We’ve heard from our readers how much it helps to factor budgeting into meal planning, and I 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. (Just add a good salad for me!)
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 from Lindsey Eats LA are a favorite kid-friendly dinner on a budget because it’s basically just chicken, panko bread crumbs, and spices that are likely in your pantry already (Please tell us you have Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend on hand by now!?) You can use any of the spices you have on hand, or just use sea salt.
Budget Tips: Buy herbs and spices in bulk that you use frequently, like garlic powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning blend, or coarse sea salt. Big savings! Also, 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. Bell & Evans chicken is always a top-rated brand by food editors, and far more affordable than others.
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 of course super budget-friendly, especially in bulk; you can typically get dry pasta between $1-2. This sauce takes an hour of simmering to meld those flavors together, so plan ahead — or use your Instant Pot if you are pressed for time.
Budget Tips: You can also save a little more money by starting with an affordable, store-bought spaghetti sauce then doctor it yourself with these tips, using ingredients like butter, herbs and 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 tend to have most of the soup ingredients in my pantry — canned tomatoes, veggie broth (this one is $1 for 32 oz!) and some standard vegetables like onion and celery. It’s also a helpful recipe to get me rotating those pantry items!
Budget Tips: There are plenty of ways to make soup from scratch, but if you’d rather skip it, grab that affordable broth and add noodles; or try your favorite canned soup and focus on Laura’s indulgent grilled cheese. She calls for 3 different types of cheese, but if you choose just one that fits in your budget 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 an overnight French toast bake, like this recipe from Easy Budget Recipes, using 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, you can even throw it together in the morning (especially if you’re already cooking breakfast) and put it in the fridge to rest all day before you bake. That night, all you need to worry about is slicing up some fresh fruit or maybe cooking up some bacon to go with it.
Budget Tip; You can also plan this meal when your giant Costco order of bread somehow lasted longer than expected and there are a few pieces in there that are getting a little hard for sandwiches. Croutons aren’t the only game in town for bread that’s not at the peak of freshness!
By the time Friday rolls around, we are all pretty beat around here and a MYO pizza night with fun toppings is a great way to gather around the table and decompress. Plus, it’s the ultimate kid-friendly dinner on a budget, especially when you’re using up leftovers for those toppings and skipping a delivery.
Just pick up a take-and-bake pizza from your favorite local purveyor, which are often under $15 for a basic cheese pizza; or get the fresh dough round from your local pizza parlor which costs even less. Add jarred sauce and whatever your kids like that’s in your fridge.
Budget Tips: We have 25 suggestions for creative pizza toppings, lots of which may already be leftovers hanging out in your fridge. You can also keep it simple — say, a blend of cheese left over from the grilled cheese earlier this week, slices of those leftover chicken tenders, or the bacon from your Breakfast for Dinner night. Fun!
Top Image: Markus Winkler on Unsplash