14 Easy Dinner Recipes (That are healthy & frugal too!)


I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

14 easy recipes that are healthy and frugal too!

When eating a healthy diet, I think it’s important to have a list of quick and inexpensive meal ideas and easy dinner recipes to have on hand. Even in the most well-balanced and calm life, there will be nights when you don’t feel like cooking elaborate meals, or times when you need an especially frugal meal to stretch out your budget.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite easy and frugal recipes together in one place!

Easy and Frugal Dinner Recipes

Simple Baked Mini Meatballs that are paleo, and frugal too!

1. Paleo Meatballs

These grain-free meatballs (egg- and dairy-free too!) are some of the easiest ones to makes, but they are also a great frugal way to enjoy meat in many meals. These are on my $1 dollar menu, as a serving costs about 1 dollar! I use them in a variety of ways, including serving them with a mushroom sauce.

2. Persian Lentil Soup

Lentils are low in phytic acid, making the soaking process optional. This recipe for Persian Lentil Soup is gently flavored and the ingredients kept basic for an especially frugal and easy meal. To make it even more flavorful and nutritious, use my almost free chicken broth! 

3. Curried Lentils with Apples and Onions

Another lentil dish is this lovely lentil curry,  gently sweetened with apples, and flavorful from curry powder and garam masala.

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette, plus seven more tasty, nourishing salad dressings

4. Main Dish Salads

I love throwing together a main dish salad with extra cut up vegetables, leftover roasted chicken, Bpa-free canned or precooked beans, or canned salmon or low-mercury tuna, nuts or seeds, and a homemade salad dressing. It’s a very fast meal, and can be very frugal as well!

5. Thai Broth with Chicken

One of my popular recipes from my cookbook, Ladled, is this Simple Thai broth. Make is a main dish by serving it over rice noodles and cooking some chopped chicken in it too. Sooo good! It’s also very frugal if you use homemade broth, and don’t use too many “extras”. If you have broth on hand, it’s extremely easy and fast to put together.

6. Sloppy Joe’s in a Bowl

This unusual way to enjoy Sloppy Joe’s is a super easy meal that is also inexpensive to make!

7. Congee

Congee is an Asian-styled rice porridge. I have a section in my cookbook, Ladled, for them, but here is a Miso version. I especially like the broth based ones – such a fun way to get in that nutritious, inexpensive broth! This is a filling meal, and can be made with the most basic ingredients.


8. Chicken Noodle Soup

This chicken noodle soup makes its own broth while it cooks. Yes, it does take a couple hours to simmer, but it’s a ten-minute operation before that point.

9. Roasted Meats and Vegetables

This simple, one pan meal can be put together quickly and makes an easy dinner, and you get to relax during the roasting time.

10. Bacon Frittata

This basic, but delicious frittata is a great simple meal to make for any of the three main meals of the day! This version is dairy-free.

Sweet Potato Crusted Frittata

11. Sweet Potato Crusted Spinach Frittata

Or, why not try this sweet potato crusted version? It’s gotten rave reviews, and is just a little more work.

12. Oatmeal

Truth be told, we love oatmeal. It makes a stick-to-your-ribs type meal, especially when served with butter and pure maple syrup. So yummy. And yes, we eat it for dinner sometimes. We just did last night, in fact! And you can’t beat it for simplicity and frugality!

13. Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal

To make oatmeal a special treat, try out this baked, pumpkin oatmeal!  It only takes a few minutes the night before/in the morning, and then a few minutes before you stick it in the oven to make.

14. Soups

And of course, soups are on the top of my list for easy, simple dinners. One example out of many is this German Dumpling Soup. Yum!

I’d love to hear your easy dinner recipes using healthy ingredients too!

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette & 7 Other Nourishing Salad Dressings


I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette, plus seven more tasty, nourishing salad dressings

With the sweet and tangy balsamic, the rich extra virgin olive oil, the pungent garlic and mustard, and the subtle creaminess of coconut milk or cream, this dairy-free salad dressing is a healthy and delicious way to enjoy your greens.

I’m the queen of simple salad dressings because I like to keep my cooking uncomplicated. But if you have a little extra coconut milk, cream or unsweetened coconut yogurt, it’s no trouble at all to add a couple tablespoons to your salad dressing – making it a lovely creamy texture with some added health benefits from the coconut milk too. I’m not really sure why it took me so long to think of it!

