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11 Cheap and Healthy Meals That Will Help You Cut Costs

·17 min read
bhofack2 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
bhofack2 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now that fall is here, the night air is chilly and we're spending more evenings in our cozy homes. What does that mean? To an extent it means more pumpkin spice lattes, mulled wine and other seasonal delights -- but it also means less outdoor dining and more indoor cooking.

See: Costly Mistakes People Make While Grocery Shopping
Be Aware: 40 Supermarket Buys That Are a Waste of Money

Cooking at home is not only great for your wallet; it's great for family bonding and for managing your diet.

"Cooking at home gives you full control of the ingredients, amounts, flavor, and even the texture of your meals," said Petranka Atanasova, the blogger and recipe developer behind Sunglow Kitchen. "You are the one who chooses how much salt or oil you want in them. Therefore you can make healthier choices and prepare your food just the way you like it."

Find Out: How To Save Money on All Your Monthly Expenses and Bills

Additionally, cooking for yourself can be a loving way to give yourself the care you deserve.

"Cooking from home is total self care," said Laura Miner, recipe creator and blogger at Cook at Home Mom. "There's something so rewarding about taking whole ingredients and turning them into something delicious and comforting meal you can serve to your family. You get to customize your cooking based on what you like, you can make your meals healthier, and it saves money -- all wins."

GOBankingRates consulted a number of foodies to learn their favorite inexpensive and healthy dishes to make this fall.

Last updated: Sept. 24, 2021

Yummy pic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Yummy pic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Indian Inspired Carrot and Lentil Soup

  • Cost: $1.31 per serving (This is the price in the U.K.)

  • Ingredients:

    • 1 brown onion

    • 3 carrots

    • 1 red chilli

    • 1 thumbnail size piece of ginger

    • ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric

    • 1 tablespoon garam masala

    • 200 grams red lentils

    • 2 vegetable stock cubes

    • 1 lime

    • Pinch of fresh coriander

Instructions:

  1. Peel and finely chop the onion.

  2. Roughly chop the carrots.

  3. In a large pan on medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and gently fry the onion and carrot for 3-4 minutes or until they have softened.

  4. Chop the chilli whilst removing the seeds.

  5. Don't forget to wash your hands afterwards!

  6. Now, add the garam masala, turmeric and chilli.

  7. Remove the skin from the piece of ginger, finely chop or grate and place into the pot.

  8. Boil the kettle, and place the two stock cubes into a measuring jug.

  9. Add 1 liter of boiling water allowing the stock to dissolve, pour into the pot and simmer for around 10-15 minutes.

  10. Whilst cooking, chop the coriander and limes into wedges. Once the carrots and lentils are cooked, blitz together with a handheld blender (or food processor). Serve with a garnish of coriander leaves and with a slice of lime.

Recipe Submitted By: Holly Jaber, owner of The Trainers

What Makes It Great: "The recipe will serve 3 large bowls of soup or 4 starter sized bowls of soup, that's 28p per serving," Jaber said. "This recipe is packed full of vitamin C which helps to manage high blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the absorption of iron. It can also boost immunity, which is extremely important, especially at this time of year."

Compare: Cities That Spend the Most — and Least — on Groceries

Kondor83 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Kondor83 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vegetarian Mousaka With Lentils and Mushrooms

  • Cost: $8.94 per 6 servings

  • Ingredients:

  • For the bottom layer:

    • 1 medium onion chopped

    • 3 cloves garlic minced

    • 2 medium carrots peeled and cubed

    • ½ canned diced tomatoes

    • 1 cup red lentils, dry

    • 2 cups cubed potatoes

    • 3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

    • 3 cups spinach

    • A handful of parsley

    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

    • ½ teaspoon salt

    • ½ teaspoon black pepper

    • 2 ½ cups water or vegetable broth

    • 1-2 tablespoons oil for cooking

  • For the top layer:

    • 5 eggs

    • 1 ½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt

    • ½ teaspoon salt

    • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. In a pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion and carrot and saute for 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes.

