Cheap Family Dinner Ideas (This Week’s Total: $40)

Cheap Dinner Ideas

This Week’s Cheap Family Dinner Meal Plan

Have you ever gone grocery shopping, and had no clue what your dinner plans were for the week? I’ve done it. And it always ends up costing me way too much. So, I started making a meal plan for cheap family dinner ideas each week.

Breakfast and lunches don’t really vary too much in my house. My older kids eat cereal or Poptarts in the morning before school, or the boys will cook themselves some eggs. (Yay for them being old enough to cook for themselves!) My youngest loves oatmeal and pb&j sandwiches, so that’s easy.

Cheap Dinner Eggs
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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Lunch consists mostly of sandwiches, chips, and fruit. Sometimes the kids will take leftovers to school if I cooked something they particularly enjoyed the night before. They are in charge of making their own school lunches, and variety isn’t much of a priority for them. (Again, yay for them being old enough to prepare their own school lunches!)

Keep Dinner From Being Predictable

Dinner is the area I struggle with when it comes to keeping things from getting repetitive. I don’t want to have a boring dinner schedule on repeat every week. I actually know some people who eat the same things every week. Spaghetti Mondays, Taco Tuesday, Pizza Wednesdays, etc.

That just seems so uneventful to me. I don’t know about you, but I love mixing it up. If I cook a delicious meatloaf, I might not cook it again for a month or two. I like to keep my family on their toes, too. They can never predict what my dinner menu might look like on a given night!

Cheap dinner ideas

One way I keep things from getting boring is that I try out a new recipe at least once or twice a month. I was recently inspired to try my hand at cooking a dish called Egg Shakshuka after watching a food documentary that featured it.

My recipe was more experimentation than anything, but it turned out delicious and spiced up my weekly dinner plan! If you want to try it out, check out this Youtube Recipe Tutorial I found:

Interesting Can Still Be Cheap

With all that said, and as much as I like to keep it interesting, I also like to keep it cheap. I have way too many people in my house to be cooking lobster tails and t-bone steaks every night (no matter how much my belly would love that)!

I try to keep my entire grocery budget under $120 each week. If you’re interested in knowing my tricks for that, check out my article, 5 Ways I Feed My Family For Less Than $120 a Week.

Of that $120, I typically set aside about $50 for dinners. I don’t always spend the entire $50, and sometimes I go slightly over, but having a set figure in my head helps me plan out my cheap family dinner meal plan each week.

To hopefully give you some inspiration, I wanted to give you a quick glimpse of my dinner meal plan for this week. I spent a total of $40 on this week’s dinners, so I call that a win!

Here is my Cheap Family Dinner Plan This Week:

Taco Meatloaf

Monday: Taco Meatloaf

This is an easy and delicious meal that everyone in my family loves. Not only that, it doesn’t cost a lot. Pair it with a box of Rice-a-Roni Mexican Rice, and call it dinner!

For the recipe, check out Taco Meatloaf: Nana’s Famous Recipe.

Tuesday: Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

This dish brings back memories of my childhood. I grew up with 8 siblings, so my mom always had to plan meals that she knew would stretch between all of us. She would throw a few jars of sauerkraut in a big pot with a pack of kielbasa (she would also add a pack of hotdogs for the younger kids).

I make it a little different. I heat the sauerkraut on the stove with some butter. Then I slice the kielbasa and pan fry it. After that, I add a couple of cans of green beans to the kielbasa so they absorb the smoky flavor. It’s delicious!

Wednesday: Turkey Meatball Subs

Spaghetti and meatballs can get tiring, so I like to change it up and make meatball subs every now and then. Since I’m following a gluten-free diet, I just eat the meatballs and sauce with a large salad.

For the meatballs, I mix ground turkey (it’s cheaper than ground beef and tastes great!), an egg, Italian seasoning, garlic and onion in a large bowl. I form meatballs about two inches around and pan-fry them. Once they are browned through, I add a jar or two of Hunts Marinara Sauce and let the meatballs simmer for about 10 minutes.

