Back in 2020, we shared 50 Easy & Cheap Family Dinner Ideas. Recently, I asked on my Facebook Page if people had any other ideas for go-to cheap dinner ideas to make when money is tight. Here are 15 more ideas:
1. Sheetpan Dinner
There are so many variations on sheetpan dinners you can do using whatever you have on hand. If you have some kind of rope sausage, some kind of potatoes, and then some kind of veggies like carrots or peppers or onions, you can make a delicious sheetpan dinner. Check out the details on how to make it here.
2. Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
This is always a great stand-by lunch or dinner. Open up a few cans of tomato soup (or make your own) and then use whatever cheese and bread you have on hand to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
3. Dollar Tree Pizza
Becky submitted this idea. She said: “We buy pizza crusts from Dollar Tree, a jar of pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and whatever other toppings we want. It has become a cheap favorite!”
4. Seasoned Beans & Rice
On our Facebook Page, Sharon shared some tips for how they make seasoned beans and rice for an easy and inexpensive meal: “We make rice and beans with bullion and seasoning of choice. We just add carrots, celery, onion, or scraps of meat (if available). Buying in bulk and using dry beans rather than canned is incredibly inexpensive. I get the largest bags of rice and beans I can find then put them in 5 gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids to keep them for long periods. These are also excellent to have on hand in case of emergency and provides inexpensive meals as needed.”
5. Fettucine Alfredo
“If we’re already tired of the other cheap dinners (hot dogs, red beans & rice, or tacos),” Melissa commented on our Facebook Page, “We do Fettuccine Alfredo (we make our Alfredo sauce using this easy recipe and it’s cheap and tastes better than the jarred). We serve it with salad and a $1 garlic bread loaf we get from our grocery store.”
6. Pork Tenderloin
Claudine shared this idea: “Pork tenderloins are really cheap where I live, so I’ll put a pork tenderloin in the crockpot with BBQ sauce (I’ll either make my own with what I have in my pantry, or buy a bottle of BBQ sauce if it’s on a good sale). When it’s cooked, I’ll shred it and use it to make enough for two meals’ worth of BBQ pulled pork sandwiches for our family. We serve it along with some slaw and homemade fries (Russet potatoes are cheap where I live, so always have some on hand).“
7. Egg Roll in a Bowl
This is such a versatile meal idea — and can be made very quickly, too. You can substitute for whatever veggies and meat you have on hand.
8. French Toast Casserole
When eggs are on sale or marked down, French Toast Casserole is a simple and filling recipe we love to make. Best of all, you can put it together a day ahead of time or the morning of, so that you just need to pop it in the oven at dinner time. We usually serve it with fruit and maybe some sausage or bacon, if I have some in the freezer from a recent sale.
Use tortillas (or make your own) and fill them with refried beans (or make your own) or black beans and then onions and taco seasoning (or make your own) or salsa. Top with cheese and heat up for a quick and filling dinner. Here’s a simple recipe that we’ve used and loved.
10. Ground Turkey, Potatoes, and Veggies
Ashley suggested this idea: “Brown some ground turkey with diced sweet potato and frozen corn! It’s so good and easy to make a big batch. Plus, it’s very affordable.”
We often do something similar, only we use ground beef with diced potatoes and either peas, corn, or green beans to make a sort of hash.
11. Have a Leftover Buffet
We do this almost every week for a very quick and frugal dinner. Just pull out whatever odds and ends you have left in the fridge and pantry, set it out buffet style, and let everyone make up their own plates with whatever they’d like to eat!
When eggs are on sale or marked down, Frittata is another very easy and adaptable idea. Here’s a recipe we’ve used and loved.
Sharon also shared how they make frittata: “We use a dozen eggs and add in whatever cheese and leftover ingredients from the fridge. This is a great way to use up our small amounts of shredded cheese, bits of green onions, mushrooms, maybe bell peppers, last dredges of bacon pieces and sometimes that one leftover breakfast sausage. We also use the opportunity to toss in some leftovers. I have used leftover taco meat, chopped up pork loin, shredded beef, pulled pork, and even a chopped up leftover hamburger patty. Just mix it all together with a splash of milk, add salt and pepper, then bake at 350 for 45-60 min.”
13. Mac & Cheese with Chicken or Beef
Lyra commented with this tip: “Last night I made mac and cheese with chicken. I diced up a small onion and sauted it. I then added 2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. I added in a box of mac and cheese that I made by following package directions. I just added the mac and cheese to the chicken and onion and stirred together.”
Tip: We also like to add ground beef or pork to a few boxes of mac and cheese for a delicious (and super fast!) dinner.
14. Burrito Bake
This idea came from Kristen. She said: “We often make what we call Burrito Bake. We just layer tortillas, refried beans, Taco seasoning, and cheese in a pan like lasagna and then bake until cheese is melted and the Burrito Bake is heated through.”
15. Oatmeal Bar
And finally, Melissa shared the suggestion of having an Oatmeal Bar. She commented: “I make a big pot of oatmeal, put out butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and chopped up apples and/or bananas and everyone makes their own bowl. I started doing this a month or two ago and it has been a hit! It’s cheap, quick and most kids love it!”
If money is tight, what’s your go-to cheap dinner to make for your family?