With steep cost of living costs, many of us are concerned about being able to cook meals that are both tasty and healthy. But, the good news is that you don’t need to spend lots of money to cook versatile and flavoursome meals every day of the week.

From using a slow cooker to tenderise cheap cuts of meat to being resourceful with leftovers, there are many ways to save money on food – as well as plenty of recipes for delicious, wholesome, and budget-friendly meals.

So, whether you’re looking to rustle up a simple, no-frills dinner that hits the spot, or are searching for a more elaborate recipe that’s deceptively cheap, here are 10 meals you can cook for under £3.

1. Cheese and chilli bean jacket potato

Cheese and chilli bean jacket potato

Jacket potatoes are an obvious budget-friendly choice and have long been a student staple. But there are many ways to elevate this comforting and filling dish.

For example, swapping baked beans for a rich, earthy, and inviting chilli takes this classic dish to the next level.

Packed with veggies and beans, chilli is incredibly nutritious, and while you can add mince if you like, to keep things as cheap as possible you can just buy a couple of tins of protein-packed beans.

Other than beans and potatoes, the only other ingredients you need are tinned tomatoes, an onion, and spices – though you can also add any other veg you have lying around, as well as cheese and sour cream.

Why not make this cheese and chilli bean jacket potato recipe from Sainsbury’s?

2. Smoked salmon and broccoli frittata

Smoked salmon and broccoli frittata

Smoked salmon might not seem like the most budget-friendly ingredient, but it might surprise you. For instance, at Asda, you can buy a pack of smoked salmon trimmings for £2.20.

Far cheaper than sliced smoked salmon, trimmings have all the flavour and health benefits for a fraction of the price. And making a frittata with green vegetables is an incredibly quick and nutritious weeknight dinner.

If you eat eggs, there’s a good chance you have some at home already, and the only other ingredients you need are broccoli, olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

You can add dill for extra flavour, and also any other veggies that need using up – spinach and onions work really well. Cut your frittata into quarters and serve it with a salad or some crusty bread.

To get started, you could try this smoked salmon and broccoli frittata from Good To Know.

3. Pasta arrabiata

Pasta arrabbiata

Pasta is another famously cost-effective ingredient and putting together a cheap and simple pasta dish doesn’t mean you need to scrimp on flavour.

Packed with sweet and juicy tomatoes, fiery chillies, and punchy garlic, arrabiata (which means ‘angry’ in Italian) is incredibly flavoursome. Plus, it only calls for around six ingredients and takes just 15 minutes to prepare.

All you need to make pasta arrabbiata is pasta (penne is most common but you can use any shape), canned tomatoes, garlic, chillies (either fresh or dried), fresh basil, and a glug of olive oil. You can also add chopped onion and a dusting of Italian hard cheese if you like. Topped with a sprinkle of salt and lots of black pepper, every mouthful is a fiesta in your mouth!

To see just how cheap and easy it is to make pasta arrabiata, you might like to try this recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

4. Sweet potato and black bean stew with dumplings

Sweet potato and black bean stew with dumplings

Casseroles and stews are great ways to use up leftover veg, and as long as you have sweet potatoes and beans, you can make a great tasting, super cheap, and speedy version of this slow cooker staple.

What takes this recipe to the next level are the dumplings. And because they only contain butter, flour, and cheese, you might have these ingredients to hand anyway (leave out the cheese if you’re vegan or don’t have any at home).

With sweet potatoes and beans being some of the cheapest ingredients around, the most expensive ingredient is probably the chipotle paste, which you can buy and use for multiple recipes!

To make a sweet potato and black bean stew with cheddar dumplings, head over to BBC Good Food. Or, for some time and money-saving slow cooker recipes, check out our article which features 10 recipes to try.

5. Chicken soup

Chicken soup

Chicken soup is known for being comforting and restorative, but it’s not necessarily the most filling dish around. So why not pad this comforting dish out with pasta, noodles, or potatoes and plenty of veggies?

The great thing about this hearty soup is that aside from being budget-friendly, it’s incredibly versatile, and you can adapt it to use up whatever’s in your fridge.

Good quality chicken isn’t always cheap, but this resourceful recipe uses shredded leftover roast chicken and veg like carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic. Then, if you like, serve with crusty bread.

To make this tasty and warming chicken soup, why not try this recipe from Jamie Oliver?

