17 Budget-Friendly Dinner Recipes for $3 or Less per Serving

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For three dollars, you can get a cheeseburger and a large order of French fries at McDonald's. It will also buy a Gordita Supreme from Taco Bell, or an order of chicken nuggets and onion rings from Burger King.
Easy on the wallet, sure—but you'll pay a steep premium in terms of calories, fat and lack of nutrition.
What if we told you that for the same amount of money, you could prepare a healthier and far more satisfying meal at home? While it might cost a bit more to assemble all of the ingredients, when you break it down to the per-serving price, the creators of these budget-friendly recipes say they won't cost any more than a drive-thru value meal.

Picadillo (Mexican Beef & Potato Stew): Perfect for the frugal meal planner, this hearty ground-beef staple uses only a few ingredients and costs just pennies per serving, says Steph from Cheapskate Cook.

Image courtesy of Cheapskate Cook

Easy Homemade Chili: Chef Sandi of The Welcoming Table estimates that her hearty homemade chili costs around $20 to make and feeds 10–12 people.

Image courtesy of The Welcoming Table

Avocado Taco Bowl: According to the chef, this flavorful, plant-based and nutrient-packed recipe is less than $3 per serving.

Image courtesy of Avocado Taco Bowl

White Bean Chili: Comforting, inexpensive, simple and full of real food, this hot meal can be prepared via slow cooker, Instant Pot or stovetop.

Image courtesy of Cheapskate Cook

Spicy Chicken Patties: Use these protein-packed cuties in wraps, salads, sliders, with a sauce or alongside some eggs with breakfast.

Image courtesy of Family Food on the Table

The Original & Best Jambalaya: This is a great one to prepare in larger batches and freeze for easy, affordable weeknight meals.

Image courtesy of Home Faith Family

Meatless Chickpea Wraps: Not only does this vegetarian meal pack a big nutritional bang for the buck, it's also easy enough for the kids to make.

Image courtesy of Kitchen Stewardship

Honey Butter Chicken: Nothing fancy, but super flavorful, this easy, family-friendly recipe uses just a few simple ingredients.

Image courtesy of Family Food on the Table

Chicken Nicolina: Chef Cindy named this recipe after her grandmother because she was great at making one-pot meals and utilizing what she had in the house. "Even if you serve this simple and affordable recipe with rice or pasta, you will not go over $3 per person," she says.

Image courtesy of Cindy's Table

Cumin Beans and Cornbread: "One of the first ways my family learned to enjoy a bowl of beans was with cumin beans and cornbread," says chef Steph. "Easy to make on the stove top, in the slow cooker or with your Instant Pot, the recipe feeds six people with real food for around $3 and five minutes of work."

Image courtesy of Cheapskate Cook

Veggie Burger Scramble: This quick-and-easy one-pan meal is ready in about 20 minutes—great for a light but filling weeknight dinner, says chef Kathryn.

Image courtesy of Family Food on the Table

Hamburger Vegetable Soup: We're all about easy slow cooker and Instant Pot meals, especially when they're loaded with inexpensive but flavorful ingredients.

Image courtesy of Cheapskate Cook

Hobo Stew: This budget-friendly, insanely easy recipe calls for only ground turkey (or Thanksgiving turkey leftovers), beans and veggies, and serves up plenty of flavor.

Image courtesy of Family Food on the Table

Cajun Sausage Beans and Rice: This fast, simple dinner costs around $4 and feeds four to six people—and besides the kielbasa, you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry.

Image courtesy of Cheapskate Cook

Easiest-Ever Chicken Stir Fry: Way cheaper than takeout, this effortless homemade chicken and veggie stir fry comes together in minutes.

Image courtesy of Family Food on the Table

Amazing and Easy Sloppy Joes: Packed with protein and healthy veggies, this inexpensive meal fills up a lot of bellies on the cheap.

Image courtesy of Home Faith Family

Low Histamine Sweet Potato Soup: This recipe is made from lots of delicious and filling veggies, and comes to a little over $2.00 per person (serves 4). Stir in a 12.5 ounce can of cubed chicken breast and it would still be under $3.00, says Chef Autumn.

