10 Basic Budget Dinners Every Cook Should Know

updated May 29, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Basic and budget recipes don’t have to mean boring — especially when it comes to dinner. I’ve been working on my own grocery budget as much to add cash to my vacation savings account as to reduce waste and keep a cleaner pantry — both pleasant side effects of buying only what you need!

Relying on staples that stock our pantry and freezer, we can save our budgets with those basics for delicious and filling dinners every cook should know.

Behold, the most comforting reason to keep a bag of tortellini stashed in the freezer at all times. This weeknight soup comes together with a handful of pantry ingredients and just 20 minutes on the clock.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

This scrappy recipe is a favorite of Kitchn editors. Associate Food Editor Kelli says: “In addition to being cheap, the thing I love most about this recipe is how versatile it is. It’ll work with any kind of beans and any type of greens (fresh or frozen). And while the recipe calls for a poached egg, I almost always go for fried because it feels faster and it means there’s one less dish to wash. Plus, who can resist those crispy, lacy edges?”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Assistant Food Editor, Sheela, relies on this recipe regularly: “Don’t let the fancy Italian title of this recipe fool you — this is as basic at it comes. The pantry pasta comes together with nothing but dry spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Parsley and Parmesan are optional, if you have them. It’s a recipe I lean on constantly!”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Tortellini is a great budget-friendly pasta option. Frozen tortellini tends to be less expensive, but the fresh kind goes on sale often. Plus, these cheese-stuffed clouds are so filling you don’t have to lean on an expensive protein to turn it into a meal.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Whether you’re cooking them from dried or cranking open canned, beans are a pantry staple that can always feel fresh in a new preparation. This marinated bean salad is perfect for those nights when you really don’t feel like cooking but you also really don’t want to pay for takeout.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Not only is this hearty pantry chili easy as can be to pull off, but it’s also expensive and rewards you with meals for days. It freezes like a dream, too.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Behold the beauty of sausage in a skillet! This chorizo-laced skillet dinner doesn’t feel like a cheap pasta fix. Instead the chorizo (you only need a little) and cheese make this basic dinner feel luxe.

(Image credit: Nick Evans)

This recipe literally takes three ingredients and 1o minutes to put together and will crush the craving for drive-thru tacos.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

We had canned tuna and noodles once a week when I was growing up because it was filling and inexpensive. This salad is not that at all! Tuna gets a swift marinade and is partnered with some pantry salad staples (think: olives and piquant cheeses) for a super-satisfying dinner.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

This slow cooker recipe is the holy grail of budget meals because it brings together a bunch of staples in one easy dinner and makes plenty of leftovers for lunch.

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