top of page

50 Dirt Cheap Meals For When You’re On A Tight Budget

When you’re on a tight budget, planning your meals for the month can be quite tricky.

With over ninety meals a month to think about, it’s important to be price conscious to keep within your budget.

That doesn’t mean instant noodles or ramen all the time! You can still have tasty, nutritious food on a budget. You just need to choose budget-friendly ingredients and jazz them up.

Here are 50 dirt cheap meals that can help you eat well without breaking the bank.

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Dirt Cheap Meals for Breakfast

1. Peanut butter & banana toast

dirt cheap meals peanut butter & banana toast

You can make this in a matter of minutes! Just toast a slice of bread, slather on some good ol’ peanut butter, and top with banana slices.

This is great for mornings when you don’t have a lot of time to prep breakfast.

2. Scrambled eggs and toast

Eggs are an excellent choice when you’re on a budget.

Make a scramble and enjoy over buttered toast. Drizzle a little sriracha or hot sauce over the top for an added kick!

3. Omelet

You can make an omelet instead if you prefer.

Raid the fridge and throw in any vegetables you might have for some extra goodness. Onion, peppers, and tomatoes work really well here.

4. Oatmeal

A warm bowl of oatmeal can be so comforting, especially on cold days!

Cook oats in water or milk as per the packet instructions. Sweeten your oatmeal with sugar or honey, and top with banana slices.

5. Smoothies

Smoothies are great to have on the go. Buy fruits that are in season or on sale, and freeze them to make smoothies.

Just put frozen fruits and milk in a blender and blitz! You can even add some greens to get your daily dose of veg.

6. French toast

French toast may sound decadent and expensive, but it’s essentially just bread, eggs, milk, and sugar.

Here’s a french toast recipe you can whip up in 10 minutes. Finish with a drizzle of honey or syrup on top.

7. Grilled cheese & tomato sandwich

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ grilled cheese sandwich?

Put cheese and tomato slices between bread, and grill on a hot pan with butter. The melty, gooey cheese and sweet tomato slices pair well together.

8. Egg muffins

frugal meal ideas egg muffins

If you prefer make-ahead breakfast ideas, this is a good one. Just beat your eggs with salt and pepper, and pour the egg mixture into a muffin tray.

Add your favorite toppings before baking in the oven. You can go for tomatoes, peppers, cheese, spinach, or ham. The options are endless!

You can even use a silicone muffin pan and cook this in the microwave if you prefer. Just refrigerate these egg muffins and reheat them for breakfast!

9. Banana muffins

If you have ripe bananas, make some banana muffins! Here’s a quick and easy banana muffin recipe.

If you have chocolate chips, add them in as well. Nothing beats chocolate in the morning!

10. Breakfast burrito

Here’s another make-ahead breakfast idea. You can make breakfast burritos with eggs, ham, cheese, and greens.

Freeze a big batch of these burritos and pop them in the microwave for a hassle-free breakfast.

Dirt Cheap Meals for Lunch/Dinner

11. Egg fried rice

When it comes to dirt cheap meals, nothing beats egg fried rice!

All you need to make this dish is leftover rice, eggs, and seasoning. You can also throw in any vegetables you have in the fridge.

12. Stir-fried noodles

This is a really versatile dish. You can use any noodles you like here.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, drain any excess water and stir fry the noodles with garlic, chili, soy sauce, and your favorite vegetables.

If you’re using ramen noodles, don’t forget to throw in the seasoning packet as well.

13. Chicken soup

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of hot chicken soup? Here’s a recipe for basic chicken soup.

With a whole chicken and a handful of vegetables, you can create an affordable yet hearty meal for your whole family!

14. Chicken noodle soup

Have some leftover chicken soup in the fridge? Throw in some noodles!

This is a great way to jazz up your leftovers and give them an interesting twist.

You can also add some spicy chili peppers to amp up the heat.

If you’re on the hunt for frugal meal ideas, be creative with your leftovers! Be sure to use them before they go bad.

15. Chicken curry

Chicken curry over a bed of rice is heavenly! You can also enjoy it with bread or roti.

With just a few spices, you can add a lot of flavor to this dish.

Here’s a mouthwatering chicken curry recipe you can try.

16. Tuna sandwich

Canned tuna is an incredibly cheap source of protein. It’s the perfect ingredient for making dirt cheap meals when you’re on a budget.

Mix a can of tuna with some mayo, mustard, diced onion, salt, and black pepper before spreading over some bread for a quick and easy lunch.

17. Chicken fajitas

frugal dinner ideas chicken fajitas

Served with warm tortillas, chicken fajitas are a delicious and healthy meal for you and your family.

Sauté some onions, peppers, and chicken in a skillet with cumin powder, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper. Finish with a squeeze of lime on top.

18. Burrito bowl

Use any leftover chicken fajitas to make a burrito bowl.

Top a bowl of rice with your chicken fajitas, black beans, corn, and tomatoes. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with lime wedges.

19. Chicken & veggie stir fry

This is a great way to use up any vegetables in your fridge.

Sauté some aromatics like garlic, ginger, and chilies in a wok before adding in your chicken and vegetables.

Season with soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve with rice for a quick yet balanced meal.

20. Spaghetti & meatballs

Buy any ground meat that’s on sale and make homemade meatballs!

Here’s an easy meatball recipe that you can use as a guide.

Spaghetti and meatballs are budget-friendly and your kids will probably love them as well.

21. Meatball sub

Have leftover meatballs in the fridge? Great! Use it to make yourself a yummy meatball sub.

We’re all about jazzing up those leftovers so you don’t get bored!

22. Sweet potato chili

Make a vegan-friendly chili with sweet potato and canned beans using this recipe.

Enjoy with tortilla chips, or cut out the middle man and eat it right out of the bowl.

23. Tortilla wraps

Wraps are another versatile meal idea for when you’re on a budget. You can fill it with virtually anything you like!

Here’s a wrap idea you can try.

Cut a few hard-boiled eggs into small pieces and mix with mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper. Fill your wrap with this mixture and any vegetables you have like diced onions, tomato slices, or chopped cucumber.

It’s quick, easy, and most importantly, cheap!

24. Chicken lettuce wraps

If tortilla wraps aren’t your thing, give these chicken lettuce wraps a try instead.

The delicious ground chicken mixture is served on lettuce leaves, making them lighter and lower in calories compared to regular wraps.

25. Tortilla pizza

dirt cheap meals tortilla pizza

What’s a tortilla pizza, you ask? It’s like a regular pizza, but with a tortilla as the pizza base.

Start by spreading tomato sauce on a tortilla. Next, add cheese and toppings before baking in the oven.

You can experiment and make a few different tortilla pizzas for your family with ingredients you have in your kitchen.

Better yet, let each of your family members make their own pizza!

26. Shakshuka

dirt cheap meals shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern and North African dish of eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, and spices.

It’s a wonderful and unique way to cook eggs when you get sick of regular hard-boiled or scrambled eggs.

Enjoy your shakshuka with warm, crusty bread.

27. Sausage & veggie traybake

This is an easy dish to put together with minimal washing up afterward as everything is cooked on a single baking tray!

Arrange your sausages and vegetables on a baking tray. Potatoes, carrots, and peppers are great for this. Drizzle over some vegetable oil and seasoning before baking in the oven.

28. Falafel & veggies in pita bread

frugal meal ideas falafels & veggies in pita bread

Falafels are deep-fried patties made with chickpeas, herbs, and spices. This Middle Eastern delicacy is often served in pita bread.

Add some chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and a simple homemade yogurt sauce on top for a wholesome vegetarian meal.

29. Falafel salad

Use any leftover falafels to make a simple yet scrumptious salad. Build a salad with your favorite greens, cucumbers, onions, and peppers.

Break your falafels into smaller pieces and add them to your salad. Drizzle your homemade yogurt sauce on top and dig in!

30. Loaded baked potato

frugal dinner ideas loaded baked potatoes

When you’re in need of frugal meal ideas, the humble potato comes to the rescue! Loaded baked potatoes are a filling and easy dish to make.

Just bake a few potatoes in the oven. When they’re done, cut them open and create a pocket in the center.

Stuff the potatoes with your favorite ingredients like veggies, ham, and cheese. Pop them back into the oven for a bit before serving.

31. Chicken & mashed potatoes

This is comfort food at its best! Roast whole chicken legs in the oven.

Meanwhile, mash boiled and peeled potatoes. Mix these mashed potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and pepper in a pot over the stove until creamy and fluffy.

Voila! You have yourself a budget-friendly roast chicken dinner with a side of mashed potatoes.

32. Roast chicken & potatoes

Alternatively, you can make an easy sheet pan dinner.

On a baking tray, arrange your chicken legs and quartered potatoes. Add vegetable oil, dried herbs, lemon slices, salt, and black pepper. Mix well and pop into the oven.

33. Baked chicken tenders & veggies

If your kids prefer chicken fingers, try these baked chicken tenders and veggies.

Coat the chicken tenders with an ingredient that you probably have lying around at home – corn flakes! This makes them super crunchy and yummy.

Since you’re baking the chicken tenders instead of deep-frying and adding veggies to the mix, this is a pretty healthy meal to enjoy with your family.

34. Fish & chips

This classic English dish can be enjoyed at home even on a budget.

Frozen fish fillets tend to be cheaper than the fresh stuff. You can defrost these fillets, dip them in batter, and deep fry them till golden brown.

