Delicious on a Dime: Cheap Dinner Ideas for Every Night of the Week

Turkey Wild Rice Soup in bowl, top view


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Turkey Wild Rice Soup in bowl, top view

Cheap Dinner Ideas to Get You Through Your Week

In today's tense economic climate, it seems like you can spend $100 at the grocery store when you run in for a few odds and ends, never mind how much your bill racks up during a full grocery haul. Now more than ever, people are feeling the pressure of finding ways to save wherever they can, and it's becoming more and more important to embrace budget-friendly meals. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste or nutrition. Check out some of our favorite cheap dinner ideas. 

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio With

1. Pasta-Based Delights

Pasta is a beautiful thing. Not just because it's the king of all carbs. And not merely because there's a variety of options to choose from. But because it's versatile, (obviously) delicious, and filling. While some pasta recipes can include a long list of ingredients, racking up the cost, there are plenty of options with minimal ingredients that make for excellent cheap dinner ideas.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio: This classic Italian dish is made with garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Not only are the ingredients for this meal simple, but they're also extremely low-cost and easy to access. You can enjoy the spaghetti as-is or garnish with parmesan cheese or parsley.

Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

Penne with Homemade Tomato Sauce: Boil a box of penne and whip up a homemade tomato sauce with simple ingredients like canned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes,  butter, and basil, and you've got the perfect penny-pinching penne. 

Recipe: The Country Cook

Creamy Tuna Pasta Salad: Canned tuna is one of the cheapest proteins you can find at the grocery store, and joined with mayonnaise, macaroni, and vegetables, it makes a scrumptious creamy and cold pasta salad. 

Recipe: Spend with Pennies

Lentil Soup with Crusty Bread

2. Hearty Soups and Stews

Soups and stews are a perfect way to pack in some protein and vegetables all at once, making them the epitome of cheap dinner ideas. Plus, these dishes bode well for leftovers (and usually freeze well to boot) so you can often get more than one meal out of a batch of soup or stew.

Lentil Soup: Lentils are full of vitamins and minerals and packed with protein and fiber. This soup made with lentils, carrots, onions, crushed tomatoes, and spices is great for vegetarians, vegans, and cheapskates alike.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Chicken and Rice Soup: Chicken and rice soup is hearty and packed full of flavor. You can use leftover rice and leftover chicken, along with vegetables like carrots, onion, and celery to make this one frugally. 

Recipe: The Cozy Cook

Vegetable Stew: If you like vegetables, this customizable stew is for you. You can interpret the recipe using your favorite vegetables, and if you really want to lean into cheap dinner ideas, you can opt for veggies that are on sale or in season (especially if you have your own garden).  

Recipe: Feel Good Foodie

Asian Chicken Fried Rice with Chopsticks Directly Above Photo

3. Rice and Grain Dishes

Grains are great because they are easy to stock up on when they're on sale. Rice is one of the most inexpensive and versatile grains and lends itself wonderfully to a myriad of cheap dinner ideas.

Stir-Fried Rice: Stir-fried rice is another meal that offers itself up to interpretation. This one is a great go-to if you have leftover rice to use up. Add in some mixed vegetables, egg, and protein like chicken, ham, or tofu. 

Recipe: The Recipe Critic

Quinoa Salad: Served cold, this salad is made up of quinoa, spinach, avocado, green onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette, although there are countless variations of quinoa salad to experiment with on the quest for the best cheap dinner ideas.

Recipe: Two Peas & Their Pod 

Budget Burrito Bowls: Sure, Chipotle is easy and delicious, but it's not entirely cost-effective. Instead, make your own budget-friendly burrito bowls at home using rice, beans, corn, shredded cheese, salsa, green onion, and jalapeños if you want to harness a hit of heat.

Recipe: Budget Bytes

Vegetarian Tacos

4. Protein-Packed Legumes

Like the lentils we mentioned earlier, legumes are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals. They're usually pretty affordable too, making them the ideal vessel for cheap dinner ideas.

Chickpea Curry: Curry is a flavor bomb of a dish that's so robust it doesn't need a pricey protein to make it delicious. For a cheaper curry, opt for chickpeas to go along with onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, and fragrant spices. 

