32 Healthy Cheap Meals That Cost Less Than $3 Per Serving

Turmeric-Ginger Marinated Chicken
Photo: Andy Lyons

If you're looking for cheap, healthy meals, these ideas are guaranteed to satisfy any of your cravings. With more than a month's worth of nutritious meals on a budget, you'll soon learn how to use inexpensive but flavor-packed ingredients to bring well-balanced meals to your table.

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Moroccan Chicken and Cauliflower Stew

Moroccan Chicken and Cauliflower Stew
Carson Downing

Budget dinner price: $2.97 per serving

Choose your own adventure with this North African-inspired feast. The chicken, chickpea, and veggie stew can be made on your stove top in a Dutch oven, or you can hit fast-forward with a pressure cooker or go low and slow with a slow cooker. Using either of these methods will treat you to a healthy meal on a budget that's low in calories, high in protein, and nicely spiced with cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne.

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Vegetarian Hoppin' John

overhead view of Vegetarian Hoppin' John in skillet
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.34 per serving

This traditional Southern comfort dish is said to bring good luck if you eat it on New Year's Day. But we're so obsessed with this cheap, healthy meal, we eat it all year. Instead of calling for bacon or ham, our vegetarian variation of this rice and black-eyed peas dish features several spices and heaps of veggies, including bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and frozen corn.

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Turmeric-Ginger Marinated Chicken

Turmeric-Ginger Marinated Chicken
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $2.93 per serving

The spice—and the price—is right for this Indian-inspired cheap, healthy dinner idea. Serve the turmeric- and ginger-infused grilled chicken on a bed of basmati rice (included in the price estimate) to round out the meal. Save leftover sliced meat to tuck inside warm pita bread or a tortilla for a lunch wrap the next day.

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Mini Meat Loaves, Green Beans, and Potatoes

Mini Meat Loaves, Green Beans, and Potatoes
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $2.29 per serving

Meatloaf secures a top spot on the list of cheap, easy, healthy meals when you use lean ground beef and boost the filling factor with inexpensive spuds. And don't you love the way sheet-pan dinners like this one require so little cleanup time? Cooking everything on one foil-lined pan speeds it up.

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Pesto-Prosciutto Flatbread

Pesto-Prosciutto Flatbread
Jacob Fox

Budget dinner price: $1.70 per serving

You'd be hard-pressed to find a delivery pizza as affordable as this homemade healthy dinner recipe. Start with store-bought dough to make the Mediterranean meal a practical choice, even on a weeknight. (Pro tip: Look for the dough in the refrigerated section of your supermarket or ask your local pizza shop if you can purchase an extra pound of their secret recipe!)

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Chickpea Alfredo with Spring Veggies

Chickpea Alfredo with Spring Veggies
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $1.21 per serving

Noodle dishes are known to be easy on the wallet. Cashews? Not so much. Fortunately, a small handful of heart-healthy nuts can go a long way to add a rich flavor to cheap dinner ideas like this one. Whole wheat noodles help too.

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Cilantro-Lime Pork

Cilantro-Lime Pork
Karla Conrad

Budget dinner price: $1.70 per serving

Low in fat (6 grams per portion) yet high in protein (a strong 28 grams), this five-ingredient slow cooker pork recipe checks all the boxes. Healthy? Yes. Simple? Only 10 minutes of prep required. Affordable? Indeed—it's one of the lowest-cost options in this collection of cheap, healthy dinners.

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Noodle Bowl with Tofu and Poached Eggs

Noodle Bowl with Tofu and Poached Eggs
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $2.84 per serving

Now here's a cheap, healthy vegetarian meal you'll want to make again and again. With 24 grams of protein and nice portion of hunger-taming broth and noodles, this soup will fill you up for hours. Meat-like portobello mushrooms, tofu, and a poached egg join fresh veggies in this cozy, crowd-pleasing Asian noodle soup.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $1.82 per serving

Breaded with whole wheat panko and baked instead of fried, this eggplant Parmesan is 600 calories less than its classic Italian counterpart. Keep your nutrition streak going by grabbing a couple of zucchini at the store to spiralize, toss with the rest of the marinara, and serve under the baked eggplant. Voilà—a budget dinner recipe for four that tastes up to par with its restaurant competition.

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Skillet Lasagna

Skillet Lasagna cooling on wire rack
Jacob Fox

Budget dinner price: $2.57 per serving

A few decades ago, "stretch the meat" was the mantra for cutting costs at dinnertime. It's still a great strategy for making cheap, healthy meals even more affordable. Here wide egg noodles, mushrooms, and a bit of cheese extend 8 ounces of ground beef to provide five hearty servings. One bite will be all the proof you need that you can absolutely make satisfying suppers without making meat the main event.

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Veggie Tostadas with Cauliflower Mash

Veggie Tostadas with Cauliflower Mash
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.48 per serving

Instead of refried beans, this flavorful Mexican entrée—ready in 30 minutes—features a creamy cauliflower puree. If you're hungry and have leftover chicken or shrimp, toss them in too. (Psst... the serving size can be cut in half for an easy, healthy dinner recipe for two on a budget.)

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Chicken with Parmesan Noodles

Chicken Parmesan Noodles
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $2.10 per serving

You only need 20 minutes and $12.60 worth of groceries to pull off our chicken and pasta dinner for six. P.S.: To maximize your cheap, healthy dinner recipes, never let any ingredients go to waste. Use any leftover pesto in these quick and easy pesto recipes.

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Ham and Sweet Potato Mini Flatbreads

Ham and Sweet Potato Mini Flatbreads
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $1.78 per serving

Turn budget-friendly shaved cooked ham into a delicacy by serving it on mashed sweet potatoes and topping it with cranberry sauce. This healthy dinner recipe on a budget offers a taste of Thanksgiving anytime of year. Not into ham or craving more holiday spirit? Try this with sliced smoked turkey instead.

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White Bean Tuna Salad

White Bean Tuna Salad
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $1.36 per serving

Your favorite Tuscan-inspired restaurant may not be the first place you'd head to get inspiration for healthy meals on the cheap. But much of the cuisine from this Italian region is quite humble and healthy. Tuscan cooks are fond of using cannellini beans. Here the beans partner with other great Mediterranean diet-friendly ingredients for a true-to-Italy dish that won't break the bank or your nutrition goals.

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Fish Tostadas with Chili-Lime Cream

Fish Tostadas with Chili-Lime Cream
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.82 per serving

When coming up with healthy meals on a budget, consider cooking with whitefish. The affordable and lean protein is mild enough to please even picky eaters. Enjoy it on these crowd-pleasing tostadas perfectly seasoned with chili powder, garlic, and lime.

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Bacon and Egg Rice Bowls

Bacon egg Rice Bowls
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $1.49 per serving

On the hunt for affordable, healthy meals that work for dinner or brunch? Get cracking—eggs, that is. Here protein-rich, budget-friendly eggs pair with other pantry staples for a cheap and easy recipe that's under 400 calories per serving. Save even more money when you substitute dried herbs you have on-hand for the fresh herbs.

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Beef and Black Bean Chili

Beef and Black Bean Chili
Kritsada Panichgul

Budget dinner price: $1.36 per serving

Start planning your next chili night now. This low-cost slow cooker chili recipe can be prepped in 25 minutes. Stir everything together in the slow cooker early in the day and come home to a healthy dinner loaded with veggies and 8 grams of fiber.

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Peanut Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower

Peanut Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower
Karla Conrad

Budget dinner price: $1.81 per serving

Sticking to healthy meals on a budget often means driving past your favorite eatery and straight home. But with nutritious restaurant remakes like this, you can don't have to miss out on take-out flavor while saving money, sodium, and calories. If you feel like you need more sustenance, toss in some leftover or rotisserie chicken—as-is, this less-than-$2 meal has only 270 calories per serving, leaving plenty of room for add-ins.

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Chili-Pasta Skillet

Chili Pasta Skillet
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $1.61 per serving

Not only does this well-balanced pasta recipe ring in at under 300 calories per serving, but it also takes only 20 minutes to prepare. Comforting chili flavors plus pasta and cheese make this meal a family favorite. Oh yes, and it all comes together in one pan.

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Fajitas

Budget dinner price: $1.25 per serving

Grilling vegetables brings out their natural sweetness; in this recipe they're spiced and seasoned to give the fajitas extra flavor. Bonus: If you're someone who grills no matter the season, this dish belongs in your regular rotation of budget-friendly healthy dinner recipes because you can find these veggies anytime of year.

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Falafel and Vegetable Pitas

Falafel and Vegetable Pitas
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $1.53 per serving

Burger night just earned itself a healthy vegetarian upgrade. Here we blend fiber- and protein-rich chickpeas with warm spices, sear them to crisp perfection, then serve with crunchy, good-for-you veggies. Ready in less than 30 minutes and under $2 per serving, this dinner idea gives you a lot to love.

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Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Shrimp

Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Shrimp
Marty Baldwin

Budget dinner price: $2.58 per serving

Whole wheat noodles, no-salt-added canned tomatoes, and shrimp make this delicious meal surprisingly low-cal and nutritious. Use frozen shrimp instead of fresh to cut down the cost of the seafood. Just don't skip the pinch of crushed red pepper flakes—they give this healthy meal on a budget just enough kick.

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Vegetarian Gumbo

Vegetarian Gumbo
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $1.50 per serving

How many cheap, healthy meals can you make without chopping anything? This is one of the rare few. It's a no-knife-needed, "dump and done" slow cooker recipe for when you have no more than 10 minutes of hands-on prep time to spare.

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Mexican Meatball Stew

Mexican Meatball Stew
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.05 per serving

This slow cooker dump dinner might be the easiest of all: It requires no chopping and no measuring. How easy is that? Six ingredients, 10 minutes prep time, and great flavor combine to make this a go-to cheap, healthy dinner idea for any night of the week.

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Cuban-Style Stuffed Poblanos

Cuban-Style Stuffed Poblanos
Blaine Moats

Budget dinner price: $2.04 per serving

Since they're often loaded with affordable rice, canned veggies, and ground meat, stuffed peppers are one of the best dinner ideas to keep your wallet stuffed too. This recipe is wildly flavorful thanks to Cuban elements like briny olives, earthy almonds, and sweet raisins. We know that combo might sound different from what you'd usually pair with beef and brown rice, but we bet you (and your dinner companions) will be blown away.

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Chicken, Tomato, and Cucumber Dinner Salad

Chicken Tomato Cucumber Dinner Salad
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $2.57 per serving

Cheap, easy, healthy dinners don't get fresher or more flavorful than this. The 20-minute recipe features favorites from the Mediterranean diet, including chicken, feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes for a meal bursting with flavor that still feels light.

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Gnocchi, Sweet Corn, and Arugula in Cream Sauce

Gnocchi, Sweet Corn, and Arugula in Cream Sauce
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $2.24 per serving

We'll never say no to pasta dinners, but sometimes, we're more in the mood for potatoes. On those nights, we turn to gnocchi, a traditional potato-based Italian dumpling. In this healthy dinner, it brings together sweet corn, arugula, and a plethora of seasonings to make one delicious dinner that you'd never guess is budget-friendly. The veggies amp up the nutrients too.

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Farfalle with Mushrooms and Spinach

Farfalle with Mushrooms and Spinach
Kritsada Panichgul

Budget dinner price: $1.48 per serving

Just two pans and 20 minutes later, a serving of this recipe fulfills 20% of your daily iron intake. It's a great choice when you're looking for low-sodium recipes too. It makes four side-dish servings, or double each portion for a cheap, healthy dinner recipe for two that rings in just under our main-dish limit at $2.96.

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Grilled Pork and Pineapple

Grilled Pork and Pineapple
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.67 per serving

Turn a classic pork chop into a tangy, tropical meal. Orange marmalade creates a simple yet mouthwatering glaze and becomes a refreshing topping when mixed with yogurt. Grilled pineapple slices on the side lend their bold sweetness to this new grill-season favorite.

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Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry

Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $2 per serving

When you need a cheap, easy, healthy meal, it's time for a stir-fry. The pre-chopped packaged frozen vegetables save time in the kitchen and keep you below your grocery budget without sacrificing nutrition. Lighten the meal more by opting for low-cal bottled plum sauce and low-sodium soy sauce.

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Egg White Scramble with Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

Egg White Scramble with Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes
Jason Donnelly

Budget dinner price: $2.79 per serving

No matter how wiped out you are at the end of a busy day, you can still cook an egg. Right? Here we scramble only the whites for a cheap, healthy breakfast-for-dinner option that's a bit salad-y but packed with protein to help you feel satisfied.

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Veggie Mac and Cheese

Veggie Mac and Cheese
Andy Lyons

Budget dinner price: $1.29 per serving

Mac and cheese probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of nutritious dinner ideas. (You probably associate it more with an indulgent childhood lunch.) But when you use whole-grain pasta, broccoli, carrots, and reduced-fat cheese, it transforms into a healthy dinner recipe on a budget.

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