13 Budget-Friendly Recipes for Tax Day

Many people report that they owe money this year instead of getting the always-needed tax refund, so budget meals are on the minds of many. But budget meals don’t mean you must start eating bland or cheap convenience food. On the contrary. The most affordable way to eat these days is to eat at home with good food made from scratch. That doesn’t mean it will be complicated or hard to make. These 13 recipes will give you an affordable meal on the table when times get tough, and you have to tighten up your food spending.

1. Taco Spaghetti

An overhead view of a skillet filled with Taco Spaghetti.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

Taco spaghetti is a comforting combination of spaghetti with Mexican flavors. You can use this base recipe as is, or add any other ingredients, such as corn, olives, or beans. Serve this with a dollop of sour cream if you have it handy. This is really no different than making spaghetti, but the spices are different. So it’s a fantastic way to keep spaghetti night interesting and stick to a food budget while still avoiding boredom at the dinner table.

2. Split Pea Soup

A white bowl filled with Split Pea Soup on a wood surface.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

While it may not sound terribly exciting, this delicious split pea soup can be made with or without meat. But the most affordable way to make it is, of course, without meat. Either way, it’s absolutely delicious, simple to make with minimal ingredients, and fills you up completely for the evening. The leftovers even travel well for lunch the next day in a Thermos. If you have the funds, make a loaf of garlic bread to go with it with some butter, garlic granules (or garlic powder), and a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

3. 2-Ingredient Skillet Pancake

The finished skillet pancake topped with sliced bananas, sliced almonds and maple syrup.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

You can’t get much more affordable than a two-ingredient recipe, especially when the ingredients are so simple. You can increase this to four ingredients if you wish, but two will definitely get the delicious job done.

This is a sweet skillet pancake recipe that you may even enjoy without toppings, saving you even more money on food. Either way, this is made with very simple ingredients you probably already have at home. You can multiply this recipe to make as many pancakes as you need. As the recipe stands, it’s enough for one or two people.

4. Slow Cooker Italian Chicken

An overhead view of a ladle lifting out some crockpot Italian chicken from a slow cooker crock.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

This simple slow cooker Italian chicken recipe uses ingredients you might already have at home. It makes a good-sized amount of food that you can serve for dinner and lunch and even freeze a bit of leftovers for future meals. Serve over rice or pasta to add bulk to this recipe.

. You can prep this entire recipe using all frozen ingredients into a one-gallon freezer bag and store it in the freezer until you are ready to cook it. This dish is excellent with garlic bread and some grated parmesan cheese.

5. White Bean Soup

A white bowl hold a serving of white bean soup and is garnished with fresh parsley.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

For a lighter meal, this white bean soup comes together quickly and easily with minimal prep. You can use canned beans or dried beans (which are cheaper, but you’ll have to cook them ahead of time), and the rest just includes chopping and sauteíng some fresh vegetables and tossing in some herbs.

This will give one or two people enough for dinner and lunch the next day or double the recipe to serve a bigger crowd. Some garlic bread and a green side salad would make great sides for this dish, or you can treat this soup as your first course.

6. Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken served over quinoa and garnished with jalapeno pepper slices, lime slices, onions and black beans.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

This slow cooker cilantro lime chicken is a truly versatile dish. Use the chicken to make tacos or burritos, or simply serve it like you see here with some rice or quinoa. But no matter how you serve it, make sure you top it with some fresh, chopped onion and fresh lime juice. The toppings really put this dish over the top.

Use leftovers to create something new for lunch, or pack individual servings in the freezer for up to four months for future meals.

7. Ground Turkey Breakfast Scramble

A single, white bowl on a wood background. It's filled with ground turkey scramble.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

This ground turkey breakfast scramble isn’t a recipe you need measurements for. You can make it for as few or as many people as you need to simply by making your own adjustments as needed. It’s a high-protein breakfast and comes together quickly and easily in a skillet. It only takes minutes, and breakfast will be ready to go. It travels well in case you need to eat it in the car, too.

