By Hilary Meyer, March 28, 2011 - 1:30pm
By nature, I'm not a frugal person. When it comes to food, I don't think twice about getting expensive ingredients at my favorite gourmet shop and whipping up a fancy dinner a few nights a week. Last week, for example, I had beef tenderloin at $20 a pound with a nice red-wine reduction sauce. For the more frugal lot (or what I like to call the "Frugal Frans" of the world), that would be Christmas dinner. For me, that's dinner on a random Tuesday. Am I rich? Nope. Not even close. I just blow through my monthly food budget—in about a 2-week time span. I love it while I live it, and then I curse myself when it's all gone. Then for two weeks I have to find a way to make my last little bit of grocery money stretch by picking really cheap recipes that by their very nature and design will keep my food costs low.
In the Test Kitchen, on top of developing recipes that taste good and are nutritionally sound, the other Test Kitchen cooks and I pay attention to cost. Sure, there are recipes that we consider a “splurge,” but we also get really excited when a recipe we develop is really inexpensive to make. (Check out these Quick Weeknight Dinners for $3 or Less per serving.)
Since we do all our own grocery shopping for the job, we are acutely aware how much food costs. So while I would much rather have the crème de la crème of ingredients to make dinner with every night, I know that I have to rein it in, and I use the recipes to help me. Below are a few of our cheapest recipes—all under $1 a serving. I know there’s a Frugal Fran inside me somewhere.
Southwestern Three-Bean & Barley Soup
$5.36 per recipe
$.89 per serving
Serve this zesty bean and barley soup garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, if desired.
$5.12 per recipe
$.64 per serving
Tomatoes and corn have a natural affinity for one another: the slight acidity of tomatoes balances the sweetness of the corn. Here they partner in a delicious quiche-like pie. The dough is very forgiving and bakes up into a sturdy shell that’s great for just about any savory pie or tart. Perfect for a summer brunch or try it with a tossed salad for a light supper.
$4.28 per recipe
$.71 per serving
Here’s a creative way to use leftover cooked spaghetti: try mixing it with eggs for a filling Italian omelet. If you don’t want to buy separate bunches of fresh herbs, look for an Italian blend package that may contain some of each or use one-third the amount of dried.
Corn & Broccoli Calzones (pictured)
$5.88 per recipe
$.98 per serving
These calzones are stuffed with a summery combination of corn and broccoli, but you can use whatever you have in your fridge. Part-skim ricotta and mozzarella make our pizza pockets lower in saturated fat. Plus a whole-wheat crust adds a nutty flavor and extra fiber. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.
Lentil & Almond Burgers
$3.40 per recipe
$.68 per serving
These vegetarian burgers are just the thing for a summery picnic, on buns or on their own with sliced tomatoes and relish. Or try them with roasted potatoes and roasted broccoli. Use a wide spatula to flip the delicate patties.
Community Poll: How much money do you spend each week on groceries?
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