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How to Cook on a Budget

MyApartmentMap - Oct 11, 2011

45 Ways to Eat Cheaply

You need to eat. That’s no surprise. But when you’re on a budget, sometimes food is the last item on your budget. You can find ways to cook economically so your food will last a long time and you won’t go hungry. I have compiled some tips and recipes on how to eat cheaply, but deliciously and still fill your stomach.
One tip that I can give you is to cook foods that are versatile. So, cook foods that you will be able to recreate in different ways, and over and over again. This way you can cook once (decreases energy and save some money on your bill) and you can have a variety of meals. If cooked plain, foods like plain pasta, ground meat, and chicken can be made many different ways. Below I give some recipes on how to make the staple food delicious, and then list a number of ways to mix up the recipe with a few key ingredients.

Pasta is the staple of carbohydrates. Pasta is extremely cheap and a great way to fill up the tummy. The greatest thing about pasta is that there are so many different shapes and so many different ways to cook it that it never gets old. My pasta tip is to make a whole box of it, keep it plain, and add different ingredients to “spice” up your life during the week. Here are a few items to mix up your pasta during week.

1.) Greek- A few olives, some tomatoes, a lot of feta, chopped up with some mint mixed together in with pasta and some olive oil. Sounds like a festival of Greeks.

2.) Mediterranean- Who needs to fly far away when you can have this treat at home. Garlic, olive oil, capers and basil thrown together with some pasta and parmesan serve warm or cold and you’ll be delighted.

3.) Asian- No need for Lo Mein to have an Asian cuisine. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce makes a delicious sauce add in some cooked veggies and cold cukes, yum. This is delicious either hot or cold.  

4.) Italian- Bring the taste of Italy into your home with some garlic, grilled onions and mushrooms and tomato sauce. If you have more time and money throw in some tomatoes and empty a bottle of tomato sauce.

5.) Simple- This is by far the easiest recipe: parmesan cheese, olive oil, a little butter and a dash of garlic salt. S.I.M.P.L.E.

6.) Cheesy- Pasta, olive oil and lots of shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese equals cheesy goodness.

7.) Pasta Salad- Italian dressing, carrots, celery, red onion, salt and pepper, and some mozzarella cheese is always a crowd pleaser.

Ground beef/turkey/chicken/buffalo
You would never know but ground anything can is a multipurpose meat. With ground meat you can put it in items or make it the main meal. In my last blog post I explained how to make turkey meatballs, however you can make these with any meat and also in a kabob style form. Below are two different forms of ground meat that you can make either in a meatball form or a ground meat form. Either way ground or in a patty/meatball form are delicious and can be made cheaply in many different ways.
8.) Italian Meatball sub- Get a sub roll and place the meatballs inside. Top with tomato sauce and provolone cheese.  Better than any sub shop.

9.) Meatball burger sub- Can’t go wrong with a sub! Meatballs, cheese, lettuce, ketchup and mustard. Now that is what I call good meal.

10.) Meatballs and pasta- Throw in any of the pasta dishes above and you’ll be in for a treat.

11.) Grape Jelly Meatballs – Simmer in grape jelly and chili sauce. Sounds crazy, but it’s delicious!

12.) Italian Wedding Soup- Meatballs, chicken broth, beef broth, water, Acini Di Pepe, and spinach. Topped with some parmesan cheese and you won’t need to wait until weddings for this delicious soup.  

Ground meat made with onion

 13.) Spaghetti sauce- In the Italian, throw some ground meat into the sauce and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Put over pasta and enjoy!

14.) Cheesy mac- Pasta, shredded cheese and ground meat. Salt and pepper and what we have here is an easier version of hamburger helper.

15.) Lettuce wraps- Get some romaine, bib, or iceberg with cheese, tomatoes, and avocados, throw in ground meat, wrap it up. Dip in salsa or make a quick soy sauce, ginger, garlic, mint, lime dipping sauce.

