Updated on 09.14.14

Best Cheap and Easy Dinner Recipes

Michael Gardon

A Collection of Cheap Meals From The Simple Dollar

If you’ve got a busy family, or are constantly on the go, you’re probably looking for easy recipes to make high quality yet cheap meals your family will love. At The Simple Dollar, we’re not only looking out for your pocketbook, but also your other precious resource – time. That’s why we put together a list of cheap meals that are also easy to put together. Not only are these recipes easy, almost all of them can be prepared vegetarian or vegan. If you need a few quick tips to make your meal prep easier, look for the additional resources towards the bottom.

Easy Dinner Recipes

Dinner is often the most rushed time for a busy family. Family members get home at different times from work, school or social activities. So, dinner is especially difficult to get the whole family together. Next time you want the whole family at the dinner table, tempt them with one of these great meals. Just don’t let them know how easy it was to throw it all together!

Easy American Food Recipes

Comforting and classic, American food has a soft spot in our hearts and our stomachs. This collection of recipes makes healthy and delicious modifications that can save you money and the calories without compromising the flavor!

Baked Salmon with Asparagus-Salmon (or any fish of your choice!) is healthy and delicious, but can often be expensive. Wait for a sale at your grocery store and make this simple, elegant meal that doesn’t require very many ingredients, very much time, or very many dishes to do afterwards!

Burgers and Fries-Using beans instead of beef (but there’s a lot of flexibility!) and baking the potatoes makes this vegan version of an old classic is a healthy and delicious alternative–and its cheaper too!

Butternut Squash Casserole-Butternut Squash is a hearty and nutritious vegetable that’s affordable and comes packed with loads of flavor (and potassium!) This casserole also uses blue cheese, which adds sharp and earthy tones and a creamy texture, making it an undeniable crowd pleaser.

Butternut Squash and Carrots with Coconut Milk and Curry-Another take on butternut squash, only this time its filled with the aroma and spice of a thai-inspired curry. This recipe is heavy on the veggies, doesn’t take very long to prepare, and smells amazing.

Chicken Pie-This recipe combines the rustic flavor of autumn vegetables with the classic comfort of chicken broth and a flaky crust. Given the heartiness of this meal, it’s well worth the value!

Chicken and Broccoli Crepes-These french-style pancakes that are incredibly versatile. This particular recipe makes a savory crepe filled with chicken, broccoli, and cheese–all at only 34 cents a crepe!

Crock Pot Couscous-Put the ingredients in the crock pot before you leave for work and voila! A delicious and healthy Mediterranean-inspired meal is ready for you by the time you come home! This is the perfect meal for busy families who want homemade cooking but often face time constraints!

Grilled Apple Pork Chops-Why spend money eating at a barbecue place when you could make succulent and delicious pork chops for a fraction of the cost? Pair with baby potatoes and steamed broccoli for a complete meal that’ll leave your family and your wallet satisfied.

Grilled Fish with Tomato and Corn Relish-Grilled fish is one of the healthiest and best ways to enjoy sea food! Paired with an easy-to-make Mexican-inspired relish, this meal can’t be beat! This recipe can also be easily experimented with, so add your own personal touch and get to grilling!

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs-The best part of making vegetable kabobs is that they can be made out of whatever vegetables happen to be on sale in your area at the time! They can be easily paired with your favorite barbeque sides, like baked beans and rice, or whatever you choose!

Honey Mustard Chicken Strips– If you’re faced with the task of feeding kids, look no further than this delicioius and easy-to-make finger food! While honey mustard is a crowd pleaser, there also infinite variations on this recipe because the seasoning is entirely up to you!

Magic Jamalaya-This Louisiana-Creole inspired dish is perfect if you’re cooking using leftovers. The only other things you need are some rice, some cajun seasoning, and some beans! This recipe is also very flexible–use almost any kind of rice, bean, vegetables, and protein and you’ll still be sure to make something delicious!

Personal Pita Pizzas-Who doesn’t love pizza?! This recipe allows you to get creative and make your own individual micro-pizza with whatever toppings you crave. Simple, inexpensive, and a guaranteed winner with kids, pita pizzas are a must-try.

