Good news for home cooks! It's entirely possible to feed a family of four a nutritious and delicious meal for under $25 without sacrificing ingredients or time. You'll need basics like olive oil, dried herbs and flour to keep costs down, so factor in a little more if its been a while since you've restocked that pantry. By following a few simple tips and using our suggested recipes as a baseline, you are well on your way to becoming a talented home chef without breaking the bank.
First, Some Useful Tips For The Home Cook
1. Buy and cook seasonally. Winter staples such as sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots and parsnips are versatile ingredients that add substance to your meal at an affordable price. Root vegetables can be purchased for about $1 a pound at most farmers markets.
2. Buy in bulk when you see a great sale. You’ll always find a use for these ingredients:
- San Marzano or other high quality canned tomato puree
- Chicken or vegetable stock
- Whole wheat pastas
- Frozen vegetables like spinach or broccoli (buy local or organic when possible)
- Beans, legumes and grains such as black or kidney beans, split peas, lentils or quinoa
- Dried herbs and spices such as curries, cumin, coriander, thyme, rosemary, sage
3. Try limiting meals heavy on animal proteins to 2-3 times a week. Vegetarian meals are not only healthy and nutrient filled, but are always less expensive than animal proteins.
*5 weeknight Recipe Ideas for $25 or less
*All recipes feed at least four people
Veggie patties are great for making in a batch and freezing for an easy lunch or dinner.
We love this recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burgers!
- 2 Sweet potatoes - $3.00
- 1 can black beans - $1.50
- 1 cup cooked brown rice - $1.00
- 1 onion - $1.00
- 1/2 cup green onion - $2
Optional: Buns ($5 for pack of 4), sliced avocado ($1.50) or red onion ($0.75), hot sauce or ketchup
Total Price: approximately $16
Bean Or Legume Based Soup Such As Split Pea Or Lentil Soup
It's still snowing out there, so cozy up with a good ole' bowl of split pea or lentil stew.
- 1 carrot - $1.00
- 1 celery stalk - $1.00
- 1 onion - $0.75
- garlic cloves - $1.50
- 1 can diced tomatoes - $3
- 1 1/4 cup lentils - $2.50
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken Stock $4
Optional: Serve with crusty bread or whole wheat baguette - $3
Total Price: approximately $17
This Spinach quiche is quick and freezes well. You can also substitute spinach for any other vegetable you have lying around. Same goes for cheese!
- Frozen pie crust - $3 (or make your own for more savings!)
- 1- 10 oz bag of frozen organic spinach - $3
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese - $3
- 1 bunch green onions - $2
- Eggs - $4 for a dozen at the farmers market
- 1/3 cup milk or half and half - $2 Optional: Cream cheese - $3 for a package
Suggestion: Serve with a side of green salad lightly dressed - $5 for spring mix
Total price: $20 - $25
This tried and true classic never disappoints - we like the Barefoot Contessa's take. Used leftover meat in a chicken salad and save those bones for a rich and freezable chicken stock.
- 1 chicken - $13 for organic 4 lb bird
- 2 cups chopped root vegetables - $5
- Fresh thyme or rosemary - $2
Total Cost: $20
Beef stews are great ways to dust off your slow cooker, and incorporate whatever you have in your fridge. Carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips and other root vegetables, coupled with your favorite spices and herbs combine to make a unique dish every time!
- 3 lbs local or organic Beef chuck - $18 (~$6/lb)
- 2 lbs root vegetables - $3
- 1 Qt water, beef or chicken stock or red wine - 0 - $3
Total Price: $25
Remember, the more meals you cook at home, the faster you will compile ingredients that you can use again and again. Creativity in the kitchen is encouraged, so don't feel restricted to using the ingredients in a recipe. And remember to re-purpose those discarded vegetable scraps and chicken carcass into a flavorful stock you can use the next time around, and continue your savings streak!