10 Amazing Cheap Family Meals You Have to Try

Estimated reading time: 14 mins

Feeding a family on a budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste or nutrition. In fact, with a little creativity and some basic ingredients, you can whip up delicious and economical meals that will satisfy everyone at the table. As the cost of living continues to rise, finding ways to stretch your food budget while still providing healthy and tasty meals becomes increasingly important. Meal planning and savvy shopping can make a significant difference in your grocery bills, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck without sacrificing quality. This post explores ideas for ten cheap family meals that are not only wallet-friendly but also easy to prepare and packed with flavor.

From hearty pastas to cozy soups and stews, these dishes are perfect for busy weeknights and will leave your family full and happy. By focusing on versatile and affordable ingredients such as beans, lentils, pasta, and seasonal vegetables, you can create a variety of meals that are both nutritious and satisfying. These recipes also offer opportunities to incorporate leftovers, reducing food waste and maximizing your grocery budget. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or just starting to experiment in the kitchen, these recipes are designed to be accessible and enjoyable, ensuring that mealtime is both a delight and a relief. Let’s dive into these ten delicious, budget-friendly family meals.

Cheap Family Meals 1-5

1. Spaghetti with Homemade Marinara Sauce

cheap family meals

Spaghetti one of the most popular cheap family meals for families looking for something quick, easy, and affordable. The key to transforming this simple dish into a memorable meal lies in the marinara sauce. Making a homemade marinara sauce is surprisingly simple and cost-effective. Start with canned tomatoes, which are often cheaper and just as nutritious as fresh ones. Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper, and Italian herbs like basil and oregano. Let the sauce simmer to allow the flavors to meld together.

Serve the sauce over al dente spaghetti, and you’ve got a hearty meal that costs only a few cents per serving. For added nutrition and flavor, consider tossing in some chopped fresh vegetables or ground meat if your budget allows. Pair the spaghetti with a side of garlic bread made from leftover bread slices, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic powder, then toasted until golden. This simple example of cheap family meals is a crowd-pleaser and perfect for feeding a family on a budget.

2. Vegetable Stir-Fry with Rice

cheap family meals

Vegetable stir-fry with rice is a versatile, healthy, and budget-friendly meal that can be tailored to whatever vegetables you have on hand. This dish is not only quick and easy to prepare but also incredibly nutritious. Start by gathering a mix of fresh or frozen vegetables. Common choices include carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, and onions, but you can use whatever is in your fridge or on sale at the store.

Begin by heating a bit of oil in a large pan or wok. Sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant, then add your vegetables, cooking them until they’re tender-crisp. Cheap family meals should be filling and balanced, so you can add tofu, chicken, or another protein source if your budget permits. For the stir-fry sauce, mix soy sauce, a bit of sugar or honey, and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice for tanginess. If you like a bit of heat, add some red pepper flakes or sriracha.

Serve the stir-fry over steamed rice, which is one of the most affordable staples. You can cook a large batch of rice at the beginning of the week and use it for multiple meals. This vegetable stir-fry is colorful, packed with vitamins, and perfect for a quick dinner that doesn’t break the bank. It’s a great way to get kids to eat more vegetables, as the vibrant colors and varied textures can be very appealing.

3. Bean and Cheese Burritos

cheap family meals

Bean and cheese burritos is one of those cheap family meals that is economical, delicious, and nutritious meal that can be prepared quickly, making them perfect for busy weeknights. Start with canned beans, which are a fantastic and affordable source of protein and fiber. Black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans all work well for this dish.

To prepare, simply heat the beans in a saucepan and season them with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt. If you prefer, you can mash the beans slightly to create a creamier texture. Warm flour tortillas on a skillet or in the microwave until they are soft and pliable.

Assemble the burritos by spreading a generous spoonful of the seasoned beans onto each tortilla, followed by a sprinkle of shredded cheese. You can also add extras like chopped onions, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice for added flavor. Roll up the burritos tightly, folding in the sides as you go to enclose the filling.

Serve the burritos with a side of homemade salsa, which can be made by mixing diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and a touch of salt. You can also include a simple salad or some sliced avocado on the side to round out the meal. These bean and cheese burritos are not only budget-friendly but also customizable, allowing each family member to add their favorite toppings. This is one of my favourite cheap family meals!

