College kids, recent grads and busy young professionals seriously don’t have the time (or the money) to splurge on expensive meals. But that doesn’t mean you have to compromise and sink into a fast food or takeout rut. We’ve created a recipe series that is fast, easy, cheap and takes the guesswork out of cooking to give you a week’s worth of awesome dinners. With just $25 and a trip to Trader Joe’s, you can make these five ridiculously easy gourmet meals. The best part? You’ll use all of the ingredients in their entirety.


What you will need for a week of awesome dinners:

  • fresh mozzarella
  • canned corn
  • black beans
  • red bell pepper
  • green bell pepper
  • roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 russet potato
  • tomato paste
  • 2 heads garlic
  • salad mix
  • basil
  • brown rice medley
  • 1 package chicken breasts
  • focaccia bread

… all for a total of $24.49.

Of course, there are a few ingredients we expect you to have on hand, including olive oil, salt and pepper. Check out the awesome, delicious recipes below for a week’s worth of yum.

Monday: Black Bean Burger and Oven Fries


Start the week off right. This black bean burger is crispy on the outside and flavorful on the inside, and the fries are cooked in peanut oil so they taste freakin’ awesome. Feel free to kick up the spiciness of the burger by throwing in some extra hot sauce or cayenne pepper. Get the recipe here.

Tuesday: Chicken Fajita Salad

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How do you make a salad taste better than grass? Top it with chicken, peppers, corn, blacks beans and more. This salad comes together with minimal effort and will leave you very full (and happy). Find the recipe here.

Wednesday: Focaccia Pizza

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This is the simplest, tastiest and most attractive dinner out there – seriously, just look at that pretty, pretty pizza. And you don’t have to limit yourself to just cheese. If you have some leftover peppers or chicken, just throw ’em on there for a new version of this simple dish. Learn how here.

Thursday: Caprese Chicken

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Melted mozzarella on top of juicy tomatoes, perfectly cooked chicken, a bed of salty rice and fresh greens. OMG, get in our bellies. This dish is a heartier version of a caprese salad. Learn how to make it here.

Friday: Stuffed Red Peppers


Everything is better stuffed, right? These red peppers are full of flavor and hardly take any time to bake. If you’re not a fan of red peppers, sub them out for green or yellow. Check out how to make these guys here.

Have any other cheap dinner ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

(Photos via Megan Prendergast/Spoon University)