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Meal Planning: 6 Dinners on a Budget

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WebMD Feature

Tight on time and money these days? Are you asking too much if you want quick, healthy, and low-cost dinners after the hectic weekday grind?

By planning dinners ahead on the weekend and shopping for key budget ingredients, you can save time, money, and stress in the days ahead.

For about $15, you can serve delicious all-in-one meals that everyone will love -- from designer nachos or BBQ chicken pizza to fajita sausage wraps.

Here are six budget dinners that are nutritious and easy to make. Each serves four people.

#1 Roasted Balsamic Chicken with Vegetables

This budget dinner cost $14.81.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 whole cut up fryer chicken. Remove skin from breast, thigh and drumstick ($6.90)

1 sweet or yellow onion, coarsely chopped ($0.75)

3 whole carrots, sliced, or 1 small bag baby carrots ($1.50)

3 medium potatoes cut into bite-size pieces ($0.83 because a 5-pound bag with 10 potatoes costs $2.50)

1/2 cup light balsamic salad dressing ($0.83 because a 16-ounce bottle runs $3.30)

Fresh, in-season fruit ($4)

Coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with canola oil then, lay the pieces of chicken, bone side down, into the dish. Top with onion, carrot, and potato pieces. Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the top. Cover with foil and bake in 425-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until chicken is cooked throughout and vegetables are golden (about 30 minutes more).

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains: 435 calories, 41 g protein, 41 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated, 5.5 g monounsaturated fat, 3.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 7.3 g fiber, 280 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25%. Omega-3 fatty acids = 0.5 grams. Omega-6 fatty acids = 2.5 grams.

#2 Designer Nachos

This budget dinner cost $12.33.

Ingredients:

1 can fat free or vegetarian refried beans ($1)

1 packet taco seasoning ($1)

10-ounce bag of multigrain tortilla chips ($2)

1 1/3 cups shredded reduced fat jack or cheddar cheese ($1.33)

1/2 to 1 avocado, pitted and diced ($1.50)

2 whole tomatoes, chopped or 1/2 cup fresh salsa ($0.75)

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream ($0.75)

Fresh, in-season fruit ($4)

Combine the refried beans with the taco seasoning in a saucepan over low heat. On a microwave-safe plate, top 2 ounces of the chips with 1/3 cup shredded cheese and a fourth of the bean mixture. Microwave on high for 1-minute. Top with avocado, tomatoes, sour cream, or salsa as desired. Repeat with three other servings. Serve with fresh, in-season fruit.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains: 645 calories, 24 g protein, 81 g carbohydrate, 24 g fat, 7 g saturated, 10 g monounsaturated fat, 7 g polyunsaturated fat, 29 mg cholesterol, 14 g fiber, 1,400 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33%. Omega-3 fatty acids = 0.4 grams. Omega-6 fatty acids = 6 grams.

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