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Cheap and Easy Recipes and Dinner Ideas

10 entrees you can make for $5 or less.

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5. Meatloaf

Meatloaf is a great way to extend a small amount of meat into many more servings by blending it with ingredients that add flavor and bulk. In the Prize-Winning Meat Loaf recipe below, 1.5 pounds of ground beef becomes a 6-serving of meatloaf with the addition of oats, tomato juice, egg, onions, and seasonings. If you can get lean ground beef for $2.49 a pound, that's $3.73 for 1.5 pounds of meat. The additional ingredients add up to about 75 cents per serving.

6. Perfect Pasta Salad

This cold pasta salad is perfect because it uses higher-fiber, higher-nutrient multigrain pasta along with whatever veggies, herbs, and dressing you have in your refrigerator. Start with a 12-ounce box of multigrain pasta, bought on sale for $1.25. If you have some olives, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, or pickled peppers, add them to taste. If you have a 3-ounce block of mozzarella cheese in the cheese drawer, grate some and add that, too. If you have a couple of ripe tomatoes, dice them up, and add along with some fresh basil from your garden. Dress it all up with half a bottle of a good bottled vinaigrette (such as raspberry walnut or red wine vinaigrette). A bottle of dressing costs around $3, even for some of the fancy ones.

7. Baked Potato Entrees

At about 24 cents apiece (from a 5-pound bag costing $2.39), a baked potato can be a great start for an entree. Try topping them with shredded cheese, fat-free sour cream, and chopped green onions or chives. If five potatoes cost about $1.20, a cup of shredded cheese about $1, 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream about 55 cents, and green onions about 50 cents, your grand total will be about $3.25 for five! At that price, you can afford to sprinkle some shredded chicken, turkey, pork, or beef, along with some beans or other vegetables, over the top.

8. Chicken Breast Entrees

Often, buying chicken with the bone and skin on and then skinning it yourself is the best deal. At $1.79 a pound, four bone-in chicken breasts will cost you around $3.58 (that's 2 pounds). You can make a grilling or slow cooker sauce using ingredients on hand, or use half a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce. A bottle of barbecue sauce costs around $3, so half a bottle will bring this entree to a cool $5. Just coat the chicken breasts with your sauce and cook on the grill or in the slow cooker until done.

9. O-Brien Casserole

Everyone likes a good potato casserole every now and again. Armed with a few key items on sale, including 2 pounds of O'Brien potatoes for $2, the O'Brien Potato Casserole below is a real budget helper. To make it seem more like a main dish, you can add some extra protein from beans or lean meat: Just stir in two cups cooked fava beans or edamame, or three cups roasted or grilled diced lean meat (like skinless/boneless turkey or chicken breast, pork tenderloin, or extra lean ham) before you spread the mixture in the pan. It costs about $7.50 to make the original O'Brien Casserole (serving 16 as a side dish); stirring in beans or meat adds about $2.50 to the total. If you assume the dish makes eight larger portions as a main dish, that's $10 -- or $5 for four servings.

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