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Mass (Food) Production

For busy people, breaking out the recipe book and cooking homemade meals to save money can seem like a hassle when it's so easy to get takeout or ready-made meals. But making large batches once or twice a week and using the leftovers can mean homemade food even more convenient than the alternatives. Buying ingredients in large quantities on sale lowers costs even more when you cook. Here are 55 drool-worthy, make-ahead recipes to get the creative juices flowing.

Related: Is Cooking at Home Really Cheaper Than Eating Out?

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This classic pasta bake never gets old, and it can be reinvented with different fillings to use cheap seasonal produce such as tomato. Stock up on noodles and sauce when they're on sale. Ricotta cheese can be bought on sale and frozen for use later.

Recipe: Allrecipes


Baked Pesto Pasta

Pesto is best and cheapest when it's homemade with fresh ingredients. Basil often comes in large bunches, so make a big batch of pesto and use it throughout the week in a variety of ways, such as a sandwich spread, on top of roasted meat, or in salad dressing. Extra pesto can also be frozen.

Recipe: Pinch of Yum


Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplants are an inexpensive and healthy way to add bulk to dishes, which makes them great for feeding a crowd. While making rollatini is an easy process, there are several steps involved; maximize your efforts by making large batches. You can even make a separate tray to freeze for later in the week or month.

Recipe: MyRecipes

Lamb Vindaloo
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Lamb Vindaloo

This slow-cooker recipe is easy to make, and one batch provides many hearty meals. The cut of lamb is a relatively inexpensive one, and the other ingredients are all super-cheap and big on flavor. You could also use chicken or an inexpensive cut of beef in the cooker.

Recipe: A Year of Slow Cooking

Braised Brisket
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For many people, brisket is a hearty and celebratory meal. Beef lovers can save by turning to this large cut of meat to cook instead of indulging in high-cost cuts of steak that yield only one or two servings. Use the leftovers all week long in sandwiches, tacos, and burritos.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken

Roasting a chicken or two once a week is a great way to save money while eating well. Use the meat all week long in a variety of ways, including in sandwiches with fresh toppings such as greens and tomato, tossed in pasta, on salads, or with vegetables for quick meals. Don't forget to use the carcass and any leftover meat for soup or stock.

Recipe: Allrecipes

Related: 10 Quick and Inexpensive Recipes to Make With Rotisserie Chicken

Greek Chicken Salad
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Greek Salad With Protein

It's much easier to enjoy salad as a light meal or side dish if it's already prepared. Making a big salad on Sunday to enjoy throughout the week saves time and money. Keep the dressing in a jar to add just before eating, and add a protein such as shrimp, chicken, or beans (try pork for an experiment) to complement the sharp feta cheese and make it a meal.

Recipe: Allrecipes


Chicken Tagine

This stew-like Moroccan dish uses inexpensive pieces of chicken and is full of flavor from spices and herbs. Double the recipe for a big batch that will last for days to be enjoyed with couscous or used as a stuffing for pita sandwiches and multicultural burritos.

Recipe: Epicurious

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Tortilla Casserole

Essentially a Mexican lasagna, the flavors of this casserole are the classic tastes of Mexican-American comfort food, including cheese and tomato. Tortillas and beans are an inexpensive base, even more so when using dried beans rather than canned. Each portion is hearty, and extra protein such as beef, chicken, or seitan, also known as wheat gluten, can make it even more substantial. 

Recipe: The Splendid Table


Chipotle Meatballs

Canned chipotles in adobo sauce are low-cost and provide a huge pop of flavor when you cook. Buy the large cans to get the best price, and transfer leftovers to a glass jar to keep in the fridge for up to two months. These make-ahead meatballs can be made with other ground meats like chicken or turkey with good results. Use the meatballs as a tasty filling for hero sandwiches, on top of potatoes, or with pasta.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

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Black Bean Soup

Thick and hearty black bean soup is one of the most filling meals you can make for under $1 a serving. Starting with dried beans will yield a meatier texture and lower overall cost. Likewise, using homemade broth is the cheapest and best-tasting option. Switch it up with different toppings to keep the meal fresh throughout the week.

Recipe: Cookie and Kate

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings

A classic comfort food, this one-dish meal is ideal when made in large batches. As it sits, the flavors meld, and the leftovers are even better than freshly cooked chicken and dumplings. The chicken thighs are one of the least-expensive parts, bringing down the overall cost of the dish.

Recipe: Martha Stewart

Shrimp Fried Rice
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Shrimp Fried Rice

During the week, it can be tempting to order takeout just for convenience. But stocking the fridge with homemade takeout favorites like shrimp fried rice is a much cheaper and healthier option that is nearly as convenient. Swap out the shrimp for a favorite protein, such as chicken, pork, tofu, or beef, to make the recipe your own.

