Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

When we were newly married, we lived near an excellent Mexican restaurant. We didn’t eat there often, but when we did, I always got a dish that included refried beans. We no longer live near the Mexican restaurant, so I make them at home instead!

This recipe is delicious (and reheats reasonably well). It is a great side dish, but we often eat them as part of an entree. I use the refried beans as a filling in my tacos (in lieu of meat). I combine the beans with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole. It is absolutely delicious.

The beans are also relatively inexpensive. It costs about $1.65 to make a batch of the beans, and you should be able to get two entree-sized servings out of the batch. If you are serving as a side dish, you should be able to get four servings out of the batch. Enjoy! – Kristin

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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These homemade refried beans are easy, delicious, and cost $0.83 per serving. You'll never go back to the can…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (more if you like them spicy)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice, optional
  • 1 can (14.5-15.5 ounces) pinto beans, NOT drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add garlic and chili powder and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Mix in the pinto beans (with liquid from can), the vegetable broth, and lime juice.
  5. Continue to cook the mixture on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to stir and mash (or mush if you prefer the term) the mixture periodically. The beans are ready when they thicken.
  6. Serve in tacos, as part of a taco salad, or as a side dish to any Mexican fare.
  7. Enjoy!

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The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

The humble egg sandwich is a fast, convenient, and relatively nutritious meal. Although this is usually something that I would consume for breakfast, I have eaten a lot of egg sandwiches for quick lunches or lazy dinners. At only 250 calories, with 11 grams of protein, the egg sandwich is also pretty nutritious and very cheap!


For many years, I had an hour-long commute to and from work every day. I often made one of these sandwiches, wrapped it in waxed paper, and ate it on the way to work.


If you want to make your egg sandwich even cheaper, use a slice of bread (or two) instead of an English muffin. (If you opt for 2 slices of bread, use a slightly larger bowl – at least 4 inches in diameter.) Although I usually top my egg sandwiches with nothing more than salt and pepper, feel free to experiment. Cheddar or pepper jack cheese, hot sauce, bacon, ham, fresh tomato, or even ketchup or mustard can liven up your sandwich.

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

  • Difficulty: easy
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Kick start your day with this hearty and convenient sandwich (or eat it for lunch, or dinner, or whenever…)

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 spray of cooking spray, or any oil to prevent sticking
  • 1 English muffin, bagel, or sliced bread
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Slice English muffin in half and place in toaster (or toaster oven).
  2. Spray a small bowl (about 3″ in diameter) with cooking spray or wipe with oil.
  3. Crack egg into bowl and scramble with a fork.
  4. Microwave egg on high for 1 minute, stopping every 15 seconds to allow the egg to “rest” for 10 second intervals. This will prevent the egg from exploding.
  5. Butter insides of toasted English muffin.
  6. Place egg “disc” inside the English muffin. Top with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Enjoy!

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Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

It is a gorgeous summer day, and James and I wanted something light for lunch. We had some leftover crusty artisan bread (click here for recipe) and decided to make a lunch out of one of our favorite appetizers: easy summer caprese!

We had some fresh mozzarella, a few tomatoes that had seen better days, our trusty basil plant, and the leftover homemade bread. On a colder day, I would make make a toasty caprese sandwich (click here for recipe), but some days are just too warm for a grilled cheese!

A few notes: If you don’t have fresh mozzarella, you can use part of a block of mozzarella cheese (or even mozzarella cheese sticks). If you don’t have fresh basil, a pinch of dried basil will still be tasty! If you don’t have or want bread, this is delicious as a salad.

If you serve this as an appetizer, it will cost you approximately $0.60 per person (assuming you 4 servings). If you eat as a light meal, only plan on 2 servings. See the cost analysis below:

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

  • Difficulty: Easy
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An quick and easy appetizer perfect for a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf of bread (see artisan bread recipe)
  • 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese (fresh mozzarella if you have it)
  • 4 basil leaves, sliced (I keep a basil plant for economical fresh herbs)
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil + more for bread if desired
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil in a bowl.
  2. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar to bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Mix ingredients.
  5. Serve with slices of bread (cut into half or quarters) or as a salad. If you would like, you can toast the bread and serve this as bruschetta! Advise your guests to put the mixture on top of the bread for optimal deliciousness!

-Kristin

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5 Minute Salad with Easy Homemade Dressing

If you don’t have much time on your hands to prepare lunch or dinner, this easy and nutritious salad might be the recipe for you! It is a quick and easy southwest style salad that we frequently make in the summer.

The salad itself is relatively inexpensive to make. Note, the recipe uses one half of an avocado. Read how to keep the other half fresh here.

Based on what I paid for my own ingredients, it costs about $1 per salad (see below for a cost analysis).

