Feeding your family is necessary but it can get expensive, especially if you’re trying to keep it healthy. Organic and healthy foods have the reputation of being ‘too expensive’ when in fact, there are many ways to prepare budget meals for families that are delicious and healthy.
Couponing, shopping sales, and meal planning are all great ways to keep your grocery budget down, but having a list of tried-and-true healthy meals is also important.
Here are our top cheap dinner ideas for families that are easy and healthy.
1. Scrambled Eggs with Veggies
This is a dish you can customize for each family member based on their likes/dislikes. Eggs are super cheap (even if you buy free-range eggs) and veggies went bought in bulk are cheap too. You can even stock up on your family’s favorite frozen veggies and have them ready anytime you serve eggs.
We love this meal because you can add as many veggies as you want or if you have really picky eaters, just give it a sprinkle of cheese, giving the dish a little more protein for your little ones.
You can make great budget meals out of chili for your family. Whether you have meat lovers or you’re looking for a vegetarian option, there are many ways to customize chili. Even if you use meat, you can use the cheapest ground beef you can find (we like to buy it when it’s on clearance, freezing it to keep it fresh).
Start with your base of tomato sauce and plenty of beans. We love to load it with two different types of beans, then if we use meat, it only needs a little bit – the meat isn’t the main course. Throw in some diced onion and minced garlic along with your chili seasonings and you have a hearty meal that’s easy and healthy. We also love it because it freezes easily, so you always have a meal ready when you don’t feel like cooking.
3. Overnight Oats
It doesn’t get any easier or cheaper than overnight oats. Again, this is a family favorite because you can customize it to your family’s liking. All you need are rolled oats (super cheap), your choice of liquid (cow’s milk, non-dairy milk, or liquid yogurt), and a cup of yogurt in your favorite flavor.
Stir all the ingredients together, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 2 hours, but overnight is best. In the morning, cut up each person’s favorite fruits and top it off for a complete meal.
4. Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese may not sound like the healthiest meal, but hear us out. There are ways to make it healthy. We love it for its versatility and low cost. Start with whole-grain bread – there are plenty of affordable options today especially if you shop at stores like Aldi or Walmart.
Next, add your cheese. You can use one type or several, based on your family’s preferences. Next, have some fun! Add veggies like spinach, tomato, or roasted peppers. Get creative and see what your family loves – it’s a great way to sneak in veggies while letting kids think they’re having a treat.
5. Stir Fry
Stir fry is one of the top budget meals because you can make it just how your family likes it. Start with a protein – chicken, inexpensive cuts of steak, or even tofu. Next, add your veggies. You can buy frozen stir fry veggies or buy fresh veggies and create your own. This is what we prefer so we can customize it to our family’s liking.
Choose veggies like broccoli, spinach, peppers, onions, carrots, and celery. You could also add edamame, green beans, or any other veggies your family loves. Make the veggies the ‘main show’ and the meat an accessory to keep the costs down. Use your favorite stir fry sauce or just add a teaspoon of sugar and soy sauce to your liking for a sweet soy taste.
You can even make spaghetti easy and healthy. Kids love slurping in their favorite noodles, but you don’t have to tell them you bought the whole grain version (it will be your secret). Load the noodles with a low-sugar marinara sauce and load it up with veggies.
Cut up tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, or any other veggies your kids love. Anything goes good with spaghetti and it’s a good way to make sure your kids eat their vegetables and aren’t just pushing them around on their plates.
Quesadillas are another easy and healthy family favorite that you can customize for each person. We like to use whole grain tortillas to increase the healthiness of the meal. Next, choose your favorite cheeses and then load it up with veggies. Dice up peppers, tomatoes, spinach, onions, or any other veggies your family loves.
If you want to increase the protein, add a cheap cut of meat in the tortillas, such as shredded chicken or inexpensive steak cuts. You’ll make a full meal out of the quesadillas that are sure to be gobbled up quickly.
8. Fried Rice
Homemade fried rice can taste just as good as the restaurant version but be a lot healthier. All you need is a cheap bag of rice (white or brown), your favorite vegetables, and a protein if you desire.
Just like all the other meals on our list you can customize your meal to your family’s liking. For the protein, you can include chicken, steak, or tofu. It only takes one or two pieces of meat to make this a hearty meal since you’ll cube the meat. For the veggies, the most common options are peas, carrots, onions, and edamame. You can also buy an inexpensive bag of mixed frozen vegetables and throw it on. Sprinkle your favorite soy or teriyakis sauce over it and you have a delicious meal.
Don’t discount the healthiness of BLTs. They are a fan favorite for families and they are cheap! If you have bacon in the house, this is a great way to use it up. You don’t have to stick to just bacon, lettuce, and tomato either. You can add other healthy foods to the sandwich to make it even better.
We like to add romaine or green leaf lettuce, avocado, and spinach for a well-rounded meal. Choose whole-grain bread versus white or skip the bread altogether and use iceberg lettuce as your ‘bread.’
Casseroles are a great way to have a one-pot healthy meal for your family. Chicken is always a fan favorite because it’s inexpensive and versatile. Grab a bag of your favorite rice (white or brown), a bag of shredded cheese, your favorite diced up vegetables, and some milk. Add it all into one pan and bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for a hearty and healthy meal.
11. Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
If you love bone-in chicken, this is a great cheap meal for families. Grab chicken thighs or any other cut of chicken that’s on sale (or clearance). Season it to your liking and slice your favorite root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, or radishes. Add everything to the pan, with a little salt and pepper. Roast them in a 450 degree oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are golden brown.
12. Breaded Porkchops with Vegetable Slaw
Breaded pork chops are kid-friendly because they’re breaded, yet they give kids protein that doesn’t come from chicken nuggets. Grab a pack of thinly sliced pork chops, an egg, and a liquid, such as milk. Dip the pork chops in the egg/milk mixture and then in your favorite breadcrumbs. You can even season the breadcrumbs if you like. Either bake them at 350 for 20 minutes or sauté them in a pan with a little olive oil.
On the slide, serve up a veggie slaw (buy the prepackaged version) with your favorite dressing. It will feel like a fancy meal that only cost a few dollars and offers plenty of nutrients.
Think outside the box when creating budget meals for families. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Look for sales, use coupons, and always look for those red clearance tags, especially on foods you can freeze. Don’t let the dates scare you (unless they are past the expiration). Just make sure to separate each item and freeze them.
At each meal, serve up a cheap protein (doesn’t always have to be meat), and plenty of veggies. If you have picky kids, add a fruit to the table too, giving them options so they get the necessary nutrients in them each day.