If you’re looking for cheap dinners that can be made in less than 15 minutes, (even with toddlers at your ankles), then look no further! This super easy list of cheap dinners, ready in under 15 minutes saves us week after week!
Update: 4/5/20 I know how stressful it is right now to be cooking 2-3 times a day while you’re also trying to work, “home school”, referee kids, and get your house under control. We created an epic inspiration binder of the easiest cheap meals. These ideas are field-tested by hundreds of thousands of our readers and are guaranteed to help even the most overwhelmed mom stick to a meal plan.
And we’re giving it to you 100% free right now so you can use it to help you get through this time. And bonus: You’ll end up using it long after the pandemic is over.
Cheap Dinners in 15 Minutes or Less…
Thanks to an insanely busy schedule, my husband and I had some really poor eating habits. We know that fast food isn’t the best for us but ended up in the drive-thru more often than is humanly acceptable. When we started making better life decisions, this became a glaringly obvious problem that needed to be corrected.
We started making 15 minute meals for every single dinner when we reduced our spending by over $23,000 a year and then paid off all our debt so I can stay home with the kids. We went through the 90 Day Budget Bootcamp and it was absolutely life changing. It stepped out the only meal plan I’ve ever been able to stick to consistently. You can get instant access to the program for free here.
We get up at 6:30 am, and don’t get home at night until 6 pm. When we get home, we head straight to the gym and by the time we get back we’re famished, and even 30 minutes is too long to wait for a meal.
Once you’re that hungry and tired, you start making decisions with your stomach and not your head. A quick trip to the drive-thru and you’ve ruined the workout you just did, spent money, and wasted the food that you had planned for dinner.
After a few phases of trial and error, trying to eat healthier and save time, we made it simple. Keeping home management routines super simple is the number one key to making real changes.
There is a $100.00/week food budget and I pick my meals off of the following list. Of course, we could eat healthier, but this is a huge jump from where we were and it works with our schedule. We can get even healthier in the next phase. For now, we need food we want to eat, on the table in 15 minutes or less.
Need step-by-step instructions for organizing your meal plan? You can learn more about our Hot Mess to Home Success course here…
These are all cheap dinners and will save you a ton of money as well over eating out frequently.
Most of these ideas involve little cooking (if any), but if you don’t mind cooking from scratch, the $70/week grocery budget and meal plan for our family of four has 20-minute meals that are delicious and are a great way to jumpstart a new grocery budget!
THE CHEAP DINNERS AND QUICK FOODS DATABASE:
We also buy a huge pack of mixed greens and a bottle of dressing from Wegmans each week and serve salad every night. ($5.99 for the club pack of mixed greens, and $1.29 for Wegmans salad dressing).
**The totals are what it will cost you to buy all of the ingredients… not per serving.**
ITALIAN CHICKEN AND PASTA SALAD, WITH GREEN PEPPER, ONION, OLIVES, AND TOMATO
Take 2 breasts of Tyson frozen grilled chicken and microwave them, boil a box of rotini, chop up onions, peppers, and a fleshy tomato, add sliced olives and a bottle of Wegmans Italian dressing. Chop up chicken and toss in. Total Cost at Wegmans (enough for 2 plus leftovers): $9.98
LASAGNA (FROM FREEZER):
This is the ultimate cheap dinner idea.
I make pans of lasagna on the weekend or for parties, then cut it up and wrap each piece in wax paper and tin foil. The recipe that I use takes an hour, it’s printed on the back of Sangiorgio Oven Ready Lasagna Package. One pan makes enough for 5 servings of 2 people. I normally grab a giant bag of salad each week and dish out a little each night. Total Cost at Wegmans: $10.86
I actually use Wegmans pizza crust since it’s cheaper and tastes better, just slop on some pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, green pepper, onions, and pepperoni. Put your oven on 425, and stick pizza in right away, 15 minutes later… you’re done! Serve with a side salad. Wrap leftovers in wax paper and foil, you can microwave later for a quick lunch or snack. Total Cost at Wegmans: $9.56
BREAKFAST BURRITOS– great for dinner too!
Stick cheap Banquet fully cooked sausage patties on stove top, scramble eggs on another burner, chop up sausage, green pepper, and onion. Microwave burrito tortillas for 30 seconds, fill with eggs, sausage, pepper, and onions, sprinkle with cheese. You can add salsa or hot sauce if you would like. Serve with a can of mandarin oranges. This will make about 6 servings, wrap leftover burritos in wax paper and tin foil, then freeze. When you want to reheat, remove foil, and microwave. Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.26
HOT DOGS, HAMBURGERS, KIELBASA:
If you have a grill- this is a great option! See my previous post for cheap BBQ’s. We buy 6.5 pounds of ground beef at $1.99 pound and form our own patties, we buy 16 hamburger rolls for $1.99, wrap each bun in foil and freeze, we stick the buns right on the upper shelf of the grill still wrapped up, they end up delicious! Your entire meal is frozen ready, so it’s an easy fill in meal. Total Cost at Wegman’s per hamburger: $0.62
GRILLED CHICKEN FILLET AND MACARONI AND CHEESE
Buy a bag of Tyson frozen grilled chicken fillet, and heat on stove top, meanwhile make macaroni and cheese on stove top. Serve with salad and topping of choice for chicken. Total Cost at Wegmans: $5.05 (assuming you have milk and butter in the house to make macaroni and cheese).
