10 Meals To Make When You're Broke, Without Beelining To The Ramen Aisle

Sometimes we like to go on insane shopping benders and end up emptying out our bank accounts save for a few $20 bills. Other times, our cars break down, we need to buy a new laptops or we’re just straight up broke! Whatever the situation is, it means we need to cut back spending somewhere and usually it’s at the grocery store, because that’s the easiest place to budget. Sh*t happens, but there are crafty ways to eat healthy and financially friendly, because the last thing you need is scurvy, which totally still exists.

First of all, when you’re at the grocery store, think about the ingredients you need and that you can re-use. Let’s start off with spices. Forget about taco, poultry and chili seasoning that comes in packets; they’re a total rip off, and you can make your own for a lot cheaper. Taco seasoning is just cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper, paprika, salt, granulated garlic and granulated onion. Chili seasoning is usually about the same consistency, depending on the recipe. Also, buy some Italian seasoning, because it’s awesome in pasta. All these are things you should keep around because they add flavor to otherwise dull meals. All poultry seasoning is just sage. Pro-tip: whenever you’re buying spices, try to get the store-brand. There isn’t really a major difference in quality, and you’ll be saving a lot of money. Trader Joe’s also has really nice spices for cheap.

Okay, let’s talk about food. It’s important to purchase food that is a) versatile and b) on sale, if possible. Try to buy food that you can use for lunch the next day, or even re-heat as leftovers for dinner. Try to keep your cabinets stocked with rice and other carbohydrates that act as fillers. Garlic is always handy, because it’s virtually in almost every single recipe. Usually you can get two bulbs for a dollar at the grocery store.

Here  are some super-budget friendly recipes that I’ve tried to tie in together in a few ways so that when you go grocery shopping, you don’t have to buy the entire store. Plus, they have been tried and tested by ME! So you know they’re good.


1.Fajita-ranch chicken wraps 

What you need:

  • 12 ounces of skinless boneless chicken breasts (usually you can find a package deal on sale at the grocery store)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or granulated)
  • cooking spray
  • 1 pepper, seeded and cut into this strips
  • 2 tablespoons ranch dressing
  • 2 tortillas
  • salsa
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions:

Basically you season the chicken with your spices, stir-fry the chicken and pepper, and then serve it on the tortillas.

Makes 4 servings. Estimated cost per plate: $2.05

Other meals you can make with these ingredients:

2. Chicken quesadillas

3. Stir fry chicken (with rice)

4. Chicken salad wrap (with lettuce and tomatoes)

5. Chicken burrito (with lettuce, rice and beans)

6.. Salad with chopped turkey, veggies, and chickpeas

What you need:

  • 3/4 cup sliced turkey
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • ¾ cup chickpeas
  • ¾ cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 diced pepper
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • dressing of your choice

Estimated cost per serving: $3.00

The cool thing about salad, is that you can easily make a sandwich or a wrap with the tortillas with almost the exact same ingredients.

Another way to go about cooking budget meals, is making a ton of food that will last you pretty much the entire week. My fave is chili, because it’s flavorful, filling, and super hard to get sick of. 


7. Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

What you need: 

  • 2 Red bell peppers
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves OR 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
  • 1 ½ cups cubed peeled butternut squash (optional)
  • a can no salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Approximate cost per plate: $1.00

Instructions: 

What I do, is put all those ingredients together in my Crock Pot and let it do its Crock Pot magic while I’m in class or at work, but if you don’t have one, just make sure you sauté the red peppers first, and then add the rest. Chili is SUPER easy to make and if you feel like adding ground beef, this should only cost you six dollars more!


8. Veggie Lasagna

What you need:

  • 8 ounces dried lasagna noodles
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 15 oz carton ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • a package of frozen chopped spinach that’s been thawed
  • a packaged of frozen chopped broccoli that’s been thawed
  • 3/4 cup Shredded Parmesan
  • 18 oz package shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)

Instructions:

  1. Cook the lasagna noodles and set them aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning
  3. In a large skillet, cook the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in olive oil until they’re tender. Stir in the flour and pepper and then add all the milk. Stir until thickened, and then stir in spinach, broccoli, and ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  4. Layer the lasagna, put the cheese that you’ve mixed in the bowl on one layer, and the vegetables on the other.
  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes!

This makes 12 servings, and the cost per plate is $1.73!

With these two huge meals, it is totally okay for you to freeze them and heat them up later; this is perfect if you’re having a busy semester or too tired to make dinner every single day! 


9 Potato Frittata 

What you need: 

  • 1 pound potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 12 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (or regular, chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and in 10-inch oven-safe non-stick skillet, cook potatoes in hot oil for about 5 minutes. Add carrots, cook for 5 minutes until everything is tender and golden.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half the green onions, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mix over the potatoes and bake uncovered for about 18 minutes or until the frittata appears dry on top.
  3. Top the frittata with remaining green onions, cherry tomatoes, and garlic.

This makes about 6 servings and each plate is around $0.87!

10. Spaghetti with veggies

Ladies and gentlemen, this was my all-time favorite meal I made in college. I whipped this up in about fifteen minutes before I had to head out to class, and it was delicious. Every single time.

What you need:

  • Package of spaghetti noodles
  • Spaghetti sauce of choice
  • Olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Veggies of choice (I like zucchini, spinach, artichokes, and onions)
  • Shredded Parmesan

Instructions:

  1. Cook noodles
  2. Empty contents of spaghetti sauce into sauce pan and add olive oil and Italian seasoning to get a more authentic Italian restaurant taste (seriously).
  3. Saute veggies in a separate skillet until they are tender
  4. Add veggies and sauce to noodles, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, and you are done!

Since I would cook off the entire box of spaghetti, I would have at least two or three meals left over.

This cost me around $1.50 a plate and I didn’t have to sacrifice taste or nutrition!

So, the next time you’re at the grocery store and shopping around for cheap goods, don’t settle for Ramen!

Featured image via ShutterStock; Recipes from BH&G and MyRecipes; Chicken fajita image via, Chili image via, Frittata image via

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