As part of our 21 steps to a nourishing diet, I wanted to take the opportunity to share a new dressing and point out how simple and better for you homemade salad dressing is! It’s very hard to find store-bought salad dressing that uses nourishing ingredients, and when you do, they often are pretty expensive. Thankfully salad dressings are one of the easiest things you can make, and they are so delicious.

The other day I sat in front of a green salad with vibrant, nutrient rich baby greens, walnuts, avocado and other delicious additions, all tossed with this dressing. I smiled when I thought of all of the lackluster salads I’ve been served at restaurants. This was so much better. You know you are doing something right when you prefer your own food at home.

When making your own salad dressings,  you are trading out cheap oils for traditional ones, artificial flavors and MSG for the real flavors of herbs, spices, and garlic. You are trading highly processed foods, for gently processed, whole foods. It’s a good trade to make. Here is a list of some other lovely, nourishing salad dressings to choose from.

Other Healthy Salad Dressings: 

Sweet Onion Poppyseed Dressing: This salad dressing is amazing with green salads topped with chicken and fruit. It’s sweetened with honey, and so flavorful!

This PDF is a sample of my cookbook, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons. It has my recipe for Leon Salad (a favorite from the book) and two salad dressings, including my Simple Balsamic Dressing (that the below is a creamy version of), and my Everyday Salad Dressing using raw apple cider vinegar.

Kombucha VinaigretteLearn how to make kombucha vinegar and then a simple salad dressing out of it.

Orange Balsamic Dressing: This dressing is perfect for this time of year. I pair it with roasted beets, oranges, greens, and nuts for a lovely light lunch.

Spicy Asian Inspired Dressing: I love the dressing that goes along with this Thai Salad. So good!

Strawberry Salad Dressing: I share a video of my TV segment sharing two salad recipes, with links to my yummy strawberry balsamic dressing.

By the way, my affiliate Vitacost is a great place to pick up organic balsamic vinegar and raw apple cider vinegar.

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette & 7 Other Nourishing Salad Dressings
Prep time:
Total time:
This is a simple dressing to throw together and serve with a variety of salads. It will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator.
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dijon style mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, peeled, and finely minced or put through a garlic press
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk (full fat), cream, or unsweetened, homemade coconut yogurt
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together by either whisking in a small bowl, or putting in a 2 cup jar, placing the lid on, and shaking. Shake before each use.


6 Tips for Adding Flavor to Any Dish for Less

Katie Mae

Katie Stanley is a dorm “mama” to 12 amazing girls ages 8 to 18 at a home and school for the Deaf in Baja California, Mexico. She and her “hijas” can be frequently found in the kitchen, the garden or making friends with their new chickens. She loves to read, hike the hills near her home and spend time with her girls. In her spare time Katie blogs at Nourishing Simplicity about nourishing foods, herbal remedies, simple living, the deaf, raising her girls and encouraging other women in their walk with Christ.

Latest posts by Katie Mae (see all)


By Katie, Contributing Writer

Do you believe that cooking delicious and nourishing foods is possible even on a tight budget? Sometimes we overlook how much flavor some of the humblest foods in our pantry can add to our dishes. These 6 simple and frugal tips are practical and have been used by our ancestors and different cultures for generations. Unfortunately some of these have become a lost art in today’s modern society. You might even be surprised to find most – if not all – of these ingredients already in your kitchen.

Let’s celebrate the simple, flavorful additions we all can have access to on any budget.

Use homemade broth for better flavor 

It seems that we are always talking about broth here at The Nourishing Gourmet. It is just so good that we just can’t keep sharing about it! Chicken stock is my favorite of all broths. It is light, delicate and the perfect base for soup, stews, stir frys and sauces. It’s considered a cornerstone of many cuisines because of it’s wonderful flavor. And who hasn’t been told to eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup to cure a cold? It’s often called the “Jewish Penicillin” because of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in it.

Homemade broth (stocks) are essential for making delicious and nourishing soups (Kimi wrote a whole book on soups and broths). They are easy to make and are a way for you to use up kitchen scraps that might have otherwise been tossed. Have you ever used a can or carton of broth from the store? Not only are they expensive but they also lack flavor. If that is what you are used to, I understand that you probably see nothing wrong with the flavor as our palates get used to certain flavors. Unfortunately broth from the store not only lacks flavor and nutrients found in the bones but it also has unnecessary added ingredients like sugar.

