Photo: Shutterstock / Stokkete
Cooking a good meal is always the highlight of my day. But coming up with a budget to satisfy my curiosity of cooking like a foodie was tough. (In a similar situation? Start with these budget-friendly dinners.) Luckily, I had an a-ha moment helped balance out my love of food without breaking the bank.
Here’s the trick: Repurpose leftover ingredients from each meal to remix into flavorful new recipes. You’ll find yourself able to stretch the ingredients you have on hand and resist spending to extra cash on expensive proteins or fixin’s.
Here’s how I do it:
Each week I plan a menu of five meals. I start with Sunday, when I like to make a big dinner with a hearty meat choice and a lot of vegetables. From there, I figure out how I can use the leftover ingredients from each recipe. Then I piece together other big-batch recipes that will help me get to a total of 10 meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Easy Make Once, Eat Twice Meal Ideas
1. Big Roast Dinners
Taste of Home
2. Rice Based Recipes
Taste of Home
Rice-based recipes are a staple that works beautifully with this meal-planning method, too. I like to cook up a whole lot of rice as a side dish to this Cashew Chicken and Ginger recipe, and store about 4 cups in the refrigerator. Two days later, I’ll use the cold rice to make a fried rice dish.
3. Sensational Sides
Taste of Home
If you buy green beans, peppers, onion, mushrooms, broccoli, squash or spinach as side dishes to other meals, store the excess in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make the frittata for a perfect Sunday morning breakfast. Learn how, here.
Go with ingredients you love, and you won’t mind using them twice. This method also introduces more variety than doubling a recipe and freezing it would—which definitely keeps the fun in cooking.
Keep our top meal planning secrets in mind, too!
"This recipe is so quick and easy, and I always receive a ton of compliments. It quickly becomes a favorite of friends whenever I share the recipe. Modify the spiciness with the intensity of the salsa and the green chilis to suit your taste." -Kristi Black, Harrison Township, Michigan
"Facebook fans of my blog, Chef in Training, inspired me to make this creamy pasta casserole out of ingredients I had on hand. Success! I took the dish for another flavorful spin and added a bit of smoky bacon and toasted bread crumbs." -Nikki Barton, Providence, Utah
"This delicious twist on chicken divan came from an old boss, who gave the recipe to me when I got married. It's quick, satisfying comfort food." -Jennifer Schlachter, Big Rock, Illinois
"Here's a different take on traditional stuffed peppers. I substituted chicken for the beef and used Cubanelle peppers in place of the green peppers that are usually featured in such a dish." -Ron Burlingame of Canton, Ohio
"Chock-full of chicken, potatoes, peas and corn, this autumn favorite makes two golden pies, so you can serve one at supper and save the other for a busy night. These potpies are perfect for company or a potluck." -Karen Johnson, Bakersfield, California
Do you eat the recommended amount of seafood per week?
