Meals to Make With Your Wallet in Mind
Whether you're grocery shopping to feed just yourself or an entire family of 10, it's easy for your total bill at the checkout counter to reach an uncomfortably high price, even if you're stocking up on essentials alone. But you shouldn't have to sacrifice nutrition for the sake of your wallet, and indeed eating well on a budget is easy to do. The key to making wholesome meals without breaking the bank is knowing which products to buy — and knowing how to best put them to use to get the most out of them in dishes that your family will enjoy. Check out a few of Food Network's favorite money-saving tips below, plus get can-do, kid-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare on a budget.
To stretch the value a somewhat pricey ingredient, like meat, mix it with far more inexpensive products that won't distract from the overall taste or texture of the dish. The next time you make tacos, burritos or burgers, try swapping out a portion of the beef or chicken for mashed beans or rice; the supper won't suffer, and you'll use less meat to feed more people. In her recipe for Beef and Black Bean Sliders (pictured above), Ten Dollar Dinners host Melissa d'Arabian combines ground beef with cooked black beans to create moist, flavorful burgers on a budget. She forms the mixture into traditional patties, grills them and serves them on toasted buns with tangy coleslaw for a fuss-free 10-minute meal.
When noodles go on sale, buy a few extra pounds so you'll always have some in the pantry for go-to dinners. Dried pasta can last for months in unopened boxes, plus it feeds a crowd economically in ways that few other foods can; just one pound is often enough for up to four people. Toss it with Giada's Simple Tomato Sauce for a light dinner, or beef it up with meats, vegetables or cheeses to make each serving go further. Paula Deen mixes just half a pound of angel-hair pasta with ground beef, a duo of cheeses and green pepper-tomato sauce to make her Baked Spaghetti (pictured right), a comforting casserole that feeds 10 people.
While filet mignon, porterhouse steaks and racks of lamb are notoriously pricey, you don't have to say goodbye to red meat simply to stay within your budget — just look out for more cost-effective options that are every bit as deliciously satisfying. Flat cuts of beef like hangar, flank and strip steaks are far more wallet-friendly and often portioned large enough that a medium-sized piece can feed the whole family. When working with these kinds of meats, it's important not to overcook them, as they can quickly become tough. Try Food Network Magazine's Grilled Steak With Tapenade (pictured left), a top-rated flank steak marinated in garlic that turns out juicy and tender after just a few minutes of cooking on each side.
Just as certain kinds of meat are more inexpensive, so too are there more low-cost types of fish that don't sacrifice freshness or flavor. Easy-to-make salmon, plus mild white fish like cod and tilapia, are must-try picks when shopping for seafood on a budget. They're just as moist and easy to prepare as more extravagant options, but they're priced far more reasonably. For an all-in-one dinner that can be made in just 30 minutes, cook up Food Network Magazine's Tilapia With Green Beans, featuring simply sauteed fish fillets and a side dish of bright, colorful vegetables.
Few things are more frustrating than letting perfectly good ingredients go to waste simply because you don't know how to use them in meals before they spoil. If you're facing a refrigerator full of random vegetable scraps, bits of leftover meat or just a few handfuls of herbs, put them to work in fried rice or soups, the ultimate acceptors of seemingly forgotten ingredients. Try the Neelys' Pineapple Fried Rice or Rachael's Ribollita, a hearty Tuscan soup that boasts a full flavor base of onions, carrots, garlic and celery, and is filling and thick, thanks to white beans and leftover crusty bread.
Browse Food Network's Kids and Family Headquarters for more easy recipes and money-saving dinner ideas.