16 Budget-Friendly Meals Your Family Will Love

Use these cheap meal ideas to make delicious and hearty dishes that won't break the budget!

By: Megan Horst-Hatch, Editor,
16 Budget-Friendly Meals Your Family Will Love

When it comes to meal planning, sticking to a budget doesn't have to be dull! Your family will love these budget-friendly meals, and you'll love how easy it is to make them! You will discover an assortment of meal ideas that are flavorful and easy to make. These cheap meal ideas from our Test Kitchen include recipes for an assortment of dishes that will wow the crowd every time you serve them. Whether you want to impress guests at your next get-together or simply want to save some money on your weekly grocery run, these cheap family meal recipes will be just what you need up your sleeve. They are tasty, filling, easy, and some use just a few ingredients, further helping you cut costs.

We have also included Test Kitchen recipes from our friends at RecipeLion and AllFreeCopyCatRecipes that can help expand your cooking skills. You can also use these recipes to replicate a dish from your favorite restaurant at home, saving you some money in the long run. You're sure to find just what you need in this collection of family recipes on a budget!

1. Classic Corned Beef Hash

Rise and shine in a big way when you put this beloved recipe on the menu! Hearty as can be, this recipe is a great way to start your morning. You can even make it the morning after your big St. Patrick's Day feast. It's a great way to use up leftover corned beef!

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Classic Corned Beef Hash

2. Pancake Tacos

Part sweet, part savory, and completely delicious, these Pancake Tacos will be a welcome change of pace to your morning routine! This recipe can be served as a quick breakfast on the weekdays or as part of a leisurely weekend brunch. Your family will enjoy this filling and cheap meal idea.

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Pancake Tacos

3. Dunkin Donuts Bavarian Cream Filled Donuts Copycat

When you're on a tight budget, stopping by your favorite doughnut shop just might be out of the question. However, this take on the classic Dunkin Donuts recipe just might be what you need! This recipe will take a little bit of time to prepare, but the results will be worth it.

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Dunkin Donuts Bavarian Cream Filled Donuts Copycat

4. Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

Everyone at work will be so jealous when they see this easy make-ahead salad! This recipe can be served for lunch or brought to a potluck. The vegetarian recipe is both budget-friendly and filling, and can be served as a main course or as a side dish. No matter how you serve this salad, it's sure to be a hit!

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Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

5. Everything Bagel Grilled Cheese

Step up your lunch game in a big way when you add this recipe to your repertoire. This budget meal won't take long to make and is a great way to recreate one of your favorite bagel seasonings right in the comfort of your own kitchen. 

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Everything Bagel Grilled Cheese

6. Copycat Chipotle Carnitas Recipe

Save a little bit of money by making one of your favorite restaurant dishes at home! This recipe uses just a few steps to make and won't take long to prepare. You can serve the carnitas with burritos or tacos.

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Copycat Chipotle Carnitas Recipe

7. Homemade Boston Market Mac and Cheese

You can't go wrong with the unbeatable classic of mac and cheese! In this recipe, you'll use just five ingredients to make a dish that is creamy, delicious, and perfect for lunch or dinner. You can serve this recipe as a main course or as a side dish. The choice is yours!

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Homemade Boston Market Mac and Cheese

8. One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

If you want to make your next pot of mac and cheese even heartier, then you'll want to see our Test Kitchen's recipe! Featuring ground beef, plenty of vegetables, and two types of beans, this filling recipe can be served for lunch or dinner. Don't let the list of ingredients deter you from giving this recipe a try, as it can be ready to serve in less than 30 minutes.

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One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

9. Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chop Recipe

You'll use just three ingredients to make this flavorful main dish. If you love the classic ranch dressing flavor, then this recipe needs to be on your radar! This dish can be served with an assortment of your favorite sides, including mac and cheese, salads, and potatoes. Don't expect leftovers when you serve this recipe!

