47 Tasty Frugal Dinner Ideas (Under $5)

Being on the hunt for the best frugal dinner ideas can be exhausting. 

However, this article has got you covered with a variety of frugal meal ideas that will make your tastebuds jump in joy, and forget all about your tight budget. 

You can say goodbye to bland watered-down cabbage soup for dinner and fill yourself up with satisfying meals to feed yourself and your family. 

Whether you’re staring at your bank balance in dismay after paying your rent or want to save your money for an upcoming road trip planned with your loved ones, saving money doesn’t have to mean sacrificing delicious food.

Get your hands on some staple yet inexpensive ingredients to whip up some of these budget-friendly frugal dinner ideas! 

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47 Tasty Frugal Dinner Ideas

  1. White Chicken Chilli
  2. Chicken Noodle Soup
  3. Chicken Tikka Masala
  4. Beef Bulgogi
  5. Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
  6. Stuffed Cabbage
  7. Pork And Sauerkraut
  8. Sour Cream Pork Chops
  9. Indian Madras Beef Curry
  10. Curried Mussels
  11. Salmon Croquettes
  12. 10-min Salmon
  13. Vegetarian Lasagna
  14. Spiced Sweet Potato And Peanut Puree
  15. Garlic Herb Potatoes
  16. Red Lentil Soup
  17. Vegan Gumbo
  18. Vegan Burrito
  19. Curry Chicken Salad
  20. Chicken Casserole
  21. Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
  22. Brown Rice Vegetable Soup
  23. Sweet And Sour Chicken
  24. Chicken Fajitas
  25. Spicy Tofu And Green Beans
  26. Tuna Pasta Salad
  27. Sticky Thai Beef Mince Stir Fry
  28. Chicken And Broccoli Skillet
  29. Veggie Turnovers
  30. Garlic Prawns
  31. Tomato Bruschetta
  32. Pull-Apart Christmas Tree
  33. Crockpot Turkey Breast
  34. Dr. Pepper Pineapple Glazed Ham
  35. Roast Turkey
  36. Baked Pasta Casserole
  37. Honey-Balsamic Glazed Carrots
  38. Turkey Cranberry Mini Quiches
  39. Classic Stuffing
  40. Chocolate Gingersnaps
  41. 6 Egg Pavlova
  42. Christmas Cake Balls
  43. Pasta 
  44. Soup
  45. Sandwich
  46. Muffin
  47. Salad

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frugal dinner ideas

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47 Cheap And Easy Frugal Dinner Ideas

Easy Frugal Meals Tip

If there’s one thing you should invest in for frugal dinners or frugal meals in general, it is definitely an instant pot

Imagine coming home from a long day at work because Karen from accounting wouldn’t stop amending every report you sent, and you find that there’s nothing to eat. #nightmare.com

I don’t know about you, but I get HANGRY! 

Even though an instant pot seems like a hefty expenditure in the beginning, the financial benefits it offers long term are fantastic. 

Look, you’re reading this article because you’re trying to eat frugally and the whole point of doing that is to save money, am I right? 

An instant pot is not only going to cut your prep and cooking time to a fraction, it is going to save you energy, which also means lower utility bills!

Say hello to fast and easy meals that allow you to concentrate on the important things in life. So in terms of easy frugal dinner recipes, here are some delicious meal you can whip up in an instant pot:

Chicken

  1. White Chicken Chilli
  2. Chicken Noodle Soup
  3. Chicken Tikka Masala

Beef

  1. Beef Bulgogi
  2. Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
  3. Stuffed Cabbage

Pork

  1. Pork And Sauerkraut
  2. Sour Cream Pork Chops
  3. Indian Madras Beef Curry

Seafood

  1. Curried Mussels
  2. Salmon Croquettes
  3. 10-min Salmon

Vegetarian

  1. Vegetarian Lasagna
  2. Spiced Sweet Potato And Peanut Puree
  3. Garlic Herb Potatoes

Vegan

  1. Red Lentil Soup
  2. Vegan Gumbo
  3. Vegan Burrito
frugal dinner ideas

Frugal Meal Plan

Frugal dinner ideas can’t be complete without factoring in meal planning. Meal planning’s importance can differ from person to person depending on what is most important to them.