Recipe: Damn Delicious

Beef and Broccoli
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Beef and Broccoli

This low-carb dish gets better as it sits overnight and the flavors develop, which makes it an ideal large-batch recipe. Use frozen broccoli to keep costs low and for extra convenience. In addition to serving with rice or noodles, you can use it as a sandwich filling throughout the week.

Recipe: Food.com

Tofu Stir-Fry

Veggie Tofu Stir-fry

This quick and easy dish keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. To keep costs as low as possible when you cook, change the vegetables every season to take advantage of fresh and inexpensive produce, or use cheap frozen veggies.

Recipe: Minimalist Baker

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Chili is all about comfort and never seems to get old. Whether using inexpensive dried beans, low-cost ground beef, or a combination of the two, the building blocks of chili are cheap. (This recipe also makes good use of jalapeño and tomato, and versions can be made in a slow cooker.) Enjoy it throughout the week in a bowl with your favorite toppings, on nachos, or on sandwiches.

Recipe: Food.com


Thai Chicken Curry

This rich and spicy dish gets its big taste from curry paste, which is an inexpensive way to add great, bold flavor to simple ingredients. Using a cheaper cut of chicken, like thighs rather than breasts, works well in this recipe and helps bring down the overall cost. The flavors only get better the longer the dish sits in the fridge.

Recipe: BBC Good Food


Stuffed Peppers

This dish is a go-to whenever bell peppers are on sale. The stuffing is an opportunity to use whatever you have on hand, including leftover meats, vegetables, scraps of cheese, or frozen ingredients. Building layers of flavor this way helps is one of the best ways to reduce waste while creating something delicious.

Recipe: The Kitchn

Stuffed Cabbage
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Stuffed Cabbage

This old-country dish is made from inexpensive ground meat and vegetables for a humble yet filling meal. Vegetarians can substitute mushrooms for the meat and get just as much flavor and texture. These rolls freeze well, so while you're taking the trouble to make them, double the recipe and freeze a tray for later.

Recipe: Food Network

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Meat sauce and pasta are a family favorite. Double or triple the batch to guarantee leftovers when you make ahead, storing the pasta and tomato sauce separately. The sauce can be used in a variety of other ways — on pizzas, for example — or frozen for later use. Keeping pre-cooked pasta on hand is easy. Just toss al dente pasta with oil and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.

Recipe: Taste of Home

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Mushroom Risotto

Rice-based dishes are usually very low-cost, since rice is so cheap, and earthy mushroom risotto is no exception. It's a meal in itself, or alongside a small salad, and a large batch is just as easy to make as a small batch. It will stay good in the fridge for up to four or five days. Refresh each serving with a pinch of fresh herbs just before serving.

Recipe: Food Network


Stuffed Squash

Squash is a nutritional powerhouse and one of the cheapest ingredients you can find to eat. The stuffing can vary widely based on your favorite flavors and the ingredients you have on hand. Get creative with different fillings to find combinations that make use of cheap staples like bread crumbs and vegetables for tasty multi-day meals.

Recipe: Organic Authority

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An American staple, meatloaf is a quick, cheap, and easy supper to prepare. Stock up on ground meat when it goes on sale and freeze it for later use. Leftovers can be used for sandwiches throughout the week, which makes this tomato-accented meatloaf worth cooking two at a time for a large family.

Recipe: Real Simple


Dal and Rice

This spiced and warming meal is made from two nutritious and dirt-cheap ingredients, lentils and rice. Its big taste comes from aromatic vegetables and spices, layered to create complex flavor from very humble ingredients. Large batches will last throughout the week and can also be frozen. There are also versions of this recipe that can be made in a slow cooker.

Recipe: Chef Michael Smith

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Quiche is an inexpensive way to have a nutritionally sound and satisfying meal. Making your own crust or omitting the crust entirely brings the cost down even more. Flavor the quiche with ingredients such as leftover cooked meats and vegetables and scraps of cheese, rather than buying expensive fillings when you cook. For a gourmet touch, decorate the top with herbs or thinly sliced tomato. 

Recipe: Food.com

Pot Pie
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Pot Pie

Pot pies are homey and crave-worthy at the same time. The basic building blocks are inexpensive frozen vegetables; kitchen staples like milk, butter and flour; and a protein of your choice. For chicken or turkey pot pie, use leftover bits from a whole roasted bird for the best value. Use mushrooms and tofu or just extra veggies to make a meat-free option.

