17 Affordable Dinner Ideas

Budget Friendly Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham.  I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good!  This recipe makes a lot!

Budget Friendly Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham. I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good! This recipe makes a lot!

Our grocery budget is a monster.  Do y’all food allergy parents know what I mean?  I mean, it’s CRAZY!  And ya know what makes it even crazier?  We don’t even eat extravagantly.  Our safe foods are just THAT expensive.

I sat down and tried to brainstorm the most budget friendly tried and true recipes I could think of.  We are in Financial Peace University again as table leaders and really have budgeting on the brain.  I really want to cut our grocery bill each month.

My recipes might start looking a lot like these from now on since I’m trying to trim the giant grocery bill.

(These prices are what I pay at the grocery store and I don’t price out every item in this list.  Some are just my best guesstimates.)

If you want to get ahead of the menu planning game and like freezer cooking, the recipes that have stars are freezer friendly.

Meatless

  • Pineapple Fried Rice (1-2 pineapple cups {$1}, 2-3 carrots & 1-2 zucchinis {$2.50}, omit ham- can get 2 dinners from this & possibly 1 lunch)
  • Veggie Pizza** (1/2 bag Daiya {$2.50}, 1/3 green pepper {33 cents}, 1/3 green onion, olives)
  • Refried Beans, Rice & “Cheese” Burritos**
  • Rice & Beans (and maybe fruit to round out the meal)
  • Bean & “Cheese” Quesadillas (use homemade refried beans or black beans)
  • Veggie Spaghetti (1 zucchini {$1} & 1 carrot, sauce {$2.50} & noodles {$1}- can get 1 dinner and 1 lunch from this recipe)

Chicken

Turkey

  • Picadillo (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50} & rice)
  • Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50} & approximately 1/2 bag of tater tots {$1.50})
  • Spaghetti (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50},  sauce {$2.50} & noodles {$1}- can get 1 dinner and 1 lunch from this recipe)

The chicken tacos are probably the most expensive dinner on this list because of the type of chicken we like and because of the fresh toppings.  I can plan another dinner or two that also uses those fresh produce ingredients like nachos or soup and salad night.  That helps lower the cost of the grocery bill & helps fresh produce not to go to waste.  I can also stretch the budget by stocking up on the chicken when it goes on sale.

I also buy dried beans.  It’s easy to soak and cook the beans.  I think I get 6-8 cups from one bag of dried black beans (my memory is a little fuzzy on this number.)  The beans cost $1.18.  Much cheaper than canned!  I freeze my beans in one cup portions and pull them out as needed.  A quick defrost in the microwave and the beans are good to go!

Do you have some food allergy & budget friendly dinner ideas?  Please share in the comments below.

Thanks!

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender.  Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender. Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

Picadillo tater tot casserole. Now that’s a mouthful. Say Peek-ah-dee-yo. Again. Got it?

My old picadillo recipe used ground beef. Because of the newer beef allergy, I now use ground turkey breast. I was a little worried when I made picadillo with turkey instead of beef. It worked perfectly! Truly, the taste is in the sofrito and olives. It tastes divine!

The day I menu planned this, I had a more traditional casserole in mind. But then I thought, why not? Why not give casseroles my latina flair?

So that’s how this little baby was born.

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole:

First, click here for the recipe to make picadillo. Make picadillo. Put it in a 9×9 baking dish and top with an even layer of tater tots. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Tips:
I try to keep ground meat portioned and precooked (by me) in my freezer at all times.
I also make a batch of sofrito and freeze it in ice cube trays.
Having both of these frozen and ready to go make this recipe and many others super easy to pull together at dinner time.

The picadillo in the 9x9 pan

The picadillo in the 9×9 pan

Top with an even layer of tater tots

Top with an even layer of tater tots

Serve with a veggie on the side

Serve with a veggie on the side

The Freezer is my Best Friend Part 2: More Easy Ground Beef Recipes

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Since we decided to sell our house in June, my menu planning has been non-existent. It’s funny that I wrote about getting my groove back, only to have it all go haywire again.

