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Affordable cooking is top of mind for a lot of us right now. To ease some of your cooking anxieties, we wanted to share our tastiest and most utterly satisfying recipes that keep budget top of mind. These recipes often rely on simple, accessible ingredients and prioritize minimizing waste in order to stretch your dollar further. And sometimes they are a direct response to the question: What do I do with these leftovers?
Our best budget recipes include a wide spread of dishes, from classic cozy dinners like casseroles and pastas to more creative solutions such as stir-fries and loaded meatballs. All in all, they are for the people who find themselves strapped for cash and sometimes time, but never willing to sacrifice flavor — so that’s all of us! Read on for over 50 budget recipes that very well might rank as some of the best meals you’ve had.
Go ahead and slurp your heart out, because these luxurious soups will cost you hardly anything.
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Doenjang-Jjigae Go to Recipe
The rich, comforting, and hearty notes that sing from this traditional soybean paste stew hinge on thrifty items commonly found in a Korean kitchen: beef, various vegetables, tofu. It all comes together in an Instant Pot, which makes it even easier to pull together.
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Lemon, Chickpea and Green Herb Stew Go to Recipe
Stocking up on canned chickpeas will prep you to have endless meals, like lemony-bright aromatic stews. It gets great zing from fresh-squeezed lemons, while herbs on top provide freshness.
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Cabbage Roll Soup Go to Recipe
You can channel all the flavors of stuffed cabbage rolls and ingredients into this hearty, just-as-flavorful, budget-friendly soup instead. How's that for a good and cheap meal?
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Weeknight White Chicken Chili Go to Recipe
This weeknight chicken chili — which relies on whole vegetables and pantry staples — pulls inspiration from chowder, but warm cumin and a trio of fresh, punchy toppings firmly plant it in chili territory. If you want, you can use leftover rotisserie or shredded chicken.
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Carrot Soup Go to Recipe
With just a few aromatics and broth, a pile of carrot coins transforms into silky spoonfuls of soup brightened with fresh dill and lemon.
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Tomato Tortellini Soup Go to Recipe
A package of frozen tortellini is a must-have to stash in the freezer because it’s cheap, lasts for months, and studs this creamy, tangy tomato soup that comes together in 20 minutes.
When in doubt, bust out a box of dried pasta along with a few staples and you’re well on your way to dinner.
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The Easiest Stuffed Shells Go to Recipe
You don't need to spend a lot to feed a whole mess of people. Got pasta shells, ricotta and mozzarella, and a jar of marinara sauce? Grab a few more ingredients and a Sunday supper comes alive.
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Crispy Sheet Pan Gnocchi and Veggies Go to Recipe
It turns out gnocchi on a weeknight is a more-than-doable dinner and it won't cost you an arm and a leg. This one-pan dinner of roasted gnocchi and vegetables doesn't even require you to boil the dumplings.
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No-Shell Linguine + Clams
Linguine and clams, or vongole, is a dish that celebrates the best that canned fish and pasta has to offer. Lucky for us, this version excludes those fussy clam shells. Go to Recipe
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Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash Parm Go to Recipe
A whole spaghetti squash gets the ultimate star treatment when cooked in the air fryer. Although it's not technically a pasta, it serves up major pasta vibes. The veg-forward spin on an Italian comfort dish is cheesy and perfectly al dente with an affordable ingredient list to boot.
Tasty Meatless Meals
If you eat vegetarian, here are a few recipes to recharge your creative battery and keep your wallet (and belly) full.
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BBQ Pizza Beans Go to Recipe
This vegetarian rendition of the iconic barbecue chicken pizza from CPK trades the chicken and crust for glazy beans. No need to cook beans from dry — just grab a can of white beans, such as butter or Great Northern.
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Sheet Pan BBQ Tofu Go to Recipe
Here's how to go to town on barbecue and stay meat-free, too. A pack of tofu takes on crispy, jagged edges and a crunchy coating in the oven before it gets cloaked in a sticky blanket of BBQ sauce.
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Baked Potato Bar Go to Recipe
Whether cobbled together from leftovers in the fridge for a weeknight dinner, or served as an over-the-top spread for a party, a baked potato bar is a dependable way to entertain and feed on a budget.
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Curry-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower with Saucy Lentils Go to Recipe
The finished dish is full of contrasting flavors and textures — tender (but not too tender) roasted cauliflower, chewy dried cherries, al dente lentils. Plus there’s that yogurt sauce to pull everything together. At $8.55 for four servings, it’s a fine-dining dish at a fraction of the price.
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Brown Rice Bowl with Lentils, Caramelized Onions & Fried Egg Go to Recipe
Rice and lentils are as forgiving to cook as they are cheap. As this meal-prep meal demonstrates, they can be made ahead on a Sunday and stored in the fridge until the end of the work week. When you need a vegetarian lunch at a moment's notice, you can build a brown rice and lentil bowl with caramelized onions, a healthy spoonful of harissa, and a sprinkling of pine nuts and top with a fried egg.
Thrifty Meat Dishes
Meat-heavy meals often get a bad rap for being too costly when you want to cut down on food costs. But hearty all-star dishes are achievable on a budget — as long as you have some other proteins on hand (think: tinned fish, tofu packs, and lean cuts of meat).
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These seasoned country-style “ribs” are glazed with luscious barbecue sauce and get oven-roasted until they’re super tender.Go to Recipe
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Trader Joe's Orange Chicken Fried Rice Go to Recipe
Trader Joe's is a destination for top-notch affordable frozen foods, and their frozen Mandarin orange chicken is in a league of its own. This recipe bulks up a bag of the chicken with vegetables and brown rice to create a family-friendly weeknight dinner.
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Tuna Patties Go to Recipe
These tuna patties are a fun and cheap way to turn a few cans of tuna, vegetables, and herbs into super-satisfying meal.
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Juicy Lucy Turkey Burgers Go to Recipe
Turkey is a low-cost type of meat that can take on a generous amount of flavor in any way you see fit. Case in point: This Juicy Lucy turkey burger oozes with hot cheese filling and, as the name suggests, a lot of juice. Ready the napkins!
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Greek Chicken Go to Recipe
With minimal effort, ingredients, and overall price, this chicken breast soaked in zesty Greek marinade is a budget-friendly dream.
Simple Casseroles and One-Pot Meals
Here are the dinner solutions for those days when you need to make something not only economical but also quick and mess-free.
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Pineapple Casserole Go to Recipe
This casserole breaks down pineapple pizza to its most essential (and best) elements: cheese, pineapple chunks, and a buttery crust. This pantry recipe doesn't involve any chopping.
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Vegan Enchiladas Go to Recipe
Don't stress about costly store-bought vegan meat products. Our recipe for spiced-up, saucy vegan enchiladas have a simply delicious filling made from mushrooms and chopped walnuts mixed together with tofu. It's cheaper and, dare we say, meatier than what you can buy.
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Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyère Go to Recipe
There's quite possibly no dish that stretches out a few eggs as well as a strata. If you want to eat your eggs and make the most of one carton, make this hearty breakfast bake that's packed with cheese and spinach, then baked until golden-brown and well-puffed.
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Jollof Rice Go to Recipe
Jollof rice is a smoky, spicy tomato- and pepper-based rice dish that's a staple throughout West Africa.
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Tater Tot Casserole Go to Recipe
This hearty casserole easily feeds a hungry crowd and is an all-in-one meal with protein, vegetables, and frozen tater tots.