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:


Recipe:

5 Minute Salad with Easy Homemade Dressing

  • Difficulty: easy
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This easy and delicious green salad is fresh and hearty, and perfect on a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup black beans, drained
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 ounces canned corn, drained
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon lime juice
  • Potential Add-Ins: You may want to add crushed tortilla chips (maybe the crumbs from the bottom of the bag), salsa, salt and pepper. You can also add shredded cheese. 🙂

Directions

  1. Combine olive oil, lime juice and dried cilantro to make a quick dressing. (plus salt and pepper, to taste)
  2. Mix lettuce, tomato, black beans, corn, and avocado together.
  3. Cover with dressing.
  4. Add tortilla chips, cheese, and/or salsa, if desired.
  5. Enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!

If you are a risotto connoisseur, you may be surprised to see one major ingredient missing from this recipe: wine!

Wine may add a bit of flavor, but I find the risotto to be just as delicious without the wine. Plus you cut down on the overall expense of the dish! However, if you would like, you can add a 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the dish prior to adding the vegetable stock. 🙂

I make a few different risotto dishes, including a pea risotto and a pumpkin risotto. This is perhaps the most deluxe and expensive at $1.73 a plate, but it is absolutely delicious. We had it for dinner last night with a few slices of rosemary focaccia bread, and again leftover for lunch. I regret nothing!

Continue reading “Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!”

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

I am a lover of bread, and rosemary focaccia bread is one of my absolute favorites. This bread is relatively easy and ALWAYS impresses dinner guests. It turns out perfectly every time I make it, and it is unbelievably delicious.

While searching for a great focaccia bread recipe, I stumbled upon a recipe posted by Gimme Some Oven. The bread I prepare is an adaptation of her amazing rosemary focaccia bread. My version uses dried rosemary (as I do not generally have fresh rosemary on hand) and divides the recipe in half.

Another great thing about this bread is that it is relatively inexpensive to make, especially considering the luxurious end result.

Cost Analysis:

This analysis excludes the cost of toppings. For more on the cost of toppings, click here!
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Irresistible Rosemary Focaccia Bread for $1.20

  • Difficulty: relatively easy
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A luxurious and salty loaf of focaccia bread elevated with the addition of rosemary.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.25 teaspoons active-dry yeast (1/2 package)
  • 1.75 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + additional tablespoon for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt + additional for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions

  1. Combine yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add warm water to mixture.
  2. Let yeast proof for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and one tablespoon olive oil to the yeast mixture. I use a stand mixer with a dough hook, and I use it to mix the dough on low in the stand mixer for about a minute. If you do not have a stand mixer, mix and knead the dough by hand.
  4. Add additional flour, kosher salt, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Mix on medium-low for another 4-5 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball and put it in a greased mixing bowl. Put a little oil on top of the dough ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise for about 45-60 minutes (I tend to wait 60 minutes) in a warm area.
  6. Take dough out of the bowl and roll it into a circle. You can use a rolling pin, but I sometimes just push the dough down with my hands. Put the flattened dough on a baking sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel, and allow to rise for another 20 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Poke holes all over the dough, drizzle it with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and dried rosemary, to taste.
  8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes and enjoy! Note: This bread is best on its first day. If you are not planning to eat all of the bread on its first day, I would recommend drizzling with olive oil and reheating it in the oven prior to eating.

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

A few years ago, James and I took a (frugal) vacation to York, England. We had a very enjoyable lunch in an elegant tea room, located on a busy street corner. I ordered a salad similar to this one, and we spent a lovely hour talking, watching the street through the tall windows, and soaking up the atmosphere.

When our vacation was over, and we returned home, I tried to recreate the salad from the tea room. It has become one of our favorite fresh and frugal meals. We had this avocado salad for lunch today. It was delicious and cost about $1.40 per person. The only thing missing was the beautiful tea room and a fabulous cup of English Breakfast Tea. Enjoy!

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Avocado Salad with Roasted Potatoes

  • Difficulty: easy
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This fresh and hearty salad has a great blend of flavors and textures.

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, sliced, and halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, peeled and sliced
  • 2 potatoes (I used russet), peeled and diced
  • Lettuce (either romaine or a spring mix)
  • Olive oil, 1 tablespoon + more for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Peel and dice potatoes. Mix in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread potatoes on baking sheet. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Bake potatoes for 25-30 minutes in oven. Check halfway through and flip. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Peel the celery (I do this to remove some of the strings) and cut up the avocado.
  6. Mix lettuce, cucumber, celery and avocado together. Dress with olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar. Top with roasted potatoes and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Hearty Southwest Black Beans & Rice

This recipe is a staple in our house. It is cheap, delicious and makes for great leftovers!

