Cheap, healthy, fun meal ideas to cook at home.

Discussion in 'The Mess Hall' started by joshmpdx, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. joshmpdx

    joshmpdx Moderator Emeritus

    My little bro has been without a job for a few weeks and i'd love to be able to pass on some fun meal ideas he can cook up at home.
    Not hamburger helper or minute rice, more along the lines of a nice bolognese sauce for under $5.

    an example of what i've got in mind would be along the lines of:

    Shrimp tacos
    - corn tortilla's - $1.50
    - 1/2 lb shrimp - $3.50
    - fresh tomato, onion, cabbage & cilantro - $3
    - spicy aoli - (made at home) - $0
  2. saf


    Black bean and chorizo soup can then the next day or two later thicken it up and pour over rice. two meals for just a few bucks and it tastes good.
  3. Alacrity59

    Alacrity59 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    One of my favourites. Sorry if I'm a bit less than precise with measurements . . . I do this by feel.

    Sweet and sour meatballs.

    Enough hamburger to make 5-7 golf ball sized meatballs - $2.50?
    A cup of rice - I buy it in very large bags but certainly it is well below a buck
    The smallest tin of tomato sauce you see on the store shelf . . . you can practically cover it with one hand . . . 79 cents
    Use the tin . . . fill with brown sugar or white sugar . . . then vinegar.

    Get rice going . . .
    One way is using 1 cup rice and 2 cups water. Use a fairly large casserole with lid. Nuke for 5 mins on high and then 15 mins on medium. (add a pat of butter and . . . er 1/2 teaspoon of salt for taste)

    Put a 8" fry pan on the burner . .. put on medium heat.

    Make meatballs . . . glom onto golf ball sized piece of hamburg and roll into ball . . . throw in hot pan repeat quickly until you have 5 or 7 meatballs going.

    Brown on all sides . . .

    Open the tiny tomato sauce and add to pan
    Add a tin sized measure of vinegar
    Add a tin sized measure of sugar.
    (I like to crush a clove of garlic . .. and add this )

    Cook until the tomato / vinegar / sugar is a bit thick.

    Serve the meatballs and sauce on top of the rice.
  4. a nice lentil curry with brown basmati rice is filling , cheap and absolutely delicious! my 2 favourite lentils to use are Masoor Dal (Red Lentil) and Moong Dal (split mung bean)


    boil about 2 cups of lentils in 6 or more cups of water (add more if it dries out). To that water add 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste (50/50 ratio), 2 tea spoons of ground coriander and half a teaspoon of cubeb pepper. Also, you can add 1-2 tomatoes, crushed (this is optional).

    cook until the lentils are done to your liking adding water if necessary as you go along.

    now for the "chaunk" or seasoning, Heat 4 tablespoons (or more ) of coconut oil or ghee in a seperate pan. I personally prefer coconut oil. Add:

    -1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
    -1 tea spoon cumin seeds
    -hot chilli flakes to taste
    -few dried or fresh curry leaves
    -1 small cinammon stick
    -2 cardamom pods
    -2 cloves

    fry this seasoning up in the oil for just under a minute, use a small amount of water to prevent it from burning (like 3 tablespoons or so), you only want to lightly toast it! the water technique was taught to me by an indian chef, its slighty intimidating due to the loud crackling but with a few tries you will get it under control and understand how to "tame it".

    pour the hot seasoned oil on the cooked lentil , stir throughly and serve on brown basmati rice.. finish with a fine salt (pink himalayan is a favourite!)

    if you have a well stocked spice pantry , this dish is virtually free and protein packed

    love it!
  5. Pinto beans w/ sausage and cornbread. One of my favorites - throw the dried beans (after rinsing) into a pot with water and sliced up kielbasa, cook until done. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Make a batch of cornbread on the side. A bowl of beans with a hunk of hot, buttered cornbread can't be beat!

    Another one:

    Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup

    A chipotle chile (canned smoked jalapeño pepper) adds smoky heat to
    this soup. If you want to tame the spice, substitute 1/2 teaspoon
    smoked paprika for the chile.

