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How to Create Cheap & Tasty Dinners When You’re Broke

Need to save money when it comes to cooking cheap dinners for your family? Have you ever felt like your grocery shopping has started to take over your budget?  Does it seem that no matter how hard you try, there’s not enough cash available at the end of the list?

Or maybe you’re catching all the listed items on sale using your coupons but still wondering if you can spend less?

I have good news for you.  The answer is Yes!

How? Create Simple Dinners.

Before I had kids I was making extravagant dinners for me and my husband.  I would go through my cookbooks and pick out all the new recipes because I didn’t want to make the same meal twice in one week. I laugh at that now.

Today, if I cook a whole chicken it’s guaranteed that we are going to be eating a lot of chicken dinners that week!

Oh, the ways of motherhood and frugalness – or maybe a combination of both!

Pin for Later: How to Shop From Your Pantry to Save Money

Pre-kids, I would head to the store and buy everything that I needed for each recipe.  If it called for asparagus, I would buy it no matter the season. I didn’t consider buying things in season when they were more likely to be on sale.  It is amazing to me that I was making 3 lbs of meat and two sides for only 2 people!

Then we started having kids and exhaustion met me face to face.  Gone were the days of multiple sides. Today, one side will do just fine.

Then I started realizing that I could make a full meal and not even need a side for every dinner.

For example: Have you tried steaming some fresh broccoli and adding salt and butter? Simply delicious and young kids love it!

Here are 5 tips I have discovered that help our family create more simple dinners:

1. Make a meal menu for the entire week:

I like to start on Sunday night. Alone. When I can go through my pantry, skim through my cookbooks, and make my meal plan based on available ingredients in my pantry. Then I evaluate what I need to get from the store. It’s amazing the money you can save when you check your pantry ahead of time and make a plan.

I made a month’s worth of meals when we did the $100 a month Spending Freeze. You can see it here.

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If you really hate meal planning and need some recipes based on ingredients you like try the Meal Planning app Real Plans here for $6 a month.

2. Make the main meal that includes all your veggies:

 For example, Tacos are pretty filling and offer a variety of protein and veggies. Or Eggplant Parmesan offers veggies, protein, and carbs. Why would you need a side with it? Plus, these easy meals are great when you are short on time.

3. Have all your meat thawed ahead of time: 

Be sure to pull your meat out of the freezer the night before. Even if you missed making your menu plan for the week, it’s easier to look up a recipe using whatever protein you have that is thawed and ready to go. ( Quick tip: Don’t thaw the meat in the microwave unless you want your family to refuse that dinner next time. 🙂 )

The Foodi Ninja or a pressure cooker eliminates the extra step of remembering to thaw meat. I’ve made frozen chicken, frozen venison steaks and frozen ground beef in the pressure cooker and it turned out delicious.

4. Have frozen veggies on hand:

Frozen veggies make a great side.  Either serve them “as is,” with a sprinkling of salt or added to a casserole. Keep an eye out when visiting your grocery store for frozen veggies on sale – in our area, they often go on sale for $1.00.  Add in a coupon, and you can get them even cheaper.

5. Use items in your pantry first:

 If you only have ground beef in your freezer and are wanting pork instead, wait for the week that pork goes on sale.

READ OR PIN: How to Eat Only What’s in Your Pantry

Then buy extra as your budget allows. In the meantime, use the ground beef this week, paired with other complementary items from your pantry. By utilizing what you already have, you can avoid over-buying at the store.

What suggestions do you have for creating simple dinners?  Jump into the conversation and share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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