We’re all broke these days, and many people have turned frugality into some sort of maniacal game where we try to spend the absolute least amount of money on everything possible — including food. This often means sacrificing quality in the name of dollar-and-diming it, which can be both tasteless and detrimental to your health (in the long run, at least). Here are 6 healthy and delicious gourmet meals that you can make for under $10.
A Whole Chicken
Okay, so “a whole chicken” isn’t actually a recipe, but that’s because you can get multiple delicious meals out of one little bird corpse. At the supermarket, chicken typically costs around $1. 40/lb, making a four pound chicken $5.60.
Firstly, you can cook the entire chicken by roasting it in the oven using any number of methods. Beer Can Chicken requires only a can of beer, some sugar, and spices you most likely have around the house if you’re used to cooking on your own. Simple whole roasted chicken requires few ingredients, as does lemon and garlic roasted chicken.
It should also be noted that there are many spice substitute charts floating around the web, which can help those who are missing a spice and don’t want to make the extra purchase.
After you eat most of the roasted chicken, your second meal would come from carefully carving the leftover meat off the bones and carcass. It’s a bit tedious, but once you’re done you’ll be left with a ziplock bag full of delicious meat. This can be used to make Chicken salad sandwiches, of which there is a vast variety. It can be made just by using mayonnaise ($2-$4), bread ($1-$3), salt, pepper, and any vegetables of your choosing. The few remaining dollars can be used to spice it up with pesto, relish, nuts and/or fruit, or cheese. If you’re not into the sandwich idea, buy a bunch of vegetables and make a chicken salad-salad instead.
And finally, the remaining carcass of the chicken can be thrown in a pot with water, salt, pepper, seasonings of your choice, and whatever vegetables you have lying around (celery, carrots, onions, whatever). After you simmer this for around 8 hours, you’ll be left with chicken stock. Chicken stock can be used to fry rice or make risotto. For those that are anti-chicken salad sandwiches, the stock and meat can be combined to create tasty chicken piccata or chicken pot pie.
Cuban Shredded Beef
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (2-1/2- to 3-pound) bottom round roast
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Each vegetable is under a dollar, and garlic cloves come cheap as well. Using some spices you may already have and a cheap, $1-$2 can of tomato sauce, you may want to splurge on buying round roast that isn’t the cheapest you can find. When it comes to meat, it’s okay to sacrifice a little of the cost-cutting for the benefit of your own stomach.
In a large pot or slow cooker, the vegetables are added and the meat places on top. The tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper are combined in a separate bowl and mixed before getting poured over the roast. Cover the pot and cook on high for 7-8 hours, or until the meat is soft and pulls apart with a fork. Use two forks to shred the beef and stir the entire mixture. After it cools for a few minutes, you’re ready to pour this magical concoction on top of rice or in between two toasted slices of bread.
Pizza is for carnivores, herbivores, and vegan-vores alike. You can buy your own pizza dough, but that’s slightly more expensive than just opting for a package of pitas. Use the pita as your base and purchase whatever toppings you please — cheese ($4), tomato sauce ($1) and any combination of vegetables (a pepper and an onion, asparagus, or mushrooms — $4). If you enjoy meat, use some of the leftover cuban beef or chicken meat. Combining these ingredients with some spices is easy and quick to prepare. Your results can be soft or crispy, but once you figure out the perfect combination, you’ll never have to worry about the pizza parlor messing up your overpriced pie again.
Cheesy Veggie Sandwiches
Rachel Ray has a tasty cheesy broccoli rabe melt recipe geared towards those seeking meals for under $10. The largest cost in this recipe is the mozzarella or provolone cheese, but red pepper flakes can be a little costly for those who don’t have a bottle already lying around.
But broccoli rabe and pepper flakes aren’t the only things that would go great with this sandwich, made better by the buttery garlic bread that holds it all together. Substitute the rabe for asparagus, spinach, sausage, onions and peppers, eggs, or bacon (of course). The red pepper flakes can be replaced with hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or can be left out entirely.
Sweet Potato Soup and Cheese Crisps
Sweet potato soup is not your everyday meal on the cheap, but those who have never tried it should give it a chance. While restaurants charge up to $13 for a small bowl of soup, this delicious meal can be split into two servings and costs under $10. The Poor Student’s Cookbook has the recipe, which requires only sweet potatoes, onions, vegetable or chicken broth, a cup of whipped cream, cheddar cheese, and curry powder (which does not have an easy substitute, but is worth buying).
The cheese crisps are made by simply baking lumps of cheese with some spices on them, and turn into a delicious and crispy chip you never imagined you could create before.
The word ‘casserole’ sounds more gross than gourmet, but forget your methy Aunt Lisa’s terrible cooking and imagine a crispy, melty, chewy block of macaroni with vegetables (and/or meats), spices and cheese. Using a cheap block of your favorite cheese, you can combine it with simple macaroni and breadcrumbs, butter, milk, and flour in a baking dish. Other additions could be anything from asparagus (a little on the pricier side) to tuna (about $1 a can). You can also use mushrooms, bacon bits, croutons, or cauliflower to embed in this cheesy masterpiece. The key to making this meal delicious is to use a light cheese that melts well without leaving a huge amount of grease and oil behind. If you’re feeling extra crunchy, panko bread crumbs can be used as a topping instead of breadcrumbs, and you can even use two different types of cheese for extra flavor.