Ratatouille Pot Pie– This recipe integrates the succulence of vegetable ratatouille and the classic taste of a buttery pot pie crust, resulting in an unbeatable combination of flavor. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use pretty much any of your favorite vegetables (and only about 8 cups or so!) No matter your spin on it, this pot pie is guaranteed to turn out great!

Slow Cooker Pot Pie-This is the ideal recipe if you enjoy having the flexibility of cooking with whatever you have on hand/is on sale and the convenience of coming home to a homemade meal without necessarily having the time spend hours cooking. Chop up vegetables and a protein of your choice, prep in advance, and leave it to cook on low heat all day, coming home to a hearty and delicious meal!

Stuffed Peppers-A take on a Mediterranean classic, this recipe is extremely flexible and easy to make–plus it takes advantage of some vegetables from your garden (or those that are on sale at your local grocery store!) Plus, this recipe leaves you with delicious leftovers that can be enjoyed again or repurposed!

Tuna Melts-Tuna melts are a perfect last-minute recipe that are cheap and can be made out of things you usually already have in the fridge! Pair these sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a side salad for a complete, easy-to-make meal that’s tasty and affordable!

Quinoa Monk Bowl-High in protein and fiber, quinoa is a healthy and delicious grain to cook with (not to mention its really easy to cook with!) This recipe combines the smoky flavor of barbecue sauce with beans and vegetables, and can be adjusted to please anyone’s palate!

Easy Asian Food Recipes

Filled with culture and distinct flavors, Asian cooking is a popular dining option with good reason. This collection highlights simple, affordable, and healthy Asian-inspired recipes!

Fried Rice with Artichoke Hearts-Fried rice is a simple, tasty, and cheap base to any meal. Add artichoke hearts, which have a unique, nutty flavor, or any of your favorite vegetables or proteins, and enjoy!

Kung Pao ShrimpThe beauty of this meal is that it can be cooked in a skillet with ramen, making a very hearty and flavorful family meal that is incredibly inexpensive! This recipe is also versatile–swap out shrimp for any other protein, or use a different sauce is soy sauce isn’t your favorite!

Stir Fry with Asparagus-Stir frys are a great way to make use of vegetables that are on sale (just check your local grocery flyer and get to cooking!) This recipe features asparagus and tofu, creating delicious texture and flavor, but can easily be adjusted to your liking!

Mixed Garden Sir Fry-This recipe uses rice noodles, which have a delightful softness and mildness of flavor, as well as a medley of your favorite vegetables. Cooking this meal doesn’t take much effort, skill, or time, but the final product is nothing short of delicious!

Easy Italian Recipes

Not only does Italian cuisine feature some of the most aromatic and delicious flavors (garlic, basil, and oregano come to mind!) but it can often be prepared quickly and inexpensively. These recipes feature hearty meals with classic Italian ingredients that are sure to make the whole family fall in “amore.”

Simple Pasta and Pizza Sauce-This recipe for a seemingly basic pasta dish features a giant batch of homemade meat-based sauce that is delicious, versatile (try putting it on your pizza!), and can be stored for future use.

Pasta with Olives and Tomatoes-This is a simple pasta recipe that doesn’t call for too many ingredients–just tomatoes, olives, and basil! Make it when you’re pressed for time, save the leftovers for lunch the next day, and throw on any add-ons you wish to make it your own!

Penne with Cannelini and Tomatoes-This casserole doesn’t require any prep work, and can be cooked in under an hour! Because the batches are huge (but not for a huge cost!), this recipe makes the perfect dinner to have leftovers for the next day.

Spaghetti Di Pesto Alla Genoves-This “pesto pasta” recipe will teach you how to make your own homemade pesto and allowing you to never settle for the expensive and often preservative laden store-bought stuff again! Pair with a vegetable side and you have a hearty and delicious Italian meal that’s guaranteed to please your family (and can be made in a whopping 15 minutes!)

