Shop this list to feed four for three nights, all for about $30. 
Credit: Cooking Light

December is a hectic month. Between the usual daily tasks, plus putting up decorations, buying gifts, and holiday travel, there's a reason it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. So when it comes to dinnnertime, easy meals on a budget are where it's at. 

To help you plan delicious meals that won't stress your mind or your wallet, we've put together a shopping list (minus pantry staples like salt and pepper and olive oil) that can be whipped into three healthy meals for a family off four at about $30 total. 

The Shopping List 

  • 2 bunches curly kale
  • 10 oz. shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 (6-oz.) bunch Broccolini
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 whole-wheat baguette
  • Golden raisins
  • Whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 (32-oz.) container
  • unsalted chicken stock
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • 2 (8.8-oz.) pkg.
  • precooked brown rice
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted
  • cannellini beans
  • Whole milk
  • Eggs
  • 2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins

Dinner #1: White Bean Soup With Garlicky Croutons 

Credit: Cooking Light

A little whole milk enriches this simple soup without making it as heavy as a classic chowder. The golden color of the broth comes from the sautéed onion and carrot; keep an eye on the mixture as it cooks to make sure it doesn’t overbrown.


5 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup peeled chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tsp. minced garlic, divided
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/8 tsp. kosher salt
2 (15-oz.) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups stemmed chopped curly kale (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)
3 oz. whole-wheat baguette, cut into 1-in. pieces (about 1 cup)

How to make it: 

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add carrots and onion; sauté 7 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in stock, 1 cup water, pepper, salt, and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in kale, milk, and Parmesan cheese; let stand 5 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler with oven rack in top position.

3. Place bread pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 1 teaspoon garlic in a bowl; drizzle over bread. Broil 2 minutes or until golden, stirring once after 1 minute. Place 11/2 cups soup in each of 4 bowls; top evenly with bread pieces.

Active time: 25 min. Total time: 40 min. 

Calories 349; Fat 11g (sat 2g, unsat 7g); Protein 18g; Carb 47g; Fiber 11g; Sugars 6g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 571mg; Calc 21% DV; Potassium 20% DV

Dinner #2: Mushroom and Pork Meatballs with Broccolini Rice

Credit: Cooking Light

A quick spin in the food processor turns pork tenderloin into lean ground pork—perfect for rich, tender meatballs. Broccolini, a cousin of broccoli, have long stalks and small florets; they’ll add plenty of texture to the rice once chopped and sautéed.


11/2 cups shiitake mushroom caps (about 4 oz.)
10 oz. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
6 Tbsp. whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 (6-oz.) bunch Broccolini, finely chopped
1 cup unsalted chicken stock, divided
2 Tbsp. rice or apple cider vinegar, divided
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 (8.8-oz.) pkg. precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)

How to make it: 

1. Place mushrooms and pork in a food processor; pulse 15 to 20 times or until finely chopped. Place pork mixture in a bowl with panko, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and egg; stir to combine. Divide and shape pork mixture into 24 meatballs (about 1 tablespoon each).

2. Heat 11/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add Broccolini; cook 2 minutes. Place sautéed Broccolini in a bowl; set aside.

3. Add remaining 11/2 tablespoons oil to pan. Add meatballs; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

4. Combine 3/4 cup chicken stock, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, and Sriracha in a bowl; add to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until meatballs are done. Combine remaining 1/4 cup stock and cornstarch in a bowl; stir into meatball mixture. Cook 1 minute or until sauce is thickened.

5. Heat rice according to package directions. Stir rice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar into sautéed Broccolini. Serve with meatball mixture.

Active time: 35 min. Total time: 35 min. 

SERVES 4 (serving size: about 6 meatballs, 1/4 cup sauce, and 1 cup Broccolini mixture)
Calories 419; Fat 13g (sat 2g, unsat 10g); Protein 26g; Carb 53g; Fiber 5g; Sugars 8g (added sugars 3g); Sodium 705mg; Calc 5% DV; Potassium 16% DV

Dinner #3: Pork Milanese with Kale Salad

Credit: Cooking Light

Milanese is an Italian way of preparing meat by breading and sautéing until golden—an easy way to dress up pork tenderloin. Golden raisins elevate everything they touch; here they brighten up earthy kale. Try sprinkling them over rice pilaf or roasted vegetables.

4 cups stemmed chopped curly kale (about 1 bunch)
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp. golden raisins
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. water
1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 12 slices
6 oz. shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk

1. Combine kale, 1 tablespoon oil, raisins, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a large bowl. Let stand 10 minutes.

2. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and panko in a shallow dish. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water in a shallow dish. Dip pork slices in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture.

3. Heat 11/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add half of pork slices to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side. Place cooked slices on a plate. Repeat procedure with 11/2 teaspoons oil and remaining half of pork slices.

4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and milk; cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Top pork with mushroom sauce. Serve with salad.

Active time: 40 min. Total time: 40 min. 

SERVES 4 (serving size: 3 pork slices, about 1/4 cup sauce, and 1 cup salad)
Calories 391; Fat 17g (sat 4g, unsat 11g); Protein 32g; Carb 29g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 9g (added sugars 0g); Sodium 618mg; Calc 11% DV; Potassium 23% DV