You may be trying to drop some pounds or perhaps you’re trying to save some money. 

Whatever your reason may be, meal planning will help you save money, time, and energy in the long run. Spending a few hours over the weekend to organise and plan your meals will pay off when you realize there’s food waiting for you whenever you are hungry!

Meal preparation can appear to be tedious, time-consuming, or excessive.

However, speaking from personal experience, this is not the case at all! If you know what to prepare, it will save you time, money, and reduce food waste, among other things.

I know what you’re thinking, meal planning is expensive, spending all the money over the weekend for groceries seems to contradict the idea of being frugal. Hear me out, when you shop in bulk for groceries, you will save money. 

Here’s how you can save money buying groceries for your weekly meal prep :

  • Buy seasonal produce
  • Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, before you know it, every snack in the aisle will be in your cart
  • Google all the recipes beforehand and write down all the ingredients required
  • Stick to your list!

Prep these easy frugal dinner ideas for a fuss-free meal :

19.Curry Chicken Salad

Prep the ingredients individually and keep them in containers in the fridge and assemble them when you’re ready to eat! If you’re in a rush, throw all the ingredients into a mason jar and give them a shake before having them. 

If you’re confused on how to fit a salad into a mason jar, here’s a guide on how to assemble them plus a bonus honey mustard dressing recipe!

20.Chicken Casserole

Casseroles are great as you can divide them into equal portions and have them throughout the week for lunch or dinner. It is one of those cheap frugal meals that will satiate you regardless. 

For those who’ve not tried this versatile dish, it is a baked dish made up of three components; a source of protein, vegetable, and some broth or starch to bind it all together. 

21.Cauliflower Chickpea Curry

I’m salivating just thinking of how good this will be on a bed of hot and fluffy jasmine rice. Just grab some ready-to-serve rice, pop them in the microwave and you’re good to go!

frugal dinner ideas

22.Brown Rice Vegetable Soup

We all know that soups taste better the next day, need I say more. They’re perfect for meal prepping, freeze batches of soup and heat them when it’s time for your meal. 

23.Sweet And Sour Chicken

A little Asian twist to get you through the week, why not?

24.Chicken Fajitas

This dish can double as lunch for the next day!

25.Spicy Tofu And Green Beans

Another great recipe that you can try and keep the leftover for lunch throughout the week. 

26.Tuna Pasta Salad

Something light and healthy for a change. 

27.Sticky Thai Beef Mince Stir-Fry

It’s Thai food, need I say more?

28.Chicken And Broccoli Skillet

Ah yes, the classic meal planning combo, you can never go wrong with this. 

29.Veggie Turnovers

Packed with wholesome veggies, this portioned-out recipe will be quick for you to grab when you’re short of time. 

frugal Christmas meals

Frugal Christmas Dinner Ideas

Ah yes, the most wonderful time of the year. But is it? 

The expectations of gifts, food, and the strain of shopping can make Christmas stressful for a lot of people, especially for those with a tight budget.

 If you’re currently cracking your head trying to sort out presents for your loved ones, here are two helpful articles that can give you some ideas on what to get them without breaking the bank :

Make a list of ways to save costs during this time of the year. 

Don’t let money stand in between you and your loved ones. Social gatherings can be expensive, however, you should be able to spend some time with them without crunching numbers in your head. 

