As my family grew from three to four, to five, so did our food costs. It first began with small items like baby food and healthy snacks for our toddler to what it looks like now: a cart full of items for brown bag-lunching, ingredients for the bake sale, and five nights of dinner to get three kids and two adults through the week.
The increase in food costs as my family grew was inevitable. And with my job as a recipe tester, my days are full of cooking. So keeping budget-friendly, $10-ish recipes in my arsenal that are easy and fast has helped tremendously in keeping my spending in check, as well as making meal times more efficient.
One of the ways I do this is by thinking outside of the barn. Following the popularity of Meatless Monday, I started incorporating more vegetable-only nights―and I can feel the difference in my wallet.
Sometimes I'll make my family’s Taco Tuesday meat-free, always to rave reviews. Once I buy some taco shells or tortillas, the filling options are endless: herbs, hummus (among other spreads), vegetables, and tofu combine for delicious configurations. I set up a table with all of the same fixings, replacing the meat options with veggie-friendly ones. No one will miss the meat if you try.
Another way we try to eat on the cheap (that our kids go crazy for) is our Breakfast for Dinner nights. It's exactly how it sounds: Make some French toast, pancakes, waffles, a little bacon or sausages, and everyone is happy when you’re passing the maple syrup. Inexpensive and fun to mix it up. This one is a real winner.
And, because my mom hat is always securely fastened to my head, in addition to the sweet breakfast options, I try to put something savory on the table, too. So while the kids are drenching their dishes in syrup, they're also getting some tasty greens in. My favorite Skillet Strata with Bacon, Cheddar and Greens does just this.
Another trick to eating for $10 is turning to the incredible, edible egg. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, eggs never disappoint. My brood loves them, and the fact that eggs can be prepared in so many ways make them very valuable to me. I reach for them at dinnertime more often than you would think. A BIG hit in my house is pasta alla carbonara. The kiddos call it bacon and egg pasta, and they request it at least once a month. It’s on the table in less than 20 minutes, delicious, and inexpensive. Best of all, I always have the ingredients on hand. Throw peas in and you are hitting all of your food groups―a keeper!
Another favorite egg dinner is my dad’s go-to when I was a kid, and he had to get dinner on the table when my mom was working late. Taught to him by a roommate at the University of Rome, Eggs in Purgatory is always an inexpensive and delicious meal option. It’s two ingredients: some leftover marinara sauce, and a handful of eggs. This particular recipe is a fantastic version.
Finally, you can never go wrong with a grilled ham and cheese. It’s nice to have an easy, quick dinner, isn't it? Sometimes I like to fancy it up with a French sauce, like a cheesy Mornay (which is essentially a creamy Béchamel with added cheese). Eating a sandwich with a knife and fork makes it dinner in my book. I love this easy version that transports me to Paris whenever I have it.
Cooking on a budget has a number of advantages for my family. Beyond the intended point of saving money, the recipes I turn to often have a minimal ingredient list, giving them the added edge of being easy to prepare and quick to get on the table (a true bonus with three kids in the house!).
What are your favorite family-friendly $10-ish meals? Share them with us below!