We’ve all been there — you wrap up a long day of work only to realize you don’t have anything planned for dinner. While ordering takeout might be a convenient option, the added calories and cost add up quickly. The good news is nourishing dinners don’t have to be time consuming or expensive.
These well-rounded recipes and meal ideas are adaptable to various dietary restrictions — all for less than $10 each.
The Mediterranean diet remains one of the healthiest diets out there and for good reason — it’s rich in anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats, like olive oil, tahini, nuts, seeds and avocado, which can reduce heart disease risk and help manage Type 2 diabetes. Chicken gyros, a classic Greek staple, are a budget-friendly way to reap the diet’s health benefits. Chicken breasts can be as low as $4 per pound and are a great lean protein source. Pair with whole-wheat pita bread, veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes, and a yogurt-based dill sauce for a well-balanced meal.
A familiar comfort food, enchiladas are a hit for many different diet preferences and are easy to make. For a vegetarian option, try these sweet potato black bean enchiladas, which require just seven ingredients and come together in 20 minutes. The high-fiber content from beans (which cost less than $1 per can) supports both heart and digestive health, while balancing blood sugar levels and keeping you fuller, longer. Sweet potatoes (which cost roughly $1 per pound) add additional fiber, beta carotene and potassium.
Fried rice is a classic comfort food, but it can also be affordable and nutritious. You can generally find a 2-pound bag of rice for less than $2, and a 12-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (to save you time prepping) is also less than $2. Fried rice is typically seasoned with ingredients already in your pantry, like soy sauce, garlic and ginger. To add more protein, throw in scrambled eggs, tofu or your favorite meat, and your meal is complete.
While both white and brown rice can be used, brown rice is a low-glycemic index carbohydrate, meaning it is broken down more slowly and does not cause huge blood sugar spikes. On top of that, the high fiber content helps lower cholesterol. Try this easy fried rice recipe or this shrimp and broccoli version made with cauliflower rice.
Pasta can provide lasting energy when paired with protein and fiber sources, like lean meats, legumes and vegetables. Many pastas are available for just a couple of dollars and have a long shelf life, making them a pantry essential.
If you need a place to start, check out this one-pot pasta with cauliflower, lemon and olives. Cauliflower is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant known to promote heart health by reducing inflammation. The choline in cauliflower also supports brain development, memory and mood, and glutathione, another antioxidant common in cruciferous vegetables, improves gut health and supports the immune system. Bonus: One pot means minimal cleanup.
When making sloppy joes, you can get the same hearty texture with either lean ground beef or lentils — both of which are high in protein. Add whole-wheat buns and a side salad for a more complete meal. Depending on what type of filling you choose, it can cost $10 or less for several servings.
This high-protein meal not only keeps you full, but it also offers essential micronutrients, like iron, zinc, choline, B vitamins and more. Glutathione, an antioxidant, also offers anti-aging benefits and strengthens the immune system. Try these slow cooker vegetarian sloppy joes or these BBQ sloppy joe sliders.
Green peppers are generally available for less than $1 each, though yellow and red peppers may be a little more expensive. Peppers are great sources of phytonutrients and vitamin C, which can aid immunity, and many other micronutrients, including vitamins A, K and E, potassium and folate.
These beef and rice stuffed peppers combine ground beef, canned tomatoes and cauliflower (stick with frozen vegetables to make it more budget-friendly) for a nutrient-dense meal that clocks in at less than $7 per serving.
Tacos offer a blank slate with endless possibilities. Mix-and-match your favorite add-ins such as legumes, cubed tofu, shredded meat, pickled vegetables (to support gut health), fresh herbs and sauces. In general, meat runs around $5 per pound, and tortillas are about $3 per package.
To save time, shred your taco meat in the slow cooker. The meat is extra tender, and dinner is ready the moment you get home from work. Get started with these seven delicious taco recipes under 350 calories.
Ground turkey is often overlooked, but it’s rich in protein and micronutrients, like zinc, iron and B-vitamins. Ground turkey is also low in both total fat and saturated fat, making it a heart-healthy choice.
A pound of ground turkey is usually about $4 (divide that among 3–4 servings) and you can jazz it up with your favorite veggies, a side salad and lettuce wraps or whole-wheat buns. For a couple of dollars more, slice some sweet potatoes and bake them for healthier fries. We love this recipe, which calls for mashed cauliflower on the side.
Cooking curry seems intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Combine a pre-made curry sauce with fresh or frozen vegetables, tofu, chickpeas or beans, and cook until all ingredients are cooked through. Serve over brown rice for a complete meal that clocks in at less than $6 per serving. Turmeric, a predominant spice in curry, is well known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. The black pepper in the sauce also aids digestion. Try this chickpea and cauliflower curry or this Thai-inspired tofu curry.
Lasagna is another classic comfort food that can be made even more nutrient-dense with extra veggies. Zucchinis average only $0.75 each, and an 8-ounce bag of an Italian cheese blend is less than $4. Assemble this dish just like you would a regular lasagna, using thinly-sliced zucchini instead of noodles or a blend of each.
Zucchini is packed with antioxidants, and the combination of fiber and high-water content is great for digestive health. Plus, cheese adds calcium for bone health as well as fats and protein to make a satisfying meal. Add your favorite lean protein if desired.
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