We’ve heard from our readers how much everyone’s grocery budgets are ballooning right now, and we get it. What’s my monthly line-item for chips? is actually something I have asked myself, with four kids at home who all like to eat. A lot.
So for this week’s meal plan ideas, we’re incorporating some kid-friendly meals that won’t break the bank. And, we grownups happen to like them too. I mean, who doesn’t love a good chicken tender recipe every once in a while…even if I eat mine over salad instead of with fries on the side.
So get your pen and paper ready for a quick grocery trip to cover this week’s dinners, and consider incorporating some of these into your dinner plan this week. You might even find some new favorites!
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Chicken tenders…with a twist
These Chicken Schnitzel tenders at Lindsey Eats LA are a great kid-friendly dinner on a budget because it’s basically just chicken, panko bread crumbs, and spices that are likely in your pantry already (Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend anyone?). You can use any of the spices you have on hand, or just skip the spice all together and use some sea salt.
My tip: Purchase the whole chicken chicken breast rather than the pre-cut “tenders” — the price per pound is much lower and you can cut them in to the smaller sizes your kids will actually eat.
Spaghetti…with homemade sauce
Spaghetti with homemade sauce is a favorite comfort food of mine, and this recipe for easy homemade spaghetti sauce at Simply Stacie is delicious. Spaghetti is super budget friendly as you can typically get dry pasta for under a dollar
This sauce takes an hour to simmer and meld those flavors together, so plan ahead — or use your Instant Pot if you are pressed for time.
You can also save a little more money by starting with an affordable, store-bought spaghetti sauce then doctor it — we have tips for doing just that here, like adding butter, herbs or fresh veggies.
Cozy grilled cheese and tomato soup
My family loves grilled cheese and tomato soup night, and Laura’s recipe at Phenomenal Phoods is incredible. This is a perfect kid-friendly dinner on a budget for me, because I usually already have most of the soup ingredients in my pantry — we’re talking canned tomatoes, veggie broth, and some standard vegetables like onion and celery. It’s also a helpful recipe to get me rotating those pantry items!
If you don’t want to make soup from scratch, grab canned soup and focus on Laura’s indulgent grilled cheese. She calls for 3 different types of cheese, but you could choose just one that fits in your budget and it will still taste amazing.
Breakfast for Dinner (Squeal!!!!!)
Every time I make breakfast for dinner, I am shocked at how excited everyone gets… and I kick myself for not doing this more often. A great budget hack on this breakfast-for-dinner win is that an overnight French toast bake, like this recipe from Easy Budget Recipes, which uses day-old bread. Check the “day old” section in your bakery aisle for great savings, and you won’t compromise on quality in your meal, promise.
To save time during the hectic dinner hour, throw it together in the morning while the kids are on Zoom school and put it in the fridge to rest all day before you bake. Later, all you need to worry about is slicing up some fresh fruit or maybe frying up some bacon and eggs to go with it.
By the time Friday rolls around, we are all pretty beat around here and a MYO pizza night is a great way to gather around the table and decompress. Plus, it’s the ultimate kid-friendly dinner on a budget, especially on Fridays.
Rather than ordering for delivery, pick up a Take and Bake pizza from your favorite local purveyor, which are often under $15 for a basic cheese pizza. Then, top with whatever your kids like that’s in your fridge. Or, support your local pizza parlor by grabbing a fresh round of dough from them, add some jarred sauce, then top.
We have 25 suggestions for creative pizza toppings, but you can keep it simple — say, a a blend of cheese left over from the grilled cheese earlier this week? Chop up leftover chicken tenders, use up the bacon from the Breakfast for Dinner night, whatever works for you.