Archive for Budget meals

Bean and Barley Soup


One of my favorite soups of late is this Chicken and Barley Soup, and I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVEN’T BLOGGED ABOUT IT! I have made this soup several times, and I love it. Note to self: Make that soup again soon!

Anyway, that soup was the first time I had ever had barley, and I instantly became obsessed. So when I came across this Bean and Barley Soup from One Dad’s Kitchen, it instantly caught my eye. Barley? Check. Meatless? Always a bonus. Delicious? As it turns out, YES!

This soup is so good and so filling. It’s the perfect soup for cold fall or winter days. I love that it’s inexpensive, too. It makes about 6 servings, and there is at least half a bag of beans left to use for another time.

Bean and Barley Soup
1 cup dried multi-bean mix, rinsed
1/2 cup pearl barley
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
black pepper, to taste
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

3 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place the beans, barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, kosher salt, Italian seasoning, pepper, and tomatoes into your crockpot. Add 6 cups of water and stir well.  Cook on low until the beans are tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

At end of cook time, add the spinach and Parmesan cheese, and stir. Continue to cook on low until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and enjoy!

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Baked Potato Soup

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time going through an entire bag of potatoes before they go bad. I hate wasting food, but with potatoes, I just can’t help it. It’s not a huge problem, I guess, because they’re really cheap, but I still feel bad. So that’s why I put this on the menu during the same week I had planned on having Zuppa Toscana. I bought an 8-pound bag of potatoes for $3, and between both dishes, it used up about half of the bag. Then, maybe some baked potatoes for lunch on the weekend and some oven fries next week, and that should just about do it!

I had made a baked potato soup one other time, but wanted to try something different. I had saved this recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking, and since I had all the ingredients on hand—well, I had found a winner!

This soup was very good. It was just the right amount of thickness—not too thick, not too thin. The cream cheese made it nice and creamy, and the seasonings were great. I used 1/2 tsp. of red pepper, which almost made it a little too spicy. I might cut it back next time, but if you like spiciness, go for the 1/2 tsp.

Baked Potato Soup
2.5 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced into 1- to 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper
4 cups chicken broth
8 oz. cream cheese

Place the potatoes into your crockpot. Add onion and garlic. Sprinkle in the seasonings, and pour in the broth. Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4. At end of cook time, use a potato masher or an immersion blender to mash the potatoes in the soup.

After smashing the potatoes, crumble in the cream cheese and put the lid back on. Cook on high for about 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is melted and completely incorporated. Stir a few times during the 30 minutes.

Top with crumbled bacon, green onions, and cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

This makes about 6 servings.

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Southwestern Corn Chowder

Hmm. I wasn’t sure about this recipe. But Stephanie over at Stephanie Cooks wasn’t so sure, either, and she assured me that both she and her husband loved this soup. Ok. If you say so.

Well, she was right! This soup was delicious. After a quick taste test (and after I snapped the picture-sorry!) I decided this might be a good chance to try out my new immersion blender. I blended up two of the three servings of soup, and I must say, it was even better that way. Either way you eat it, this is a good, cheap, and filling meal.

Southwestern Corn Soup

1 can cream-style corn
2 potatoes, diced small
1/2 small onion, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter

Place the first 7 ingredients in your crockpot. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 7-9 hours.

At end of cook time, stir in the milk and the butter. Turn the crockpot up to high and allow to cook for another hour. Then, serve and enjoy!

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Curried chickpeas and chicken

Source: $5 Dinners

Every now and then, I come across a recipe that is really different from what I normally make, but for whatever reason, it catches my eye and I can’t stop thinking about it! I know it’s going to be a gamble, because what if we don’t like it? But eventually, I always give in and make the dish, simply because I can’t get it out of my head.

This recipe recently popped up in my Google Reader, and it became one of those recipes. I’ve only ever had chickpeas in one other recipe, and I didn’t really like it. But on the other hand, I really love hummus, so … I wanted to try it! Couldn’t hurt, right? And besides, I recently bought some curry powder, so I needed to use that for something, too. Perfect!

This dish turned out to be really good, and very filling! While I won’t say it’s one of my favorite dishes, it’s a great alternative when I’m looking for something different from the norm.

Curried Chickpeas and Chicken
1 lb. dried chickpeas
2 cups chicken broth (next time, I’ll use 3)
8 oz. can tomato sauce (next time, I’ll use 2 cans)
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 chicken breasts, diced
Garlic salt

Place the dried chickpeas in your stoneware and soak overnight. Drain and rinse, then place them back in your crockpot. Add the broth, tomato sauce, and curry powder, and stir. Then add the chicken and stir to combine. Season with a few dashes of garlic salt and pepper. Cook on high for 4 hours.

Serve over white or brown rice, and enjoy!

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Alfredo tomato chicken

Source: 365 Days of Slow Cooking

This meal is a great option for using up ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. I needed to come up with a meal the other day, and I had zero time to run to the grocery store. This was a great choice!

Alfredo tomato chicken

2 chicken breasts
16 oz. spaghetti sauce (I used Ragu traditional)
1/2 cup alfredo sauce
1/4 cup grated parmesan
4 oz. can mushrooms, drained
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder

Place chicken in the bottom of the crockpot. In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for about 6 hours. Serve over bowtie pasta, and enjoy!

