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24 Cheap Dinner Ideas for the Thrifty Chef

These budget friendly meals are perfect to make for dinner when money's tight!

By: Chelsea Scarnegie, Editor, AllFreeCopycatRecipes.com
Updated December 22, 2021
Cheap Dinner Ideas for the Thrifty Chef

We know why you're a copycat fan! You want restaurant-quality meals on a budget that fit your lifestyle. Fortunately, these cheap dinner ideas are simple, delicious, and you won't have to feel guilty about making them. 

These cheap dinner recipes are just what you need to keep your grocery store receipt small and your family satisfied. They're a great way to get the same, great restaurant-style flavor from the dishes you crave without having to spend the money on going out to eat. Plus, you'll get to show off your cooking skills at the same time!

Don't be afraid to dig in! Whether you're in the mood for an easy soup recipe that will warm you right up, or cheap pasta recipes to make you feel like a fancy chef, this list has you covered.

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Our Favorite Cheap Dinner Ideas for 1

Dinner doesn't have to be for a crowd! If you live alone, recipes with four or more servings just lead to leftovers piling up in the fridge, and they're only good for so long. All your favorite restaurants serve dinner for one, so why shouldn't you be able to make single-serving meals at home? With these simple recipes, you can have your meal and eat it too!

These dinner recipes are also good for the picky eaters in the family. If one big meal won't satisfy everyone, make these single-serving recipes to please everyone! 

Ramen Lunch To Go

It might say lunch, but this delicious dish is filling enough to be a perfect dinner for one. Ramen noodles are famous for being easy to prepare and quick Now you can make them extra tasty as well!

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Baked Salmon with Cheese and Almonds

If you're looking for a simple seafood recipe, this is it! This salmon is incredibly aromatic, juicy, and tender. Add a little spritz of lemon before serving for that restaurant-quality taste!

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Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme Copycat Recipe

This Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme Copycat Recipe tastes just like the original! With recipes like this, you can make this magical, iconic menu item in your own kitchen.

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Copycat Pioneer Woman Pork Grilled Cheese Sandwich

If you're in the mood for a sandwich, but want something a bit more filling, you'll love this Pork Grilled Cheese. You don't need to do any traveling to find your new fave!

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Copycat Red Robin California Chicken Breast Sandwich

Sandwich recipes are simple and delicious, and this Chicken Breast Sandwich is no exception. You'll never order out again when you see how easy it is to make at home!

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Wendy's Copycat Berry Almond Chicken Salad

Celebrate the flavors of the season by putting together this simple dinner idea. If you're a no-bake, no-mess mood, Wendy's Copycat Berry Almond Chicken Salad is the perfect recipe.

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Mac And Cheese Bread Bowl

This Mac and Cheese Bread Bowl is a Panera Bread copycat so you can skip the takeout. It’s a fabulous way to serve dinner in 15 minutes!

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Copycat A&W Whistle Dog

A&W is known especially for its hot dog ideas. If you remember going there as a child, you'll love making your own Copycat A&W Whistle Dog. 

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Our Favorite Cheap Dinner Ideas for 2

Bring some of the best restaurant-inspired dinner ideas to the table for you and your partner to enjoy whenever you want. Ready to skip the restaurant bill and start saving a couple bucks on dinner? These copycat recipes from your favorite restaurants are just the thing to get you started. Whether you're craving something fancy or something a bit more casual, we have just the recipe for you. Cheap dinner ideas have never been so delicious!

These easy dinner recipes for two take some of the most classic restaurant dishes and make them simple for anyone to make:

Copycat Cafe Max Chicken Salad Recipe

If you've ever been to Dallas, then you've probably been to Cafe Max and tried their famous chicken salad recipe. Now you can have it whenever you want - even if you're out of state!

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PF Chang's Kung Pao Chicken Copycat

If you are a fan of Chinese food, here is the Chinese recipe for you. This PF Chang's Kung Pao Chicken Copycat recipe is perfect for when that craving for Chinese food hits.

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Copycat Five Guys Burger Recipe

This Copycat Five Guys Burger recipe replicates the delicious burger recipe found at the famous fast food joint. The burgers have a cheesy surprise stuffed in between the two patties.

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Whataburger Copycat Green Chile Double Cheeseburger

Whataburger is a great restaurant chain, but it is not located across the country. With this recipe, you can recreate the famed burger at home!

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Copycat Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers

Make your favorite Chili's menu item with this recipe for Copycat Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers. The chicken recipe is incredibly easy to recreate in any home kitchen. 

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Copycat Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken

Add some zest to your mealtime with this Copycat Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken. The best-tasting recipes can be found in your very own cookbook when you add this recipe.

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Sesame Chicken Copy Cat Version

No need to spend a fortune on take-out with this sesame chicken recipe. It's better than P.F. Chang's and Panda Express combined, and you can prepare it, cook it and enjoy it in your comfy clothes.

