I’ve been trying to keep my meal costs down lately. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to cook, and I’ve been buying lunch more frequently. Unfortunately, that is not a sustainable lifestyle for my family and me. I decided to come up with a few meals that can be easily made over the weekend, and last us for the majority of the week.
The catch? Each serving costs no more than $3.
That brings me to this month’s Recipe Redux theme- “Budget-Friendly Eats.” Whatever your budget, this entree recipe costs less than $3 per serving. That’s one way to keep your costs down in 2017!
I usually talk about the science of ingredients in my blog posts, but today I’m going to discuss numbers. Math and science go hand-in-hand, right?
I wanted to make a meal that was fast, simple, nutritious, and delicious.
A quesadilla. Definitely, a quesadilla.
A quesadilla is a very easy recipe. It’s a tortilla filled with cheese that gets heated, usually in a frying pan. I baked my quesadillas in order to use less grease, and allow for more consistent cooking.
Tips on how to save money in this dish:
- Don’t go for the fancy cheese: Cheese can get expensive, especially if you like specialty varieties. The shredded cheese in the bag is still fine to use. It has the same amount of protein as those fancy cheeses, and you can buy part-skim versions for lower-fat alternatives.
- Make it vegetarian: It’s a fact that meat is more expensive than vegetables, and much higher in cholesterol. You can buy frozen vegetables and canned vegetables for increased storage time. If you buy fresh vegetables, and they go bad before you use them, then you lost your money. No need for wasted food!
- Spice it up: No need to go crazy with the flavors. Over-complicating a recipe with bold, innovative flavors can add expenses- Especially if you purchase that spice or flavor just for one dish, and never use it again. Look through your pantry, and see what works for you.
- Pack on the coupons, and get inspiration from your weekly circular: There are tons of deals in all grocery stores every week. Use them wisely, and you’ll be sure to keep extra money in your pocket. For example, I went to my local Shoprite to buy the ingredients for this blog post because I knew they were having their “can can” sale. Most of the ingredients in this dish were half price. I used the Shoprite app on top of that, and saved money with coupons and my store loyalty card. I walked out of the store and only spent half of what I should have spent. Hooray for deals!
Grocery shopping is a numbers game. Make it fun, and you’ll be able to use that extra money for something special. What would I do with that extra cash? Travel the world. You never know how much your savings add up until you try. Now, let’s get cooking.
Makes 3 to 6 servings. For the quesadillas:
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
- 1 can (15 oz) black beans (low sodium), rinsed and drained
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup chunky salsa
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp parsley flakes
- 1/2 tsp dried cilantro leaves
- 3 whole wheat tortilla wraps
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese (part-skim)
To get the total cost per serving, I made a table with 3 columns. The first column is the total cost of the entire bag, can, container, etc. The middle column is the cost of each ingredient per recipe. The last column is the total cost of each ingredient per serving (the middle column, divided by 3). You have to do some detective work, and add up how much of each item you used based on the weight of the ingredients in the container. I’m happy to further explain the table to anyone, so email me or send me a comment for details.
(Hopefully I did all of my math correctly… you can be the judge of that!)
If you decide that an entire quesadilla is too much for you to eat, then the cost is divided even further! Having a half of a quesadilla is only $0.97. My husband would eat an entire quesadilla, easily. He’s a giant. I’m probably the one eating half of it.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Add olive oil to a medium-sized frying pan. Mix in the corn, and cook it on the stove over medium heat until it thaws. Drain and rinse the black beans, and stir them into the pan. Add the salsa, cumin, pepper, cilantro, and parsley. Lower the heat, and cook the mixture for about 10 minutes, stirring consistently.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (cost is negligible). Place a whole wheat tortilla on the tray. Add 1/4 cup of cheese to the left side of the tortilla. Place 1/3 of the bean and corn mixture on top of the cheese. Add another 1/4 cup of cheese on top of the filling, and fold over the tortilla.
Repeat 2 more times, making 3 quesadillas in total. Brush a tiny amount of olive oil on top of the tortillas, so they get nice and crispy in the oven. Cook them for 10 minutes. Remove the quesadillas from the oven, cut them into halves or thirds, and eat.
This recipe is super simple, super delicious, and super cheap! It takes time to figure out meal costs, but in the end, it’s worth it. I just made my entire meal for $0.97 to $1.92. That’s cheaper than fast food.
Feel good about cooking, and don’t think that making meals can be expensive. You have total control of your purse strings, so make the most of it this 2017. Cheers!
*Please note that these ingredients tend to be salty and fatty, as with most Mexican-American food. If you have a condition that prevents you from eating high-sodium or high-fat foods, please only eat half of the quesadilla, and pair it with a side salad instead (no dressing). The cost will be similar. The nutrition facts for a whole and a half quesadilla are listed below.