I usually eat mine taco-style in tortilla shells with shredded cheese, tomato, lettuce, and guacamole. James prefers to load his up with taco fixings and eat with chips. Either way is great!

This is a relatively cheap recipe at $0.80 per generous serving. Happy eating!

Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Southwest Black Beans & Rice

  • Difficulty: easy
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Rice, Black Beans, Corn and some basic spices make for a hearty vegetarian main dish or a great side dish!

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice (I usually use long grain)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or salted water if you don’t have broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 can of black beans (about 15 ounces), drained
  • 1 small can of whole kernel corn (8-9 ounces), drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium size saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add rice and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes (until slightly toasted).
  3. Add vegetable broth and bring mixtures to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add cumin and chili powder and stir into rice mixture.
  5. Stir black beans and corn into the mixture.
  6. Serve with all the standard taco fixings inside of tortillas, with tortilla chips, or just enjoy plain!

3 Ingredient Smoothie to Use Up Those Brown Bananas!

If you are like me, you probably have an old, brown and mushy banana sitting in your kitchen. For some reason, you didn’t get a chance to eat it. Like me, you have already made too much banana bread, but you don’t want to let the banana go to waste.

Never fear! In 2 minutes you can get that mushy fruit off of your counter and enjoy this delicious fruit smoothie. The addition of the orange juice in this recipe really cuts the sweetness of the overripe banana. I made this smoothie with frozen strawberry, but feel free to add any frozen fruit you have on hand. It is also good with frozen pineapple, mango, blueberries, etc.

From a cost perspective, it costs about $1 to make this recipe. James and I usually split the smoothie, but most people would probably consider it to be one smoothie.

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

3 Ingredient Brown Banana Smoothie

  • Servings: 1 or 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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A delicious and quick smoothie that uses up an old banana and isn't too sweet!


Ingredients


– 3/4 cup orange juice
– 3/4 frozen fruit (I used strawberries)
– 1 banana (old is fine!)

1. Blend orange juice, banana and frozen fruit.
2. Garnish (if desired) and Enjoy!

Tortilla Pizza: A Frugal Use of Leftovers?

James and I had a craving for thin crust pizza. We also had leftover homemade tomato sauce, leftover fresh mozzarella, a less than fresh tomato, and a bag of tortillas. What resulted? Crispy margherita-style pizzas. Not super filling, but a delicious and light meal.

The question is, is it a frugal meal?

After completing a cost analysis, the results show a cost of $1.37 per pizza. As the portion was small, this is perhaps not the most cost-effective meal. However, the majority of our ingredients were close to expiration, so it was a good opportunity to reduce our household waste. The cost could also be reduced by changing the type of cheese (but for me, fresh mozzarella cheese is a luxury I am willing to splurge on!)

We could have used the leftovers to make more caprese sandwiches (which were more filling and cheaper to make), but it wouldn’t have satisfied our thin crust pizza craving!

Cost Analysis:

IngredientIngredient Cost per UnitUnits Required for RecipeRecipe Cost
Flour Tortilla$0.23 per tortilla2 tortillas$0.46
Fresh Mozzarella$ 0.37 per ounce3 ounces$1.11
Tomato$ 0.30 per tomato1 tomato$0.30
Leftover Tomato Sauce$2.64 for full batch1/6 of sauce$0.44
Fresh Basil$ 0.06 per leaf4 leaves$0.24
Olive Oil0.23 per tablespoon1/3 tablespoon$0.08
Balsamic Glaze$ 0.10 per tsp1 teaspoon$0.10
Total cost for TWO pizzas:$2.73
Total cost for ONE pizza:$1.37
Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Tortilla Pizza: A Frugal Use of Leftovers?

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This crispy margherita-style pizza is delicious and light meal

Ingredients

  • 2 Flour tortillas (we used the “taco” size)
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (feel free to substitute)
  • 1 small roma tomato, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3-5 tablespoons leftover tomato sauce depending on your love of sauce! (you can use any pizza sauce/tomato based sauce that you have)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic glaze
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rub a a little bit of olive oil on a baking sheet, add tortillas to baking sheet (do not stack), and rub a little bit of olive oil all over the tortillas (this will make them super crispy!)
  3. Spread tomato sauce on the tortillas .
  4. Add fresh mozzarella (1.5 ounce per pizza) on top of the sauce.
  5. Add fresh tomato to the top of the pizza.
  6. DO NOT ADD THE FRESH BASIL UNTIL AFTER THE PIZZA IS COOKED. It will turn BLACK if you do this which is a terrible waste!
  7. Bake pizzas for 7-9 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and add basil and balsamic vinegar glaze (optional).
  9. Satisfy your pizza craving and use up those leftovers!