When it comes to making dinner, are you wondering how to save money without compromising convenience or flavor? Thankfully, with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. When shopping on a budget, it’s helpful to create a meal plan and grocery list. Start by choosing a few cheap dinner ideas or simple recipes, write down the ingredients you’ll need and stick to your strategy. To ensure you’re shopping the best deals possible, plan your meals around sale items and pantry or frozen-staples you already have on-hand.
Affordable Dinner Planning
When you search “cheap food near me,” you might see local takeout restaurants popping up, but these “cheap meals” aren’t always as affordable as advertised. For a much more budget-friendly option, make your meals at home. Stretch your dollar by focusing on proteins such as ground meats, chicken, beans and legumes. Consider adding theme nights, such as Meatless Monday, to keep things simple. Themes can make coming up with easy meal ideas for the week even more convenient since you’re starting with a plan. Here are a few simple ideas to help get you started:
- Chicken and rice: This classic combination is affordable, versatile and great for adults and kids alike.
- Pasta with stir-fried veggies: Using any vegetables you have on hand, whip up a hearty and satisfying stir-fry that’ll easily elevate your pasta dinner.
- Omelets with fresh herbs: Breakfast for dinner? Why not! Pair it with your favorite low-cost cheese for a mouthwatering blend of flavors and textures.
- Zoodles: Zucchini isn’t just an affordable side. When spiralized, the nutrient-rich zucchini noodles become the perfect complement to homemade tomato sauce.
If you want to save more, you’ll need to make friends with your freezer. Frozen vegetables, which are frozen at the peak of their ripeness, are loaded with nutritional benefits and will keep well in your freezer for months. Watch for digital coupons (tip: you can easily find and clip coupons online or in the Kroger app!) and stock up when possible. In addition to veggies (both fresh or flash-frozen), you can also extend the life of cheeses, spinach, tomato paste and baked goods by packing them into your freezer. Here are a few affordable dinner ideas that use frozen foods:
- Fried rice: Better tasting (and better-for-you) than takeout, homemade fried rice is a great way to turn frozen or leftover veggies into an exciting and satisfying meal.
- Vegetable soup: Frozen veggies take the work out peeling and chopping when creating this classic dish.
- Alfredo pizza: Frozen spinach helps create a lighter, better-for-you dish that’ll quickly turn dinner into a pizza party.
You may find that in-season produce isn’t just at its peak freshness, it’s also the most affordable option. Plan some cheap, healthy meals using in-season options and freeze any overstock for later use. For some affordable recipes that use seasonal produce, try a few of these ideas:
- Salad: In the springtime, load up your lettuce with in-season fruits and veggies like peas, radishes and grapefruit. During summer, swap for seasonal ingredients such as tomatoes, strawberries and beets.
- Burgers: Made with budget-friendly ground meat (typically on sale at various times during the summer) and topped with fresh summer produce, grilled burgers are a seasonal staple.
- Chili: When temperatures start to dip, try adding some autumn and winter veggies, such as squash, to your favorite chili recipe to stay warm.
To save money and reduce food waste, think about how you can spread the ingredients used for one meal into multiple recipes. For example, if you roast a chicken one night, you can use the leftover meat to make quesadillas the next. Once all the meat is gone, you can simmer the bones to make a rich soup stock. Additionally, any uneaten tidbits of cooked meat and veggies make great fillings for a brunch-worthy omelet du jour. If you’re short on time, place last night’s meat and sides in-between two slices of bread to make a low-cost yet highly-filling sandwich.
The next time the urge to get takeout strikes, follow these easy tips to make an affordable lunch or dinner that’ll satisfy your budget and your tastebuds!
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Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.