Budget-Friendly Meals that Kids Like (Eat Well, Spend Less)

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Seven moms chime in about the budget-friendly meals their kids like. Take note to avoid your next dinnertime bruhaha.

budget friendly meals kids likes

As a mom, I love to cook my family meals that they enjoy. One, it blesses them. Two, there are fewer battles if I’ve prepared something my family likes.

I’m thankful that as I work to clean up some of our poor eating habits, introduce more fruits and vegetables, and otherwise not be afraid of feeding my children what’s good them, I also stumble across foods that they absolutely love.

Case in point: this past weekend I made Simple Bean Tostadas, a dish that 7 out of 8 FishFolk love. The lonely one? Well, he remembers it from our debt-fighting days and how I leaned on this meal up to three times a week. He wants meat on it if he’s going to have it. Sigh. You can’t please everyone, can you?

But, even Tostada Hater had to confess that I rocked the tortilla frying this time. Often the fried corn tortillas that we use as a base are a little rubbery, making it hard to eat. Tostadas should shatter, not tear. To combat this, I’ve often resorted to store-bought tostada shells. But, I cringe when I read the ingredients list. No more!

With an inch of oil in the pan, I fried several dozen tortillas until they were stiff. Then I baked them in the oven at 425 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes. They turned golden brown and they contributed the perfect “shatter” when bit into.

Bean Tostadas

Unfortunately, my current diet prevents me from having indulged, but I felt the thrill of victory nonetheless. They were perfect tostadas — everyone said so. One child went so far as to say they were the best he’d ever eaten. Amen and amen.

It was also a super cheap eat, too. According to my calculations, this is how our meal broke down:

  • 30 corn tortillas – $1.50
  • Homecooked Pinto Beans – $0.66
  • shredded hormone-free cheese – $2.00
  • lettuce – $0.50
  • sour cream – $0.25
  • Homemade Salsa – $0.25
  • light olive oil for frying – $1.00

Total to feed 7 people – $6.10

Total win! For my part, I ate leftovers, so our meal was easily under the $10 mark for a family of 8. A run to the border costs more than twice that for our family.

Make a list of budget-friendly meals that kids like.

Having a repertoire of good cheap eats is essential to our budget’s survival. Last fall I made a list of 12 things I could make on the fly, meals to prepare when there’s “nothing to eat”. Life saver, I tell ya.

Here’s a short list of other foods my kids will scarf down with little prompting:

What budget meal is a sure fire hit with everyone in your family?

I asked the Eat Well Spend Less crowd what their go-to budget meals were. What a fun assortment of choices and glimpses into someone else’s kitchen!

Here’s what they said:

mandiMandi from Life Your Way:

Breakfast for dinner is always a hit here, and things like Dutch Puff, pancakes and waffles (with fried apples or fruit and yogurt), and eggs in a nest are easy to prepare, inexpensive and tasty to boot!

Amy from Keeping the Kingdom First:

Homemade pancakes are a win for sure and spaghetti with homemade sauce is always a hit!

aimeeAimee from Simple Bites:

A simple French Lentil Soup is happily scooped up from the youngest to the oldest, including Baby Clara. I don’t always prepare it with bacon, making it even more frugal, but homemade stock is a must. It’s also a nourishing meal to throw together when there’s seemingly ‘nothing’ to eat around the house.

carrie-isaacCarrie from Denver Bargains:

Cottage Cheese Patties! It’s a recipe from my husband’s family, and may sound odd, but is really quite delicious and a family-pleaser. It’s one of the very, very few non-meat meals that we enjoy.

shainaShaina from Food for My Family:

Fried rice is always a family favorite. We use leftover meat scraps for the protein, which works great as you can add chunks of beef , chicken, pork, or even a few shrimp if they’re lying around uneaten, and we tend to scavenge through the refrigerator to use up all the leftover fresh vegetables. It works as a catchall for all the odds and ends before we head out to restock, and I can make it a quick and easy meal by planning ahead during a different meal and having my rice cooked and ready to go in the refrigerator (cold rice works best for stir frying).

Katie-Kimball-square-headshotKatie from Kitchen Stewardship:

Cream of potato/vegetable soup is a favorite all around, and it’s a great way to use up little bits and ends of cooked veggies, plus it’s meatless so quite frugal.

Also anything that has the words “pizza” or “chips” in it gets my kids going: “We’re having Mexican pizzas tonight.” Yayyyyyy! (thinking: open-faced quesadillas because we have a bit of leftover refried beans and not enough tortillas for tacos…)


Want to know more kitchen tips and frugal ideas?

