HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Budget Meals, no meat

Hi all,

We're trying to save money for our wedding (yay) and some unexpected dental work that has sprung up (boo). We're trying to cut back on our food costs because of this, but it has been hard because we both love to cook and eat. What are your favorite meals that don't cost a lot of money but taste great, and would satisfy a fish eating but otherwise vegetarian couple? And if they yield leftovers, even better!

We've been eating black bean quesadillas, roasted vegetables over rice, tofu curries, soups that yield lunch for a week, pastas, etc, but I'm looking for some "why didn't I think of that?" meals.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. my favorite "super salad" can be stir fried over brown rice with shredded cheese on top, throw a few handfuls into chix broth for soup and makes an awesome salad that you can switch it up by adding fun toppings (guacamole, sprouts, grated cheese, different dressings, nuts, etc.). This salad lasts a while too, won't go bad fast like lettuce salads:

    white cabbage (sliced thin or shredded)
    red cabbage (less amount then white, same prep)
    carrots (sliced thin)
    broccoli (small pieces, slice thin the stalk)
    cauliflower (small pieces)

    I make a lot so I can eat it often, sauting in my favorite sauce (soy or whatever), steam a few handfuls for a very light vegie mix, my salad is different every day when I change up the dressing or top with something different (even add a protein like beans or tofu). I don't get sick of this salad mix.

    and congrats on your upcoming wedding.

    1. I don't know if you've thought of it or not, but here's my list:

      Vegetarian Chili (your black bean quesadillas made me think of this one first thing)
      the ol' standby Tuna Casserole (rib-sticking and cheap)
      Hummus...and anything else made with chickpeas or other beans...
      The uber cheap ramen noodles bulked up with whatever veggies you have on hand

      And I know there are more dishes but I'm drawing a blank. I'd suggest searching this board, you're bound to find more ideas in old threads.

      Congratulations btw (on the upcoming wedding of course(yay!) not the dental work (boo) :)

      1. How about polenta? I don't see it on your list...very very inexpensive and easy to make your own and can be topped with a mushroom ragout or something similar.

        1. we are in a similar situation (poor and no meat) and have the following standbys:

          -salmon burgers out of canned salmon, usually with asian flavors (ginger, cilantro, etc) or sort of french with lots of capers
          - Kuba, a czech barley dish we discovered on our honeymoon in prague. Boil barley with dried mushrooms, stock cube, minced garlic, marjoram. Once barley is al dente, drain, and add a knob of butter. Bake in 350 degree oven until it has a bit of a crust. Eat with dill pickles. Also, last night we tipped some leftover kuba into our cabbage soup; delicious!
          -bring to work lunch salads containing canned, drained and rinsed chickpeas, bulgur wheat, carrots, celery, lemon juice and parsley.
          -buy sad looking discounted fruit and stew with sugar and cinnamon and cardamon so you have fruit compote to put on top of plain yogurt
          -polenta which you top with quick tomato sauce from canned tomatoes, olives, capers. Saute a few fennel seeds in olive oil, and then fry an egg. put on top of tomatoes and polenta with some cheese.
          - we eat tons of cabbage. el salvadorian cabbage salad, german cabbage with caraway, thai cabbage salads, etc.
          -my husband makes a mean daal which we will have with basmati rice. often i turn leftovers into soup
          -he also makes a mean spaetzle that we eat with le puy lentil soup.
          -before my dietting, no knead bread

          when we lived in the usa, frozen veggies were a godsend in the middle of winter. unfortunately, they are harder to find in the uk. generally, i think peasant foods are the way to go.

          1. In their various incarnations and deviations:
            Rices , vegetable casseroles, eggs, cheese, pannini , salads......I would have begun with pasta, but you have that on your list....Good Luck and Happy Wedding Day!

            1. While I would be inclined to suggest fresh vegetables the fact is today they are not a budget item. Frozen can often be a better deal if you can work it into a dish.

              Eggs are one of the best bargins for protein out there. I often see whole chickens at around $0.99/lb. You can eat a quite a few meals on a $4 chicken and make stock with the bones.

