Cheap, Fast, and Healthy Dinners Article - Allrecipes.com
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Cheap, Fast, and Healthy Dinners

Save money, time, and calories.

A quick and inexpensive weeknight dinner doesn't have to come from the drive-through. With just a few staple recipes, you can get a healthy dinner on the table without too much fuss--and fast! It's easier than you think.




Roast Chicken

Whether you roast a chicken yourself or pick it up at the store, it's always a good deal. Plus, you can use the leftovers in plenty of delicious dinners.


Pasta and Sauce

Pasta is a great quick-dinner solution. Change up that usual noodles-and-sauce combo with one of these quick and fresh pasta dishes. Just add some inexpensive meats or veggies for an easy meal everyone will love.


Fresh Veggies

What could be healthier than a dinner filled with fresh veggies? Whether you stick to what's fresh and seasonal in the produce aisle or get great-tasting vegetables from the freezer section, they're simple and quick to make.


Chicken and Turkey Breast

A staple of quick cooking, chicken breast is so easy and versatile, you might forget how healthy it is. Looking for a different (and even less-expensive) option? Try turkey breast cutlets.


Ground Beef and Ground Turkey

A bit of ground beef is always economical, and if you grab ground turkey, which is always low in fat, it's pretty healthy, too. Plus, it's so quick to make!

Comments
Apr. 18, 2012 4:11 pm
My hubby accidently bought artichoke tappenade instead of the artichoke hearts I asked for so I took some of the tappenade mixed a little sour cream with it and made a sauce out of it,served it in place of spagetti sauce and loved it, poor hubby said he will pass next time to spicy for him.
 
I'mabakernotacook 
Apr. 29, 2012 3:42 am
In my experience, I've learned that you can either eat healthy, or eat cheaply, but not both. Unfortunately, I usually have to go for cheaply. It's not that I don't LIKE fruits and veggies, it's that I usually can't AFFORD them, unless they're on sale. Also, there's more to healthy eating than just fat and calories. There are also cholesterol and sodium to take into consideration, too.
 
Apr. 30, 2012 10:37 am
I understand exactly what you mean I'mabakernotacook but I'm hoping I found a solution. We are trying a veggie garden this year. With the warmer winter and spring warmer as well the season should be a lot longer. We have parsley, rosemary and oregano that I did not kill....(my mother has the green thumb. If you have a small spot in your yard or on a sunny spot you can use anything as a planter. Thanks again for the shared experience.
 
MsBleu 
May 3, 2012 8:55 am
It's tough, Imabakernotacook, I don't disagree with you. Especially when you have 3 kids that plow through fruit like they're getting paid to eat it. I don't know if you live in an area where grocery stores have a bulk department (here in Oregon they all do)but I have found if you buy grains like barley rice and quinoa in bulk they are cheaper than the processed foods. In fact many whole foods are cheaper than pre packaged meals, for example, mashing your own potatoes instead of buying instant. I find that if I stick to whole foods it's cheaper, and you can bet more healthy too. Especially when you're talking about sodium! The hardest part for me about buying and cooking whole foods means everything has to be from scratch. What I save in money I usually spend in TIME in the kitchen. A small veggie garden keeps me in supply of spinach and zucchini all summer too. There's no arguing tho, it's getting more and more expensive to feed a family these days. I may start raising goats and chick
 
May 9, 2012 10:18 pm
LOL @ MsBleu, I certainly agree with you with being more versatile in the kitchen. I don't have a garden but I certainly buy my veggies in bulk a week at a time as I have started to plan meals a week at a time. I save money purchasing seasonal veggies and pairing with pastas or something a little more filling to make it stretch. Also, I stopped my family from eating meat constantly and found that it really does save on my grocery bill.
 
May 20, 2012 3:37 pm
I have found that frozen veggies are a great way to save money. (I'm just not the garden type!) I go for frozen because then I don't have to worry about using them immediately and the mixes that are available are fantastic! Also, I don't agree the healthy=expensive. I am yet to find a meal that is cheaper or more healthy than brown rice and stir-fry veggies. Options are available for any budget.
 
PinkElephant 
May 31, 2012 4:44 am
In Phoenix and Tucson, they have Market on the move where you can get 60 lbs of produce for $10. I wish all communities would consider this idea.
 
Brenda 
May 31, 2012 10:57 am
Some communities can participate in a program called bountiful baskets. You get fresh produce for a minimal cost. You can go to www.bountifulbaskets.org/ to see if it is available in your area. Unfortunately it is not available in mine, but I have a friend that does it and she loves it.
 
