If you're a busy parent with a family to feed, you've come to the right place. These quick and easy budget meals are simple to make with just a few basic ingredients.
Budget meals for your picky family!
I’m always looking for quick and easy dinner ideas for my hungry kids. It’s not easy finding recipes everyone can agree on, especially when I’m tired and want simple meals that don’t cost a lot of money. I also prefer recipes that makes large portions that can be reheated for dinner or lunch the next day.
If you’re a busy mom or dad on a budget with picky eaters to feed, you’ve got to check out this list of cheap and easy family dinners! They are all made with just a handful of ingredients and most of them are really fast to make for last minute school night meals. Here you will find everything from simple ground beef casseroles to slow cooker chicken recipes. You’re sure to find a few recipes to add to your weekly meal plan!
1. Chicken Parmesan & Pasta Casserole
If you’ve got a house full of picky eaters, this chicken casserole is always a hit! You can use any chicken you’d like including rotisserie, canned, leftover, baked, etc. The crispy garlic crumb topping adds the perfect crunch to the creamy and delicious pasta. Serve with a caesar salad for the ultimate meal!
Chicken Parmesan Pasta Casserole
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a medium size baking dish.
- In a large pan or pot, cook and drain the pasta according the package directions.
- Place the drained pasta back into the pot and mix with the pasta sauce, pulled chicken, HALF of the shredded mozzarella, HALF of the grated parmesan, and 1-2 tsp of Italian seasoning.
- Allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes over medium-low heat and then spread it evenly onto the bottom of your baking dish; sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over top.
- In a small bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs, melted butter and garlic powder; sprinkle it evenly over the top of the casserole.
- Bake uncovered on the center rack for about 15 minutes or until the panko crust turns golden brown.
2. Slow Cooker Chicken & Gravy
My crockpot is my favorite kitchen appliance because it makes dinner time a breeze! Simply dump a few chicken breasts, a can of soup, a little sour cream, and a few packets of chicken gravy mix into your slow cooking magic machine, and you’ve got a simple dinner your family will love! Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.
Slow Cooker Chicken & Gravy
- Generously season your chicken breasts with black pepper and garlic powder.
- In your crockpot, whisk together the water, cream of chicken soup, and both packets of chicken gravy mix.
- Add the seasoned chicken breasts and use a spoon to cover them well with the gravy mixture.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or until the chicken shreds easily.
- Once cooked, use a couple of forks to shred the chicken into small pieces.
- Stir in the sour cream and allow it to warm for an additional 15 minutes.
- Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.
3. Lazy Lasagna
This is seriously the laziest meal you will ever make. Simply layer frozen ravioli in a baking dish with pasta sauce and lots of cheese, bake, and voila! You can also add ground beef or sausage to the layers, as well as a few veggies like spinach, zucchini, or onion.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- Spread a thin layer of your pasta sauce onto the bottom of the pan (about 3/4 cup).
- Arrange half of the frozen ravioli in a single layer over the sauce.
- Top with half of the remaining sauce and half of the mozzarella.
- Repeat the layers starting with what’s left of the ravioli. Finish by topping with the remaining sauce and mozzarella. Sprinkle the top with parmesan.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.
4. Loaded Chicken Baked Potatoes
Potatoes are really cheap and very filling, making them one of the best budget meals. Simply bake them (or even microwave them), and then top with butter, seasoning, chicken, sour cream, bacon bits, onion, or anything else you have on hand. Kids love them, and each one can be customized to their liking.
Cheesy Chicken Loaded Potatoes
- Wash and poke the potatoes with a fork. Microwave for about 5 minutes on a paper towel or bake in a 450 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until soft.
- Smash the insides with a fork and mix in a few tablespoons of butter, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper to taste.
- Top with pulled or shredded chicken, shredded cheese, bacon bits, green onion, sour cream, and anything else you’d like!
5. Crockpot Creamy Chicken Tacos
How can you go wrong with cheesy shredded chicken? This easy slow cooker meal is perfect for serving in warm flour tortillas or even over a bed of cauliflower rice or salad if you’re watching your carbs.
Creamy Chicken Tacos
- Spray your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place the chicken, salsa, cubed cream cheese, and 1-2 tbsp of taco seasoning in and cook on HIGH for 3 hours (or LOW for 4-5 hours).
- Shred with a fork and let the chicken absorb the salsa mixture for at least 15 more minutes.
- Serve in soft tortillas, taco shells, or over a bed of lettuce. Top with shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado or anything else you’d like!
6. The Best Meatloaf You’ll Ever Make
Even if you’re not a meatloaf fan, you’re going to love this flavorful ground beef mixed with boxed stuffing! You can take it up a notch by adding diced onions, chopped garlic, herbs, cheese, etc. Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and veggies for the ultimate comfort food.
Grandma’s Amazing Meatloaf
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry stuffing mix, ground beef, eggs, water and HALF of the ketchup.
