Nothing will make your family gravitate more towards take-out pizza than preparing a boring, tasteless meal. With my tight grocery budget, cheap foods find their way to my table more often than not, and I strive to add some variety to otherwise routine meals.

Using these five techniques, you give your cheap meal a kick and still stay within your grocery budget!

1. Use flavor boosting techniques

You can easily add a little pizzazz to a simple meal with some of these quick fixes.

  • Squeeze fresh lemon over fish, vegetables and steak to enhance flavor and limit salt use.
  • Simmer your vegetables in chicken stock to heighten bland flavors.
  • Use coconut milk instead of water to cook rice to add a tropical flavor.
  • Substitute leeks in the place of onions to add a sweet flavor instead of onions overpowering the dish.
  • Add chopped chives to mashed potatoes to add flavor and color to a boring side dish.
  • Sear your meat prior to adding to a dish to add flavor.

2. Experiment with texture

Try adding sunflower, sesame, poppy or pumpkin seeds to improve the texture of the meal. Seeds can improve the flavor of the dish and add much needed texture variation.

Another method is to determine if finely chopping your vegetables or coarsely chopping your vegetables fits the recipe. You can easily change up a recipe just by changing how you chop your veggies.

You can also leave the peel on your potatoes when you make fries to add extra crunchiness or add bread crumbs or oats to your meat loaf to improve the texture!

3. Marinate inexpensive cuts of meat prior to cooking

I look for those yellow stickers on clearance meats and buy inexpensive cuts of meat to fit into my weekly grocery budget. Cheaper cuts of meat have less fat and therefore, less flavor. Marinating meat adds flavor, improves the texture and makes your mouth water. Rachel Ray has some great tips for marinating that you can find here.

4. Inexpensive spices are high in antioxidants and make a big difference in flavor

Add extra bang by toasting your spices prior to adding to your dish either in a dry pan or with a little oil.

  • Basil and oregano: Add to boring vegetables, chicken, rice and tomatoes to add an Italian kick to bland foods.
  • Chili powder: Add a kick to fish and chicken to make everyone’s mouth water with flavor.
  • Garlic powder: Use it to shake on steamed vegetables, roasted vegetables, chicken and fish.
  • Paprika: I’ve always added this to deviled eggs, but paprika can be used to add a smoky flavor and dark red color to your food.
  • Curry: Add an Indian flavor to the most boring foods such as rice, beans, fish, chicken and vegetables.

5. Use one high-flavor ingredient to boost taste

Using one high-flavor ingredient in a dish can make a huge difference in dinner!

  • Making gravy with meat drippings will boost the flavor versus using a pack of powdered mix or gravy from a jar.
  • Crumble bacon into simple dishes such as mac and cheese or mashed potatoes to add extra flavor.
  • Try salsa in eggs, pastas, vegetables and poultry dishes to give a big bang and lots of color.
  • Consider adding onions to any meal if you want a strong flavor.
5 Quick Tips to Boost Boring, Inexpensive Meals