Photo: Jemma Watts

1. An Affordable Street Food—That's Even Cheaper at Home
The wondrous chickpea becomes the foundation for a delicious supper in this simple recipe from Sophie Wright's Cook on a Shoestring: Easy, Inspiring Recipes on a Budget. You just blend the chickpeas (or swap in kidney beans) with garlic, spices, herbs and flour in a blender; roll them in flour, egg and bread crumbs; and quickly pan-fry the patties. They're excellent over salad or tucked into pita pockets.

Get the recipe: Chickpea Cakes (Falafel)
Thai Shrimp Curry and Rice

Photo: Jaden Hair

2. A Budget-Friendly Curry That's Faster Than Takeout
When you've got a pile of fresh bell peppers and sliced mushrooms and a rich sauce made with red curry paste and coconut milk, you don't need much protein to round out the meal. Jaden Hair, who writes the blog Steamy Kitchen, uses just a half-pound of shrimp in this stir-fry (which will run you about $4). Served on top of jasmine rice—which cooks in the microwave—it's a hearty dinner.

Get the recipe: Thai Shrimp Curry and Rice

Photo: Thinkstock

3. The Dorm-Room Classic, Made Over
Banish the thought of pouring boiling water over a styrofoam cup full of powdered ingredients: homemade ramen noodles are so much tastier, better for you, surprisingly easy—and still economical. You can adapt this recipe, from Cook on a Shoestring, based on whatever leftovers you have on hand, whether that's chicken, pork or beef (using chicken will keep your meal under $10).

Get the recipe: Chili Beef Ramen

Photo: Lynn Andriani

4. A Filling Italian Dinner Without an Extra Trip to the Store
We admit this dish could take 12 minutes if you like your pasta a little softer, but al dente lovers will come in just under the wire—and those extra two minutes of cooking time (if you need them) are well worth it. It's a classic Italian-American spaghetti standby, with just a few basic ingredients—garlic, grated Parmesan, black pepper and chopped parsley—coming together for a satisfying meal in which anyone can take comfort.

Get the recipe: Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil

Photo: Thinkstock

5. A Nonboring Main-Course Salad
This recipe had us at its wonderfully brief instructions ("Toss all ingredients together until fully coated with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce."). It combines chicken breast (or tofu), red onion, celery, sunflower seeds and ginger in a refreshing salad you can feel great about eating.

Get the recipe: Ginger Chicken or Tofu Salad

Next: 5 healthy and cheap ingredients to put in your shopping cart


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