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5 Affordable Meal Ideas to Try This Week (With Recipes!)

Javacia Harris Bowser  |  February 17, 2022

Bored of making the same dishes every week? Check out these ways to spice up your low-cost, low-fuss meals and stick to your health goals.

A few years ago, a study from the Centers for Disease Control found that one in three Americans eats fast food every single day. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to be a researcher or nutritionist to know that’s a bad idea for both your wellness and your wallet. But when you’re short on time or money (or both), making healthful food choices can be difficult. Or maybe you’re hitting the drive-thru because you’re bored with everything you’ve been cooking at home. 

If you’re looking for some quick, inexpensive and healthful meals, we’ve got you covered. We turned to Chef Ama Shambulia for help. Shambulia, who’s been cooking professionally for 25 years, is a personal chef and wellness coach who specializes in helping people build healthy eating habits.


If chicken is always your go-to for lean protein, you may feel as if you’re soon going to sprout feathers. Shambulia recommends opting for plant-based proteins like beans, which you can eat with rice, in a salad, or in a wrap. 

“I know it’s not a glamourous or sexy food, but it definitely can be substantial and can be prepared in a variety of different ways,” she says.  The key Shambulia says, is to season them well – and this doesn’t mean dumping mounds of salt into the pot. “By seasoning I’m talking about the vegetables that you add to the pot,” she explains. Shambulia adds carrots, onion and celery to almost everything she cooks. “That adds a depth of flavor and more nutrition,” she says. 

She’ll then add dry seasonings to the mix. When cooking black beans, she’ll add cumin. For pinto beans, she goes with chili powder. And if you’re short on time, try organic canned beans for a quick meal. 

You may also want to add organic, non-GMO tofu to your shopping list. Shambulia often prepares tofu as you might fix an egg salad – adding vegan mayo, grain mustard, carrots, onion, celery, chives, dill, parsley and a bit of relish along with onion powder and garlic powder. You can also serve tofu over rice with some steamed spinach for a well-balanced meal.

“That’s really filling and really good,” Chef Ama says. And if you’re looking to get in some protein in the morning without eating eggs, try adding spirulina to your breakfast smoothie. 


Pasta is a cheap and easy way to fill up and fuel up but not if you’re trying to cut carbs. Shambulia recommends opting for quinoa instead. Specifically, she’s a big fan of quinoa salads. And speaking of salads, if you’re ready to give Romaine a rest, try a marinated greens salad with collards, chard, kale, or mustard greens. You could also add these greens to a wrap or eat them with black eyed peas for more protein. 

The key is to think outside the box when it comes to getting in your greens. Something you might consider a simple garnish – such as parsley or cilantro – can be a good source of nutrition, too. A loaded baked potato stuffed with sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, and scallions is another fun and filling way to get in more veggies. 

And keep in mind that soups can be more interesting than chicken noodle. Chef Ama’s favorite is red lentil soup. She also makes a West African-inspired soup from peanut butter! 

Eating well takes commitment but it doesn’t have to be seen as a chore. If you have a partner or children, make cooking a family affair. If you’re single, see cooking as a way to nurture your body. “Look at the commitment as an act of self-love and self-care,” Shambulia says. 


All recipes reprinted at HerMoney.com, courtesy A Beautiful Life Enterprises LLC. Enjoy! 

Basic Bean Cookery (Nia’s Beans)

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 45 Minutes – 2 Hours (depending on choice of bean, reduce cook time by approximately half if cooking lentils.

Serves: 4


1 Pound Beans

8 Cups Water (for cooking)

1 Carrot (washed and peeled)

1 Celery Rib (washed)

1 Onion (washed and peeled)

4 Garlic Cloves (peeled)

1 Bay Leaf

1 Teaspoon Salt (add more salt to taste once beans are done)

¼ Teaspoon White Pepper 

Herbs of choice

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Butter


  1. Place beans in cook pot
  2. Pick beans of debris, dirt and stones
  3. Rinse beans well
  4. Soak beans (8 – 12 hours) in water covering with 4 inches of water*
  5. Pour off soaking water
  6. Cover beans with 8 cups water 
  7. Simmer beans on medium low until white foam surfaces on top, skim off white foam with a cook spoon or ladle
  8. Add 1 cup of water 
  9. Add carrot, celery, onion, garlic and bay Leaf
  10. Simmer on medium low heat for 45 minutes stirring occasionally 
  11. Season with salt, pepper and choice of herbs
  12. Add oil or butter
  13. Simmer (45 minutes – 1 hour) until beans are tender and liquid has a gravy like consistency 

*Be mindful to promptly cook beans at the end of the soaking time or the beans may begin to ferment. Soaked beans can be refrigerated in a container until ready to cook.

