Meal planning can not only save you time but also money, as you’ll be less likely to buy fast food on your way home on a hungry, impulsive buy. While it may seem easier said than done, with a few tweaks to your daily or weekly routine, you’ll surprised as to how good you and your wallet feel.
8 Great Cheap Healthy Meals
Eating healthy can seem more like a guideline than a rule when temptation lies around every corner. However, with a little thought and execution, you can save big and feel better. Here are eight meals that are cheap, healthy and doable for less than $3 per serving:
- Vegetarian stir-fry
- Chili stuffed sweet potatoes
- Ham, cheese and apple pastries
- Spicy ground beef lettuce wrap tacos
- Cauliflower alfredo with zoodles
- Roasted potato and black bean breakfast burrito
- Peanut noodles with scallion and cucumber
- Falafel gyro-style stuffed pitas
1. Vegetarian Stir-Fry
This is an easy breezy recipe that can be prepped and put together with what you’ve got in the fridge or pantry. You can also change it up anytime you make it, depending on your current ingredients or budget.
Here’s a simple recipe to make six servings:
- 1 diced red bell pepper
- 1 diced yellow bell pepper
- 1 diced jalapeno (optional for spice)
- 1 cup green beans
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 cups broccoli
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons coconut brown sugar (or regular brown sugar)
Simply add olive oil and all of your veggies to the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl, then pour it over veggies. Cook until the sauce thickens. You can serve this stir-fry over rice or with a protein of choice.
2. Chili Stuffed Sweet Potato
If you have a chili recipe you love, or just a brand of canned chili you prefer, this meal is quick and easy. Best of all, it comes in at around $1.50 per serving.
Here’s what you’ll need to serve four:
- 2 cups chili (either homemade or from a can)
- 4 large sweet potatoes
- 1 cup diced onion (optional for serving)
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
Bake your sweet potatoes on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Once done, take them out, slit them open and ladle in the chili. You can add some regular or light cheese if you wish, as well as diced onion.
3. Ham, Cheese and Apple Pastries
Savory with a touch of sweetness, these homemade hot pockets are easy and typically a big hit with the family. They also come in under $2 a serving and are freezer-friendly.
Here’s what you’ll need for eight pastries:
- 1 thawed pack of frozen puff pastry (2 sheets)
- 2 cups diced lean ham
- 2 cups shredded cheese of your choice
- 1 large apple peeled and diced
Roll out your pastry sheets and cut into eight equal pieces. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place eight pieces down. Brush with olive oil and then layer on your ham, cheese, apple, and finally, add a drizzle of honey. Place another square of puff pastry on top of each pocket. Coat your pockets with oil, seal the edges with a fork, and use the fork to poke a few holes in the top for ventilation. Cook until brown and melty.
4. Spicy Ground Beef Lettuce Wrap Tacos
Everyone loves taco night, but here is a cheap and healthy way to do it. Here is what you’ll need:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 packet of taco seasoning
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce
Just cook the ground meat and add the packet of seasoning. The lettuce will be your taco shells. You can add your preferred toppings such as onion, peppers, avocado or whatever else you like as an option.
Pro tip: watch for store specials to see if ground beef goes on sale for extra savings. Or, try substituting with a lower-cost ground protein of choice you can find–perhaps chicken, turkey or go plant-based with tofu.
5. Cauliflower Alfredo with Zoodles
Cauliflower is versatile and a great way to lighten up the calories and cost of a classic alfredo sauce. Here’s s what you’ll need:
- 2 cups uncooked cauliflower
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard (or dijon)
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- Salt and pepper to taste
Throw everything in a pot and bring to a boil. Then let it simmer for 15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. If you’ve got one, use an immersion blender to pulverize until smooth. A regular blender will work just fine as well. Serve over your favorite pasta or roasted veggies.
6. Roasted Potato and Black Bean Breakfast Burritos
You just can’t go wrong with a breakfast burrito. They’re super easy to make and can be modified to your liking. Here are some suggestions to make it under $3 per person for four people:
- 2 to 3 potatoes
- 4 eggs
- 4 large tortillas
- 1 can of black beans
Chop up your potatoes into small pieces and put them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes in your oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Next, scramble your eggs and cook them to your liking. You can then assemble your burritos with all the ingredients. Feel free to add cheese, guacamole, tomatoes or hot sauce–anything you might have in your fridge or pantry.
7. Peanut Noodles with Scallion and Cucumber
Delicious, spicy and done in 10 minutes, these peanut noodles are unbelievably healthy and inexpensive to make. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili crisp oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons hot water
Cook your noodles according to the package instructions and then take out two tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Take the hot water and add this to the rest of the ingredients. This will melt together into a delicious sauce. Add that to your noodles and garnish with scallions, sesame seeds or more chili crisp oil.
8. Falafel Gyro Style Stuffed Pitas
Falafel pitas are hearty, healthy and filled with flavor. They come in around $1.75 per serving. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 package of frozen falafel balls (or homemade)
- 1 package whole wheat pitas
- Topping options: tomato, cucumber, red onion, tahini, hummus, hot sauce, feta cheese
Simply warm up the falafel balls and pitas and then stuff pita shells with anything you like on your gyro.
Final Take To GO
Planning always helps when organizing cheap healthy meals, especially when trying to keep the costs down. Here are some tips and takeaways:
- Most recipes are adaptable to your budgetary limits or dietary restrictions.
- Once you find some recipes you like, try and get some pantry staples and common ingredients that could be used for multiple meals.
- Make sure to stretch your recipes throughout the week with leftover repurposing or freezing sauces or soups for later rainy dates.
- Try and stick with your shopping list when at the grocery store, and only buy items for the recipes you’ve planned.
- Fresh produce is always great, but a good way to cut down on cost and food waste is to buy canned goods, especially if they are store brand or you have a coupon for something.