Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinner
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Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinner
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step up to the plate

Learning a few good recipes that work within a budget is key to a lifestyle that is healthy and frugal. It's even better to find some that are easy and quick, making cooking at home as convenient as ordering takeout. There's everything from chicken and beef dishes to vegan- and paleo-friendly recipes here to suit every dietary preference.

Roast Chicken
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roast chicken

Classic roast chicken costs less than $10 to make for a family of four, even with root vegetables such as potatoes and turnips added to the pan for bulk and nutrition. Chicken cooked from room temperature roasts faster and more evenly, and develops a crispier skin.

Recipe: Epicurious

Shakshuka
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shakshuka

This Middle Eastern one-pan dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce is spicy and tangy. Seasoning canned tomatoes rather than buying premade sauce makes this dish even cheaper.

Recipe: Tori Avey

Spicy Chipotle Shrimp Skewers
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spicy chipotle shrimp skewers

The blend of spices used to flavor these shrimp is less expensive than store-bought sauce and packs more punch. Use frozen shrimp for extra savings, and adjust the cooking time based on the size of the shrimp.

Recipe: Simply Scratch

Turkey Burger
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turkey burgers

Beef and turkey burger prices are usually the same on restaurant menus, but using ground turkey instead of beef is cheaper — and healthier — at home.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast
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spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast

Stuffed chicken breast is sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party but still simple and cheap enough to make many servings. Use homemade bread crumbs to shave off some of the overhead cost.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Beef Stew
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beef stew

Using a moderately priced cut of meat such as chuck roast yields the most tender and flavorful beef stew when cooked low and slow — no need to spend big bucks on pricier cuts.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Pork Chops
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pork chops

Pork chops go on sale regularly, freeze well, and can be cooked from frozen for easy dinner preparation. Stock up when they're on sale and freeze in family-size portions.

Recipe: Parenting

Chicken Gumbo
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chicken gumbo

A classic peasant dish, gumbo was born out of the need to feed a family on a modest budget. An old-fashioned preparation starts with inexpensive whole chickens and a few common vegetables for authentic and robust flavors.

Recipe: Oxmoor House

Chickpea Potato Curry
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chickpea potato curry

Dried chickpeas and potatoes are inexpensive alternatives to meat in a curry. Precook chickpeas and freeze them in individual portions to make them as convenient as the canned kind. 

Recipe: Popsugar

Three Cheese Nachos
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three-cheese nachos

This super-quick recipe can be adapted to use whatever seasonal veggies are on hand, or even a mix of frozen vegetables. Satisfying as a vegetarian meal, this dish could also take a protein to make it more filling and get more portions out of the final dish. 

Recipe: Two Peas & Their Pod

Chicken Tacos
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chicken tacos

Soft corn tortillas are less expensive than their crunchy cousins and add fun, hearty nutrition to the simplest of fillings, such as quickly sautéed chicken with spices — using thighs rather than breasts for an extra flavorful and cheap mix.

Recipe: How Sweet Eats

Turkey Chili
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turkey chili

Ground turkey is an inexpensive source of high-quality protein and makes a flavorful chili in a slow cooker. Canned beans can add extra cost; start instead with dried beans prepared before adding to the recipe.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Baked Bluefish
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baked bluefish

Bluefish is among the least expensive seafood and packs a lot of nutrition. Its characteristic strong flavor stands up well to inexpensive yet pungent flavorings such as lemon, herbs, and garlic.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

Chicken and Mushroom Casserole
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chicken and mushroom casserole

This one-pot meal combines protein-rich chicken and mushrooms in a creamy and cheesy sauce, all baked with pasta. Making cream sauce from butter, flour, and milk is cheap and nearly as easy as using a canned soup.

Recipe: The Seasoned Mom

Kale and Potato Tacos
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kale and potato tacos

Tacos are inherently inexpensive, and vegetarian tacos even more so. This savory combination provides protein and a variety of textures to satisfy even meat eaters.