Add any spices you like, but this is great with just salt and pepper. Try adding a dab of ketchup or salsa to easily add tons more flavor for tomato lovers.

8. Ground Turkey Dinner Skillet

The finished Ground Turkey Dinner Skillet Recipe on a white, square platter.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

A package of ground turkey is usually pretty affordable at most grocery stores. Add in some veggies for a quick skillet meal, and you have a tasty, hearty dinner. This ground turkey dinner skillet recipe is a perfect example of a lunch or dinner meal that gets to the table fast and with minimal cost. You can use any veggies that are in season, which are typically more affordable than those out of season.

Pack up leftovers after dinner to take for lunch the next day. You can also stir in things like rice, pasta, or quinoa if you don’t have enough left over to make a full meal.

9. Spaghetti Pie

A slice of spaghetti pie in a white bowl.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

Whether you call this spaghetti casserole or spaghetti pie, it all ends up being a delicious meal, no matter what you call it. It’s a great way to serve a larger crowd on a budget.

Serve this as a main course, and add some garlic bread or a green salad if you want to add some sides. It’s also a wonderful way to use up spaghetti night leftovers if you have them. All you would need to add is some eggs and maybe a light top layer of parmesan or any casserole-worthy cheese you would prefer to use. Mozzarella would be an amazing choice.

10. Lentils And Rice

A closeup of a white bowl filled with Instant Pot Lentils and Rice.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

Lentils and rice are both economical foods that you can buy for just a few dollars at almost any grocery store. While many people want meat with their meals, meat can be costly when your food budget tightens. So if you still want to get a tasty meal on the table but don’t want to spend on meat, you can still get a lot of protein from a dish like this lentil and rice dish. The flavors and aromas are soul and tummy-warming, and you’ll still get all your complete proteins with the combination of grains and legumes.

This recipe makes enough for leftovers, so it’s easy to pack up for lunch the next day. It also freezes well, so you can stock your freezer for future meals.

11. Grilled Cheese Roll-Ups

Grilled Cheese Roll Ups with a side of marinara for dipping on a white plate.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

If you need a simple meal that both adults and kids will love that’s easy to throw together on a tired Friday night, These grilled cheese roll ups are perfect. They take minimal effort to make (although you will have to roll the bread to flatten it), use minimal ingredients, and you can make as many as you need to feed yourself or the whole family.

This is one of those meals where you only need to make what you need. So, leftovers won’t really be a thing here. But you could certainly prep a few ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for up to three days. Freezing is not recommended.

12. Easy Tuna Wrap

A cut and stacked tuna wrap on a wood cutting board.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

If you have a couple of cans of tuna in your cupboard and some mayo in the fridge, you can have dinner ready in as little time as it takes to open the tuna cans and mix them with the mayo. While this easy tuna wrap recipe does call for a few extras, feel free to make this with as few or as many additions as you like.

If you want to take leftovers the next day, store the tuna separately from the wrap. Pack them separately, and roll the tuna salad in your wrap at lunchtime so everything will be fresh instead of soggy.

13. Spinach Lentil Soup

An overhead view of a white bowl filled with Spinach Lentil Soup, surrounded by produce and dried lentils.
Photo Credit: The Gracious Pantry.

It’s spring, and while the days are looking a little warmer, the evenings are still chilly enough for haveing a comforting soup for dinner. Spinach lentil soup is not only easy to make, but the per-serving cost is quite low. It makes enough to feed a small crowd and goes great with some toast.

The fiber will fill you up, so you aren’t likely to overeat with this dish. Leftovers are perfect for packing in a Thermos for lunch the next day, or you can freeze this for up to 4 months.

Author: Tiffany McCauley

Title: Food and Travel Journalist

Expertise: Food, cooking, travel


Tiffany McCauley is a nationally syndicated journalist and an award-winning cookbook author and food blogger. She has been featured on MSN, Huffington Post, Country Living Magazine, HealthLine, Redbook, and many more. Her food specialty is healthy comfort food recipes.

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