30+ Cheap & Easy Recipes For Difficult Times

Cooking at home can feel like a hassle, especially when you’re trying to keep everyone in the family satisfied and stay within your food budget. We know times like these are more difficult than normal, whether you’ve got a house full of little ones or a struggling business, so we’ve pulled together a massive list of cheap and easy recipes to ensure you’re able to keep everyone at home happy, healthy, and fed. Many of the recipes we’ve included are one-dish meals, soups, casseroles, and slow cooker options, so they won’t take tons of time out of your day, nor will they require a long list of ingredients. Instead, these cheap and easy meals are made from staple food items that most people keep on hand at all times, so there’s something for everyone if you can’t get to a grocery store anytime soon.

Plus, the generous portions are sure to leave you with leftovers you can enjoy throughout the week or freeze for later. We’ll get through this together, one Shepard’s Pie at a time.

Cheap & Easy Meals To Cook During Quarantine

While our list of affordable meals include meat, most of them can be made vegetarian by simply leaving out the meat and/or swapping with a meat-free protein or veggie. Mushrooms and sweet potatoes are great options because they’re hearty and filling, and mimic similar savory flavors to meat.

Tex-Mex Meatballs

From Delish.com

When dining at your favorite Mexican restaurant isn’t an option, these Tex-Mex Meatballs are sure to satisfy all your hot and spicy cravings. In just a half-hour, you can whip up a meal for this unforgettable appetizer. Or, pair it with rice and some guac for a meal the whole family will love.

Turkey Tetrazzini

From Spendwithpennies.com

If you’ve got leftover turkey in the fridge, take advantage of it with this Turkey Tetrazzini recipe from Spend With Pennies. Hence, the website’s name, this recipe is easy on the wallet and is filled with staple foods like spaghetti, chicken broth, flour, cream cheese, and turkey.

Baked Spaghetti

From Tastofhome.com

Spaghetti is always a go-to when you want a home-cooked meal but don’t want to spend all night cooking. This Baked Spaghetti recipe takes your traditional tossed pasta to another level, adding layers of flavor you can savor all week long (yes, there will be leftovers!).

Turkey Casserole

From Tasteofhome.com

Don’t overcomplicate your dinner plans. We’ve got this simple Turkey Casserole from Taste of Home that highlights pasta, veggies, and leftover turkey.

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

From Delish.com

Chicken soup heals the soul and makes it easier than ever to feed the whole family a lunch or dinner everyone will like. And when all you have to do is toss the ingredients in a crockpot and press a button, you’ll earn back tons of free time.

Quick & Easy Carbonara

From Bonappetit.com

This Carbonara recipe from Bon Appetit has just a few simple ingredients, including pasta, eggs, cheese, and pork. The website calls it the “no-food-in-the-house dinner of our dreams.” Based on the folks who have tried this recipe, they’d all make it again. What are you waiting for?

Shepard’s Pie

From Foodnetwork.com

Spending all day in the kitchen whipping up a homemade meal is not an option for most of us. Luckily, this Shepard’s Pie recipe only takes about 45 minutes to prepare and feeds up to eight people. This one’s super easy to make vegetarian, as well.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

From Cookingclassy.com

Crafting a stuffed pepper may seem like a meticulous task, but what about Stuffed Pepper Soup? You get all the same flavors in a quick and easy dish. Plus, you easily double the recipe and have tons of leftovers to freeze for later.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Seasons aside, a hot bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup always hits the spot. All you have to do here is toss all the ingredients in a slow cooker and let the flavors marinate all day.

Beef Taco

Beef Taco Recipe

Whether it’s Tuesday or not, everyone loves Taco Night. Plus, ground beef tacos are one of the most budget-friendly meals, and chances are, you probably have the ingredients at home to whip up this last-minute dinner.