"No matter how you toss 'em up, shrimp and thyme play nicely with any spring-fresh vegetable." -Taste of Home Test Kitchen
"If you're looking for a great seafood recipe for your slow cooker, this classic fish stew is just the ticket. It's brimming with clams, crab, fish and shrimp, and is fancy enough to be an elegant meal." -Lisa Moriarty, Wilton, New Hampshire
"During chilly months, I fix this jambalaya at least once a month. It's so easy?just chop the vegetables, dump everything in the slow cooker and forget it! Even my sons, who are picky about spicy things, like this dish."-Cindi Coss, Coppell, Texas
"For a cool salad on a hot summer day, I combine shrimp, corn, tomatoes and nectarines with a drizzle of tarragon dressing. We love it chilled, but it's great warm, too." -Mary Ann Lee, Clifton Park, New York
"Tender, hearty and flavorful, this recipe is one of my favorites! Garlic and a splash of lemon add to the fresh taste and heart-healthy benefits of shrimp." -Sarah Hummel, Moon Township, Pennsylvania
"This is the best shepherd's pie I've ever tasted. It's very quick to make, and I usually have most-if not all-of the ingredients already on hand." -Tirzah Sandt, San Diego, California
"When I had hungry children in the kitchen and nothing but leftovers, I invented Pierogi Quesadillas. Now it's how we always use up our potatoes, meats and sometimes veggies." -Andrea Dibble, Solon, IA
"Instead of throwing out leftover mashed potatoes, use them to make croquettes. The little baked balls are yummy with ranch dressing, barbecue sauce or Dijon mayonnaise for dipping." -Pamela Shank, Parkersburg, West Virginia
"Guests always comment on the presentation and flavor of this delightfully different dish." -Julie Sterchi, Flora, Illinois
"I love this recipe because it is great to use up leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables, especially the day after a big meal. You can substitute sweet Italian sausage for the bacon if you want a heartier quiche." -Heather King, Frostburg, Maryland
"This is a different way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. It was an instant hit with our teenagers. Serve with steamed green beans, cauliflower or broccoli." -Brad Eichelberger, York, Pennsylvania
"I always keep meatballs and pizza crusts in the freezer to make this specialty at the spur of the moment. Add a tossed salad, and you have a delicious dinner." -Mary Humeniuk-Smith, Perry Hall, Maryland
"I use my slow cooker so much-unless my husband decides to grill for me-and these mouthwatering meatballs are just one reason why. They're a guaranteed crowd-pleaser when I serve them as party appetizers?or a yummy, filling sandwich spooned over crusty rolls and topped with cheese." -Peggy Rios, Mechanicsville, Virginia
"Frozen meatballs and a jar of sweet-and-sour sauce make this microwave meal a last-minute lifesaver when racing against the clock. The flavorful sauce is dressed up with a hint of garlic and nicely coats the colorful mixture of meatballs, carrots, green pepper and onion." -Ivy Eresmas, Dade City, Florida
"I put this recipe together one day when we had unexpected guests. It was an immediate hit and is now a family favorite. Get the kids involved when putting together this simple, savory dish." -Dolores Betchner, Cudahy, Wisconsin
"How do you make a dinner of turkey and vegetables really appealing to kids? You turn it into a pie, of course! My version tastes classic, but won't take any time at all." -Daniela Essman, Perham, Minnesota
"The blend of flavors and colors in this hearty soup will bring everyone at the table back for more." -Charlotte Welch, Utica, New York
"This recipe is definitely a must-try, and all you do is bundle up creamy turkey filling in crescent dough. I usually double the recipe so I have extra for lunch the next day." -Lydia Garrod, Tacoma, Washington
"This chunky stew makes a hearty supper, especially in the fall and winter. Plus, it's a great way to use extra turkey during the holidays." -Lori Schlecht, Wimbledon, North Dakota
"Your clan will love these wonderful, stick-to-the-ribs potpies featuring a unique flavor twist. I always use the leftovers from our big holiday turkey to prepare this recipe. I think my family enjoys the potpies more than the original feast!" -Marie Rizzio, Interlochen, Michigan
"While living away from Texas for awhile, my boyfriend and I grew homesick for the spicy flavors of home. We've made this recipe a few times now, and it goes really well with homemade flour tortillas. We love it over rice, too." -Kelly Evans, Denton, Texas
"At a truck stand in Hawaii, we tasted pork and pineapple tacos. My husband is a high school football referee and gives my version a thumb's up." -Lori McLain, Denton, Texas
"Pork slowly stews with jalapenos, onion, green enchilada sauce and spices in this flavor-packed Mexican dish. It's great on its own or stuffed in a warm tortilla with sour cream, grated cheese or olives on the side." -Kimberly Burke, Chico, California
"Here's an Asian-inspired stir-fry that pairs nicely with a cucumber salad in vinaigrette dressing." -Marlene Kroll, Chicago, Illinois