19 Budget Meals for Families

Affordable Recipes That Make the Most of Your Pantry

Serve tuna noodle casserole

​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

Cooking on a budget? You can still eat well with these recipes for affordable meals that will please the whole family. We've collected the best cheap dishes that use pantry staples to deliver filling meals with great flavor.

  • 01 of 19

    Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

    Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

    The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

    Wake up to a hearty and nutritious morning meal with this easy, cheesy crock pot breakfast casserole that cooks to perfection while you sleep and serves a family of six. Simply load up the appliance with packaged hash brown potatoes, eggs, and a few other simple ingredients and leave to cook overnight.

  • 02 of 19

    Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole With Cheddar Cheese

    Easy tuna noodle casserole recipe

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga 

    This budget-friendly family meal in one dish is always a family-favorite. The tuna noodle casserole has a great combination of flavors, including the creamy sauce made from condensed soup and cheddar cheese, all topped with a buttery, toasted breadcrumb crust.

  • 03 of 19

    Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup With Ham

    Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup With Ham

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Use your crockpot for a satisfying hearty bean soup that makes a comforting lunch or dinner with crusty bread or cornbread. It's inexpensive to prepare with dry legumes, a ham bone or ham hocks, and simple seasonings. It also freezes well for making ahead.

  • 04 of 19

    Vegan Cauliflower Tacos With Crispy Chickpeas

    cauliflower tacos served on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney 

    Make your next taco night a healthier affair with tasty cauliflower tacos with crispy chickpeas. Even carnivores will enjoy these vegetarian tacos with plenty of awesome flavor from classic Mexican seasonings. Serve topped with the simple lime crema and slaw for a filling family meal.

    Continue to 5 of 19 below.
  • 05 of 19

    Egg Roll in a Bowl

    Egg Roll in a Bowl

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    Delight your family with this fun lunch or dinner recipe that takes your favorite egg roll ingredients, including ground pork, cabbage, ginger, and garlic, and serves them up in a bowl instead of a fried wrapper. It's a healthy spin on a favorite Chinese takeout, including the super crave-able creamy and spicy dressing.

  • 06 of 19

    Garlic Roasted Chicken Leg Quarters

    Garlic Roasted Chicken Leg Quarters

    The Spruce

    Tender, juicy roasted chicken leg quarters are easy on the budget and a comforting main course for your Sunday dinner or a memorable family meal. All you need to dress them up for the oven is a little chicken broth and pantry spices.

  • 07 of 19

    Chicken, Cheese, and Penne Pasta Bake

    Chicken, Cheese, and Penne Pasta Bake

    The Spruce

    Easy, inexpensive chicken pasta bake is the ultimate one-dish meal. Chicken breasts are combined with mushrooms, artichokes, and pasta and coated in a creamy sauce before being topped with cheese and baked. You can also use leftover white or dark meat chicken for this recipe.

  • 08 of 19

    Easy Pizza Pockets

    Easy Pizza Pockets

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Watch kids' eyes light up when you serve these delicious pizza pockets for lunch or a hearty snack. They look and taste like the popular pizzeria treat and are a snap to make at home with a can of refrigerated biscuits, jarred or fresh tomato sauce, and your favorite pizza ingredients.

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  • 09 of 19

    Stuffed Peppers With Ground Beef and Rice

    Stuffed Peppers

    The Spruce

    Stuffed with a flavorful mixture of beef, rice, and pantry staples, these hearty stuffed peppers make a satisfying main dish. They look pretty on a plate, making a tasty lunch or dinner that won't stretch your budget and will please even picky eaters.

  • 10 of 19

    Chuck Steak Dinner Baked in Foil

    Chuck Steak Dinner Baked in Foil

    The Spruce

    Start with a single, thick, budget-friendly chuck steak to create a complete, delicious dinner that will satisfy a family of four. The beef bakes to perfection in a foil packet along with potatoes, carrots, celery, and dry onion soup seasoning for a flavorful, filling dish with little effort and minimal clean-up.

  • 11 of 19

    Basic French Toast

    Basic French Toast

    The Spruce

    French toast tastes like a special treat at breakfast or brunch, but is really a simple matter of frying bread slices that you have dunked in a mixture of eggs and milk. It's also a great way to use up excess food (stale bread) that might otherwise be thrown away.

  • 12 of 19

    Pork Fried Rice

    Pork Fried Rice

    The Spruce

    Use up leftover rice in the fridge with this easy, nutritious, takeout-style fried rice dish that your family will ask you to make again and again. It's a snap to assemble the ingredients, including diced, cooked ham or pork and any fresh (or thawed frozen) vegetables you have on hand.

    Continue to 13 of 19 below.
  • 13 of 19

    Vegan and Gluten-Free Lentil Loaf

    Vegan and Gluten-Free Lentil Loaf

    The Spruce

    The ultimate vegan lentil loaf is a tasty way to stretch your food dollar, use up leftover rice in the fridge, and feed your family the protein they need. Bake it as a for use in sandwiches with the suggested ketchup or barbecue sauce, or make it a meal at dinnertime by smothering slices in vegetarian gravy and serving atop fluffy mashed potatoes.

  • 14 of 19

    Baked Beans and Hot Dogs with Biscuit Topping

    Baked Beans and Hot Dogs with Biscuit Topping

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Buttery, flaky biscuits and a blanket of melted cheese dress up this hearty, budget-conscious casserole of baked beans and hot dogs baked together in a tangy homemade barbecue sauce. Get it on the table in about 30 minutes for a mouth-watering, one-dish family dinner.

  • 15 of 19

    Black Bean and Rice Salad

    Black Bean and Rice Salad

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Wake up your family's tastebuds with this bright-tasting rice salad. It includes plenty of healthy plant protein from canned black beans and great crunch from chopped bell peppers. The zingy lime juice dressing is enhanced with smoky cumin and mustard for fabulous flavor without extra calories.

  • 16 of 19

    One Pan Beef Stroganoff

    One Pan Beef Stroganoff

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Here's a great way to use budget-friendly ground beef to create an ultra-flavorful and filling family meal. You cook the meat and noodles in one pan along with a mouth-watering sauce made from mushrooms, sour cream, and a few other ingredients, for an easy beef stroganoff that leaves you with little mess to clean up.

    Continue to 17 of 19 below.
  • 17 of 19

    Freezer Breakfast Burritos

    Freezer Breakfast Burritos

    rojoimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

    All it takes to prepare two dozen delicious, make-ahead breakfast burritos to stash in your freezer is a dozen eggs, a few pork sausages, cheese, flour tortillas, and a scoop of salsa. They heat up easily in the microwave and make a great help yourself breakfast for kids or house guests.

  • 18 of 19

    Penne Pasta Bake With Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese

    Penne Pasta Bake With Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese

    The Spruce

    Baked penne pasta with garlic, tomatoes, and shredded mozzarella cheese is an easy, Italian-style dinner you can make for a vegetarian family or a meatless Monday entree. It includes inexpensive ingredients and freezes well for a make-ahead meal.

  • 19 of 19

    Broccoli Casserole With Stuffing Crumb Topping

    Broccoli Casserole With Stuffing Crumb Topping

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Buttery stuffing crumbs dress up this yummy broccoli and cheddar casserole, giving it an extra burst of flavor and crunch. It's so easy to assemble with a few inexpensive ingredients, including canned soup, cheese, and frozen, chopped broccoli florets.