20 Budget-Friendly Dinners for Beginner Cooks
Here are some favorite budget-friendly dinners that are ideal for beginning cooks. These top-rated recipes call for basic ingredients that won't break the bank and use simple, easy to follow techniques. You'll find ways to extend leftover meats and stretch ingredients into tasty, satisfying meals. We've gathered a wide collection of comfort foods, international favorites, and more. Take a look!
Chef John's Salmon Loaf
"Canned salmon is a great, inexpensive source of protein and healthy omegas, and you may have stocked up on a few cans but not known what to do with them," says Chef John. "This tasty shelter-in-place salmon loaf is so good for you! While salmon right out of the can may not be the most appealing thing to look at, this salmon loaf is so delicious that we can surely forgive some of its visual shortcomings. Remember, looks are less important than personality (and taste!) and this easy salmon loaf is proof of that. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or hot, white cream sauce."
Italian Bean Ramen
This recipe stretches ramen noodles with cannellini beans -- or maybe it stretches cannellini beans with ramen noodles? Either way, it's a complete meal for just pennies. You can pre-make a big batch of this soup up to the part where you add the ramen -- and then reheat it later adding the noodles. "Beans, veggies, and instant ramen -- this is the easiest meal you never knew you wanted," says Kempstr.
Ground Beef and Cabbage
"Simple and easy, yet full of goodness," says mtgraham2. Cabbage and ground beef are cooked with tomatoes and simple seasonings. "My mother used to serve this with corn on the cob and cornbread. Very inexpensive and very good as well."
Pasta e Fagioli a la Chez Ivano
With this Italian-inspired stew, kidney beans and pasta extend ground beef (or turkey). "Absolutely delicious," says GINABEAR1. "I used fresh minced garlic and used more ditalini and the beans I used were cannelini. We loved it!"
The Best Baked Rice and Beans
This incredibly delicious Spanish-style baked rice and beans dish is an easy, hearty recipe that calls for simple dry and canned goods. Watch the video to see a fantastic, foolproof way of making perfect rice, every time. Garnish with Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, and chopped cilantro.
Rustic Marinara Sauce
Great over pasta or as a base for other recipes, this simple, satisfying sauce goes a long way for not a lot of money. "Melting just a little cheese in the sauce adds great richness without overwhelming the tomatoes," says NMP. "And it's easy to keep these ingredients stocked in the house! Makes for amazing leftovers!"
Delicious Ham and Potato Soup
A sensational way to stretch leftover ham. "I've made this several times and it comes out better every time I make it," says HUSTEDFAM. "A very versatile recipe that's not sensitive to exact measurements."
Pasta With Tuna Sauce
Here's a feast from the pantry! Featuring canned tuna, tomatoes, spaghetti, and red pepper flakes. "A wonderful tasting dish that is very easy to make," says evilynn. "I added black olives and used tomatoes that I had canned from our garden over the summer."
White Chili VI
Chunks of canned white meat chicken, Great Northern beans, cubes of Pepper Jack cheese, and prepared salsa create a simple and quick chili. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream. "My Mom always made this, and even with its super small ingredient list I always forget exactly how to make it," says zodia81. "She add's a little cumin to hers and its so delicious! Not to mention ridiculously easy!"
Crispy Tomato Basil Pesto Flatbread Pizzas
"Basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and fresh basil leaves top a crispy flatbread for individual pizzas," says Tricia L. "Don't worry if you don't have time for the dough to rise to make the flatbread -- this uses store-bought flour tortillas as an alternate base. Quick, easy and delicious!"
Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos
These amazing meatless burritos combine cooked, mashed sweet potatoes and kidney beans with sauteed onions, garlic, and spices. "These are always good, especially when sweet potatoes go on sale," says Kim. "It makes quite a bit, so it's easy to stretch it into two meals as well. Plus, they're pretty quick and easy to make!"
Cheap Veggie Beans and Rice
Easy, healthy, and also budget-friendly, this simple skillet recipe features veggies, pinto and black beans, and rice. "This is a simple yummy recipe I made for my husband and 2-year-old," says momof3. "Neither one cares for tomatoes, but they could easily be added to the recipe. This recipe is mild for the kids but can be kicked up with more spice. It's also good for families on a budget! Garnish each serving with fresh or dried cilantro."
Here's a comforting one-dish meal that's ready in 30 minutes. Macaroni combines with ground beef and onions in a tomato sauce spiced up with paprika, chili powder, and garlic. Add tomato paste if you'd like a thicker sauce.
Ann's Dirty Rice
This complete one-skillet meal is ready in about 40 minutes. "Quick and easy dinner. A family favorite," says Ann Bray, who submitted the recipe. "This recipe is very versatile and can be seasoned so many different ways. Please feel free to try your own favorite seasoning combinations. This is such a simple recipe and I usually double so they have plenty to take home with them. It heats up well."
Quick and Easy Tuna Casserole
Here's a quick and tasty take on a classic, timeless casserole. STibbs rates this recipe 5 stars: "Very tasty and easy! After looking through my basically bare pantry and 'fridge I thought I was in trouble but this recipe saved the day! I had all of the ingredients on hand and this came together very quickly."
Ginger-Scallion Ramen Noodles
Here's a great vehicle for stretching leftover meats. "This quick, easy, and budget-friendly dish will bring some well-deserved respect to humble ramen," says lutzflcat. "Feel free to add shrimp or leftover chicken, if desired. This will serve 6 as a side dish or 4 as a main course. Garnish with additional sliced scallions or chopped peanuts, if desired."
Black Bean and Salsa Soup
Here's a top-rated black bean soup that comes together in just minutes. You can blend the ingredients (canned black beans, veggie broth, chunky salsa, and ground cumin) in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender.
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta, this delicious pasta dish with a simple fresh tomato sauce is perfect for summertime, when tomatoes are at their most flavorful. Once you’ve chopped the tomatoes and red onion, just mix everything up with cooked pasta and Italian dressing and serve immediately. So simple! "This pasta dish is wonderful served with a green salad," says kelcampbell. "The best thing about it is that you can put this meal together in just a few minutes."
Scrumptious Salmon Cakes
Canned salmon is a great choice for quick, healthy, and economical weeknight meals. But recipe reviewer Sapphire likes to fashion these cakes from leftover fish: "I make this with any type of fish that is left over. I use ground oats instead of panko. They are great. We even used them as filling for taco night."
Chinese Chicken Fried Rice II
A great recipe for using leftover chicken. "This is a very simple recipe," says Lisa Tourville. "Chicken, rice, soy sauce and shredded egg stir fried together. It is easy, but tasty! Note: Never use rice that you have just cooked."