Dinnertime can either be a time of inspiration or a time of panic. From deciding what to serve your family to the length of time it takes to whip it up, making a supper that will please both adults and kid can be frustrating. And keeping the cost of a home-cooked meal within a budget can be even harder.
I’m here to tell you that making dinner for a family of four can be not only delicious and cheap, but also a great way to eat healthy on a budget. There are a number of recipes out there for dinners that don’t require a major cash outlay at the grocery store and use standard pantry staples and seasonings. While you won’t be serving filet mignon or lobster tail every night, these meals can be both nutritious and filling, and won’t burn a hole into your wallet.
Here are three of my go-to favorites which all cost less than $10 to prepare:
1. Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Veggies, Total Cost: $9
You can buy a 5-pound chicken for $5, a 5-pound bag of baking potatoes for $2 and a 16-ounce bag of baby carrots for another $2. The best part of this meal? You can cook everything in the same pan in the oven! For a healthier meal, try to dump the fatty juices after the chicken finishes roasting and avoid eating the fatty parts of the skin.
5 lb. fryer chicken
1/4 cup paprika
2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
5 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. salt
2 ½ Tbsp. dried oregano
2 ½ Tbsp. dried thyme
4-5 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
8 oz. baby carrots
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Make sure to remove any gizzards. Combine paprika, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, oregano, and thyme in a medium bowl and mix well. Rub the spice mixture all over the skin of the chicken. Place chicken in a deep oven-safe pan or roasting pan.
Add quartered potatoes and baby carrots; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Roast for about 20 minutes per pound; chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer registers 165°F.
2. Chili Con Carne, Total Cost: $9
Enjoy this a hearty meal on a football Sunday or any other day in the fall or winter (of course, you’re free to make it any time you want it)! This recipe is super-simple and straightforward. My local grocery store has 80% lean ground beef regularly for $1.99/pound, with it as low as $.99/pound during a sale. A can of crushed tomatoes runs about $1; a pint of sour cream goes for $1; shredded cheddar cheese is $2; a small can of 99% fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth is $.99. Ground turkey, which is much leaner than most ground beef, can also be had for about $1.99/pound.
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 ½ Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
Sour cream & shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
Brown the ground beef or turkey in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once fully cooked, add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and let simmer on low heat for an hour or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Serve in a bowl and top with sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.
3. Tortellini Soup, Total Cost: $7 ($9 with Sausage)
Pasta is an ingredient that can act as a relatively cheap dinner staple. Add tortellini – cheese-filled pasta – to broth, and you have a delicious and filling meal. Substitute small pasta shapes for an even-cheaper option. A bag of tortellini will run you about $3 (or grab a 12-ounce box of small pasta like ditalini for $1!), a large can of reduced-sodium, 99% fat-free beef broth is $3 or less, and a can of diced tomatoes costs under $1. To make it even more filling, purchase a small package of sweet Italian sausage links for $1.99/lb.
48 oz. can of reduced-sodium beef broth
12 oz. bag of tortellini (frozen or dried)
12 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 links sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings & cooked
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. black pepper
Add beef broth to a large stockpot; bring to a boil. Add the tortellini, diced tomatoes, cooked Italian sausage crumbles, oregano, parsley, and black pepper. Cover pot with lid, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 25 minutes to allow pasta to cook through and flavors to mingle.
Do you have any of your own family dinner recipes for under $10 that can beat any of these? Let’s hear them!