Image courtesy of Lectin-Free Mama

To stretch your dining dollar even further, check out these smart tips for eating healthy without going broke, and try our members' budget-friendly ideas.
What are your favorite affordable recipes?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


ARNETTELEE 1/25/2019
thanks Report
HOLLYM48 1/19/2019
Yummy recipes! Report
HEALIN1 1/18/2019
so glad to see some vegan/vegetarian options. Thanks Report
JOAN542 1/18/2019
Thanks for recipes Report
GETULLY 1/18/2019
Looks Great! Report
Great looking meals Report
Great dinner ideas. TY! Report
ARNETTELEE 1/18/2019
great Report
-POOKIE- 1/18/2019
Eating less meat and using vegetable or dairy protein sources is a cheap idea. Report
I'm going to try the ground chicken patties tonight. Report
Great recipes! They really open the door for flexibility and creativity. Report
LAVENDER1954 12/30/2018
This look good but I need meals that are lower in sodium so would have to modify the recipes. Report
NANCYPAT1 12/27/2018
Great suggestions Report
NANCYPAT1 12/27/2018
Great suggestions Report
NANCYPAT1 12/27/2018
Great suggestions Report
SUNSET09 12/26/2018
They look delish, SparkFriend and would probably be more filling than any fast food meal. Thank you Report
ARNETTELEE 12/26/2018
thanks! Report
KHALIA2 12/25/2018
Thanks for these great swap recipes! Report
DEE107 12/13/2018
thanks Report
1SUZIQ11 12/8/2018
Some of these sound quite intriguing!! Cant wait to try them! Report
ARNETTELEE 12/8/2018
great ideas Report
EVIE4NOW 12/7/2018
Thanks for the ideas. Report
DWROBERGE 12/5/2018
Great tasting recipes Report
_CYNDY55_ 12/4/2018
Thanks! Report
CECELW 12/4/2018
I wouldn't mind trying some of the jumbalia Report
Yummy...thanks... Report
MSROZZIE 12/4/2018
Good read. YUMMY recipes. Thanks! Report
REDROBIN47 12/4/2018
These look like some great recipes. I have several I want to try. Thank you. Report
PICKIE98 12/4/2018
Our family has been making hamburger soup for over a century. Yum. Report
CECTARR 12/4/2018
Thanks Report
PWILLOW1 12/4/2018
97MONTY 12/4/2018
Thanks Report
SPINECCO 12/4/2018
Thanks for sharing. Report
PLATINUM755 12/4/2018
WOW! I've found several I'd like to try right off the bat, and others I'd play with. Thanks! Report
LIS193 12/4/2018
Great ideas! Report
JCCN96 12/4/2018
Great recipes! I've just written a blog featuring 3 cheap and cheerful vegan dishes! They're fun, quick and easy to make (and absolute PACKED with nutrition!). See if they tickle your fancy! https://healthmachine.blog/2018/12/
nch-recipes/ Report
MARYANNGI 12/4/2018
Thanks. Some great recipes for a diabetic! Report
We eat a lot of chicken so I can't wait to try the "Honey Butter Chicken" and the "Easiest Ever Stir Fry." I also printed off the sloppy joe recipe to try. Report
AMYRCMK 12/4/2018
Thank you Report
NEPTUNE1939 12/4/2018
ty Report
AZMOMXTWO 12/4/2018
thank you Report
-POOKIE- 12/4/2018
great ideas. Report
REJ7777 12/4/2018
Thank you for these great recipes that can be made at low cost. Report
NASFKAB 12/4/2018
Thank you so much Report
DWROBERGE 12/4/2018
fantastic recipes for a restricted budget Report
MNABOY 12/2/2018
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 12/1/2018
They all look good to me. I must be hungry. Haven't had breakfast yet. Report
NELLJONES 11/29/2018
Thanks. Report
HEALTHYANDFIT27 11/29/2018
They look delicious! Thank you! Report
ANHELIC 11/29/2018
Great recipes when you are on a budget. Report