  2. Add potatoes, mushrooms, ground cumin and coriander, and continue sauteeing for 2-3 minutes. Then, add the lentils, vegetable broth or water, tomatoes, and the other spices -- smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the lentils are fully cooked.

  3. Preheat oven to 180C (356F). In the meantime, prepare the top layer. To a medium bowl, add all of the ingredients and mix well.

  4. To the pot, add spinach and parsley and cook for 5 more minutes. The mixture should be very thick and not liquid. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1-2 tablespoons of cornmeal to thicken it.

  5. Transfer to a baking dish. Pour the egg mixture into an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden.

  6. If you have the time, let the moussaka set for 30 minutes before serving.

  7. Save in a covered container, in the fridge for up to 4 days.

  8. To reheat, preheat the oven to 180C (356F). Add moussaka to a baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Recipe Submitted By: Petranka Atanasova, the blogger and recipe developer behind Sunglow Kitchen

What Makes It Great: "I think this recipe is amazing because it's a new perspective on the classic Greek Moussaka," Atanasova said. "In Bulgaria, we prepare mousaka in a simple, yet flavorful way, with no need for Bechamel sauce or anything like that; instead, we focus on just a few ingredients, which makes it healthier and cheaper."

Discover: 25 Extra Grocery Costs You're Probably Forgetting About

Fudio / iStock.com
Fudio / iStock.com

Spicy Sheet-Pan Salmon

  • Cost: $10 to $12 for 4 servings

  • Ingredients:

    • 1 pound of salmon

    • ½ tablespoon of olive oil

    • 1 tablespoon of honey

    • 1-2 tablespoons of sriracha

    • 1 clove of garlic

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Place salmon on a parchment-covered sheet pan and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.

  3. Whisk up about 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1-2 tablespoons of sriracha and 1 clove of garlic.

  4. Drizzle sauce over salmon on a sheet pan and cook for 15 minutes or until salmon is cooked through and flakes easily.

  5. Serve with a veggie side dish or even add some prewashed broccoli florets to the sheet pan to cook with the salmon and you have a complete meal in 20 minutes.

Recipe Submitted By: Rima Kleiner, MS, RD and blogger at Dish on Fish

What Makes It Great: ​"This dish is super awesome because cooking and cleaning is minimal and because it's incredibly nutritious," Kleiner said. "Seafood is a versatile protein that ups the nutrient profile of any dish, and salmon is no exception. This fatty fish is loaded with nutrients important at all life stages, like omega-3s for heart and brain health, vitamin D for healthy bones and immune system and B vitamins for metabolism."

Another thing that makes it great? We don't often see seafood on these lists of "cheap" dinner options!

Read: 26 Ways to Eat Healthy Without Breaking the Bank

gbh007 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
gbh007 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Baked Breaded Pork Chops With Apple-Cabbage Slaw

  • Cost: Around $10 for 4 servings

  • Ingredients:

    • 1/2 large head green cabbage, cut into bite-sized chunks

    • 1 red apple, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

    • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil

    • 3 teaspoons light brown sugar

    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    • 4 thin boneless pork chops (about 1 pound)

    • 3 tablespoons sour cream

    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, put a wire rack with a baking sheet.

  2. Mix cabbage, apples, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, olive oil, 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper together and evenly spread on the top rack.

  3. Let them bake until the apple and cabbage are golden brown, after 20 to 24 minutes.

  4. Wrap the pork chops in plastic wrap and beat until they are ¼ inch thick, adding salt and black pepper to taste.

  5. Make a mixture of sour cream and mustard and brush both sides of the chops

  6. Press the chops against panko crumbs and spray both sides with cooking spray and place them on the lower third rack. Let them bake for 6 to 8 minutes until they are gold and crisp

  7. Mix the remaining sour cream and mustard with one teaspoon of water and vinegar, make 4 servings and add sauce depending on your preference.

Recipe Submitted By: Melissa Collins, partnership manager of PerfectBrew

What Makes It Great: "This dish is light on your wallet and heavy on your stomach," Collins said. "The pork chops are crisp and the apple and cabbage combination complements the entire dish, while the sour cream is the finishing touch that makes it a well-rounded dish."

