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Dinner- Recipes that are Easy, Healthy, Inexpensive, and Kid-friendly

Updated on July 28, 2014

This is the third article to a week of meals that are easy, healthy, kid-friendly, and inexpensive. In my years of menu planning, I realized that so many recipes highlighted ONE of these benefits; it was healthy but not cheap, kid friendly but too many steps. Why couldn't the recipe be all of them? I decided to compile meal planning ideas that fit all my requirements. This article will tackle dinnertime. Keep in mind, to feed a family of five dinners for a week at $40.00, they aren't going to be the most exciting dinners around. You will have to be okay with eating leftovers. The upside is you will have just fed your family for as little as $6.00 a day!

The requirements

All these meals must be:

  • Easy: Using only a few pots and pans, no complicated steps, or hideously long preparation
  • Homemade and healthy: It's not diet food, but includes a reasonable amount of veggies, protein, and carbs.
  • Kid-friendly: It must be edible in kid's eyes. I'm not the kind of cook that makes two different meals for our family.
  • Inexpensive: The whole week of dinners must not go over $40.00 (I made the dinner budge a bit bigger, which leaves about $34.00 left for snacks and drinks). How did I come up with this figure? I imagined a family of five spends approximately $150.00 a week on food. I broke that up into four equal amounts; breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Read the first article in the series for more information.
  • Use up the ingredients: How many times does a recipe call for something that then sits around in your pantry or fridge? I plan meals that use interchangeable ingredients so food doesn't go to waste.

Grocery List- Dinner for a Week

Hilshire Farms Polish Keilbasa
Ground Turkey (16 oz)
Roaster Chicken (5lbs)
Italian Sausage (Sweet or Hot)
Italian Dressing
Stir Fry Sauce
Canned Beans (any kind)
Creamed Corn (1 can)
Elbow or Rotini Pasta (1lb)
Long Grain Rice
1 Bag Frozen Corn
Iceberg Lettuce
Cucumber (2)
Roma Tomatoes (2)
1 lb Bag Carrots
1 Bell Pepper
1 Head Cabbage
1 5lb Bag Potatoes
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 pkg Frozen Stir Fry Veggies
Parmesan Cheese

Pantry Items

Chicken Broth
tomato sauce
These are items I assume most people have in their cupboards and don't purchase on a weekly basis. The best thing to do is buy these items in bulk or at places like Costco's or BJ's.
Ground turkey is tasty and much healthier than ground beef. It also is less expensive. In this recipe, you hardly notice the difference!
Ground turkey is tasty and much healthier than ground beef. It also is less expensive. In this recipe, you hardly notice the difference!

Monday- Shepherd's Pie

  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 4 potatoes, cooked and mashed

1. Brown the ground turkey meat in a skillet. Add salt, pepper, and any other seasons you like.
2. While that's browning, peel and chop 4 potatoes and bring them to a boil.
3. Drain the potatoes, add milk and butter, and mash 'em up!
4. In a 13 x 9 inch pan, layer the ground turkey, the bag and canned corn, then the potatoes.
5. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

Serve with sliced cucumbers in italian dressing.

Tuesday- Italian Stew

  • 2 TBS italian dressing
  • 1 lb sausage
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 package stir fry frozen veggies
  • 1 can beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup elbow or rotini pasta
  • Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling on top)

1. Heat up dressing in a skillet. Add the sausage (in pieces) and brown.
2. Add the broth, stir fry veggies, beans, and tomatoes.
3. Bring to a boil.
4. Stir in the macaroni and let cook for ten minutes or until the pasta is soft.
5. Serve in bowls.

Kids who are picky will love the pasta and sausage, while adults will like the added flavor of the beans, veggies, and tomatoes. If you have some cheese laying around, shred it over the pasta!

Wednesday- Leftovers

If you are feeding a family of five, you will have leftovers of the Shepherd's Pie and Italian Stew. Serve them up for a quick and easy meal.

Thursday- Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 6 carrots peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 cup of uncooked rice (you are doubling the amount so that tomorrow you can use the leftover rice)
  • Oil and spices for marinating

1. Take out the chicken, rinse it off, and remove the bag of innards.
2. Cover the chicken in oil and spices. Don't worry about doctoring up the chicken much; you'll notice how much more flavor a whole chicken has verses the breasts.
3. Cook at 350 until the little popper pops up or a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees.
4. While it's cooking (it'll take about an hour and a half), cook up the rice.
5. In a small saucepan, cook the carrots with a bit of water and butter. If you want to sweeten them up, add a dash of brown sugar right before serving.

This is one of my kid's all time favorite meals. It's incredibly simple- chicken, rice, and carrots, but they usually devour it all. The leftover rice and chicken are used for a different dinner the next night. It's great!

Friday- Stir Fry

  • Leftover chicken cut into small bite size pieces
  • Leftover rice
  • Bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • Carrots, sliced into strips
  • Cabbage, sliced into strips (just use a little, because you are using the cabbage for another meal)
  • Stir fry sauce

1. Get out that trusty skillet and combine all the ingredients (minus the rice).
2. Heat up with a generous amount of stir fry sauce.
3. Serve over rice.

If your kids don't like the taste of sauces, just reserve a bit on the side for them before adding the sauce. Serve with a simple salad of lettuce, cucumber, and tomato.

Saturday- Keilbasa and Cabbage

  • Keilbasa, cut into slices
  • 4 or 5 potatoes, cut into thin slices
  • Cabbage, sliced into thin strips

1. Get out your skillet and add some oil.
2. Add the potatoes and cabbage, stirring frequently.
3. If it seems like it might burn, just add a little water, and turn down the heat.
4. Once cooked, add the keilbasa and continue to cook until the meat is heated through.
5. Serve sprinkled with parmesan if you wish.