              1 Reply
              1. re: scubadoo97

                If they're not vegetarian -- which they are -- that is.

              2. One of the things that I love to eat without even thinking is red beans and rice. I'm sure you can make a very good version without meat, and it would go for a couple of meals. Not only filling but pretty good for you too.

                What about French Onion soup. I'd make a very rich onion broth with carmelized onions, puree them and add water, then cook more onions, and go from there.

                French Vegetable soups, you can leave the veggies whole, or puree them, all are incredibly satisfying.

                And of course pasta, you can make lasagne, and pasta using tuna, mushrooms, just about any vegetable that's out there.

                Burritos are great not only for breakfast, but any meal. Fill them with cheese and vegetables. Curries as someone else mentioned, and baked vegetables that are layered like mushrooms, onions and potato pies. Its fun when you have these sorts of challenges, some of my best recipes came to be because I was trying to save money.
                Oh and I almost forgot, you didn't say if you eat cheese or not, but make pizza!
                The dough is cheap and easy, sauce cheese, and whatever veggie suits your fancy. Have fun with this!

                1. There was a great thread going this summer about eating on $3/day. I believe it's not veggie-focused, but obviously, with only $3, it's very light on the meat. Try this link- there are a lot of great ideas.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: happybellynh

                    Ahh, thanks for the link. I did a bunch of searches before I posted this, but had trouble finding posts like this one.

                    1. re: fornaio

                      And if you search "$3 a day", you'll find about 10 more links... though it's hard to dig through it all! Good luck!

                  2. Dolmades are really good and different, especially if you include some onion and fennel in with the rice filling.

                    Here's a link to a good recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                    You can substitute veg. broth for the chicken broth.

                    1. Rich tasting veggie one-pan no-fry meal...
                      canned foul medames (added at end)
                      piece rinsed preserved lemon peel chopped (home made of course)
                      handful chopped green unstuffed pitted olives
                      can(s) chopped tomatoes
                      crushed garlic clove(s)
                      handful chopped flatleaf/Italian parsley added at end (and/or cilantro if liked)
                      chopped red chilli (optional)
                      Method - chuck in pan, cook till done, add beans and parsley, heat. Serve with rice

                      1. I've been eating more veggie meals lately to save money too. I recently made the barely and lentil soup on epicurious. It has chard or kale in it and was pretty tasty. I added more spices to it though b/c we like things spicy. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        They've had a lot of healthier recipes that involve barely, bulgur wheat, lentils, and garbanzo beans that would fit your parameters. I've been eating a lot of lentils, with either Indian spices or an Italian flavor profile. Another recipe that I bookmarked on epicurious is the garbanzo bean salad with chipotle chilies.

                        Another favorite of mine is coating some tilapia or catfish (whatever is on sale) with panko or breadcrumbs and baking it in the oven. When crispy, I use it in fish tacos or on salads.

                        1. Thanks for all the ideas so far-- my shopping list for this week has a bunch of new ideas now. Isn't it funny how sometimes you just forget about foods entirely? I used to eat polenta all the time but I think it has been years since...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: fornaio

                            if you go to Sam's , BJ's or costco- you can get a whole, filet of salmon for very inexpensive. Cut , wrap and freeze in individual servings... cook and throw in salads or whatever else you like!

                          2. I seem to be turning into a lazy cook lately, so I do a lot of pasta and noodle dishes. Years and years ago, when there was only ONE "Old Spaghetti Factory" in California (Nob Hill, SF), they had a wonderful dish on the menu called "Hot Naked Spaghetti." You slice a few cloves of garlic, saute them lightly in olive oil, turn up the heat and tosss with al dente spaghetti, a little kosher salt and pepper, plate, top with chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan or pecorino. Great with a salad.

                            For quick noodles, saute any kind of flaky fish (four ounces for two people is plenty) in a couple of tablespoons of butter, add a diced tomato, 4 chopped green oinions, a quarter cup of white vermouth, the zest of a lemon and a cup of sour cream. Toss with two generous servings of egg noodles and serve. Sea salt at the table, kosher salt in the water when boiling the noodles.