Find Out: Shopping Mistakes You’re Making and How To Stop

LauriPatterson / Getty Images
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Chicken Quesadillas

  • Cost: $10 and $15 per serving

  • Ingredients:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil

    • 2 tablespoons chili powder

    • 4 tablespoons flour

    • ½ cup chicken stock

    • ½ chopped red bell pepper

    • 4 sliced mushrooms

    • 6 ounces shredded cooked chicken breasts

    • 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    • 5 large tortillas

    • Salsa, sour cream, lime wedges and sliced avocado (if desired)

Instructions:

  1. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over low to medium heat.

  2. Add flour and chili powder, and stir for one minute.

  3. Add bell peppers, mushrooms and chicken.

  4. Cook for 8 minutes until vegetables are tender.

  5. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

  6. Heat ½ tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

  7. Spread half of the vegetable mixture with tortilla, and top with a second tortilla.

  8. Cook until tortillas are brown, 3 minutes per side.

  9. Repeat with remaining oil, vegetable mixture and tortillas.

  10. Slice the dish into wedges and serve with desired toppings and garnishes.

Recipe Submitted By: Lori Bogedin, chef and food blogger

What Makes It Great: "Chicken quesadillas are amazing because they are not only flavorful but they can be prepared in under 40 minutes," Bogedin said. "The blend of chicken, cheese and vegetables in this dish is a real treat on the taste buds."

To Afford Your Groceries: How To Create a Budget You Can Live With

elena_hramowa / Getty Images/iStockphoto
elena_hramowa / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

  • Cost: Under $3 per serving

  • Ingredients:

    • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

    • 2 pounds chicken wings

    • 1 onion, diced

    • 1 clove garlic, minced

    • 2 tablespoons butter

    • 3 quarts water

    • 2 bay leaves

    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

    • ¼ cup corn starch

    • 1 pound frozen mixed vegetables

    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

    • 1 pound potato gnocchi

    • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

  1. Set your cast iron pan on high heat. Once hot, add butter and brown chicken in batches, starting with the wings.

  2. Once chicken is browned, deglaze cast iron with one cup of water.

  3. Add chicken, deglazed liquid, pepper, salt, thyme, garlic, onion, bay leaves and the rest of the water to your pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 40 minutes.

  4. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions (probably something like boil for 3-4 minutes in salted water).

  5. As gnocchi boils, place 12" pan over medium heat with the butter.

  6. Once gnocchi is cooked, remove from pot straight into the pan. Toast, stirring gently but often for 4-5 minutes or until just golden.

  7. Once chicken broth is done pressure cooking, release pressure per instructions.

  8. Remove chicken from broth, pull meat, and return the good stuff to the broth.

  9. Stir in the mixed vegetables, dried oregano and ¼ corn starch (slurried with a few tablespoons of water).

  10. Simmer just to heat through vegetables, adorn the hot soup with the gnocchi and enjoy.

Recipe Submitted By: Jim Mumford, cookbook author, chemical engineer and creator of jimcooksfoodgood.com

What Makes It Great: "[This is] my favorite go-to dish, especially in the fall," Mumford said. "At [under] $2.47 per serving (and it serves 6!), this soup is completely comforting and perfect for a fall day, tailgate, and everything in between."

See: 15 Times You Should Splurge, Settle or Skip When Shopping

iStock.com
iStock.com

Lentil Spinach Soup

  • Cost: $2.25 per serving

  • Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 cups green lentils rinsed & drained

    • 5 garlic cloves minced & divided

    • 1 large onion finely chopped

    • 3 large carrots chopped

    • 2 large celery stalks chopped

    • 1 tablespoon avocado oil

    • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes low sodium

    • 12 cups vegetable broth low sodium

    • 2 teaspoons cumin ground

    • 2 teaspoons oregano dried

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    • Ground black pepper to taste

    • 3 bay leaves

    • 3 handfuls of spinach

    • 1/2 cup parsley finely chopped

    • Parmesan cheese grated (for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat large heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven on medium heat and swirl oil to coat.

