Aug 27, 2017

5 Cheap and Easy Dinners Your Budget Will Love

I have a hard time sticking to a budget. If you read my post where I confessed all my budgeting mistakes, you know what I am talking about.

Between my job, the kids' sports, school and homework, 3 dogs and trying to keep the house semi-clean, I feel like I am always tired and running behind.

Dinner is often something we grab on the go or take-out. I am known to be an easy mark when it comes to ordering pizza. (which is not good for our budget.)

Anyway, it so happens I do have 5 easy budget-friendly dinner recipes perfect for large families I can share with you today.

1. Chili Mac and Cheese

 I make macaroni and cheese, enough for all 5 of us. Then I add in a couple of cans of chili. We eat mostly vegetarian meals by choice so I get the meatless chili for this recipe. If I have rice in the pantry, I will that in as well.

 Add some cornbread or quick rolls you pop in the oven, and some veggies.

2. Waffle Pizzas

Sort of a twist on the whole English muffin pizzas idea. I tried this for the first time a couple of years ago, (think I came across this recipe in a magazine) and the boys loved them. Go figure that pizza sauce and cheese on waffles would make them happy. But it does, and I am not about to argue. Dinner cannot get any easier than this recipe!

To keep things on the healthy side, I add a veggie or salad and maybe some cut up fruit.

3. Tofu and Black Beans

My boys and my daughter like tofu. Honestly, they really do. It goes back to when my husband and I were doing a lot more cooking, and using vegetarian recipes when the kids were very little.

(My kids also love this tofu popsicle recipe)

My daughter and my husband love this dinner much more than the pizza waffles, so it is a win-win. It does take longer to cook than the first two recipes, so this is usually a weekend family dinner.

I use extra firm tofu (which I usually buy at Trader Joe's). I drain and cut the tofu into small strips and add them to a marinade of soy sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then the tofu marinates in the refrigerator 2-3 hours.

In a large skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the seasoned tofu. I use a low flame and cook the tofu until it is pretty firm. Usually about 25 minutes or so. I like my tofu really firm, so I probably cook it a bit longer than most.

You can add in 1-2 cans of black beans when the tofu is almost done cooking. Let the tofu and beans simmer together about 15 minutes.

Add rice and veggies or a green salad. This is such a healthy cheap meal, and my kids love it!

4. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Simple and cheap, everyone in my family loves yummy gooey melted cheese sandwiches with a bowl of tomato soup. But alas, it tastes so much better when it is actually cold outside. (Temps, where we live, are supposed to be in the triple digits all week!)

So we may be waiting a while longer to enjoy this one. In the meantime, here's some of my favorite homemade tomato soup recipes.

5. Sliced Cucumber and Tomato Salad With Pasta

This is one of the hubby's dishes actually, and it is so so good. Doesn't hurt that he does all the work while I get to relax!

He slices up cucumber and tomatoes. Then adds generous amounts of olive oil, vinegar and salt (salt not so generous...more like season to taste.) He also adds sliced onion.

I kid you not, this is so good! It is also delicious as an appetizer. We top saltine crackers with the tomato/cucumber mixture and munch away (a glass of wine goes great with this too!)

But as part of a family dinner, he makes a simple pasta side dish to go with the cucumber salad and homemade garlic bread.

So there you have my go-to cheap meals. These quick dinners easily feed a family of 5, and are perfect for busy weeknights as well as tight budgets.