Recipe: Veggies Save the Day

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Legs
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sweet and spicy chicken legs

These skinless drumsticks are inexpensive and healthy, yet big on flavor from marinating in a combination of spices before baking. The technique can be used on other cuts of chicken, as well.

Recipe: Mrs. Happy Homemaker

Barbecue Beef Shank
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barbecue beef shank

Instead of short ribs, use shank, which is similar but costs less and generally comes with the bone in. Separate the bone for a quick and easy recipe and use it later to make a hearty homemade beef stock.

Recipe: Sunny Anderson

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
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Chicken and Rice
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chicken and rice

Cheap cuts of chicken, simple vegetables and flavorings, and rice combine to make a comforting home-style dinner. Keep costs low by using homemade broth made from leftover vegetable scraps and chicken bones, or water and seasonings, rather than store-bought broth or stock.

Recipe: The Seasoned Homemaker

Turkey Club Sandwich
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turkey club sandwiches

This classic American favorite is loaded with hearty turkey, inexpensive vegetables, and bread for bulk that fills up big eaters. Use turkey bacon or simply omit bacon to make the sandwich even cheaper, healthier, and quicker to prepare.

Recipe: Boar's Head

Crabcakes
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crabcakes

Fresh crab can be expensive, depending on season and location. Inexpensive canned crab meat isn't good for everything, but does work well for crab cakes as a cheap way to satisfy a craving.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Lentil Soup
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lentil soup

Lentils are among the cheapest sources of high-quality nutrition, and are super easy to turn into a rich, hearty soup. Use a pressure cooker to make the process even easier and faster for an off-the-cuff vegan meal.

Recipe: Pass the Plants

Chicken Risotto
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chicken risotto

Risotto is indulgent and fancy yet super cheap, especially when using homemade broth or stock. Swapping mushrooms in for chicken is an easy way to turn this dish vegetarian.

Recipe: Sweet C's

Falafel
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falafel

Fresh falafel is one of the tastiest vegetarian meals to prepare, and is made from cheap ingredients such as chickpeas, vegetables, and spices. Serve over salad or in a pita sandwich for a hearty vegan meal.

Recipe: Tori Avey

Beef Bourguignon
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beef bourguignon

Inexpensive vegetables bring down the overall cost of this dish, even when making it with a moderately priced cut of beef such as chuck. Use leftover wine — even from various bottles — to avoid one of the bigger expenses in the recipe.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Baked Ham
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baked ham

Baked ham is a festive meal that can provide leftovers for days. While the initial cost may seem high, buy a whole ham and use it for many meals — it's cheaper than buying deli meat and smaller cuts of ham a few at a time.

Recipe: Cooking Light

Roast Pork Loin
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roast pork loin

The simple, clean flavors of this dish let the natural juiciness of pork loin shine. Use leftover wine or substitute a mix of half water, half vinegar to minimize costs. Serve with sautéed vegetables for a chic entree that would be welcome at the fanciest of dinner parties.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

Three-Bean Chili
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three-bean chili

This simple vegetarian chili uses whole foods and natural ingredients for maximum flavor and health at minimal cost. It's a recipe best started from dried beans; canned beans can cost up to three times as much.

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

Mediterranean Chicken Soup
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mediterranean chicken soup

Olives and chickpeas makes this twist on classic chicken soup a crave-worthy weeknight meal full of protein and tangy, zesty flavors. Use a whole chicken instead of breast to add flavor to the soup while cutting costs.

Recipe: Real Simple

Roast Turkey Breast
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roast turkey breast

Turkey breast is one of the cheapest cuts of meat, and provides a ton of low-fat protein (it also offers a welcome change from chicken). A roasted turkey breast makes a complete meal when paired with vegetables and grains.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Baked Stuffed Cod
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baked stuffed cod

Cod is inexpensive to begin with, and goes even further when stuffed with a tasty blend of low-cost ingredients such as crackers, homemade bread crumbs, and herbs. (Other inexpensive white flaky fish also works.)

Recipe: Trucchi's

Hamburgers
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hamburgers

As the price of burgers climbs every year, it becomes more attractive to make them at home. Homemade patties are satisfying and flavorful for a fraction of the cost at a restaurant.