Recipe: Pillsbury


Jamaican Curry Goat

Goat is one of the more sustainable and inexpensive meats on the market, and it also has a lot of natural flavor, which stands up well to the intense spices of Jamaican curry. Slow cooking breaks the cheap goat stew meat into tender chunks. Enjoy it from the cooker with rice, salad, or bread.

Recipe: Immaculate Bites

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

A big pan of shepherd's pie is rich in flavor and long on comfort. Potatoes are always inexpensive, and ground beef can be purchased on sale and stashed in the freezer. Using homemade broth or stock helps keep costs as low as possible.

Recipe: Simply Recipes



This layered rice dish gets its flavor from a blend of Indian spices, additions such as tomato and onion, and yogurt-marinated meat. Inexpensive meats such as chicken thighs or goat stew meat break down and become tender. You can also omit meat and make a vegetarian dish that is just as satisfying.

Recipe: Food.com

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Whole Fish

Buying a whole fish is a better value than buying just fillets, and it yields more food. Leftovers from a whole fish can be enjoyed on salads, in sandwiches, or in tacos throughout the week. The tail, bones, and head can be made into homemade stock for another use.

Recipe: Food & Wine

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Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

This Italian street-festival dish is best made when bell peppers go on sale. Combined with inexpensive sausage, onions, and spices, this filling and zesty dish can be repurposed into many different meals. Make ahead and try it as a filling for sandwiches, on top of nachos, over potatoes, or with avocado and rice.

Recipe: Food Network

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Cilantro Lime Chicken

This chicken-thigh dish uses the least-expensive part of the bird but also yields a tender and flavorful final outcome. These chicken thighs can be eaten alongside rice and vegetables, with pasta, on a sandwich, or with griddled tortillas as tacos. You can substitute other herbs for cilantro, such as parsley or oregano.

Recipe: Delish

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup

Almost anything lentil-based is inexpensive and packed with nutrition. A simple lentil soup is a hearty meal in itself and can take on different flavorful toppings to keep it fresh. Opt for a basic recipe that works with different flavors. Be sure to use homemade broth or stock to make each serving for just pennies.

Recipe: Martha Stewart

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Roast Turkey Breast

Turkey is a staple deli meat for many Americans, but roasting turkey breast for dinner and using leftovers for sandwiches (complemented by good bread, interesting condiments, and vegetables such as tomato) is a cheaper and healthier option. Along with a few cheap vegetables and homemade stock, a turkey breast yields enough portions for several days.

Recipe: Food Network


Salmon Cakes

Wild salmon can be more expensive than other protein options, but it's widely loved and very healthy. Making it into patties that use cheap vegetables, spices, and bread crumbs can extend its run through the week. Enjoy the salmon patties alongside grains and veggies, or on a bun like a burger.

Recipe: Food.com

Italian Wedding Soup
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Italian Wedding Soup

This soup is filling thanks to meatballs and chunky vegetables. Since it calls for a lot of chicken stock, it's well worth making your own to keep costs down. Serve this soup rich with meatballs accompanied by crusty bread for a filling lunch or dinner.

Recipe: Food Network

Mushroom Barley Soup
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Mushroom Barley Stew

This rich vegan stew is super simple to make, and all the ingredients — vegetables, grains, and seasonings — are inexpensive. If fresh mushrooms are consistently expensive near you, consider using dried mushrooms, which also provide a homemade broth after being soaked.

Recipe: Stockpiling Moms

Coq au Vin

Coq Au Vin

An indulgent dinner meal, coq au vin can be made in large batches to last all week, which allows the flavors to develop even more. Using inexpensive chicken thighs and legs and leftover wine is the way to make this dish affordable for any budget.

Recipe: Simply Recipes

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Enchiladas are always a favorite meal, so doubling the recipe is never a bad idea. Enchiladas are incredibly versatile and can be filled with anything from meat and cheese to beans and veggies — maybe even some freshly diced tomato and cilantro before serving. Making your own sauce for large batches can save money.

Recipe: Allrecipes


Orzo With Feta and Veggies

Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that can be mixed with all kinds of ingredients. When combined with whatever vegetables you have on hand, or even frozen vegetables, it becomes a satisfying meal or side dish. Make-ahead Orzo tastes great warm or cold, which means leftovers can be served straight from the fridge or reheated.

Recipe: Vanilla and Bean

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork

Pork shoulder is one of the less-expensive cuts of pork and yields a melt-in-your mouth consistency after being slow cooked in flavorful seasonings. This cooker-classic take on pulled pork can stand alone or be used throughout the week in quesadillas, epic grilled-cheese sandwiches, and even as a pizza topping.

