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


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 first two articles- Start here!

  • A Week of Breakfast
    This is the first article which outlines my requirements for a week of meals that fits within a budget and will easily feed kids and adults a reasonably healthy meal.
  • A Week of Lunch
    The second article in this series.

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

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.




Chicken Broth

tomato sauce

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.

Skillet- A Cook's Most Essential Pot

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.

More advice about roasting a chicken

  • How To Roast a Chicken | The Kitchn
    Roasting a chicken doesn't have to be a special weekend affair. A small chicken really only takes about an hour to cook, so we can easily make it for weeknight meals, too! Put it in the oven when you get home from work and let it cook while you wind

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.

  • Health Benefits of Cabbage
    The health benefits of cabbage include constipation, stomach ulcers, headache, weight loss, skin care, eczema, jaundice, scurvy, rheumatism, arthritis, gout, eye care, heart diseases, ageing, detoxification, cancer, brain function, and Alzheimer's di

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


Sue Campbell on October 22, 2015:

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 from Pretoria, South Africa on June 21, 2015:

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 from Philippines on November 03, 2014:


Kcoop from USA on August 29, 2014:

Great article! Thanks!

Rachelle Gardner on August 23, 2014:

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 from Loveland, CO on August 21, 2014:

Now that has some good ideas and advise :)


Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on August 03, 2014:

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

Anna Taylor from San Diego, CA on August 03, 2014:

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. ; )

Mirmana from AMSTERDAM on August 03, 2014:

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

Kalaichelvi Panchalingam from PETALING JAYA on May 10, 2014:

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

Ravi and Swastha from London, Canada on May 06, 2014:

Good hub. Very useful. Thumps up !

Olivia cooper on May 01, 2014:

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?

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on September 20, 2012:

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. :)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on September 20, 2012:

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!

Audrey Howitt from California on September 20, 2012:

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

Nicole Quaste from Philadelphia, PA on July 16, 2012:

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

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on July 15, 2012:

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!

Blurter of Indiscretions (author) from Clinton CT on July 14, 2012:

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 from Georgia on July 14, 2012:

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.

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on July 14, 2012:

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

Claudia Mitchell on July 14, 2012:

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

kelleyward on July 14, 2012:

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 from Madison, Wisconsin on July 14, 2012:

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

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on July 14, 2012:

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 from The Upper Peninsula on July 14, 2012:

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!

Heidi from Gulf Coast, USA on July 14, 2012:

Voted up & useful & shared on FB. :)

alipuckett on July 14, 2012:

Great series of articles! Thank you.

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on July 14, 2012:

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

Karen Metz from Michigan on July 14, 2012:

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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