Beef & Brocc

Beef and Broccoli

Chinese takeout can be one of the priciest cuisines, so if you’re trying to save some cash, opt for a homemade version of your favorite dishes. This Beef and Broccoli recipe is filling and savory – plus, it’s extremely easy to whip together.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Need an easy appetizer or quick dinner? Chicken Lettuce Wraps are a healthy and tasty way to use food you probably already have at home. Plus, they’re fun for kids too because they can customize which ingredients go in their wrap.

Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

zuppa toscano

One of the most popular soups at Olive Garden is Zuppa Toscana, a sausage-based dish with flavors of garlic and onion. It’s a creamy, filling soup to get you through the long days ahead – and it’s easy to make in bulk, so you can freeze it for later.

Wendy’s Chili Recipe

wendy's copycat chili

Comfort food is a must during difficult times, and there’s nothing quite as cozy and cuddling up with a bowl of chili. With this recipe, you can recreate your favorite fast food dish without having to brave the drive-through.

Panda Express Chow Mein

Panda Express Chow Mein Recipe

Did you know these classic noodles take just 30 minutes to prepare? While it’s a traditional Chinese dish, you should have many – if not all – of the ingredients or substitutions in your kitchen already.

Cracker Barrel Chicken & Dumplings

Cracker Barrel Chicken and Dumplings

Cracker Barrel has comfort food down to a science, and you can too, with this super easy Chicken & Dumplings recipe. You’ll need just a handful of ingredients, like chicken breast, celery, carrots, and onion. This Cracker Barrel meal takes just over 2 hours to prepare, but don’t let that intimidate you – most of that time is for cooking the chicken and preparing your own broth. Yum!

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Pizza

CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza

If you’re sick of paying for pizza delivery, it’s time to switch things up and make a homemade pie. If you like BBQ Chicken Pizza, you’ve got to try this California Pizza Kitchen copycat recipe. We’ve got instructions to make your own dough, but you can totally use store-bought if that’s your style.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine


Move over Fettuccine Alfredo, this pasta dish kicks it up a notch. If you like spice, you’ll love this Tequila-marinated chicken, tossed with fettuccine and covered in a tequila-lime-cream sauce.

Carraba’s Chicken Bryan

Carraba's Chicken Bryan Website

Chicken breast is a staple in most households, but it’s easy to repeat the same old recipes each week. If everyone in your household is craving something new, try this Carrabba’s Chicken Bryan recipe, cooked in basil lemon butter sauce and topped with sundried tomatoes and creamy goat cheese.

Maggiano’s Meatballs

Maggiano's Meatball Recipe

It takes just a handful of simple, staple ingredients to whip up these copycat Maggiano’s Meatballs. If you’ve got ground beef, bread crumbs, milk, garlic, and eggs, as well as some basic seasonings, you’re well on your way to making a dinner everyone will love. Pro tip: Double or triple the recipe and freeze the leftovers. You’ll save yourself on a busy night in the future.

Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup

Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup Recipe

Tired of canned soup? This creamy, filling soup makes for a dinner or side that everyone will approve of. It’s a great option if you have leftover chicken breast, rotisserie chicken, or turkey in your fridge.

Crispy Orange Chicken Copycat

Orange Chicken

No one can turn down orange chicken, even if you’re a picky eater. This quick version of the classic Chinese dish will beat any drive-through or carryout meal.

Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala

Stuffed Chicken Marsala

In the mood to cook a fancy dinner? If you’re working with a budget, Olive Garden’s Stuffed Chicken Marsala hits the spot with its creamy stuffing, savory sautéed mushrooms, and sweet tomatoes. It only takes 40 minutes to prepare and pairs well with your favorite salad, pasta, or bread.

Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup

Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup

While Walkabout Soup may no longer exist on Outback’s menu, you can still enjoy the legendary dish anytime with this copycat recipe. If you’ve never tried it – just imagine a cheesy, onion soup with hints of savory chicken. There’s nothing better.