We’re taking this Q&A around the blogosphere this week. Each of the Eat Well, Spend Less bloggers posed a different question about how we feed our families and stay under budget. The answers are fascinating! Hop around and see what deep, dark secrets we’re revealing.

 What’s a budget-friendly meal that YOUR kids like?


About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. These look great! (And I love that you used the word “bruhaha”). I would love to try them, but like you, we’re about to go grain-free, so we’ll be on a tortilla hiatus for a bit. Will keep them and the other recs in mind, though!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I’m currently grain free, but can’t imagine transitioning my kids that way. Good luck with that!

  2. Pasta is probably our go-to kid-friendly dinner on the cheap. Unfortunately, many of the low-cost things I see on many sites are Mexican in base: tacos, enchiladas, etc. My kids are fine with that…it’s my husband who’s the problem. He doesn’t like any of that genre of food and generally rejects anything with beans in it so it gets tricky!

    • sona says

      Ditto here, Mexican not a favorite here, as hubbys stomach rebels! Always looking for quick, easy non Mexican meals. Like quinoa based for one

    • Jessica Fisher says

      I think if you investigate any “ethnic cuisine”, you’ll find that there are lots of budget-friendly choices. Do you guys like Asian foods? Stir fries and fried rice can be pretty economical.

  3. Christina K. says

    The one meal that my kids love and is budget friendly is breakfast. They love pancakes and eggs!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Yep, that’s a winner here, too.

  4. Kelly says

    We are chicken noodle soup fans here. I use leftover roasted chicken, homemade stock (made from the roasted chicken carcass), and homemade noodles (flour and eggs) along with carrots, celery, and onions – which are cheap and hearty veggies. The whole family (save one) gobbles it up – there’s always one, it seems. My kids like the other things mentioned in your post, too: pizza, pasta, tacos, beans and rice, etc.

    • Jessica Fisher says

      Wow. Homemade noodles? That’s amazing.

      • Kelly says

        Before homemade noodles, my husband hated soup. I could only make chicken and dumplings, and I had to convince him of that. Once I learned how to make the noodles, I suddenly had a new favorite recipe for my hubby! And it’s cheap. Win-Win! Now, if I could convince him that beans are not, in fact, “little packages of dirt” as he calls them.

  5. CG says

    Beans ‘n toast is the most frugal meal I can cook up around here. It’s just some white beans, two cans of diced tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and a bit of sage. Served with toasted country or ciabatta bread, it’s won over even the picky one.

  6. kate says

    I really like making spinach frittata using fresh or frozen spinach. We use Kale too when I can get it. Kale is really hardy and grows really easy, its a cool super food to grow at home!. I like to use lots of cheese but recently I have been cutting that back. You can use left over rice and left over pasta in a frittata too…

  7. Margaret says

    I love the new Eat Well Spend Less Format. It has taken me a couple of days to read everyone’s posts, and that has been awesome! Tons of great ideas in here.

  8. Abby says

    Our favorite meal is a twist on the taco or tostada depending how you view it. The base is a waffle but you make it with cornbread and add frozen corn. Prepare the cornbread mix how you normally would normally and 1 Cup of frozen corn then thin the cornbread mix out to make it like waffle batter by adding more milk. then pour it into your waffle maker. It makes a sweet yummy base. I top mind with pinto beans salsa cabbages cilantro and avocado or whatever you like on top of your taco normally. You could use meat but I really don’t find it necessary in this recipe. I found this online I don’t remember where but it’s become a great backup meal.

  9. jo says

    have you ever tried shakshuka? smitten kitchen has a recipe I use. simply divine!

    • Jessica Fisher says

      That looks yummy!

  10. Kelly Pietrangeli says

    Love so many of these suggestions!! My backup/standby meal is tuna melts. Open faced, tin of tuna piled on top with grated cheese – melted under a hot grill for a couple of minutes. Voila! I add mango chutney to my bread first. Yum!

  11. Sonya says

    My daughter loves BLT’s.
    I use turkey bacon at 2.49 a package
    Lettuce about 10cent/serving
    Tomato about 10 cent/serving
    Avocado mixed with a small amt of mayo
    And white or wheat bread.
    She gets about 8-10 sandwiches out of it. Whenever she comes home from school hungry, she makes this. And she loves it. I personally,just love the cost.

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