50 Great Budget Dinners
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50 Great Budget Dinners

If saving on groceries is at the top of your list, check out our fresh, delicious, and super-affordable meal ideas.

Pasta Perfection

1. Creamy Asparagus Linguine
Cut 1 pound trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces; saute with olive oil and minced garlic until just soft, 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup cream and heat through. Toss with 1 pound cooked linguine, lemon zest, salt, and red pepper flakes.

2. Tuna and Lemon Spaghetti
Gently toss 1 pound cooked spaghetti with 1 can tuna, some sliced red onion, lemon zest, a splash of lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of fresh dill. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Gemelli with Bacon, Tomato, and Yellow Squash (pictured)
Cook 6 slices of bacon; set aside. In same skillet, cook 2 diced yellow squash until just tender. Add 1 pint grape tomatoes and heat through. Toss everything with 1 pound cooked gemelli, salt, pepper, and Parmesan.

4. Fusilli with Spicy Sausage, Avocado, and Black Olives
Toss 1 pound cooked fusilli with 1/4 cup chopped black olives, half a diced avocado, 2 cups baby spinach or arugula, 1/2 pound cooked and crumbled spicy Italian sausage, and some Italian vinaigrette. Serve with Parmesan.

5. Zucchini and Sage Penne
Saute a few sage leaves in 5 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove sage and cook 3 zucchini, sliced, until tender. Stir into 1 pound cooked penne with the sage, salt, and pepper.

6. Baked Ravioli and Spinach
Toss together one 15-ounce bag frozen cheese ravioli, one 6-ounce bag fresh spinach, and one 24-ounce jar marinara in a 2-quart baking dish. Bake, covered, at 400 degrees F. until cooked through, 25 minutes. Top with grated mozzarella.

7. Sausage Mushroom Penne
Saute 8 ounces sliced mushrooms in olive oil until tender; add 3/4 cup cream and simmer 2 minutes. Toss with 1 pound cooked penne, 1/2 pound cooked and crumbled sweet Italian sausage, chopped parsley, and salt and pepper.

8. Eggplant Marinara Rigatoni
Saute 4 cups diced eggplant in olive oil until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in a little minced garlic, some chopped Kalamata olives, and a 24-ounce jar marinara. Heat and serve with 1 pound cooked rigatoni and mozzarella.

9. Spicy Tomato Clam Linguine
Saute 1 finely chopped onion and some minced garlic in olive oil until soft. Add 2 cans or packets of undrained minced clams, one 24-ounce jar marinara, and some red pepper flakes; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt; toss with 1 pound cooked linguine and chopped parsley.

Fantastic Vegetarian

10. Grilled Cheese and Tomato
Butter outsides of thick-sliced bread. Sandwich together sliced tomato and plenty of Monterey Jack cheese. Grill on medium-low heat until toasted on both sides and cheese is melted.

11. Curried Carrot Soup
In a pot, saute 1 chopped onion in olive oil until soft. Add 2 pounds peeled, chopped carrots, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 6 cups vegetable broth, and 3 tablespoons honey. Simmer until carrots are tender. Puree in a blender until smooth. Serve with croutons.

12. Spinach Eggplant Frittata
Saute 1 diced eggplant in olive oil until just golden, 10 minutes. Add 1 cup sliced scallions and one 6-ounce bag fresh spinach; cook until soft. Add eggplant mixture to 8 beaten eggs, 3/4 cup crumbled feta, 1/4 cup chopped dill, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bake in a buttered 10-inch skillet at 350 degrees F. for 13 to 15 minutes.

13. Spinach and Tofu Quinoa (pictured)
Saute 8 ounces diced, firm tofu, 3 minced scallions, and 3 cups baby spinach in olive oil until wilted. Stir in some red pepper flakes, a handful of golden raisins, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1/4 cup chopped almonds, and 3 cups cooked quinoa. Season with salt.

14. Curry Chickpea Couscous
Saute 4 chopped scallions and 2 diced zucchini in olive oil until soft. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, 1/2 cup frozen peas, one 16-ounce can drained chickpeas, 1 1/2 cups plain couscous, and 2 cups vegetable broth. Boil, then cover and remove from heat; let sit for 5 minutes. Season with salt; sprinkle with parsley.

15. Mushroom Tortellini Soup
In a saucepan, saute 8 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms and 4 sliced scallions, white and green parts, in olive oil. Add 4 cups vegetable broth, some spinach leaves, and a package of frozen cheese tortellini; heat through. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan.

16. Pierogi with Broccoli
Simmer one 12-ounce box frozen potato pierogi and 3 cups broccoli florets in water until tender; drain. Saute1/2 cup chopped onion in olive oil until soft; add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, some red pepper flakes, and the pierogi mixture, and heat through. Season with salt and more olive oil.