Now that we are in the new house, we are not quite settled in. Actually, we don’t even have a pantry or space in our new small kitchen for food. This is our current pantry… Gasp! It’s terrible. I.DO.NOT.LIKE.IT. Actually, it’s not even a pantry- yet!

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I love organization so this has been driving me crazy. The new pantry we ordered to extend our kitchen cabinets cannot ARRIVE FAST ENOUGH. (Floor to ceiling double pantry cabinets that will match the kitchen cabinets!) Until then, I remain feeling unsettled. Out of sorts.

Thank goodness for my freezer. It really is my best friend. It has saved me almost everyday.

I had a brilliant little spurt a few weeks ago where I found great deals on ground chuck (4 pounds!), flank steaks, and chicken. I had a mini-freezer cooking frenzy. I marinated a few chicken breasts and froze them. We marinated a few flank steaks and froze them. We browned and seasoned all four pounds of ground chuck and portioned them into eleven ziplocs.

Almost everyday between 4-5pm, I realize I don’t have a thing planned for dinner. Why does this sneak up on me EVERY SINGLE DAY lately? The ground chuck is by far the most versatile for last minute meals. (In my opinion)

Besides spaghetti, here’s what we’ve had for dinner lately, thrown together at the very last minute.

Chili:
At around 5 pm last week, I googled “Easy Chili.” This was the first recipe I read, and just went with it. Click here to see the recipe. I did omit the beans and added more than a pinch of the chili powder and other seasonings. It was quite good. I wouldn’t say it was the best chili ever, but I’ll make it again. I also made Jiffy cornbread mini-loaves. I have a little mini meatloaf pan and like to use that for our cornbread. To make the cornbread dairy free and egg free, I used almond milk and Ener-G Egg Replacer. It turned out to be a great (last minute!) meal. And it fed us for a few days. Score!

Here’s a pic of the chili (with safe crackers and not the cornbread.)

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Picadillo:

You will need to first make sofrito.

Ingredients:
1 lb or so of ground beef, chuck, round (whatever!)
Green pepper (Optional, I didn’t use it last time bc I didn’t have it.)
2-3 cubes of Sofrito (I freeze mine in ice cube trays. 1 cube=approx 1 ounce)
Either 3 TBS tomato paste OR 5-6 oz tomato sauce
1/2 to 1 cup of water
Lots of oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper
Adobo seasoning (Go light handed on this one!!)
2 tsp olive juice
As many or as little of green Spanish olives as you like (I use a lot!!)

Note: This is one of those family recipes that really don’t have measurements. The measurements are approximate and my mom and I have worked together to create these measurements as a guideline because I need measurements! However, this is a taste and add more if needed recipe.

Directions:
1. Dump frozen pre-cooked ground beef into a heated pan. Add all of the ingredients, bring to a boil and let simmer. Taste and adjust according to your preference. This is supposed to taste very seasoned- not bland. So be very generous when adding your seasonings! As it simmers, you may or may not need to add more water. You don’t want the picadillo to be too soupy or too dry. You want a little bit of liquid but not too much.
2. Serve over rice. (This is where the liquid is delicious- flavoring the rice!)

Here’s what my most recent picadillo looked like.

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The freezer has really been a lifeline lately. You fellow food allergy mamas know we can not just order take out. We have to have a plan or at least something frozen that can save us from insanity (or sadness. There, I said it. I had a moment this week where I felt sorry for myself because I was tired, the Huzz was traveling for work, and I wanted to pick up a $5 Little Cesaer’s pizza. I couldn’t and didn’t, of course. I ended up making the picadillo. I was rewarded when my toddler said, “I like this beef and rice!”) But I digress…

If you want to see my recipes for other ways to use ground beef and freeze it, click here.

If you have some recipes to share, please do! I need more things to cook today in an hour and a half when it’s dinnertime… Thanks! 🙂