THE CHEAP CHEF: FOUR DELICIOUS DINNERS ON A BUDGET

cheap mealsIn college, a cheap dinner usually meant a double serving of Top Ramen. Total cost: Less than a buck. That sort of meal was probably acceptable in your early 20s (although far from healthy), but you’d never be able to get away with it now that you’re a responsible parent.

Even though your nutritional expectations are a little higher than they used to be, the goals of creating meals that are simple and affordable have remained the same. Below are four recipes – one beef, one pork, one fish, and one chicken – that fit the bill when it comes to easy dining on a budget.

SIX CAN BEEF STEW – Like most slow cooker meals, this one scores simplicity points because the crock pot does all the work for you. Just toss together some beef stew meat, two cans of tomatoes and four cans of various veggies along with some onion soup mix, and you’ll have a hearty meal in just a few hours. (Recipe via About.com)

PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, TOMATO AND SPINACH – Pasta is a classic frugal meal foundation, but you’ll grow weary of it pretty quickly if you only serve it with a can of spaghetti sauce. Instead, try this recipe for pasta tossed with sausage, tomato, spinach and parmesan cheese. To save a few bucks, skip the red wine – or just pour it in a glass and drink it on the side! (Recipe via Howstuffworks.com)

SIMPLE TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE – Look up “comfort food” in the dictionary, and you’ll probably find a photo of tuna noodle casserole (right next to a picture of macaroni & cheese). The word “simple” in the name of this five-ingredient recipe is an understatement. You can make it a little more complicated by adding broccoli and/or carrots, or keep the recipe as is … which is delicious! (Recipe via Food.com)

CHICKEN BBQ CHEDDAR PITAS – All four main ingredients of this recipe are mentioned in the name. The only ingredient that’s not is green onions, which are optional (and can be replaced by regular onions). The great thing about these pita pizzas is that kids will love helping out and making their own. Want a little extra chicken on your pita? No problem! Want to double up on the cheese? Go right ahead! (Recipe via Family.go.com)

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