It’s nothing new that life in the 21st Century is hectic and fast-paced. It can be hard to find the time to cook a delicious, healthy meal—especially during busy weeknights. But, with a few quick and inexpensive dinner ideas, you can easily whip up something satisfying and tasty, even when time is limited. Here are 8 ideas for quick and cheap dinners that you can put together on even the busiest of days.

Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of the easiest and cheapest meals you can make. All you need are some cooked veggies, your favorite type of rice, and any kind of protein or meat you have on hand. You can usually find most of these ingredients already cooked and prepped in the grocery store, making it an even faster option. Once you’re ready to start cooking, make sure you have your ingredients prepped and chopped up for faster cooking time. Warm up some oil in a pan and then throw in the veggies and proteins of your choice. Once the veggies and your proteins are cooked through, add pre-cooked rice and season with soy sauce or other sauces of your choice. Mix it all together and let it cook for a few more minutes until the ingredients have combined and you have your fried rice.


Tostadas in a great dinner idea that’s budget-friendly and can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes. Everything you need can also be found pre-made store items, such as tostada shells, salsa, and refried beans. All you have to do is layer all the ingredients however you like. Once you’ve assembled your tostadas, put in a baking dish, sprinkle some cheese on top, and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and the tostadas are crispy.


Tacos are one of the best quick and cheap dinner recipes out there. You can make tacos with pretty much any kind of meat, seafood, or veggie. Choose from various store-bought taco shells and fillings, such as shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, seasoned beef, carne asada, pulled pork, etc. To speed up the process of making tacos, you can give the taco shells an additional crunch in the microwave.


It doesn’t get much easier and cheaper than homemade pizza. All you need are some store-bought dough, tomato sauce, and cheese and whatever toppings your heart desires. For single-serving, try using English muffins or pita bread as the pizza crust. Preheat the oven and while it’s heating up, assemble each pizza on a greased baking tray. Spread the pizza sauce, sprinkle cheese and whatever other toppings you want and pop it in the oven. Depending on how high your oven is set, it should take about 15-20 minutes to bake.

Skillet Meals

One-pan skillet meals are another great go-to dinner idea. They’re extremely easy and quick to put together, plus you can use whatever you have in the fridge and pantry. Start by heating a large skillet pan, then add in your protein—whether that’s tofu, chicken, beef, fish or shrimp. Once the protein is cooked, add in the veggies of your choice—one-pan favorites include peppers, onions and mushrooms. Add in some store-bought sauces or seasonings and let everything simmer until the vegetables are cooked and the flavors have combined.


Pasta is another quick, cheap and easy dinner idea that can be put together in just a few minutes. All you need is some pasta of your choice, your favorite sauce, and whatever other accouterments you’d like to add. Cook your desired pasta according to the package instructions, drain and then top with your favorite sauce. For added flavor, add veggies or your favorite protein.


Quesadillas are a classic Mexican meal that can be put together in no time and are also a hit with the kids. Use whatever type of cheese and meat you like—cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, chicken, turkey, etc. Heat up a large skillet and assemble your quesadillas with the cheese and meat of your choice. Let them cook until the cheese is melted and the quesadillas is crispy. Serve with your favorite salsa or guacamole.


If you’re looking for something a little lighter, wraps are a great option. Use whatever you have on hand—veggies, proteins, and dressings. Start by toasting your wrap in a warm skillet. While that’s cooking, assemble your ingredients—lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and your protein of choice. Once your wrap is toasted, add the ingredients and roll up.


Salads are another great dinner choices when time is limited. To make this meal faster, buy pre-cut veggies already washed and ready to be used. To make it even easier, buy a bag of pre-mix salad greens or a grain-based salad mix. Top with some canned or cooked beans, your favorite dressing, and dinner is served.

Whether you’re short on time or money, there are plenty of dinner ideas out there that are both fast and budget-friendly. From fried rice to tacos to salads, you can easily whip together a delicious dinner—even on the busiest weeknights.