10 Low-Cost, Kid-Friendly Meal Ideas

10 Low-Cost, Kid-Friendly Meal Ideas

Need ideas for easy, kid-friendly meals that are nutritious and low-budget? Check out these suggestions.

Looking to save on grocery bills but still feed your family nutritious, meals they’ll love? These kid-friendly dishes will please most little (and grownup) palates.

Stock up your pantry and fridge today – no fancy ingredients required.

Peanut butter and banana on whole wheat

This classic sandwich can be made into a wholesome lunch or snack by using natural peanut butter and whole-wheat bread. Instead of (or in addition to) jelly, sneak in some sliced banana for natural sweetness and extra nutrition.


Eggs are inexpensive and a wonderful source of protein. They are versatile, too. Make them hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled, over- easy or into omelets. Think out of the breakfast box and serve eggs for lunch or dinner, too.


Forgo the instant packets and buy rolled oats in bulk. Just heat with double the amount of liquid. Use skim milk for extra protein and calcium. It cooks in just minutes. Add raisins, chopped apple or sliced banana. Sprinkle in cinnamon, vanilla extract and a drizzle of maple syrup to sweeten the deal. Cook extra so you can reheat and serve the next morning as well. Oatmeal also makes a great afternoon snack in the fall and winter.


Homemade smoothies are great for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack. Save money on frozen fruit by buying larger bags at your local bulk food store chain. Then blend with a combination of yogurt (no high-fructose corn syrup), skim milk, 100 percent fruit juice, and/or peanut butter.

English muffin pizzas

Most households probably have a few frozen pizzas lurking in the freezer. But you can save by making your own. Start out with 100 percent whole-wheat English muffins, pita bread or frozen whole-wheat dough from the supermarket. Top with jarred or canned tomato sauce and a sprinkle of low-fat shredded cheese. Add veggies if you like. To save on cheese cost, buy in blocks and shred with a hand grater. Then just toast (or bake) and serve.

Stuffed baked potato

Baked potatoes are cheap and filling, plus they offer lots of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. After baking, scoop out the middle and mash with low-fat shredded cheese or cottage cheese (for protein). Add a little low-fat milk if you need more liquid. Then mix in steamed finely diced broccoli and stuff back into the shell.

Mexican mac and cheese

Stretch your mac and cheese by mixing in a can of rinsed black beans and canned or frozen (thawed) corn. Beans are very economical and offer fiber and a host of nutrients to boot. Toss in a small amount of jarred salsa for an extra tasty kick.

Meatloaf or turkey loaf

Use finely diced veggies, breadcrumbs and/or crushed oats and seasoning such as onion and garlic powder, salt, pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Use leftover slices for cold sandwiches. Or use extra uncooked meat to make meatballs and freeze for later use.

Baked ziti

Pasta dishes are easy, very kid-friendly and inexpensive. Look for blended varieties that combine whole grain and white flour. Tasty tomato sauce and low-fat cheese are the signature ingredients of this dish, but you may also want to try adding veggies (like spinach or broccoli) and/or some lean ground beef or turkey for extra protein.

Stew, soup or chili

Meat and chicken are often the most expensive part of the food budget. So it’s important to learn how to stretch your meat dollars. One way is to get out your soup pot or slow cooker and whip up one-pot dishes, using less meat and more grains and veggies. If you are using a slow-cooker, cheaper cuts of meat work well as they tenderize during cooking. Also consider buying skinless chicken in bulk, and freeze the extra. Try these low-cost yet wholesome dishes:

  • Chicken noodle soup with carrots, peas and celery, using whole-grain elbow noodles.
  • A rich lentil soup with (or without) small pieces of diced chicken, carrots and tomatoes.
  • Beef stew with diced potatoes and chunks of mushrooms and carrots.
  • Chicken with beans and rice.
  • Beef or chicken chili can be made with less meat and extra beans and veggies. Use it as a topping over brown rice.
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