6. Baked vegetable polenta

Baked vegetable polenta

Polenta is a ground corn that’s a store-cupboard staple in Italy. And if you’re interested in budget cooking, it’s an extremely cost-effective ingredient.

Filling, healthy, delicious, and gluten-free, polenta has a smooth, mashed potato-like consistency – becoming firmer when left to cool.

Baking polenta with vegetables isn’t only a great way to get your five-a-day and use up any veg you have in the fridge, it also means that the polenta bakes with the vegetables to make a thick, set layer you can slice like a quiche.

You can add cheese if you like, though it’s not necessary because vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, leeks, and garlic add plenty of flavour.

To get started, you might like to try this baked vegetable polenta recipe from Good To Know.

7. Huevos rancheros

huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros is an authentic Mexican dish made with tortillas and topped with fried eggs, refried beans, salsa, and a flavoursome tomato sauce. It’s also often served with avocado and crumbled cheese.

While huevos rancheros is traditionally served for breakfast, it’s also great for lunch or dinner and is hearty, filling, protein-packed, and seriously tasty.

Black or pinto beans are usually used for huevos rancheros, though you can use any beans you have at home. Avocados aren’t the cheapest ingredient but you only need half per person, so even with the addition of eggs and tortillas, this dish should still come in around £3.

If you don’t have tortillas, why not make your own? You only need flour, water, oil, and salt!

To make budget-friendly huevos rancheros, this recipe from BBC Good Food is worth a try.

8. Spicy sausage ragu

Spicy sausage ragu

A ragu is a meat-based tomato sauce that’s traditionally served with pasta in Italy. But, despite ragu’s rich taste, this recipe is pretty cheap!

Tinned tomatoes are the backbone of this meal, and as long as you cook them with plenty of garlic, onion, carrot, and celery, you’re guaranteed lots of complex savoury flavours.

You need sausages for this dish, and while many recipes call for pork, you can use any you like, including vegetarian ones. Just remember, frozen sausages are cheaper than fresh ones!

This dish freezes well too, so you can always freeze half for a weeknight dinner. Add chilli for extra flavour, and serve with pasta, spaghetti, or gnocchi (or polenta, rice, potato, or any other carb of your choice!).

If this sounds like something you might enjoy, why not try this spicy sausage ragu with spirali from Tesco Real Food?

9. Tomato tart

Tomato tart

If you’re looking for an enjoyable, quick, and cheap dinner, a tomato tart is a must-try.

Tarts may look impressive, but if you use ready-rolled pastry they’re really simple to whip up. Plus, frozen ready-rolled pastry is pretty cheap too. Then, all you need is a bunch of ripe red tomatoes and you’re good to go.

If you have any goat’s cheese, ricotta, or feta in the fridge, you can add that to the tart before layering over the tomatoes. Mashing the cheese with crushed garlic and herbs makes it even tastier.

But this tart is equally lovely without cheese (and healthier too!). Simply drizzle over some olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper to boost the flavours. Then, serve with a salad or any veggies you have at home.

For a quick, easy, and inexpensive tomato tart recipe, you might like to try this one from Good To Know.

10. Lentil and spinach curry

Lentil and spinach curry

Most of us love a good curry, but rather than getting an expensive takeaway, why not make your own?

Making your own veggie curry from scratch is probably much quicker than you think, is usually far healthier than buying curries, tastes great, and is seriously cheap.

Many veggie curries can be whipped up with staples you have at home – for example, onions, garlic, rice, tinned lentils, and tinned tomatoes. Serving your curry with rice instead of naan bread will keep costs low, and buying individual curry paste pots is cheaper than buying a whole jar (but you might like to consider doubling your ingredients and freezing half).

This lentil and spinach curry recipe from BBC Good Food is delicious and definitely worth a try!

Final thoughts…

From indulgent smoked salmon frittatas and rich ragu to warming curries, soups, and stews, cooking on a budget doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on flavour or health.

Many of the cheapest recipes are incredibly simple to make and often use up store-cupboard staples – and there’s a budget-friendly recipe for every taste preference and diet. So, if you’ve had a tin of beans lying around for a while, now might be the time to get it out!

For more ideas on money-saving recipes, head over to the food and drink section of our website. Here you’ll find everything from recipes from around the world to batch cooking recipes that will last all week.

Do you have any favourite budget-friendly recipes? Or are you tempted by any of our suggestions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.