These meals -- which can feed up to four people -- are so tasty, you'd make them even if you were a millionaire with all the time in the world.
An Affordable Street Food -- That's Even Cheaper At Home
The wondrous chickpea becomes the foundation for a delicious supper in this simple recipe from Sophie Wright's Cook on a Shoestring: Easy, Inspiring Recipes on a Budget. You just blend the chickpeas (or swap in kidney beans) with garlic, spices, herbs and flour in a blender; roll them in flour, egg and bread crumbs; and quickly pan-fry the patties. They're excellent over salad or tucked into pita pockets.
A Budget-Friendly Curry That's Faster Than Takeout
When you've got a pile of fresh bell peppers and sliced mushrooms and a rich sauce made with red curry paste and coconut milk, you don't need much protein to round out the meal. Jaden Hair, who writes the blog Steamy Kitchen, uses just a half-pound of shrimp in this stir-fry (which will run you about $4). Served on top of jasmine rice -- which cooks in the microwave -- it's a hearty dinner.
Banish the thought of pouring boiling water over a styrofoam cup full of powdered ingredients: homemade ramen noodles are so much tastier, better for you, surprisingly easy -- and still economical. You can adapt this recipe, from Cook on a Shoestring, based on whatever leftovers you have on hand, whether that's chicken, pork or beef (using chicken will keep your meal under $10).
A Filling Italian Dinner Without an Extra Trip to the Store
We admit this dish could take 12 minutes if you like your pasta a little softer, but al dente lovers will come in just under the wire -- and those extra two minutes of cooking time (if you need them) are well worth it. It's a classic Italian-American spaghetti standby, with just a few basic ingredients -- garlic, grated Parmesan, black pepper and chopped parsley -- coming together for a satisfying meal in which anyone can take comfort.
This recipe had us at its wonderfully brief instructions ("Toss all ingredients together until fully coated with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce."). It combines chicken breast (or tofu), red onion, celery, sunflower seeds and ginger in a refreshing salad you can feel great about eating.