Recipe: Allrecipes

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Cheeseburger Casserole

This great, indulgent casserole combines all the flavors of cheeseburgers into a one-dish meal. The recipe uses cheap pasta, ground meat, and cheese to recreate the classic flavor, complemented by mustard, pickle, and tomato, of course. Substitute chicken or mushrooms for beef if desired, and make a large batch that the entire family will look forward to eating for days.

Recipe: Skinnytaste

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Tortellini Soup

Sausage and tortellini make this soup a complete meal, and it keeps getting better with time, enriching in flavor from day to day. Buy tortellini and sausage when they go on sale, and stash them in the freezer until ready to use. You can also use the scraps from the veggies to make your own broth and avoid paying for canned broth.

Recipe: Taste of Home

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Wild Rice Casserole

This healthy casserole uses broccoli and wild rice for fiber and bulk, plus cheddar cheese for the yum factor. Buy wild rice from bulk bins to get the best price, and check the freezer aisle for low-priced broccoli florets, ready to use straight from the bag and make this an easy choice for even a crazy day.

Recipe: Smitten Kitchen

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Chinese Chicken Salad

This crunchy and tangy salad uses inexpensive vegetables such aso cabbage and carrots as its base. You could swap in cheap chicken thighs for the breasts, or any other protein of your choice, like sausage or chickpeas. To keep it fresh all week, leave the dressing on the side and dress only the portion you are going to eat just before serving.

Recipe: Damn Delicious


White Bean and Kale Stew

This Tuscan staple is at once bright and light while being hearty and filling. To keep this recipe inexpensive, start with dried beans and use homemade broth. Dress it up with inexpensive additions such as a drizzle of olive oil, crusty garlic-rubbed toast, or a poached egg for the sake of variety to delight the taste buds throughout the week.

Recipe: Epicurious

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Rice and Beans

Dried beans and homemade stock ensure this recipe costs just pennies a serving. This dish is a staple in many cultures, and a large batch can serve as the basis for breakfast, lunch, or dinner all week. Serve it with vegetables, eggs, meat, or cheese, and a small salad to complete the meal.

Recipe: Food Network

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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo was traditionally made as a large-batch meal to feed many mouths. This throw-it-all-in dish draws on the flavor of piquant sausage and incorporates tender morsels of chicken for hearty protein. Served with cheap boiled rice, it's a Southern treat thick with pepper, garlic, and tomato that the entire family will love to taste all week long.

Recipe: MyRecipes


Beef Ragu With Polenta

Slow cooking allows typically tough and less-expensive cuts of beef to become tender. Braised with vegetables and spices, deeply flavorful ragu is a complete meal when paired with creamy polenta, which tastes much more expensive than it is.

Recipe: Living Sweet Moments

Sausage and Bean Soup

Bean and Sausage Soup

This spicy soup is packed with protein and flavor. In addition to using dried beans and homemade stock, you can keep costs low by substituting dried herbs for fresh and buying sausage when it goes on sale. Between the freezer and the pantry, this soup can come together cheaply at any time.

Recipe: Bon Appétit

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Low-country comfort food, this dish originated from the need to make satisfying meals with modest means. While corn grits are low-cost, shrimp can be pricey, so stock up on frozen shrimp when it's on sale. This dish's spices give it a flavorful punch. Do a big, make-ahead batch and store the shrimp and grits separately to reheat and enjoy throughout the week for lunch or dinner.

Recipe: MyRecipes

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Vegetarian Moussaka

This blend of creamy cheese and vegetables is rich, indulgent, and made from cheap ingredients such as zucchini and lasagna noodles. While it may be tempting to buy the pre-sliced mushrooms, buying them whole and slicing them yourself saves money, keeps costs low, and can provide the best taste.

Recipe: Food & Wine

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Breakfast Casserole

Making a large batch of this breakfast casserole makes it possible to enjoy a hearty homemade morning meal for days without having to put in the effort. This recipe can turn leftovers in the fridge or freezer into something delicious.

Recipe: Betty Crocker


Baked Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is convenient, but it costs way more per serving than buying oats in bulk and preparing each portion individually. Recreate the convenience without the extra cost by making a large pan of baked oatmeal to have on hand all week.

Recipe: Taste of Home

Baked Apple
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Baked Apples

Turn inexpensive apples into dessert that lasts for days with a simple recipe. Baked apples taste like apple-pie filling and cost just a few cents more than an apple with the added seasonings. Cheaper and easier than cake or pie, they are also a relatively healthy way to indulge every day of the week

 Recipe: Simply Recipes