What do we want most when we’re trying to find home cooking recipes? Inexpensive, well-beloved by the whole family, can feed the whole crew, and maybe even freezes well, right? We love these recipes, which are useful for feeding a larger crowd. Most of these recipes focus on making a large batch that can serve a big crowd and be bulked out with the addition of rice or noodles, rather than recipes for individual servings that offer only a specific amount per person (such as a steak). Instead, these recipes are nutritious and delicious, but can also stretch with the addition of extra starches, which make them ideal for feeding a big family (or keeping flexible if we don’t know how many guests are going to come over that night). Many of them also work well for freezing, so it’s OK if way too much gets made — it can just go straight in the freezer.
When it comes to making meals on a budget, we totally hear that it’s not always the easiest thing to make happen — and sometimes requires some ingenuity! Take a look at these affordable dinner recipes the whole family will love, which offer a wide range of options that people can make happen on a budget. Then there’s meals that feed a family of four for under $15, which we love for keeping us to a particular budget without going over. And even more restrictive — but honestly, just as tasty — are these delicious dinners under $10 for four people. Of course, for a crowd, we can double and triple the numbers (although the budget will have to go up some, too — it may not always perfectly double it because buying in bulk is often cheaper). For cold days, we love these thrifty casseroles to keep dinner under budget. And for the morning, we love these easy make-ahead breakfasts, which keep families on track budgetwise starting the moment they wake up.
Lo Mein (Take-Out Copycat)
We love to make a good lo mein night happen at least once every couple of weeks because it’s delicious, inexpensive, and such a good excuse to clear the fridge out of leftover veggies that need to get cooked before they turn. This lo mein (take-out copycat) is really easy and a wonderful base, but throw in chicken thighs, leftover rotisserie chicken, and stir-fried veggies (literally anything in the fridge is fine — broccoli, carrots, scallions, mushrooms).
Chicken cacciatore is an effective way to use chicken thighs, which are less expensive and more flavorful than chicken breasts. It’s delicious served over inexpensive, filling foods such as pasta and rice, or cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles as a low-carb option.
Spanish Tortilla (Egg Omelette)
Spanish tortilla, popular as part of a dinner in Spain, isn’t anything like a tortilla the way we think of it — instead, it’s big, fluffy omelette made with potatoes and peas. Eggs are some of the best, cheapest protein sources available, and with the veggies and starch in here, this is a complete meal unto itself — although it pairs nicely with with a green salad.
Slow Cooker Sweet Chili Chicken Bowls
This recipe for slow cooker sweet chili chicken bowls comes together all on its own in the slow cooker, and it costs just $1.21 per serving. Cut that down even further by subbing out chicken thighs for the suggested chicken breasts — they’re more flavorful too!
Seafood Rice Skillet
When we hear the term "seafood dinner," we immediately think "way out of our budget." But this seafood rice skillet, inspired by a classic Spanish paella, is only $1.45 per serving! Buy frozen seafood mix (or substitute for frozen shrimp) from Costco or WalMart for extra savings.
Vegan Lentil Stew
This vegan lentil stew is healthy, hearty, and packed with tons of veggies. It’s a great way to serve a crowd on its own, but serve it over rice to let the dollars stretch even further. This is a very filling and nutritious meal for very little money.
Jambalaya with Italian Sausage and Shrimp
Jambalaya with Italian sausage and shrimp is a one-pot meal that lets us "feed the masses in style," as the recipe’s author puts it. It’s inexpensive, easy to put together, and incredibly flavorful. Let the budget stretch further by subbing out half the shrimp for a couple of inexpensive chicken thighs.
Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa Bake
Yes, it’s not terribly authentic, but this slow cooker enchilada quinoa bake is a good way to pack a ton of nutrients into a meal very cheaply. Quinoa, on its own, is a whole protein, and mixed with all of these beans and veggies, this is an incredibly nutritious meal.
Pork and Peanut Dragon Noodles
These pork and peanut dragon noodles cost just $1.25 per serving, but as inexpensive as it is to make, it’s huge on flavor. Salty, sweet, and crunchy, it’s also an opportunity to use up leftover veggies in the fridge — broccoli and carrots would be wonderful in this dish.
The Best Cheese Stuffed Shells Recipe
Not only is this recipe’s name accurate, but the best cheese stuffed shells recipe is also perfect for freezing — so make a double batch, one for the family for tonight and one for a month down the road when there’s a night that has zero time in it for a real homemade meal.
Asian Ground Turkey Stir Fry
A stir-fry is always an efficient way to make an inexpensive meal, and this Asian ground turkey stir fry is especially good because ground turkey is both cheaper and more healthful than ground beef. Make this recipe stretch further by using up leftover rice from the day before in the stir fry.
The Best Homemade Chili Recipe
This the best homemade chili recipe comes from the Money Crashers, so we know it’s frugal — and it’s really delicious. Although it’s not a traditional chili recipe, it only costs $15 and can stretch really far.
Vegan Pumpkin Risotto
This recipe for vegan pumpkin risotto costs very little to make and is filled with vitamins from the pumpkin. Add some extra protein by mixing in a vegetarian sausage (or nonvegetarian for those who eat meat). This is also a wonderful way to use up leftover wine in the fridge.
Crock-Pot Chicken and Salsa
This recipe for Crock-Pot chicken and salsa is ridiculously delicious and incredibly easy to put together. Sub out boneless chicken thighs for chicken breasts to use a cheaper cut of meat, and replace sour cream with a spoonful of Greek yogurt for added protein and less fat at the same cost.
Million Dollar Spaghetti Casserole
This recipe for million dollar spaghetti casserole may be called "million dollar," but as the recipe author puts it, this is "an easy hearty casserole that is both budget-friendly and easy to make." Sub out the jarred tomato sauce for a simple DIY version — just canned tomatoes, garlic, onion, and olive oil, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Much cheaper and super easy!
African Peanut Soup
This recipe for African peanut soup is vegan, flavorful, healthy, and packed with vitamin A, iron, and plenty of fiber. The gentle peanut flavor is something kids are super familiar with and love, even if they’ve never tried it in soup form before. The rice adds bulk and lets it stretch really far.
Crock-Pot Meatball Sub Casserole
Kids just love this recipe for Crock-Pot meatball sub casserole, which is basically a broken-down meatball sub that takes very little time to make and can feed a big crowd. Serve with a side salad or some oven-roasted cauliflower.
Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl
This sweet potato chickpea Buddha bowl is extremely healthy, vegan, and very cheap to make. Chickpeas are a good source of protein and fiber, and this is loaded with four kinds of veggies. We’re huge fans of the sauce, which doesn’t cost much and is absolutely delicious.
Rice Cooker Teriyaki Shrimp and Rice
This recipe for rice cooker Ttriyaki shrimp and rice isn’t just cheap and delicious, it’s also incredibly easy — it cooks together in the rice cooker! Plus, it’s only $1.57 per serving, and depending on the size of the rice cooker, it can feed plenty of people.
One-Pan Barbecue Chicken and Roasted Sweet Potatoes
This recipe for one-pan barbecue chicken and roasted sweet potatoes combines all of our favorite things: It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s a money-saver, and in the end, it’s pretty healthful. Serve it with some braised collard greens for added healthiness.