                            Any good rissotto dish made with orzo pasta instead of rice. I expecially like the very low priced orzo you get in Mexican/Hispanic markets. I think it has a better tooth than other orzos.

                            Have you ever had bulgur? It's a Middle Eastern precooked wheat. Well, if you've ever had tabuli, then of course you have! Tabuli is a good/cheap/nutritious dish! But I use bulghur in pilafs with currants and nuts. Pine nuts are traditional, but you can substitute walnuts for great results. You saute some onion in olive oil or butter or a mixture of the two, then add a cup or two (depending on whether you want leftovers) of bulgur (I like the coarse kind) and stir until it absorbs the oil. Then add the same amount of stock (chicken or beef or whatever) as bulghur, and "handful" or two of currants and a "handful" of nuts. Stir well, reduce the heat to slow simmer and cover until all the liquid is absorbed. It's a great side dish, but you can also add a little protien to the finished pilaf. Sprinkle a bit of chopped mint on top. I sometimes add lamb bits to this, but since you guys don't eat meant, I don't see why a few sauteed shrimp wouldn't be delicious.

                            I also make a really lazy, quick, and pretty cheap New England clam chowder. Saute a chopped yellow onion in butter until soft, add 1 can of drained clams (SAVE the liquid!) and saute for a bit, then add a can of sweet corn (I like Nibletts, but a regular can of sweet corn with the liquid works too), the liquid from the clams can, a small bottle of clam juice and half a cup or so of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat. Now, thicken it with instant mashed potato flakes. Be careful you don't end up with mashed potatoes! You just want to make it as thick as you like it. Then stir in some chopped parsley and check for seasoning. Serve with a pat of real butter in the center, a liberal sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, and some oyster crackers on the side.

                            These are all pretty quick to whip up, there aren't many dishes more economical than these, and if no one watches you make them, they think you've been slaving away over a hot stove.

                            Happy happy wedding, and whoever is going to the dentist, may it be painless! To the mouth and to the pocketbook. '-)

                            1. Cabbage and noodles.Which ever noodles are on sale,cabbage is always cheap (around St.Pattys day its really cheap)some butter &lots of black pepper.

                              1. A favorite since my child and very common in Italian families is spaghetti w/ oil and garlic (some call it midnight pasta). Melt some butter w/ olive oil in a saute pan and saute some garlic and red hot pepper flakes. Toss w/ thin spaghetti and a little pasta water and a splash of fresh lemon juice. Don't forget the grated Locatelli Romano!

                                To boost the nutrional benefit par boil some broccolini and then saute in the butter/oil mixture... yum.

                                Oh, another option is frittata or eggs any way! I am a huge fan of this frittata receipe that another chowhounder gave me a while back: Corn, Scallion & Potato Frittata

                                1. I like to make enchiladdas in a red sauce. I have been doing black bean and roasted sweet potatos lately. I've been making my own sauce, kind of a pain, but it does last me for a week of lunches.

                                  Oh and spinach lasana. One of my favorites. I usually substitute tofu for Ricotta and use and egg binder, but sometimes I splurge on good Ricotta and really make something worth eating.

                                  1. I'm glad you like polenta....one of my new favorite dishes is a mound of plain polenta topped with swiss chard that's sauteed til just tender with raisins, pinenuts, red pepper flakes and splashed with vinegar. Sprinkle with a very small amount of blue cheese,and you have a dish that's salty, sweet, pungent, creamy, crunchy, and extremely satisfying!

                                    Congratulations on the upcoming wedding, and good luck with your healthcare!

                                    1. Keeping with the POLENTA theme, here's a goody: make a pot of creamy polenta, then mix in some melty cheese (I do goat or gorgonzola) and fresh sage. Top with chunks of roasted butternut squash. Mmm mmm!

                                      Fritattas can be cheap and meat-free.

