Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to have a good and healthy meal. There are several cheap meal ideas you can make at home and get filled up while also ensuring to include essential nutrients.
Food is one of the budget categories that take up many allowances. It is an essential expense, but it is easy to overspend on feeding without proper planning.
It is important to note that cheap meals do not necessarily mean unhealthy food but imply affordable and healthy meals.
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Why it is important to cook at home
- Save more.
Cooking at home saves you a lot of money. The USDA estimates the total cost of food for a family of two to be almost $650 on a moderate cost plan.
Opting for cheap meal ideas will help bring down the cost.
Cooking can become one of the bonding activities to do as a couple and as a family.
- Develop your cooking skills.
Improve your cooking skills while saving. Consistently preparing your meals will help you learn how to cook, and maybe, you can start a food blog—a very lucrative side hustle.
Find a hobby in cooking and spend time doing it. You can make it your go-to de-stressing activity.
- Monitor your diet.
Cooking your meals helps you to monitor your diet closely: what you’re eating and how much of it you’re eating. It also enables you to follow your diet restrictions and preferences more accurately.
- Serve yourself worthy rations.
You don’t need to worry about food rations not being enough or too much because you prepare and serve yourself adequately.
How much can you save on cheap meals?
How much you can save depends on how much you usually spend. For example, if you splurged on eating out or buying lots of meat but decided to start planning cheap meal ideas, you’d save more money than someone originally on a moderate-cost meal plan.
You can save as much as $900-$1,000 annually on meal plans.
Here are some cheap and healthy meal ideas:
Pancakes are usually the go-to most mornings. You can have breakfast ready for the whole family with just flour, eggs, sugar, milk (or water), butter, and maybe one or two fruits.
You can add vegetables and cheese to make the omelet cheap and healthy. Other key ingredients are eggs, milk, and butter.
Waffles are also a cheap breakfast idea for the whole family. More fun and easier if you have a waffle maker. You can add fruits, powdered sugar, or homemade syrup to make it tastier.
Whether it’s the leftover casserole dinner or freshly made from scratch, a casserole is pretty much cheap and healthy. You can customize it by adding potatoes, cheese, ham, and veggies.
- Fried rice.
Leftover fried rice from last night’s dinner is a good choice for a cheap meal idea, and you can also turn leftover rice into fried rice by adding veggies and seasonings.
- French toast.
This cheap meal idea uses leftover bread slices. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla together. Coat the bread slices in the mixture and fry. Add shredded cheese on top to melt.
Super easy to prepare and affordable, oatmeals are one of the best meals to have for breakfast. You can add nuts, fruits, or milk to it.
Milk is the essential ingredient added to cereal. When you get your low-cost cereal, all you have to do for a healthy breakfast is to add milk!
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Egg salads, pasta salads, or vegetable salads are cheap meal ideas you can prepare in record time.
These are great ideas for a cheap lunch. It could be the infamous PB&J, or you can add a twist of your own. Make it healthy by adding a fruit or veggie.
Just wrap your protein and veggies in some lettuce, and you have a balanced meal for lunch.
Burritos are pretty affordable to prepare, and you can eat them for lunch or dinner. Don’t forget your beans, ground beef, and veggies.
Make some mouthwatering soup that you can eat with bread and keep in the fridge for dinner.
You can save some dollars if you know how to make your tacos using homemade tortilla wraps.
Fill up your taco with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and whatever fillings you like.
Spaghetti is pretty easy and cheap. You can make it as a casserole or prepare it with sauce, and some people even like their spaghetti with beans. Whichever suits your fancy.
- Chicken stir-fry.
You can make this meal easily with leftover veggies and chicken in your fridge. Boil some rice alongside, and you have a perfectly balanced dinner.
Different types of noodles are available; while some might be expensive, you can easily find affordable noodles at the grocery store. You can also add some proteins and vegetables to make your noodles healthier.
I love how one can make various cheap meals using potatoes—fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled, roasted, and so on.
Fun fact? You don’t necessarily need meat in your lasagna. With the cheese, it is already a yummy meal and pretty affordable.
You can make a cheese lasagna—cottage, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese.
Tips for saving money on food
- Replace meats with other forms of proteins.
- Buy whole roasted chicken so you can rationalize it for other dishes.
- Buy what’s on sale at the grocery store and plan your meals around it.
- Be creative with the leftovers you have in the fridge.
- Spend on groceries on a budget.
- Have a meal plan ahead.
- Use what you have to prepare meals.
- Use coupons to shop and seek out discount offers.
- Exchange shopping receipts for cash using the various cashback apps and sites.
- Serve rational portions.
- Avoid splurging on food items.
- Always eat at home as much as possible.
- Buy more veggies than meat.
- Replace canned fruits and veggies with fresh or dried ones.
- Always keep leftovers whenever.
- Buy whatever fruit and veggie are in season.
Conclusion– Cheap Meal Ideas
Cheap meals do not have to be unhealthy, and there are several ways to live fine and eat healthy without splurging on restaurants and roadside junks. Maybe the next time you get tempted to eat out, you should consider creating a money savings challenge.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you should write off eating out. Sometimes you might want to pamper yourself, but when you do, don’t forget to save money on food. Check out my tips for saving money when you eat out. You can eat out, but eat smart.
Do you have other cheap meal ideas to add to the list? What do you do with your leftovers?