Use these cheap dinner ideas to make easy and cheap meals your entire family will love! I think a lot of people are under the impression that in order to have cheap meal plans you have to have just beans and rice. The fact is that’s just not true! By watching sales and shopping at discount stores you can eat very well for just $30-$50 a week!
Cheap Dinner Ideas – $30 for 1 Week of Family Dinners
Here is a week’s worth of cheap dinner ideas that can simplify your meal preparation, getting you out of the kitchen faster and saving you a lot of money on your family food budget. Each dinner idea includes a meal plan for the day and some of the recipes that go with each meal plan.
You don’t have to strictly stick to any one of these meal plans. You can easily modify any of these easy dinner ideas to suit our family’s own taste, so if you want to switch around the order of the meals or substitute a different main dish or side, don’t be afraid to adapt it for your own convenience.
We put these dinner plans together with the idea of saving time and money, so you can make the meal plans just as they are described here for the $30. If you’re not as concerned about having the lowest possible price, you can feel free to substitute any more expensive dinner items that you prefer.
These meal plans assume that each person eats one serving of the meal. Many people eat a lot more than the recommended number of servings per person. If you serve each family member more than one serving, you will naturally be paying more, so keep that in mind.
If you have optional food preferences, you are choosing to pay more. For example, if you eat all organic or only buy free-range chicken, you are choosing to pay more for the food. It’s fine to choose that if you can afford it, but don’t expect to pay the same low price that other people are paying who do not make that choice.
How to shop for the best prices
In order to get the best prices, especially on meats, you MUST shop smart! If you decide to make a meal today and go to the store today to buy the meat, you will probably pay too much. I made these menus and recipes based on prices I am able to get regularly by paying attention to prices and stocking up when the meat and other ingredients are cheap.
To get the best prices on meat:
Keep your eye out for sales whenever you’re at a store. If you notice that something is a much better price than usual, stock up while it’s cheap so you can have inexpensive leat to use to make these meals. For example, I never pay more than $1.99/lb. for boneless skinless chicken breasts because I buy a lot of them when they are on sale and do NOT buy them when the price is high.
Check the ads to see what each store is offering this week. When you see that a store is offering chicken, ground beef, pork chops or something else at an unusually good price, stock up and buy as much as you have room to store. Then wait to buy it again until you find another great deal.
Don’t shop at just one store. We often have people say that meat is so expensive at the store where they shop, but they refuse to shop at any other store or even check the prices at other stores. If you only ever are willing to shop at one store, you will pay a lot higher prices than you need to.
Cheap Dinner Ideas – Family Meal Plan Week 1
Total Cost = $30
Meal Plan Day 1
4-5 pork chops
4-5 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (If you like the peels you don’t have to peel them.)
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (to taste)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper
2-3 Tbsp. butter
Grease a casserole dish or pan. I like to use bacon grease for this. Place pork chops on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with apples and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle small chunks of butter over the top of everything. Cover and bake at 375° for 45-60 minutes until pork chops are fully cooked.
Meal Plan Day 2
Homemade Chicken Tenders
Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins Total=$6.50
This 3 Ingredient Parmesan Chicken Tenders Recipe is a quick and easy chicken recipe that is super yummy! It makes a great quick meal for your family!
Boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips
1 egg, beaten
Parmesan cheese (the stuff that is already grated in the green can) and fry in your favorite oil.
Roll strips of boneless, skinless chicken in beaten egg and Parmesan cheese (the stuff that is already grated in the green can) and fry in your favorite oil.
The BEST Homemade Mashed Potatoes
5 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
In a large saucepan, place potatoes and enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude). Drain. Transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl and mash. I use a hand mixer for this but you can use a potato masher. Add butter, milk, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth. Serves 5-6.
For Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Add 15 cloves garlic, peeled and halved, to the potatoes when boiling.
Meal Plan Day 3
Use leftovers from chicken for soup and in place of noodles use leftover rice from day 1.
Homemade Chicken Soup
Cheese Slices and Crackers
Raw Veggie Platter Total= $1.50
Make this warm and comforting soup with your chicken leftovers. The roasted chicken adds a little different and yummy flavor. Don’t be frightened by all the ingredients. You can chop a lot of it the day before you make it and just dump and add the rest.
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. olive oil or canola oil
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. thyme
8 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp. salt (adjust to taste)
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
2 cups wide egg noodles
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Stir first 4 ingredients in oil in a large Dutch oven (big pot or pan)and cook until tender, usually about 3-5 minutes. Stir in flour, oregano and thyme. Gradually add chicken broth, potatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add chicken and noodles and simmer 10 more minutes. Reduce heat and add milk. Do not boil.
You can change this recipe to suit your taste. Add other veggies like peas, corn or broccoli. You can leave out the potatoes or substitute them with something like sweet potatoes or squash. You can leave out the milk (but the milk makes a nice creamy soup) and/or add more or less broth. You can also adjust the spices, for example you might add a little Tabasco sauce to give it a little kick.
Meal Plan Day 4
- Cucumber & Tomatoes
- Macaroni Salad Total= $6.30
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal or 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce
Mix everything together except the ketchup. Put into a loaf pan. Spread ketchup over the top. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until done. Serves 6.
Meatloaf Glaze Recipe
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. cider vinegar.
Mix and pour on meatloaf about 15 minutes before it is done.
Meal Plan Day 5
Crumble or cube up leftover meatloaf from yesterday into spaghetti.
Use any leftover cucumber and tomatoes from yesterday for salad.
Tossed Salad Total = $1.50
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
2 (16 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 (8 oz.) can tomato paste
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, pressed, or garlic powder (to taste)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
Crumble sausage in a 2-quart saucepan. Brown with onion.
Drain fat. Add other ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.
Remove bay leaf before serving. Serves 4.
Meal Plan Day 6
Spaghetti Pizza (using the leftover spaghetti from above)
Brownie Sundaes Total=$4.50
Spaghetti Pizza Recipe
1/2 lb. spaghetti noodles, cooked
1 egg, beaten with a fork
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 jar (16 oz.) spaghetti sauce
Mix noodles, egg and cheese. Place in a well greased 9 inch pie pan (You can double it and put it in 9×13 pan). Pour spaghetti sauce on it and top with any of the following:
Favorite seasonings – oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper
Ground beef, cooked
Favorite pizza toppings
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until hot and cheeses are melted.
6 cups salad greens, cut into bites sized pieces
1 can (2 1/4 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Italian or dressing of your choice
Toss everything in a bowl and serve with dressing. Makes 8-10 servings.
Serve leftovers for whatever is left or if you go out for date night go ahead and go out and give the kids leftovers!
For more super easy and cheap dinner ideas, check out our easy cookbooks, filled with recipes your family will love!
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