Home-cooked dinners shouldn’t be expensive. They should be delicious, straightforward, and, above all else, affordable. Additionally, many recipes are able to be tweaked to accommodate vegetarians or vegans. Here are four delicious budget dinner recipes to cook when your wallet (and stomach) is nearing empty, and that gas station snack or your favorite ramen just won’t do the trick.
When looking for a quick dinner, most people immediately think of ordering pizza. Sure, that $5.99 deal sounds enticing, but the total adds up quickly after delivery fees and tip.
You could always buy the dough and make a pizza from scratch, but let’s be honest: the convenience factor goes way down with a messy endeavor like that.
That’s where this tortilla pizza comes to the rescue. So versatile, incredibly quick, and requiring very little cleanup, this recipe will become a budget-meal staple in frugal households.
All you really need are 3 ingredients: tortillas, pizza sauce, and shredded cheese. That’s it! If you’re looking to get fancy, though, you can add toppings or spices for a personalized pizza that’s sure to satisfy.
8-inch flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Oregano, salt, and pepper to taste
- Turn the oven broiler on and place a cast iron skillet on a burner over medium-high heat.
- While the burner is heating up, place your flour tortilla onto the skillet. Take a spoonful of pizza sauce and spread it over the top of the tortilla, leaving about a half-inch from the edge for the “crust.”
- Take a half-handful of shredded cheddar and a half-handful of shredded mozzarella and spread it evenly around the pizza.
- Place the entire skillet and pizza in the oven for about 90 seconds to let the cheese melt and allow the tortilla to crunch up.
- Remove pizza from the oven. Sprinkle with oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.
Buttered Egg Noodles
Pastas (and carbs in general) are a great choice for a budget dinner. Egg noodles are some of the cheapest pasta out there, but have a delicacy and flavor that makes them an ideal match for almost any sauce, soup…or even some classic butter and salt.
16 ounces of egg noodles
¼ cup (half stick) of butter
Salt and pepper
- Boil about 4 quarts of water in a large pot over high heat. Add a dash of salt and stir.
- When the water is boiling, add the egg noodles and cook until desired firmness – usually around 8 to 10 minutes.
- Drain the water, but do not rinse the noodles! Add the butter to the hot egg noodles and toss until the butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve in a bowl and garnish with parsley.
Oven-Baked Chicken with Rice Pilaf
Don’t assume you have to break the bank to include some meat on the menu. Chicken can be inexpensive and elegant, for savvy shoppers who know where to score good deals.
For this dish, bone-in chicken thighs are recommended: they’re a great value for the price, particularly when paired with a cheap but fancy rice pilaf.
1 lb. bone-in chicken thighs with skin
Salt and pepper
Near East Rice Pilaf Mix
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat the bottom of a metal pan in olive or vegetable oil.
- Pat dry the chicken thighs and season both sides generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Make sure to season underneath the skin!
- Place the chicken onto the pan, skin-side down, taking care to not overlap the chicken.
- Insert the pan into the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, flip the chicken and insert for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F and the juices run clear.
- Turn the broiler on until the chicken’s skin reaches desired crispness.
- Prepare the Rice Pilaf Mix according to the box over the stove or in a microwave. Serve the chicken and rice pilaf together.
Without a doubt, fried rice is one of the best budget dinner recipes to cook at home. Entirely customizable to your tastes and ingredients, it’s a bit of a “catch all” dish. It allows you to use those wilting veggies and random leftovers nobody seems to want. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can pair your fried rice with a hot bowl of ramen.
It’s also convenient, cooked in a single pan or wok and served in bowls (and less dishes is always a good thing).
Keep in mind that creativity really makes this dish. That last bit of rotisserie chicken or leftover steak from Tuesday don’t have to wait out the clock until trash day: toss them in and fry them up!
3 cups of cooked, day-old white rice; can also refrigerate fresh rice on a cookie sheet until cold
1 bag of frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, and corn); can substitute fresh or canned, if drained completely
2 tbsp minced garlic
- The day before you make the fried rice, cook your white rice and throw it in the refrigerator to dry it out. You can skip this step and use fresher rice, but beware: your fried rice may get sticky!
- In a large skillet over medium heat, drizzle sesame oil. Add minced garlic and stir until fragrant.
- Add the rice in clumps and stir.
- Continue frying the rice for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until the rice is warmed and very slightly browned.
- Mix in the frozen vegetables, then pour in about a 1/3 cup of soy sauce. Stir.
- After about 3 minutes, push the fried rice to the edges of the pan to create an opening in the middle. Add the eggs and beat. Stir the rice into the eggs and continue mixing until the eggs are thoroughly cooked.
- Add more soy sauce if needed and enjoy!
These budget dinner recipes leave plenty of room for creativity, so the next time you’re watching your favorite food documentary and your creativity strikes, feel free to substitute ingredients and add others when the pantry and fridge aren’t as well-stocked as you’d prefer.