Delicious Dinners You Can Make on a Budget
In his book The Man Who Ate Everything, food writer and gastronome Jeffrey Steingarten says, "I have spent between 30 and 100 percent of my income on food each every year since I became an adult." If you read the book, you'll know he isn't joking. Whether you obsess about food or are simply trying to plan good meals to keep yourself and your family full, chances are good that you feel as if you're spending that much money on food yourself. Feeding just two people at a moderately priced restaurant can easily cost fifty dollars or more; according to research compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture, that $50 will buy enough groceries to feed those same two people for more than half of the week. If you're looking for ways to save money, consider doing more cooking; a cart full of groceries will run you just a fraction of what it would cost to eat out (or order out) a few times a week.
There are a few items that are notoriously overpriced at the supermarket and a few others that offer a great value. Start by knowing which items to avoid and which to stock up on. When it comes to budget shopping, stay away from items where a lot of the prep work has been done for you; chicken that's been cut into tenders is more expensive per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breast, for example — and boneless, skinless chicken breast is much more expensive than a whole chicken. Similarly, vegetables that are pre-cut for dishes like stir-fry will cost you more than fresh, whole vegetables. In most cases, it will only take you a few minutes of prep work to save some money.
Other items offer a great value at the supermarket. Ingredients that have a long shelf life and can be purchased in bulk can help you cut costs at grocery store, for instance. Stock up on flavor-building staples like onions and garlic, healthy and filling whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta, and fiber- and protein-rich beans and lentils. Then, build meals around other lower-cost ingredients. Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com savings expert, suggests checking the store circular for sales: “By looking at the ads every week, I’ve found that my local grocery store offers some type of shrimp for $5 every Friday. So, whenever I know I’m going to need shrimp for something, I make sure to buy it on a Friday.” Even steak can be affordable on a budget if you opt for less expensive (but still delicious) cuts like sirloin.
Once your shopping is complete, you can transform these budget-friendly purchases into a truly delicious dinner with just a little bit of cooking know-how and a great recipe.
Beef and Mushroom Stew
This one-pot beef and mushroom stew cooks quickly, making it an easy weeknight meal. Served on top of a pile of egg noodles, this hearty meal is affordable and delicious, and will quickly become a family favorite. Click here for the recipe.
Bourbon Pork with Creamy Mustard Sauce
A pork roast will cost you significantly less than beef. This version has lots of sweet and tangy flavors thanks to the brown sugar marinade and mustard sauce. If you don’t have bourbon on hand, try using rum or apple juice instead. Click here for the recipe.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.