Jun. 12, 2012 8:14 am
Frozen veggies are the closest thing to fresh as far as time from the field to the package. Also, ground turkey is usually cheaper then ground beef and once you season it and put it in something you really don't notice the difference so much. Definitely much more healthy! Plan your meals so that you can use things for double duty like roast chicken for a couple meals or a roast for a couple meals. Throw in a couple extra when you cook something you know you can use in a meal the next day to save a little time.
 
brenda 
Jun. 19, 2012 1:33 pm
I travel about one hundred miles a couple of times a year to buy fresh beef from a meat processor. The beef is a real value as it is local, usually 4-H raised beef. I buy a quarter of a beef at a time and spent one hundred and fifty dollars for a small freezer which is about the size of a bedroom chest. The meat usually costs about $2.50 per pound and you get a section out of each of the four quarters of the beef to make up the quarter you get so you get some of everything. Try to find ribeye for $2.50 a puound anywhere else. The last I bought had 50 one pound packages of hamburger in it besides roasts, steaks etc. If you have to drive a long way to find a processor put your order in early and take coolers. Plant on about 150 to 180 pounds of meat. it will come processed packed and frozen. While you are there check and see if they do chickens. I buy them whole for $3.00 each. Also some people don't take such cuts as liver etc. so if you like those things you can usually buy them pretty
 
SassyMarker 
Jul. 31, 2012 2:09 pm
@ Brenday. I totaly agree with you. We have been buying 4-H beef ever since I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer (12 yrs ago) My doctors and I did a test for 2 months with store beef vs. fresh beef. At the end of the test we found that my white blood counts were much lower with fresh beef, vs store beef. My doctor said it might have been due to the hormones that mass beef producers use, or from the souped up feed they are providing. Never the less we only buy fresh beef from the processor. The processor plant usualy have several deer as well, that people do not want you can purchase for the cost of the processing. Save lots of money as well as eat much healthier! Happy Cooking!
 
Jenny 
Aug. 4, 2012 8:49 am
I live in Tucson and would like to no where could i buy 60 lbs of produce for $10.00.(As pinkelephant said).And i am going to check out the 4H beef.You guys are giving out lots of good info.Thanks.Any other info. is greatly appreciated,as health and money is a issue these days.
 
Sharona 
Aug. 25, 2012 2:00 pm
Barley is not to be overlooked as a cheap and nutritious grain. I rarely see recipes that use barley, however, it is wonderful roasted with root vegetables for a very cheap and delicious winter feast. Barley is also quite good for a thickener in soups, and homemade beef barley and carrot soup makes a wonderful, low-cost meal.
 
cbeckendorf 
Aug. 26, 2012 7:54 pm
I have found that buying healthy is not too expensive. I buy certain things in the bulk bins. I order my milk from the local dairy and it is comparable in price. We are fortunate to live in an area with great Farmers Markets here in WA. So I order my meat and fish ahead of time and can pick it up at the local farmers market or farm. Learning how to can, preserve and pickle stuff is an awesome way to get yummy stuff. CSA's are a great way to go if you can find one. Sometimes you have to improvise with canned or frozen stuff and that's ok too. just rinse them in a colander to remove any extra salts. One other way to save on time is to invest in a breadmaker, and a couple of crockpots. I cook everything I can ahead on Sundays all at once and I usually only spend about two to three hours in the kitchen. Freezing soups, precooked meats, grains pastas and veggies saves you time in the long run.
 
Jan. 21, 2013 8:01 am
If you live in a more populated or metro area, try locating a "community" garden. They are a wonderful way to grow fruits and veggies for a nominal cost, especially when you are space confined. As an added bonus, you can trade produce with others who have a plot within the garden. I have picked up many tricks, tips and recipes beyond the mere joy of socializing with others who have a love for growing things and eating healthier.
 
pammyg 
Jan. 21, 2013 5:01 pm
I second JGray11's comment - staple meal at my house is brown rice with frozen veggies and canned beans on top, nutritious, cheap and easy all in one. A little boring, yes, but I have it for lunch almost every day at work. I make a whole week's worth on Sunday afternoon and put it in tupperwares in the fridge ready to go.
 
mb 
Jan. 24, 2013 1:19 pm
Maybe you are joking? Any recipe with chicken in it is not going to be cheap. Not here in Canada.
 
Clover 
Jan. 26, 2013 7:57 pm
I find that when I take the time to review the weekly grocery ads, there are always a few good deals on fresh fruits & veggies.
 
