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A person is shopping for cheap and healthy food in the fresh produce aisle of the grocery store.

What are two words people don’t think go together? Cheap and healthy. (Hint: It doesn’t have to be that way!) 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 your darndest to stick to your list in the store, meal prep for the week, and only shop generic—it can still be tricky to find meals that don’t bust your budget. Oh, and add in the healthy factor, and things can get even more complicated.

But guess what? It’s totally doable to cook up cheap, healthy meals to feed you or your crew. Here are some of our favorites to get you started.

Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $3

Calories per serving: 200

This one is cheap, low calorie and still delicious! If that isn’t a match made in heaven, then we don’t know what is. The best thing is, you can swap out the veggies to keep things interesting . . . and serve up whatever veggies are on sale. Potatoes, carrots and celery are usually a safe bet!


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


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  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.

Chicken Parmesan Zucchini Boats

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $3.75

Calories per serving: 400

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.

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.


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

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

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Cook the ground chicken in a pan over medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until the chicken is 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.

Rice and Beans Burrito Bowls

Serves 6

Cost per serving: 89 cents

Calories per serving: 390

Beans and rice . . . and rice and beans. We know you’re probably sick of hearing about it, but there ain’t no denying beans and rice are both cheap and healthy. They’re flexible base ingredients that you can jazz up by adding different proteins, spices and even swapping out the kind of beans (and rice) you use! Here’s our take on a super simple, cheap and healthy rice and beans burrito bowl.


  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 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 per the directions on the bag or the box.

2. While the rice is cooking, place both cans of beans (drained) into another saucepan. Heat over medium and add the cumin and garlic powder. Remove from heat once the mixture has warmed up.

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).

Loaded Baked Sweet Potato

Serves 4

Cost per serving: $1.75

Calories per serving: 400

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 opt for things like Greek yogurt and sesame seeds. Oh, we’re serious. And it’s seriously delicious.


  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 2 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 are 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!

Vegetarian Chili

Serves 6

Cost per serving: $1.15

Calories per serving: 300

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 one still has plenty to sink your teeth into.


  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes (undrained)  
  • 2 cans kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 can corn (drained)
  • 2 green bell peppers (diced)  
  • 1 white onion (diced)
  • 6 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 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.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves 6

Cost per serving: $2.40

Calories per serving: 320

Here’s a pro tip for you: Most soup recipes are pretty healthy and pretty cheap. If you’re looking for something that’s low cost, serves a good amount of people, and is low in calories, then keep soup in your weekly meal planning. (P.S. You can still eat it when it’s hot outside!) Here’s a great cheap and healthy soup recipe to get you going.


  • 3 chicken breasts (boneless)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1 container fresh salsa  
  • 1/2 cup water (adjust if needed)
  • 1 small can tomato soup
  • 1 small can chicken broth
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Blue corn tortilla chips (to 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 soup (and especially the chicken) is cooked, go ahead and shred up the three whole chicken breasts in the slow cooker before serving.

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

Ready, Set, Start Making Cheap and Healthy Meals!

Give a few of these recipes a try the next time you’re in need of a cheap, healthy meal. Keep in mind, these prices are all just estimations here. We based them off of buying generic brands at a local grocery store in Franklin, Tennessee (where we’re located!). You might find that the ingredients are cheaper in your area and that the meals serve up more than you thought.

And maybe, just 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!

Keep track of your grocery budget with EveryDollar, our free budgeting tool. You can step back and take a look at how much that cheap, healthy meal actually cost you to whip up and find even more ways to cut back or adjust based on your family’s needs. Now let’s get cookin’!

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