Cooking on a Budget
14 cheap eats that aren't pasta
It’s not always easy to find great recipes when you’re watching your wallet. Whether you’re pinching pennies to save up for your next vacation or your budget is all out of whack because you’ve eaten out one too many times this month, our collection of low-cost meals are here to keep you well-fed and get you back on track!
A one-pot recipe with only 5 ingredients, here’s a winner all around. Quick, easy, and cheap, you can opt for regular tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, but splurge on the Parmesan cheese—it adds a salty, creamy bite that is so worth the extra cents.
Creamy and satisfying, this hummus soup gets its oomph from canned chickpeas, but you can choose dried chickpeas instead for a cheaper option. Simply soak them overnight before preparing the recipe.
Any given weeknight, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find me compiling odds and ends of veg from the fridge to throw together a stir-fry. Accompanied by a bowl of rice, it’s one of the quickest and most versatile dinners that barely even requires a recipe once you know the flow! Use this tofu stir-fry recipe as a base to get you started.
Lentils are a notoriously cheap source of protein and fiber and when paired with fresh herbs, lots of garlic, and chunky chopped tomatoes and cucumbers—you won’t be left wanting for anything. If you have the time, try making basic naan from scratch instead of buying pita bread. It’s not only cheaper, but much tastier!
With or without its partner in crime—the grilled cheese sandwich (coming at you below!)—who doesn’t love a big bowl of tomato soup? Our quick take on the classic gets a creamy touch with a yogurt topping, but this can easily be left out. The sun dried tomatoes can be replaced by a more budget friendly addition of a tablespoon or so of tomato paste.
The smell of toasting bread always makes me hungry for a grilled cheese sandwich (read our full guide here), and I tend to take mine on the light side—just bread, butter, and cheese. This one is a bit—shall we say, fancy—with the addition of garlic and spinach, both of which there’s no harm in leaving out.
Ground beef is the basis for tons of simple and satisfying recipes and this creamy, hearty soup is a testament to just how true that is. With a handful of ingredients that you might already have stocked—and just 30 minutes—we suggest making a big batch to eat all through the week for both an office lunch and a quick dinner. As one of our community members suggests, you can replace the ground beef with soy crumbles for a vegetarian take that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
Lentils are a great staple for the money-minded but should really have a space in every pantry. Not only are they affordable, but even just a small portion can go the distance when it comes to making food that’ll feed masses, so to speak. Cooked and blended with common vegetables and topped with a drizzle of smoked paprika butter, this red lentil soup is a great rent week go-to to keep in your back pocket.
As you might’ve realized—based on the recipes above—soups are a great way to make the most of cost effective, fresh produce. For some, adding bits and bobs to the end bowl might make or break the final dish, but with this broccoli soup, you can feel free to leave out the chicken and/or skewers completely to save some cents.
Beans. If they aren’t a part of your pantry already, they should be. For this bean-laden chili, plan just one day ahead and use dried beans in lieu of canned—they not only taste way better but are more cost effective. The chili will need to cook for about twice as long, but hey, that’s not a bad thing! Just think of it as more time for all the flavors to meld and get to know each other.
Not a fan of tuna salad sandwiches? Well, we’d bet you’ll love this one. Simple and satisfying, use high-quality tuna and bread and make the green goddess dressing on your own for a fresher flavor.
Various takes on egg salad sandwiches are a great option for those trying to save money. This one gets its creamy texture from avocados—a splurge, but one that’s well worth it and goes far. Cut the amount of avocado in half and you’ll still find it to be plenty creamy.
Here’s a hearty vegetable dish that brings together eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and fresh herbs. Save some extra cash without compromising too much on flavor by leaving out the Gruyère cheese.
These bite-sized bundles of joy are the perfect go-to for a budget-friendly breakfast, but of course, you can eat them any time of day. Swap out ingredients based on what you might have hanging around in the fridge. For instance, bacon can be kicked for a bit of sausage or even some mushrooms to make it vegetarian, and the onion can be exchanged in an instant with some shallots. Add fresh parsley or chives in lieu of green onion and leave out the Parmesan cheese if you don’t already have it on hand.
Hungry for one more money saving tips? Try cooking recipes in big batches to eat throughout the week or even freeze for later. This helps to cut down on waste and gives you the biggest (literally) bang for your buck.
What are your favorite recipes to cook when you’re trying to eat cheap? Share them with us and the community in the comments below.
Published on March 30, 2019