Whenever I’m thinking about affordable, healthy recipes, I always turn to ethnic dishes that are traditionally considered “peasant” food.
The Romans, in particular, were notoriously frugal. Many classic dishes like this minestrone soup evolved to be vegetarian or vegetable-centric by necessity. Instead of pounds of meat, this one-pot wonder is centered around just a few seasonal ingredients and rounded out with pantry grains or legumes for fiber, bulk, and hardiness.
You can easily make this recipe vegan, but my idea of a one-pot wonder caters to the omnivore with a little bit of everything: a modest amount of lean animal protein; fiber-rich budget-friendly beans; and plenty of spring fennel, carrots, and herbs.
If you can’t find chicken or turkey sausage at the butcher counter, you can always make your own (hint: you’ll save even more money this way and control all the additives)!
Simply take the ground meat and build flavor with fresh garlic and various spices like fennel seed, chili flakes, and dried herbs. You can even make your own homemade sausage in bulk and freeze balls of it to add to future soups and stews.