  2. Add half the garlic and all onion; sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add carrots and celery; sauté for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add cumin, oregano and lentils; sauté for another 3 minutes.

  5. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves.

  6. Cover, bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes.

  7. Add spinach, remaining garlic, parsley and stir.

  8. Serve hot garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Submitted By: Olena Osipov, founder and recipe developer at iFOODreal.com

What Makes It Great: "It's healthy, hearty, low calorie and tastes amazing with simple wholesome ingredients," Osipov said. "Also, a great way to enjoy a meatless meal once a week. It can be made on a stovetop, Instant Pot or even slow cooker (note: slow cooker version also contains potatoes which increases the heartiness)!"

Read More: 11 Things You Should Never Buy New

Yummy pic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Yummy pic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Vegan Egg Salad

  • Cost: $8 to $10 per serving

  • Ingredients:

    • Dijon mustard, 2-3 teaspoons

    • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise

    • Extra virgin olive oil

    • 1 teaspoon capers

    • Fresh lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoon

    • 1-2 small garlic clove, it should be minced

    • ¼ teaspoon turmeric

    • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

    • Freshly ground black pepper

    • Extra-firm tofu, cut into cubes, preferably ¼

    • A pack of celery seeds

    • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped chives

    • Chopped fresh dill

Instructions:

  1. Take a small bowl and mix together the olive oil, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic.

  2. Add capers, salt and pepper to the bowl and whisk until fully combined.

  3. Carefully mix the tofu and use your hands to soften the mixture. But keep in mind that you need to have some cubes of tofu intact since you are going for an egg texture.

  4. It's time to stir the celery seeds and dill into the mixture now, sprinkle with chives, and keep mixing.

  5. Chill until it's ready to serve.

  6. Group the sandwiches together with your best greens, one scoop of the egg salad, and pair it with your desired topping.

Recipe Submitted By: Natalia Maldonado, co-founder, Warrior Life Code

What Makes It Great: "This dish is my personal favorite because of how easy it is to prepare," Maldonado said. "Not only that, the Vegan Egg Salad packs a powerful punch of nutrition as well. It is extremely healthy if used as a substitute for a chicken sandwich."

Take a Look: These 16 New Food Companies Are Changing the Way We Eat

Rimma_Bondarenko / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Rimma_Bondarenko / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cucumber and Green Goddess Wraps

  • Cost: $12.50 for 4 servings

  • Ingredients:

  • For the wraps:

    • 4 flour tortilla wraps

    • 2 seedless cucumbers (you can use traditional cucumbers with seeds but I prefer seedless here)

    • Romaine lettuce

    • Grated Parmesan cheese

    • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened

    • Toothpicks

  • For the dressing:

    • 1/2 cup fresh basil

    • 1 clove garlic, grated

    • 1/2 cup fresh parsley

    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    • 1/4 cup milk

    • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

    • 1/2 cup diced scallions (include the light green and white parts)

Instructions:

  1. Peel both cucumbers, and slice both of them completely through the center from end to end so you have two long halves.

  2. Now, take each long half and slice lengthwise about 4-5 times so that you've made cucumber sticks. Each wrap is going to be made using one of these halved cucumbers cut into sticks, so you are going to be making 4 full wraps in total.

  3. Place all of the green goddess dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender, I actually use my NutriBullet so that works really well too if you have one. Process until completely smooth.

  4. In a bowl, combine the softened cream cheese with 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon of the green goddess dressing and stir until smooth.

  5. To assemble the wraps you are going to make 4 full wraps that each get sliced in half. So, lay one tortilla flat, cover with some of the green goddess mixture (you don't want to go all the way to the edges, keep most of it more towards the center leaving the edges bare).

  6. Then sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese (this doesn't have to be exact...add a little more if you want it cheesier!).

  7. Top with a handful of romaine.

  8. -op with one of the sliced cucumbers halves.

  9. Now roll up, and secure with 2 toothpicks, slice into 2 halves pieces. -Repeat with the remaining 3 wraps until all cucumbers have been used.

