The Latest News on Student Loan Forgiveness

Skip to Main Content

11 Cheap, Healthy Meals to Try This Month

Cheap, healthy meals? We know what you might be thinking: Is that even possible? (Not-so-subtle hint: It actually is!)

Hang with us here.

We all know the easiest place to go over budget is your grocery bill—especially if you’re trying to take the healthy route. It’s tough! Even if you try to stick to your list in the store, meal prep for the week, and only shop generic, it can still be tricky to find cheap, healthy recipes that don’t bust your budget.

But guess what? It’s totally doable. We promise. All you need are some staple recipes, a dash of creativity, and a good pinch of “I can do this!” Then—voila. You’ve done it. Cheap and healthy meals that you’ll love (and so will your budget).

Here are some of our favorites to get you started—in no particular order of yumminess.

1. Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Tacos

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $2.70

shopping cart

Try our free Meal Planner to save money on groceries!

You don’t have to wait for Taco Tuesday to make these beauties. They work any night of the week—and even better? They taste amazing as lunch leftovers the next day. These are great plain, but they’re also easy to dress up if you have company coming over or you have some almost-gone-bad food lingering in your fridge or pantry. (We’re looking at you, avocados.)


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 jar salsa
  • Corn tortillas
  • Optional toppings: a sprinkle of cheese, avocado slices, diced red onion, chopped romaine lettuce, or toasted pumpkin seeds


  1. Rub both sides of the chicken with the taco seasoning, then place the chicken in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour the salsa on top, covering all the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 6–8 hours.
  4. When the chicken is fully cooked to at least 165 degrees F, pull it apart using two forks.
  5. Over medium heat, warm up tortillas in a skillet, about 1 minute per side.
  6. Serve with additional salsa and desired toppings.

Pro tip: When it comes to tortillas, not all are created equal. Corn tortillas usually have less yucky ingredients and are naturally gluten-free for folks who need to avoid gluten. Plus, they’re typically cheaper than flour tortillas. When buying, look for options—whether corn or flour—that have a small list of ingredients (try to keep it under five).

2. Easy Marinara Sauce With Spaghetti Squash Noodles

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $2.50

Shh . . . We’ve got a secret. When it comes to marinara, doctoring up jarred sauce is the new simmer for hours. Even Grandma’s timeless recipe will approve. Seriously, with a few pantry staples and jars of marinara sauce, you can serve up cheap meals that are simple, easy and tasty. Don’t have jarred sauce? Crushed tomatoes will do the trick too. Just up the fresh basil and throw in whatever dried Italian spices you have in your spice cabinet.


  • 2 jars marinara sauce
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Handful of fresh basil, cut in strips
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • Leftover ground meat or sausage, optional


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop the seeds out.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake cut-side down for 30–40 minutes.
  4. While the squash is doing its thing, drizzle olive oil in a pan and heat on medium heat.
  5. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 4–5 minutes. Pour in jarred sauce and fresh basil and stir to combine. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then taste and add more seasonings if needed.
  6. Once the squash is done cooking (you’ll know it’s ready when you can easily piece the flesh with a fork), remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
  7. Make the spaghetti squash noodles by scraping the inside of the squash with a fork. (Kids love this part!)
  8. Top noodles with sauce (and any leftover meat you want to add). Sprinkle with cheese and more fresh basil!

Pro tip: The kids will totally know the spaghetti squash noodles aren’t really noodles. But if you want them to try something new without the fuss, let them help you in the kitchen (get them to pull the noodles and watch the magic come alive!). Kids are more willing to eat something they’ve had a hand in making. But if not, no worries. You’ve probably got half a box of noodles somewhere in your pantry you can cook up fast. (Because—hey, keeping stress low is part of being healthy too!)

3. Rotisserie Chicken Salad With Homemade Balsamic Dressing

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $3.25

Salad often gets a bad rap. But that’s nothing a rotisserie chicken and homemade dressing can’t fix. Seriously, this is a simple way to pack in flavor—and to use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Win-win, right? And if you haven’t been making your own salad dressing, this tip is about to change your life. (Yes, really.)


For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • Lettuce or spring mix
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Whatever veggies you have on hand: carrots, cucumber, sweet or bell peppers, etc.
  • Whatever pantry staples you want to add: craisins, nuts, seeds, etc.


  1. Put dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup or honey, salt and pepper) in a jar. Screw lid on tightly and shake until mixed well.
  2. Pull chicken from the bone.
  3. Now it’s time to assemble the salad. Add lettuce, chicken, feta cheese and any desired toppings.
  4. Drizzle with dressing, toss and enjoy! (See, we were right! Life. Changed.)

Pro tip: After you finish deboning the rotisserie chicken for the salad, keep the bones to make homemade bone broth! Add bones, any veggies or herbs you have in the fridge (carrots, onion and celery work great!), and salt and pepper to a slow cooker. Fill with water and turn on low. Cook all day long, and ta-da—homemade chicken stock for more cheap meals! Use for the base of a soup or add veggies, noodles and leftover chicken for an easy, homemade chicken noodle soup. See? Cheap, healthy meals aren’t as challenging as they seem.

