There's nothing like Tax Day to get you in the mood to stick to a budget. These recipes are budget-friendly, nutritious and delicious. Not only that, they'll serve four people for less than what you'd spend at the drive-thru.
The cost to make these meals is approximate and based on the main ingredients used in the recipes. Keep in mind that food prices vary based on where you live, time of year and the brands you buy.
Buy a large bag of frozen vegetables and save the leftovers for another meal. Use any type of short pasta you have on hand or buy pasta that's on sale.
Approximate cost for 4 servings (includes pasta, Parmesan cheese, frozen vegetables and broth): $10
Cost per serving: $2.50
- 12 ounces dried pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs like parsley or thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, add the broth and flour to a small bowl, and whisk it until it's smooth. Set it aside.
- Add the oil to a saute pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the garlic for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the broth mixture to the cooked garlic and bring it to a boil, stirring as it cooks.
- When the mixture is thick (after about 2-3 minutes), remove it from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and herbs, mix well and set it aside.
- During the last 30-60 seconds that the pasta cooks, add the frozen vegetables to the pan with the pasta. Drain the pasta and vegetables, then quickly add them to the pan with the Parmesan mixture.
- Toss the pasta and vegetables so they're well coated with the sauce mixture. Taste and season with the salt and pepper.
- Serve warm on individual plates garnished with additional Parmesan cheese.
Most grocery stores sell fresh olives by weight in the deli department. If you prefer, used canned olives and save the leftovers for another recipe.
Approximate cost for 4 servings (includes canned tuna, olives, salad greens and bread): $12 â¨
Price per serving: $3
- 2 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
- 3 ounces salad greens
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced tomato
- 1/4 cup diced Kalamata olives
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs like parsley or thyme (optional) or 1/8 teaspoon dried herbs
- 1/4 cup Italian dressing (or substitute 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar to make your dressing)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- 8 slices of your favorite bread
- Add the flaked tuna to a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the salad greens, onion, tomato, olives, and herbs if using. Add the dressing (or oil and vinegar) to the mixture and toss to combine.
- Add the tuna to the salad mixture and toss again. Adjust the dressing amount and salt and pepper, as needed.
- Lay out 4 slices of bread and add the tuna salad onto each slice (enough so the bread is covered). Sprinkle with feta cheese and top each with the remaining slices of bread.
- Slice sandwiches in half and serve.
This is a super-simple dish to make that is very filling. If you don't want to use corn for the recipe, use another type of bean (or not) and add in some diced vegetables you have on hand. Serve garnished with sour cream and diced avocado.
Approximate cost for 4 servings (includes beans, tomato sauce, corn, jalapeño, avocado and sour cream): $8
Price per serving: $2
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, diced (seeds and membrane removed if you prefer a milder chili)
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 ounce) can corn kernels, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground chili powder
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- 1/4 cup sour cream, as garnish
- Add the olive oil to a large stock pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until it turns translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the jalapeño pepper to the onion and cook for another minute or so. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring.
- Carefully add the tomato sauce to the mixture, followed by the black beans, corn and 1/2 cup of water and mix well.
- Add the ground cumin and chili powder to the mixture and stir. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Serve warm in individual bowls garnished with diced avocado and a dollop of sour cream.
Put your money to good use!
More budget-friendly food tips
4 Family meals under $20
10 Frugal cooking tips for family-friendly meals
How to buy good, cheap wine