                                      On the egg note, do a breakfast for dinner: mix a bunch of veggies and cheese into an egg scramble. Serve with potatoes and toast.

                                      1. Eggs.



                                        You can make souffles for a pittance; you should learn to do that, because they are actually easy to make and fairly indestructible. It will also teach you to have a mise en place - because this is one thing you should have everything ready to go before making (but you can make it up ahead before baking - you can prep a souffle for up to four hourse before baking it).

                                        Served with great bread or other starch and veggies of your choice, and you have piss elegant meal for a pittance. Worthy of hosting guests, who will marvel at your grace.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          agreed re: eggs....have a basil red pepper frittata recipe that is pretty good, and hearty as it also has potatoes in it.

                                        2. This recipe makes masses to freeze, improves with age, and is the best vegetarian chili i've ever had:

                                          MARVELOUS MEATLESS CHILI:
                                          1 can diced or whole tomatoes (796ml)
                                          1/2 cup bulgur
                                          3 tbsp vegetable oil
                                          2 large onions chopped
                                          3 cloves garlic minced
                                          2 tsp each dried chili powder, cumin and dried oregano
                                          2 sweet green peppers diced
                                          1 tsp minced jalapeno peppers
                                          1 19 oz can of kidney beans
                                          1 19 oz can of black beans
                                          1 12 oz can kernel corn
                                          1/2 cup tomato paste
                                          hot pepper, salt and pepper to taste
                                          (i sometimes also toss in some chopped mushrooms)
                                          options toppings are cheddar cheese, cilantro, sour cream

                                          -->drain juice from tomatoes into saucepan, reserve tomatoes. Stir bulgur into juice, bring to boil (i also do this in the micro), reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins, set aside
                                          -->in meantime, heat oil in large saucepan, add onions and spices and saute until soft.
                                          -->stir in tomatoes, bulgur mixture, green peppers, jalapeno, beans, corn, tomato paste and 1/2 cup water. Add hot pepper sauce and S&P to taste.
                                          -->cover and simmer 10 mins or more to desired thickness.

                                          1. p.s. if your'e a seafood eater.....something like cod au gratin...or acceptable substitution (i once used pollock which is really cheap)

                                            channa recipes or dhal ...as beans and such are super cheap to cook with.

                                            1. Lentils and fresh spinach. Cook the lentils in veggie broth or water. Saute a little chopped onion in butter or oil (I use olive oil) in a skillet or wok. Add the fresh spinach which you have washed and stemmed and torn or cut into smaller pieces. Wilt it slightly in the oil/onion mixture, and then add the lentils. Mix lightly; seve with chipotle hot sauce. Enjoy!

                                              I find that soaking lentils cuts their cooking time substantially.

                                              For this dish I prefer the mature, curly-leaved loose spinach, rather than the bagged, young spinach.

                                              1. My budget fave of late ( I work in Real Estate...good thing I love beans!) is Tacos!!

                                                You need:

                                                Beans (make em or buy cans)
                                                Vegis (tomato/garlic/onion/avocado)
                                                Hot sauce/salt/pepper
                                                Corn Tortillas

                                                I buy really good corn tortillas and heat them on a hot cast iron griddle (dry) flipping them once. while the griddle is heating, I'll combine an avocado,1/2 red onion, 2 cloves raw garlic,some fresh Jalapeno/Hab, a can of whole kernel corn, many liberal shakes of hot sauce (Tapatio) if ya got it. and salt/pepper.

                                                I like to combine it in a Tupperware container and then shake it up and let it sit 10min...

                                                Then I heat tortillas one at a time and put a spoonful of beans in and top with some of the salsa and GRUB DOWN!

                                                All for about $2. a person (because Avocados are pricey...)

