8 Healthy, Super Low-Cost Dinners (and No, They’re Not Pasta)
Summer produce isn’t just delicious: seasonal fruits and vegetables are also cost-effective and give you countless more options to craft healthful, vibrantly-colored meals for far less money when it’s warm out than when it’s cold. Groceries are at an all-time high right now, but these cheap dinner ideas still taste amazing — partially by making great use of the current bounty of inexpensive, seasonal ingredients. And not one of them is pasta, which is absolutely delicious, but it’s a budget-friendly dinner option with which you’re already super familiar.
1. Asparagus Sweet Potato Chicken Skillet
Skillet recipes are great for quick dinners, and this asparagus sweet potato chicken skillet comes together in about a half hour. You’ve got your protein, vegetables, and starch all in one pan, and will be taking full advantage of the low cost of asparagus in the summer months. The original recipe is seasoned simply with salt and crushed pepper, but if you want a more flavorful skillet, we suggest you add a large pinch of dried Italian herbs to the chicken when you sauté it, and we’d err on the shorter side of cooking the asparagus (just about four minutes).
2. Quinoa Black Bean Roasted Bell Peppers
Stuffed peppers usually have a ground meat filling and the cost of that can quickly add up. In this stuffed pepper recipe, black beans and quinoa take the place of meat to offer a vegetarian alternative. To make this recipe even more budget-friendly, you could cook the black beans yourself and swap out the quinoa for brown rice. Don’t skimp on the chopped fresh parsley, however, as it will add a lot of brightness to the dish.
3. Eggplant “Meatballs”
Eggplant has long been used as a meat substitute thanks to its unctuous texture, and these eggplant “meatballs” take full advantage of that for a hearty entree that eats lighter than it looks. Seasoned with minced garlic, pecorino romano, and basil, you’ll have all the tastes you love in a meatball dish at a fraction of the cost. Serve with a large garden salad dressed with a healthful Italian dressing, and you’ll have a vegetable-focused meal that seems like a more indulgent one.
4. Grilled Romaine Salad with Corn, Fava Beans, and Avocado
Grilled romaine salad was a huge trend in restaurants a decade ago, and then everyone forgot about how delightful it was. This grilled romaine salad with corn, fava beans, and avocado brings it back in a healthy and more filling way, using fresh fava beans and an ear of shucked corn. To keep the optional shrimp in the recipe, try bay shrimp for the least expensive version, which always cost well under ten dollars a pound. You’ll be amazed by how grilling the romaine adds a rich, savory quality to the lettuce.
5. Summer Minestrone Soup
We all love our grandma’s minestrone, but this summer minestrone soup recipe elevates the classic to new heights. Featuring fresh fennel, yellow and green squashes, and green beans, it’s a vegetable-forward take on minestrone and is seasoned with a handful of freshly chopped basil. In lieu of purchased stock, you’ll utilize ripe tomatoes to make the broth right in the pot, saving money while achieving a much fresher broth than you’d typically experience in a soup. There’s no need to serve this with a salad, as you’ll be getting plenty of fresh vegetables in the soup, but you could steam up millet or brown rice to accompany it for some healthy whole grains.
6. Low-Carb Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Skillet
Chicken sausage is an inexpensive protein and the staple of many great cheap dinner ideas. One of our faves is this low-carb chicken sausage and vegetable skillet, which lets you enjoy it with vitamin-packed, seasonal vegetables like zucchini and summer squash. This vibrant, colorful dinner is seasoned simply and takes less than thirty minutes to put on the table, which also makes it a weeknight winner.
7. Vegan Tofu Poke Bowl
Poke bowls are a truly awesome dinner entree, but the cost of raw fish can get out of control very quickly — and the last thing you want to do is buy bargain bin sashimi. So how do you eat poke without spending a fortune? That quandary is solved with this vegan tofu poke bowl, which swaps raw fish out for inexpensive tofu. This is one of our favorite cheap dinner ideas because it takes only twenty minutes to prep, which means you’ll have it ready faster than any app could deliver it — and for far less money. We love the fresh vegetable filling that includes cucumber, radish, red cabbage, and avocado, as well as the marinade, which uses an inch of freshly grated ginger.
8. Summer Corn Soup with Fresh Herbs
If you’ve never boiled shucked cobs of corn into a soup, you have no idea of the depth of taste you’ll experience from this summer corn soup with fresh herbs. This soup is incredibly creamy, but there’s no cream or milk needed at all. Instead, you’ll blend the corn-filled soup with an immersion blender, turning that corn itself into a creamy texture. While the quantity of butter in this surely makes for a delicious and rich soup, we suggest cutting it in half and using only two tablespoons, or one tablespoon of butter and one of olive oil. You’ll still have plenty of buttery flavor, but there will be significantly less fat in the recipe.
Read next: 9 Great Chicken Recipes That Can Be on the Table in 30 Minutes Flat
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