Being thrifty can be challenging when you have a family, and with the cost of food rising, your family budget can take a real hit at mealtimes, with dinner being the most expensive. Here are 10 cheap dinner ideas for your family that can help spread out your dollar while still providing tasty and nutritious food at home for everyone.
The old standby of spaghetti with homemade meat sauce can be a cheap, nutritious meal. Scorn the expensive jarred spaghetti sauce. Make a homemade spaghetti sauce of drained ground beef (or turkey meat), fresh garlic, olive oil, oregano, basil, rosemary and canned tomatoes. Add carrots and a green vegetable to the boiling spaghetti, toss with the sauce and you’ve got a filling, cheap meal that’s packed full of vitamins.
Macaroni and Cheese
Homemade mac and cheese is cheap, delicious and filling. Make a roux of butter and flour, add milk, shredded cheddar and water to thin, salt to taste, then serve with broccoli and macaroni pasta or shells.
This cheap pizza idea is quick and healthy, too. Slather flour tortillas with a light pizza sauce made of tomato paste, water, black pepper, garlic, onion, salt and Italian herbs. Top the little pizzas with vegetables, cooked ground turkey or chicken and mozzarella or other cheese, then bake on an oiled cookie sheet until the cheese has melted.
Thai Chicken Curry
Roast a whole chicken in the oven. Pull off the chicken meat to simmer with a can of coconut milk, along with green vegetables, a smidge of curry paste (found at a local or online Asian grocery or health food store) and a can full of water for 45 minutes. Serve over rice. This is a very filling dinner, largely due to the coconut milk, which is a healthy source of lauric acid.
For those days you’re down to potatoes and eggs in the larder, make potato pancakes, a cheap and filling dinner. Grate potatoes, squeeze out the juice and add to eggs, onion flakes, flour and salt. Shallow fry in oil in a frying pan on both sides. Serve with applesauce or ketchup. Potato pancakes can be time-consuming, so stand firm if your family insists on this treat every night.
Chili Taco Salad
A chili taco salad is small on effort and cost and big on taste. Make a cheap, easy chili out of ground beef or turkey, cooked kidney beans, tomato paste, onions, cumin, chili powder and salt. On each person’s plate, slather the chili over a bed of low-salt tortilla chips, lettuce and grated cheese, and top with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.
Sour Cream Leek and Beef Soup
Chop a cheap cut of roast such as round or chuck, wash and slice leeks or onions, and dump them together with a little salt in a slow cooker. Cover with water and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Boil potatoes and mash them, skin and all, with sour cream and water. Serve the soup over a scoop of the sour cream mashed potatoes. This soup is filling and utterly delicious.
Chicken Fried Rice
You can make fried rice at home better than in any restaurant, and much more cheaply. Stir-fry a few scrambled eggs in peanut oil and remove from the wok or frying pan. In more peanut oil, stir-fry diced raw chicken thigh meat until cooked, then add cold cooked rice, some frozen peas and bean sprouts, steamed broccoli, the eggs and soy sauce. Cook until hot. Tip: Resist adding garlic or otherwise spicing up what is a very simple and delicious recipe.
Another economical standby, omelets aren’t just for breakfast. They make a quick, cheap and filling dinner, too. Use cheese, mushrooms, spinach, bell pepper, tomatoes and whatever else your family wants and cook up one big omelet or make individual omelets. Serve with salsa and whole wheat toast topped with honey on the side.
Baked Beans and Hot Dogs
A classic dish for kids, this one can get expensive if using canned baked beans. So make Boston baked beans from scratch using dried navy beans or other white beans. Find a recipe that calls for real molasses and bacon and a slow baking in the oven. Your family will not believe the taste of homemade baked beans. Chop and saute hot dogs or sausage and toss in the baked beans for a cheap protein- and iron-rich dinner.