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It’s that time of the year again — Tax Day is looming and you’re feeling the financial pinch in your wallet. Once Uncle Sam has claimed a good chunk of your paycheck on April 17, there may not be room for fancy meals and decadent ingredients. But eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor or nutrition. Check out our list of low-cost, easy-to-make meals that will keep you cooking at home without breaking the bank.
One of the most wallet-friendly dishes you can make, pasta is a guaranteed family favorite and will easily feed a crowd — just one pound of noodles can be split among six people. Top your choice of pasta with Food Network Magazine’s five-star Perfect Marinara Sauce to create a low-cost Italian supper in no time. Experiment with other flavor-packed sauces, like Alfredo Sauce, Basil Pesto or Vodka Sauce, to add variety to your pasta-recipe repertoire.
Not just for kids and picky eaters, grilled cheeses are the ultimate building-block sandwiches. They’re naturally inexpensive — just butter, bread and cheese are needed to craft a classic recipe — but can seem more indulgent by adding a few extra flavors. Cooking Channel‘s Kelsey Nixon whips up a traditional yet creative Grilled Cheese Sandwich by stacking tart Granny Smith apple slices, crispy bacon and cheddar cheese on mustard-spread bread and grilling the sandwich until golden brown. Check out Food Network Magazine’s roundup of 50 Grilled Cheeses for more gooey inspiration.
When it comes to cooking meat on a budget, it’s important to consider the type and cut of meat you’ll use. While porterhouses, filet mignons and New York strip steaks are splurge-worthy, sirloin, hanger and flank steaks are fairly priced pieces of beef. Stretch your butcher-shop dollar even further by allowing the meat to be only one part of your meal, not its entirety. For example, just a few slices of Food.com‘s Flank Steak With Lime-Chipotle Sauce are needed to complete veggie-stuffed tacos, cheesy quesadillas and more.
Take the weekend to cook up a single big-batch recipe and let the leftovers do double duty later in the week. Paula’s Chicken and Rice Casserole is hearty, comforting and — with protein, vegetables and a starch — a full, balanced meal. This generous dish yields up to eight servings, so you can pack it for lunch on Monday or reheat it for a quick weeknight dinner. Be sure you don’t overspend on the canned vegetables and soup that are called for in this recipe — stock up on your favorite canned varieties when your grocery store features them on sale.
Other no-fail dishes that feed a crowd and promise days of leftovers, soups, stews, chilis and chowders can be prepared extremely inexpensively, depending on the ingredients used therein. Alton’s Lentil Soup from Cooking Channel (pictured left) is ready to eat in just over an hour and uses fresh vegetables and good-for-you lentils. Serve each warm bowl with a simple salad for a light, satisfying meal.