You can make a delicious chicken broth practically for free when you use bones and vegetable scraps. You can also follow this method for using whole pieces of chicken and vegetables which is still a more fugal and flavorful option than buying the pre-made verity.

Adding flavor with spices

The world of spices add variety and tremendous flavor to dishes. It can be as simple as a grind of pepper over chicken, to multi-spice curry creations. Many, many spices have also been found to hold incredible health and healing benefits, showing us once again how our tongue can guide us to good eating habits.

Spices found in the jars on the shelves of your local supermarket are a bit lackluster. By the time they’ve made it to your humble abode they can be void of flavor, potency and nutrition. When possible, it is best to buy high quality whole spices in bulk and grind/grate them yourself. One excellent company to buy spices and herbs from is our affiliate, Mountain Rose Herbs. (Kimi notes: I just found a bag of dried peppermint I bought from them several years ago, and it’s still incredibly flavorful! They have some of the freshest herbs and spices I’ve ever bought.)

There are some spices I prefer to buy whole in bulk and others I tend to buy pre-ground. When it comes to some spices such as cinnamon I keep both the whole sticks and ground on hand. (When you are searching for cinnamon be sure to purchase Ceylon and not cassia.) A few pre-ground spices I buy are curry powders, turmeric and cumin.

Dishes such as curries and many Indian dishes benefit from frying the spices for a few minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. It brings out a fragrant smell and rich flavor that would other wise be missing. Two great example of this technic are this garam marsala lentil soup with coconut milk and this simple Indian daalh (lentil) dish.


Adding flavor with fresh herbs

I love fresh herbs! I try to keep some of my favorite growing year round in my garden. If it’s too cold to grow herbs outside year round or if you don’t have space try growing a few small pots of herbs like basil, peppermint and oregano on a window seal. They add a complexity of flavor that is lacking in dried herbs. Adding add a bit of freshly chopped herbs on top dishes like this nourishing Thai noodle soup or fresh garden pasta give the dish added nutrition, flavor and beauty.

Adding flavor with traditional fats

Healthy fats are must in a nourishing diet for health, but  they are also important flavor components. I love olive oil, pastured/raw butter and coconut oil like any other real foodie. Sadly they can be a bit pricey even in bulk. I count myself blessed to live in a Mediterranean climate so I am able to buy local olive oil for a reasonable price.

When I think of frugal fats I am immediately dawn into my grandma’s kitchen. I can see her pull her tin can out of the small cupboard by her stove that she used to to save leftover grease from frying bacon or sausage. Nothing went to waste. Back then I was squeamish over the thought, but now I see the wisdom she had. Whenever I make chicken stock I also skim the fat off the top after it is cooled. I buy pork fat to render my own lard. The best tamales and refried beans are made with fresh lard. There is a depth of flavor that just can’t be beat. If I’m roasting beef bones I scoop off the fat after it’s cooled to make tallow. If you have never tasted french fries made in tallow and sprinkled with real salt then you are missing out!  Let’s not forget popcorn popped in a little bacon grease! To die for! If you ever have eaten much low-fat food, you know the lose of flavor that happens. Keeping healthy, traditional fats in our diets allows us not only to fill our body’s fat needs, but also makes our food absolutely delicious.

Adding flavor with unrefined salt

Yes, you heard me right, salt. It is that simple ingredient that allows a dish to shine. Once again, if you have ever eaten low-salt or saltless foods, you know much we rely on salt for well balanced flavor in our food. I tend to be a bit heavy handed on the salt shaker (actually I have a salt well) but I’m not that worried about it since I use a mineral rich high quality salt, Redmond’s Real Salt. Another excellent brand is Celtic Sea Salt or HimalaSalt. The body needs salt. Just a pinch (or few) goes a long way in adding drawing out the flavors in your dishes.

It’s easy in our modern days to take salt for granted, but wars were fought in the past over access to salt because it was traditionally held in such high regard. Our bodies need salt for health, and our food is more vibrant in flavor when well salted. It makes the sweet, sweeter, the spice, spicier, and is needed for a well balanced dish.

