I am still on a very tight budget, although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but as a foodie, lowering my budget on groceries has been tough. I love digging through my books and clippings of recipes, making a grocery list, and spending time cooking it… and of course, eating it. And, as you probably know, lately it seems like eating homemade meals is just as expensive as going out.
But my budget has only allowed for very simple, cheap meals, made from what I can find from the aisles of my local discounted grocer. And admittedly, many of those foods are less healthy, which is not something I am used to.
I went from eating mostly fresh, organic foods, to processed carbs, probably full of GMOs. But, before I sound like a privileged asshole, I have found a few meals I’ve enjoyed. I found that I can get most of my items on discount and then splurge on one “fresh” item at the grocery.
So, I made spaghetti -purchasing the noodles and sauce at Big Lots, and getting grass fed beef at the grocery. The entire meal was still under $10 and had at least 4-5 servings. I also made brown rice and beans, which I often ate with salsa and tortilla chips, I splurged on a rotisserie chicken, which I ate with baked sweet potatoes. I haven’t been eating out, so when I craved Chinese takeout, I made my own version of fried rice with brown rice, frozen stir fry veggies, and a fried egg on top (plus soy sauce and sriracha) – it was pretty good!
But last week, I saw a recipe in my email inbox from Bethenny/SkinnyGirl. It was for Vegetarian lasagna, with an added twist of pesto sauce. I decided to make it, provided the pesto and cheese wasn’t expensive.
To my surprise, all of the ingredients were very cheap! Almost all of them were at Big Lots – the whole wheat noodles, red sauce (which was optional in the recipe), and shredded mozzarella. I went to the grocery for the pesto, which was $1.99 for the store-brand, and the ricotta, which was also around $2. The entire meal was around $10, and offers at least 5 servings, and it is delicious!
I had fun actually making something from a recipe, and eating something that I know wasn’t absolutely terrible for me. Here’s the recipe:
– 8 ounces whole wheat lasagna noodles
– 15 ounces part-skim ricotta
– 1/3 cup chopped basil
– 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (I left these out, and threw in a handful of spinach I already had)
– 1/3 cup packaged pesto
– 4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella
Optional: Add your favorite red sauces between layers
- Preheat the oven to 350. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Set aside.
- Combine the ricotta, basil, and pine nuts in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 of the pesto into the bottom of the pan. Cover with half the noodles. Spread half the herb-ricotta mixture over the noodles.
- Repeat with another 1/3 of the pesto, the remaining noodles, and the remaining ricotta-herb mixture, then cover the whole thing with the pesto. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.
- Bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.
If you’ve got go-to, budget-friendly meals, I’d love to hear about them!