Everybody knows rice and beans can be a cheap dinner. So can canned soup, scrambled eggs, and spaghetti with marinara sauce.
But who wants to eat like that, day in and day out? You want variety, you want flavor, you want healthy food that won't bust your budget.
And, in The Early Show series "Save a Bundle" Wednesday, Epicurious.com Editor in Chief Tanya Steel presented four meals that would run you less than three dollars per person, and explained how each is possible on a shoestring.
And, if you're willing to spend a little more for convenience, you could try the dinner Steel showed that involves no cooking at all and costs less than $4.25 a serving. If you believe time is money, it may be the meal for you!
MEAL 1: Frittata with Bacon, Fresh Ricotta and Greens; Citrus Salad
PER PERSON COST: $2.91
In general, you want to be on the lookout for inexpensive proteins like eggs and beans. We already established that eggs are an inexpensive dinner option, so get creative with your preparation! Frittatas are quick and easy to make, and you can basically add any ingredients you love to the eggs.
MEAL 2: Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Fried Chickpeas; Lemon Granita
PER PERSON COST: $2.81
Beans and pasta are both cheap pantry staples. Combining the two is common in Italy, but many Americans don't consider doing this. This one-dish meal has your carbs, protein and vegetables all in one bowl which makes it very filling.
Of course eating vegetarian is always going to save you money!
MEAL 3: Garlic-Roasted Pork Shoulder; Roasted Carrots; Cornbread
PER PERSON COST: $2.65
Don't worry, you can eat meat on a budget too, you just need to look for less expensive cuts. Pork Shoulder is around $1.69 per pound - now that's cheap! Pork shoulders are pretty big - around seven pounds - so they'll serve eight people, or provide a family of four with plenty of leftovers.
Many people struggle to eat healthy on a budget - roasted carrots are about as healthy as you can get. Almost any vegetable is delicious if tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in the oven. Look for seasonal vegetables to really cut down on costs.
Finally, you gotta love cornbread mix - .89 a pop!
MEAL 4: Moroccan Chickpea Soup; Dinner Rolls
PER PERSON COST: $3.00
This dish calls for dried lentils and chickpeas, which are even less expensive than canned.
Using generic or store-brand canned tomatoes and chicken broth also bring the cost down. Tanya is a big fan of many store-bought items ... Why buy name brand if your family can't tell the difference?
When looking to "spice up" your budget dinner, look to other cultures for flavorful alternatives. This soup calls for tumeric ... Invest in a handful of unusual spices and you'll find a million ways to use them ... Add flavor to roast chicken or pork chops for pennies!
MEAL 5: Rotisserie Chicken; Salad; Angel Food Cake with Blueberries
PER PERSON COST: $4.24
Want to eat on a budget AND don't want to cook? If you're willing to fork over a bit more money you can have your cake and eat it to, so to speak! Time is money after all. Often, it's actually cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store than to buy a fresh chicken and roast it yourself.
Buying the ingredients for a salad only to have the leftovers rot away in the crisper is not inexpensive ... If you have a small family, you might be better off just grabbing the lettuce or vegetables you need from the salad bar.
It's certainly easier to buy an angel food cake than to bake one; top off with blueberries and you have a complete, satisfying dinner.
FOR RECIPES FOR ALL THOSE MEALS, GO TO PAGE 2.
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