Why’re Libs Coming to This Site? BTW Looks easily adapted for veggie meals…
5 Easy Weekday Meals to Feed Your Family for $5 or Less
by jmaughan on Sep 16, 2011 – 2 Comments
It’s hard enough to provide your family with delicious healthy weeknight meals at an affordable price. When those meals must be squeezed in between everything you need to accomplish in a day, it seems impossible. Don’t reach for that takeout menu or box dinner on the pantry shelf – here are five easy weekday meals that total $5 or less for a family of four and take no more than 30 minutes from start to finish. The recipes completely cover those three elusive mealtime factors – healthy, inexpensive and delicious.
Monday: Barbecue Chicken Pizza, $1.25 per serving
These hearty personal pizzas will appeal to everyone in the family. Pair the bold barbecue taste with a simple vegetable dip or fresh fruit that’s in season. Make things easy by cooking chicken breasts in the slow cooker all day so they are ready to be shredded when it’s time for dinner.
Ingredients: You’ll need 8 pitas; 1 pound of shredded chicken; 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce and 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the pita rounds on baking sheets and sprinkle the shredded chicken on top of each. Drizzle barbecue sauce over each pizza. Sprinkle the pizzas with cheddar cheese. Bake them for approximately 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately
Nutrition Boost: Along with the chicken, top the pizzas with leftover veggies like peas, spinach, onions, broccoli florets or olives. Use whole wheat pitas to maximize your nutritional intake.
Tip: To make this dish cost even less, purchase frozen skinless chicken breasts in bulk. Slow cook the whole batch at once, keep out what you need, then freeze the rest for another meal.
Tuesday: Golden Macaroni and Cheese, $1.15 per serving
You’ll never go back to a box mix after tasting this fast and healthy homemade version. The secret ingredient – butternut squash – makes this dish creamy and lower in fat than most mac and cheese versions. You’re also sneaking in a serving of vegetables. Serve this baked dish with whole wheat rolls and seasonal fresh fruit.
Ingredients: You’ll need 12 oz. elbow macaroni pasta; 1 cup milk; 1 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese; ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese; 1 cup frozen butternut squash, thawed; 1 cup bread crumbs; and salt and pepper to taste.
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pasta according to package directions, boiling until slightly firm. While the pasta cooks, use another saucepan to combine milk, cheeses, squash and seasonings. Cook over medium heat until melted, stirring constantly. Drain the pasta and toss it with the cheese sauce, stirring to coat thoroughly. Spoon the pasta mixture into a baking pan and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes.
Nutrition Boost: You can always add leftover vegetables to the mix, just before baking. Add ½ cup of green peas and ½ cup chopped red pepper for a kaleidoscope of color and flavor. To maximize this meal’s nutritional value, use whole wheat noodles.
Tip: Look for packages of frozen butternut squash in the freezer section. Use pumpkin as a tasty alternative, but the finished dish will be more orange than yellow.
Wednesday: Meatball Subs, $1.25 per serving
Fast and filling, these sub sandwiches can be made in as little as 10 minutes – just right for the family on the go. These sandwiches taste wonderful with a side of deli coleslaw.
Ingredients: You’ll need 1 package of frozen meatballs (quantity at least 30); 3 cups marinara sauce; 4 bakery sub rolls and 1 cup shredded cheese.
Preparation: Arrange the frozen meatballs on a plate and heat them in the microwave according to package directions, usually about 4 minutes. In the meantime, heat the marinara sauce in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the meatballs are finished in the microwave, add them to the sauce. Cover and let the mixture heat for about 5 minutes. Spoon approximately 6 meatballs onto each sub roll and top with cheese. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Boost: Use whole wheat rolls instead of white.
Tip: Lower the cost of the meatball subs even more by getting day-old buns. If you can’t find sub rolls, use day-old round dinner rolls and put 3 meatballs on each, topped with cheese.
Thursday: Lettuce Wraps, $1.00 per serving
The cool crunch and warm filling of these lettuce wraps combine to deliver a restaurant-quality entrée for pennies. Look for bottles of sweet chili sauce in the ethic food section of your store. Serve these alongside fried rice or miso soup for an Asian-inspired meal.
Ingredients: You’ll need 3 cups of broccoli/carrot shreds (look in the salad aisle); 1 lb. shredded chicken; 1 cup Thai sweet chili sauce and 8 whole, large leaves of butter or Bibb lettuce.
Preparation: Combine the shredded vegetables, chicken and sauce in a medium saucepan and mix over medium heat. While the filling is warming, wash the lettuce leaves carefully and pat dry with paper towels. When the filling is heated, spoon ½ cup of the mixture on the center of each lettuce leaf. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Boost: This recipe is perfect for accommodating leftovers. Add any number of diced cooked vegetables, throw in a handful of chopped cashews or peanuts, or substitute the chicken with ground beef or tuna. For added energy, stir in some brown rice.
Tip: The key to success for this dish is to keep the lettuce leaves whole and crisp. Store them in the refrigerator until just before use. Layering the leaves between paper towels keeps moisture at bay and reduces wear and tear.
Friday: Colors of Italy Tortellini, $1.15 per serving
Inspired by the red, white and green in the Italian flag, this dish blends strong flavors into a satisfying whole. Sausage and tortellini tastes just as good with leftover marinara or Alfredo sauce, so swap out the dressing if you desire. Pair this pasta with a green salad and fresh fruit in season.
Ingredients: You’ll need ½ lb. Italian sausage; 1 cup chopped red or green pepper; ½ cup chopped mushrooms; 1 lb. frozen cheese tortellini and ½ cup Italian salad dressing or olive oil.
Preparation: Boil salted water in a large pot. Gently pour the frozen tortellini into the water and boil according to package directions. In the meantime, slice the Italian sausage into ¼-inch discs. Fry the sausage, mushroom and pepper in a frying pan with a little oil until the vegetables are tender and the sausage is nicely browned, about 7 minutes. Drain the tortellini well and combine with the sausage mixture. Carefully mix the Italian dressing in, coating all ingredients. Return the mixture to the stovetop to heat through, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Boost: Transform this recipe into a lower calorie version by reducing the amount of sausage and increasing the vegetable quantities. You’ll still get the same delicious spicy flavor but with fewer calories.
Tip: To reduce the cost of this dish even more, buy frozen tortellini in bulk, divide the quantity into smaller freezer bags and use as needed.