My kids love the French bread loaves that Walmart’s bakery sells, so I buy a couple of those (only $1 apiece), slice them into sub rolls, and let the kids fill them with meatballs and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Quick, easy, and cheap!

Shrimp- Cheap Dinner Ideas
Photo by Dana DeVolk on Unsplash

Thursday: Garlic Shrimp and Veggies

A super easy dinner that my family loves is garlic shrimp and veggies. I buy the $5 bags of raw peeled shrimp that Walmart and Aldi sell. I thaw the shrimp and drain in paper towels so that all the moisture is absorbed. (If you leave the shrimp wet, they tend to “boil” instead of saute.)

While the shrimp is draining, I prepare some veggies to roast in the oven. Usually, it’s zucchini and squash, or fresh asparagus if I find it on sale. Any vegetables will work. I coat them in olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are as tender as I like.

After the shrimp has drained, I add butter to a pan, throw in a few smashed garlic cloves, then add the shrimp. The shrimp only takes a few minutes to cook, so I usually start this process right before the veggies are done. It’s a light and refreshing dinner, and it doesn’t cost more than $10!

Friday: BBQ Chicken With Mac and Cheese

Friday will be my BBQ night. Chicken drumsticks are my favorite thing to BBQ. I got super lucky at Aldi this week and they had chicken marked down. For only $1.36 I got an entire 16 pack of chicken drumsticks!

I simply put the chicken on my hot grill and let them cook until almost done (according to my meat thermometer). Then I slather bbq sauce on them and cook until they are done, turning them over and basting them with sauce as they cook.

While the chicken is cooking I boil water for the staple Great Value Mac and Cheese that my kids love. Super easy, not hard on the wallet!

Saturday: Leftovers

This week I’m designating Saturday as my night off. The family will be able to go through the refrigerator and figure out which leftovers sound good to them! Not only does it give me a break, but they clear out the fridge so I have space for this week’s grocery haul!

Sunday: Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

Sunday will be my hearty, feel-good family meal. Grilled Porkchops (marinated in soy sauce, honey, and garlic), buttery mashed potatoes, and steamed broccoli.

I start by mixing soy sauce, garlic, and honey in a bowl. I add the pork chops and let them marinate for about an hour. While they are marinating, I peel and quarter about two pounds of russet potatoes. When the pork chops go on the grill, the potatoes go into a pot of water to start boiling.

Once the potatoes are tender, I drain them and mash them with a lot of butter, a splash of milk, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. (As you can see most of my recipes are not uniform. I just eye it.)

I use my Hamilton Beach Rice Cooker to steam the broccoli. It’s really easy to use and the vegetables always steam perfectly. (Unless your husband does it and forgets to put the steaming basket in, so they end up boiling instead. Ha!) After they steam I put them in a bowl, add some butter, and serve them just like that!

That caps off a week of cheap family dinners! Not bad for $40!

Cheap Family Dinner Meal Plan Summary

  • Give yourself a set budget to keep from overspending
  • Try to mix it up and avoid being repetitive
  • This is a great way to introduce new dishes to your family and experiment
  • For inspiration, I found this great cookbook on Amazon.
  • Create a meal plan so you don’t go shopping blind. This will save you so much money!
Cheap family dinners

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1 thought on “Cheap Family Dinner Ideas (This Week’s Total: $40)”

  1. Melissa,
    One of the things that people do not realize is how expensive food can be, coming second after housing expenses.

    When my team and I show people how to crawl outta debt by having a lifestyle change, at first they frown at it. No one wants to change the status quo. Even eating rice and beans from Monday to Monday can have such a drastic effect on what you spend on food. Just like you have detailed in this post, you can have very interesting meals on a budget. I have shared the post because it is relevant to a project that we are currently running that is themed around a book that took 1 year to publish titled Crawl Outta Debt Now.

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