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: jbyoga

                                                  To make this even less expensive by stretching your toppings, skip the tortillas & make fry bread (aka Navajo fry bread). A little flour, milk, baking powder & salt, plus oil to quickly fry them in, and you have a big, puffy meal stretcher. I double the recipe (4C flour, 2T baking powder, 2 tsp. salt, 2c milk - a lot of people will argue for and against this version of the recipe - I argue "for" on the basis of tasty & great results every time, regardless of authenticity) and make about 8 or nine fry breads, which are KILLER the next morning warmed in the microwave & served w/honey. You just mix the dough, let it rest a few minutes, knead a little (adding flour if necessary to knead easily), and pull off golf ball size chunks of dough, stretch/shape them into rounds (thinner in the middle) and deep fry in hot 365 oil, turning once browned.

                                                  I feel like I'm touting this recipe everywhere lately - but since I have 5 mouths at the table (two teens) and one income, I'm ALL for anything which lets me cut my 'taco fillings' in half AND provides dessert or breakfast the next day.

                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                    This sounds fantastic, shanagain- I often make chapatis with just flour, salt, water, and they're fine at the meal, but make crummy leftovers (and mine never seem to quite live up to expectations). I'll be trying your fry bread ASAP- thanks!

                                                    1. re: happybellynh

                                                      Let me know how you like it - I use the frybread as a base for lentil tacos, which makes for one REALLY inexpensive but fantastic dinner - even for a family of confirmed carnivores.

                                                      1. re: shanagain

                                                        Your lentil tacos sound delicious! Recipe? Please and thank you.

                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                            Yep, that's the base. I don't add salsa to the mix, I prefer a can of El Pato hot tomato sauce (http://www.mexgrocer.com/1276.html) but only because I tend to put that in everything that I feel needs a kick.

                                                2. Regular staples are mushroom-barley soup, taco salad (diced cucumber, tomato, peppers, +/- beans & cheese, dress with salsa), onion soup with cheese & homemade croutons (buy fresh bread, dice, bake at 200 on lightly oiled pan & toss with salt/pepp/garlic when crispy), white bean & garlic soup with pasta, quiche, butternut squash soup, macaroni & cheese, fried brown rice, lo mein... I'm not a veg now but used to be and these were all on the regular rotation. gl

                                                  1. The NY Times put out a recipe for tomato paella that is a delicious one-dish meal. The recipe came out just when I had a bounty of tomatoes from the garden. We've made it a few times, often varying the basic recipe (e.g., by adding artichoke hearts, green beans, or protein; mussels, chorizo ,or shrimp are great, although not all are cheap).


                                                    On that note, I would add that a whole host of risottos would be good cheap eats.

                                                    And finally, steamed mussels are surprisingly inexpensive (around $3-4 for a big bag) and can be made with lots of variations in the seasonings and broth. With a crusty loaf of bread, that's a great meal!

                                                    1. I got this from a neighbor who was on a budget and I'm making it for dinner tonight. Frozen thawed corn and diced tofu sauteed in a little oil and soy sauce. It's a great quick dinner when I get to the end of the work week and don't want to cook. Our kids like it too. You can serve with rice but we don't usually.

                                                      1. Some very good ideas so far. A few more:
                                                        - Tortilla Espanola is basically eggs, onions, and potatoes -- all usually cheap. I use the Epicurious recipe, which makes a huge tortilla, but it keeps well for a few days in the fridge and is good for snacks.
                                                        - Middle Eastern food has lots of legume/starch combinations that will meet your needs, e.g. koshari. Sometimes I make a dinner out of 1 or 2 dips like hummus or fuul, plus homemade pita bread and a salad.
                                                        I have Classic Vegetarian Cooking of the Middle East and North Africa, in which the author talks about the inexpensive foods his family survived on after immigrating to North America. I bet a trip to the cookbook section of your library would yield some inspiration.
                                                        - Nuts are a good protein source, too. A Southeast Asian peanut sauce can liven up your veggies and rice.

                                                        1. Try sweet potato quesadillas. Grate 1 large or two small sweet potatoes. Saute some chopped garlic, diced onion and green peppers in oil, then add the sweet potatoes. Season with cumin, salt, pepper. Cook until the sweet potatoes are browned in some spots and totally soft.

