What’s for dinner? The answer is simple. It’s got to be quick, easy, delicious, and affordable. It’s also got to be healthy. To help you in your quest to prepare frugal, easy, and healthy dinners I’ve put together a visual guide to five family meals for $5 bucks. I’ve also included ingredient lists, recipes, preparation instructions, and total cost.

At $5 bucks for a family of 3 to 4 members you won’t be eating fillet mignon. But it is very possible to eat a balanced meal comprised of proteins, carbohydrates, and vegetables if you grocery shop wisely. It’s not easy at first, but if you know what to look for and are willing to cook, then frugal family meals are entirely possible. Here are my Five Frugalicious Rules for buying healthy and delicious foods on a budget. Another tip is to purchase many items (like rice, beans, and pasta) in bulk, and avoid foods with packaging and expensive marketing materials. Here are the recipes for 5 cheap, easy, and healthy family dinners for $5 bucks:

1. Simply Elegant Veggie Wrap or Pita Pocket

Get wrapped in whole wheat goodness with these easy to make and quick to serve vegetarian sandwich wraps or pita pockets. Since kids love bread without crusts, why not get them rolled up with these frugal and healthy sandwiches.

hummus_wrap1

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 4 whole wheat wraps or pita pockets
  • 1 cup (250 mL) of dried beans (mung beans, chickpeas, or kidney beans)
  • 1 head lettuce, shredded
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) mustard or Italian salad dressing
  • salt and pepper

Total Cost: $4.92

Preparation:

  1. Soak and cook 1 cup of dried beans. Just 1 cup of dried beans turns into 2-3 cups of cooked beans (depending on the bean).
  2. Mix beans with choice of dressing or mustard.
  3. On a whole wheat wrap, place lettuce, beans, tomatoes and roll.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Embellish It: Add some cottage cheese or mozzarella.

2. Rotini with Veggies and Hummus Sauce

Whole wheat rotini pasta bought in bulk is an affordable, tasty, and delectable dish. Add some chickpea hummus sauce and serve with colorful veggies to top this creamy dish to perfection.

rotini_chickpea'

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (750 mL) whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 cups (500 mL) homemade authentic or low fat hummus
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried basil
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Total Cost: $5.03

Preparation:

  1. Cook rotini in rapidly boiling water until al dente, then drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add the zucchini and saute over low heat, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato, basil, and cayenne. Saute over low heat, 1 minute.
  4. Add homemade hummus and water. Simmer very gently over low heat, 2 minutes.
  5. Serve hummus sauce over hot pasta.

Embellish It: Sprinkle served pasta with a dash of parmesan cheese.

3. Spaghetti with Sneaky Black Eyed Pea Sauce

Spin into some spaghetti with sneaky black eyed pea sauce for some frugal family fun. By foregoing ground beef and feasting on beans you’ll get an amazing meal packed with protein and kind to your wallet. Add some vegetables to round out these healthful helpings.

vegetarian_spaghetti

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 24oz (700 mL) jar or can of tomato-based pasta sauce, preferably spicy
  • 1lb (500g) of whole wheat spaghetti (buy in bulk)
  • 1.5 cups (350 mL) of dried black eyed peas
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups (500mL) green vegetable of choice
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried basil

Total Cost: $5.21

Preparation:

  1. Soak and cook 1.5 cups of dried beans.
  2. Cook spaghetti in rapidly boiling water until al dente, then drain.
  3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add jar of pasta sauce, cooked beans, green vegetables, and dried basil. Simmer for 10 minutes, stir often.
  5. Serve sauce over hot pasta.

Embellish It: Find ground beef on sale? Then skip the beans and brown some beef. Also, sprinkle served pasta with a parmesan cheese or mozzarella.

4. Easy Beany Quesadillas

Quesadillas are an easy and quick treat to serve in a snap. Filled with bean healthful goodness, these wonderful wedges can be split between three family members for a fun meal. If appetites run high in your family, this modest meal can be served with soup, chili, or salad on the side.

quesadillas

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 4 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
  • 1.5 cups (350 mL) of dried chickpeas, kidney beans, or mixed beans
  • 2 cups (500 mL) spinach
  • 1 cup (250 mL) broccoli, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) shredded mozzarella
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chili powder spice
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

Total Cost: $5.11

Preparation:

  1. Soak and cook 1.5 cups of dried beans.
  2. In a large bowl toss beans, chili powder, tomato, and broccoli.
  3. On 2 tortillas, add spinach and then evenly distribute bean filling. Sprinkle mozzarella on top. Cover each quesadilla with a second tortilla.
  4. Place quesadilla in a non-stick skillet prepared with olive oil and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until bottom is toasted. Flip over and toast the other side for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Please each quesadilla on a cutting board and cut into wedges.

Embellish It: Add more cheese to make wedges even cheesier!

5. Hearty Potato, Chickpea, and Tomato Stew with Basil

This hearty stew recipe may just surprise you with how quickly and simply you can simmer up a pot of soul-warming family supper in about 30 minutes. As a low calorie and cheap dish, you’ll still feel superbly satisfied with these healthful ingredients. A fabulous dish for disheveled students in need of sustenance on a budget. This recipe got my through school, seriously.

potato_chickpea_stew

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1.5 cups (350 mL) of dried chick peas beans
  • 28 oz (800 mL) can of tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) paprika
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) dried oregano
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water (or vegetable stock)
  • salt and pepper

Total Cost: $5.14

Preparation:

  1. Soak and cook 1.5 cups of dried chickpeas.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, paprika, 2 of the canned tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add potatoes and water. Cover and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chickpeas. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  5. Add remaining tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Heat for 1 minute and then serve.

Embellish It: Sprinkle stew with fresh parsley, basil, and grated cheese.

Sound tasty? What are your tricks for frugal family meals? Can you make a meal for $5 bucks? Got any recipes?