ALFREDO PASTA, CHICKEN, AND BACON BITS
Boil a box of rotini, microwave 2 fillet’s of Tyson frozen chicken breast, drain pasta, stir in a bottle of Classico Alfredo Sauce, and diced up chicken. Sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve with salad. Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.51
CHICKEN, CORN, TOMATO, AND CHEDDAR CHEESE WRAPS WITH RANCH DIP.
Microwave 2 breasts of Tyson grilled chicken fillet’s and dice up, chop up a beefsteak tomato, fill burrito tortillas with diced chicken, canned corn, diced tomato, and cheddar cheese. Serve with ranch dressing and a salad. Makes about 4 wraps. If you have leftovers, wrap in wax paper and foil and take to lunch the next day. Total Cost at Wegmans: $8.01 (but you’ll have extra ranch dressing and burrito tortillas to use another day).
CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD USING FROZEN GRILLED CHICKEN:
Microwave 2 breasts of Tyson grilled chicken fillet’s and dice up, chop up an apple, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup of halved seedless grapes, 2 stalks of diced celery. 1/2 cup of mayo (or more- to taste), and add salt and pepper. Mix up and serve.
Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.83
HOT ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES:
Take 2 slices of bread and spray with cooking spray, place in pan on stove top, layer on roast beef luncheon meat, cheese, mayo, salt and pepper. top with more bread, cook and flip on stove top until melted, serve with salad.
Total Cost at Wegmans: (with leftover ingredients to make twice): $6.47 ($3.23 if you can make it twice in a week.)
Microwave 2 fillets of Tyson Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast and dice up, cook tortilla on pan on stove, fill with chicken, shredded cheese, salsa, green pepper, and onion, top with a second tortilla and apply weight (another frying pan?) flip and serve. Serve with salad. Cost at Wegmans: $8.01
This is by far the easiest of the cheap dinner ideas.
Start up the old George Foreman Grill to make quick work of that bacon (or even just buy precooked heat and eat bacon!), put bread in the toaster and slice up a beefsteak tomato and iceberg lettuce. Assemble, top with mayo, salt and pepper and serve with salad… viola! It’s like your 12 again! 🙂 Total Cost at Wegmans: (with plenty of leftover’s to make this twice in a week) $7.98 (or $3.99 if you can serve twice in a week).
CHICKEN PARMESAN USING FROZEN GRILLED CHICKEN:
Cook 2 fillets of Tyson Frozen Grilled Chicken Breast on the stove top, top with a generous spoonful of spaghetti sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Boil thin Spaghetti, drain and mix with remaining pasta sauce, serve with salad.
Total Cost at Wegmans: $6.51
CHICKEN PATTY SANDWICH AND BAKED BEANS
Total Cost at Wegmans: $4.92
PANCAKES, FRENCH TOAST, OR WAFFLES:
Wegmans Buttermilk Pancake mix, just add water, or extra white bread soaked in milk, eggs, and vanilla, or toaster Waffles if your desperate, scramble up some eggs, heat up some fully cooked sausage and add a banana.) Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.97 with TONS of extra pancake mix, and extra sausage for leftovers.
This makes for crazy cheap dinners!
SPAGHETTI AND MEAT SAUCE
Boil a box of spaghetti, mix in a jar of meat sauce, serve with salad and toast with butter. Total Cost at Wegmans: $3.38
Grab a bagel, slice it open, and toast. Spoon on pizza sauce, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with your favorite toppings, serve with salad. Total Cost at Wegmans: $4.99
BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP WITH GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES:
This stuff is genius! Throw two cups of condensed cheddar cheese soup, three cups frozen chopped broccoli, three cups of milk, and one cup of frozen potatoes O’Brien in a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Done! Its delicious! Add toast and warm with butter and cheese to serve.)
Total Cost at Wegmans: $7.76, provided you have toast and lunch cheese in the house already, if not… add an extra two dollars. This also leaves half a bag of broccoli and half a bag of potatoes O’Brien to supplement another meal.
TACO SALAD (Mixed romaine, ground beef, taco seasoning, iceberg, corn, cheddar cheese, chopped tomato, ranch dressing, southwest topping), plain cheese quesadilla on the side. (Brown the ground beef, throw the lettuce in a bowl and chop up the tomato, add the tomato to the lettuce, add the can of corn on top, add the ground beef and mix up, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, serve in bowls and add ranch dressing and southwest salad topping to your preference.)
Total Cost at Wegmans: $12.22, with extra ingredients that can be used to make the grilled chicken quesadilla for the next nights meal. **If you keep the beef and salad separate and serve together in bowls, you can wrap up leftovers and mix together when you’re ready to eat again.