Panera Bread’s Lemon Chicken Orzo

Panera's Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Not only are the ingredients in this soup cheap, but the recipe is healthy and filling, so you won’t have to worry about sides to go with it. Bonus: It’s the perfect dish if you’re feeling under the weather – it’s mild enough to soothe the stomach, but the hints of lemon and chicken broth go down easy if you’ve got a sore throat.

KFC’s Fried Chicken

KFC Fried Chicken Recipe

Making homemade fried chicken may sound like a complex task, but if you own a deep fryer, it’s actually quite easy. Use this KFC-inspired recipe to feed the whole family on a budget.

Copycat Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Need a budget-friendly way to eat Chick-fil-A on a regular basis? Try this copycat Chicken Sandwich recipe for an authentic version of one of the world’s most popular fast food items (even on Sundays!).

Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli Recipe
Photo by Jessica Merz under the license CC BY-ND 2.0

One-pot meals are a lifesaver when you’ve got kids running around or a busy night ahead of you. Depending on your schedule, you can make this delicious and hearty soup stovetop or in a slow cooker.

Cafe Rio Chicken

Cafe Rio Chicken

If you’re tired of the same old grilled chicken breast, try spicing things up a bit with this Cafe Rio Chicken recipe. You’ll toss all the ingredients in a slow cooker for a few hours and end up with deliciously seasoned shredded chicken for tacos, salads, burritos, and more.

Arby’s Roast Beef

Arby's Roast Beef Recipe

The distinct flavor of Arby’s Roast Beef may seem difficult to replicate, but if you’ve got a slow cooker and a few basic ingredients, you can make your own copycat dish to eat in a sandwich or on its own. Heads up: this recipe takes 12 hours in the crockpot, so plan accordingly if you want it to be ready by dinnertime.

Bonus: Cheap Vegetarian Meals

Olive Garden’s Alfredo

Olive Garden Alfredo Recipe

It’s not hard to whip up a batch of Alfredo sauce, but few taste as good as Olive Garden. Use this copycat recipe to make a classic pot of fettuccine Alfredo, and pair it with salad, veggies, or bread.

Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Panera Broccoli Cheddar Soup Recipe

It’s not hard to believe that Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup is one of their most popular menu items, but the small bowl you can order from the restaurant is never enough, it seems. Make a giant pot of Broccoli Cheddar Soup to share with the whole family and freeze extras for later.


Sweetgreen Avocado Greens Bowl

Sweetgreen Avocado Greens Bowl

For a healthier option, try this Sweetgreen copycat recipe, packed with nutritious ingredients like avocado, quinoa, tomato, chicken, and apple.


Shake Shack ‘Shroom Burger

Whether you’re a vegetarian or simply want to try something other than your traditional beef burger, this copycat Shake Shack ‘Shroom Burger is a no-fail dinner option. It’s stuffed with flavorful cheeses and seasonings and topped with crisp, cold veggies. And yes – it’s as good as it sounds.


Skyline Lentil Chili

Skyline Lentil Chili

This unique vegetarian chili uses kidney beans and lentils instead of black beans, so it’s a great way to spice things up if you’re used to traditional chili flavors.


Panera Bread Mac and Cheese

Panera Bread Mac and Cheese

Panera Bread Mac and Cheese is one of the most popular items on their menu, but one small cup of it is not nearly enough. Make a huge batch for the whole family and have plenty of leftovers with this copycat recipe.


Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole

Cracker Barrel Hashbrown Casserole

This Cracker Barrel dish is a versatile side for both breakfast and dinner and takes just 30 minutes to prepare. It’s cheesy, savory, and filling – just the thing you need to start off your day.


Panera Bread Summer Corn Chowder

Panera Bread Summer Corn Chowder

Panera’s Summer Corn Chowder is creamy, yet refreshing. With its blend of fresh veggies, broth, and half-and-half, you’ll find yourself craving it all throughout the year.

If you need to take a break from cooking, try one of these 60 Deals and Delivery Services to Get You Through Quarantine.

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