When money is tight, everything's more stressful, including decisions about what to eat for dinner. Boxed mac and cheese—and even this homemade version, which costs about three bucks a serving—gets tiring. While your grocery store's prices may vary, you should be able to make all 20 of these satisfying dishes for under than six bucks a person—and some for much less.
A big pot of soup can feed a crowd—or provide filling meals for one or two for several days. A bunch of our favorites are wonderfully affordable, such as silky ham-enriched split pea soup (about $2.75 a serving), simple Pasta e Fagioli (about $4.50 a serving), and hearty beef barley (about $5.16 a serving.)
We're suckers for comforting creamy options like Broccoli Cheese Soup (about $4.70 a serving) and smoky Cauliflower Bacon Soup (about $4.95 a serving). And even when tomatoes aren't in season, you can enjoy the classic Tuscan bread and tomato soup, Pappa al Pomodoro, for under five bucks a serving.
The Incredible, Affordable Egg
It's hard to name an egg dish that isn't pretty budget-friendly, but maybe your egg routine has grown a little stale. Perhaps it's time to try your hand at Spain's famous Tortilla española, made with egg, potato, and onion cooked in olive oil. It's under four bucks a serving, and keeps in the fridge up to three days. Looking for other ideas? This tender and fluffy Ham and Cheese Omelette makes a satisfying diner-style breakfast for dinner for about $5.50 per serving.
Flip 'Em the Bird
Chicken served on the bone is particularly soul-soothing, and it also makes great leftovers. We're partial to Greek-style Grilled Chicken with lemon, garlic, and oregano, which you can serve up for $4.75 a serving—its meat is remarkably juicy because it's butterflied before cooking.
If you're more in a stewy mood, Kenji's four-ingredient Chicken Paprikash is just the ticket for about $5.75 a serving, warmed with paprika that's toasted in oil and cooked slowly under a tight-fitting lid.
Burger night gets a little lighter if you go with turkey-based burgers. Ours stay juicy and flavorful because they're made with dark meat. You can keep 'em under six dollars a serving but still get a little fancy, topping each burger with avocado-cumin mash and crunchy sprouts. And the best news? It'll take you less than thirty minutes to get dinner on the table.
As the weather gets warmer, salads and other vegetable-centered dishes make the most appealing meals. If you have a loaf of bread on hand, all you need for dinner is a big bowl of ratatouille, made with tender eggplant, summer squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Stop by a farmers market at the end of the day, and it'll likely cost you less than our calculated $5.28 per serving.
You'll definitely want to wait for high tomato season to make a classic Panzanella (about $5.83 a serving), but you can use grocery store grape tomatoes for this Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad with herbs and veggies (about $4.50 per plate.) Feeling a bit more adventurous? We love the vibrant flavors of this Charred Broccoli Salad With Sardines, Pickled Shallot, and Mint, and it costs less than $4 a serving.
Our favorite homemade Black Bean Burgers start with roasted canned beans, which are dense and packed with flavor. Pair up the beans with salty feta, sautéed onion, and poblano pepper, and you've got a veggie burger that everyone will love (for about five bucks a serving.)
Homemade pizza is another affordable way to showcase fresh vegetables; try your hand at making your own dough, or go with storebought, and this Charred Kale Pizza with two cheeses and plenty of garlic will come out to about $5 per serving.
Pasta and More
Your pasta repertoire probably includes numerous budget-friendly dishes, but we wanted to point you toward a few particularly fun—and satisfying—recipes. Daniel's Pasta With Chickpea Sauce is creamy and hearty—and totally vegan if you don't top it with Parmesan. (It's about $5.20 per serving.) If you're craving a lighter version of a nostalgic dish, check out Kenji's Easy One-Pot, No-Knife, Lighter Tuna Noodle Casserole. The potato-chip topping is optional (but recommended, because come on, everyone likes potato chips), and each serving clocks in at about $4.35.
And while you can stuff yourself with delicate homemade gyoza for about $4.15 a serving by following the recipe, we recommend doubling or tripling the quantities, because dumpling-making is best done with friends.