- Fill the prepared pan with your mixture and use your hands to evenly squish it down into the pan.
- Top it with the remaining ketchup and spread it evenly over the top. You can also use BBQ sauce, chili sauce, or a combination of sauces.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes (it takes about 50 minutes in my oven).
7. Cheeseburger Pasta Casserole
All the flavors of a cheeseburger but in the form of a pasta casserole! You can’t possibly mess this up, and your kids will go crazy for it.
Cheesburger Pasta Casserole
- Cook and drain the pasta according to the package directions.
- Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease and 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large skillet, brown and chop the ground beef with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta, tomato soup, a half cup of water and HALF of the cheese to your skillet with the browned beef; stir and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
- Pour the mixture into your greased dish and top with the remaining cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for an additional 10 minutes.
8. Chicken Parmesan Baked Sliders
The best little sandwiches you’ll ever make! This quick and easy meal is great for when your kids have friends over or anytime you’re serving a crowd. I recommend using your favorite frozen chicken nugget brand. Chicken tenders or strips work great, too.
Chicken Parmesan Sliders
- Cook the chicken according to the package directions; set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
- Cut the Hawaiian rolls horizontally in half without separating the rolls; place the bottoms into your prepared dish and bake for about 3 minutes.
- Place a chicken nugget onto each one of the bottom pieces and then top with the marinara followed by the mozzarella cheese and the top halves of the rolls.
- Melt the butter in the microwave and mix with 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning; brush the mixture evenly over the top of the rolls. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over top.
- Cover your dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover, and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the buns turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the counter for about 5 minutes.
9. Chicken & Zucchini Casserole
The first time I made this dish, I was completely shocked at how flavorful and delicious it was. The ingredients sound simple, but the combination is heavenly. I definitely recommend the Stove Top stuffing brand, but you can choose any flavor you’d like including chicken, turkey, or savory herb.
Chicken & Zucchini Casserole
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large bowl, melt the butter and then mix with the box of dry stuffing mix; set aside HALF of the mixture for topping the casserole later.
- Add the pulled chicken, diced zucchini, cream of chicken soup and sour cream to the stuffing and mix well.
- Spread the mixture into your baking dish and then evenly sprinkle the top with your reserved stuffing mixture.
- Bake, uncovered, in the middle rack for 35-45 minutes or until it’s warmed through and the top is golden brown.
10. Garlic Toast Mini Pizzas
Are you looking for last minute dinner ideas? These mini pizzas are super fun and easy to make with just 3 ingredients plus the toppings of your choice. How can you go wrong with a crispy garlic toast crust topped with sauce and melted cheese? Yum!
Garlic Toast Pizzas
- Bake the garlic toast according to the package directions, but pull it out of the oven about 2 minutes before it’s finished.
- Top the almost-done garlic toast with pizza sauce, cheese and the toppings of your choice (use the sauce very sparingly, otherwise the middle can get soggy).
- Place back in the oven on the broil setting for 2-4 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.
11. Crispy Chicken Ranch Wraps
Frozen chicken comes to the rescue again! I love the idea of using crunchy chicken strips to make tortilla wraps. You can stuff them with anything you’d like including lettuce, shredded cheese, dressing, tomatoes, avocado, black beans, jalapeños, etc. Whatever you have on hand!
Crispy Chicken Ranch Wraps
- Cook the frozen chicken strips or tenders according to the package instructions.
- Allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes and then stuff the chicken into large flour tortillas with ranch dressing, lettuce, shredded cheese, and anything else you’d like.
- A few great additions would be black beans, diced tomato, avocado, jalapeños, etc.
12. Cheesy Tortellini Casserole With Meat Sauce
For some reason, baking pasta is a total game changer. The cheese gets that irresistible toasty flavor, and the pasta seems to absorb all of the amazing sauce. This meat sauce casserole includes cream cheese, making it extra rich and scrumptious.
Cheesy Baked Tortellini (With Meat Sauce)
- Cook the pasta a la dente according to the package directions; drain and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
- In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the seasoning of your choice (I use salt, garlic powder, pepper & Italian seasoning).
- Remove the excess grease from the browned beef and then stir in your tomato sauce and cream cheese. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce is well incorporated.
- Gently toss your cooked tortellini in with the sauce mixture and then pour it into your casserole dish; Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and parmesan.
- Bake uncovered in the center rack of your oven for about 20 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and continue baking for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.
13. The Best Easy Pot Roast
There’s nothing better than a tender and juicy pot roast, especially after a long day of work! Simply place your roast in your slow cooker with a few seasoning packets before you head out the door, and your house will smell like heaven when you get back. Add any veggies you’d like including potatoes, carrots, or celery.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- Place your beef roast into your slow cooker with 1.5 cups of water.
- In a small bowl, mix all of the seasoning packets together, and then sprinkle it over your roast.
- Cook on low for about 5 hours, and then add your veggies.