    Yield: 4 servings

    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 (15.5-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
    1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
    1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped
    2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1/2 pound)
    1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
    1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


    Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil.
    Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Partially mash tomatoes and
    beans with a potato masher. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until
    thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in oil. Place 1 1/4 cups
    soup in each of four bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons sour
    cream and 1 tablespoon cilantro.
  6. +1 - I make this occasionally - wonderful stuff

  7. joshmpdx

    joshmpdx Moderator Emeritus


    there are some great, easy and cheap meals here!
  8. A summertime favorite of mine. Quick, easy, cheap.

    Classic French omelette (one that celebrates the eggs and not how much stuff you can pile on), a chunk of baguette, and a fresh tomato on the side, and a nice refreshing white wine.

    3 eggs (room temp if possible)
    fresh herbs to suit your taste (just remember to let the egg be the main character) - I like fresh chives.
    a pat of butter
    a small splash of olive oil
    a sprinkle of grated Gruyere cheese (or even a little sprinkle of dry grated parm if you have nothing else)
    salt and pepper to taste
    a fresh tomato cut into wedges on the side (only if they're in season)

    Not counting the wine, this dish comes in pretty cheap and is perfect on a summer evening. Even with the wine, there are any number of tasty $10 bottles of crisp white wines out there that will do the trick. So if you do two omelettes, split a baguette and bottle of wine with a partner, you're looking at around $8.00 a person including wine where I live.
  9. There's a whole list of recipes over at Budget Bytes. The recipes include cost per recipe/serving and are typically large enough for leftovers. Check out the two columns on the right for the author's favorites and the top-viewed recipes as well as a list of labels. Beef, chicken, dessert, complete meals, side dishes, etc. I do this recipe without the mushrooms when I want something fast.
  10. Wow! I don't like to cook, but these recipes and links make me want to run into the kitchen and start. Thanks, guys!
  11. joshmpdx

    joshmpdx Moderator Emeritus

    I also love a good Casserole.

    I just made one with stuff in the house that turned out really well.

    1 - 1lb bag of egg noodles
    1 - large (ish) can of tuna (jalpano & roasted garlic)
    1/2 onion
    tablespoon garlic
    6oz of cottage cheese
    6oz of cheddar/jack
    1 can condensed mushroom soup

    Boil, fry, mix, stir & bake!

    Keep these coming!
  12. saf


    Buy a roasted chicken at the store for $5 eat half with rice that night. Clean the meat off and make stock the next day. Eat the rest of the chicken with veg that night. next day make veg soup with chicken stock thicken with left over rice and you are out maybe 10 for three meals.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  13. Just did this the other night: Chicken Fajitas

    4-5 chicken boneless chicken thighs ($2-3).
    1 medium onion (>$1)
    1 bell pepper (>$1)
    tortillas ($2)
    Toppings of your choice: salsa, cheese, sour cream, avocado/guac, etc. (Varies, but a couple of bucks max)

    If you have a couple of hours to marinate the chicken do so. I like a mix of beer, lime juice, and whatever spices catch my eye. If not don't worry about it. Then I take a small metal cooling rack and put it over my cast iron skillet. Put the chicken on the rack and hit it with whatever spices you feel like. Usually I do chili powder, cumin, salt, and garlic powder. That goes under the broiler on high while I chop the onion and bell pepper into big chunks. Flip the chicken halfway through and when done set the rack aside for the chicken to rest and put the skillet (with the drippings) on high heat. Add a bit of oil and saute the veggies until the onions are translucent. Some little black burned bits are good, so keep the heat up. Slice the chicken up into chunks and serve with the toppings of your choice. If you want the restaurant style thing dump the veggies and sliced chicken into a bowl and heat the pan up hot. Then dump back in and serve while everything is still sizzling. Just remember the pan will be super hot!

