Tightening your belt after Tax Day? Stretch your budget with healthy $10 dinners your family will love like black bean chili.

“It’s a one-pot meal,” said Ashvini Mashru of Wellness Nutrition Concepts in Malvern, who serves chili with a side salad and whole-grain roll. “It is very healthy. It has fiber and antioxidants.”

The registered dietitian nutritionist buys dried beans in bulk, soaks them overnight and makes “enough (chili) to last three to four days for lunches and dinner.” She even mixes beans with ground beef to create a “half veggie burger.”

“Beans are very cheap,” Mashru explained. “Eggs are the next cheapest source of protein.”

Another “easy, family-friendly” recipe: baked rigatoni.

“You can combine it with a nice salad — fresh seasonal greens that you got from a farmers’ market,” she said. “Kale, chard, collard greens, spinach, broccoli – they are very inexpensive, and you can buy them in bulk.”

Whatever you choose, “I always recommend shopping on the weekend and making a plan,” Mashru stressed.

“One of the best ways to save money is utilizing everything you bring into the kitchen,” agreed chef Libby Mills of West Chester, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Come up with a game plan to use what you’ve got and think about what you want to purchase at the store.”

Cash in by shopping sales, eating seasonally and freezing extras.

“Vegetables you can blanch and put in the freezer. The meat can go right in the freezer,” said Mills, also a registered dietitian nutritionist. “Other items that add a lot of value to meals, but aren’t too expensive are albacore tuna and canned chicken.”

When buying fresh, “you can always save money on chicken if you purchase it on the bone rather than off,” she reminded.

Save those bones (and veggie scraps) for homemade chicken stock.

“Nothing should go to waste,” Mills said. “Keep a running stock bag in the freezer.”

And when it comes to recipes, she too likes eggs.

“One of my favorite dishes would be to make an egg casserole,” Mills described. “It makes a great breakfast. It makes a great dinner.”

Baked RigatoniIngredients1 (16-ounce) box rigatoni or penne pasta (I recommend buying whole grain)

1 pound lean ground beef1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes

1 onion, choppedGarlic, to taste

InstructionsCook beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned; stir to crumble. Drain well. Combine beef, cooked rigatoni, tomatoes, onion and garlic to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. If you have some around the house, you can add mozzarella or Parmesan cheese on top. Approximate cost: $9.81


Black Bean ChiliIngredients1 onion, chopped

Garlic, to taste1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 (15.5-ounce) can low-sodium black beans

1 (14.5-ounce can) chicken broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes

½ pound ground turkeyInstructions

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add first three ingredients and turkey; cook for 6 minutes or until turkey is done, stirring frequently to crumble. Rinse and drain the canned beans. Stir in beans, tomatoes and half of the can of chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Approximate cost: $9.45


Half Veggie BurgerIngredients3 cups cooked lentils or beans

1 cup finely chopped bell pepper or other vegetable

1 pound ground beef or other ground meat

1 egg (optional)Salt and pepper, to taste

8 whole-wheat bunsInstructionsRoughly mash the lentils with the back of a large spoon. Mix the lentils, bell pepper and ground beef with your hands in a large bowl. If you’re grilling, add an egg to keep the patties from crumbling. Season with salt and pepper and form into eight patties. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the patties. Sear them until they’re dark brown on one side, about 5 minutes, then flip and do the same on the other side. Serve on toasted buns with your favorite condiments and fresh vegetables. Serves eight. Approximate cost: $10.


Salmon Cakes over Lemony Greens

Salmon cakes are so easy. Try using canned chicken or tuna. Canned salmon is a great way to get omega-3 fats which are important for our brain health as well as reducing any inflammation caused by stress. For $9.13, it’s good for our wallets too! (If using 6 cups of lettuce, it would cost $9.68.)

IngredientsSalmon cakes:1 (15-ounce) can of salmon

1 egg¼ cup chopped onion¼ cup finely chopped celery

½ cup breadcrumbs (See note)1 tablespoon oil

Salad:4 cups greens, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

1 apple, washed and cut into chunks

InstructionsDrain the canned salmon, reserving the liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, break apart the salmon chunks with a fork. Remove any large bones. Stir in the egg, onion and celery. Stir in enough breadcrumbs to reduce the stickiness enough to easily form patties. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Spread the oil across the skillet surface using a spatula and place the patties onto the oiled surface. Cook each side 4 to 7 minutes until browned. Serve warm over bed of greens that have been dressed with lemon vinaigrette and chunks of apple. Serves four.

Lemon vinaigrette:1½ tablespoons lemon

3 tablespoons olive oilIn a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Toss 4 to 6 cups of greens (one head of romaine lettuce) with the dressing. Plate and top with a salmon cake and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.

Note: Freeze the heels of bread in a freezer-grade plastic bag. When ready to make breadcrumbs, dry out the bread and pulse in a food processor. Dried bread chunks can also be grated to make breadcrumbs.


Mediterranean Hash In one pan, all the Mediterranean flavors I love come together in minutes. The sunny-side up presentation of protein on a colorful backdrop of fiber and plenty of vegetables make my Mediterranean Hash the perfect fuel to start to my day.

Ingredients1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove fresh garlic, minced or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

½ cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained

¼ cup red peppers, diced¼ cup water-packed canned artichokes, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar1 cup fresh baby spinach

¼ cup grape tomatoes, halved1 scallion, chopped

Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1 egg¼ teaspoon fresh dill, chopped or 1/8 teaspoon dried dill

InstructionsOver medium heat, warm a medium sauté pan. Heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Stirring, cook the garlic 30 seconds before mixing in the chickpeas, pepper and artichokes. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until everything is hot. Incorporate the balsamic vinegar, spinach, tomatoes, scallions and dill. Lightly season with salt and pepper as desired. Immediately make a well in the center of the hash. Spray the bottom of the pan with olive oil and add the raw egg being careful not to break the yolk. Immediately cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook another 2 minutes allowing the spinach to wilt and the egg to cook. (I cook my egg 3 to 4 minutes because I like my eggs cooked solid.) Serve the hash with the egg on top. Top with a few sprigs of fresh dill. Approximate cost if using the fresh dill, but eliminating the red bell pepper: $2.32 per serving. As dinner for four the total cost is $9.28.

Variation: Add a few red pepper flakes when sautéing the garlic.


comments powered by Disqus