17. Roasted Veggie Quesadilla
Combine 2 cups each broccoli florets, cauliflower, chopped onion, and sliced bell pepper with a little olive oil and salt. Roast at 400 degrees F. until browned, about 20 minutes. Arrange veggies on large flour tortillas with plenty of shredded cheese and top with tortillas. Spray quesadillas with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees F. until cheese is melted.

18. Southwest Frittata
Saute 1 sliced bell pepper and 1 sliced red onion in olive oil until just soft. Add to 8 beaten eggs with 1 cup drained canned black beans, 1 cup shredded cheddar, 1/2 teaspoon each cumin and chili powder. Bake in a buttered 10-inch ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees F. for 13 to 15 minutes. Serve with salsa and cilantro.

19. Vegetable Nachos
Saute 8 ounces sliced mushrooms and 1 diced onion in olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup each frozen corn and drained canned black beans; heat through. Toss with one 16-ounce jar salsa and arrange over corn chips with shredded cheese.

Tasty Beef

20. Classic Meat Loaf
Combine 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 grated onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 egg, 3/4 cup marinara, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/4 cup bread crumbs. Form into a loaf on a baking sheet; cook at 375 degrees F. for 1 hour. Brush top with 1/4 cup marinara mixed with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and broil until bubbly.

21. Asian Gingered Beef Salad (pictured)
Marinate 1 1/2 pounds flank steak in 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 1/3 cup brown sugar, some crushed garlic, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 cup lime juice, and olive oil. Drain and grill or broil about 6 minutes per side. Slice meat and serve with a salad of baby greens, sliced cucumber, scallions, sesame seeds, and cilantro. Dress with an Asian vinaigrette.

22. Blue Cheese and Steak Salad
Season and cook skirt steak to desired doneness. Whisk together 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, a pinch of sugar, and 5 tablespoons olive oil. Toss dressing with salad greens, sliced steak, and some blue cheese.

23. German-Style Roast Beef
Pour 1 cup ketchup and one 12-ounce can beer over a salted 3-pound boneless rump roast in a Dutch oven. Bake, covered, at 325 degrees F. for 2 1/2 hours. Stir 1 tablespoon brown sugar into drippings; simmer 10 minutes. Slice and serve with sauce.

24. Chipotle Apricot Pot Roast
In a slow cooker, combine a salted 3-pound boneless chuck roast with 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo, and 1/2 cup water; cook for 5 hours on high. To make sauce, simmer cooking liquid with 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water until thick.

25. French Dip Sandwiches
Saute 8 ounces sliced mushrooms and a sliced red onion with olive oil until tender; season with salt and pepper. Serve on 4 toasted rolls with sliced deli roast beef and prepared au jus.

26. Roast Beef Pita Pockets
Spread prepared roasted-garlic hummus inside pita halves. Fill with sliced deli roast beef, sliced tomatoes, and chopped lettuce. Top with 1/2 cup plain yogurt mixed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 cup chopped cucumber, and 1/4 teaspoon cumin.

27. Italian Bunless Burger
Combine 2 pounds ground beef, 8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, 1/2 cup chopped roasted bell peppers, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Form into patties and grill. Serve with mozzarella and lettuce leaves or with a salad.

28. Black Bean and Beef Tacos
Saute 1 pound ground beef and a chopped onion until cooked through. Add a can of drained black beans, 1 cup frozen corn and taco seasoning; heat through. Serve in taco shells with salsa, grated cheese, and avocado.

29. Garlic-Spice Rubbed Steak
Combine 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon each of kosher salt, paprika, cumin, and coriander, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Rub mixture onto a 2-pound skirt steak; marinate 1 to 6 hours, then grill. Serve with salad and roasted sweet-potato fries.

Seafood Sensations

30. Shrimp Coconut Curry
In a saucepan, simmer together one 14-ounce can reduced-fat coconut milk, 2 cups chicken broth, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste for 3 minutes. Add some frozen cut green beans, 1/2 pound frozen peeled shrimp, and some chopped scallions. Heat through; serve over cooked rice noodles in bowls with cilantro.

31. Teriyaki Tilapia
Place one 20-ounce can drained pineapple cubes, 3 sliced scallions, and 1 diced green bell pepper in a baking dish; season with red pepper flakes. Brush 4 tilapia fillets with teriyaki sauce and lay over the pineapple mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F. until fish is cooked through, 35 minutes. Serve over rice.

32. Shrimp and Basil Linguine
In a skillet, saute 1 clove minced garlic in 5 tablespoons butter. Add 1/2 pound thawed frozen peeled shrimp and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and toss with 1 pound cooked linguine and a handful of shredded basil.

33. Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches
Combine 1 can tuna packed in water, 1/4 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives, 1 jar drained chopped artichoke hearts, 12 chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and a drizzle of Italian vinaigrette. Arrange on hero rolls with slices of hard-cooked eggs and lettuce.

34. Fish Tacos
Mix 1/2 teaspoon salt with 2 teaspoons each cumin and chili powder; use to season 4 cod fillets and broil until flaky and cooked through. Serve in corn tortillas with packaged coleslaw mix, tartar sauce, and lime wedges.

35. Shrimp Fried Rice
Combine 1/2 pound cooked peeled shrimp with 4 cups cooked rice, 2 cooked scrambled eggs, 3 sliced scallions, and 1 cup thawed frozen mixed peas and carrots. Saute in a skillet with some sesame oil and 3 tablespoons soy sauce until heated through.

36. Fillets with Mango Salsa (pictured)
Combine 2 diced tomatoes, half a diced yellow or red bell pepper, 2 chopped scallions, half a chopped red onion, a diced mango, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and a handful each chopped cilantro and parsley; season with salt. Serve over broiled or grilled flounder fillets.

37. Roasted Shrimp Po'boys
Season 3/4 pound thawed frozen peeled shrimp with salt; toss in red pepper flakes and olive oil and roast at 375 degrees F. until pink, about 5 minutes. Serve on 4 hero rolls with tartar sauce, sliced tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce.

38. Tahini Tuna Salad
Whisk together 1/3 cup tahini, zest of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Drizzle dressing over a salad of canned tuna, curly-leaf lettuce, and grated carrots.

39. Tilapia with Creamy Tomatoes
Saute 4 tilapia fillets in olive oil until golden and just cooked through; remove from pan. In same pan, saute 2 tablespoons chopped basil, 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato; cook 2 minutes, then stir in 3 tablespoons heavy cream. Season with salt and serve over fish with more basil.

Simple Chicken

40. Chicken Club Sandwiches
Grill tomato halves until soft and charred; cut into pieces. Arrange tomatoes, sliced grilled chicken, a few avocado slices, cooked bacon, and arugula or lettuce on hero rolls dressed with mayonnaise.

41. Sesame Chicken Skewers
Thread cubes of chicken onto skewers and marinate in 1/4 cup lime juice and zest, a splash of fish sauce, a little minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon each ground coriander and sesame oil. Grill or bake and serve with scallions and sweet chili sauce over rice.

42. Chimichurri Chicken
Rub skinless chicken breasts with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper. Grill or bake. Make chimichurri sauce by mixing 2 cups finely chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon minced garlic,1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and 2/3 cup olive oil. Top chicken with sauce and diced avocado.

43. Raspberry Chicken Pitas
Toss together 2 cups diced cooked chicken, 2 cups finely diced fennel bulb, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and 1 pint fresh raspberries. Drizzle with red wine vinaigrette and serve in pita pockets with green-leaf lettuce.

44. Arroz Con Pollo
In a Dutch oven, saute 1 chopped onion until soft. Add 2 cups each salsa and white rice, 2 teaspoons each salt and cumin, 1 3/4 cups water, and 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces. Cover; simmer until rice and chicken are done, about 50 minutes.

45. Spicy Oven-Fried Chicken
Mix 1/2 cup buttermilk with 1/3 cup hot sauce. In another bowl, mix 1 cup crushed cornflakes and 1/2 cup flour. Dip 1 whole skinless chicken cut into eight pieces in buttermilk and then cornflakes; lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 35 minutes.

46. Artichoke Tomato Chicken
Saute 4 salted boneless, skinless chicken breasts in olive oil until golden. Remove from pan and add 1 diced red bell pepper and 1 diced onion; cook until soft. Add a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 can drained artichoke hearts, and 1/2 cup water. Return chicken to the pan and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

47. Southwest Chicken Salad
Slice grilled chicken and add to a large serving bowl filled with baby spinach, fresh corn cut from 2 cobs, and a cup of diced tomatoes; toss with a vinaigrette made by mixing 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and chili powder.

48. Chipotle-Peach Glazed Thighs
Season and grill 8 skinless chicken thighs. During last 10 minutes of grilling, brush with a sauce made by mixing 3/4 cup peach jam, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

49. Red Deviled Chicken
Combine 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 4 teaspoons mustard powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and a pinch each salt and cayenne. Rub onto 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and bake at 350 degrees F. until cooked through, 30 minutes.

50. Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry In a skillet, stir-fry 1 pound sliced boneless chicken in a few tablespoons vegetable oil until cooked, then add 2 tablespoons each honey and soy sauce and heat through. Add 2 chopped scallions and 1 diced red bell pepper. Season with lime juice and serve with cashews and cilantro over rice.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2010.