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15 budget-friendly recipes

plate of beans and broccoli rabe

Feeding a family ain’t cheap and with no end in sight for the cost of living rise, (*cries*) we could all use some tips on how to stretch the grocery budget.

To help make cents and sense of your next meal plan, may we humbly suggest these mostly-simple, definitely-tasty and decidedly-budget-friendly recipes? From rotisserie chicken hacks (how are those still such a good price? Don’t jinx it!), making use of plant proteins and opting for cheaper cuts of meats (we know, ground meats aren’t as accessible as they used to be), you, hopefully, make your food funds stretch a bit further. 

If you cook intuitively, you may already feel comfortable making money-saving tweaks to recipes. But in general, swapping to dried beans and lentils vs canned will give you more bang for your buck. Same with buying in-season produce, opting for plant-based protein like tofu, beans or tempeh more than just once a week. You can even sub ground beef for seasoned tofu crumbles in pasta sauce, chilis, tacos and more.

It begins, of course, in the planning stages. Yeah, yeah you already know, make a meal plan, make a list, look for sales + point-earning opportunities and don’t be afraid to price-match. It may be a tad more work (looking at you, soaked lentils), but we promise, you won’t have to compromise on taste. 

Sweet potato fries on herbed grains with arugula

These cozy sweet potato wedges drizzled with bright, creamy lemon tahini dressing create a flavour pairing that is far more than the sum of its parts. Serve over the herbed farro and arugula for a hearty side dish or delicious lunch. Farro not in the budg? Opt for another nubby grain instead. Get the recipe: Sweet Potato Wedges With Farro And Tahini

Pan of meatballs and sauce simmering
Spaghetti with Instant Sausage Meatballs

Fresh sausages make instant, preseasoned meatballs with no mess; simply squeeze the meat out of its casing directly into the pan. The sausage adds flavour as it simmers, creating a delicious sauce that’s done in about as much time as it takes to cook dry pasta. Don’t forget: buying the bulk pack saves you coin. Freeze portions for easy access later. Get the recipe: Spaghetti with Instant Sausage Meatballs

Frittata with greens
Basic Frittata

Eggs are getting pricey, but a frittata—like a quiche without the crust—can be filled with just about anything; it’s a great way to use leftover cooked veggies, roasted potatoes, meat or even pasta. Bits of cheese and cheese ends can be grated and tossed into the mix; add cubed stale bread and you have a strata. Get the recipe: Basic Frittata

Beans with broccoli and garlic
Garlicky Beans with Broccoli Rabe

The instant pot is your new BFF, and it’s more than ready to whip up this delicious batch of garlicky beans. The use of dried beans make this dish ring up for even less than buying canned. There tends to be less sodium, too. Get the recipe: Garlicky Beans with Broccoli Rabe

Rolled burritos with a lime wedge and cheese as garnish
Crispy Black Bean Burritos

These vegetarian burritos can be served as soon as they’re filled and rolled, or can be crisped up in a hot pan, which allows you to assemble them in advance and then heat them through just before serving. Use this recipe as a guide and add in whatever veg you have on hand. Remember, we’re making it work. Get the recipe: Crispy Black Bean Burritos

School lunch ideas rainbow fresh rolls recipe 1920 1280 - 15 budget-friendly recipes
Rainbow Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Rainbow rolls are a delish, no-cook solution bursting with fresh veggies and rotisserie chicken (a cheap and quick protein), with a sweet and savoury dipping sauce on the side. Rice paper rolls? They come a million-per-pack (not really but it feels that way) and feel like a pantry gift that keeps on giving. Get the recipe: Rainbow Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Mini Meatloaf

Look, we know. Meatloaf is a known budget-y meal. While most of us have fond memories of meatloaf on our childhood dinner tables, kids probably don’t, but these pint-sized babies might nurture some. These individual loaves are baked in a Muffin Tin, allowing them to cook in a fraction of the time. Kids love that they’re like a cross between meatloaf and burgers and get their own. This recipe calls for two eggs, but try one and add in more binder like breadcrumbs or oats. Get the recipe: Mini Meatloaf

