Hot Beans & Cheese and Budget Meal Planning

My penny-pinching meal plan worked out well last week. I stayed within my budget and did not make any random trips to the grocery store. Yay me! I found that beans were the main staple of our diet this past week. This is what we ate several times this past week (between lunches and dinner)- sooooo good. I know, I know, it’s not a creative new recipe but years ago my sister-in-law got me hooked on this and I thought you might need to know about it too. I have always opened a can of refried beans to make bean and cheese tacos but there is something about doing it this way that transforms the flavors of this otherwise average can of beans.

I add a layer of spices- cumin, garlic powder and chili powder to enhance the flavor a bit. This dish is perfect for an appetizer with chips, for a side dish or the main entree- just serve along side tortillas (I like the raw, unprocessed Tortilla Land tortillas) and you can assemble your own bean & cheese tacos. Easy peasy dinner. If you want to make this a side or appetizer just add some fajita meat or pulled pork to your plate.

The beans are low in fat or no fat depending on what you kind you buy so the layer of shredded cheese is the only form of fat here. Oh and please try to use freshly grated cheese- SO much better than the pre-shredded kind and without the added preservatives. If you make your tostada shells yourself versus buying the store-bought fried ones, you will save yourself some fat grams too.

I feel silly even calling this a recipe but it’s kind of a reminder of how this easy dish can fit into your meal planning.

Speaking of meal planning, this week will continue on a budget. I have a few meats still in the freezer (the pork and 2 chicken breasts) which will help the spending this week. Making pizza at home is much cheaper than ordering it out so that is in the plan. I’ve also got soup on the menu…after 3 and a half months of sunshine the drizzle has finally started here in Washington state, but luckily soup is pretty budget friendly.

Eggs, Turkey Sausage and Biscuits with a side of Portobello Mushrooms (which have been waiting to be cooked)

Chicken and Lentils over Rice, frozen vegetables

Carnitas, Refried Beans & Cheese, Tortillas, Simple Side Salad


Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza (per request of my lil’ man who turns 6 today), Salad

Jalapeno-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup (already have the squash on hand), Crusty Bread (hopefully will try from scratch if I have time)

 Turkey Sloppy Joes topped with slaw, Homemade potato chips 


I want to leave you on some delicious autumn food that I’d love to make soon:

photo source: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies courtesy of Foodista


photo source: Risotto with Butternut Squash, Leeks and Basil from Bon Appetit


photo source: Pumpkin Chili from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen


photo source: Rosemary Foccacia from Memorie di Angelina


YUM! Now I am starving, but I will probably go snack on some beans and cheese until I make it to the grocery store again.  Have a great week!

Hot Beans and Cheese
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat free refried beans
  • 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  1. Place one can of refried beans in a small baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with a light layer of chili powder, garlic powder and cumin. No measuring needed.
  2. Heat in microwave for 1½ minutes (or oven at 350 degrees until hot). Remove from microwave and stir well to combine spices. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and place back in microwave for another minute or until cheese is melted.
  3. Serve with flour or corn tortillas or tostada shells. Top with cilantro, sour cream and hot sauce if desired.
You can easily double and triple this recipe, just use a large baking dish. You don't want your layer of beans to be too thick or else the ratio of beans to cheese will be off. You want an even layer of cheese over your beans so feel to adjust the amount used depending on the surface area of your dish.

 Question: what is your favorite budge friendly meal? What are you craving this fall?

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    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      It normally does for me too. I think the only problem is my food budget is too high! From one food blogger to another, you know how that goes! 😉

  1. Gretchen Hokenson says

    Looks good. I will have to try the beans and cheese this way. We eat a lot of beans in our house.
    Here is the plan for the week.
    Sun- baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
    Mon- if I get to the store I will make your black bean burgers with fries from the freezer and some veggies.
    Tues-a zucchini black bean and rice skillet with some fruit
    Wed- Britt is making tortilla soup
    Thurs- pasta salad
    Fri- homemade pizza
    Sat- either leftovers and sandwiches

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Mmm…the rice skillet sounds good. This is by far the best 3 minute meal out there. Great football snacking food too :) Thanks for the comment Gretchen!

  2. E says

    I am a new Paleo eater so I now have to work on my budgeting while managing to continue this lifestyle. It can definitely get pricey! I am enjoying all the pumpkin recipes, though! That pumpkin chili looks legit!
    Swinging by from the Link Love as a fellow FFA! Have a great week!
    E recently mini masseurMy Profile

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      That is true- it’s easy to rack up the bill on produce and meats. Good luck though- with a little planning you can do it!

  3. Amy says

    Yum! The beans and cheese look delicious! Perfect addition to our Mexican night!
    Here’s what The Mackey’s have planned for the week:
    Sunday: pumpkin curry soup, rotisserie chicken sandwiches, fruit and veggies
    Monday: fish tacos with mango salsa
    Tuesday: vegetable lasagna with side salad
    Wednesday: grilled BBQ chicken thighs, salad
    Thursday: leftovers
    Friday: veggie burritos with rice, beans
    Saturday: out to dinner :)

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks Angela! I can’t figure out if I spend more or less when I eat more vegetarian dishes. You can spend quite a bit on produce depending on where you shop. I don’t think it really matters- I usually make up for it somehow. :) I just love that beans are SO inexpensive!

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      You should! It takes all of a few minutes to prepare. Yummy football snack too if your man is into that. 😉

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      That’s funny Madeline. Throw in some fajita meat and he should be happy. I have a feeling my Lucas will be like that. He LOVES meat.

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Haha, early morning drool over food is totally acceptable. :) Have a great week and thanks for visiting!

  4. says

    You are my hero. I am NOT the world’s best budgeter. In fact, I kind of suck at it. Yesterday I went to Wegman’s and added up everything as I went. It was really impressive until I left the Produce section and started buying my meat. Oyyyyy.

    p.s. Cheese and whoopie pies. This is the best morning ever. #foodporn

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Well I am only on week 2 of my budgeting theme. Normally I have a pretty large food budget and even then I get kind of carried away. I can’t help it though- LOVE food! I am so trying to do better at least until the end of the year. These Holidays have a food blogger blowing through $$$!!

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      That’s true Elle! I wish my kids like them more, but I need to pick out some more squash dishes over the next few weeks.

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Haha, thanks Danielle. I am only in week 2 of doing it on a budget. I always meal plan but I have a bad habit of throwing whatever I want into the grocery cart. I spend WAY too much on food. 😉

  5. says

    Monday: homemade vegan lasagna -I taught this at a cooking class last week…I will post the recipe soon :)
    Tuesday: leftover chili or lasagna
    Wednesday: Vegan tortilla soup
    Thursday: bean and veggie quesadillas
    Friday: pizza

    I have a risotto with butternut squash recipe that I adore…So yummy. Maybe Friday night I will have the energy to do that instead of pizza night for the hubs and myself?
    Brittany Smith recently posted..Meal plan and update.My Profile

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Sounds yummy Britt. I’d love to see what you did with the lasagna. I am assuming lots of veggie and sauce?

  6. says

    I’ve been trying to drastically cut back on food spending and have also ended up eating beans just about every day. This dish looks wonderful. I used to make bean dip by melting cheese with beans, but i have a feeling that following your directions for spices will make it 10x better! Thanks for the idea.
    Julia recently posted..On Not Looking Like A RunnerMy Profile

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks Julia,
      You should join me for weekly menu planning! It definitely helps. We can figure out how many different ways to eat our beans! 😉

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Like I said EA- kind of silly to call it a recipe, but it is quite yummy. The ONLY benefit of the hubs traveling is that I can slack on the meals a little. 😉

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