Recipe: Cook the Story

Greek Chicken Salad
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greek chicken salad

Low-carb, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly, this versatile dish makes a satisfying and healthy dinner, basically no matter what meat and veggies are used.

Recipe: Eating Well

Loaded Baked Potato
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loaded baked potato

Fully loaded baked potatoes are cheap, quick, and easily adapted to fit almost any dietary preference. This vegan, gluten-free version is simple and cheap, and easily adapted for paleos and omnivores.

Recipe: Well Vegan

Chicken Avocado Wraps
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chicken avocado wraps

This deliciously healthy, simple hybrid between sandwich and burrito can use leftover cooked chicken — and calls for larger, bright green avocados rather than small Hass avocados to bring costs down even more.

Recipe: Gimme Delicious Food

Spinach Lasagna
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spinach lasagna

The most expensive part of lasagna is generally the meat. Make this weeknight favorite low-cost by making it meatless — just substitute frozen spinach or other veggies.

Recipe: Chowhound

Chicken Parmesan
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chicken parmesan

This family favorite uses pounded chicken cutlets, which makes each piece feel bigger. Using homemade marinara is another way to cut the overall cost of this Italian-American meal.

Recipe: MyRecipes

Baked Turkey Meatballs
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baked turkey meatballs

Using dark-meat ground turkey costs less and creates a more tender, flavorful meatball. If the grocery store doesn't offer dark ground meat, go to a butcher or see if your stand mixer has a meat grinder attachment.

Recipe: Wishful Chef

Curry Fish Stew
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curry fish stew

Most of the flavor in this stew comes from the rich, curried broth, so save money by opting for inexpensive fish such as tilapia. Although it won't impart much flavor, it will soak up the other elements of the dish.

Recipe: Sunset

Vegetable Sushi
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vegetable sushi

Sushi is often expensive at restaurants and for takeout but incredibly cheap to make from small amounts of rice, seaweed, and fillings. Stick to vegetable fillings to keep costs low and eliminate health risks.

Recipe: The Green Plate

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
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slow cooker pulled chicken

This basic shredded chicken recipe is easy in a slow cooker. Add a favorite homemade sauce to create a flavorful filling for sandwiches, quesadillas, burritos, or tacos for quick, easy, and cheap meals on the fly.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Meatloaf
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meatloaf

Meatloaf is satisfyingly beefy yet full of low-cost vegetables and (potentially homemade) bread crumbs to stretch the highest priced ingredient.

Recipe: Ina Garten

Squash Risotto
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squash risotto

The combination of risotto and squash is not only delicious; it's also a union of two very inexpensive ingredients. Using a homemade vegetable stock made from leftovers goes a long way toward keeping costs down and heightens the flavor.

Recipe: Cookie + Kate

Moroccan Chicken Tagine
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moroccan chicken tagine

This traditional sweet and savory meal uses low-cost spices and vegetables to get big flavor out of a whole chicken. The classic combination of almonds and apricots can be switched with a favorite nut and dried fruit with good results.

Recipe: Epicurious

Shrimp Paella
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shrimp paella

Using frozen shrimp makes this dish super affordable. Consider making the broth or stock from scratch with a few head- and tail-on shrimp simmered in water with other aromatics.

Recipe: What's Cooking America

Corned Beef and Cabbage
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corned beef and cabbage

This stick-to-the-ribs dinner is at least half cheap and healthy vegetables such as potatoes and cabbage. Flavoring the meat with fresh seasonings and herbs creates layers of complexity without relying on expensive store-bought sauce.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Mushroom Ragout and Polenta
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mushroom ragu and polenta

Polenta is one of the least expensive grain options, and while this recipe calls for a mix of wild mushrooms, inexpensive button mushrooms work too. For the best price, buy them whole and wash and slice yourself.

Recipe: Emeril Lagasse

Chicken Fried Rice
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chicken fried rice

This dish has all the flavor and excitement of takeout for a fraction of the price. Use frozen vegetables for extra savings. Get the cost down even further by opting for chicken thighs, rather than pricey breasts, or using leftover roast chicken.

