Affordable Cook-at-home Meal Recipes from the SmartPath Team
One of the most common topics our clients want to discuss isn't about paying off student loans, buying a home or building better credit. No, our clients ask us again and again how to prepare budget-friendly meals with ease. We get it. Food spending can be a budget-buster, especially if you've been ordering food or visiting the grocery store more often.
Since many of us need to rein in our home-cooked meal budget as tightly as possible right now, we asked your SmartPath team to share their favorite easy-to-make and budget-friendly recipes that are truly delicious and worth the extra time and energy. With a little planning, it's totally possible to enjoy homemade dining without having to spend very much money at all.
Cait’s Crispy Eggplant and Chicken Stack
- ½ white or yellow onion: $.40
- 2 fresh garlic cloves: $.40
- 4 tablespoons of pesto: $.50
- EVOO: $.50
- 1 (29 oz) can of tomato sauce: $1.25
- 2 (6 oz) cans of tomato paste: $.80
- 5 tbsp Italian Seasoning: $.20
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 eggplant: $1.25
- 4 eggs: $.40
- 1 ½ cups of Italian breadcrumbs: $.30
- 2 chicken breasts: $2.80
- 1 package (16 oz) of angel hair pasta: $.99
- Optional: Parmesan cheese or shredded mozzarella
- Finely mince the yellow onion and fresh garlic. Combine minced onion, minced garlic, pesto, and EVOO into a medium saucepan and sauté for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
- Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and salt to the saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer with a lid.
- Wash eggplant, pat dry and thinly slice into rounds. Set to the side.
- Cut chicken breasts into halves, then tenderize and cut into round cutlets.
- Heat two skillets to medium heat. Add light oil.
- Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour Italian breadcrumbs into a separate bowl.
- Coat each piece of eggplant in egg wash and dredge in breadcrumbs. Fry in skillet 1 until golden and crisp. Repeat with chicken and fry in skillet 2.
- Cook pasta, drain and toss with light EVOO to prevent sticking.
- Plate pasta, top with alternating eggplant and chicken, top with marinara.
- Optional: Garnish with parmesan cheese or shredded mozzarella.
Serves 4 - Price per plate: $2.45
Mark’s Low-Carb Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole
- 1 pound ground beef: $4.00
- 1 cup onion chopped: $.50
- 2 garlic cloves minced: $.25
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce: $.10
- 2 oz cream cheese: $.50
- 2 eggs: $.20
- 1-2 tablespoons mustard: $.10
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream: $.75
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese divided: $1.00
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese divided: $1.00
- 1 teaspoon burger seasoning like Weber Burger Seasoning or McCormick’s Grill Mates Burger Seasoning: $.10
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (add more if you like!): $1.00
- 1 kosher pickle, cut into pieces (add more if you are a pickle lover!):$.25
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, burger seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Using a spatula, break the ground beef into chunks.
- Add the worcestershire sauce and cream cheese. Cook until the ground beef is no longer pink and the cream cheese has melted.
- Remove the skillet from heat.
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, ½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese, heavy cream, and mustard.
- Spray an 8 x 11 or 9×9 baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Pour the ground beef mixture into the dish. Sprinkle the bacon and sliced pickles throughout.
- Drizzle the liquid mixture on top.
- Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup shredded cheddar and ½ cup shredded white cheddar cheese on top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble.
- Cool before serving.
Serves 6 - Price per plate: $1.66
Abigail's Bagel Bread Pudding
Pro Tips: Excellent leftover user; great for next-day brunch!
- ~3 leftover plain or sweet bagels: $1.90
- 3 large eggs: $.30
- 1 c. milk: $.50
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (imitation is fine): $.25
- 1 tsp cinnamon: $.50
- 2 tbsp brown sugar: $.25
- 2 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted), melted: $.80
- Powdered sugar, for finish: $.25
- Tear bagels into 1-inch size pieces and line a buttered baking pan, insides up and in a single layer.
- Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon together.
- Pour mixture over the bread pieces, pressing down to ensure they are well coated.
- Cover pan and place in fridge for 8 hours (can do overnight as well).
- Take the pan out 30 minutes before ready to bake. Sprinkle top with brown sugar.
- Pour melted butter evenly on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Bread should be golden brown and puffy.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar for finishing touches.
Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.20
Vanessa’s Asian Lettuce Wraps
Pro Tips: I have found that I have been craving Asian take-out at least once a week while I have been quarantining. The problem is I can’t get it! All mix-ins can be swapped out with what you have in your fridge or freezer.
- ½ lb ground turkey (or meat/tofu of choice): $1.90
- 1 head lettuce (My favorite is Butter Lettuce): $2.00
- ½ onion, sliced thin: $.50
- 2 cups tri-color slaw mix (or just cabbage): $.80
- ½ zucchini (cut in small cubes): $.50
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder: $.10
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce: $.10
- ¼ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter: $.50
- ¼ cup hoisin sauce: $.50
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional) $.10
- 2 teaspoons water (free)
- Heat a large pan to med/high on your stovetop.
- Add in ground turkey and onions. Cook until brown.
- Remove onions and turkey from pan.
- Add all other solid ingredients (other than Lettuce) to the pan and cook until soft. Return turkey and onions to the pan, and mix all items.
- Add soy sauce and mix well.
- Remove mixture from heat.
- Mix hoisin sauce, peanut butter, and lemon juice together in a small bowl.
- Add water to thin (more water may be needed... add until a spoonable consistency).
- Sit out turkey mixture, lettuce leaves and sauce.
- Let dinner guests make their own wraps buffet-style or plate smaller portions of each item on plates and each person can construct their dinner.
Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.75
Kayce’s 3-1-1 Stir Fry
The 3-1-1 refers to the key ingredients in this recipe: 3 tablespoons soy sauce combined with 1 teaspoon chili oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
Frozen vegetables will release excess water in the wok if not thawed prior. Make vegan by substituting tofu or all vegetables for chicken. Make gluten-free by substituting gluten-free soy sauce (tamari).
- 1 lb chicken breasts: $2.98
- Boil-in-bag jasmine rice: $.67
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce: $.10
- 1 teaspoon chili oil: $.10
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil: $.10
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic: $.10
- EVOO or grapeseed oil: $.10
- Optional: Add Frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables, Canned Water Chestnuts or Baby Corn: $2 - $6
- Dice chicken breasts.
- Heat wok with olive or grapeseed oil. When oil is heated, add minced garlic.
- After 1 minute, add chicken to cook.
- When the chicken is nearly cooked through, add the 3-1-1 sauce mixture (as well as any optional additions such as veggies) and let all ingredients sear in wok over medium-high heat for no more than 3-5 min.
- Serve with the jasmine rice.
Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1 - $2 (depending on additions and potential dietary adjustments)
Christen's Caribbean Chicken
- Canned pineapple chunks: $1.20
- Red onion: $.50
- Cilantro: $.50
- 1 lb chicken breasts: $2.98
- Jerk seasoning: $.60
- EVOO: $.50
- Boil-in-bag whole grain brown rice: $.67
- Combine chopped pineapple, onion and cilantro for salsa; season with salt.
- Pound chicken to 1/2 inch thick, then cut each breast crosswise into two equal pieces; sprinkle with jerk seasoning.
- In large skillet, cook chicken in EVOO over medium until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
- Top with salsa and serve over the brown rice.
Serves 4 - Price per plate: $1.74
Prices as of May 2020