The $10-Meal Diaries: Quick Dinners Anyone Can Master

For all its health benefits, cooking at home can be an expensive endeavor. Here's what happens: You head to the grocery store with lofty aspirations of Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon and, well, you get a little carried away. You end up with ingredients for coq au vin and potage parmentier, too. And, for some reason, Indian saffron that costs more than your watch. Sure, you will totally use that. At checkout, you realize taking yourself out for dinner would've been more affordable.
If we nailed your buying habits, fret not — these under-$10 recipes will reform you. For the price of a deli salad, you'll be able to whip up a nutritious meal in five easy steps or less. The ingredients are all low-cost staples you can find in the produce aisle — heck, you might have some inventory in the fridge already. Keep reading to discover how to master affordable dinners, and feel free to splurge on some gelato with all the savings you rack up.
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
Penne With Butternut Squash
Serves 2

2 1/2 cups butternut squash, chopped in 3/4-inch pieces
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
6 oz uncooked penne
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano
2 tbsp very thinly sliced fresh sage
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place squash on a baking tray, coat with 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Coat onion with 1 tablespoon oil and add to butternut squash. Cook another 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until butternut squash is tender.

3. While squash is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook penne al dente. Drain and coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

4. Add squash and onions, lemon zest, cheese, and sage to pasta. Add more black pepper and salt if desired. Serve.
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
Pear & Pecorino Salad With Maple Dressing
Serves 2

1/2 cup walnut halves
1 red Anjou pear (or green Anjou or Bosc pear) cut lengthwise into 8 pieces, cored
2 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup shaved pecorino Romano cheese
6 cups mixed baby salad greens, such as baby kale mix
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts and toast 6 to 8 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown in some spots, tossing often.

2. While the walnuts are toasting, mix 1 teaspoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Add pear and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove walnuts from pan and set aside.

3. Place pears in a single layer in a hot skillet, flesh side down. Cook for 1 to 1.5 minutes, until caramelized and golden brown. Flip once to the other flesh side and cook for another 1 to 1.5 minutes. Remove pears from heat, and cut each wedge into 3 to 4 bite-size pieces.

4. For the dressing, mix 1.5 teaspoons maple syrup, 3 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Mix greens, pears, walnuts, and 1/4 cup of cheese in a salad bowl and dress. To serve, divide onto two plates and top with remaining cheese.
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
Spiced Balsamic Chicken Thighs & Green Beans
Serves 2

4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock
1/2 lb string beans, trimmed
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Photographed by Mike Garten.
1. Place chicken thighs in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil and balsamic vinegar. Mix together cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and pepper; add to chicken and toss to coat evenly.

2. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add remaining oil, and place chicken in skillet, skin side down. Cook chicken for about 8 minutes, until browned and caramelized in some spots, turning once. Move chicken to a plate and set aside.

3. Add onions to pan, and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes, stirring often. Add raisins. Place chicken on top of the onions, skin side up. Add stock.

4. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until chicken is done, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, and allow sauce to simmer uncovered for several minutes, until thickened. Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

5. Divide chicken onto two plates and top with onions, raisins, and sauce. Serve with steamed green beans.
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