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Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp

You can make common Chinese restaurant recipes at home with copycats like this one! Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp is a sweet, creamy dish that is sure to please your palate.

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Our Favorite Cheap Dinner Ideas for 4

Whip up dinner for four with easy soup recipes, pasta dinner ideas, and other family dinner recipes. Who can resist dishes like chicken curry and restaurant-style nuggets? With these cheap dinner recipes, you'll be able to make the restaurant dishes you crave at a fraction of the price. It can be exciting to go out to eat with your friends, but sometimes a homemade dinner is the way to go!

Want a hearty, cheap, delicious dinner? These copycat recipes are just what you need:

Home-Ec Ramen Soup

Remember how good it felt to make something new for the very first time? Bring back that feeling with a recipe that you'll want to pass along to your kids when they move out. 

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Homemade Egg Drop Soup

A restaurant classic that can easily be made at home. This is just as good as take-out! Egg drop soup is simple, warm, and tasty. It goes well with any Chinese food.

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Chili's Copycat Cajun Chicken Pasta

This creamy chicken and pasta recipe uses Cajun seasoning to create a delicious and spicy dinner dish. This easy copycat recipe is quick to make and taste wonderful. 

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Restaurant Style Chicken Curry

Now you can enjoy a favorite restaurant chicken curry entre right at home. This easy recipe lets you adjust the spices to suit your own tastes and it's made in a slow cooker.

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Inspired by Chick-Fil-A Nuggets & Honey Mustard

This recipe was inspired by Chick-fil-a's classic dish. The chicken bites are flavorful and have a homemade crispy crust. 

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Ground Orange Chicken

Ground Orange Chicken is made in one pot and only takes 20 minutes using a Panda Express copycat sauce. Plus, it's so much healthier than the original! 

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Copycat Cheesecake Factory Four Cheese Pasta

You will fall in love with our Copycat Cheesecake Factory Four Cheese Pasta. If you've been searching for the ultimate pasta recipe, look no further. 

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Panera's Macaroni and Cheese Copycat Recipe

This easy macaroni and cheese recipe is so good that you won't believe you're taste buds. Be careful with this Macaroni and Cheese Copycat; this recipe is pure, cheesy temptation.

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Our Favorite Cheap Dinner Ideas for 6

These budget-friendly ideas for dinner are perfect for feeing your family regardless of wallet amount. No matter how great of a family restaurant there is, you can always find room for improvement that will help you save some money. If you have ever been to family-favorites like LongHorn Steakhouse and The Cheesecake Factory, then you know how valuable it is to find a menu option within your budget. Whether you want a classic pasta or a gourmet hamburger, you'll find the perfect cheap dinner idea here:

Longhorn Steakhouse Mushroom Truffle Bisque Copycat

With this Longhorn Steakhouse Mushroom Truffle Bisque Copycat recipe, you can create a hearty, savory meal that tastes like it came from a popular restaurant.

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Lemon Tuna Olive Oil Pasta

With some white albacore tuna, a freshly squeezed lemon, and a bit of extra virgin olive oil, you can make a delicious pasta. This tuna pasta recipe is a refreshing way to end the day. 

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Copycat Cajun Jambalaya Pasta Cheesecake Factory

This Copycat Cajun Jambalaya Pasta Cheesecake Factory recipe is one that will truly "wow" when you take the first bite. It's loaded with flavor and made from scratch!

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Steak n Shake Garlic Steakburger Copycat Recipe

Steak n Shake knows how to do their burgers right! This copycat recipe will give you the most amazing burgers every time, and they will taste just like the originals.

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Disneyland Clam Chowder Copycat

There are some recipes that are so good you may travel far and wide for them, but now you won't have to book any more trips to California.

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Copycat Bucca Di Beppo Spicy Chicken Rigatoni

Do you love to eat out, but don't the time? Now you can now bring the fun of restaurant-style meals right to your own kitchen!

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Copycat CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza

Looking for an easy summertime dinner option? This delicious Copycat CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza reecipe will wow your whole family.

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Homemade Beefaroni Recipe

Sometimes all you need is a little comfort food. This Chef Boyardee copycat recipe is just what you need to cheer you up if you're feeling a little down!

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Up next:

22 Copycat Comfort Food Recipes

Which of these budget-friendly recipes would you like to try?

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Love all these recipes!!!

I'd love to try the Restaurant Style Nuggets with Homemade Honey Mustard because I've been craving nuggets so bad lately.

KFC Fried Chicken Copycat looks like a winner to me.

Every one of these look wonderful! Besides saving money (always a challenge!) I just love to cook...and love restaurant food )

Olive Garden Shrimp Scampi sounds amazing. Can't wait to try it.

Lemon tuna olive oil pasta...looks and sounds amazing

chili's enchilada soup

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