Recipe: The Recipe Critic

Flap Steak Salad
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flap steak salad

Flap steak is a thin and cheap cut of beef. It can be tough, though. Cooking it medium rare and cutting against the grain helps achieve a tenderness ideal for topping salads.

Recipe: Shockingly Delicious

Buffalo Chicken Wings
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buffalo chicken wings

Baked chicken wings deliver the flavor of restaurant-style hot wings without the high fat content or inflated price.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Lemon Caper Chicken
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lemon caper chicken

Capers are a cheap ingredient that provides a ton of flavor, which is why they are used all over the Mediterranean. Serve with an inexpensive grain such as pasta or rice for a complete meal.

Recipe: Cooking Light

Pork Lo Mein
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pork lo mein

Easy-to-find, low-cost ingredients such as pork tenderloin and spaghetti re-create a Chinese takeout favorite. Use whatever vegetables are on hand or on sale to keep costs low.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Stuffed Manicotti
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stuffed manicotti

This classic combines pasta, cheese, and red sauce in a slightly different package. Homemade tomato sauce is the cheapest, but people who prefer jarred should stock up when it's on sale.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Shrimp Fried Rice
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shrimp fried rice

Turn a humble pan of rice and vegetables into a complete, protein-packed meal by adding small, less expensive shrimp, which actually work better in this recipe.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Chicken Tikka Masala
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chicken tikka masala

Everybody's favorite Indian dish can be an affordable indulgence any day of the week. A slow cooker makes this dish easy, and using chicken thighs makes it even less expensive.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Tuna Salad Sandwich
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tuna salad sandwich

Tuna salad is quick, satisfying, easy, and high in nutrition. Because cans of tuna are shelf stable, stock up when they go on sale and save money when it's time to cook.

Recipe: Betty Crocker

Chili
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ground beef chili

Most authentic beef chili recipes call for chunks of beef that can add considerable cost. This recipe is based on ground beef, which fits any budget.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Pozole
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posole

This classic braised pork stew is Mexican comfort food made from simple and cheap ingredients. Fluffy hominy kernels add substance for just pennies a serving, and pork butt is a low-cost option.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Grilled Cheese Tomato Soup
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grilled cheese tomato soup

This all-American comfort food classic with a twist is low-cost even when using premade canned soup, but make it from scratch to reduce the price even more.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

Chicken Kabobs
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chicken kabobs

Authentic kabobs get their flavor from a blend of rich spices and a yogurt marinade. They work well with any cut of chicken.

Recipe: Once Upon a Chef

Salad Nicoise
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salad nicoise

This loaded salad is full of hearty and cheap vegetables, eggs, and tuna. Opt for high-quality canned tuna and avoid spending on fresh tuna steaks.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

Ground Beef Burritos
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ground beef burritos

When combined with other cheap fillings, such as beans and vegetables, ground beef goes a long way in this Tex-Mex staple. Consider making a large batch and freezing some for another meal.

Recipe: The Pioneer Woman

Pork Tamale Pie
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pork tamale pie

This recipe yields all the flavors of moist pork tamales without the hassle of creating individually wrapped tamales. The rich flavors combine to make a stick-to-the-ribs meal from everyday staples such as butter, cornmeal, vegetables, and spices.

Recipe: Country Living

Cheese Omelet
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cheese omelet

An omelet is an inexpensive and tasty meal any time of day. A basic cheese omelet is cheap, thanks to the low cost of eggs, and can take on almost any extra ingredient, from herbs to vegetables to cooked meats.

