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Cooking Tips

How to Make 4 Dinners from $50 Worth of Groceries

Use these smart shopping strategies to stretch your spending.
By Published Nov. 29, 2022

Most of the time, dinners in my household are a breeze: I typically have a fridge full of leftovers from recipe development, requiring only a brief microwave stint to get a hot meal on the table. During stretches full of meetings and desk work, though, I reconnect with my home cook roots, meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekend to get ready for the week ahead. 

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

With food prices still sky-high, I’m trying to be more strategic than ever about shopping and cooking. Here’s how I used $50 worth of ingredients (from my go-to mid-level supermarket in the suburbs of D.C.) to make four easy, satisfying dinners last week.

$50 Worth of Groceries

  • 5 pounds bone-in chicken thighs (value pack): $7.45
  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless pork chops: $6.74
  • 1 pound bratwurst: $4.48
  • 1 head cauliflower: $2.69
  • 1 head red cabbage: $1.58
  • 3-pound bag Yukon Gold potatoes: $2.99
  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes: $1.48
  • 1 yellow onion: $0.60
  • 1 Gala apple: $0.90
  • 2 lemons: $1.98
  • 1 piece ginger: $1.00
  • 1 head garlic: $0.99
  • 1 bunch cilantro: $1.89
  • 1 bunch rosemary: $2.19
  • 1 quart chicken broth: $1.69
  • 1 pound long-grain white rice: $1.19
  • 1 jar molasses: $3.99
  • 1 bottle cider vinegar: $2.28
  • 1 jar dry-roasted peanuts: $2.19
  • 1 can chickpeas: $0.84


TOTAL: $49.14

(I already had salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, curry powder, garam masala, olive oil, brown sugar, and unsalted butter at home.)

4 Dinners to Make with $50 Worth of Groceries

Southern-Style Stewed Chicken and Rice

This homey dish is a Cook’s Country team favorite for good reason. It’s dead simple and stick-to-your-ribs hearty. The modest combination of rice, chicken, broth, onion, butter, salt, and pepper amounts to so much more than the sum of its parts, tasting complex yet cozy. It’s pure comfort. 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1½ teaspoons table salt
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice

Key Strategy: Buy in bulk.

My family loves chicken these days, and at my market, I can get the biggest bang for my buck buying a family pack of bone-in thighs (which, happily, happens to be our favorite cut anyway). I stocked up on thighs and used them multiple ways throughout the week.

Southern-Style Stewed Chicken and Rice

Sometimes the best thing you can do in the kitchen is not overthink things.
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Curried Roast Chicken and Vegetables

This 1-pan meal tastes incredibly complex for how simple it is. Chicken roasts atop a combination of potatoes, cauliflower, and chickpeas, and a potent mixture of lemon, garlic, ginger, and spices perfumes the whole dish. Plus, cleanup is a snap.

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1¾ teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala (make your own if you don’t have any)
  • 1 head cauliflower 
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (I used all thighs)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro

Key Strategy: Make smart substitutions.

I swapped out the mixed chicken pieces for all thighs since I bought them in bulk.

Curried Roast Chicken and Vegetables

This inspired one-pan dinner couldn’t be easier.
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Bratwursts with Braised Red Cabbage and Potatoes

Braised red cabbage is a cold-weather staple in my house: Cabbage is so affordable, and the pretty purple hue adds welcome color to plates of drab browns and beiges. Adding an apple and a finishing splash of tangy vinegar brightens the cabbage, balancing rich, meaty mains. Simple seared bratwursts and boiled potatoes are easy additions to make a full meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (instead of 1 pound small red potatoes)
  • 1½ teaspoons table salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound bratwurst (instead of 2 pounds)
  • ½ head red cabbage
  • 1 Gala apple
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Key Strategy: Bulk up the sides.

We’ve been trying to eat less meat recently for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is how expensive it is. I’ll often scale down meats and serve extra portions of an affordable side, like rice, beans, or carrots. For this meal, I chose to serve only one bratwurst per person but cooked extra potatoes to round out the meal. (Also, I used chunks of Yukon Gold potatoes instead of small red ones; they were cheaper than red potatoes, so I bought in bulk since I needed them for the curried chicken dish as well.)

Bratwursts with Braised Red Cabbage and Potatoes

This hearty sausage, cabbage, and potato supper will be the apple of your eye.
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Molasses-Glazed Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes with Red Cabbage Slaw

We had a warm spell and I was able to fire up the grill one last time before its hibernation, so I chose this family favorite. The molasses glaze adds sheen and a barbecue-esque sweetness to pork chops and sweet potatoes, and also makes a tasty dressing for a red cabbage slaw with peanuts and cilantro.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2¼ teaspoons table salt
  • 1¾ teaspoons pepper
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • 5 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ head red cabbage
  • ½ cup dry-roasted peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless pork chops

Key Strategy: Use what you’ve got.

I used the rest of the cabbage from the brats and the rest of the cilantro from the curried chicken to make this slaw. This meal ended up being the most expensive, but I didn’t mind buying a jar of molasses with holiday baking right around the corner (and these cookies on the docket), and the extra peanuts were great for afternoon snacks.

Molasses-Glazed Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes with Red Cabbage Slaw

A molasses and cider vinegar mixture does double duty as a glaze for grilled pork chops and sweet potatoes and a dressing for a red cabbage slaw.
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