- Cook for an additional 2-3 hours or until the beef easily pulls apart.
14. Cheesy Meatball Sandwiches
Such a cheap and easy dinner idea that takes very little effort. Bake the meatballs according to the package instructions, toss with sauce, and then load them up onto hoagie rolls with shredded cheese. My mouth is watering just talking about it!
Cheesy Meatball Subs
- Cook the meatballs according to the package instructions.
- Meanwhile, heat the pasta sauce in a large pan and then toss with the cooked meatballs.
- Top your sandwich bread or hoagie rolls with your meatball mixture, top with cheese, and then bake on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty.
15. Slow Cooker Sausage & Tortellini Soup
This crockpot soup has amazing reviews! You’ve got to try it with crispy garlic bread on a night when you’re craving something warm and comforting.
Creamy Sausage & Tortellini Soup
- Add the browned, chopped and drained sausage, chicken broth, both cans of diced tomatoes, and cubed cream cheese to your slow cooker. Give it a good stir and cook on LOW for about 4 hours or until the cream cheese has completely dissolved.
- Stir in the spinach and fresh or frozen tortellini. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the pasta is done to your liking.
16. Cheesy Salsa Baked Chicken Tacos
The great thing about these tacos is that you can use any shredded chicken including rotisserie, canned, leftovers, etc. My family likes to serve them with guacamole for dipping! You can also try these with taco seasoned ground beef.
Cheesy Salsa Chicken Tacos
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.
- Mix the pulled chicken with the sour cream and salsa. You may need to use a little more or less than stated depending on the amount of chicken you end up with.
- Place the mixture onto small flour tortillas along with a little shredded cheddar. Fold them in half and bake for 5-8 minutes or until the tortillas turn golden brown.
17. Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole
The crunchy tater tots on top of this cheesy ground beef casserole makes for one of the best dinners you’ll ever eat! Plus, it’s really cheap to make with ground beef, canned veggies (or any veggies you’d like), canned soup, and cheese.
Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a medium size skillet, cook and brown the ground beef with the diced onion. Remove any excess grease and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
- Place the ground beef mixture onto the bottom of your prepared dish.
- Spread the cream of mushroom soup over the top of the beef and then top with the drained green beans.
- Evenly sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over top.
- Top with as many frozen tater as you can fit in the dish.
- Bake uncovered in the center rack for 35-40 minutes or until the tater tots are crispy and golden brown.
18. Lazy Shepherd’s Pie
I had an urge to make Shepherd’s pie one day, but got discouraged when every recipe I found required 15+ ingredients and way too much of my time. I did some experimenting with fewer and cheaper ingredients, and it actually turned out better with less hassle! You can even buy prepared mashed potatoes at most grocery stores, making it extra lazy.
Lazy Shepherd’s Pie
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare your mashed potatoes (boxed, store-bought, leftover, or homemade). You will need about 4 cups or 4 large potatoes.
- Meanwhile, brown the ground beef on medium heat in a large skillet; drain any excess grease.
- Add the can of tomato soup, frozen mixed veggies, beef stew seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup of water to the browned beef; stir and simmer for 5-10 minutes on low heat.
- Spread the ground beef mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking dish, evenly spread the prepared mashed potatoes over top, and then sprinkle with shredded cheddar.
- Bake uncovered in the center rack for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown.
19. Pizza Quesadillas
Classic quesadillas with a fun twist! Load them up with pizza toppings like pepperoni, olives, and jalapeños, and then dip them in pizza sauce. Fun, easy, and delicious!
- Heat a large skillet to medium heat and fry the pepperoni until crisp. Remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel to soak up the extra grease.
- Use a paper towel to remove any remaining pepperoni grease from the pan and then add about 1/2 tbsp of butter and spread it around with a spatula as it melts.
- Drop your tortilla into the pan, flipping it a few times so that both sides are evenly covered in butter. Crisp ONE SIDE of the tortilla for a minute and then flip and top the CRISPY SIDE with shredded cheese, pepperoni, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.
- Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the under side is golden brown and your cheese is melted.
- Fold one side of the tortilla over and remove from the pan. Allow it to rest for a few minutes before slicing with a pizza cutter.
- Serve with warm pizza sauce or marinara.
20. Chili Cheese Loaded Hot Dogs
For some reason I only think of hot dogs for backyard BBQs, but boy do kids love eating them as a special treat on a regular day inside! Make them into a complete meal with hot chili, shredded cheese, diced onions, and anything else you’d like to throw on there.
Loaded Chili Cheese Hot Dogs
- Grill or cook the hot dogs in a skillet until heated through.
- Place them on your hot dog buns and top with hot chili, shredded cheese, and diced onion.
21. Corn Dog Muffins
With only 5 ingredients you can make this fun and easy weeknight meal that your kids will absolutely love! Pair this recipe with their favorite veggie and you’re sure to have a hit dinner on your hands.