5 Smart Staples to Stretch Meals and Budget Friendly Recipes

By: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA

If you have found yourself trying to turn a half pound of ground beef into a dinner for four, you’re not alone. During this very unusual and unfamiliar time, we are all trying to navigate how to feed our families easily and economically. Stretching meals with pantry staples is a smart way to maximize your inventory and limit numerous trips to the food store.


Pasta: One of the most popular staples in your pantry, pasta is a great way to stretch meat, fish and vegetables. Inexpensive, easy to prepare, and pairs with just about anything from a casserole dish with ground turkey to tossed with beans and vegetables for a complete meal.

Fruits & Vegetables: Use fruits and vegetables as side dishes. Toss up a fruit salad and serve with or after dinner. Incorporate vegetables into pasta and rice dishes and/or serve as a side. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables as they are a nutritious and economical way to stretch any meal.

Beans: One of the most budget friendly sources of protein! Add beans to ground meats to help stretch a smaller portion of meat. Beans are an excellent source of filling fiber and plant-based protein!

Rice: No matter what type of rice you enjoy (brown, white, wild); rice can stretch just about any protein. Think burritos, fried rice dishes, casseroles or a traditional rice and beans. Check out my easy 5-minute pantry meal below.

Eggs: Omelets, chopped up into rice, egg salad, quiche…the list goes on. Eggs are a versatile and inexpensive source of protein. Eggs can create a quick and healthy meal in minutes.


Budget Friendly Meals

All Recipes by Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA


Riced Cauliflower & Chickpea Sauté

Riced cauliflower and chickpea saute on a plate

For this easy 5-minute meal, I used all ingredients that I had on hand.

Prep: 5 minutes

Serves: 1



  • 12-ounce frozen package Green Giant® Riced Veggies Cauliflower with Lemon and Garlic
  • ½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 scallion, sliced (optional, can also sub in red onion)
  • 1 tsp olive oil



  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add frozen riced vegetables, cover for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove lid and stir, once vegetables are defrosted add in chickpeas and rice. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  2. Once heated through, remove from heat and plate, top with sliced scallions.


Nutrition Information:

390 Calories; 70g Carbohydrate; 8g Total Fat; 18g Protein; 220mg Sodium; 13g Fiber

Caldo Verde (Kale & Potato Bean Soup)

kale and potato bean soup with bread on the side

Prep: 5 to 8 minutes

Total Cook time: 30 minutes

Makes: Approximately 9 Cup Servings



  • 1 Medium Spanish Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ to ¾ pound Kale leaves, rinsed and cut into thin ribbons*
  • 3 ounces Linguica (Portuguese sausage), thinly sliced*
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • Salt & pepper



  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add onion and garlic. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in potatoes and broth/water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, using an immersion blender blend until silky smooth. Return to heat on low, season with salt and pepper, add kale and beans. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet over medium-high heat add sausage and cook on both sides until crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes total. Stir into soup and serve warm. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

*Tip: Can sub in frozen kale. May use any time of sausage you prefer.


Nutrition Information for 1 Cup:

239 Calories; 43g Carbohydrate; 3g Fat; 11g Protein; 249mg Sodium; 6.5g Fiber

Honey Mustard Roasted Chicken

Honey mustard roasted chicken with broccoli on a plate

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Serves: 4 to 5



  • 5 Skinless Chicken leg quarters, split *(see note)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into half moons
  • 2 large heads Broccoli, washed, separate florets


  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • 5 Tbsp spicy mustard
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp Salt



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place chicken legs on large baking sheet or roasting pan. Season both sides with salt.
  3. Add potatoes and broccoli to one side of pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Prepare sauce: Add all ingredients into a bowl or glass jar. Mix or shake jar until well combined. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of chicken with sauce. NOTE: you may not need all the sauce, I used about 2/3 of the total sauce.
  5. Place roasting pan in oven uncovered for 20 minutes, turn chicken over, toss potatoes & broccoli. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes. Turn chicken over, place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until crisp. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: Separate thigh from leg. Any chicken part will do, if you prefer a whole chicken that includes the breast, be sure to separate the breast from the legs. Internal temperature should reach 165 F before removing from oven.

White Bean, Cheddar & Kale Quesadilla

White bean, cheddar and kale quesadillas

Kale is packed with vitamins A, K and C; whole grains are chock full of satisfying fiber, B-Vitamins and antioxidants. I really enjoyed this one, hope you will too!

Prep: 10 minutes

Make: 1 Quesadilla



  • ½ cup Cannellini Beans, rinsed
  • ¼ cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Kale, stems removed*
  • 1 whole grain wrap



  1. Heat a sauté pan over high heat, spray with cooking spray and add kale leaves. Cover with a large lid for about 3 minutes. Remove kale from pan and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, layer ½ cheese and beans in a tortilla wrap and top with kale and remaining cheese. Fold over wrap, place on heated pan one to two minutes per side.

*May sub frozen kale or spinach  


Nutrition Information:

378 Calories; 43g Carbohydrate; 13g Fat; 27g Protein; 494mg Sodium; 21g Fiber

White Bean Tuna Baked Tomatoes

White bean and tuna stuffed tomatoes

Prep: 10 minutes

Bake: 25 minutes

Makes: 4 Baked tomatoes



  • 1 ounce crusty bread
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup parsley + more for garnish
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 5 ounce can Tuna in water
  • ½ cup white beans
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Using a food processor, process bread, garlic, parsley and 1 tsp olive oil until bread crumbs form. Set aside.
  3. Cut tops of tomatoes off, hollow out tomatoes using a spoon. (see tip)
  4. In a bowl, toss together Tuna, beans, onion, vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp oil and bread crumb mixture; season with ½ tsp salt and pinch of pepper.
  5. Stuff each tomato with equal parts of tuna-bean mixture. Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with additional parsley.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: Use the leftover tomato in an omelet or dress with oil, vinegar and cucumber as a side salad.


Nutrition Information: 152 calories; 15g carbohydrate; 6g total fat; 12g protein; 420mg sodium; 2g fiber

Turkey Bolognese

Turkey bolognese pasta on a plate with extra bread on the side

This lightened up version of Bolognese sauce will stretch a number of meals – over pasta, mixed with rice & beans in burritos, empanadas, over quinoa, stuffed baked potatoes, sloppy Joe’s and more!

Eat Well Tip: reduce turkey to 1.5 pounds and add in 1 can beans to stretch this meal. May use ground beef or chicken if you prefer!  

Total prep & cook time: 30 to 35 minutes

Makes: Approximately 12 cups



  • Cooking spray or olive oil
  • ½ large Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 pound 97% to 99% Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Bay leaf
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • Scallions (optional)
  • Grated parmesan cheese for serving



  1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Add onion, pepper, garlic and carrot, add a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add in turkey, using a wooden spoon break up turkey, tossing frequently. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  3. Stir in broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, Italian seasoning. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  4. Before serving remove bay leaf and stir in parsley. Serve over pasta and top with chopped scallions and grated parmesan cheese.

Tip: May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Freeze any remaining sauce.


Nutrition Information per 1 cup serving sauce:

150 Calories; 7g Carbohydrate; 24g Protein; 2.25g total fat; 2g Fiber; 264mg Sodium