The only thing worse than having to pay rent each month is having to cut back on eating out. Cue a week of leftovers and failed attempts at reinventing instant noodles. Garnishes only get you so far, and you deserve more than having to come home to a subpar dinner.
Enter these recipes that are all about leveraging the ingredients you already have to create dishes that let you cut back on budget, not flavor.
To help you navigate this, we turned to the pros to find out their favorite affordable at-home meals. Here’s what chefs and foodies had to say.
White Wine Rice with Shallots
Tasty’s senior test kitchen manager, Alexis deBoschnek, is here for elevating a staple with a little table wine. “Rice is the ultimate rent-week dinner. I’m an equal-opportunity rice lover, but my recipe with white wine, shallots, and chicken stock is hard to beat. It’s flavorful, comes together in 20 minutes, and it’s cheap.”
Sweet Potato Tacos
For Maro Gjurasic, executive chef of Cibo e Vino, eating on a budget calls for the sweet potato tacos he began making as a young chef. “Between using odds and ends you have around—that jar of half-eaten salsa or bottle of hot sauce—combined with a trip to the grocery store, you can make something for less than $10.”
Gjurasic suggests making the filling with a blend of russet potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes for a dynamic flavor combo. Simply peel and cube the potatoes into half-inch squares, toss them with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and then roast for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While they’re baking, saute white onions in a pan until browned and toss with the potatoes once they’re done. Add in spices (such as paprika, chili powder, and cumin) or even taco seasoning.
Wrap it up in a warm corn tortilla and top with inexpensive staples such as sour cream, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro.
Loaded Rice Bowls
For Leah Morrow, the executive pastry chef of The Williamsburg Hotel’s Brooklyn Bread Lab, rice bowls are an easy way to utilize leftovers or whatever else you have in your pantry.
Morrow makes hers by cooking the rice and roasting any vegetables she has available. Once that is complete, she heats up a can of beans and adds it to the rice along with the veggies and finishes it off with a touch of soy sauce. Get creative and pair with kimchi, a spicy-honey mix, or a protein-packed tahini dressing.
RASA founder and foodie Mia Rigden prefers stretching her dollar with a basic that can be paired with a medley of sides.
“A chicken can feed a family of six or a party of one for days. You can get an organic, pasture-raised chicken for less than $20 and it will feed you all week long. Save the bones and make a broth—delicious and soothing on its own or as a nutritious addition to soups and stews.”
Get the recipe for her go-to roast chicken.
“Veggie burritos are a great go-to—they’re flavorful and only require simple ingredients,” says Nicolas Caicedo, executive chef of The Restaurant at The Williamsburg Hotel. Think of it as an excuse to cut back on costly meat from your shopping list.
Begin by thinly slicing a red pepper, yellow onion, and green pepper. Saute the vegetables with equal parts canned corn and refried beans in a pan on high heat for four minutes.
Once the combo is thoroughly combined, add in a teaspoon of Sriracha and salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the mixture up in a warm tortilla shell to serve.
Quinoa with Scrambled Eggs
Left Bank’s chef and owner Laurence Edelman prefers a revamped take on a breakfast classic when it comes to his cheap eats. Bonus points for the fact that this will be fast and easy to make.
“I make a quinoa pot with scrambled eggs since it’s easy and fast. You can whip up a big batch and eat it over a few days. Quinoa is a superfood that eats like a starch, making this healthy and very satisfying.”
PhoBar’s chef Mike Khuu prefers his scrambled eggs with a little hoisin sauce and bean sprouts. “If you can swing it, add in shredded pork,” he says. “Saute the eggs with fresh garlic and shallots and then add the meat into the omelet.”
Bonsai Kakigori’s Theo Friedman is all about the grains, namely farro. Shelf-stable and easy to cook, it’s an ideal base for vegetables—think crumbled feta, roasted butternut squash, or even pico de gallo.
“Nutty and slightly chewy, I find it soaks up flavor and cooks quickly,” adding, “like any grain, it’s important to season the liquid you’re cooking it in, as that is the best way to get flavor into the grain.”
Friedman suggests cooking the farro with bay leaf, coriander, onion, and lemon peel if you don’t want to add stock to your shopping list. Once the farro is ready, incorporate whatever you have in your crisper drawer and dine happily knowing you’re saving up for going out next week.