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Meals for Less

Cooking on a budget doesn't have to mean bland or boring meals. Save money and keep your taste buds (and wallet) happy with our budget-friendly entrees. Each serving of these healthful meals costs less than $4 -- and most less than $3 or $2! (Prices used are from grocery stores in Des Moines, Iowa.)

Hearty Chicken and Bean Casserole

Cooking your own dried beans rather than using canned saves you money and loads of sodium. Cook a large batch and refrigerate or freeze leftovers for another use so you only have to invest time once.

Super-cheap price: $1.73/serving

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Chicken, Pear, and Parmesan Salad

The convenience of purchasing already-prepped produce comes with a cost. Save yourself time later by chopping and slicing your produce all at once when you get home from the grocery store so the ingredients are recipe-ready.

Super-cheap price: $2/serving

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Mushroom and Chicken Stroganoff

By cooking a whole chicken, you have enough meat for multiple recipes. The cooked chicken you're not using right away can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or in the freezer for up to four months.

Super-cheap price: $1.84/serving

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Dilled Shrimp with Beans and Carrots

Using regular brown rice instead of the pouched, cooked brown rice saves about 18 cents per ounce. The regular rice takes longer to cook, but you can cook large batches and refrigerate or freeze portions for use later.

Super-cheap price: $2.55/serving

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Salmon Alfredo

Canned salmon is much cheaper than fresh. Remember that canned products are generally higher in sodium, so be sure rest of your meal is low in sodium if using canned seafood.

Super-cheap price: $1.79/serving

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Vegetarian Tostada

This affordable layered salad dish contains enough to make it a meal--rice, beans, greens, and vegetables.

Super-cheap price: $3.30/serving

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Baked Ratatouille-Sausage Penne

In the mood for Italian? Try this budget-friendly, low-fat sausage-and-eggplant one-dish meal.

Super-cheap price: $1.52/serving

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Tuna Salad Pockets

This updated version of tuna salad works well with or without the pita bread. As a healthful choice for your workday lunch, pack the greens and tuna mixture separately. Keep cold until ready to eat!

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Bow-Tie Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

Mayonnaise makes a terrific no-fuss sauce for this super-cheap chicken and pasta dish. Use light mayonnaise rather than regular to help keep the fat and calories down.

Super-cheap price: $2.14/serving

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Turkey Reuben

Save money and eat well with this tasty turkey and coleslaw sandwich. We made this sandwich healthier by using reduced-calorie Thousand Island salad dressing and swapping turkey and lightly dressed coleslaw for corned beef and sauerkraut.

Super-cheap price: $2.28/serving

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Italian Beef Skillet

Stay slim and keep your wallet fat with this beef and vegetable dish. Plus, it takes little time to prepare. Put this hearty dish together in about 20 minutes then sit back and relax while it simmers.

Super-cheap price: $3.07/serving

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Spicy Jalapeno-Shrimp Pasta

Just six ingredients combine in this flavorful and healthful meal. Plus, it's packed with plenty of kick. Just make sure to wear plastic gloves while preparing hot peppers and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Super-cheap price: $2.93/serviing

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Savory Bean Spinach Soup

Warm up with a hearty bowl of this flavorful, low-cost soup. Just like Goldilocks, you'll find the converted rice is "just right". Long-grain or quick cooking rice would be "too soft" for the long cooking soup.

Super-cheap price: $1.76/serving

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Chopped Salad in a Pocket

Get your fill of veggies with this easy-to-make (and easy-on-the-wallet) pita recipe. Enjoy any extra Spicy Hummus as a snack with vegetable dippers. Each 2-tablespoon serving of dip has 50 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates

Super-cheap price: $1.47/serving

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So-Easy Pepper Steak

Vary the stewed tomatoes each time you make this simple standby -- Cajun-, Mexican-, or Italian-style -- for a whole new dish.

Super-cheap price: $1.79/serving

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Champion Chicken Pockets

This affordable chicken sandwich is a surefire brown-bag winner. Low-fat yogurt and ranch dressing top chicken salad in this yummy pita wrap recipe.

Super-cheap price: $0.82/serving

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Parmesan Baked Fish

This five-ingredient dish is quick to fix and delicious to eat. Plus, it boasts a secret, unexpected ingredient that helps pump up the flavor in the Parmesan cheese: Worcestershire sauce.

Super-cheap price: $1.97/serving

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