Cooking Low-Calorie Meals on a Budget

Without sacrificing flavor

You have established that you need to abide by a calorie budget, but your wallet reminds you that you need to stick with a grocery budget and meal plan, too. With the common misconception that eating healthy is expensive, you may wonder what a low-calorie cook on a budget can do to stay both health- and money-conscious.

The good news is that with the right tools, you can cook fresh, healthy, and delicious food on a budget. Though this list is just a drop in the bucket, read on to discover a few easy tips and recipes for meals to satisfy a crowd as well as your bank account.

  • 01 of 04

    Low-Calorie Chinese Chicken Stir Fry

    Bowl with Chinese noodles, vegetables and chicken.

    Rosmarie Wirz / Getty

    The fundamental rules of all types of budget cooking: stock up when it's on sale! Boneless, skinless chicken breast often goes on sale and can easily be frozen for future use. With a portion of well-priced chicken breast, one bag of frozen vegetables, and a few staples from the kitchen, you have a delicious, ethnic meal of Chinese chicken stir-fry atop steamed rice for a meager cost.

  • 02 of 04

    Vegetarian Chili

    High angle view of sweet potato and chilI cooked in pan

    Svitlana Pavelko / EyeEm / Getty

    Going vegetarian a couple times per week can really save you a bundle on your grocery bill. If you have preconceptions of vegetarian meals meaning only tofu and buckwheat noodles, you might want to explore the world of vegetarian cuisine a little further! This vegetarian chili, for example, is simply a traditional chili, chock full of peppers, onions, and kidney beans, minus the beef. The beans and veggies still make for a hearty, satisfying, and spicy meal.

  • 03 of 04

    Low-Calorie Posole

    Delicious Mexican red pozole soup

    jmalov / Getty

    The pork tenderloin in this low-calorie posole recipe is the most expensive ingredient, but it does not require a large amount to achieve the desired effect. Divide the remaining pork tenderloin into several portions, label, and freeze for future meals. By using other hearty ingredients–such as hominy–in the bulk of the dish, you end up with a hearty meal that does not require a large amount of costly meat.

  • 04 of 04

    Black Bean Burgers

    A black bean burger with fries

    Jason Lugo / E+ / Getty

    Perhaps your idea of a low-cost meal is a burger at the drive-up window. But is this going to conform to your calorie budget plan? Most likely, it will not! Your solution is in these tasty black bean burgers topped with all the typical or gourmet burger condiments. Again, going meatless is the real money-saver here, and with a hearty black bean patty, you will not even notice the meat is gone.