Cheap and Easy Meals are just what every busy family needs to have in their repertoire! We’ve got a list of meals that cost less than $20 and a fantastic recipe for homemade alfredo sauce!
Cheap and Easy Meals for the Busy Family
We get it. Families are made up of busy people.
Parents work. Kids go to school and to various other activities such as sports, music practice, or even tutoring.
When you are all at home, the last thing you want to do as a parent is to make a meal that has a multitude of ingredients and takes hours, as well as a lot of money, to prepare. And even though it is easy to order out, it can cost money and have a lot of sugar and empty, tasteless calories.
Never fear. Below are ideas and recipes for some cheap and easy meals for you and your busy family. Each one of these meals, when you shop for ingredients at the grocery store, will cost you about $20 or less.
Cheap and Easy Meals: Beef Mac
This is a meal my mom made often when I was a kid, and it is quick, simple, and delicious. All this meal takes is a box of macaroni and cheese (prepared according to the box ingredients) and a pound of hamburger.
Brown, season, and drain the hamburger, prepare macaroni and cheese, and mix the two together, and ta da! You have a meal for your family in about 30 minutes or less.
If this does not sound too appetizing, any Hamburger Helper meal will be just as easy and cheap. Prepare the pasta in the box according to box instructions, and the hamburger in the same way as described above.
If you are in a pinch and need something super fast from items in your pantry, check out our BBQ Mac recipe. It’s easily modified to almost anything you’ve got in the house already!
Cheap and Easy Meals: Fish Tacos
Why go out to a restaurant for delicious fish tacos when you can eat more comfortably at your own home?
All you need for this meal is a two pound bag of tilapia filets (or a white fish like cod, but tilapia is the best for fish tacos), a pack of Mission 20 soft taco tortilla shells, lime juice, olive oil, various seasonings (garlic powder/salt, salt, pepper, and oregano), and toppings such as salsa, sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomato…whatever you want!
Thaw out the filets either the night before in the fridge or in a cold bowl of water for about an hour. Put on a pan lined with tin foil. Season with your desired amount of garlic powder/salt, salt/pepper, oregano, and lime juice. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees and flake filets with a fork.
Have your kiddos help you with the topping prep and heat the tortillas. Set everything out family style and have your family prep their own tacos.
All in all this will take about 20-30 minutes to get everything going once the filets are thawed.
Fish tacos sound weird, but taste utterly delicious!
The best recipe I’ve found for fish tacos is here at Home Cooking Memories.
Cheap and Easy Meals: Spaghetti and Meatballs
That’s a spicy meatball!
Instead of having meat sauce, why not have spaghetti and meatballs instead?
You need your pasta of choice that you use for spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, and this tasty meatball recipe from Betty Crocker. The recipe says it makes 24 meatballs, but I like big meatballs, so when I make them it yields around 18-20 meatballs. The meatballs take about 22 minutes to bake in the oven, but while you are making and baking the meatballs, you can prepare the pasta and sauce.
If you do not want to use the Worcestershire sauce that the recipe requires, replace it with garlic salt and oregano. I do not measure these out in amounts, nor do I measure out the salt and pepper in amounts. I just season to taste.
Pair your spaghetti and meatballs with toast, garlic bread, or a salad to round out the meal.
Cheap and Easy Meals: Chicken Alfredo
You can make chicken alfredo that is ten times better than eating it at an Italian restaurant.
All you need is alfredo noodles, frozen grilled chicken strips that you can heat up in the microwave, and this sauce recipe:
- 1 ¼ cups of heavy whipping cream
- 3 cloves of minced garlic (or the equivalent amount of pre-chopped garlic)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ⅔ cup of parmesan cheese, grated (NOT the kind you shake on pizza)
- Jar of red bell peppers, pre-sliced
Preheat pan to medium heat. Grill the bell peppers until heated, set bell peppers aside. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add the heavy whipping cream, salt, and pepper, bring mixture to a boil. Boil gently, uncovered, for three minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Add the parmesan cheese and stir.
Prepare the noodles according to box and heat the chicken strips in the microwave as per the instructions. On the plate, put the noodles, then the chicken strips. Pour sauce over the noodles and chicken. Garnish with parmesan cheese and bell peppers.
If you want to save even more time, just get a jar of alfredo sauce and prepare, but trust me…the homemade sauce is delicious and will leave your family begging for more.
Cheap and Easy Meals: Chicken Stir Fry
Instead of ordering from a Chinese restaurant, make this easy “Better Than Takeout” chicken fried rice. To save time on rice, use two pouches of ready-to-serve rice instead of cooking and boiling rice.
Also, make sure you have a large nonstick skillet or wok. I’ve found that a wok works the best for this recipe.
The recipe for easy “Better Than Takeout” chicken fried rice can be found at Averie Cooks. You will never want to order chicken fried rice from a Chinese restaurant again after tasting this.
Cheap and Easy Meals: Taco Salad
Any time I make this taco salad, it always gets rave reviews.
Brown a pound of hamburger and add a taco seasoning of your choice according to the directions on the package. Make the “salad” part by chopping up lettuce, tomato, and green onions and putting it in a bowl with a lid. Season the salad with salt, pepper, and two tablespoons of lime juice. Put the lid on the bowl and shake to mix.
Make the tortilla bowls for the taco salad—I highly recommend using the Ortega Bakeable Tortilla Bowl Kit.
Once the bowls are done, you can put a small layer of refried beans (if your family likes them), then a layer of taco meat, a layer of salad, and any toppings you and your family like: shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, and avocados.
All these meals are quick, easy, and cost about $20 or less to make.
If you are not sure of which one to try first, I highly recommend the fish tacos or the stir fry. But pick a recipe, fix, and enjoy the tasty food and good times at home with your family.
Bio: Cheap and Easy Meals for the Busy Family is a guest post written by Brandy. Brandy Clark is a freelance copywriter at autoinsurance.org and likes to write horror for fun at https://nofspodcast.com/author/brandy-clark/. When it comes to horror, the best horror movie is John Carpenter’s The Thing. She resides in Missouri with her two dogs, Layla and Hayley. She loves to cook and has a pretty big sweet tooth (German Chocolate Cake is her favorite).