    Fast, cheap, fun, and healthy (as long as you are light on the cheese and sour cream). Rice and/or beans make a nice, very budget friendly side dish as well.
  14. Any green pesto - fresh leafy greens, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts. Blanch the greens then throw it all in the blender or processor - serve over pasta with grated hard Italian cheese. Cheap and healthy!
  15. T-Bone Steak with Bacon-Mushroom Sauce

    2 bone-in T-bone steaks (1 lb), 1 inch thick
    5 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
    1 package (½ lb) sliced fresh mushrooms
    ¼ cup A1 Original Steak Sauce
    ¼ cup dry sherry or water
    1 tsp brown sugar

    Heat grill to medium heat. Grill steaks 7 to 8 minutes on each side or to medium doneness (160'F) . Meanwhile, cook bacon in large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet; drain on paper towels. Discard drippings from skillet. Add mushrooms to skillet; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in bacon, steak sauce, sherry and sugar. Bring to boil; simmer on medium-low heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve steaks topped with mushroom sauce.

    This is my macaroni and cheese recipe. It looks complicated, but most of the ingredients are things that people already have laying around. About all most people would need to get is the meat, cajun seasoning, cheese, and macaroni, and those things are cheap and easy to get. This always, ALWAYS brings the house down. It looks complicated, but it is really very easy.

    Monster Mac’n’Cheese 6-8 servings
    2 tsp salt
    ½ pound macaroni
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    3 cups milk
    3 cups grated cheddar
    ½ cup bread crumbs
    1 tsp olive oil
    8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
    ¼ - ½ cup finely chopped smoked ham
    ¼ tsp ground black pepper
    ½ cup frozen peas
    1 tbsp cajun seasoning

    1. Make sure the oven rack is in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, the oil, and macaroni, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a long-handled fork or spoon to prevent the macaroni from sticking together. Using oven mitts or pot holders, remove the pot from the stove and drain the macaroni in a colander set in the sink, pouring away from you. Rinse under cold running water and set aside to drain well.
    3. Melt the remaining stick of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes. Do not allow the flour to brown. Add the ham and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Using the whisk, add the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, 2 cups of the cheese, and the peas, and stir well.
    4. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup of cheese with the bread crumbs and cajun seasoning..
    5. Add the macaroni to the pot with the milk and cheese. Stir to combine well, then pour the mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with the seasoned cheese mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
    6. Using oven mitts or pot holders, remove the dish from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  16. Warning ... this is NOT 'minute rice'.

    2 boxes rice-a-roni, big bag frozen 'california style' veggies, with twists, i.e.:
    a./ oriental r-a-r as per directions, chinese five spice and honey to taste, coin-sliced hot dogs;
    b./ spanish style r-a-r- as per directions, 1 pkg. pollock-crabmeat, same veggies, add seasonings if desired.

    Makes enough for good servings, and if single, makes enough to store in freezer for a few nights.
  17. joshmpdx

    joshmpdx Moderator Emeritus

    Yowza that Mac & Cheese looks good!

    Im going to make a pile of it this weekend subbing Jalapenos for the peas & ham.
  18. Red beans and rice is a good dish that can be made inexpensively. Someone already mentioned eggs and Mexican food. I make my own tortillas -- much easier than you'd think. Both cheaper and tastier than those storebought paste-things, nasty. Stir fry is good to extend meat, and can be made with pork, beef, or chicken, whatever is on sale.

    I concur on chicken thighs mentioned above. Much tastier than white meat. Around here I can get thighs on sale for $0.49/lb. Here's a recipe for two, but can be easily multiplied:

    Golden Chicken
    4 chicken thighs, bone-in with skin (<$2.00)
    3 medium potatoes (<$1.00)
    olive oil

    Chop potatoes into 1.5 inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of diced fresh rosemary. Mix well. Place in baking dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Nestle into potatoes. Bake in 400 deg F oven until chicken and potatoes are done/golden, about 1 hour.
  19. The mac'n'cheese is amazingly good, and super-easy. Unless you're vegetarian (eww) keep the ham in it, although in truth I use thick-cut bacon instead.

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