JulieGA 
Jan. 27, 2013 12:36 pm
I find eating healthy clean foods to be the cheapest route. Anything prepackaged or processed is way more expensive. The processed and packaged food is not as nutritionally dense therefore you need more volume to satisfy your hunger, plus you end up eating a lot of other stuff tht is not food but artificial chemical cocktails. Now if healthy to you means all organic, then yeah, that is very expensive. However, you do not have to eat all organic to eat healthy and organic is not always the healthiest choice anyway. If you are paying for organic meats, milk, or egss you are thowing your money away. Orangic basically only means that the feed is organically grown. The cows and chickens are still raised in extremely unhealthy and overcrowded environments in most cases.
 
T. White 
Feb. 20, 2013 3:53 am
I get whole chicken for 89 cent a pound, and on average I can get boneless skinless breasts for $2.00 a pound. So to the gentleman from Canada, chicken is inexpensive in the U.S., so its cheap to make a chicken dish HERE.
 
Feb. 20, 2013 7:24 am
Thank you for posting about the boutifulbaskets.org I do have a location near me I am going to try and get my mom to go in halfs with me the first time to check it out :)
 
Paet 
Feb. 22, 2013 1:47 pm
There are only two kinds of protein that I can afford here in the US, chicken and pork. But we have had some wonderful meals using lentils and have even made fake meat balls from them - nobody knows there not beeef until you tell them! We have a lot of vegetarian cookbooks that have good cheap recipes. Check them out in the libraries. Great filling soups, stews, and of course "fake" meats - that do NOT tast like tofurky! By the way, many vegetarian recipes are really good "down home cooking". We plan to go back to this cooking now that the $'s are gonna be crunched even more!
 
marysf 
Apr. 4, 2013 4:41 pm
I stock up on frozen vegetables when Krogers has their house brand bags 10 for $10. I get a good variety of vegetables including mirepoix blends and frozen bell peppers. Since t'm cooking for 2 on a fixed income it's a real money saver.. In the summer I like to go to a small, neighborhood(once a week) farmers market for fresh tomatoes, squash, field peas and other Southern goodies. Meat I can get fresh and inexpensive at PATAK Bohemian once a month--it's worth making the drive. It helps living in Atlanta area, even in what use to be the boondocks, because we do have choices. But there are neighborhoods that don't have grocery stores or farmers markets just quick market gas stations where you get junk food for high prices.
 
Apr. 24, 2013 3:30 pm
My kids are all grown up and gone, so it doesn't make sense to buy huge amounts of anything perishable for just two people. I do make good use of my food saver vacuum to store things like grain, pasta, whatever we eat that goes on sale. I've found that the investment has already paid off, and I've only had it for about a year and a half. Whatever it is, I just cut the label and slide it in the saver bag before I vacuum it. Works for dry goods, frozen, lots of stuff. The only thing I haven't been able to get to work well is bread and pastry. It just squashes. :(
 
Mommy_misty 
Apr. 24, 2013 5:52 pm
You can eat healthy on a small budget. I have two kids and I'm a stay at home mom you just have to plan meals and not buy junk food like chips soda and other useless things. I should know I have lost a total of 100lbs combined. It's all about planning and wanting to make the effort for change but I guess if you really don't want to put forth the effort then you won't.
 
grace 
May 28, 2013 1:32 pm
In Canada all meat is very expensive. We pay $12+ a pound for chicken breast. So, it's a trade off for us.. nice that the USA has cheap meat... my girlfriend from NJ was appalled that a regular frozen turkey here.. average size.. was $42.00
 
Caedy 
Jun. 29, 2013 2:24 pm
@I'mabakernotacook I agree entirely, but even eating cheaply you can still manage healthy. We tend to splurge on fruits and veggies on occasion - there is usually the stuff for a salad in my fridge near constantly. Our local grocery store usually has Romaine for 1.99 a head, which isn't bad. Tomatoes are usually the pricey salad item.
 
Jul. 27, 2014 10:25 am
Mommy_misty you said exactly what I was thinking while read all the posts. If you cut out buying all the "junk" like cookies, chips, soda and processed snack foods, you can use that money (which adds up pretty quickly) to purchase healthier options like fresh fruits and veggies and higher quality cuts of meat. If one is trying to eat healthy, why would you want that other stuff anyway? My best friends in the kitchen are my Vitamix (which has nearly paid for itself in just a few months) and my crockpots. I work full time so spending a lot of time in the kitchen every night is not an option for me. Planning, shopping and cooking ahead of time are the keys to eating healthy and saving my sanity! :)
 
 
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