Quinoa Salad

Prep Time 15 Minutes/Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Serves 4 – 8


2 Cups Water

1 Cup Quinoa

¼ Cup Olive Oil

¼ Cup Braggs Liquid Amino 

½ Carrot (fine diced) 

½ Celery Rib (fine diced)

½ Shallot (fine diced)

Parsley Sprig (finely minced)

2 – 4 Sundried Tomatoes in oil (finely sliced) – optional


  1. Rinse measured quinoa under cold water.
  2. In a medium sauce pot bring water to boil.
  3. Add olive oil to boiling water.
  4. Add liquid amino to boiling water.
  5. Add quinoa to boiling water and stir.
  6. Simmer quinoa on low heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, cover quinoa and let stand for 10 minutes.
  8. Transfer cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl.
  9. Add vegetables and herbs.
  10. Mix well. Let cool.
  11. Serve as a salad, side salad or in a vegetable wrap.

Red Lentil Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes /Cook Time 1 – 1.5 hours 

Serves: 4


1 Cup Red Lentils

6 Cups Water

1 Carrot (destemmed, washed, peeled and cut in half)

1 Celery rib (washed, cut in half)

1 Onion (washed, peeled and quartered)

2 Tbsp. of EVO or 2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder

1 Tbsp. Onion Powder

1 Tbsp. Turmeric Powder

Cayenne Pepper to taste

Cilantro (optional)


  1. In a colander or sieve rinse Red Lentils in cold water
  2. In a large soup pot add Red Lentils and water, place on medium heat
  3. After approximately 15 minutes skim white foam off the top of the water
  4. Add remaining ingredients to pot
  5. Turn down heat and simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours (stirring occasionally) until Red Lentils have dissolved and soup is a creamy consistency 

Ghanaian Groundnut Stew

Prep Time: 15 Minutes/Cook Time: 15 – 30 Minutes

Serves: 4


¼  Cup Olive Oil

1 Onion (thinly sliced)

1 Package Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Bell Pepper (seeds removed & thinly sliced)

1 Garlic Clove (thinly sliced)

½ Cup Peanut Butter (Allergen substitutes: Collard Greens/Green Beans)

1 Quart Vegetable Stock or Water

1 Tsp. Garlic Powder

1 Tsp. Onion Powder

1 Tsp. Ginger Powder

1 Tsp. Dried Thyme 

¼ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper (optional)

1 Tsp. Salt

Cilantro (to garnish)


  1. In a soup pot sauté’ onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic in olive oil until succulent on medium heat.
  2.   Add peanut butter and stir well
  3.  Add stock or water and whisk
  4.  Add garlic powder, onion powder, ginger and thyme and cayenne pepper (optional)
  5.  Add seasoning
  6. Simmer for 15 – 30 minutes continuing to whisk until stew begins to thicken.

*Garnish with Cherry Tomatoes, Cilantro, Sliced Okra or Finely Diced Bell Pepper

Mama Ama’s Marinated Greens Salad

Prep Time: 20 Minutes

Serves: 6 – 8


1 Bunch Fresh Greens choice (Collards, Kale, Mustards, Swiss Chard etc. – washed, dried and thinly sliced)

1 Rib Celery (thinly sliced)

1 Small Red Onion or Shallot (finely diced)

1 Garlic Clove (minced)

1 Cayenne Chili (minced)

1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves or ¼ teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves

½ Cup Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

½ Cup Braggs Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce

¼ Cup Olive Oil


  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl 
  2. Serve immediately as a side salad or as an accompaniment

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