                                                          Put the mixture into flour tortillas with some sharp cheese and then heat in a bit of oil until the outside or the tortilla is crispy. You can add salsa, tomotoes or sour cream or other condiments if you want at this point. This meal is sooo tasty and the most expensive part is the cheese, but you don't need to add much.

                                                          I think I got this from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, which I recommend. Plenty of budget ideas in there, just because veggies are so much less expensive than meat.

                                                          1. When I had lots of kids to feed and not much grocery money, I made homemade tomato soup. Melt a stick of oleomargerine or butter in a big pan, add 1/2 cup flour and cook it as you stir it about a minute. Pepper it with about 1/2 teaspoon black and salt it with about a tablespoon sea or Kosher. Stir in with a whisk about 4 cups milk or soy milk is good too. While you are doing this, dump 2 or 3 cans of stewed tomatoes in a smaller pan with 2 Tablespoons sugar. a dash of celery salt and one of onion powder then bring that to a boil. When everything is hot, stir while whisking a little of the tomato into the white sauce at a time until it's all in the big pan. It's good with any kind of bread or crackers. And lots of times we'd set the table with our "good" dishes and have it over homemade croutons with a salad on the side and Kool Aid Lemonade in frosty glasses. We thought it was a great treat. (If you like your tomato soup smooth instead of chunky, use tomato juice; if you like it creamier, add a can of evaporated milk. Hope you enjoy!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: bouncy55

                                                              Sounds tasty, bouncy. I make tomato soup frequently that's a little easier... but perhaps not as 'special'... I'd like to try yours. Mine is:

                                                              - 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, dumped in a pot, chop up with the end of a knife, simmer 10 minutes with half-cup chx stock or broth. Add a pat of butter, clove of minced garlic, s+p, herbs/spices of choice- sometimes I do fresh basil, sometimes cajun.... Whizz smooth with stick blender if desired. Splash of milk/cream if desired. This makes just enough for two hungry people with a grilled cheese sandwich each, and costs about $1 per serving.

                                                            2. Paella With Tomatoes by Mark Bittman. Great, when tomatoes in season, canned tomatoes are ok too.


                                                              1. Another cheap, healthy lentil dish - Mid Eastern "mjadra
                                                                1 part lentils, 2 parts brown rice, 1 tsp salt per cup of the dry ingredients, 6 parts water.Stir rice & lentils in 2 tsp oil to coat over high heat. Add water & salt, when water boils, turn heat down to low, for 40 min., saute onions to caramelization & mix in w/ rice/lentils. Top w/ laban, a mix of yogurt, garlic, mint & cucumber

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Rmis32

                                                                  I do a similar dish, but saute the onions beforehand with carrots, garlic, bay, thyme, and mushrooms, then add rice & lentils. Proportions of rice, lentils and water as above.

                                                                  If this is made a little sticky, the next day, we scrunch a few Ritz crackers into the leftovers as a binder, shape into patties about half an inch thick, and fry up in olive oil. I haven't found a condiment that doesn't go with these. My favorite is chili-garlic paste though.

                                                                2. We're also veg and on a tight budget, so I hear you! Soup is about the cheapest meal you can put together, but you don't want things to get boring. Recently I bought a container of red miso. It was pricey at $7, but well worth the investment over time - since then I've thrown together several unconventional miso soups, once with ramen and another time with Italian spaghettini, some stock and whatever beans veggies were lying around. It felt a little fancier than our usual soups. (Also, I know beans might sound odd in a miso soup but chick peas were really yummy and fit right in.)

                                                                  You might think about adapting your shopping habits to your new budget, without giving up your old recipes. I only use store-bought broth when company is coming over. Otherwise, I use water or bouillon cubes from the local health food store. (Watch out for the supermarket brands - a lot of them contain MSG.) Think about switching from canned beans to dried. Tofu is usually much cheaper at Asian grocery stores, if one is nearby, than at your supermarket. In fact, I'm pretty sure tofu is a more expensive protein source than beans - maybe it's worth using a little less? You can make some fantastic curries with beans.

