Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 Meals Under $5

With the temperatures getting cooler now, I'm happily spending more time in the kitchen. But just because you're cooking, doesn't mean you have to spend extra $$ on your meals. Here's some easy, inexpensive meal ideas from our house. (Each recipe designed to serve four.)

Saver tip: Cook once, eat twice. At our house, we call them “planned-overs” instead of leftovers. Cook extra meat or pasta from one dinner to use as the base for your next meal. Try these two dinners as an example of what you can do.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Ingredients: Pork loin (2-3 pounds), barbecue sauce, hamburger buns, coleslaw mix (in the produce section).

Directions: Place the pork on HIGH in a crockpot and add 1 to 2 cups of water. Add salt and pepper. You can also toss in other spices or ingredients you may already have on hand such as garlic, onions, or peppers to add flavor. Cook until tender (5 to 7 hours). Shred the pork in a bowl using two forks. Separate half the pork and place into a plastic container for the next meal. With the other half, mix the barbeque sauce with the pork. Place on the hamburger buns. Serve the coleslaw on the side.

Shredded Pork Quesadillas
Ingredients: Remaining pork from the previous recipe, flour tortillas, shredded cheese (such as Monterrey Jack), canned black or pinto beans.

Directions: Warm a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Meanwhile, place the quesadilla fixings in bowls to easily put together your quesadillas. Put one tortilla on the hot pan; sprinkle with shredded pork, cheese, beans, and a little more cheese. Once the cheese just starts to melt add another flour tortilla. Flip the tortilla once it’s golden brown. Remove quesadilla once the tortillas are golden on each side. Cut with a pizza cutter and serve with salsa.

Saver tip: Choose flavorful ingredients. Still think that ground beef is the cheapest meat available? Not always. You can find good deals on more satisfying meats like pork loin, round steak even chicken breasts. Look for Italian sausage on sale at buy one get one free or half-off. Packages often come with 5 or 6 links per package. Use half the sausages for another meal.

Penne in a Rich, Ragu
Ingredients: box of penne pasta, 3 Italian sausage links, 1 can or jar spaghetti sauce

Directions: Cook your pasta according to the package instructions. Cook the sausage until golden in a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pan. Add the spaghetti sauce to the sausage and cook until heated through. Serve the sausage sauce over the penne.

Saver tip: Pass on the meat. Welcome to vegetarian night! Try cutting out the meat for at least one meal each week.

Scrambled Burritos
Ingredients: Eggs, cheese, flour tortillas, (hash browns, optional).

Directions: Depending on the number of servings, whisk 4 to 6 eggs. Add a tablespoon of butter to a medium-sized, heavy bottom pan at medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the whisked eggs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook. Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Place scrambled eggs and cheese on the tortilla. Fold two opposite sides toward the middle of the tortilla. Using the unfolded sides roll the tortilla. Serve with salsa. You can also add in hash browns, or if you miss the meat, ham or bacon.

Saver tip: Freeze the savings. When grocery staples like meat or cheese go on sale, stock up. Make sure to store the meat in freezer-ready bags. Shredded cheeses like mozzarella freeze well.

Pasta salad
Ingredients: Penne pasta, cubed chicken, cubed ham or bacon, cubed cheese, ranch dressing and barbecue sauce.

Directions: Reinvent your leftovers with this tasty sauce. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Add the cubed chicken, ham and cheese. For the sauce, mix equal parts ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. Toss the sauce and the other ingredients together. Enjoy!


  1. These are great ideas. Sometimes it's so hard to think up what to make for dinner. I'll definitely be trying these.

  2. I love the ideas of planned overs instead of leftovers. Our struggle with leftovers is we forget we have them in the fridge and then we end up letting them go bad. I just threw away some really delicious polenta. A bit more planning and that could have been another meal.

  3. Oh, I hate having to throw good food out. I try to follow the two-day rule. If it's not eaten in two days, freeze it and use it in a later meal. I've got some tasty Mexican rice that's headed that way if I don't eat it at dinner tonight.