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I'm Jaden Rae, a TV chef, cookbook author, recipe developer, and the creative force behind Steamy Kitchen, a 19-year food blog focused on Asian cuisine and mindful living. Steamy Kitchen has been featured on The List, the Today Show, Oprah.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio & more.

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