7 Healthy Dinner Ideas For When You're Broke + Just Can't
There are nights when it’s fun to pull out all of your old cookbooks, get in the kitchen, and play around—and then there are nights when you’re tired, broke, and just want food on the table, stat. On those nights, try one of these go-to meals from mbg editors (aka some of the healthiest people around).
Canned Everything Chili
"I'm pretty new to the cooking game, and I'm still using training wheels. So, unless it's coming pre-packed with all the ingredients and a recipe from Blue Apron, the only thing I cook is chili with everything out of a can. I go for low-sodium, BPA-free options, but beyond that, it's just a matter of taste. I usually go for a few varieties of beans—black beans, kidney beans, pink beans—then some (non-sweet) corn, diced tomatoes, and spices. I like to use chili powder and cumin from The Spice Hunter, but you can play around with the spices to see what suits you. I finish mine off with some blue corn chips and Greek yogurt." —Allison Daniels, Happiness & Relationships Editor
Lentils, Carrots + A Fried Egg
"Most nights I'll eat cheaply. I'll top brown rice with stewed lentils and carrots, a fried egg, and a dash of Cholula. It's a cheap meal full of fiber and protein—and it doesn't cost more than a dollar or two a serving!" —Elizabeth Inglese, Senior Features Editor
Banana Cinnamon Pancakes
"There's nothing better than breakfast for dinner. And no matter how crazy the week has been, I pretty much always have a few bananas and some eggs lying around. Amazingly, just these two ingredients make one of my favorite dinners. To make it, just mix together two eggs, one large ripe banana, and a pinch of salt and cinnamon. Heat up a skillet on medium-high, add a bit of coconut oil, then spoon two tablespoons of batter onto skillet (keep the pancakes small because otherwise they will fall apart) flipping after they are golden brown on the bottom. You can sprinkle some walnuts on the top and add a little bit of ghee. I often eat this with almond butter and a few extra slices of banana." —Emma Loewe, Associate Green & Home Editor
Quick & Easy Fajita Bowls
"When I'm broke I make fajitas, because I'm from Arizona and have to represent. I always have black beans and rice around, and pepper and onions are usually really cheap! I just saute up three peppers (you can usually buy them in packs of three for cheaper), one onion, fresh minced garlic, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, fajita seasoning (which I usually already have around) on high heat. I serve it in a big bowl on top of some Romaine lettuce with some canned BPA-free black beans, brown rice, a scoop of salsa, and a drizzle of olive oil. This makes enough for three or four dinners!" —Gretchen Lidicker, Associate Health Editor
"Avocado toast. And before you say that avocado toast is the very staple bankrupting millennials, back up. I don't pay $11 for avocado toast. I buy my avocados at Trader Joe's and get the best sourdough bread for $2.25 a loaf at my neighborhood bakery. I usually add sliced tomatoes, everything bagel seasoning, a squeeze of lemon, and crushed red pepper." —Leigh Weingus, Senior Yoga & Fitness Editor
Ultimate Veggie Scramble
"One of my favorite dinners is what I call a 'scramble.' Sunday nights I do the prep, which means baking sweet potatoes and making sure I have the other ingredients: olive oil, grass-fed butter, pasture-raised eggs, canned black beans, Maldon sea salt, and prewashed arugula—all organic. If you have the olive oil, this is $20 or so for almost a full week of scrambles (or $4 a meal).
"When it's time for dinner, I crack two whole eggs and one egg white in a mug and beat them with a fork. I put a few handfuls of greens in a bowl, dress them with olive oil, and set aside. Then, I melt a pad of butter in a frying pan and start warming up the beans and sweet potato. After about a minute, I pour the beaten eggs over it. It's not pretty, but it's so delicious! I sprinkle salt on while I'm cooking, and then slowly push the scramble onto the greens." —Lindsay Kellner, Senior Wellness & Beauty Editor
"Fancy" French Herbed Eggs
"I usually scramble eggs and chop whatever fresh herbs I have on hand into them with nice sea salt and freshly ground pepper. It couldn't be easier, and it pairs well with a simple green salad if I have it or defrosted frozen spinach sautéed (or just steamed) with a little garlic. Something about herbed eggs always feels a little French and fancy even though it's essentially a five-minute breakfast-for-dinner." — Olessa Pindak, Executive Editor
"I'm a huge fan of the dinner smoothie (so much so that I wrote about it last week on the site!). My go-to recently has been the flesh of a roasted sweet potato (cooled—I try to do this ahead of time and have 'em ready in my fridge), a handful of spinach, a hefty shake of hemp hearts, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. Voilà—dinner is served in less than five and for less than $5." —Liz Moody (me!), Senior Food Editor
And do you want to know if you should you go Keto? Paleo? Deciding what to eat to feel your best shouldn’t be complicated. We’ve removed the guesswork to give you all the best nutrition tips & tools, all in one place. Ready to kickstart your health journey? We’re here to guide you.