5 Weeknight Meals That Won’t Break the Bank

Enjoy these 5 weeknight recipes that won’t break the bank. Make lo mein, salmon patties, and more—all on a budget.

September Meal Plan Week 4

My kids have heard the story of how broke my husband and I were as newlyweds. I often tell people we weren’t even “poor,” we couldn’t afford the o or the r, so we were just “po.” I make light of it because it was a very defining point in our lives.

Thankfully, diligence and financial responsibility has allowed us to get to a place where we don’t have to struggle, but that doesn’t stop me from purposely making and eating meals that are budget-conscious. 

I teach my kids to always watch the cost of a meal, even those that we eat at home. It’s my hope that by preparing and serving economical dishes like salmon patties, hamburger soup, and fried rice that they’ll begin to adopt some of my financial habits, plus, the meals are downright tasty. 

When it comes to choosing wallet-friendly meals, doing your own prep can save you tons. Take a day to knock out the peeling and chopping of veggies, then flash freeze them by arranging them in a single layer on a sheet pan and freezing them completely. Transfer the frozen veggies to a freezer-storage bag and store them in the freezer for 2-3 months. 

When it comes to saving a few coins, this week’s meal plan will be your best friend. 

  • Easy Vegetable Lo Mein

    Side view of a white plate and fork with homemade vegetable lo mein. A fork is on the plate and a second plate is partially visible in the upper right hand corner.
    Nick Evans | Art Banner Credit: Andy Christensen

    This Easy Vegetable Lo Mein is what I call a “clean out the fridge” meal. It has minimal ingredients, maximum umami flavor, and is incredibly easy for even beginner home cooks. Even with adding more veggies, like sliced green onions, and 1 cup of sliced snow peas, which I like to do, still makes this meal is simple and cost friendly.

  • Salmon Patties

    Salmon patties set on a plate with a dip and lemon.
    Ciara Kehoe

    This recipe was always a favorite of my dad’s. He, too, grew up without many fancy meals, and salmon patties with grits was frequent meal for him. I serve it the same way. If you don’t use fresh herbs often, dried will make a great substitute here. Dried herbs store for longer periods, so they’re more economical in the long run, unless, of course, you have your own herb garden.

  • Quick & Easy Hamburger Soup

    Quick & Easy Hamburger Soup
    Megan Keno

    I always have ground beef on hand for meals like this Quick and Easy Hamburger Soup. It’s one of the least expensive meats on the market, but it can be used in many different recipes. When I’m feeling extra fancy, I stir in small elbow macaroni and top it with shredded cheddar cheese. I have no idea what to call my creation other than genius. You can stick to the basic recipe for a hearty soup that won’t hurt your pockets.

  • Turmeric Fried Rice with Eggs and Kale

    Turmeric Fried Rice With Eggs and Kale
    Sally Vargas | Art Banner Credit: Elena Resko

    This Turmeric Fried Rice with Eggs and Kale is a meatless dinner that fills you up with tons of pantry items. If kale is unavailable or out of your budget, use spinach or even arugula instead. This recipe makes 2 servings, but you’ll find it’s easy to convert it to serve more people.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • Citrus Pork with Egg Noodles

    Citrus Pork with Egg Noodles
    Elise Bauer

    Here’s a final tip from a self-proclaimed food-saving pro: me. Be sure to keep an eye on your grocery store’s circular for weekly deals on things like fresh meat or produce. Whenever I see pork on sale, I stock up and freeze it for use in recipes like this Citrus Pork with Egg Noodles. The egg noodles bulk up the meal along with the pork, and the citrus gravy is delectable enough to drink on its own. I usually serve it on its own, but a garden salad will go nicely with it.

  • Weekend Baking: “Spooky” Cinnamon Sugar Flour Tortilla Crisps

    Spooky Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Crisps
    Elise Bauer

    If “spooky” bats aren’t your jam, you can always cut out cute pumpkins or apples instead. The shapes don’t really matter. In fact, you can cut your tortillas into wedges like you would chips and make a dessert hummus or caramel to serve with this inexpensive dessert option.