When you’ve been working all week, the last thing you want to do is spend your whole weekend slaving away in the kitchen making elaborate meals. Instead, focus on easy, inexpensive meals so you can kick back and relax instead.
GOBankingRates has pulled together 10 cheap meal ideas for the weekend that will give you maximum flavor and leisure time — with minimum damage to your budget. Each one costs $10 or less to make
Last updated: Oct. 16, 2020
Easy, Cheesy Stuffed Shells
This dish requires a bit of preparation, but once it’s ready you can just slide it into the oven and forget about it until mealtime. Follow this recipe from Delish.com for a rich, satisfying entree or side dish.
1 1/2 packages of jumbo shells — 16 to 18 shells
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 cup Italian-style cheese blend
1/2 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat oven to 350°F and boil shells until al dente.
Drain shells and let cool.
Mix ricotta and cheese blend with egg and season with salt and pepper.
Melt butter in a saucepan, then stir in cream and Parmesan.
Pour 2/3 of sauce into ovenproof skillet or baking dish.
Arrange stuffed shells on top of sauce and spoon remaining sauce over shells — sprinkle with more cheese.
Cover with sauce and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbly.
Mexican Pork and Beans Casserole
This pork and beans casserole from Pillsbury is easy, fast, filling and delicious. Make it and your taste buds will thank you. Bonus: It’s budget-friendly, so your wallet will thank you, too.
1 pound ground pork
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup water
6 large corn tortillas, cut in half, then cut crosswise into 1-inch strips
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cook pork in a skillet until crumbly and no longer pink, then drain fat.
Stir everything except cheese into a baking dish.
Cover and bake for 40 minutes, or until heated through.
Top with cheese and bake uncovered for another 5 to 8 minutes until cheese melts and looks bubbly.
Baked Chicken Legs With Soft Polenta
Comfort food comes in a lot of different styles, depending on where you’re from. In parts of Italy, it takes the form of polenta, a cornmeal porridge that you can serve fresh and soft or chill and slice. For a simple, hearty meal, bake chicken legs in tomato sauce and serve them over this soft polenta recipe from TheKitchn.com.
3 pounds chicken drumsticks
1 24-ounce jar tomato pasta sauce
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarse cornmeal
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Brown drumsticks in batches in a hot skillet using enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, then transfer to a baking dish.
Cover chicken with pasta sauce and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until fully cooked.
Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil in large pot and add salt.
Stir cornmeal into water and turn heat to low.
Stir for about 5 minutes, then cover pot.
Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep polenta from sticking to pot.
Remove chicken legs from oven and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Spoon soft polenta into bowls and top with chicken legs and sauce.
Burgers and weekends go together like peanut butter and jelly, but occasionally it’s nice to mix things up. For example, you might try making the burgers from salmon instead of beef. These salmon burgers from Food.com provide a quick, easy meal that’s both frugal and tasty.
1 14-ounce canned salmon
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Drain salmon and mash thoroughly in a mixing bowl.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly mixed.
Shape mixture into four patties.
Fry patties in small amount of oil until golden brown on each side.
Serve on hamburger buns or with a side salad.
Baked ‘Mock-Mac’ and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a comfort dish that’s hard not to love. If you’re avoiding carbs, however, it’s a dish that will wreak havoc on your diet. Instead of using macaroni for your mac and cheese, whip up this cauliflower-based version from the Food Network.
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Black pepper and garlic powder to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut cauliflower into florets and parboil for 5 minutes.
Coat an 8×8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray.
Drain florets well and transfer to baking dish.
Simmer cream, cream cheese, mustard and seasonings together, whisking until smooth.
Add all but 1/2 cup of cheese and stir until melted.
Stir sauce into cauliflower, then top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
Bake until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes.
Burritos might be the perfect cheap meal idea, no matter how you put them together. This easy, two-ingredient burrito recipe from TryAnythingOnce.com is a case in point. The burritos go together in just moments, and pan-frying them to make the tortillas crisp is a stroke of genius.
4 large, soft, flour tortillas
1 16-ounce can refried beans
1 14-ounce jar queso dip
Heat refried beans thoroughly in microwave or small pan.
Divide beans among four tortillas and drizzle with queso dip.
Roll up tortillas to shape burritos.
Heat skillet and add small quantity of vegetable oil.
Fry burritos on each side until golden brown.
Serve with salsa or sour cream, or both.
Lasagna is as tasty a weekend meal as anyone could want, but it does take a lot of time to prepare. This quick and easy skillet lasagna from Betty Crocker brings all the flavor but comes together on your stovetop in just 30 minutes.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups mafalda* mini-lasagna
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 14-ounce jar tomato pasta sauce
1 4.5-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
*If you can’t find mafalda, use no-boil lasagna noodles and break into 1-inch-wide pieces.
Brown beef in large skillet with onion and pepper, then drain.
Add all remaining ingredients — except mozzarella — and stir.
Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes until pasta is fully cooked.
Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Cheeseburger Pot Pie
When you’re looking for easy meal ideas, cheeseburgers are always an option — and so are meat pies. Combining the two into a cheeseburger pot pie is just plain brilliant. This recipe from Pillsbury brings together all the flavors of a cheeseburger in one appealingly different entree.
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons chopped pickle — optional
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 Pillsbury pie crust
Thaw pie crust as directed and heat oven to 375°F.
Brown beef in skillet and drain fat.
Add onion and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in pickle, ketchup and pepper.
Transfer beef mixture to 9-inch pie pan and top with cheddar cheese.
Cover with softened pie crust and seal edges.
Cut slits in crust so steam can vent.
Bake for up to 20 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.
Roasted Chicken With Potatoes and Butternut Squash
Nothing says “the weekend” like a roast chicken, even if you don’t serve it as your Sunday dinner. This simple version from Cooking Light calls for roasting the potatoes and squash alongside the bird for easy preparation and cleanup.
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 3- to 3 ½-pound whole chicken
3/4 pound red potatoes, cut into wedges
1 1/2 cups — about 1/2 pound — cubed, peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and sage in a small bowl.
Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken.
Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat.
Lift wing tips up tuck under chicken.
Rub garlic mixture under loosened skin and place chicken, breast side up, on a broiler pan rack coated with cooking spray; place rack in broiler pan.
Combine potatoes, squash, butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and arrange mixture around chicken.
Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165°F.
Let rest 10 minutes and serve.
Cheesy Ham Potato Bake
A good casserole — something you can make ahead and reheat if you like — is high on the list of easy meal ideas for a weekend. This rich, satisfying, ham-and-potato casserole from AllRecipes.com is a perfect example.
1 30-ounce bag frozen hash browns
1 12-ounce ham steak, diced
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 onion, chopped
1 20-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Thaw hash browns, preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Combine all ingredients and stir until combined.
Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and cover with foil.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
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