Recipe: Jamie Oliver

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry
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chicken and broccoli stir-fry

This quick and easy stir-fry pairs with chewy noodles for a satisfying and balanced dinner. Using frozen vegetables such as broccoli florets helps make this meal even less expensive, and it works well with any cut of meat on hand or on sale.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Fish Sticks
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fish sticks

This family favorite is often bought already prepared. Making fish sticks from inexpensive fish and bread crumbs is quick and easy, and yields a fresher meal at a lower cost.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Shepherd's Pie
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shepherd's pie

This layered casserole combines hearty ground beef with fluffy mashed potatoes. Half the bulk comes from inexpensive potatoes and vegetables, keeping the overall cost low enough to indulge in a better ground beef.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Chicken Eggrolls
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pork and cabbage egg rolls

Egg roll wrappers and cabbage are cheap ingredients. Mixed with other vegetables, pork, and seasonings, they become a satisfying meal. Use ground pork to keep costs low.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Quiche
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vegetable quiche

Egg-based quiches are easy, cheap, and versatile. They can use almost any vegetable and cheese combination, including frozen vegetables such as spinach and leftover roasted veggies from the freezer.

Recipe: Two Peas & Their Pod

Pot Pie
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chicken pot pie

This comforting favorite uses humble and cheap veggies and staples such as butter and flour to create a thick and creamy sauce for tender chunks of chicken. Making dough from scratch is easy in a food processor and saves money.

Recipe: Ina Garten

Fish and Chips
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fish and chips

This British staple is made from humble ingredients such as low-cost fish and potatoes. The most expensive part is the frying oil. Bake or shallow-fry the potatoes and fish fillets instead.

Recipe: Jamie Oliver

Beef and Broccoli
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beef and broccoli

This recipe works well with a tri-tip steak cut, which is considerably less expensive than some other cuts. The tri-tip is also lean, which makes it best enjoyed with some added sauce.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Pizza
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pizza

Save on takeout or delivery — pizza is simple. Making dough in a food processor or stand mixer is the easiest and cheapest way to perfect cheap and tasty homemade pizza.

Recipe: Alton Brown

Fried Chicken
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fried chicken

Homemade fried chicken might take a few practice rounds but is well worth the effort. Perfect the seasoned flour and frying techniques and you'll never have to spend on marked-up restaurant fried chicken again.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Grilled Bluefish
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grilled bluefish

Slather on a marinade or leave naturally full-flavored bluefish simple and plain.

Recipe: Beyond Salmon

Beef Tongue Tacos
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beef tongue tacos

Beef tongue is inexpensive and authentic as can be in Mexican cooking. These tacos are flavorful and tender in texture.

Recipe: Allrecipes

French Onion Soup
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french onion soup

French onion soup is a rich, satisfying meal on its own, and cheap to make at home. Use easy homemade beef stock (homemade vegetable or chicken stock also works but makes for a lighter broth).

Recipe: Martha Stewart

Barbecue Chicken
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barbecue chicken

This crowd-pleaser is quick to prepare from low-cost ingredients. Make barbecue sauce at home in a larger batch to be used all week long or saved for later.

Recipe: Paula Deen

Steak Frites
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steak frites

Indulgent steak frites can cost a lot at restaurants, but it's easy to prepare them at home for a fraction of the price, even when opting for a favorite cut of steak for a special occasion.

Recipe: Rachael Ray

Refried Bean Burritos
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refried bean burritos

It doesn't get easier than refried bean burritos. Homemade salsa and refried beans — made in large batches and frozen — make this dish even cheaper.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen

Linguine with Mushrooms
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linguine with mushroom sauce

Mushrooms have a lot going for them, including a ton of protein and flavor. Pair with inexpensive pasta for a simple and cheap dish to satisfy vegetarians or omnivores.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

Jerk Chicken
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jerk chicken

The key to authentic and spicy jerk chicken is the complex blend of spices in the marinade. After that, it's just about lighting a grill or baking and finishing under the broiler. This low-cost alternative to steaks is ideal during grilling season.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Spaghetti and Meatballs
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spaghetti and meatballs

Even traditional beef meatballs include cheap ingredients such as eggs, veggies, and bread, making them an affordable choice. This classic family dinner is especially low-cost because half the plate is filled with inexpensive pasta.

Recipe: Natasha's Kitchen

Beef Shish Kebab
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shish kebab

Mixing marinated chunks of beef with veggies is a smart and healthy way to maximize portions from one piece of meat — and it can feel as indulgent as an entire steak.