Grilled quesadillas on a plate
Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas

Real talk, anything goes with a quesadilla. And in this case, it’s a good guideline for using frozen or leftover veg. This recipe calls for hummus and you can make your own with canned or dried chickpeas, lemon juice, salt, garlic, tahini and olive oil. Or you can skip it all together. Have a bunch of ends of cheese? Grate them all together and call it an artesian blend. Your kitchen, your rules. Get the recipe: Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas

Bowls of creamy mac and cheese on a striped table linen
One-Pot Mac and Cheese

Here we go again with a reason to use up leftover cheese. In this easy mac and cheese, the sauce ingredients are added to the cooked pasta to melt and bubble through. It makes a big enough batch for several lunches — and keeps well in the fridge for a few days. You can boost protein and fibre by using whole grain or legume-fortified pasta. Or mix odds and ends of pasta bags. We are amplifying struggle meals, are we not? Get the recipe: One Pot Mac and Cheese

Skillet with potato and black bean hash and scoops of guacamole
Hash in a Dash

Black beans play the role of protein so there’s no need for pricey yolks on this savoury b-fast dish. The potatoes and black beans are simmered salsa, which is a simple hack for adding a ton of flavour and tomatoey goodness in one go. Top the whole shebang with a dollop of quick guacamole and cilantro for a hearty, spicy, zesty morning meal. Have Leftovers? Now you have lunch! Get the recipe: Hash in a Dash

Tuna cakes on a plate with aioli to dip
Tuna Cakes

Tuna to the rescue! Forgo pricey filets that — let’s be honest here — your kids probably won’t like anyway and go for a cheap can of flakey tuna. Have a heal of bread? Make breadcrumbs to bind these crispy cakes that taste like a tuna melt and come together using ingredients you probably already have on hand. Roasted potato wedges and peas round out the meal. Get the recipe: Tuna Cakes

Bowl of saucy tofu over a bed of rice
General Tso’s Tofu

Please, hold your applause until the end. Tofu is about to perform a feat that is equal parts delicious and speedy. It’s normal to feel intimidated by tofu, but please believe us when we tell you that the secret to good tofu is pressing it and dressing it. This intro-to-‘fu recipe is a great guide. Serve the saucy slices on rice and don’t forget to put your green onion stems in water so they’ll keep growing. Get the recipe: General Tso’s Tofu

Bun piled with saucy beans
Lentil, Zucchini And Cherry Tomato Sloppy Joes

Childhood faves and veggies collide in this homage to cheap, saucy meals of the past. This version is reimagined with pantry staple lentils and the textural interest of zucchini and cherry tomatoes, plus some zing from sour pickles. Hello, Sloppy Joseph. Get the recipe: Lentil, Zucchini and Cherry Tomato Sloppy Joes

A plate of saucy chicken thighs on a plate with rice and slaw
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs

Eyes on the cheaper-and-juicier-than-chicken-breast thighs. The slow cooker makes this dinner nearly effortless—toss everything in, turn it on, and come back to a flavourful dinner. If you like, serve these saucy thighs with steamed rice and a quick slaw (cabbage is so cheap and goes so far) you can start with a bagged cabbage mix or veggies you shred yourself. Feel free to play around with ingredients you already have on hand—grated carrots are delicious, but so are grated raw beets, thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, chopped broccoli or cauliflower, or fresh snap peas. Who’s the boss of the slow cooker? You are! Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs

Bowls of chocolate pudding with berries
Chocolate Pudding

Times may be tough but you still deserve to #treatyoself! Take it old school with this cornstarch chocolate pudding. Most of the ingredients languish in your kitchen, so you can satisfy your chocolate craving whenever it strikes. And just an FYI, often-cheaper plant-based milk work just fine as a sub for dairy. Get the recipe: Chocolate Pudding

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