5 Cookbooks to Buy for Budget-Friendly Recipes

updated May 1, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

When you’re living on a tight budget, having a handful of affordable recipes you can turn to is crucial. I know I often fall back on making dishes like sweet potato and black bean tacos or fridge-dump fried rice during the last week of the month, when rent is due. It’s easy to find yourself in a recipe rut when funds are limited.

But there’s a whole category of cookbooks that focus on budget-friendly recipes for you to turn to! Many of them also come with grocery shopping tips and meal plans to help make eating on the cheap less of a chore. That’s why we’ve rounded up our five favorite cookbooks full of delicious recipes to help you save money while still feeding your family well.

Could you feed your family of four, with no processed products or fast food, on just $125 per week? Lisa Leake first took on the challenge on her blog, 100 Days of Real Food, a project that resulted in her latest cookbook, 100 Days of Real Food: On a Budget. In it, Leake gives money-saving tips and recipes for families on a tight budget who want to cut processed foods out of their diet. She offers advice on how to set a food budget and lower your grocery bill, as well as tips for how to grow your own herbs, minimize food waste, and preserve seasonal produce at home.

The cookbook includes 100 whole-food, budget-friendly recipes — everything from snacks and appetizers (whole-wheat banana muffins and roasted rosemary almonds), to simple dinners and slow cooker favorites (Asian chicken lettuce cups, apple-glazed pork chops, carrot curry soup, and pulled chicken tacos) — that each cost $15 or less. Every recipe also includes a shopping list and the cost breakdown of each dish, so there are no hidden surprises when you go to make them yourself.

Buy: 100 Days of Real Food: On a Budget by Lisa Leake, $22

2. Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

In 2014, while she was a graduate student in the Food Studies program at NYU, Leanne Brown put together this cookbook with families with limited income in mind — particularly families living on a $4/day SNAP/food stamp budget. Good and Cheap includes smart recipes for each meal of the day, plus snacks — recipes like whole-wheat jalapeño cheddar scones, spicy panzanella, chana masala, shrimp and grits, sauces and dips, and more.

Even better is that the cookbook is available to those who need it most. You can download a free PDF version of Good and Cheap here. It’s also available in print form.

Buy: Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown, $10

3. Frugal Vegan by Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee

Following a vegan diet doesn’t have to be pricey or complicated. In Frugal Vegan, Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee show you how to utilize less expensive ingredients and prepare plant-based meals while still maintaining your budget. The cookbook includes 99 different vegan recipes that are fast and easy to cook, including vegan enchiladas, BBQ chickpea sliders, cauliflower steaks, peanut noodles, a host of hearty salads, and tofu scrambled eggs. There’s also a healthy amount of vegan dessert recipes like coconut peach popsicles and peanut butter oatmeal bars.

Buy: Frugal Vegan: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Vegan Cooking by Katie Koteen and Kate Kasbee, $15

4. Good Cheap Eats by Jessica Fisher

If meal planning is your jam, then this is the cookbook for you. In Good Cheap Eats, Jessica Fisher crafts a road map with more than 200 recipes that are organized into 70 multi-course dinner menus that are supposed to cost $10 or less.

Examples of those meal suggestions include fire-roasted mushroom marinara with cheesy polenta and roasted broccoli with garlic; simple bean tostadas with chunky tomato salsa, and lemon pie with honey-ginger cream for dessert; or a spinach and mushroom pizza served alongside a green salad with lemon-basil vinaigrette, and salted caramel affogato for dessert. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the task of having to plan out and price your family’s meals for the week, you’ll find Fisher’s budget-friendly menus particularly helpful.

Jessica has also been a longtime contributor for Kitchn! You can check out her story about getting out of debt here.

5. Budget Bytes by Beth Moncel

Blogger and cookbook author Beth Moncel is a budget-friendly recipe queen. When she started her blog, Budget Bytes, back in 2009, Moncel was determined to show that eating on a budget didn’t have to mean living off canned beans and cheap ramen noodles. This cookbook is the result of her efforts, and features several recipes that aren’t available on the blog.

In the Budget Bytes cookbook, Moncel tackles a wide range of foods in over 100 low-cost recipes — everything from coconut chicken curry and huevos rancheros bowls, to lemon-Parmesan pasta and five-spice pork chops, as well as salmon with Sriracha sauce. It’s an invaluable resource to keep on hand while eating — and cooking — on a budget.