Figuring out how to eat on a budget can be difficult, but with the cost of everything these days, it’s a worthy pursuit. While we like to order takeout from time to time, cooking is a great way to save some cash, as well as avoid all the extra calories we inevitably consume when eating restaurant-prepared food.
With that in mind, we compiled a few meal-prep-friendly recipes that are easy to make and taste delicious. Not only that, but each meal (which yields a few servings) costs less than $5! Some of these recipes are a bit indulgent, and others are totally healthy. Feel free to mix it up so you don’t get bored, which will make eating on the cheap even easier! Check out our cheap and easy dinner recipes below.
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Black Bean Soup
This traditional black bean soup will take you less than 30 minutes to prepare, and it gives about 4 servings!
- 2 cans black beans
- 1 medium onion or 1 cup broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- Cheese and sour cream to top, if desired
- Combine all ingredients in a pot.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a dollop of sour cream and freshly chopped chives, if desired.
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Bean and Cheese Quesadilla
Yet another Mexican favorite, if you're in the mood for some crispy carb goodness, fry up this bean and cheese quesadilla! These gooey quesadillas are packed with fiber and protein, and you can keep your leftovers for later!
- 1 can black or refried beans (drain your beans if using black beans)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
- 6 flour tortillas
- Sour cream and salsa, if desired
- Put one tortilla in a heated a nonstick pan on the stove. Allow the tortilla to get hot for about a minute, then use a spoon to spread your beans and onions in a flat layer on half of the tortilla. Be careful not to overfill!
- Next, sprinkle cheese all over the beans. After another minute, flip the naked side of your tortilla onto the bean-covered side, and hold the tortilla there with a spatula to allow melted cheese to stick.
- Flip your quesadilla over and cook for an additional two to three minutes. Repeat for each tortilla, and top with a spoonful of salsa and sour cream if desired.
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Stuffed Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are a classic dish that will keep you full at dinner time. These babies are loaded with protein with plenty of antioxidants — plus they’re low carb! Prep these in the beginning of the week and you’ve got a satiating and healthy meal in the fridge for a few nights to come.
- 4 medium bell peppers
- 1 pound ground beef or turkey
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the meantime, slice the tops of your bell peppers off, scoop out the seeds, and line a square baking sheet with foil or nonstick spray.
- In a medium skillet, cook ground meat over medium heat until meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Then, add salt and tomatoes and cook for another minute or two.
- Turn off heat and spoon the cooked mixture into your peppers.
- Place the peppers into the baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
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Pasta with Classic Tomato Sauce
This one’s super simple, and hey, sometimes we forget about all that pasta we bought in bulk and need to put it to use! For this one, you can feel free to add ground meat to your sauce, too! But if you’re keeping it vegetarian, two ingredients are all you need. This recipe serves three.
- 1/2 pound pasta of your choice, like spaghetti or rigatoni
- 1/2 Jar store-bought tomato sauce, or other sauce of your choosing
- Parmesan cheese to top, if desired
- Boil pasta according to package directions and drain.
- In a medium saucepan, heat your sauce.
- Combine pasta and sauce, top with parmesan cheese, and serve.
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Butter Rice with Vegetables
If you’re in the mood for a vegetarian rice dish with tons of flavor and nutrients, go for this butter rice with vegetables. Choose brown rice for a slightly healthier dish, and add whatever veggies you like! And if you want to add some protein, a cost-effective way to add some to this meal is to throw in some cooked ground meat!
- 1 pack frozen veggies like a blend of peas, broccoli, and carrots
- 4 teaspoons butter
- 1 cup jasmine or other rice
- Pinch of salt
- Cook your frozen vegetables according to package directions, then add 2 teaspoons butter.
- Boil or steam your rice according to package directions, then add your cooked vegetables and salt.
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Grilled Cheese with Arugula
As a long-standing guilty pleasure of mine, I can tell you that a grilled cheese with arugula is a decadent treat you won’t regret indulging in. Trust me, the crisp, fresh taste of arugula complements the ooey-gooey cheese perfectly. You’ll be wanting to make this sandwich every night of the week.
- 2 slices whole-grain bread
- 2 teaspoons butter, softened
- 2-3 slices white cheddar or gruyere cheese
- Small handful of arugula
- Slice of tomato, optional
- Butter your slices of bread.
- In a skillet or grill pan, heat your bread butter side down.
- Flip bread slices over and spread cheese slices over them. Allow cheese to melt.
- Add arugula to one side of the bread, then flip the other slice of bread onto the first to make your sandwich. Flip the sandwich over and heat for another minute, then remove from heat and serve.
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Parmesan Butter and Garlic Pasta
This dish had me at pasta, but really won me over with parmesan and butter. This recipe is also super simple and tastes amazing. The whole family will love it, and you’ve probably got everything you need already! This recipe makes four servings.
- 8 oz. spaghetti or other pasta
- 8 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Boil your pasta according to package directions and drain.
- In a saucepan, combine butter, garlic over medium heat. Heat until butter is melted down and starts to froth.
- Whisk ingredients in the saucepan to combine for about five minutes. Skim foam if necessary.
- Remove from heat and add pasta. Top with cheese and combine. Serve immediately, and save your leftovers!
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Spaghetti Squash With Garlic Butter and Vegetables
This one’s a personal favorite, and with squash season in full swing, you’ll probably be able to find spaghetti squash for cheap at your local farmers market! This recipe makes two servings.
- 1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups frozen vegetables, like broccoli
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese to top, if desired
- In the microwave, heat your squash halves side by side for ten minutes or until they feel tender.
- At the same time, cook your vegetables according to package directions.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter, garlic, vegetables, salt, and pepper. Cook for five minutes then add mixture to a large bowl.
- Once spaghetti squash is cooked, scrape the “meat” out using a fork and add it to the bowl. Combine everything together in the bowl and serve topped with parmesan cheese (optional).