Sunday- Pasta

  • The remainder of the elbow macaroni (you should have only used one cup for the Italian stew recipe)
  • Tomato sauce
  • Salad fixin's (you should have a bit of lettuce, carrots, and tomato left)

1. Cook the pasta according to directions.
2. Heat up the sauce.
3. Serve with salad.

This isn't the most exciting meal, but you may have some leftover stir fry or keilbasa if the adults want something a bit more tasty. If you have any leftover chicken, throw it in with the pasta and sprinkle with some parmesan.

Congratulations! You've just served a week's worth of meals for a family of five- for $40.00! That is an accomplishment. You've provided meals that have a variety of foods and flavors. You haven't spent hours in the kitchen preparing foods or cleaning dishes. Treat yourself to a night out after all that hard work and planning!

-Julie DeNeen


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    • profile image

      Sue Campbell 

      3 years ago

      I have been on THOUSANDS of these kinds of sites and this one is THE VERY BEST!!! They are actually recipes my family will eat and yes, prices vary from state-to-state and province-to-province but if you watch for sale items you can get close enough for this to work! Thank you SO much!

    • Hendrika profile image


      4 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      From South African point of view this is very interesting. I have to tell you that if we change the dollars to rand it will turn out very expensive, but it is not fair because ingredients and income cannot be compared.

    • Mary Cimeni profile image

      Mary Cimeni 

      4 years ago from Philippines


    • Kcoop profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Great article! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Rachelle Gardner 

      5 years ago

      Great idea, but your price list doesn't resemble the food prices in our area, not even at Walmart! I laughed out loud when I saw "5 lb chicken" for $5. Try $10! In any case, great stuff here.

    • Corebenefitz profile image


      5 years ago from Loveland, CO

      Now that has some good ideas and advise :)


    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Voted up and shared. I like the simplicity of all these meal preparations. The price are right on these items too.

    • Sapphireid profile image

      Anna Taylor 

      5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Hi Julie DeNeen,

      Thanks! I am a few months in on being allergic to Dairy (Yes, all of a sudden) and eating like a Vegetarian, so your post here will be helpful, even though I must keep some stuff out of it. Did I say thanks? Of, course I did, but it doesn't help to express the sentiment again. ; )

    • msginger profile image


      5 years ago from AMSTERDAM

      Great recipes.. healthy and cheap indeed. Voted useful!

    • Vvitta profile image

      Kalaichelvi Panchalingam 

      5 years ago from PETALING JAYA

      Wonderful hub. You should try fried rice too. It is easy and a good way to use leftovers,

    • choosetolive profile image

      Ravi and Swastha 

      5 years ago from London, Canada

      Good hub. Very useful. Thumps up !

    • profile image

      Olivia cooper 

      5 years ago

      Hi, great article! We are a family of 5 but groceries generally cost $200 a week for the bare necessities...Could you tell me how much this($40) would cost in Australian dollars?

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Another great Hub showing us that it can be done. Our mothers and grandmothers were good cooks but they knew how to stretch a dollar. You do them proud. :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a clever Hub, and very useful. I like substituting ground beef with turkey. You are so right! It is cheaper and healthier. I do find it to be a bit bland so I use a ton of spices in my ground turkey dishes!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      Wow--you are the queen of planning! Great job on this

    • uNicQue profile image

      Nicole Quaste 

      7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Definitely going to try the Italian stew! Great hub :)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, it's hard to come up with meal ideas that are kid-friendly, fast and easy and healthy! I plan to use your ideas soon. Voted up and shared!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      7 years ago from Clinton CT

      Thank you to everyone! This series took me a llloonnnggg time so I appreciate the feedback. I want to write easy stuff for a bit. Lol All that price checking, list making, and recipe comparing made my head spin!

    • lcbenefield profile image


      7 years ago from Georgia

      Well done. Thanks for the great ideas. I love the recipe for shepherd's pie. We'll be trying this out in our home. Voted up and useful.

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 

      7 years ago from Cardiff

      Great hub, i need to learn to budget the food bill, we are only a couple and often spend way too much. Voted up!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      Awesome ideas. I wish my daughter wasn't quite so picky. It would be easier for us.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow this is a great hub. You must have spent a long time organizing this one. Thanks for sharing your helpful tips. I'm voting this up, pinning, and sharing it everywhere! Take care, Kelley

    • twoseven profile image


      7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Impressive! I really appreciate that you put in the shopping list and the prices. I will definitely have to try some of these!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      7 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I'm with collegedad, I'm lucky to spend $100 a week on the 3 of us, to0! And that's with catching sales AND using coupons. I swear food prices have doubled in the last year. But we also moved from Florida to the oil boom where everyone is charging outrageous prices for things ($1900/month for a 1 bedroom!). Great hub, Julie and we will be trying these recipes. VUM.

    • collegedad profile image


      7 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      It's amazing how expensive food has become! We do everything we can to reduce our grocery bill, but still it costs about $100/week to feed just the three of us. We'll give this a try. Great hub, thumbs up and shared!

    • breathe2travel profile image


      7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      Voted up & useful & shared on FB. :)

    • alipuckett profile image


      7 years ago

      Great series of articles! Thank you.

    • snowdrops profile image


      7 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Totally awesome dinner recipes Julie, and healthy too.. all my votes.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 

      7 years ago from Michigan

      Your hub was very interesting! I got several good ideas for next weeks menu! I have 9 people that I feed on a daily basis, and I have to double almost every recipe I find. Because of my children's ages and size, it is like feeding 6 adults and 3 children. I follow a lot of the principles that you do and I can get away with about $250 - $300 per week on my grocery bill. I have found that the more I cut back on convience foods, the better we are eating and believe it or not, cheaper! Voting up!!


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