16.) Sloppy Joe- Tomato sauce, ketchup, and minced meat spoon onto a bun and get sloppy.

17.) Burrito- Layer ground meat, cheese, rice, beans, salsa, avocados and roll in a tortilla. Put on the pan for a few minutes to brown the outside, and what you have is a Mexican feast.

18.) Quesadilla- 1 tortilla, spread half of it with cheese, place some ground meat and fold. Flip once, and we have a tasty meal with guac and salsa.

19.) Taco- Look up above and it won’t be too different- tortilla (hard/soft), cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and meat. Keep it spicy and you won’t be disappointed.

20.) Nachos- A meal where eating chips is a-ok. Tortilla chips, ground meat, black beans, jalapenos and cheese in an oven for 10 minutes- simple. Top with salsa and you have yourself some cheesy goodness.

21.) Pizza- Get some dough, throw on some red sauce and cheese and top with ground meat. Great for dinner or for breakfast.

Chicken is probably one of the most versatile foods around. You can put it in almost anything for a lean protein pick me up, or you can just eat it plain. Although after a while plain may become boring, here are some of my favorite recipes to spice up chicken or in some instances to spice up other dishes.

22-28.) With Pastas above- Greek, Mediterranean, Asian, Italian, Simple, Cheesy, or Pasta Salad all 7 of these pastas can be made even more delicious with some chicken.

29.) Curried Salad-  Spice up your cubed chicken with curry, raisins, cumin, salt, mayo and walnuts. Throw on some bread or a wrap and you’ll be surprised by your cooking skills.

30.) Classic Chicken Salad- Mayo, salt, pepper, and some celery makes this a staple. Throw on some Rye or white bread and remember your days of being a kid.

31.) Cape Cod Chicken Salad- Grapes, walnuts, salt, pepper and mayo are how Cape Codders do up their chicken salad with a perfect amount of salty and sweet.

32.) Chicken on a salad- Add your favorite veggies, toss in your favorite dressing top with some chicken and this is what I call a healthy meal.

33.) Chicken Sub- Onions, peppers and mushrooms placed on top of chicken strips. Topped with some cheese, a perfect replacement for steak and cheese.

34.) Quesadilla- A common food in my house, cheese, tortilla and chicken. You can spice this up any way you like: BBQ, buffalo, or salsa- just choose your poison!

35.) Chicken and veggies- If you’re lucky enough to have a grill, slice up some veggies and put on the grill. If you want to get a little adventurous put some garlic, olive oil and salt. If you don’t have a grill baking and then broiling the last minute or two gives almost the same results.

36.) Stir fry- Garlic, broccoli, carrots, onions, and peppers mix in some soy sauce with the chicken. Eat alone or with some rice.

37.) Lettuce wraps- Trying to watch your carbs? Lettuce, chicken, a little peanut butter melted in soy sauce and mint make for a refreshing, healthy, and cheap way to eat.

38.) Pulled Chicken- Shred the chicken and dowse in your favorite barbeque sauce, if you have the time make some coleslaw and throw on top, put on a bun and viola- the south made easy and quick.

39.) Barbeque Chicken Sandwich- Chicken uncut, barbeque sauce, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and some bacon. If you have time throw on some sweet potato fries and you will never have to go to a restaurant again.

40.) Caprese Sandwich- Mozzarella, basil, olive oil and tomato all wrapped up with chicken.

41.) Buffalo Chicken Wrap- Find your favorite buffalo sauce and ranch dressing put in your chicken with lettuce and that’s a wrap!

42-44.) Burrito, Taco, Nachos- Like the recipes above with ground meat, you can substitute chicken. My one recommendation would be add some barbeque sauce on top of the nachos for a surprisingly delicious surprise.

45.) Chicken noodle soup- Chicken bouillon, shredded or cubed chicken, celery, carrots and a little bit of pasta makes everybody’s cold go away.