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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,
24 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.

Get more free copycat recipes here!

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.

PF Chang's Kung Pao Chicken Copycat

If you are a fan of Chinese food, here is the Chinese recipe for you.

Copycat Five Guys Burger Recipe

This recipe replicates the delicious burger recipe found at the famous fast food joint!

Whataburger Copycat Green Chile Double Cheeseburger

Whataburger is a great restaurant chain, but it is not located across the country.

Copycat Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers

Make your favorite Chili's menu item with this recipe for chicken!

Copycat Panda Express Black Pepper Chicken

Add some zest to your mealtime with this recipe for chicken!

Sesame Chicken Copy Cat Version

Try this copycat version of sesame chicken the next time you want to make Chinese chicken recipes at home!

Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp

You can make common Chinese restaurant recipes at home with copycats like this one!

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

This version is healthier than just the package by adding some fresh veggies!

Homemade Egg Drop Soup

A restaurant classic that can easily be made at home!

Chili's Copycat Cajun Chicken Pasta

This creamy chicken and pasta recipe uses Cajun seasoning to create a delicious and spicy dinner dish!

Restaurant Style Chicken Curry

Now you can enjoy a favorite restaurant chicken curry entree right at home!

Inspired by Chick-Fil-A Nuggets & Honey Mustard

This recipe was inspired by Chick-fil-A's classic dish!

Ground Orange Chicken

This chicken is made in one pot and only takes 20 minutes using a Panda Express copycat sauce!

Copycat Cheesecake Factory Four Cheese Pasta

You will fall in love with our copycat four cheese pasta!

Panera's Macaroni and Cheese Copycat Recipe

This easy macaroni and cheese recipe is so good that you won't believe your taste buds!

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 recipe, you can create a hearty, savory meal that tastes like is came from a popular restaurant.

Lemon Tuna Olive Oil Pasta

With some white albacore tuna, a freshly-squeezed lemon, and a bit of extra virgin olive oil, you can create this pasta.

Copycat Cajun Jambalaya Pasta Cheesecake Factory

This recipe is one that will truly "wow" when you take the first bite!

Steak n Shake Garlic Steakburger Copycat Recipe

Steak n Shake knows how to do their burgers right!

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.

Copycat Bucca Di Beppo Spicy Chicken Rigatoni

Do you love to eat out, but sometimes do not have enough time?

Copycat CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza

Looking for a easy summertime dinner option?

Homemade Beefaroni Recipe

Sometimes all you need is a little comfort food!

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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