                                                                  1. Speaking of soup, one of this year's favourite soups is Bittman's glazed carrot soup - if you google it the Google Books result will come up - though I tried to substitute honey for the maple syrup once, and it didn't come out well. Brown sugar might be a reasonable substitute. Maple syrup is a staple in Canada, I'm not sure where you are! Anyway, a bag of carrots is very cheap, and there's not much else in this soup, but it always feels fancy.

                                                                    1. 1) Make polenta using 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal, 4 cups water, and 1 tsp salt (crockpot works well for this) then stir in 8-10 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into pieces or shredded in the Cuisinart, and a pinch of hot chili pepper, and stir until the cheese is melted. Refrigerate in greased loaf pans. Slice. Saute in frying pan . 2) Broil portobello mushrooms and serve on hot buttered toast with the mushroom juice poured over. 3) Scrambled eggs with mushrooms or with green peppers. 3) Egg Foo Yong without the meat. 4) Spanakopita. 5) Buy felafel, pita, hummos, and Kalamata olives at Middle Eastern Grocery, Foster & Clark. and make sandwiches---added shredded lettuce and a slice of tomato. 6) You mentioned fish---sauteed salmon patties using inexpensive canned salmon. Or a baked salmon loaf. 7) Asparagus is starting to come in. Make a quiche featuring asparagus and feta cheese, a very good combination.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Querencia

                                                                        hey are we sisters??? #2 is something my mom used to make when I was little and loved it. I would love to know about the crockpot polenta. how long and do you add the cheese at the end - I'm guessing yes. We are renovating our kitchen and the crckpot is coming in very handy - I see grilled veggies over polenta as something I'd like.

                                                                        I love salmon cakes or loaf too, I just bought one of those tiny cupcake or muffin tins and I now make lil crab cakes or salmon using them - then freeze for easy lunches or dinners (just crab a few and go). they usually thaw by lunchtime.

                                                                        1. re: lexpatti

                                                                          Any other ways you use your muffin tins for things like this? At my coop, they make individual stratas in them (some with vegies added, some with a little meat). (Another budget meal that can be all vegie.)

                                                                          Are you doing other things with them? Like the idea of making individual servings and freezing for lunches.

                                                                          1. re: karykat

                                                                            Yes, I've also done crustless lil quiches and been wanting to do a nice meatball or mini meatloaf (why not right). I've also been wanting to do a polenta and roasted veggie. I'll play so sometimes don't have an exact recipe but let me gather my thoughts and I'll post how I do the salmon mini cakes, and I just substitute crab for the salmon.

                                                                          2. re: lexpatti

                                                                            What a great idea lexpatti. I'd love to see your recipe for mini salmon/crab cakes, please.

                                                                            1. re: just_M

                                                                              I will usually take good canned salmon and I like crunch so red onion diced and even lil celery, dill is important, capers, lemon juice and lil horseradish, an egg or two to bind and crushed crackers or bread crumbs. They cook up fast so I watched them closely, I think it may have been 15 min. 350.

                                                                              When I do crab, I like cilantro instead of dill, basil might work too, omit the capers and maybe a dab of mayo or sour cream. if I have a pepper, I'll dice that up too.

                                                                              Can you tell that I play in the kitchen? Hope that helps guide you at least. :-)

                                                                              1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                Thanks so much. This is very helpful and just what I was looking for. :-)

                                                                                1. re: just_M

                                                                                  my dad has an old Nova Scotia recipe for Lobster pie and basically it's butter, cooked lobster, crushed ritz crackers, lemon juice - I've been wanting to play with that for those tiny muffins too.

                                                                                  I've seen a black bean burger that would be nice in those muffin tins too, for a quick vegitarian lunch or dinner.

                                                                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                    Mmmmm, looks like I've got some serious playing to do. I'm assuming they are all baked about the same way. Thanks again M

                                                                        2. I play with stuff that I can get in the bulk bins from my local grocery store. Bulgur, farro, quinoa, and lentils are my favorites for something a little different. I love the recipe for Broccoli Rabe with Bulgur and Walnuts on epicurious, it's incredibly satisfying and filling.

