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The New Budget Meals
Wallet-friendly food and modern, creative cooking don't have to be mutually exclusive. Need proof? Here's a week's worth of suppers you can make for less than $45 (not counting staples such as oil, salt and pepper). They call for raw ingredients, including fresh, frozen and canned vegetables; eggs; canned beans; pasta; rice; and meat. And while they're essentially classic American fare, there are hints of Italian, Chinese and Latin cuisines, with every dish featuring an unexpected ingredient or technique.

Shopping list
  • 2 white or yellow onions
  • 4 Idaho or russet potatoes
  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen peas
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 15.5-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1 15.5-ounce can of black beans
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound of small shell pasta
  • 1 pound of rice
  • 7 ounces Virginia ham, sliced
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1.25 pounds)
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck
  • Dried thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • Small bottle of soy sauce
  • Small bottle of oyster sauce

    You'll also need (and may already have):
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Red wine vinegar (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan (optional)
  • Sesame oil (optional)

    Printable Shopping List
  • beef stew

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Sunday: A Sunday Supper Starring a Frugal Classic
    There are few dishes that demonstrate how delicious, inexpensive cuts of meat can be better than pricey cuts in a classic beef stew. First, you quickly brown cubes of chuck on the stove, then slide the dish into an oven for a few hours. You don't even need stock, since water does the trick, turning the beef tender enough that you don't even need a knife. The other well-known players in this homey meal: peas, carrots and potatoes. Stir in a spoonful of vinegar at the end of cooking, if you have it; it makes the entire dish taste brighter and fresher.

    Get the recipe: Beef Stew
    shells with sausage and peppers

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Monday: A Nonsandwich Way to Eat Sausage and Peppers
    Sweet Italian sausage and bright red bell peppers are a natural match, and this vibrant dish shows how versatile the pairing can be. When you combine them with thinly sliced kale, pasta and a good amount of garlic, they become a hit-the-spot supper that rivals any sandwich you'll find at a street fair or backyard barbecue.

    Get the recipe: Sausage and Peppers Pasta
    Kale and Ham Hash

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Tuesday: The A.M. Meal That Feels P.M.-Worthy
    Add another winner to your breakfast-for-dinner repertoire: this potato hash. The key to making the spuds crispy is to let them cook for 10 minutes without disturbing them; then, give them a good stir and then let them brown for 15 more minutes. Kale gives the dish color (and nutrition) and just four slices of chopped ham lend a subtle smokiness. Finally, four eggs complete this supper; if you cook the eggs just until the whites are set and the yolks are runny, they'll create a silky sauce when you cut into them.

    Get the recipe: Kale and Ham Hash
    Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Wednesday: Chicken and a Side, All in One Pot
    Chicken thighs are flavorful, hard to screw up and inexpensive. If you're wondering how to turn them into a complete meal, though, look no further than this rich-tasting dish. It starts with browning the thighs in oil until the skin is crisp and brown. In goes some chopped onion, along with two staples from the canned-food aisle: tomatoes and cannellini beans. Then you slide the whole thing into the oven for 20 minutes. The chicken ends up moist, and the tomatoes turn into a sauce for the softened beans.

    Get the recipe: Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Thursday: A New Twist on Rice
    Just one link of sausage is all you need to take fried rice in a totally new direction. The seasoned meat gives some heft to a speedy supper that also includes onion, carrot, garlic and bell pepper. Scramble in two eggs just before serving, and you'll have the perfect pillowy counterpoint to the crisp grains of rice.

    Get the recipe: Sausage and Vegetable Fried Rice

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Friday: A Colorful Alternative to Mac 'n' Cheese
    Technically, this dish would work with any type of pasta, but once you try it with small shells, you'll see how well-suited they are, because the size and shape of each shell is the perfect fit for a pea. Then, this tasty supper gets a major upgrade with the addition of chopped ham and a luxuriously creamy sauce that comes together with two simple ingredients: the pasta-cooking water and two eggs.

    Get the recipe: Shells with Ham and Peas

    Photo: Lynn Andriani

    Saturday: The Vegetarian Supper That's Trending
    This filling plant-based meal features a shoestring cook's standby: rice and beans. What makes it feel fresh, though, is that the duo sits atop a tangle of garlicky sautéed kale and that the dish is served in a bowl (aka our new favorite way to eat almost anything). One more thing that makes this so right now: We put an egg on it.

    Get the recipe: Black Beans and Rice with Garlicky Kale