This month I’m participating in the Menu Plan Monday: Eat Well, Spend Less series with eight other bloggers. We’ll share tips from our experiences to help you eat well on a budget each week.
This week, rather than sharing my actual meal plan for the week, I’m sharing my favorite “budget meals” for eating well on a budget! As it turns out, inexpensive and easy tend to go hand-in-hand (in our house, at least), as you’ll see below:
1. Easy Baked Ziti
We eat a lot of Italian pasta dishes, a combination of our tastes (even my notoriously picky husband likes most Italian food!) and my Italian heritage. Although I have my grandmother’s recipe for baked ziti, we often make this easy — and inexpensive — version instead. This summer, I’m hoping to stock the freezer with Aimee’s tomato herb sauce, because there’s no doubt that using homemade sauce would make this dish even less expensive!
- 16 oz. box of shaped noodles (ziti and bowtie are our favorites)
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 24 oz. jar of tomato sauce
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add noodles. Boil until al dente. Drain water.
Add ricotta cheese and tomato sauce and mix well.
Pour mixture into a 9×13 pan. Top with shredded mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes.
2. Twice Baked Cheeseburger Potatoes
I discovered this recipe while working on the potato recipe gallery I did a few weeks ago, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It’s easy, inexpensive and delicious!
- 4 large Russet potatoes
- 3 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound of ground beef or turkey
- 1 1/4 shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, and roll in Kosher salt. Pierce several times with a fork and bake at 400 for 60-75 minutes until you can stick a knife through them easily.
In the meantime, cook the ground beef. Mix with sour cream, onion powder, salt, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
When the potatoes are done, cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving enough around the edges so that they hold their shape. Mix the potato with the rest of the filling and then scoop it back into the potato shells.
Sprinkle them with more cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
3. Dutch Puff
This is one of our favorite breakfast — or breakfast-for-dinner — recipes. It’s packed full of protein, inexpensive, and sticks with you for a while so that you’re not hungry again in an hour!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 8 eggs
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2.5 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Melt 1/3 cup of butter in your baking dish while you mix the other ingredients (just watch to be sure the butter doesn’t burn).
Once the butter is melted, pour your mixture into the dish.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until it puffs up and browns.
Let it cool for 5 minutes or so until it starts to deflate, and then serve with syrup or fruit.
4. Smoothies & Popcorn
Yep, smoothies and popcorn. This is one of our favorite inexpensive meals on days that we’ve had a big lunch and are just looking for something light for dinner. We don’t add a whole lot of extras to our smoothies, just lots of good fruit!
Easy Microwave Popcorn:
Add 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels to a paper lunch bag. Drizzle with a tiny amount of oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Fold the bag over twice and microwave for 2-3 minutes (time will vary by microwave) until popping slows down.
Easy Fruit Smoothies:
Blend 4-5 frozen bananas, 1 cup fresh baby spinach, 2-3 cups frozen fruit, 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, and 3-4 cups water (start with half the water and add as needed) on high until well blended.
It’s cheating to list this as my 5th recipe, but one of the best ways to stretch your grocery budget is to make sure that leftovers don’t go to waste. Plan regular “leftover” meals where you clean out your fridge and use up any extras, and make sure that you put anything you’re not going to eat right away in the freezer for later!
Visit Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie for more menu plans and ideas!