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Black beans and rice

Source: $5 Dinners; and another version from A Year of Crockpotting

This was another easy meal where I already had all the ingredients in my pantry, which was an even better thing, since I’m trying to use up as much food as I can before we move in two weeks! I had two more “cans” worth of black beans in the freezer, so I was looking for a recipe to use them up. This was a great choice, because I was able to use up some stuff from my pantry without having to buy any supplementary ingredients.

Rick and I were both pleasantly surprised with how good this tasted. I was a little nervous that it would turn out bland and too mushy (and it was a little mushy), but the flavors meshed together nicely. We ate it as a burrito filling and added sour cream and a little cheddar cheese (although I don’t think the cheese was necessary). I’ll definitely make this again when I need to throw a meal together using pantry staples!

This is also a great budget meal. $5 Dinners is a great source for eating on a budget, but this is one of the most inexpensive meals I’ve noticed from her blog.

Black beans and rice

1 cup white or brown rice, uncooked
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 can tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups water

Dump the rice in the bottom of the crockpot. Add olive oil, and stir to combine. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. The original recipe said if you are using white rice, cook on high for 4 hours; if using brown rice, cook on high for 6 hours. However, using white rice, mine was done at about 2.5 hours on high. Either way, brown rice will take longer to cook.

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Cheesy potato soup

Source: 365 Days of Slow Cooking

I love soup in the winter. Whenever temperatures plummet, I get a craving for a nice, hot bowl of soup or chili. At the end of last week, we had a snowstorm that dumped about 4-5 inches on us, and it was the perfect day for this recipe! I added some crushed crackers to my bowl, which made it even better. I definitely recommend you try this recipe on a cold day!


2 lbs. red potatoes, cubed into half-inch pieces
1 cup chopped carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (I used skim)
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (next time I will use less, maybe 1 1/2 cups)

Place potatoes, carrots, onion, broth and salt in crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. At end of cook time, stir in milk and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes. Turn off crockpot, add cheese, and stir until melted.

Shared on Eat at Home Cooks

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Taco soup (take 2)


This taco soup was this week’s recipe in the cooking club I’m in. As soon as I saw it, I realized how similar it was to the other taco soup recipe I’ve made a few times, but I figured the changes were significant enough to go ahead and try this version. I’m glad I did! Because there were fewer canned items in this soup, it tasted much meatier, which Rick liked, and the taco seasoning was more prevalent. We also both liked the addition of the black beans. I’m not sure which recipe is my favorite, but this version is definitely a keeper!


1 lb. ground beef
2 cans corn, undrained (I used 3 cups frozen corn, with 2/3 cup water)
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can great northern beans, undrained
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 packet taco seasoning (or 1/4 cup)
1 packet ranch dressing mix

Brown beef, drain fat if necessary. Combine all ingredients in the crockpot, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with sour cream, cheese or tortilla chips if desired. Enjoy!

Total cost of meal: $7.20. Serves 5.

Shared at Eat at Home Cooks.

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Hungarian goulash

I was browsing through my Fix It and Forget It Lightly cookbook the other day, and was intrigued by this recipe. Until the Mexican goulash I made awhile back, I had never had (or really heard of) goulash before, so I thought it might be fun to tryanother version of the dish. Also, Rick and I needed an easy dinner tonight (with ingredients we already had on hand), and this seemed like the perfect fit.

This turned out to be a really good dish. It had a lot more flavor than I was expecting, and I love the texture of the onions. It was a very filling meal, especially when served over a bed of rice!


1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cold water

Place beef in crockpot. Cover with onions.

Combine garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, and 1 cup water. Pour over beef.

Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Dissolve flour in 1/4 cup cold water. Stir into beef mixture. Cook on high for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Serve over noodles or rice. Enjoy!

Makes about 6 servings.

Shared on Dining with Debbie

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Raspberry chicken


I found this recipe when I was researching freezable meals. It hasn’t been a problem yet, but I’m sure there will be times when I don’t feel like cooking or we’ll need to throw something together as fast as possible, so it would be nice to have some frozen meals already prepared and ready to toss in the oven (or crockpot). I actually didn’t freeze this meal ahead of time — I had some raspberry jam to use up, and I was eager to give it a try!

The flavor of this dish was really good. However, I used a 6 qt. crockpot and cooked it on low for 8 hours, and the chicken got dried out. It was good, but I suggest shortening the cook time to 6 hours tops.

1 1/2 pounds chicken pieces (I used 2 1/2 chicken breasts)
3/4 cup raspberry jam
3/4 cup ketchup
1/8 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire  sauce
1/8 tsp. salt

Place chicken in crockpot. Combine all ingredients and pour mixture over chicken. Cook on low for 6 hours. We served ours with a spinach salad, and it was great!

To make ahead:
Place all ingredients into a 1-gallon freezer bag. Lay flat in freezer. To thaw cook: Take the bag out of the freezer the night before, making sure the freezer bag is completely sealed. Place the bag on a shelf furthest from the freezer. Dump the bag in the crockpot in the morning, and you’re good to go!

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