While it's hard to resist delicious food, it can put some strain on the bank account if you're going to fine dining establishments every single night. It can be a great idea to look for cheap meals and alternatives if you're hoping to save some money while still eating well.
We've mentioned before the importance of curbing your spending in our article “How to Save Money By Spending Less“. The below list will help you to save money and help you find great cheap meals for two or a single dinner.
Luckily, this list has compiled some of the best cheap easy meals around, meaning you can eat well while also saving your hard-earned cash.
Some of the Top Meals
Whether you choose to eat at home or take food on the go, there are some great options available to you.
At Home Meals
There are several options for eating at home on a tight budget. Here are a few of them:
Stove Top Mac n’ Cheese
One of the classic and most delicious meals you can make at home, Mac n' Cheese is also incredibly cheap.
Whether you're eating alone or with an entire family, Mac n' Cheese is a great, filling option that costs very little and is also incredibly easy to make.
For an incredibly hearty, filling, and potentially spicy dish, chili can be a great option. There are endless choices and varieties to create with chili, and you can add many different types of ingredients including meat, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and more.
Egg and Black Bean Burritos
Skip the sandwich and instead opt for a burrito filled with black beans and egg. The mix of the two is incredibly delicious but also healthy and filling.
Due to the high protein content, Egg and Black Bean Burritos are a perfect choice if you're looking to be fully satisfied while paying very little.
Eating Out Meals
For those who aren’t into the idea of cooking or preparing meals themselves, we’ve compiled some of the best value meals for when you’re on the go.
Taco Bell $5 Cravings Deal
Taco Bell's $5 Cravings Deal is a pretty good bargain and comes with a Cheesy Gordita Crunch, a Burrito Supreme, Nachos, a Crunchy Taco, and soda.
Buying all of the items separately would be much more expensive, but altogether it comes at a good price and includes a lot of food, sure to satisfy anyone well.
KFC $5 Fill-Ups
KFC has a $5 deal of their own, known as the $5 Fill-Up. Several options for the $5 Fill-Up exists such as the Famous Bowl, the Zinger, Chicken Breast, Pot Pie, and 3 Extra Crispy Tenders options.
All of the Fill-Ups include potato wedges or another side option, a cookie, and a drink.
$1.49 BK Nuggets
If you love chicken, Burger King offers a cheap option for chicken nuggets. You can get ten chicken nuggets for $1.49 along with a dipping sauce such as Burger King's BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, Zesty, Buffalo and Sweet & Sour sauces.
Why They’re So Awesome
So why are the above meals so great? Keep reading to find out why.
At Home Meals
They Are Incredibly Filling
These home meals are great options because they are extremely filling. These meals include a good amount of protein and healthy ingredients that will leave you satisfied.
Eggs and beans are great ingredients to satisfy the hunger and are a centerpiece of Chili and Egg and Black Bean Burritos.
They Can Be Frozen for Later
Another great thing about these home meals is that you don't have to eat them all at once. If you're a single person who needs to make the meals last the whole week, these meals can be frozen and saved for later.
Aren’t Extremely Unhealthy
In addition to being very filling, these meals are also healthy and will do great things for your entire body. Beans, tomatoes, eggs, and other ingredients include much-needed vitamins and minerals to nourish the body.
Serve Many People for Cheap
These at home meals are also great choices because of their scalability. It doesn't cost much money to have an entire group of people over to eat and feel completely satisfied.
For individuals who are trying to save money or who are living on a budget, these meals are also the perfect solution.
Eating Out Meals
Much More Convenient
Eating out can be the much more convenient option for many people. If you're on the go or pressed for time, it's very simple to stop into a fast food restaurant or even go to the drive-thru window to pick up some delicious food.
When you cook at home, you may find that you have a huge mess on your stove afterward. Eating out can be great because everything can be easily eaten and trash can be quickly thrown away. No dirtying up dishes necessary.
In Some Cases, Cheaper for More Good Food.
Although this isn't always the case, fast food can sometimes be cheaper than cooking at home. With so many dollar menus and combo boxes and meals that are a steal, it's not hard to find that you're spending less eating out than cooking a meal for the family.
Good Occasionally, Date Nights, Birthdays, etc…
Eating out meals, of course, can be an excellent choice to mark a special occasion. For many people going out to a restaurant is more than just eating well, it's a tradition.
Whether it's a family birthday or a first date, eating out can be a great option to celebrate and mark a unique event.
How (In)expensive Home Meals Can Be
Making your own meals at home is a great way to save some money. For a look at how inexpensive home meals can be, just take a look at the below list. Be aware that that the prices that are shown here are going to be higher here than in stores, as these prices were averaged out between Walmart.com and Amazon.com.
- Stovetop Mac n’ Cheese: $4.77/6 servings, or $.88/person
- Chili: $14.63/10 servings, or $1.46/person
- Egg and Black Bean Burrito: $4.86/8 servings, or $.61/person
The Price of Eating Out
Taco Bell $5 Box, 1,270 Calories
The Taco Bell $5 box comes with some drawbacks nutritionally. The Taco Bell Box features 1,270 calories, making the box a poor option for anyone trying to watch their weight. The processed meal also has plenty of fat content and cholesterol.
KFC $5 Fill-Ups, 1,040 Calories
The KFC $5 Fill-Up includes a lot of food and as such, contains 1,040 calories altogether. The greasy food can have plenty of fat content that many people will want to avoid.
BK $1.49 Nuggets, 430 Calories
The BK $1.49 Nuggets are tasty and cheap but like other fast food options can be a poor choice if you're trying to eat healthily. The Burger King chicken nuggets are highly processed.
How to Stretch It
Cheap easy meals at home can be frozen and stretched out well since each of the options allow you to make many servings in one batch for one small price.
The home meals can be great if you’re looking for cheap healthy meals.
Since the eating out meals each includes so many different items in one combo, many people will be able to eat only one small part of the meal and then save the rest for later.
All of the meals on this list work great as cheap dinner ideas so you can stretch your dollar far.
Home Meals vs. Eating Out; Which One’s Better?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of meal.
Homemade meals are considerably less expensive and are also usually much healthier. You can can often make more servings for less money.
Eating out meals, however, can be incredibly tasty and convenient. For some delicious food, you simply need to order and wait several minutes and can avoid going through the process of preparing a meal at home.
The drawback is that eating out is more expensive for a lower amount of servings in the end. Eating out is also much less healthy.
Overall, home meals are probably the better option for most people.
Recipe Sites to Help
Of course, the cheap easy meals we've highlighted above are just a small sample of the delicious entrees you can make in your home. If you're looking for new recipes to try out, there are a few great places you should look, which we'll list out below.
- AllRecipes.com – Allrecipes is a site which features recipes, videos, and how-tos that are meant to give you cooking inspiration. Users can post and share all kinds of recipes on the site.
- Food.com – Food.com features an extensive collection of recipes which users have submitted and which have been rated and reviewed by the community. This site is a great resource for anyone looking to make a new dish.
- Epicurious.com – Epicurious boasts over 33,000 recipes on the site along with much more. The website features daily kitchen tips, cooking videos, and resources for the home cook.
- Foodnetwork.com – The companion website to the popular Food Network television channel, the site features recipes, videos, healthy eating tips, and cooking advice from the world's top chefs.