There are tons of affordable healthy meal alternatives available if you want to save a little money on your grocery bill. From ground beef to seafood and from protein-rich to plant-based diets—there’s something for everyone!
When it comes to cooking nutritious budget meals, you want to start with inexpensive, fresh ingredients. Plan your meals out and practice food costing to track how much you spend on each component in a dish. Buy in bulk and only what’s on your list.
Pick a low-cost protein, such as ground beef or chicken. For carbohydrates, choose rice, potatoes, or beans—they’re all healthy and affordable options. Fill your plate with veggies, and remember that frozen and canned vegetables are far cheaper than fresh produce.
Here are five of our favorite healthy recipes. These nutritious, low-priced meals are so tasty that they will satisfy everyone at your table.
Beef and Lentil Soup
This filling lentil soup is loaded with lots of vegetables and lean ground beef. It’s hearty, healthy, and economical—a complete dinner prepared in one pot!
This soup is high in protein, dietary fiber, iron, and potassium. Lentils are also a simple and inexpensive ingredient you can include in so many dishes. Get creative and add your favorite vegetables, spices, or herbs.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cups cabbage, shredded
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon thyme dried
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups water
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Cook the ground beef in a large pot until it is no longer pink.
- Sauté the lentils, onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, cabbage, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste.
- Add water and tomato sauce.
- Stir well and bring the soup to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 1½ hours or until the lentils and veggies are cooked.
- Remove the bay leaf, stir, and serve.
Open-Faced Tuna Melt Sandwich
This classic tuna melt has just the right amount of crunch and melted cheddar cheese. It is made even healthier and lighter by adding vegetables and serving it open-faced. And you can cut the carbs in half by simply using one slice of bread!
Tuna is a fantastic source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while whole-grain bread and cheese provide you with lots of fiber and calcium.
- 1 6-ounce canned tuna in water, drained
- ¼ cup carrots, minced
- ¼ cup celery, minced
- 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 2 slices whole-grain bread
- 2 slices reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- 2 slices tomato
- salt and pepper
- oil spray
- Mix the tuna, carrots, celery, onion, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Warm a skillet over low heat.
- Spray the skillet with oil, and place two slices of bread.
- Top the bread with cheese, tuna salad mix, and tomato.
- Cook on low heat until the cheese melts and the bread slices get toasty, and serve.
Whole-Wheat Pesto Pasta Salad
A pasta salad is an excellent choice for a low-cost, nutritious meal. Whole-wheat pasta is beneficial to heart health, blood sugar management, and weight loss.
Pesto is a healthy, bright green sauce composed of basil, pine nuts, hard cheese, and garlic. It not only takes many dishes to the next level with its vibrant color, flavor, and fragrance, but it also provides several health advantages. Pesto is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and unsaturated fats, all of which promote heart health.
- 8 ounces whole-wheat farfalle
- 1 cup small broccoli florets
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 large clove garlic, quartered
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Boil a large saucepan of water.
- Add farfalle and cook according to package directions.
- Stir in broccoli 1 minute before the pasta is cooked.
- Cook for 1 minute, drain, and rinse under cold running water.
- Place basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, mayonnaise, oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor, and grind until smooth.
- Transfer to a large bowl, and add the pasta, broccoli, and tomatoes.
- Toss well, and serve.
Coconut Chickpea Curry
Chickpea curry is the epitome of a low-cost, nutritious dinner. Chickpeas are a plant-based protein source that is not only cholesterol-free but high in dietary fiber, folate, and minerals.
Despite its high-fat content, coconut is beneficial to the body when consumed in moderation. It also has considerable amounts of nutritional minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.
Serve this delicious vegetarian meal with flatbread or cooked brown rice to make it even more satisfying!
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika or chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro for garnish
- salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add onion and sauté until translucent.
- Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add paprika, curry powder, and cumin powder, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add vegetable stock, chickpeas, and coconut milk, stir, and bring to a boil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve warm with flatbread or cooked rice.
Cowboy Caviar, also known as Texas Caviar or Mexican Caviar, is like a cross between a bean salad and a fresh salsa. This refreshing recipe has two types of beans, a colorful array of fresh veggies, and a zesty balsamic-lime vinaigrette.
You can serve Cowboy Caviar as a salad, an appetizer with tortilla chips, or a topping for beef tacos, burritos, or nachos.
To make the salad:
- 1 15-ounce canned black beans
- 1 15-ounce canned black-eyed peas
- 1 bell pepper
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- ¼ red onion
- ¼ bunch fresh cilantro
To make the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Combine beans, peas, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl, and toss well.
- Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, chili powder, cumin, salt, and sugar in a separate bowl.
- Pour dressing over the salad, toss well, and serve.
Maintaining a healthy diet does not have to be pricey. There are plenty of nutrient-dense, low-cost meals to choose from on budget. With these recipes, you can save money while enjoying delicious, nutritious meals.