Recipe: The Mediterranean Dish

Broccoli-Cheddar Frittata
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broccoli-cheddar frittata

Like omelets and quiches, frittatas are egg-based, which makes them cheap, and they can include leftover or frozen vegetables. A heart-healthy broccoli version takes just a few minutes to prepare and makes a complete meal in itself.

Recipe: Incredible Egg

Chicken Salad
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classic chicken salad

This simple, wholesome dish can be turned into a quick dinner when heaped onto a salad or put between bread. Use leftover chicken and make the most of ingredients on hand to avoid waste.

Recipe: Martha Stewart

Skirt Steak With Chimichurri
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skirt steak with chimichurri

Skirt steak is a less expensive cut of beef. Pair it with a flavorful homemade sauce such as chimichurri from low-cost and healthy ingredients such as garlic and herbs.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Veggie Burger
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veggie burgers

Made from cheap, healthy ingredients such as rice and beans, veggie burgers are often cheaper than meat burgers but can be just as satisfying. Make a large batch for the freezer and easy preparation for future weeknight meals.

Recipe: Minimalist Baker

Spicy Asian Chicken Salad
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spicy asian chicken salad

This piquant and tangy recipe turns leftover chicken into a meal. Or start from whole pieces of chicken, opting for the cheapest cuts — any part of the chicken tastes good in this salad. Cut veggies at home to avoid the high price of precut store versions.

Recipe: Linda Wagner

Oven-Baked Ribs
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oven-baked ribs

Ribs are a beloved indulgence. Learning how to cook them at home in the oven makes them enjoyable for a reasonable price. Start by buying ribs in large quantities at a wholesale club such as Costco.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Stuffed Eggplant
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stuffed eggplant

Hearty and flavorful, eggplant stuffed with garden vegetables and spices feels like a complete meal even without meat. In summer, find everything at a local farmers market. At other times, use frozen vegetables to keep costs low.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Chicken and Dumplings
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chicken and dumplings

Starting with bone-in chicken thighs is a cheap way to get high-quality protein into dinner. This dish has stood the test of time for its frugality and deliciousness.

Recipe: Real Simple

Bacon and Bean Stew
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bacon and bean stew

Use bacon to add richness to beans — ideally starting from dried beans to keep costs as low as possible.

Recipe: The Pioneer Woman

Eggplant Parmesan
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eggplant parmesan

This vegetarian crowd-pleaser is an alternative to the equally classic chicken Parmesan. Bake it to cut down on fat and pricey frying oil. Serve with a side of pasta to make a complete meal.

Recipe: Martha Stewart

Coq au Vin
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coq au vin

This recipe is best prepared when you have leftover wine past its prime for drinking. Using what would otherwise be poured down the drain can create complex layers of flavor that feel and taste indulgent.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Tofu Stir-Fry
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tofu stir-fry

Homemade sauce means maximum flavor and minimum cost, and using cheaper frozen vegetables instead of fresh works fine.

Recipe: Pinch of Yum

Pick Big Dishes
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chicken enchiladas

Use leftover cooked chicken and homemade enchilada sauce to make this fiesta of a dish for a large crowd. Vegetables or another cooked meat can be substituted for the chicken.

Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

wonton skin ravioli
wonton skin ravioli by Jessica and Lon Binder (CC BY-NC-ND)

wonton ravioli

Homemade ravioli may sound difficult, but using wonton wrappers makes it as easy as it is cheap. Fill with cooked and mashed squash and top with a basic butter and sage sauce.

Recipe: Cooking Light

Chicken Curry
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chicken curry

This quick and versatile chicken curry gets its rich, warming flavor from curry powder and a few aromatic vegetables. Use frozen vegetables and homemade broth to make this dish in its cheapest form.

Recipe: Once Upon a Chef

Baked Ziti
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baked ziti

This four-ingredient pasta bake is cheap, quick, and easy to prepare for a crowd. Stock up during sales on boxed dried pasta and jars of pasta sauce to bring costs down even more, or make and freeze sauce at home.

Recipe: Genius Kitchen