Recipe:  Host the Toast 

Black Bean Tacos: Looking to cut costs on your next taco night? Substitute the meat for mashed black beans to pack in the protein affordably. This one is both low-effort and low-cost.

Recipe:  Cooking Classy

Lentil and Vegetable Stir-Fry: Lentils stir-fried with vegetables, sauces, and cashews make for a filling meal bursting with the umami flavor that makes stir fry so tasty. 

Recipe: Lettuce Veg Out

Tuna casserole

5. Savory Casseroles

Casseroles are the champion of cheap dinner ideas. You can throw together any combination of starch (pasta, rice, or potatoes) with a sauce or canned soup, veggies, cheese, and whatever else you've got in the pantry. Basically, if you stock up on certain staples when they're on sale, you should be able to find a way to turn them into a casserole later on. Plus, casseroles reheat beautifully, so leftovers become the gift that keeps on giving (and the dollar that keeps on stretching).

Tuna Noodle Casserole: Tuna is so cheap we had to highlight it a second time on this roundup, only this rendition is served hot and steamy rather than cold. This casserole combines notoriously cheap ingredients including canned tuna, pasta, and cream of mushroom soup to make a creamy, savory dish.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Egg and Vegetable Bake: Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? This egg and vegetable bake is easy as can be, and it's affordable to boot. As an added bonus, if you wind up with leftovers, you can reheat this casserole for breakfast the next morning.

Recipe: A Kitchen Addiction

Potato and Ground Meat Casserole: Ground beef, potatoes, onion, cheese, and butter are common ingredients to have on hand, and they can be combined into one affordable dinner by way of this casserole recipe.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Healthy Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

6. Filling Salads

Salads are another versatile dish that offers plenty of room for experimentation. Go with a lettuce base or mix and match other vegetables. Try different dressings and spices to bring in more flavor, and add some nuts, seeds, or croutons for more texture. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to get your greens in. 

Classic Caesar Salad: You can't go wrong with a classic Caesar salad. With minimal ingredients (romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing), this recipe is inherently affordable. If you want to make it even more filling, add grilled chicken. 

Recipe:  Natasha's Kitchen

Bean Salad: Canned goods are notoriously cheap and although we often think of salads comprised of fresh vegetables, this recipe taps canned beans for an affordable and tasty dish. Combining ingredients like green beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, onion, vinegar, olive oil, and sugar, there's plenty of texture and flavor in this recipe.

Recipe: A Couple Cooks

Greek Salad: Send your taste buds on a trip to the Mediterranean with this Greek salad recipe. Easy to prepare, this recipe comes to life with tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and a lemon-olive oil dressing.

Recipe: Delish

Egg salad sandwich on whole grain bread

7. Quick and Easy Wraps and Sandwiches

Wraps and sandwiches are a great go-to for cheap dinner ideas. There are almost endless possibilities to what you can put between two pieces of bread or stuff into a tortilla for a wrap, so you can customize these to fit your tastebuds and your budget.

Veggie and Hummus Wrap: Spread hummus on a tortilla, add your favorite sliced veggies, roll it up, and you've got yourself a simple yet delicious meal. You can even add a little sriracha or hot sauce for a kick. 

Recipe: Little Sunny Kitchen

Grilled Cheese and Tomato: Tomato soup is the perfect companion for a grilled cheese, so why not add a slice of tomato to your sandwich? This recipe takes the classic sandwich to a new level without departing from simplicity. The added tomato slice brings more flavor and more nutrition without bursting the budget.

Recipe: Spend with Pennies

Egg Salad Sandwich: Egg salad sandwiches are a classic, cold sandwich that are as yummy as they are filling. All you need is some hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, green onion, mustard, and bread, and you've got yourself one of the easiest cheap dinner ideas perfect for busy nights.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Penne, tomato and basil

Conclusion: Go Forth and Eat Cheap

Sometimes our appetites exceed our budget, and while it's certainly enjoyable to splurge and indulge every once in a while, it's important to find the sweet spot that balances cost with nutrition and taste. Of course, there are simple ways to save when meal planning, like shopping sales, using what you have on hand, and making substitutions to spend less. Whether you try out some of our suggestions or you explore other cheap dinner ideas, there are tons of recipes you can make at home that will fill you up without sacrificing your bank account in the process.