Easy Dinner Recipes for Two


May 10, 2017

A well-rounded meal consists of three main things — a meat or other protein, a vegetable, and a grain or starch. How you combine them to tickle your taste buds is the key to creative cooking.

The promise of a tasty, healthy meal can help you get through a long day. But the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen cooking a gourmet feast when you feel hungry and tired. That’s where these easy dinner recipes for two come in. They taste as if you spent a long time cooking over a hot stove, but you can whip up these meals in minutes, and the best part is, you won’t blow your paycheck on the ingredients. These low-budget meals use foods you already have in your pantry, combined with a few special buys to keep the cost under $15. Try them out!

Vegetarian Main Courses

Black Bean and Tofu Burritos

Packed with fiber and protein, these wraps will fill you up for just a few bucks per serving.

Items to buy:

  • Tortillas
  • Avocado
  • 1 can black beans
  • Tofu

Items from your pantry:

  • Salsa
  • Cumin

Directions: Cook tofu according to directions, then sprinkle with cumin. Drain and rinse black beans, then add to tofu to warm up. Wrap four tortillas in paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds. Distribute tofu and beans equally between tortillas. Add avocado slices and salsa on top.

Variations and Additions: Swap tofu for six eggs. For an Italian variation, swap cumin for oregano, skip the avocado and use leftover spaghetti sauce in place of salsa. For a Middle Eastern variation, substitute the black beans for chickpeas and chop up cucumbers and tomatoes. Serve them on top of the eggs or tofu in place of the salsa and avocado.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Packed with fiber, Vitamin A and manganese, sweet potatoes usually cost less than a dollar a piece.

Items to buy:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • Fresh spinach (frozen works in a pinch)

Items from your pantry:

  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Walnuts

Directions: Scrub sweet potatoes and rub a bit of olive oil and salt on the outside. Roast in the oven at 400° Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour, checking regularly to see if the inside is tender (buy microwavable sweet potatoes if you are in a rush). Remove from oven, cut open, and top each with a half pat of butter, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon and a small handful of walnuts. Stuff half the spinach in each and mix the sweet potato with the spinach to help it wilt.

Variations and Additions: Add a side of scrambled eggs or top with beans for protein. Swap spinach with hummus and leave out the cinnamon and sugar. You could also add cranberries for an even sweeter taste or try sprinkling the top with cheddar cheese instead of sugar and cinnamon.

Poultry

Slow-Cooker Hawaiian Chicken

Who doesn’t love slow cookers? You can walk in the door at 5:30 p.m., and dinner is already made.

Items to buy:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Small can of crushed pineapple

Items from your pantry:

  • Soy sauce
  • Brown sugar

Directions: Place thawed chicken thighs in bottom of slow cooker. Mix 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, pineapple and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Pour over chicken thighs. Set the slow cooker on low and enjoy 8 hours later.

Variations and Additions: Round out the meal with some instant rice and a bag of frozen broccoli. You could also try slicing up some red onions and red peppers to add to the slow cooker. Serve over orzo or quinoa instead of rice, and add sliced carrots to the slow cooker in the morning instead of having broccoli.

Ground Turkey Muffin Meatloaf

Regular meatloaf makes too many servings for a two-person household, unless you’re fine with eating it for the rest of the week. By using muffin tins to make the meatloaf instead, you get small servings that you can freeze and pull out later to use as cheap lunch solutions or dinner on a night when you don’t have time to cook.

Items to buy:

  • Ground turkey
  • Onion
  • Sharp cheddar cheese

Items from your pantry:

  • Ketchup
  • Milk
  • Breadcrumbs or quick cooking oats
  • Egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit. Dice half the onion, setting aside the rest for future use. Using your hands, combine the egg, turkey, ⅔ cup milk, ¼ cup breadcrumbs or oats, 1 cup cheese, and ½ teaspoon each of pepper and salt. Spray a muffin tin and divide the mixture into 12 cups. Add about 1 tablespoon of ketchup to the top of each. Cook for a half hour or so, checking to see if the middle is done.

Variations and Additions: Serve with fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil and whole-grain couscous, which takes less than 10 minutes to cook. Add black beans and salsa to the meat mix and exclude ketchup for a Mexican variation.

Fish

Simple Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt

Buy a fillet of salmon and dress it up with ingredients you already have in your refrigerator to save money.

Items to buy:

  • Salmon fillet

Items from your pantry:

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Cucumber
  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Pepper
  • Dried dill

Directions: Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Cut lemon in half, saving the second half for future use. Squeeze over the salmon. Sprinkle pepper and salt over the salmon and place it on a baking sheet covered in foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes. While that’s cooking, dice a quarter of the cucumber. Add it to ½ cup of Greek yogurt and stir in ½ teaspoon of dill. Remove salmon from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Serve salmon with yogurt topping.

Variations and Additions: Try different herbs in place of the dill, or try using mango instead of cucumber. Accompany with a salad and baked potato to round out the meal.

Cooking for two can be fun and delicious, and it doesn’t have to cost a bundle. Check out our blog for more budget-friendly living tips.

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