  10. If you have leftover dressing, it can be stored in the fridge for a few days and used on salads.

Recipe Submitted By: Catherine Ramos, the owner and food blogger at A Seasoned Greeting.

What Makes It Great: "This dish is awesome because it's loaded with fresh flavors, perfect for a light lunch, and has the right amount of crunch," Ramos said. "Plus, no cooking required! Make this in about 15 minutes for a cool refreshing lunch or light dinner."

Read More: How Much Money You’ll Spend on Food in Your Lifetime, By State

Wicki58 / Getty Images
Wicki58 / Getty Images

Cheesy Lentils and Rice

  • Cost: $2 per serving

  • Ingredients:

    • ¾ cup brown lentils

    • ¾ cup brown rice

    • 3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken stock)

    • 2 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes & green chiles, undrained

    • 4 cloves garlic, minced

    • 2 tablespoons chili powder

    • 2 teaspoons cumin

    • 2 teaspoons oregano

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    • ½ teaspoon black pepper

    • 8 (about 2 cups) ounces pepper jack cheese, grated and divided

    • Chopped fresh cilantro and/or sour cream to garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.

  2. In a casserole dish (medium to large for 6 servings, smaller for 3 servings), combine all ingredients except the cheese, and mix well.

  3. Cover dish with foil and then bake for 1 1/2 hours until most of the water and liquid is absorbed, stirring halfway through the cooking time (somewhere around the 45-minute mark).

  4. When the dish is cooked and heated through remove from oven, add half of the grated cheese to the dish and stir to combine and then sprinkle the remaining half over the top.

  5. Return to oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melty and bubbly.

  6. You can garnish and serve with fresh chopped cilantro and Cabot Sour Cream.

Recipe Submitted By: Jenni Tilton-Flood, owner of Cabot Creamery Cooperative Farm

What Makes It Great: "I love that this dish is chock full of flavor, is easy to make, and can feed a crowd or feed a few, and is easy to personalize with level of spice and add-ins that I may have on hand," Tilton-Flood said. "I also love that it's filling and nutrient dense, cheesy as all get out, and vegetarian."

Related: 16 Ways To Save Money on Food Now That Prices Are Rising

bhofack2 / Getty Images/iStockphoto
bhofack2 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spaghetti Frittata 'Nomlette'

  • Cost: $6 per 4 servings

  • Ingredients:

    • 2 tablespoons (+) quality olive oil

    • ¼ cup minced onion

    • 2 cloves garlic, minced

    • 3 cups (well-heaping) cooked spaghetti

    • 8 eggs

    • ¼ teaspoon salt

    • ¼ teaspoon MSG

    • Several pinches black pepper

    • ½-2/3 cup chopped ham or turkey lunch meat, thinly sliced and cut into strips

    • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

    • Tomato sauce (perhaps with a bit of ground chipotle chile)

Instructions

  1. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet of medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until softened and lightly browned.

  2. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

  3. Add pasta and continue to sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. It may be necessary to add some additional olive oil.

  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, MSG and black pepper.

  5. Pour the eggs over the hot pasta in the sauté pan. Add cheese and ham or turkey (or anything else you want to add!).

  6. Stir lightly until the eggs begin to cook on the bottom of the pan.

  7. Cover and reduce heat to moderate. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the bottom is lightly browned and the eggs have started to solidify.

  8. Remove the lid and place a plate on top of the eggs. Holding the plate firmly to the top of the sauté pan, flip the frittata onto the plate. Slide the frittata back into the pan to continue cooking what was previously the top. It may be necessary to add some additional olive oil. Cook for 2 more minutes until the eggs are fully cooked.

  9. Slide onto a plate and serve with tomato sauce.

Recipe Submitted By: Christopher Koetke, executive chef at Ajinomoto

What Makes It Great: "This dish brings together some of my favorites--eggs, cheese, garlic, and pasta," Koetke said. "It is comfort food all the way. It is fast to make, super cheap, irresistible, and versatile. You can add lots of different ingredients to the dish."

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 11 Cheap and Healthy Meals That Will Help You Cut Costs

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