Sometimes when I feel like I’m spending too much money out at restaurants, I’ll make a very conscious effort to cook all of my meals at home. But if I don’t plan well enough, or if I become too impulsive at the grocery store, I’ll end up spending even more on a single meal than I would have if I’d gone out to a restaurant.
I’ve mapped out 3 meals for 2 people that cost less than $30 — assuming you have things like olive oil and spices already on hand at home. These meals are a breeze and are my fall backs for both weeknights and weekends.
Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles
The reason I prefer zucchini “noodles” to regular pasta in this recipe is that it would otherwise lack vegetables, and I prefer to always have at least 1 (preferably green) vegetable in each of my meals. I use a vegetable spiralizer to turn my zucchini into noodles, but before I had one, I would use a vegetable peeler. The effect is essentially the same, it just takes a little longer.
Oh, and with an entire pound of ground turkey, you’re sure to have some leftovers (so really it’s more than a few meals for 2 people)! If you are vegetarian, check our Aida Mollenkamp’s Quinoa “Meatball” recipe here (it’s scrumptious!).
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped ($1)
- 1 ½ tbsp each dried basil, dried oregano, dried time
- a few pinches red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
- 1 lb ground turkey breast ($6) You could also do half turkey, half ground pork
- 2 eggs ($.50)
- ½ cup – ⅔ cup bread crumbs or almond meal for gluten free folks (~$1)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese ($1.50)
- handful fresh parsley, finely chopped ($2)
- 1 jar tomato sauce ($3)
- 2-3 large zucchinis, passed through a vegetable spiralizer, the large holes of a grater, or shaved with a vegetable peeler ($3)
- TOTAL COST: $18
- Brown the onion in the olive oil over medium low heat in a medium sized saute pan. As it cooks, add in the dried herbs, red pepper flakes, and a hefty dose of salt and pepper.
- Once the onion is soft and translucent, transfer it to a large mixing bowl and let it cool slightly. Once it’s slightly cool, mix in the eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and parsley. Stir well.
- Meanwhile, heat up the jar of tomato sauce in a medium or large sauce pan.
- Add the ground turkey into the onion mixture and mix together with your hands until all ingredients are incorporated. Be very careful not to overhandle the meat or it will get tough.
- Once the sauce is boiling turn the heat down to simmer. Form meatballs with the meat mixture and carefully drop them into the sauce. Cover pot with a lid and let the meatballs cook for ~25 minutes.
- While the meatballs cook, work on your zucchini. Once you have your “noodles,” heat a small amount of olive oil up in the same pan you cooked the onion in. Once hot, toss in the zucchini and season with salt. Stir occasionally until the zucchini is cooked.
- Before plating, discard the water that formed in the bottom of the zucchini pan (otherwise it would water down your sauce. Serve 2-4 meatballs over the noodles and top with extra parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Shredded Chicken Tacos
I mean… who doesn’t love tacos, amiright? I don’t think tacos really need an explanation other than they are delicious and satisfying when you are hungry.
- olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped ($1)
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cleaned and cut into ~2 inch strips, seasoned with salt & pepper ($8)
- salt & pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes. I like the ones with green chiles in them ($1)
- 4-6 corn tortillas ($.60)
- Toppings (the best part of tacos)
- avocado ($2)
- a few leafs of lettuce or shredded red cabbage ($2)
- cheese ($2)
- salsa ($2)
- whatever else you like!
- 1 can black beans ($1.50)
- TOTAL COST: $20.10
- Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium or large saute pan on medium heat. Add in ¾ of the chopped onion (reserve ¼ for the beans). Season the onion with a little bit of salt. Place chicken into the pan and let it sear on one side for a few minutes, then flip.
- Pour the canned tomatoes over the top of the chicken and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat down to simmer and let the chicken cook for ~20 minutes.
- To cook the black beans, heat a bit olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat and add in the rest of the red onion. When the onion is soft, pour in the entire contents of the can (including the liquid). Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Let them simmer until soft and broken down (this should take nearly as long as the chicken)
- Meanwhile, prep your toppings by chopping or grating any ingredients you’d like to add.
- When the chicken is done, pull each piece out on to a plate and shred it using 2 forks. Discard some of the water or liquid that seeped out from the tomatoes, but do not discard the tomatoes themselves. Add the shredded chicken back to the tomatoes and stir to combine.
- When you are ready to serve, turn your oven on to 350 degrees and spread the tortillas out on a cookie sheet. Wet a paper towel and place it over top of the tortillas. Place the cookie sheet in the oven for a few minutes, just until the tortillas are soft.
- Assemble tacos to your liking, serve black beans alongside.
Coconut Curry with Salmon & Steamed Rice
I love this meal. It’s filling, lends itself to leftovers, and is as easy as a stir fry. With the addition of a few specialty ingredients, you’ve got yourself a homerun.
- 1 cup thai jasmine rice ($1)
- 2 cups water
- 1 red onion, chopped ($1)
- 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed, quartered and thinly sliced ($2)
- 1 package mushrooms, cleaned and quartered ($3)
- 1 can coconut milk ($2)
- red thai curry paste ($2) (one jar is usually $4, you will use half the jar)
- a few large handfuls baby spinach ($3)
- ¾ lb salmon filet, cleaned and cut into 1½ inch chunks ($10)
- TOTAL: $24
- Combine rice and water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and turn heat down to simmer for 20 minutes. When the rice is done, fluff with a fork, then put the lid back on and let it sit.
- Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil or coconut oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add in the sweet potato and mushrooms, stir, and cover pan with a lid. Cook for 5~7 minutes until the sweet potato begins to soften.
- Shake the can of coconut milk vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Open and pour into the pan. Bring to a boil, then add a few tablespoons (about half the jar) of red curry paste and stir so the paste dissolves into the coconut milk, turn the heat down to simmer.
- After another 7-10 minutes, check to see if the sweet potatoes are soft. When they are, add in the spinach, then slide in the salmon. Stir around so that the salmon is covered by the milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the salmon is cooked through, but still moist, tender, and flaking off.
- Serve curry over rice and enjoy!
- NOTE: The salmon in this recipe can easily be omitted for a delicious, vegetarian meal. You can also use any of your vegetables in this recipe, you are not limited to those listed above.
I hope you enjoyed my favorite meals for 2 people. If you have any other money saving recipes, share them with us in the comments section below!