I'm a Dietitian Who Lives Alone & These Are The Easy Recipes I Make The Most

I turn to these dishes again and again because they are simple, nutritious and budget-friendly.

Lentil Salad with Feta, Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Olives
Photo: Jennifer Causey

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where associate nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life

I love to cook. In fact, it's one of my favorite things to do. I cook for myself, for my friends and sometimes I even get to cook for work (how lucky can you be, right?). Rarely do I find myself without inspiration for a new recipe to make, and I love to cook a variety of different dishes and expand my skills. That said, I'm on a budget and I live alone, so cooking something new every single day would leave me with an unrealistic amount of leftovers and would likely result in lots of wasted food. Not to mention, that would be expensive.

Pictured Recipe: Lentil Salad with Feta, Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Olives

Though I'm intentional about making time to make something new and special when I can, there are a few go-to dishes that I know like the back of my hand from repetition. They're easy meals that come together with ingredients that I almost always have on hand and they allow me to have something to eat in a pinch. These are the six dietitian-approved recipes that I make the most.


1. Shakshuka

Get the Recipe: Baked Eggs, Tomatoes & Chiles (Shakshuka)

Shakshuka is a popular Israeli breakfast or brunch dish that consists of baked eggs nestled into a bed of roasted tomato sauce. While my version might be far from the traditional version, it's one of my favorite things to make for many reasons. It's a great way to use up vegetables that are one their way out, like onions, peppers and greens. Even if I don't have many fresh veggies on hand, this can be made with mostly pantry staples like canned tomatoes, beans and eggs. I like adding a side salad or baguette to make it more filling, too. The tomato sauce is so good that sometimes I'll make a double batch to have for breakfast the next day.

Tuna, White Bean & Dill Salad

2. Tuna Salad

Get the Recipe: Tuna, White Bean & Dill Salad

Tuna salad is my tried-and-true go-to lunch. It's packed with flavor from fresh herbs and vegetables, so it's something that I'm always in the mood for. Seafood is super nutritious, but sometimes can cost premium prices. Choosing canned tuna can make it easier to eat more seafood on a budget, too. I serve it over lettuce greens, a slice of bread, whole-grain crackers or even eat it by itself if I'm really low on groceries.

Black-Bean Quinoa Buddha Bowl

3. Black Bean-Quinoa Bowl

Get the Recipe: Black Bean-Quinoa Bowl

You can use any grain and vegetable combo to make a delicious grain bowl lunch, but our Black Bean-Quinoa Bowl is my favorite. It feels like I'm eating Chipotle, but at home for a fraction of the price. And, no, guac is not extra. Making a grain bowl is a great way to use up vegetables that are past their prime. You can even use the grain mixture to top a green salad. This one gets better as it sits, too, so leftovers make a perfect lunch.

Bacon & Egg Breakfast Tacos

4. Breakfast Tacos

Get the Recipe: Bacon & Egg Breakfast Tacos

As someone who lives along, when I make tacos or a dish that requires a few tortillas, I'm then left with the remainder of the 24-count pack. We've all been there. One delicious way I've found to use up leftover tortillas is to make breakfast tacos. It's a tasty way to level-up a basic veggie and egg scramble, and it helps make breakfast a little more filling. Plus, to me it feels a little more fun than having overnight oats everyday (I prefer savory flavors, what can I say). I usually skip the bacon in this recipe, unless I'm cooking for a special occasion or have it leftover from another dish.

Salmon Caesar Salad

5. Salmon Caesar Salad

Get the Recipe: Salmon Caesar Salad

I love a Caesar salad. It might be my favorite dish of all time. This Salmon Caesar Salad quickly became a standby after I first tried this recipe. I always make Caesar Salad Dressing from scratch, too, because it's easier than you might think and boosts the whole dish's flavor. Sometimes I'll sub in canned salmon to make it more budget-friendly and even quicker. This salad is delicious, nutritious and super filling. Not to mention, it comes together in just a few minutes.

6. Lentil Salad

Get the Recipe: Lentil Salad with Feta, Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Olives

This Mediterranean-inspired lentil salad is the perfect pantry meal in my mind. I'm a firm believer that lentils are a broke cook's best friend (it takes one to know one). They are super healthy, packing a punch of protein, fiber and nutrients. Plus, they're inexpensive and basically last forever in your pantry. This lentil salad relies on pantry staples and can be thrown together with ingredients I typically have on hand. I love our recipe, but you can skip the tomatoes and cucumbers if you don't have the fresh produce.

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