All it takes is a big, unexpected bill or several unplanned, unpaid sick days for your bank account to look a bit emaciated. It is times like these when you find ways to cut down on variable monthly expenses to give you a little wiggle room. Often the first budget to be cut is the grocery plan, but you still don’t have a ton of time to prepare less expensive yet labor intensive meals. That is why it is helpful to have a source of cheap, quick, easy dinner recipes to which you can refer.
Pasta is very kid-friendly, and affordable to boot. Here are a couple of cheap, quick, easy dinner recipes using pasta.
Baked Pasta Casserole
Spaghetti is a cheap, quick, easy dinner recipe, but it can get tired if you have it too frequently. This casserole is a nice variation.
1 box or bag pasta shapes
1 can spaghetti sauce
1/3 lb. ground beef, turkey or chicken
1 cup grated mozzarella
¼ cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Prepare pasta as directed, leaving it slightly undercooked. Simmer onion and garlic with a bit of oil in a large skillet until translucent. Remove the onion and garlic and brown the meat in the pan. Drain and stir in the onion and garlic. Stir in pasta sauce and heat on low for about 10 minutes.
Drain pasta and return to its pan. Add the sauce to the pasta and stir well. Pour the pasta into a greased baking dish. Top with cheese, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and return to oven for 10 more minutes.
Macaroni and Cheese
Old fashioned, homemade mac and cheese is a favorite cheap, quick, easy dinner recipe. Kids love it, it’s comforting and it is very filling. This recipe makes use of your crockpot so you can have dinner waiting when you walk through the door, and leftovers are delicious. Save money by buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself, or use any combination of cheese you have on hand. A combination of cheddar or Monterey jack and block processed cheese-the store brand is fine-is delicious.
1 package elbow macaroni
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups cheese – divided
Prepare pasta as directed, leaving it slightly undercooked. Drain the noodles and coat the crock with vegetable spray. Stir in all of the ingredients but for one cup of cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese onto the noodles. Cover and cook on low for five or six hours.
There are many cheap, quick, easy dinner recipes for Mexican food, as well. Beans and rice are always inexpensive and make welcome sides for either of these recipes.
These are the most basic of enchiladas, but are tasty and especially affordable. You can dress them up by adding leftover beef or chicken as well as any vegetables you choose. Chopped black olives, onions and sour cream are a favorite in my home.
12 large flour tortillas
1 can red enchilada sauce
4 cups shredded cheese
Coat a baking pan with vegetable spray. Pour a handful of cheese in a straight line near one side of the tortilla. Top with any other desired ingredients. Roll up and place into the baking pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, cheese and other ingredients, lining the rolled tortillas up side-by-side in the pan. Pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas to cover the tortillas. Top with remaining cheese. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and return to oven until cheese is melted.
Your crockpot should be your ally when it comes to making cheap, quick, easy dinner recipes. It can make tough meat tender and save you a ton of time. For these tacos, you can use just about any meat you have on hand or can purchase inexpensively.
1 to 2 pounds of roast, boneless chicken or stewing meat
1 package taco seasoning
½ cup liquid, such as chicken broth or water
Coat the crock with vegetable spray. Place the uncooked meat in the crock. Sprinkle taco seasoning over the meat. Pour the liquid onto the meat. Cook on low for six to eight hours. Shred the meat by pulling two forks through it simultaneously. Serve on warmed tortillas with your favorite toppings.
One key to finding cheap, quick, easy dinner recipes is that they have to be something even your fussiest eater will eat. Think about some of your brood’s favorite meals and then consider ways that you can make them less expensively. Drawing on your creativity can lead to some affordable meals that your family will ask for again and again.