On the Cheap

Dinners That Will Get You Through the End of the Month

April 27, 2018

Last month, my landlord upped my rent. It could’ve been worse...but when I pulled out my checkbook yesterday and wrote the new amount, reality sank in. This rent is my new normal.

I can't help that rent, as well as the fact that my electricity and internet bills all come at the same time each month. But I can find other ways to cut down on my spending. I already cook most of my meals at home, but thoughtfully shopping my pantry or limiting myself to low-cost ingredients like cabbage, tomatoes, or ground beef until payday helps keep my bank account (and me) full. Here are 9 dishes I’m considering for the rest of the month.

This interpretation of a Peruvian classic uses two wallet-friendly staples—frozen spinach and cream cheese—to make a rich, creamy sauce.

Dress up canned tomatoes and eggs with refreshing mint and spicy sriracha for a speedy, satisfying breakfast-for-dinner.

This is for days where I don’t want to feel like I’m budgeting—it's a hybrid baked potato–French fry. It’s so fun to pull apart, and I can customize it to my mood (and pantry) with spicy kimchi, funky blue cheese, or fragrant curry powder. Plus, it’s ready in under 10 minutes.

I’m not letting the fact that I don’t have dukkah in my pantry keep me away from this super-simple salad. I’ll just mix the sesame seeds, ground cumin, caraway seeds, red chiles, and black pepper myself.

Yes, pasta is inexpensive, too. But transforming cabbage into a cozy bowl of noodles makes me feel just a little bit healthier.

I currently have a pound of ground meat in my freezer, just waiting to be morphed into meatballs. And I won’t judge if you use jarred tomato sauce, because I’m doing the exact same thing.

A salad that will actually keep me and my wallet full? Sign me up for two, please.

This lighter, less spicy version of enchiladas will still satisfy my cheese cravings.

My O.G. end-of-month dinner—I am in love with Merrill’s buttery, slightly sweet tomato rice. Plus it’s a one-pot dish. Swoons.

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What did I miss? Share your own wallet-friendly recipes in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Paola
  • Gammy
  • Carolyn
  • kai harper
    kai harper
  • martha sussenbach
    martha sussenbach
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


Paola April 30, 2018
Minestrone, pasta e fagioli...quiche in a thousand varieties...traditional Cornish pasties (use ground beef for extra ease and wallet friendliness)...beans and rice...tortilla española...Yes, I loved this piece as I’m thinking about making life last until the next paycheck too, my employer made a mess of this month’s so I’m owed money!
Gammy April 29, 2018
When I was single and just starting out, I would make a whole chicken last at least a week. Roast one whole chicken. Eat a leg saving the bones and skin (2 nights). Breast meat: chicken sandwiches, chicken salad or roast chicken on top of a green salad, saving the carcass. Finally, chicken soup from that carcass and picking the bones clean for meat in the soup. If I was lucky, I might also get a liver or 2 inside the bird for breakfast.
Carolyn April 29, 2018
A favorite winter time low cost item is old fashioned Boston Baked Beans and if i have time the Boston Brown bread to go with it. I make the whole 2lb bag of dried beans and divide into dinners for the freezer. I also have an old "Canadian Living" magazine recipe from the 70s for Basque beans - a ton of onions, garlic and tomato with white beans serve with crusty bread and a spinach salad. Also wonderful.
kai H. April 29, 2018
So my main problem...I own a restaurant and I don't like eating restaurant food every night, especially on my days off. Some of my favorite things are meals that I can eat more than once like: chicken curry with apple-raisin chutney, breakfast for dinner and of course leftover (heated up pizza, I don't like it cold) with soup or salad and I'm totally with you on potato ideas. I like a good baked potato with lots of toppings, it's a meal in itself.
martha S. April 29, 2018
You are a very wealthy woman because you have imagination and drive. Thanks for sharing!
Victoria S. April 29, 2018
For most people these budget-friendly recipes will be a boon, so thank you. But they do suggest that vegans need to have money.
Victoria S. April 30, 2018
Thanks, Katie!
Julie H. April 27, 2018
Thanks for the great tips! I marked a few to help as I'm also juggling higher rent this year. Here's another recipe to consider: Pasta e ceci. It was my son's favorite when I was in school. With canned chickpeas, it's super-fast. Use dried chickpeas and take the cost down to pennies per serving. There are many variations; Emiko's recipe is a delicious example: https://food52.com/recipes/25865-pasta-e-ceci-pasta-with-chickpeas
Scott April 29, 2018
I remember first starting to cook as a 19 yr old. Sure, you could eat McDonalds, Wendy's or takeout pizza every night- but that gets expensive.

I spent my time trying to re-create my favorite meals my mom would make. It was amazing to me how cheap it was.

I always knew what the next weeks meals would be if we had ham on Sunday dinner.

Ham sandwiches for my lunch bag, Scalloped potatoes with ham on Tuesday. Navy bean soup(with some ham) on Wednesday. Potatoes and dumplings on Friday using up the remains of the ham.

I once told her I didn't realize we were that poor when I was a child until I started to cook... :o)