Chicken Broccoli and Mozzarella Calzones-This recipe makes the perfect portable meal that keeps on giving–not only is each calzone incredibly filling but the total cost averages out to less than a dollar per serving! Stuff your calzones with whatever ingredients you wish (or whatever’s on sale!) and enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Calzone-This recipe uses elements from two of the previous recipes listed (the chicken and broccoli calzone and the fried rice with artichoke hearts) and creates an unbeatable combination! This recipe is a must-try!

Tuna Vegetable and Cheese Stuffed Manicotti-This recipe is a lighter and healthier take on the classic tuna noodle casserole. Combine the distinctive taste of tuna with loads of vegetables and a creamy cheese sauce and you’ll have a surefire hit with your family at the dinner table. Plus, be sure to check out the side-dish ideas that pair perfectly with this recipe!

Spinach Pesto and Cheese Lasagna-This recipe is an improvised take on a classic Italian favorite, with the modifications actually saving you money without compromising the delicious taste! Plus, one of the best things about lasagna is that is freezes well and be served again and again, if you’re in a pinch or if you’re just craving it (the more likely option).

Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna-A healthier take on the lasagna recipe, this dish features quinoa, a versatile gain with innumerable health benefits that’s easy to cook and replaces the carb-heavy lasagna noodles. Plus, with its light and rustic taste and texture, zucchini is a spectacular addition, but you can play around with whichever vegetables you want to feature!

Easy Mexican Recipes

Not only is Mexican food often simple and quick to make, but the cost of ingredients is low, and there is so much room for creativity and modification. Take a trip south of the border with these recipes to experience the festive flavors and various takes on burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and quesadillas!

Bean Burritos-This dish doesn’t need much explanation–bean burritos are a staple item that are cheap, delicious, and very simple to make. All you really need are the beans and tortillas of your choice, dress it up with whatever suits your taste buds!

Grilled Chicken Salsa Burritos-Burritos are a great frugal meal because you can make a huge batch, eat them for a meal, freeze the leftovers, and serve the frozen ones in the futurem thawing them individually for lunches as needed. This recipe features a delicious slow-cooked chicken, homemade salsa, and shredded cheese…all at only 30 cents a burrito.

Egg Scramble Burritos-This recipe can be made with eggs as a classic hearty breakfast item (made them in bulk and freeze the leftovers as mentioned above!) or with tofu, a soy protein alternative that has a light texture, a delicious taste, and is good for you! Load with veggies, experiment with meats and cheeses…its up to you!

Enchiladas-This recipe will not only teach you how to make enchilada sauce from scratch, a much cheaper option than buying prepackaged enchilada sauce, but will help you make delicious vegan (or not, your choice!) enchiladas at less than a dollar a piece!

Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole-This recipe is heavy on the veggies and perfect for a busy day…just start it in the morning, walk away, and enjoy in the evening! There’s plenty of versatility in which vegetables and proteins you choose to use, so craft your enchilada as you see fit!

Fajitas Bonitas-This recipe for fajitas only calls for a handful of ingredients, the bulk of them vegetables and spices, and can be made in under 40 minutes. This is a surprisingly quick and easy-to-make meal that are flexible (and therefore perfect for entertaining guests!) and inexpensive.

Skillet Cilantry Lime Chicken Fajitas-This recipe combines the flavor of the carmelized vegetables used in the “Fajitas Bonitas” with the zesty taste of the cilantro-lime marinaded chicken. Find a local grocery store deal on chicken breast and your family can have a delicious home-cooked Mexican-inspired meal that’s easy to make and affordable!

Turkey Quesadillas-This is a great option for a quick and easy lunch that’s fairly healthy and inexpensive. Just check out which cold-cuts are on sale at your grocery store and get to cooking, you’ll have a ready made delicious lunch in ten minutes or less!

Easy Sandwich Recipes

Perfect as lunches, light dinners, and snacks because they’re quick, portable, and what goes in between the two pieces of bread (and the bread itself for that matter!) is entirely up to you. This series of recipes features interesting sandwiches that you can use as a guide for crafting your perfect sandwich.

Avacado Spinach Panini-You don’t need to overpay for a panini or even a press to enjoy these grilled sandwiches. Simply select the ingredients you want (we recommend using the avocado, sundried tomato, spinach, and onion combo!) to make it just how you like it, then press it while you cook, and voila!

