Whether times are tight or you're just trying to squirrel some extra cash, one place where you can significantly save is on food.
And that's where cooking your meals at home comes in.
Whether you order from popular delivery apps or prefer to dine out, ordering food away from home comes with delivery fees, taxes and pricey food costs. Even fast-casual, grab-and-go adds up — uhm, hello, $14 salad.
To help you save some dough, we've pulled together five delicious dinners you can easily make at home — all with a price tag under $4 per serving.
1. Chipotle Black Bean and Quinoa Stew
- Total cost: $5.32
- Cost per serving: $0.88
- 1 pound black beans: $2.09
- 1 cup quinoa: $2.20
- 1 sweet potato: $0.59
- 1 onion: $0.69
- 1 clove garlic: $0.20
- 1/2 lime: $0.35
- ½ teaspoon coriander: $0.11
- ½ teaspoon black pepper: $0.03
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom: $0.06
- 2 sprigs cilantro: $0.15
For just $0.88 per serving, this dish provides 26 grams of fiber (women should aim for a minimum of 25 grams per day and men, 38 grams). It's also rich in beta-carotene from the sweet potatoes.
This dish offers a twist on the traditional rice and beans, which was the poster-child for combining plant-based sources of protein to make "complete proteins" when it comes to vegetarian and vegan diets.
But, as the Cleveland Clinic explains, that thinking is outdated. You no longer have to create "complete proteins" at each meal — instead, aim to eat a wide variety of proteins throughout the day.
Get the Chipotle Black Bean and Quinoa Stew recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Vegetable-Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Total cost: $15.32
- Cost per serving: $3.83
- 2 acorn squash: $6.00
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil: $0.34
- 1 onion: $0.69
- 1 pound sliced mushrooms: $3.98
- 2 garlic cloves: $0.40
- 10 ounces fresh spinach: $2.98
- ½ cup walnuts: $0.87
- 1 pinch sea salt: $0.03
- 1 pinch black pepper: $0.03
We love this dish not only because it's hearty and nutritious, but the presentation is a standout as well. It's easy enough for a weeknight dinner but fancy enough for a dinner party.
Acorn squash is an obvious ingredient here but the walnuts included add healthy fats and a softer crunch. They're unique from all other tree nuts in that they contain omega-3 fatty acids, specifically, alpha-linolenic acid.
In fact, eating walnuts is linked to the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to a December 2019 study in the Journal of Nutrition.
Get the Vegetable-Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna
- Total cost: $24.53
- Cost per serving: $3.06
- 12-ounce rotisserie chicken: $9.99
- 4 cups marinara sauce: $3.29
- 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese: $3.99
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese: $4.58
- 1/3 cup chicken broth: $0.19
- 4 ounces whole-wheat lasagna noodles: $2.49
Cut yourself some slack when it comes to making dinner.
Using shortcuts like opting for already-cooked rotisserie chicken, like this recipe does, will help you get dinner on the table quicker.
Try to stick to the white meat because it's leaner (less saturated fat) than dark meat and leave the skin behind, too. Aside from the marinara sauce, this dish is light on vegetables. Consider pairing it with a side salad or a simple sautéed veggie.
Get the Rotisserie Chicken Lasagna recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Butternut Mac and 'Cheese'
- Total cost: $11.00
- Cost per serving: $2.75
- 8 ounces chickpea pasta: $3.69
- 2 pounds butternut squash: $4.26
- 4 garlic cloves: $0.80
- ½ cup nutritional yeast: $1.20
- 3 1/3 tablespoon lemon juice: $0.59
- ½ teaspoon sea salt: $0.03
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric: $0.08
- ½ cup vegetable broth: $0.34
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper: $0.01
This vegan take on mac and cheese is not only plant-based, but it's way more nutrient-dense than the classic dish.
First, there's the chickpea pasta, which is higher in protein and fiber than regular pasta. The "cheese" is a combination of butternut squash, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, turmeric and vegetable broth, which are all nutritious in their own right.
Nutritional yeast is high in protein — one tablespoon has 5 grams — and it's especially rich in B vitamins like vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6.
In general, B vitamins help your body break down the food you eat to produce the energy your body needs. They also support your nervous system, according to the National Health Service.
Get the Butternut Mac and 'Cheese' recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Beans and Greens Tacos
- Total cost: $9.67
- Cost per serving: $2.42
- 3 tablespoons olive oil: $0.39
- 3 cloves garlic: $0.60
- 4 cups lacinato kale: $3.98
- 2 cups kidney beans: $1.10
- 1 tablespoon chili powder: $0.08
- 1 tablespoon cumin: $0.20
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander: $0.06
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt: $0.02
- 8 corn tortillas: $0.58
- ½ cup onion: $0.42
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro: $0.49
- 1 avocado: $1.75
Even with avocados, which can be pricey, this taco recipe still manages to keep the price per serving under $3.
Beans are the main source of protein, and whether you go for the dark or light variety, red kidney beans are loaded with nutrition.
A cup provides 15 grams of protein, along with 13 grams of fiber, at just 225 calories. They're also rich in iron (29 percent Daily Value), potassium (15 percent DV), magnesium (19 percent DV) and zinc (17 percent DV).
Get the Beans and Greens Tacos recipe and nutrition info here.
- The Cleveland Clinic: "Do I Need to Worry About Eating ‘Complete’ Proteins?"
- Journal of Nutrition: "Walnuts and Vegetable Oils Containing Oleic Acid Differentially Affect the Gut Microbiota and Associations with Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Follow-up of a Randomized, Controlled, Feeding Trial in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease"
- United States Department of Agriculture: "Americans Still Can Meet Fruit and Vegetable Dietary Guidelines for $2.10-$2.60 per Day"
- MyFoodData: "Organic Fusilli Chickpea Pasta"
- MyFoodData: "Pasta Dry Enriched"
- MyFoodData: "Nutritional Yeast Seasoning"
- National Health Service: "B Vitamins and Folic Acid"
- MyFoodData: "Cooked Red Kidney Beans"