This is on the more expensive side of the cheap dinners, but because we can usually get at least 2 dinners out of it, it’s still on the list.
Update: Are you struggling with chronic disorganization? I know exactly how you feel… 3 years ago I was a mess. I spent tons of money on groceries only to end up at the drive-thru. I’ve learned something since then… the key to change is keeping it super simple.
If you’re ready to finally get this under control, You can learn more about our Hot Mess to Home Success course here… where we’ll walk you through the simple routines that will change everything about the way you manage your home routines.
Cheap dinners that can be made in 15 minutes are pretty much the best thing ever!
Need more easy dinners?
If you struggle with getting super easy and cheap dinners on the table, I can tell you what’s worked for us.
You can see our favorite 15-minute meals here and then we found out about this freezer cooking service that cut our grocery budget in half.
Neither require much cooking skill and you can save a fortune on your grocery budget!
You can now join the 90 Day Budget Boot Camp for free! Get step by step instructions for how to set up a budget, maintain a budget, and save money. With hundreds of success stories and reviews, this is not an opportunity you want to miss! Join the Budget Boot Camp here.
Want more 15 minute meals? Click the photos below for more cheap dinner ideas…
As seen on Living Well, Spending Less “Thrifty Thursday” Link up. Click here to check out all of the other ideas!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps keep the Busy Budgeter up and running. Read my full disclosure policy here.
I love these ideas. I suggest using the bags of frozen Tyson chicken that comes pre-diced and pre-cooked for a real time saver. It’s so quick and delicious.
The Busy Budgeter says
Aw! Thanks Caitlin. 🙂
Your website has been a life saver! We have a family of 6(2 adults, 4 kids.) I’m just starting to get into budgeting for groceries, meal planning, and prepping. I use to browse pinterest for hours looking for information and recipes but you have it all here in one place!
The Busy Budgeter says
Aw! Thanks guys! Best defenders ever! 🙂
The Busy Budgeter recently posted…The Easiest Way To Start a Blog (When You Aren’t a Computer Geek)
Alice Clover says
I know a lot of people who believe that having fresh meals at home is just for the wealthy. I’m here to tell you that cooking healthy meals at home is the way to go if you are on a budget. Not only will your medical expenses drop, your food bills will decrease as well. I think what scares a lot of people is the $200 and $300 grocery bills, but that will last a week or more if you get the right stuff like frozen veggies, rice, canned meats, etc. Where you might only be spending $20 a time at McDonalds, that’s $20 three times a day seven days a week for a total of $420 for the week, and that is if you’re getting really cheap meals. No, in my opinion healthy budget cooking is for the masses, McDonald’s is for the super wealthy! I don’t see how anyone on a budget could afford such expense, and then add the health risks on top of that and you could be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years.
Alice Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of currants
I happen to love Kirkland’s canned chicken breast from Costco. And their chopped rotisserie chicken…
Chili topped baked potatoes!!
Another great thing with chicken breasts…beat the cooked breasts (however you decide to cook them) with your Kitchen Aid paddle…instant shredded chicken!!
I have several friends (and sisters) who LOVE their Instant Pots. And there are hundreds of IP recipes on Pinterest, of course. Like a pressure cooker, but better. The meals may take longer than 15 minutes, but are usually around 30 minutes, and that isn’t horrible either.
Doesn’t it work the other way? I thought you could cook something for 8 hours and then it goes down to Warm. At least mine did before it died…
Yum! Oven-roasted ANY veggies! I’ve been trying to do more sheet pan meals myself. Again longer than 15 minutes but SO yummy!
Oh, that sounds delish!
You can always just get the burrito bowl from Chipotle and save some carbs 🙂
LeAnn Robertson says
First, let me say I am in a desperate situation and your blog has given me so much hope!! Second, I am so appreciative of the recipes here, only, I don’t know anywhere that I can get hamburger meat for $1.99/lb anymore. Could you update the prices? Also, what type of salad dressing are you purchasing. I am desperate for the help your site is providing. Thank you so much.
Thank you for all of these ideas! We cook from scratch, and I’ve been feeling anxious about how to feed my family when I have shoulder surgery next month. Last year, when I had my other shoulder repaired, cooking was a challenge and we spent so much money eating out. Your ideas will be a lifesaver. Thank you thank you 🙂
The Busy Budgeter says
Totally! You may also want to look into FreezEasy: you can put the meals together before surgery then just thaw and cook them the day of. I have a post about it here if you’re interested: https://www.busybudgeter.com/4989-2/
Best of luck!
Busy Mom says
I googled “menu planning for beginners” and this is exactly what I was looking for! A place to get started. We waste too much money eating out because we want cooking and clean up to be fast and simple. Maybe I’ll get a taste for actual cooking and and baking but until then this is great. Thank you!
My request: I need cheap healthy fillers or snacks for big appetites. I don’t want them fill up on potato chips anymore. But a bag of carrots isn’t working either.
Is there a printer friendly version of this list?
You need to update the prices for 2022 inflation?