4. Hummus and Veggie Snack Plates

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $1.37

For the night where you just want something simple, enter this hero—the hummus plate. It’s an inexpensive, quick way to make cheap meals that also feel a little fancy. Plus? You can use up random snacky items you have in your pantry and fridge. A half bag of roasted nuts? Six olives left in the jar? Two random pickles? No problem. Arrange it all on a platter with raw veggies, crackers and hummus, and you’ve got yourself the cheap, healthy meal of all cheap, healthy meals.  


For the hummus:

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and liquid reserved
  • 3 tablespoons reserved liquid
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1–2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2–3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the snack plate:

  • Raw vegetables like carrot sticks, celery, bell peppers, cucumber—anything you have on hand
  • Crackers
  • Pantry staples like pickles, olives or roasted nuts


  1. Add all hummus ingredients to a food processor and blend until creamy. Taste and adjust flavors if needed! If you’re feeling fancy, add in ground cumin or smoked paprika.
  2. Put hummus in a bowl and place on a platter. Surround with cut up vegetables, crackers or any other snacky things you have in your pantry!

5. Easy Rice and Beans Burrito Bowls

Serves 6

Cost per serving: 89 cents

Beans and rice . . . and rice and beans. We know you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but there’s no denying beans and rice are both cheap and healthy. They’re flexible base ingredients you can jazz up by adding different proteins and spices—or even by swapping out the kind of beans (and rice) you use!

P.S. If Meatless Monday isn’t your thing, take these bean burrito bowls up a notch by adding leftover Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken.


  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 1 chopped jalapeno
  • 1 bunch chopped green onions
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (just a sprinkle . . . we’re trying to be healthy here!)


1. Cook the rice in a saucepan according to the directions on the bag or box.

2. While the rice is cooking, empty both cans of beans into another saucepan. Heat over medium and add the cumin, garlic powder and salt. Remove from heat once the mixture has warmed up. If you want a little liquid in the beans, add in some vegetable or chicken broth.

3. Chop up the tomatoes, green onions and jalapeno.

4. It’s time to build your bowls! Add 1 cup of rice and 1/2 cup of beans to each bowl. Then top each bowl with some tomatoes, green onions, jalapenos and cheese (to taste).

6. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves 6

Cost per serving: $2.40

If you’re looking for cheap meals that are low in calories and serve a good amount of people, then keep soup in your weekly meal planning. It really can stretch your budget, especially if you’re looking for something tasty but cheap to cross you over the finish line to next week’s grocery run. Save even more money by using homemade chicken broth from leftover rotisserie bones (see our Rotisserie Chicken Salad recipe!).


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 jar salsa  
  • 1/2 cup water (or more broth)
  • 1 small can tomato soup (or tomato sauce)
  • 1 small can chicken broth
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Blue corn tortilla chips for garnish


1. Load up everything (except tortilla chips) into the slow cooker.

2. Let the soup do its thing for 5–6 hours on low in your slow cooker.

3. Once the chicken breasts are fully cooked to at least 165 degrees F, shred them in the slow cooker before serving.

4. Serve the soup into bowls and top with a few crushed blue corn tortilla chips.

Pro tip: Frozen vegetables often get the shaft, but don’t count them out too soon. While they may seem like they aren’t as healthy, frozen vegetables are usually picked and packaged when they’re ripe—so they keep most of their nutrients. Plus, they’re typically cheaper than their fresh counterparts. So, next time mixed veggies are on sale, grab a few bags to make cooking cheap, healthy recipes a breeze.

7. Garbanzo Greek Salad

Serves 8

Cost per serving: $2.36

Nutritionist Jenna Waters shared this super easy Garbanzo Greek Salad on The Rachel Cruze Show, and let us tell you—we’re here for it! It’s hearty. It’s healthy. And it won’t break the bank. And to make it even better, it tastes better with time in the fridge (yay leftovers!). So, if you’re looking for a protein-packed, easy salad recipe that will give you several cheap meals this week, this one is it!


For the salad:

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper and 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced (optional)

For the dressing:

• 1/2 cup olive oil

• 3 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1 tablespoon dried oregano

• 2 teaspoons garlic, minced

• Sea salt and pepper to taste

To serve:

greens (spring mix, chopped romaine, etc.), optional

whole wheat pita bread, optional


1. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients.

2. In a separate bowl or mason jar, add dressing ingredients and shake well to combine.

3. Pour dressing over the salad and gently mix to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

4. Refrigerate until ready to eat (or dig in right away!).

5. Serve over a bed of greens (spring mix, chopped romaine, etc.) or whole wheat pita bread.

Pro tip: When planning your healthy meals, try to use as many colors of the rainbow as you can. (This is what we call eating the rainbow.) But slow down. That doesn’t mean you’re eating a bag of skittles for dinner (too bad, right?). It just means that when you eat different colors of fruits and vegetables during the day, your body gets the essential nutrients it needs!

8. Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $3

This is one of those cheap recipes you’ll really love because it’s low in calories and price. If that isn’t a match made in heaven, then we don’t know what is. To keep things interesting, swap out the veggies. Or to cut down on cost, serve up whatever veggies you have lingering in the fridge or pantry. Potatoes, carrots or peppers and onions are usually a safe bet!


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • Chopped fresh veggies (enough to cover the sheet pan)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh thyme to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Coat the chicken in stone-ground mustard.
  2. Chop up the veggies, coat them in olive oil, and place them on a baking sheet. 
  3. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and thyme on the veggie mixture.
  4. Place the chicken on top of the veggies.
  5. Pop the pan into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

9. Chicken Parmesan Zucchini Boats

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $3.75

We know you might be wondering what the heck a zucchini boat is. Think of it as this beautiful, green boat (packed with nutrients) that will send your delicious dinner sailing into your stomach. This is a great gluten-free and low-carb option to try out when you feel like eating chicken parm without the guilt.


  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey (whatever you find on sale!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Then use a small spoon to scoop out the inside of the zucchini to create the “boats.”

3. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and place the zucchini in the dish, with the cut-side facing up.

4. On the stovetop, cook the ground chicken or turkey in a pan over medium-high heat for 10 minutes—or until fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Turn the heat down to low and add in the garlic and pasta sauce. Cook the mixture for another 5 minutes.

6. Remove the chicken mixture from the heat and add it to the zucchini boats. Be sure to press the mixture down into the boats using a spoon.

7. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese and the mozzarella cheese on the top of each zucchini boat.

8. Cover the entire baking dish with foil and cook for 30–35 minutes or until the zucchini is soft and the cheese is melted.

Pro tip: You can always buy meat with a slightly higher fat content (if that’s cheaper) and strain the grease out after it’s done cooking.

10. Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $1.75

Not to be confused with its starchy cousin, a sweet potato can be an awesome ingredient to add to your list of cheap, healthy meals. But look out—it’s easy for things to get out of hand (calorie-wise) when it comes to the toppings. Skip the bacon and sour cream and instead choose things like Greek yogurt and sesame seeds. Oh, we’re serious. And it’s seriously delicious.


  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • Cheddar cheese (just a sprinkle)
  • 1 lime
  • Cayenne pepper to taste, optional
  • Sesame seeds (just a dash)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet.

3. Cook the potatoes 30–40 minutes or until they’re soft (you can poke them again to test). Your cook time will also depend on the size of the sweet potatoes.

4. Take the sweet potatoes out of the oven and slice a small opening in the top center of each. Then scoop out a small portion from the top of the potato. But be careful not to remove too much. You just want to create enough space for all your toppings to sit.

5. Top each sweet potato with a combo of black beans, Greek yogurt, sesame seeds and cheese. Add a little squeeze of lime juice and the spices, and you’re good to go!

Pro tip: If you want a meaty version of this meal, toss 1/2 cup of pulled rotisserie chicken (left over from your salad!) with 1–2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce. Heat up on the stove until warmed. Add on top of the potatoes and enjoy!

11. Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6

Cost per serving: $1.15

Need a Meatless Monday option that’s healthy, budget-friendly and feels a lot like comfort food? Then give this vegetarian chili a shot! Don’t let the lack of meat fool you. This dish still has plenty of flavor to sink your teeth into.


  • 2 large cans crushed tomatoes, undrained 
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 6 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Dump everything (the veggies you just diced, the canned ingredients and the spices) into your slow cooker. It’s that easy!

2. Let the chili cook for 5–6 hours on high or 8–9 hours on low in your slow cooker.

Ready, Set, Start Making Cheap, Healthy Meals!

Next time you need healthy meals on a budget, give a few of these recipes a try! Keep in mind, these prices are all just estimations based off generic brands at a local grocery store in Franklin, Tennessee (where we’re located!). You might find that the ingredients are less expensive in your area and that these cheap meals serve up more than you thought.

And maybe, if you can ditch the cheese on a meal or two, you’ll save even more calories (and a bit of cash)! Even just small steps in the right direction are actually big wins here. Progress is progress! (Download Rachel Cruze's Meal Planner and Grocery Savings Guide for more tips and tricks.) 

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of those money wins when you try out these meals, that’s EveryDollar—the budgeting tool inside a Ramsey+ membership. With EveryDollar, you’ll plan how you spend and save money each month, so you never have to wonder where all your money is going. So—plan your money? Check. Plan your meals? Check. Now, let’s get cooking!

Share This Article

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

Related Articles

eating healthy on a budget

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy and living on a budget don’t have to be opposites or enemies. You can do both. Try these 21 ways to eat healthy on a budget and make it happen.

Ramsey Solutions Ramsey Solutions