Ask SK: Do You Have Any Cheap Meal Ideas On A Budget?
If you read my article on the cheapest health foods to buy (read here) then this article will help to put those foods and more into easy meal ideas for you. I had to learn how to prepare healthy meals on a tight budget when I was in college for several years, and these are the meals that I ate in college and some that I still eat today – some I got to burnt out on and don’t eat on the regular anymore 😉
Read below to learn simple, healthy, and cost effective meal ideas:
Nut butter banana sandwich
This is my all time favorite sandwich that I lived off of in college and I still make it all of the time even today. This sandwich is so simple, takes very little prep, and is super cheap! All you need is a nut butter of your choice, a banana, and bread or pita or a wrap.
1 tortilla wrap, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons almond butter. Add all ingredients to the wrap, fold in half and enjoy.
Cost: around $1.50 per sandwich
I made oatmeal almost every single morning in college, but I added more to it to make it healthy and delicious. I normally would start with oats, then add chia seeds for some fiber, stir in an egg to get high quality protein, and then stir in a banana and/or top with frozen berries. All of the above ingredients are super cheap and healthy, and really make this oatmeal filling.
1/2 cup oats, 1-2 eggs or egg whites, 1-2 Tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup frozen berries. Mix all together on a stove and add water to the consistency of your preference.
Cost: $1.50 to $2.50
Eggs with eggs
Eggs are the all around best food you can buy for your money! They are one of the healthiest foods you can eat plus they taste great and are super cheap! I recommend always going for organic or pasture-raised eggs.
There are SO many ways to enjoy eggs, but one easy recipe is just cooking eggs on the stove and eating them on their own.
4 eggs. Crack in a pan with cooking spray or coconut oil. Enjoy!
Cost: $1.00 to $1.50 per meal (4 eggs)
Oatmeal banana cookies
These are my FAVORITE cookies and they are so simple and super cheap to make. Literally all you need is a couple bananas and some oats, but you can also add cinnamon, vanilla, or other spices of your preference. You can either have these as a snack or make as a meal.
1 banana, 1/2 cup oats, cinnamon. Mix all together. Form into balls and place on baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
Cost: about $0.50 for the above recipe
Vegan quinoa salad
Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein, making it a great protein choice for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa is incredibly versatile and pairs well with just about anything.
1 bag frozen vegetables, 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa. Roast the bag of veggies and cook the quinoa on the stove. Option to add 2 Tbsp of hummus or other dip, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce or teriyaki sauce.
Cost: $3.00 to $3.50 per meal
Non-vegan tip: Take the recipe above and add organic chicken, fish, or eggs for extra protein. This will mean adding on somewhere between $1.00 to $5.00 to the cost.
When I refer to “salad” I don’t just mean leafy greens, but cooked vegetables as well. You get more bang for your buck with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower compared to leafy greens. This is because cruciferous vegetables have more fiber and more nutrients, meaning they will fill you up and make you feel more satisfied. As I stated in the article about buying healthy foods on the cheap (read here), I recommend buying frozen vegetables and uncooked organic protein to save money.
1 bag frozen vegetables, 1 chicken breast. Roast the veggies in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Cook the chicken breast on the stove with coconut oil. Option to add 2 Tbsp of dip such as hummus, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce.
Cost: $7.00 to $8.00 per meal
If you don’t want to go to prepare chicken or fish then try eggs instead. Eggs are a complete protein just like other animal products, but are easier to cook and are less expensive.
1 bag of frozen vegetables, 2-4 organic eggs. Roast the veggies in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Choose your favorite way to prepare eggs (hard boiled, fried, poached, etc) and top your veggies with the eggs. Option to add 2 Tbsp of dip such as hummus, spices, and sauce such as soy sauce.
Cost: around $3.50 to $5.00 per meal
Smoothies are great because they are an easy way to pack in a ton of nutrition and keep you hydrated at the same time, plus if you are in a rush you can take them on the go with you and drink along the way.
There are so many ways to make healthy and cheap smoothies – I could dedicate an entire article to that! – but the most simple recipe is a scoop of protein powder, 7 cubes of ice, 1-2 cups of water, 1/2 cup frozen berries or 1/2 frozen banana all added to a blender.
Protein powder tip: I recommend finding a protein powder that has 5 or less grams of sugar, less than 10 net carbs, and around 20 grams of protein per serving. Also make sure you like it! If you don’t like the taste, you won’t want to make the smoothie.
Cost: $2.00 to $2.50
These are the simplest pancakes and only require two ingredients: banana and egg. They are also very healthy and packed with protein to keep you full for hours.
1 banana 2-3 eggs. Mix the banana with the eggs, cook on the stove. Enjoy! You can eat the pancakes just like this, or add nut butter on top for some healthy fat and extra nutrients.
Cost: $1.00 to $1.50 per meal
Avocado egg salad
Avocados aren’t necessarily the cheapest food, but when you pair them with eggs it makes for a super healthy and cheap meal! It’s fine to go cheaper and buy non-organic avocados because the thick outer shell should protect the inside from pesticides and other chemicals.
1 small avocado, 2-3 hard-boiled eggs. Mash the avocado and add to chopped hard-boiled eggs. Option to add spices such as paprika, pepper, and hot sauce.
Avocado tip: I recommend buying small avocados so that you can use the entire avocado for one meal.
Cost: $3.25 to $4.00 per meal
These are just a few of many healthy meals you can make on a budget. You can certainly make variations of the above, omit or add other ingredients to your preference, and use this list of healthy cheap foods to guide you. No excuse not to eat healthy anymore! 🙂
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab