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$10 Dinners: The Denver Post’s third annual economical recipe list

Save money at home. Looking for specials, clipping coupons, buying veggies in season (think asparagus) and being flexible are just a few ways to put your grocery bill on a diet.

The top tips for saving money are the things you already know but might not follow: Buy what’s on special. Clip coupons (really). Shop for food at drugstores, discount grocery stores and big-box stores, where you may find a smaller selection, but cheaper goods (although we found all of our ingredients for these recipes at a Denver-area Safeway). Hit the bulk aisle; you can save half or more on staples like rice, beans and spices. Buy what’s in season — asparagus is cheap and beautiful right now for a reason; tomatoes are not.

Most of all, be flexible: If you’re planning on grilled rib-eyes, but you see that London broil is on sale, forgo the more expensive meat. You can make do: London broil, like many other cheap cuts, is flavorful and easy to handle, and, if you slice and season correctly, just as tender and irresistible.

Go heavy on the vegetables, light on the meat. And buy local, organic, sustainable foods whenever possible. It’s better for the environment, better for the future, better for you. (But if your budget simply doesn’t allow it, don’t beat yourself up over conventional ingredients.)

We assume you have a few of the basics on hand already, such as olive oil, salt and pepper, perhaps a few dried herbs and spices. Beyond that, all you’ll need for dinner is about $10 and a little bit of time. (Bonus: Some of the recipes make enough for leftovers — hello, free lunch.) Tucker Shaw


Baked Orzo With Shrimp, Lemon and Feta

The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme. If you have some in your herb garden, go for it. But if all you have is dried thyme in the cupboard, decrease the amount to 1 teaspoon. For added savings, substitute about 3/4 cup frozen, thawed spinach for the 5 ounces of fresh spinach called for in the original recipe. It works nicely (and can save you a couple of bucks at least). If you can afford it, spring for the 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs that the original recipe calls for. Or, make your own bread crumbs by blitzing three slices of bread (you’ll find this in your pantry) in the food processor until crumbly, then baking on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 4 minutes. Adapted from “Big Buy Cooking,” by the editors of Fine Cooking. Serves 6-8.

5      tablespoons olive oil (pantry)
1      pound medium shrimp
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (pantry)
1      large clove garlic
3/4   cup frozen organic leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1      pound orzo
6      ounces crumbled feta cheese
2      teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried (pantry)
Finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
3/4   cup bread crumbs (pantry)