Feta and Chickpea Pita Sandwiches-This vegetarian Mediterranean-inspired sandwich has an unstoppable flavor combination and features garbanzo beans, which are a great source of protein and fiber! Not only is this sandwich simple to make and inexpensive, its good for you too!

Sandwich Pockets-Stuff whatever toppings you like into a pizza crust, roll it up and bake…making a burrito/pizza hybrid that’s ready in under 20 minutes. You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand and freeze whatever’s left over for an instant lunch fix!

Peanut Butter and Apple Wraps-Only requiring a handful of ingredients and a total cooking time of 5 minutes, these wraps are an ideal healthy lunch option. Eat them on their own or serve them as with a stew or soup in the evening for a perfect fall meal that’s guaranteed to please.

Easy Soup and Stew Recipes

Perfect for the autumn and winter months, soups and stews are versatile, allow you to make use of ingredients you typically already have, and can stand alone or pair with sandwiches, salads, or other entrees! Warm up with one of the delicious and creative soups or stews featured below.

Anything Soup-This is a simple soup recipe that will allow you to get creative and make use of any grocery items you have already in your fridge or pantry! Add the vegetables you like and you can’t go wrong with this soup!

Curried Chickpea Stew-Pair nutritious and hearty garbanzo beans with loads of fresh vegetables and the aroma of curry powder and you’ve got yourself a mean stew. This recipe takes less than an hour to bring a hot bowl of stew to your table and as always, is flexible for your substitutions, additions, and personal preferences.

Curry Pumpkin Soup and Sandwiches-Pumpkins are no longer reserved for carving and pies…this curry pumpkin soup recipe is filling, delicious, and healthy (not to mention vegan!) Costing less than a dollar a serving, this soup is well worth trying.

Jamaican Red Bean Stew-This recipe is another slow-cooker favorite! Prep for about fifteen minutes before you leave the house in the morning and come home to a fragrant and delicious thick stew that’s hearty enough to function as a standalone meal!

Ratatouille-This recipe features two potential ways to make ratatouille: the simple and quick way for when you’re in a pinch, and a slightly lengthier method that’s based off of Julia Child’s recipe. Either way, this dish can be made with any vegetable you have on hand so give it a try! Plus, leftover ratatouille also has many uses; put it in your scrambled eggs the next morning or use it as the base for a chicken soup to get the most bang for your buck!

Stone Soup-Based on a beloved children’s story, this recipe for “Stone Soup” is perfect for cooking with kids! Add a medley of different ingredients…any vegetables, grains, herbs, or meats will work (try to pick things that are reasonably compatible!) and enjoy!

Vegetable Barley Soup-This recipe makes a vegan soup that’s thick, filling, and very flavorful. Making this soup doesn’t require very much effort (just a lot of vegetable chopping!) and costs less than a dollar a serving to make. Plus, save your vegetable scraps in the freezer and you can make delicious vegetable stock from them later!

Vegetarian Gumbo-This recipe makes a creole-inspired gumbo that’s easy to make and only requires rice, flour, vegetables, and spices. Snag a deal at your grocery store and bring the bayou to you!

Wisconsin Farmhouse Chowder-Using homemade mushroom cream, which is delicious and very simple to make, as the base, this soup is the kind of filling and comforting you crave in the winter months.

Make Your Meal Prep Easier and Healthier

Two of the most difficult concepts in the kitchen are making food prep more efficient, and cooking healthier meals. Cooking efficiently is difficult without the proper techniques. While cooking healthier all comes down to choosing the right ingredients. Here are two resources that can help you with these issues.

6 Lessons for Efficient Cooking-This post features the recipes shared as part of the “Summer Meal Series” as well as the lessons learned from experimenting with different ingredients, cooking styles, and recipe resources.

Cooking with Healthy Options-You and your family can still enjoy the great American cookout tradition without compromising your health! This post features two healthy cookout recipe ideas: black bean & quinoa burgers and potato salad. Vegan, affordable, and delicious, they’re definitely worth giving a try at your next barbecue!

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Simple Share Buttons
Simple Share Buttons