Planning my meals a week in advance is a huge part of what keeps me on budget week after week. There are lots of websites where you can find extreme budget meals, but they’re not for me. Whenever I’ve tried a one-bag-freeze-and-slow-cook meal, I’ve ended up tossing an entire batch of dinner straight into the trash. I like variety in my food and frankly my freezer is far to small to fit a month (or even a week) of freezer meals.
Most of these meals can be made for $10, but some may cost a bit more. By planning ahead, you’ll be able to match your meal plan to what’s on special, what’s in season, and what’s in your cupboard.
Below are seven recipes that I absolutely swear by and are staples in my meal planning. I don’t consider myself a good cook, but these are the cheap meals that I make that actually turn out like the photos. It’s the little things, right?
I made two of these meals for dinner this week and was inspired to share them. Enjoy!
1. Honey Sriracha Chicken
This one is a must-make for any Sriracha lover and the most requested meal in my household. The ingredients for the sauce are things I usually have in my fridge or cupboard already, so it makes my grocery list super simple (chicken!). You can also customize the sweetness or spiciness by adjusting the honey-to-Sriracha ratio. Tiffany at Creme de la Crumb is a genius and we owe her one for this recipe.
Tip: I usually add steamed broccoli on top to add a serving of veggies, but it doesn’t work well when you try to mix it into the cooking process.
2. Slow Cooker Tikka Masala
This Tikka Masala is one of my favorite things to make in a slow cooker. It takes about 15 minutes to prep everything and then you let it slowly fill your home with a delicious smell. On the recipe’s website it also lists it as Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, and ‘clean’. All I know is that it’s delicious.
Other than the chicken, the ingredients for this one are quite cheap (I get my tomato paste at the dollar store) but you may need to invest in the spices. I think it was around $5 for a huge bag of Tikka Masala. But don’t worry, this is one you’ll reuse.
3. One Pan Mexican Quinoa
Confession: I buy quinoa in bulk and then never know what to do with it. Mexican Quinoa to the rescue! ‘One pan’ is one of those buzzwords I can really get down with when it comes to meal planning. This meal is super easy and quick, and also hella cheap. It’s packed full of nutrients and protein (quinoa! beans!) but most of it comes in a can. I love stocking up on canned veggies and beans when they’re on sale, so I can pull this baby off for $10 or less. Not bad for a cheap meal that comes with days of leftovers.
I also love this one as a vegetarian option to mix in throughout the week, and that it can work as either a dinner or a lunch. I sometimes make a batch to give us a few days of office lunches.
Bonus: It comes with a video tutorial so no excuses!
4. Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
This one is another awesome use of quinoa, and it’s what made me discover buffalo sauce. These wraps are a great mix of healthy and comfort food.
To make the wraps gluten-free, I use gluten-free breadcrumbs or crushed Chex. It doesn’t ask for it, but I find that flipping the chicken halfway makes it crispier. Otherwise the bottom can get a little soggy, especially if you’re using some of the gluten-free alternatives. I’ve never made it with panko bread crumbs although that’s what the recipe calls for.
5. Slow Cooker Hawaiian Pork Chops
Another gem from Creme de la Crumb, this meal is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. The pork chops just melt into pieces from being slow cooked, and the pineapple adds a delicious twist. Like the Sriracha chicken, I can usually whip up the sauce using what I already have on hand.
This recipe takes a bit longer in the slow cooker, so you’ll need to plan ahead. The good thing is the prep takes almost no time at all. I mixed the sauce on Sunday, kept it in the fridge, and it was ready to go for Friday night’s dinner.
6. Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet
Cheese lovers, this one is for you! Another one-pan wonder, this skillet is packed with sweet potato and lean turkey. And did I mention cheese?
This is a no-rice-required dinner that will fill up your fridge with leftovers for lunch. It’s also easy to prep days in advance of cooking and can be made in only a few steps.
The only caveat is that you’ll need a skillet that can be placed in the oven.
7. Grilled Pineapple Chicken Foil Packets
Last but not least, this is a super quick and cheap meal that I like to whip up during busy times. It even sounds easy. All you’ve gotta do is chop some veggies and chicken, lather on some store-bought sauce, and fold it with love inside of tin foil. I also find this one is great if you have some leftover veggies in your fridge because you can substitute just about anything you like. It’s also just another awesome use of canned pineapple!
Now that you have the recipes for my fave cheap meals that I’m planning, prepping, and cooking, no excuses for not staying on budget. Have you tried any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!