Thinking of dinner ideas is a daunting task alone; add in a tight budget on top of that, and it may seem like you’ll never figure out what to eat. However, do not feel defeated if you find yourself with only a small amount of money to allot towards food. When cooking with a budget, it is important to consider filling meals that will leave you satisfied and will provide you with some leftovers to have for a day or two. Below you’ll find a few examples of dinner ideas that are budget-friendly and versatile!
1. Pasta Dishes
Look at pasta as you would a blank canvas, there are endless possibilities to create! You can keep it simple with just a garlic butter or a simple jar of sauce. Maybe you decide to roast a handful of cherry tomatoes and add a few fresh basil leaves for a lighter, more modern approach. How much you have to spend will factor into what types of ingredients you decide to play with. Fresh or boxed, wheat or white, jarred sauce or homemade. However, you decide to make your pasta, feel comfortable knowing that you will have plenty to eat without breaking your bank!
2. Breakfast Foods
It really is true that breakfast can be enjoyed at any time of the day. More often than not, you already have most of the ingredients you need for making breakfast foods at home. Therefore, you are not spending too much filling in the gaps of ingredients you will need, and you are using more of what you already have. There is a multitude of options to make: eggs any style, toast, pancakes or waffles, crepes, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast tacos, home fries, and the list goes on. Hey, there’s no shame in eating a bowl of cereal or two instead, if you don’t feel like dirtying too many dishes!
Soups are a great stand-alone meal or an amazing side dish and are also quite versatile. You can make classic chicken noodle and a hearty chili or stew; there’s corn chowder, clam chowder, tortilla soup, minestrone, Italian wedding, ramen, and those barely even scratch the surface of possibilities. However simple or complex you decide to go with your soup, you will likely need some type of broth or stock to start with. Then add whichever vegetables you prefer, or that your recipe calls for, and then combine everything in a pot to cook for a few hours while it develops flavor.
The great thing about making soup is that you don’t have to fuss over it too much while it cooks, especially if you have a slow cooker or crockpot. Another bonus is that you typically make larger batches so you will have a few days worth of filling meals to enjoy!
Believe me when I say that salads are more than just lettuce on a plate with a few vegetables, croutons and some dressing. You can add whatever you want to salads! Fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, cheeses, and all types of spreads. Salads are very customizable when you make them at home, so experiment with different ingredients. Try to have a decent variety of foods in your salads, that way it doesn’t feel like you’re just eating a bland meal.
Include a mix of proteins you like, whether they be plant-based or animal-based, to make sure that the salad will sustain your energy levels for a longer period of time. Avocados are always a plus and a wonderful source of healthy fats. There’s no right or wrong way to make a salad; keep things simple if you like simple, or make it a combination of all ingredients you like on top of your favorite choice of greens!
5. Grain Bowls/Burrito Bowls
Grain bowls and burrito bowls are other examples of filling meals that are a great way to get a lot for your dollar’s worth. Each bowl type incorporates similar ingredients, with burrito bowls focusing more towards Mexican flavors and grain bowls having a bit looser, more ambiguous flavor profile. Start with a grain that you prefer, like a type of rice or quinoa. Then, it’s all about the toppings. Again, the possibilities are limitless.
Find ingredients within your budget that you like and will pair well together. Keep your tastebuds interested with different textures by adding salsas, hummuses or pestos, and even add crunchy elements like cashews or tortilla strips. Make them as nutritious and interesting as possible!
An easy meal to make is a nice platter or spread of a variety of ingredients to snack on. You can add all types of crackers, cheeses, fruits, and deli cutlets. Maybe you even go outside of the box and personalize it to whatever you are craving at the time. Did someone say chicken nuggets, tater tots, and pizza bagels? There are no rules when it comes to what you decide to put together on a plate or board.
Splurge where you can, save where you need to, and have fun while you plan your next meal. Keep your eyes peeled for sales, and dare yourself to try out some fun new ingredients, recipes and ideas!
What are your favorite filling meals to make when money is tight? Leave some ideas for others in the comments below.
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