If you can’t afford lavish meals at a restaurant or cocktail at the latest hipster bar, throw a backyard barbecue or a house party where everyone brings a plate of food. Try out these recipes below that have you covered from starters up to dessert without leaving a dent in your bank account. 

frugal dinner ideas

Starters

  1. Garlic Prawns
  2. Tomato Bruschetta
  3. Pull-Apart Christmas Tree

Mains

  1. Crockpot Turkey Breast
  2. Dr. Pepper Pineapple Glazed Ham
  3. Roast Turkey
  4. Baked Pasta Casserole

Sides

  1. Honey-Balsamic Glazed Carrots
  2. Turkey Cranberry Mini Quiches
  3. Classic Stuffing
frugal Christmas meals

Desserts

  1. Chocolate Gingersnaps
  2. 6 Egg Pavlova
  3. Christmas Cake Balls
extreme frugal meals

Extreme Frugal Meals

Frugal meals don’t mean you need to resort to bread and eggs or sip on bland soups throughout the day. You can create very cheap meals with a few ingredients or you can simply experiment with the things you have in your pantry and whip something up. 

43.Pasta

The pastabilities are endless (get it, get it?). Okay, but corny jokes aside, pasta has got to be the most versatile ingredient that can be turned into an array of spreads. 

You don’t have to follow the recipes below to the T, if you don’t have rigatoni in your pantry, it is okay, you can still make the dish. Toss in some regular ol’ fettuccine and you’re good to go. 

44.Soup

Soups are a perfect way to keep hydrated and full since they are all liquid. Soups are one of those dishes that are perfect to make when you’re trying to practice frugal meals for 2 or even for the entire family. 

Soups are low-cost and simple to make. 

Soups and stews also won’t take up too much of your time in the kitchen. To lower the cost even further, increase the vegetables and liquid content in the soup, and add smaller amounts of expensive ingredients such as chicken, beef, or seafood. 

Soups freeze well, so you can prep them on the weekend and have them throughout the week.

 These recipes below require only a handful of ingredients and will keep you full :

frugal recipes

Sandwiches

You could buy a loaf of bread or bake your own. Get two slices of bread and add anything you want to them. Try to pair them with a neat source of protein for a more satiating meal. 

Even if you’re trying to come up with frugal meals for 1, you don’t want to be starving yourself. Here are some variations of sandwich for you to try :

46.Muffins

These muffin recipes are easy to prepare and are a quick solution the next time you’re looking for something to eat. 

47.Salad

Salads are great high-volume food that will keep you satiated for some time. There are gazillions of salad recipes online but most of them require funky ingredients that some of us simply don’t have the budget for. 

Forget grabbing salads out in a restaurant and make some simple ones with the recipes below :

frugal dinner ideas

FAQS

What Is The Cheapest Dinner To Make?

Even though there are tons of delicious frugal dinner ideas listed above, here are some of the cheapest dinners to make :

What Can I Cook With No Money?

Short answer: 

Here’s a list of places where you can snag free meals for when you’re completely out of money. 

Long Answer: 

No one wants to be in the position of not having enough funds to eat. 

Unfortunately, I too know what that feels like – I had to pay for my university fees and educations costs and I remember some months where money was REALLY tight O_O

As much as food costs money, we can’t deny our body the nourishment it needs.

Bear in mind, you may not be having nutritious meals all throughout the day due to the lack of money but you can make up for it by having one nutritious MAIN meal. 

There is no denying that we probably spend too much on food. 

According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’, USD 6,600 is spent on food by the average American household. 

Keep these quick tips in mind if you’re trying to figure out what to cook with no money :

  • Think of the cost of ingredients per serving.
  • Shop at the supermarket during closing time and use the food they want to throw away.
  • Keep your meals simple.
  • Keep your eyes open for discount codes and coupons. 

Conclusion

There you go! Everything you need to know about frugal dinner ideas. You don’t have to try out every single recipe in this article, but if you want to, then go ahead. 

You will never have to worry about being frugal for dinner because there are plenty of delicious and nourishing options for you to have.

 Get your loved ones in the kitchen and start making any one of these frugal dinner ideas and let the stress of not having enough money for food slip away!

47 Cheap And Easy Frugal Dinner Ideas

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