4. Lentil Soup is one of the most amazing cheap family meals!

cheap family meals

Lentil soup is a hearty, nutritious, and incredibly affordable meal that can be prepared in large batches, making it perfect for feeding a family. Lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and essential nutrients, making them a fantastic staple for budget-conscious households. To make a delicious lentil soup, you’ll need green or brown lentils, which hold their shape well during cooking.

Start by sautéing chopped onions, carrots, and celery in a large pot with a bit of olive oil until they are soft and fragrant. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Next, add your lentils, a can of diced tomatoes, vegetable or chicken broth, and a bay leaf. Season with cumin, coriander, thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the lentils are tender, which usually takes about 20-30 minutes.

For added flavor and nutrition, you can stir in some chopped spinach or kale during the last few minutes of cooking. The greens will wilt and blend seamlessly into the soup. Serve the lentil soup with a side of crusty bread or a simple green salad to make a complete meal. Lentil soup is not only filling and comforting but also a great way to use up any leftover vegetables you might have in your fridge. This versatile dish can be adapted to suit your family’s tastes and is perfect for those looking to eat healthily without spending a lot of money. Out of all the cheap family meals I share here, this is perhaps the most inexpensive to make and delicious to eat.

5. Chicken and Vegetable Pasta Bake

cheap family meals

A chicken and vegetable pasta bake is a comforting, budget-friendly meal that can feed a crowd without breaking the bank. This dish is perfect for using up leftover chicken and vegetables, making it both economical and versatile. Start by cooking your choice of pasta—penne, rotini, or elbow macaroni work well—in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, shredded or cubed leftover chicken, and an assortment of vegetables. Frozen vegetables like peas, carrots, and broccoli are convenient and affordable options, but you can also use fresh vegetables that need to be used up. Mix in a can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup to create a creamy base. For added flavor, you can stir in a cup of shredded cheese, some garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.

Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top for a golden, bubbly crust. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the casserole is heated through.

Serve the chicken and vegetable pasta bake with a simple side salad or garlic bread to complete the meal. This dish is not only hearty and satisfying but also easy to customize based on what you have on hand. It’s a great way to ensure your family gets a balanced meal without spending a lot of money. Plus, it makes excellent leftovers for lunch the next day, further providing you with cheap family meals for days to follow.

Cheap Family Meals 6-10

6. Homemade Pizza – one of the family’s favorite cheap family meals!

cheap family meals

Homemade pizza is a fun, budget-friendly meal that the whole family can enjoy making together. Families love pizza and rate it in their favorite cheap family meals worldwide. By preparing the dough and sauce at home, you can save money and customize the toppings to suit everyone’s tastes. Start with a basic pizza dough recipe that requires just a few pantry staples: flour, yeast, water, sugar, and olive oil.

To make the dough, combine warm water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar in a bowl and let it sit for a few minutes until it becomes frothy. In a larger mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, then let it rise in a warm place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare a simple pizza sauce by combining canned tomato sauce, minced garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, and a pinch of salt. Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors meld together.

Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 475°F (245°C). Divide the dough into portions (depending on the number of pizzas you want to make) and roll it out on a floured surface to your desired thickness. Transfer the rolled-out dough to a baking sheet or pizza stone.

Spread a generous layer of sauce over the dough, then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Add your favorite toppings, such as sliced bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, or sausage. The beauty of homemade pizza is that you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand.

Bake the pizzas in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Let the pizzas cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Homemade pizza is not only a cost-effective meal but also a fun activity that brings the family together. It allows for endless customization, ensuring that everyone gets their favorite toppings while enjoying a delicious and satisfying dinner.

7. Tuna Casserole

cheap family meals

Tuna casserole is a classic budget meal that combines simple pantry staples into a comforting and filling dish. To begin, cook pasta—such as egg noodles or macaroni—until al dente, then drain and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine canned tuna, a can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, and a cup of frozen peas. These ingredients provide protein, creaminess, and a touch of sweetness.

Mix in the cooked pasta until everything is well combined. For added flavor, you can stir in a handful of shredded cheese and season with salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder. Transfer the mixture to a greased baking dish, spreading it out evenly.

