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Family Meal Ideas on a Budget

Jan 6, 2020

Family Meal Ideas on a Budget
As we approach the New Year and embark on various resolutions, like exercising more often and eating a healthier diet, we should keep costs related to our goals low, so that they’re sustainable. One of the major factors for your monthly budget that is easiest to control is meals for your family. Below, we’ve provided some tips to help you meal prep on a budget, as well as some affordable, healthy meal ideas you can make for yourself and your family.

Plan your meals ahead of time.

Taking the extra step to plan ahead can help you purchase your groceries strategically, which can ultimately limit your spending since you’ll only be buying what you need for the week. This will also help limit the amount of food that may go to waste, as each item will have a purpose if you stick to your plan.

Make a shopping list – and stick to it.

Having a list of meals you want to cook for your family, the ingredients you’ll need for each meal, and the estimated total on hand will help keep you on track when walking around the grocery store. When thinking of ways to incorporate healthy foods into your meals, try to plan the meal around in-season produce, as it’s typically more affordable than out-of-season produce.

Purchase items in bulk.

Purchasing items in bulk is a great way to stock up on things that you may want to have on hand for a last-minute addition to your meal. Some items like rice, pasta, and sauce are offered at a 10 for $10 price, so purchasing it all at once can help you save some money in the long run. You can purchase items in bulk at stores like Walmart or by using membership cards at stores like BJ’s Wholesale Club®, Costco Wholesale® or Sam’s Club®.

Cook on Sundays.

To keep yourself and your family on track with your meal prep, take one day over the weekend to cook and freeze all of your meals for the week. You’ll be less tempted to spend money on going out to eat or grabbing last-minute takeout since you know you already have cooked, healthy food in the freezer. As an incentive to stick to your budget and plan, treat yourself by going out to dinner once at the end of the month. Having this “cheat meal” at the end of the month will give you and your family something to look forward to.

Simple, Healthy, Budget-Friendly Meal Ideas


If you’re cooking for kids who you think will need a bit of convincing to eat healthy foods, start simple with tacos, as you can purchase value packs of taco kits from retailers like Walmart. All you’ll need in addition to the kit is ground beef (or whatever protein your family prefers). To keep it healthy, consider only using the seasoning that comes in the kit and skipping the extra taco sauce. You can offer healthy toppings like guacamole, diced tomatoes, or lettuce on the side to give your family the option of incorporating them into the meal.

Chicken Over Rice

This is a simple, healthy meal that you can prepare for multiple nights of the week. To keep your family from potentially getting tired of this meal, swap out the vegetable each night, or consider switching up the seasoning for the chicken. One night you can use fajita seasoning, the next you can keep it simple with salt and pepper, and one night you can add lemon to the mix.


Soup is the perfect homemade comfort food, especially during the colder months. You can cook a pot (4 quarts) of soup on a Sunday and freeze it so that you can pull it out whenever you want during the week. Soups like tomato and chicken noodle are budget-friendly, as they don’t require too many ingredients to make.

Baked Pasta Dishes

Pasta dishes like lasagna, baked penne or ziti, and manicotti are easy to cook for a family of any size – and they’ll all taste great heated up throughout the week. You can also make these dishes last minute if you have any extra pasta or sauce in the pantry. Pasta dishes also make great leftovers for lunch!

One-Pot Wonders

“One-Pot Wonders” are meals that can be cooked in one pot, pan, or skillet. They’re often very cheap, quick, and easy to prepare as they don’t require too many different ingredients. You can make popular meals like pasta with vegetables, chili, or stir-fry. To keep it interesting, try to make different versions of these meals. For example, chili can be made with beans, ground turkey, chicken, or beef; stir-fry can be made with steak, chicken, or shrimp; and pasta can be made with broccoli, asparagus, or peas. Customizing these meals will be the key to getting your family to fall in love with them without getting bored.

After one month of using these meal planning tips and affordable family meal ideas, look back to your receipts and add up how much you spent on food that month. From there, you can determine how you’d like to tweak your budget moving forward. Once you’ve decided on next month’s budget, you and your family can start building out your menu!

Erin Ellis

Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor ®
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