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Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chop Recipe

10. Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

When it comes to quick dinner ideas, you can't go wrong with this recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper! The hearty recipe uses ground beef and an assortment of seasonings that you and your family are sure to love. It won't take you long to make this recipe, either.

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Homemade Hamburger Helper Recipe

11. Hobo Dinner Recipe

Are you looking for a cheap family meal that uses just a handful of ingredients? Then our Test Kitchen's take on the classic Hobo Dinner is one recipe you will need to see! This recipe can be cooked and served in just one container and will make cleanup a breeze. If you love the classic combination of meat and potatoes, then this recipe is for you.

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Hobo Dinner Recipe

12. Ground Beef Stroganoff Recipe

Got 20 minutes? That's about how long it will take you to whip up this delicious recipe for Ground Beef Stroganoff. This recipe is just like the one Grandma would make!

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Ground Beef Stroganoff Recipe

13. Easy Taco Pizza Recipe

Everyone loves tacos! Everyone loves pizza! When you combine them, you have a frugal meal that is perfect for your family! The crescent roll dough is a great way to upscale an inexpensive ingredient!

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Easy Taco Pizza Recipe

14. Slow Cooker Pizza Pull-Apart Bread Recipe

Use your slow cooker for a new low-stress recipe! This pizza pull-apart bread will satisfy kids of all ages!

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Slow Cooker Pizza Pull-Apart Bread Recipe

15. Layered Italian Crescent Roll Bake

Are you tired of the same meat and cheese sandwiches? Elevate your ingredients into a brilliant bake that takes the flavors of a deli meat sandwich and turns them into a gooey, cheesy dish!

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Layered Italian Crescent Roll Bake

16. White Bean Stew

A hearty stew is the easiest way to feed a hungry family on a tight budget! This white bean stew is no exception, and you won't have to sacrifice flavor when you cut the cost of your weeknight dinner!

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White Bean Stew

Quick Tips for Making any Recipe Budget-Friendly

Are you looking for ways to make your meals even more budget-friendly? We can help you out with our tips on how to make almost any recipe a bit easier on the budget. With a little bit of prep work, you can make some substitutions that will save you money at the grocery store without giving up flavor in the recipe.

  1. Canned beans: Use dried beans in place of canned beans to save some money. Simply use ¾ cup of dried beans for every one can of canned beans, as noted by the website PopSugar. Don’t forget to soak the beans overnight before using it in your recipe!
  2. Buttermilk: Does your recipe call for a cup of buttermilk? Whether you’re making pancakes, biscuits, or other recipes, you don’t need to make a special trip to the store for buttermilk. You can use an equivalent amount of plain yogurt, or use one cup of milk and one tablespoon of vinegar for every one cup of buttermilk in your recipe.
  3. Seasoning Mixes: Are you looking for a specific type of seasoning blend for a recipe? There is no need to purchase a packet of pre-mixed seasoning when you likely already have the ingredients on hand! Learning the basic ingredients of a seasoning mix can save you some money at the grocery store, too. An assortment of recipes for DIY seasoning mixes can be made in advance, then stored in a resealable container out of direct sunlight until you're ready to use them.
  4. Baking Mixes: Similar to seasoning mixes, you can quickly and easily prepare your own take on the classic pre-made baking mixes for use in cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, biscuits, waffles, and other recipes. The baking mix uses ingredients that can be found in your pantry and can be assembled in very little time. It can even be stored in advance for later use. If you're looking for an all-purpose baking mix, then take a look at this recipe by the website Lady Behind the Curtain. This recipe can be adapted for specific types of baked goods, too.
  5. Breading: There is no need to purchase a package of crumbs for breading when you likely have what you need at home! You can simply use bread crumbs, broken chips, and even crushed corn flakes in place of pre-made breading.

What is your favorite budget-friendly meal?
Tell us in the comments below!

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All of these look so good, I don't know who could resist them - even picky kids. Great list, thank you.

Whoa I've never heard of pancake tacos before! I think my favorite budget meal is probably good old pasta. You can't go wrong with it!


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