Top the casserole with breadcrumbs mixed with a little melted butter for a crispy, golden crust. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 25-30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

Serve this tuna casserole with a simple side salad or steamed vegetables for a complete meal. It’s a quick, easy, and affordable dish that offers both comfort and nutrition. Tuna casserole is perfect for those nights when you need a hearty meal without spending a lot of time or money in the kitchen. Plus, it makes great leftovers for lunch the next day. Another one of those cheap family meals that can feed you for days.

8. Chili – one of the most versatile cheap family meals!

cheap family meals

Chili is a versatile, hearty, and budget-friendly meal that can be made with ground beef, turkey, or entirely vegetarian with a variety of beans. To start, brown ground beef or turkey in a large pot over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Drain any excess fat to keep the dish lean. Add diced onions, bell peppers, and garlic to the pot, cooking until the vegetables are soft and fragrant. Stir in canned diced tomatoes, kidney beans, and black beans, which are affordable sources of protein and fiber.

Season the chili with a robust blend of spices, including chili powder, cumin, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper. For an extra layer of flavor, you can add a bit of cocoa powder or a splash of beer. Allow the chili to simmer for at least 30 minutes, letting the flavors meld and deepen. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes.

Serve the chili hot, accompanied by rice or cornbread to stretch the meal further and make it even more filling. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, or chopped green onions for added flavor. Chili is one of the most perfect cheap family meals for prepping as it stores well and tastes even better the next day, making it a practical and delicious choice for budget-conscious families.

9. Pancakes or Waffles

cheap family meals

Breakfast for dinner is always a hit, and pancakes or waffles are inexpensive, easy to make, and loved by all ages. Start by whipping up a simple batter using common pantry ingredients: flour, eggs, milk, baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a little sugar. Mix until smooth, and let the batter rest for a few minutes to ensure fluffy pancakes or waffles.

For pancakes, heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat and lightly grease it. Pour a ladleful of batter onto the griddle, spreading it slightly. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip and cook until golden brown. For waffles, preheat your waffle iron and cook the batter according to the manufacturer’s instructions until crisp and golden.

To make the meal more fun and nutritious, set up a toppings bar with various options. Fresh fruits like berries, banana slices, and chopped apples add a healthy twist, while yogurt or whipped cream can make the meal more indulgent. Classic toppings like maple syrup, butter, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar are always popular. For added protein, consider serving scrambled eggs or bacon on the side.

This fine example of cheap family meals is not only budget-friendly but also versatile and customizable. Pancakes or waffles can be enjoyed plain or dressed up with a variety of toppings, making them a satisfying and fun choice for a family dinner. Plus, it’s a great way to involve kids in the kitchen, letting them help with mixing the batter and choosing their favorite toppings.

10. Potato and Chickpea Curry

cheap family meals

Potato and chickpea curry is a simple, flavorful, and budget-friendly dish that’s both filling and nutritious. Start by heating a tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté chopped onions until they become translucent, then add minced garlic and ginger, cooking until fragrant. Add cubed potatoes to the pot, stirring to coat them in the aromatic mixture.

Next, stir in a generous amount of curry powder, along with cumin, turmeric, and a pinch of salt. The spices are key to developing the rich flavor of the curry. Pour in a can of coconut milk, which provides a creamy base, and add enough water or vegetable broth to cover the potatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Once the potatoes are nearly done, add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fiber, making this dish both hearty and nutritious. Let the curry simmer for another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the chickpeas to heat through.

For a bit of green, you can stir in some spinach or kale at the end, letting it wilt into the curry. Serve the potato and chickpea curry over steamed rice or with naan bread to soak up the flavorful sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice for a bright, fresh finish.

This dish is not only budget-friendly but also packed with nutrients and flavor. It’s a versatile recipe that can be easily adapted to use whatever vegetables or beans you have on hand, making it a perfect go-to meal for busy weeknights. Plus, the leftovers taste even better the next day, making it an ideal dish for meal prep and ensuring you get the most out of your ingredients in your cheap family meals!

Conclusion

These ten cheap family meals prove that it’s possible to eat well on a budget. With some basic pantry staples and a bit of creativity, you can prepare meals that are delicious, nutritious, and economical. These dishes are perfect for busy families who want to enjoy good food without spending a lot of money. Cooking at home not only saves you money but also allows you to control the ingredients, making each meal healthier for your family.

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