Eating on a budget doesn't mean eating poorly. Some of the finest dishes ever created were developed by people trying to economize. They did so primarily by using less meat and poorer cuts of meat and by using whatever was readily available. Beans, rice, and pasta all stretch a meal for not much money, slow-cooking tenderizes tough meat and deepens flavors. This collection of recipes are all fairly cheap to make - and absolutely delicious.
When I was a kid my mother made pepper steak on a regular basis. She'd use a round steak and cook it too hot and too fast so it was always tough as could be - but it tasted mighty good. This recipe calls for sirloin steak - but only half a pound, so it's not much money - but you can certainly follow my mother's lead and use round steak. The key is that the meal is mostly vegetables and rice.
Macaroni and Cheese is one of my favorite meals, so when I make it I always make more than I need and freeze half - six meals for an hour's work ain't bad at all. This is that same recipe, but scaled down to produce two individual casseroles. Presented this way it's fancy enough for a birthday dinner or anniversary while still keeping the 'ole food budget in check.
Cassoulet is one of the world's classic dishes, but it's not a task taken on lightly - some recipes take up to three days to make. It's worth the effort for a special occasion, but doesn't really qualify as an everyday meal. Although this quick and easy version doesn't have the depth and complexity of flavor the original does, it's become one of my favorite weekend meals.
One of my favorite meals is baked pasta. It's a great way to clean out the leftovers hanging around in your fridge - just cook up some pasta (ideally something like penne, macaroni or rotini) then cut up and toss in that leftover chicken leg, leftover cauliflower, and two-day old spinach along with those fresh herbs that are starting to wilt. Add some cheese and some liquid, stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, and you've got supper.
Roasting cauliflower totally changes its character, providing a wonderfully nutty undercurrent of flavor. You may wonder at my use of granulated garlic as opposed to fresh garlic, but I've found that the fresh garlic ends up in the pan while the powdered garlic clings to the cauliflower, ultimately providing more garlic flavor.
I was casting about for a new way to fix sweet potatoes and happened to remember a recipe I'd come up with for fried curried plantains based on an Indonesian dish. It immediately struck me as a great flavor combo: a bit of curry powder, a bit of sugar and a bit of butter for frying - what could be better? They make an especially great side dish with roast pork or baked ham.