Adding flavor with onions and garlic

I cook with onions and garlic almost everyday. They are a simple, frugal, and delicious way to add flavor to dishes. I use them in salsa, stir fries, pasta, soups – you get the idea. Unless I am using them in salsa,  I normally saute the onions and garlic in a bit of fat and sprinkle with with salt. They add a delicious taste that can’t be achieved in with raw. Caramalized onions take extra time but they are worth the effort to add that extra special touch to a dish. Both onions and garlic lay down a flavorful foundation for many dishes, from a simple salad dressing, to a complex stew. Don’t overlook the simple, frugal things in your pantry that, when proper used, add depth of flavor, and make your food shine.


Curried Lentils with Apples and Onions (Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)

Lindsey Proctor

Lindsey Proctor is a twenty-something foodie, with an emphasis on great tasting real food. She lives with her parents and sister on Hickory Cove Farm, a small, natural and sustainable farm in South-Central Pennsylvania where they raise Alpine and Nubian dairy goats, a flock of pastured laying hens and a few roosters, and a few beef steer. Her favorite place to be is out in the pasture with her goats, but she also enjoys spending time in the kitchen cooking, baking, preserving food, and cheese making. She also enjoys photography, music, and a really good cup of coffee, and blogging at The Life Of Linz. She views her life in the country as a great blessing and it is her firm belief that she has been placed there for a purpose; to help others get back to living and eating the way she think God intended us to - a simple, fresh, local, and seasonal way of life.

Curried Lentils with Apples and Onions - under $1 per serving!

By Lindsey Proctor, Contributing Writer

What’s your most favorite food in all the world? I always had such a hard time answering this question, until one day I was discussing it with a co-worker, and she rephrased the question this way – “When you’ve had a hard day, what’s the thing that you want to go home and eat? What’s your comfort food?” and I thought for a moment and answered “I do believe that would be curry.” I love the simplicity and ease of making it, the distinct spicy flavors, and the warmth that comes with it.

These curried lentils have all of those qualities – spicy, unique Indian flavors tempered with some creamy coconut milk, ease of preparation, and the ability to warm and comfort you on a chilly day, plus the added benefits of being quite nutritious! Dr. Weston Price considered lentils the most nutritious legume, and they are high in calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins.* They don’t have a lot of flavor on their own, which makes them great for dishes such as this because they take on the flavors of the other ingredients and seasonings you add to the dish. After a short soaking period to neutralize the phytic acid, (so plan ahead) lentils pack a lot of nutrition at little cost.

And little cost is what we’re looking for! When Kimi asked us to come up with a recipe for October that cost no more (or not much more!) than $1.00 per serving for the Healthy $1 Menu, my mind automatically went to the standard frugal staples  – beans and rice. I knew I needed something with lots of flavor and spices to take it from boring to interesting, and curry was a natural choice for me. The two apples sitting on the counter were a last-minute addition, and I’m glad I added them, because, along with the onions, they add good texture to the dish.

Here’s the cost breakdown for each ingredient, total ingredient cost, and the total cost per serving. All prices are taken from a nation-wide department store chain – the blue one. ;)

Lentils – 1 1/4 cups (8.5 oz) dry lentils = $0.60 ($1.12 / lb)

Jasmine Rice -  2 cups (14.4 oz) uncooked rice = $1.00 ($1.14 / lb)

Apples  – 1/2 lb (2 medium) apples = $0.75 ($1.50 / lb)

Onion - 1/2 lb (1 med-large) onion = $0.50 ($0.98 / lb)

Coconut Milk - 1 cup (a little over half a can) = $1.07 ($2.14 / 14 fl oz can) (or you can make your own for even less!)

Garam Masala Seasoning – 3 tsp = $0.70 ($2.30 / 1.7 oz jar)

Curry Powder - 1/2 tsp = $0.29 ($3.48 / 1 oz jar)

Ginger - I couldn’t come up with an estimate for this. I used about a teaspoon of fresh-grated ginger root and it didn’t even register on my gram scale. I do know the average price for ginger root is $3.00 – $4.oo per pound, and if you peel it and keep it in the freezer and grate some off as needed, like I do, it lasts through many, many meals.

Coconut Oil - 2 TB for sautéing – $0.50 ($6.98 / 14 oz jar)

Total Ingredient Cost = $5.41

This recipe makes 6 servings so the total cost per serving = $0.90

*Fallon, Sally Nourishing Traditions  pg. 507

Tip: Since this recipe only calls for half a can of coconut milk, why not double the amount of lentils, freeze both them and the coconut milk (in separate containers of course! :) ) and then you’ll have a head start the next time you want to make this dish!


Read More »