Cooking more meals at home is a sure way eat healthy and cut down on total food costs to save you big bucks over the course of the year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spends upwards of $7,000 on food annually, with 43 percent of that total (or roughly $3,000) going toward restaurant and takeout meals. And with a dinner out costing anywhere between $12 and $30 per person (or an average of $21), it doesn't take long for the bill to add up.
In this 7-day meal plan, cheap ingredients and pantry staples (like whole-wheat pasta, canned chickpeas and canned tomatoes) are the secret to cooking up healthy, budget-friendly dinners. Coming in at a total weekly cost of about $15 per person (or $60 for a family of 4), this plan will feed you for the whole week for less than what a single dinner out might cost. Let's do the math: Seven days of dinner out at an average of $21 per meal = $147, versus seven days of dinner at home, using the recipes in this meal plan = $15, which would put you at a savings of about $130 per person per week! With the healthy budget recipes in this week's meal plan, you'll keep your stomach happy while giving your wallet a break.
Day 1: Noodle-Less Lasagna
Noodle-Less Lasagna: This veg-heavy lasagna recipe uses pantry staples, like canned tomatoes and dried herbs, to create a delicious and satisfying dinner. Slices of roasted eggplant and zucchini act as the noodles in this healthy lasagna, and sweet Italian sausage (a relatively inexpensive meat option) adds savory flavor. Serve with: 1 1/2 cups mixed greens dressed with 1 Tbsp. vinaigrette.
= $2.44 per serving
Day 2: Ravioli & Vegetable Soup
Ravioli & Vegetable Soup: Frozen veggies and ravioli cook in a soupy broth made of canned tomatoes and dried herbs to make a light but filling main course. Look for whole-wheat or whole-grain ravioli in the refrigerated or frozen section of the supermarket, or substitute tortellini. Serve with: 2 slices whole-wheat baguette, toasted and drizzled with 1 tsp. olive oil.
= $2.13 per serving
Jalapeño-Popper Stuffed Chicken: Five ingredients (not including salt, pepper and olive oil) is all you need to make this mouthwatering stuffed chicken breast with a creamy jalapeño-popper filling. Serve with: 1 cup Steamed Fresh Green Beans.
= $2.28 per serving
Two-Cheese Fusilli with Marinated Tomatoes: In this healthy vegetarian recipe, cheap whole-wheat fusilli combines with tomatoes, garlic and cheese to create a delicious pasta dinner. This recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but you could substitute canned tomatoes. For the most flavor, choose canned whole tomatoes and dice them yourself.
= $1.71 per serving
Bacon-Wrapped Chicken with Roasted Zucchini: We wrap tender chicken with strips of bacon that crisp up when placed under the broiler. It's a fast recipe for a satisfying, healthy meal. Serve with: 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
= $1.79 per serving
Roasted Buffalo Chickpea Wraps: With just a few simple ingredients, this easy, budget-friendly dinner adds the spicy Buffalo tang you love to crunchy roasted chickpeas that are tucked into an easy-to-make wrap with carrot, celery and blue cheese. Serve with: 1 1/2 cups mixed greens with 1 Tbsp. vinaigrette.
= $2.39 per serving
White Bean Salad with Cheddar, Bacon & Walnuts: In this flavorful bean salad recipe, low-cost canned white beans are amplified with savory bacon, shredded Cheddar cheese, crunchy veggies and a roasted garlic & Dijon dressing for a mouthwatering dinner. Serve with: 1 1/2 cups mixed greens and with 2 slices whole-wheat baguette, toasted and drizzled with 1 tsp. olive oil.
= $2.31 per serving