When you’re trying to feed your family on a budget, you don’t have room to consider fancy recipes or high-priced ingredients. Your real goal is to get something hot, healthy, and filling on the plate that your kids will eat with smiles. Fortunately, that’s not actually as hard as it sounds. All you need are a few basic affordable ingredients and a little creativity to re-combine what you’ve got in different delicious ways.
Part of the trick is knowing which ingredients are wholesome and dirt-cheap in your grocery store. You may have heard that beans and rice are the way to go but it’s easy to get sick of these things fast and your kids will quickly start to push their plates away. Instead, check out these nine healthy low-cost recipes that you can use to spice up breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a tight family budget.
- Pancake Mix
- Milk (optional)
Pancakes are one of the world’s most simple and universally delicious breakfasts possible. When your kids want something that feels special and tates great and you don’t want to spring for toaster pastries, pancakes come to the rescue. Don’t bother with raw ingredients unless you’re already a baking hobbiest with the flour at home. Instead, pick up a cheap family-sized box of pancake mix to do the job.
Double the egg for a heavier and more protein-rich pancake and replace milk with water for a cost-free recipe alternative.
2) Veggie Egg Scramble
- 1 egg per person + 1 for the pot
- Chopped veggies of choice
- ex: chopped fresh broccoli & carrots. Canned diced mushrooms
- Salt and pepper to taste
Eggs are one of the cheapest and healthiest sources of protein a budgeting family can afford. When in doubt, fall back on a huge family-sized pack of eggs. You can hard-boil them for protein on the go or cook them in a dozen different ways with just an oiled pan and a piece of toast. But one of the healthiest ways to eat eggs is to scramble them into veggies. Whatever veggies are cheap and tasty for your family.
3) Breakfast Muffins
- Muffin Mix
- 1 or 2 eggs
- Milk or water
If your family barely has time for breakfast, you can also make muffins that are dead cheap and healthier than average. A box of muffin mix makes 6-12 muffins depending on the size and costs less than $2. And they cost infinitely less than picking up premade muffins.
4) Soft and Crunchy Tacos
- Ground Beef
- Taco Seasoning
- DIY: Chili Powder, Paprika, Cayenne, Turmeric, Salt, Pepper
- Chopped Lettuce
- Diced Roma Tomatoes
- Mexi-mix Cheese
- Tortillas or Taco Shells
Making tacos at home is a lot easier (and cheaper) than you might think. Start with some ground beef, any quality. You can even use frozen burger patties if your local grocery store carries these in affordable bulk. Break up the beef into crumbles then add a layer of the listed spices to taste and two tablespoons of water. Let the water cook down, stirring occasionally, until the meat is dry and spice-coated.
Then serve in tortillas or taco shells with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Roma tomatoes tend to be the cheapest per pound.
5) Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
- Bread Slices
- Cheese Sliced or Shredded
- Can of Tomato Soup
One of the simplest and most affordable recipes from your childhood is grilled cheese with tomato soup. You can grill the sandwiches on a grill, in the oven, or pan-fry it in a skillet with some butter. Heat your soup in the microwave or on the stove, then serve up to as many people are in on this tasty low-cost lunch.
6) Tuna Salad Sandwiches
- Can of Tuna
- Mayo to Taste
- Optional Additions
- Bread Slices
Tuna quickly becomes your best friend in any shoestring budget menu. It’s protein packed but comes in a non-perishable can. It can be coked into casseroles, piled on top of crackers, or just heaped into a lean protein-rich sandwich. Simply stir together some tuna and mayo along with any other ingredients from your tradition or preference, then stack between two pieces of bread.
7) Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
- Ground Beef
- Jar of Pasta Sauce
- Dry Spaghetti Pasta
Spaghetti gets a lot of hype for fine dining but making it at home, you don’t have to put that much into it to make a delicious family dinner. Simply pick up some dry pasta, store-brand pasta sauce, and ground beef based on whatever’s cheapest in the meat or freezer section. Sautee the meat and drain any extra oil. Then add sauce to the meat pan and simmer while the noodles boil. Strain the noodles and combine with sauce to serve. It’s as simple as that.
8) Chicken and Rice Soup
- 1 or 2 Pieces of Chicken
- fresh or frozen, bone-in or boneless
- 1 and 1/2 Cups of medium-grain Rice
- Chopped vegetables of choice
- ex: broccoli and carrots
- canned veggies
- Frozen mixed veggies
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 Cube Chicken Bullion (optional)
Chicken and rice soup is a family style classic that takes basically no budget or cooking skill to cook. With whatever type of chicken is cheapest in your grocery store, you can transform some no-cost ingredients into a delicious family meal. start by boiling your chicken, veg, and spices in the same pot. When the chicken is mostly cooked, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the broth along with the rice. Stir while rice cooks, then place lid and leave on low simmer for an extra 10-30 minutes.
9) Chicken Kitchen Sink Stir Fry
- Chopped chicken
- Chopped vegetables
- fresh chopped
- Any other stir fry ingredient in the fridge
- leftover meat
- leftover veg
- 1 egg
- Cooking oil
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Soy Sauce
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- Cooked white rice
If you like to stir fry, it’s a great way to save money and liven up your at-home menu. To stir-fry, all you need is a little bit of protein like chicken in the pan along with any veggies you prefer or can find in the house. The kitchen sink style of stir fry makes this a great way to use up leftovers like bacon, bits of lunch meat or leftover meat, and veggies from previous recipes that were not fully used. Scramble the egg into the veg for extra richness.
Cooking tasty meals for your family does not have to mean going over budget at the grocery store. With a little bit of planning and basic ingredients, you can cook great tasting meals at home without resorting to beans and rice every time. For more helpful everyday financial tips and insights, contact us today!