                                                                          I like to make grain or pasta salads that you can keep in the fridge and munch on for lunch or snacks. A few of my favorite are quinoa with pickled radishes and feta and greek salad with orzo and black-eyed peas.

                                                                          Green lentils with mustard-herb butter and salmon cakes from canned salmon or frozen salmon patties is a cheapened down version of a gourmet recipe that I really like.


                                                                          1. I posted before but today was thinking about you as I walked through the grocery store. Pancakes (or crepes or palascinta or whatever) are great as they are inexpensive to make (a couple of eggs, some flour, some milk) but you can roll anything up in them, cover them with some kind of sauce, and have quite a fancy dish, whether savory or sweet. I like to fill them with chicken in chicken gravy, put more gravy over them, add some cheese, and bake them. But I remember some very nice creamed spinach crepes at a Basque restaurant....Same philosophy, meringues or a meringue tart costs only three egg whites and a cup of sugar but can be filled with fruit, ice cream, custard, whipped cream, sauce, or any combo thereof, to make a smashing dessert.

                                                                            1. Especially in winter I love white bean kale soup. Cook white kidney or cranberry beans in vegetable broth with a bay leaf, garlic, and a dried chili. When then beans are cooked and more broth or water, kale, and potatoes. Tasty, filling, and stupid cheap.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: corneygirl

                                                                                Yes, I agree that bean kale soup is wonderful, easy, and cheap! I sometimes swap out the beans for lentils or replace the kale with chard or collard greens. So simple and really tasty.

                                                                                1. re: reesie

                                                                                  If you can find frozen collard greens, you can use canned beans, simmer with plain old water seasoned with salt, hot pepper and garlic, and this becomes a really quickly made meal. If using canned beans, I rinse them,and rely on lots of sauteed garlic and pot liquor generated by the greens for broth.

                                                                                  Chuck some cornbread in the oven right before you start and it'll be done at the same time as your beanie greenie.

                                                                              2. This red kidney bean soup is new to me and I tried it tonight, loved it. I did add some chipotle in adobo for more heat, and please be careful using a blender for the hot liquid...I enjoyed it with cornbread and dark green salad...if you don't want to do the "healthy saute" you can easily saute the vegetables in olive oil or canola oil...I think the last time I bought dark red kidney beans, they were on sale for 50 cents per can:

                                                                                1. rice noodles, thinly sliced carrot, green onions and any other crisp veggies you like. Mix with satay sauce and roll in lettuce leaves. Fab! Tortillas work too if you are feeling flush. White bean pate with croustades and a nice salad. Curried chickpeas. Melanzanosalata. Spicy corn chowder. Meng Goreng.

                                                                                  1. who needs meat?
                                                                                    I love chile rellenos, in fact I'm having beans and a chile relleno now.
                                                                                    Also, stuff canneloni with spinach and ricotta. Use a good marinara and bechemel
                                                                                    Eggplant parmesean
                                                                                    All of the these are inexpensive and really satisfying.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                      I made a spinach pie with fresh spinach on sale last week, added mushrooms and onions. All chopped in the food processor. Added 3 eggs, 1/2 c milk 1/4 c oil, shredded cheddar cheese and seasoning to a baked pie crust, and baked it for 45 minutes. All items were on sale to make an economical meal.

                                                                                      1. ooh good call on the samosas, that's definitely a, "Why didn't I think of that?"

                                                                                        Anyway, fornaio, I know you mentioned pasta, but puttanesca is oft overlooked and sooo good! Easy, cheap and, like anything with anchovy, garlic and chili flakes, it's heavenlyyyyy!

                                                                                        I just started my first batch of sourdough starter, which I'm really excited about. I think that it will round out my cheap eats menu a lot, with things like tapenades, bruschetta, marinated veggies and other antipasto items being affordable in the small quantities a couple will eat with dinner.

                                                                                        Did someone say Pad Thai? It's one of my faves for meatless Monday! Good luck, and great posts here!!