For the chips, you can make your own at home. Just cut a few potatoes into wedges and arrange them on a baking tray.

Add some vegetable oil and seasoning on top, and mix well. Bake in the oven and you’re done!

35. Lentil stew

frugal dinner ideas lentil stew

Just like canned tuna, lentils are also a cheap source of protein.

Make a hearty stew with lentils and root vegetables. Try this lentil stew recipe and enjoy it with rice or bread.

36. Spaghetti bolognese

The meaty sauce for spaghetti bolognese is made with frugal ingredients such as onion, garlic, tomatoes, minced meat, and herbs.

Pour generous amounts of this delicious sauce over a bed of spaghetti for a filling and satisfying meal.

Usually, beef mince is used for this dish, but feel free to experiment with other ground meat that is on sale at your local supermarket.

37. Tuna pasta bake

This is another awesome way to use canned tuna. Bake your pasta and tuna with loads of cheese for an uber creamy meal.

To make this a well-balanced dish, throw in some sweetcorn and frozen peas as well.

38. Chicken pulao

dirt cheap meals chicken pulao

Chicken pulao is an Indian dish made with rice, chicken, and spices. You can even make it in a rice cooker! Here’s a quick rice cooker recipe.

Serve with cool raita (a chunky Indian yogurt sauce) on the side. To make this, just add chopped cucumber, onions, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper to a bowl and mix together.

39. Sardine curry

Another frugal protein option to consider is canned sardines.

You can use this to make sardine curry and serve it with rice. This is a fairly quick curry that you can whip up in under 20 minutes.

40. Fish cakes

You can make affordable fish cakes with canned salmon, sardines, or tuna. Enjoy these fish cakes with some homemade tartar sauce and a simple side salad.

41. Fish cake burger

Use any leftover fish cakes to make fish cake burgers. Instead of regular burger patties, make your fish cakes the star of the show!

Assemble your burger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and fish cake.

Enjoy this interesting take on Fillet-O-Fish with ketchup on the side.

42. Chana masala

frugal meal ideas chana masala

Chana masala is a lovely chickpea dish cooked with a blend of aromatic spices.

Preferably, you want to use dried chickpeas for this, but in a pinch, you can also use the canned stuff.

Here’s a yummy chana masala recipe you can enjoy with rice or roti.

43. Egg drop soup

If you’re craving a warm bowl of soup, but you’re short on time, this is the perfect dish for you.

All you need to do is drop beaten eggs into a simmering pot of chicken broth, stir, and you’re done! This egg drop soup can be made in 10 minutes.

Stock up on chicken bouillon cubes when they’re on sale to whip up quick soups like this when you’re busy.

44. Fish traybake

This is perfect for when fish fillets are on sale in your local supermarket.

Arrange the fish fillets and vegetables such as zucchini and tomatoes on a baking tray.

Add some vegetable oil, dried herbs, salt, and black pepper. Mix well and bake in the oven until the fish is cooked through.

Enjoy this traybake as is, or over a bed of rice.

45. Chicken pot pie

What do you do when store-bought pie crusts are on sale? You make chicken pot pie!

You can make individual chicken pot pies in ramekins, or make a big one in a pie dish to be shared family-style.

46. Chicken pot pie with mashed potato crust

If store-bought pie crusts are out of your budget, not to worry! You can still enjoy delicious chicken pot pie with mashed potato crust.

Make your chicken pot pie filling as you usually would, and fill your ramekins or pie dish.

Instead of topping with pie crust, top with mashed potatoes and bake in the oven until golden brown.

This balanced dish with carbs, protein, and vegetables is budget-friendly and oh so good.

47. Thai noodle salad with peanut sauce

If you have peanut butter at home, why not use it to make a delicious peanut sauce?

To assemble, add cooked noodles and shredded veggies to a bowl and pour over that scrumptious homemade peanut sauce. Toss and enjoy!

48. Roasted vegetable soup

Have some vegetables in your pantry and fridge that you want to use up?

Use them to make this flavourful roasted vegetable soup that you can enjoy with some warm, toasted bread.

Regular vegetable soup is great, but roasting the vegetables takes it to a whole new level!

49. Sloppy joes

These burgers are messy to eat, but they definitely hit the spot each time!

Make your own homemade sloppy joes with onions, ground meat, tomato sauce, and seasonings. Enjoy the yummy messiness with your family.

50. Vegetarian sloppy joes

You can also try vegetarian sloppy joes for a change.

Just substitute the ground meat for chickpeas and lentils. Chickpeas and lentils are both budget-friendly protein sources.

This is perfect for those who want to eat a more plant-based diet, but crave sloppy joes!


If you’re on a tight budget, be sure to try these dirt cheap meals.

Remember, being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t have tasty, nutritious food. It’s all about choosing the right budget-friendly ingredients to cook with.

Related posts: