Simple, Cheap Dinner Recipes

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If you are looking for a cheap, budget-friendly menu plan, look no further, friends. I am going to teach you how to quickly get a delicious, healthy, budget-friendly dinner on the table for your family with these cheap dinner recipes!

Cooking with kids

A few months ago, my friend Merilee from Easy Budget and I were talking about cheap dinner recipes and meal planning and how getting to the grocery store with three kids each is so difficult.

As we chatted we really wanted to help other mommas get a healthy meal on the table while not spending so much money on food.

Our goal was to create a cheap dinner cookbook that also included a budget-friendly menu plan and budget-savvy tips full of shopping lists, easy recipes, and a full 8-week meal plan.

Friends, we have delivered by bringing to you our best of everything! Best budget-friendly recipes, best budget-saving tips, and a very doable budget-friendly meal plan!

I am so excited to share the fruits of our labor with you. Each of the recipes on the menu are so delicious, that I had a difficult time picking just one to share with y’all.

So, allow me highlight three cheap and delicious, yet filling, dinner recipes from the menu that *might* make you feel nostalgic at times and exhale a deep sigh.

Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

Take the Instant Pot Mac & Cheese recipe — American comfort food at it’s best, am-I-right? Pasta, butter, cheese-who can resist butter and cheese?!

Save yourself not only money, but time by cooking this comfort food at home and in the Instant Pot.

Would you believe that dinner will be on your table in just 5 minutes!

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Definitely approved for all ages — kid approved because, you know, it’s Mac and Cheese; adult approved because it’s quick, easy, and cheap! Be sure to take it to the next level by topping it with crushed cheese crackers.

On nights when I need something with crunch, I want a salad. But not just any salad. Nine times out ten, it has to be the Chinese Chicken Salad from The Cheesecake Factory.

But to be honest, I don’t have the time to go there whenever I have a hankering for their salad. Besides, wrangling three littles when I am trying to enjoy a meal out often leaves me exhausted! Not to mention eating out is where you can blow your budget!

Chinese Chicken Salad

Introducing my Chinese Chicken Salad!

Seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than this; plus at a fraction of the restaurant’s price, I can splurge for a kid-free meal another time! Your family (and budget!) will thank you for serving up this healthy meal in under 10 minutes!

Chinese Chicken Salad
Chinese Chicken Salad

Can I let you in on a little secret that you may already do yourselves?

Sometimes I meal prep this salad in mason jars to enjoy for lunch during the week. That’s a total budget game-changer and winning in my book!

Crisp lettuce, Mandarin oranges, chicken breast, carrots, and wonton strips tossed with the best Chinese chicken salad dressing. As they say in Italian – deliziosa insalata!

Did you know that budget meal planning doesn’t have to be unhealthy? You can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables and at the same time stick to your food budget while grocery shopping with these easy meals. Not to mention, it can easily be made gluten-free.

Cream of Mushroom Chicken

Ever find a recipe that just feels like home? This next recipe does that to me…okay, it’s one of many recipes! This Cream of Mushroom Chicken has H-O-M-E written all over it and will be on your table in 20 minutes!

I haven’t pinpointed what it is about this dish, that, I might add, is loaded with flavorful mushrooms, veggies, and chicken.

Maybe it is the creamy gravy over rice.

Or perhaps it is the fact that it uses {don’t cringe!} store-bought cream of mushroom soup. (Store-bought cream of soup haters, feel free to prepare your own and use it in this recipe!)

Whatever the reason for the feeling, you’ll find me making this dish year-round because I just love it that much! It brings me back to my childhood!

Cream of Mushroom Chicken
Cream of Mushroom Chicken

When your budget allows, try experimenting with different varieties of mushrooms. My favorites are Cremini (earthy flavor), Shiitake (smoky flavor), and Porcini (woodsy flavor).

I want you to enjoy cooking along with being mindful of your budget! Download the cheap dinner menu here, then make the recipes below that are guaranteed to evoke pastimes, create new memories, and save yourself some money along the way!

This budget-friendly menu and meal plan will keep you on track and make meal planning (and budgeting for meals) a little easier.

Do you have a favorite budget-friendly dinner recipe? Share it below! I love to hear what others are cooking!



Budget Dinners Cookbook + Meal Plan

mac and cheese in foil tin
Yield: 8

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Quick and easy Instant Pot mac and cheese is rich, creamy, and cheesy.


  • 16 Ounce Bag Large Elbow Macaroni Noodles
  • 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 6 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 4 Ounces Cream Cheese, Diced 
  • 6 Cups Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
  • 2 Teaspoons Real Salt

Pick One:

  • Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Cheese Crackers, Crunched
  • Ritz Crackers, Crunched


    1. Place the macaroni, butter, and chicken stock in the Instant Pot. Seal and turn on manual for 3 minutes.
    2. When the 3 minutes are done, perform the quick release by manually turning the valve to venting.
    3. Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and salt, stirring until cheese is melted.
    4. Transfer to a foil baking dish and top with topping of choice.
    5. Turn on the broiler to low. When oven is ready, place the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes or until top is golden.


I tend to account for about 1 cup of topping for this recipe, but you can use more or less if desired.

This is also a great recipe to make one and freeze one.

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Chinese Chicken Salad
Yield: 4

Chinese Chicken Salad

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Colorful, crispy Chinese Chicken Salad that brightens any meal!


  • 1 Bag Romaine Salad Greens
  • ¼ Cup Rotisserie Chicken, Roughly Chopped
  • 1 Carrot, Shredded
  • 1 Cup Shredded Purple Cabbage
  • 1 Can Mandarin Oranges, Drained
  • ¼ Cup Wonton Strips
  • Girard's Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing or Asian Dressing

Toppings (Optional)

  • Honey Roasted Peanuts


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss with desired amount of dressing.


Meal prep this salad in mason jars for a quick lunch. Layer as follows: dressing on the bottom of the jar, then oranges, chicken, carrot, cabbage, and greens. Place wontons in a separate bag.

Cream of Mushroom Chicken
Yield: 4

Cream of Mushroom Chicken

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Creamy Cream of Mushroom Chicken that can be made two ways: Instant Pot or in the oven!


  • 2 Pounds Chicken Thighs, Boneless, Skinless
  • 2 Cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 ½ Cups Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 2 Cups Frozen Mixed Vegetables
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Serve Over:

  • 3 Cups Dry White or Brown Rice, Cooked to Package Directions



  1. Place the chicken, soup, mushrooms, and stock in the Instant Pot and seal with lid. Make sure the valve is turned to sealing.
  2. Turn on manual for 15 minutes. Perform the quick release by carefully moving the nozzle to vent. Stir in frozen vegetables and cover with the lid for 5 minutes.
  3. Serve the chicken mixture over rice.


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish and top with soup, mushrooms, and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and add the frozen vegetables. Stir to combine and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Serve the chicken mixture over rice.


Try out different frozen vegetables if you don't like peas and carrots!

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