10 Budget-Friendly Dinners With Meat

Just because you are cooking on a budget doesn't mean you have to avoid meat. Sourcing affordable cuts of meat (including chuck and ground meats), choosing chicken thighs instead of pricey breasts, and opting for canned fish like tuna and salmon instead of fresh can all keep your favorite proteins on the menu in regular rotation without breaking the bank. If you have freezer space, look for sales at your local supermarket or shop at big box stores like Costco, then stock up when prices are low. Remember that whole chickens will always be less per pound than pieces, so it can be a good investment to learn to break them down at home! Ready to cook? Here are 10 of our favorite affordable meat dinners to add to your menu planning as soon as this week. Because when it comes to saving money, there's no time like the present.

Ranch-Baked Chicken Thighs with Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, and Potatoes
Photo: fabeverydayblog
01 of 10

Real Hungarian Goulash

Inexpensive chuck roast is the star of this classic goulash — the required slow braising ensures it becomes tender and succulent. The rich paprika-scented onion gravy cries out to be sopped up, so make sure you've got bread on hand. Try garnishing with a dollop of sour cream for an extra flourish.

02 of 10

Sloppy Joes

a close up, low angle view of a single sloppy joe

A great sloppy joe sandwich isn't just for kids. The whole family will enjoy this hearty meal that stretches a pound of ground beef into 4-6 servings. If you want to make it go even further, you can add a can of drained pinto beans into the mix as it cooks, to extend the protein and serve an extra couple of people.

03 of 10

Chef John's Peanut Curry Chicken

Chef John's Peanut Curry Chicken
Chef John

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the star of this luxurious peanut curry that is redolent with spices and the perfect thing to serve over rice. The sauce is nice and rich, so a little of this dish goes a long way — an ideal main dish to serve a crowd.

04 of 10

Black Pepper Beef and Cabbage Stir Fry

red bell pepper strips, shredded green cabbage, and ground beef on white rice

Most stir fries call for cuts of beef that are a bit on the pricey side, but this version swaps in ground beef to give all the great flavor for a fraction of the price. Bulked up with cabbage and cooked with a spicy black pepper sauce, this recipe is sure to become a go-to favorite at your house.

05 of 10

Tuna Noodle Casserole

serving of easy tuna casserole on white square plate
Melissa Goff

Tuna noodle casserole has been a budget-friendly dinner option for families for generations, and it is no wonder. A great one is hearty and satisfying, easy to make, and full of nostalgic deliciousness. This is one of our most popular versions and worth a spot in your regular rotation.

06 of 10

Easy Meatloaf

Easy Meatloaf

Meatloaf might be one of the dishes all ground beef aspires to become, and for good reason. It's hearty, delicious, and versions like this recipe are practically foolproof. Even better, the generous loaf is likely to have leftovers, which make spectacular sandwiches for lunch or even dinner later in the week!

07 of 10

Honey-Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

Honey-Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs
Photo by Sherri.

The only thing better than a recipe that is budget-friendly is one that also is easy to cook. And nothing is simpler than a great hands-off slow-cooker recipe that can work on dinner while you work on other things. This recipe cooks on low for six hours, making it a great dish for busy weekends, but for weekdays you can either cook overnight and then reheat before dinner, or if you are working from home, set it up at lunchtime.

08 of 10

Potato Salmon Patties

Extending canned salmon with potato flakes to make these patties makes them extra budget conscious. And many swear that it is the ideal way to sneak more fish into your family's diet without any complaints from the pickier eaters. Dip them in horseradish for an extra flavor punch.

09 of 10

Ranch-Baked Chicken Thighs with Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, and Potatoes

Let's be honest, this dish pretty much had us at "ranch." A complete meal, easily put together in a baking dish, it is a one-pot wonder of texture and flavor. Chicken thighs star here, and are perfect for baking since not only are they inexpensive, they actually stay juicier during cooking than breasts would.

10 of 10


If you are serving a family, chili is always one of the best meat dishes to make. And this simple version is bound to become a favorite. It doubles easily if you need to make it for a large event or party, and if things are especially financially tight, you can reduce the beef by half and double the beans.

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