30 Best Frugal Meals for Families in 2024 (Top Ideas)

frugal meals and meal ideas for families: featured image

Have you been feeling sticker shock on your grocery receipts? Inflation at the grocery store is the real deal! Plus, if you have a growing family, you may hear yourself saying “why are you always eating?!” to your kids.

Feeding a family on a budget can be challenging, but you don’t have to sacrifice flavor or nutrition to save money.

What are the cheapest meals for families?

Here are the top 30 frugal meals for families (large or small). You’ll never have to feel your heart race from a grocery receipt again!

After, don’t miss the frugal meal-planning tips to help on even your busiest nights!

Budget-Friendly Family Breakfast Meals

First, start your day in a healthy way, without breaking open someone’s piggy bank!

1. Yogurt Parfait

yogurt parfait

Layer yogurt, granola, and fruit in a jar or bowl for a quick and easy breakfast. You can also add honey or maple syrup to make it sweeter.

2. Egg Muffins

*Freezer friendly

cheap and extremely frugal breakfast meals for families: egg muffins

Egg muffins are a great hearty meal for the family. All you need are eggs, cheese, sausage, and veggies. Mix the ingredients together like you’re making an omelet, and bake it in a muffin pan.

These egg muffins are easy and filling!

3. Smoothie Bowl

*Prep ahead smoothie bowl ingredients and freeze

frugal family meal plan: smoothies for breakfast

Blend frozen fruit, yogurt, and milk (or milk alternative) to make a thick fruit smoothie. Top it with granola, nuts, or fresh fruit for added flavor.

Bonus Tip: I like adding spinach, flax seed, and protein powder to smoothies to give them even more staying power and nutrition.

4. Avocado Toast

*Trendy AND Easy!

frugal meals for large families, small too: avocado toast

Whether you go all out or just need something quick and filling, avocado toast gives you a lot of options.

Toast a slice of bread, top it with mashed avocado, and sprinkle salt and pepper. You can add egg, sliced tomatoes, or anything that looks good to you.

5. Breakfast Burrito


breakfast burrito on table

Breakfast burritos have been my family’s favorite on-the-go breakfast for years. If you make it ahead, you can just grab one out of the freezer and warm it up!

Fill a tortilla with scrambled eggs, cheese, and salsa. Then, add beans, veggies, hashbrowns, or meat for more flavor and protein.

6. Breakfast Pizza (Frugal Family Meals)

Top a pita or bagel with tomato sauce, cheese, and scrambled eggs for a fun breakfast. You can also add veggies or meat for more toppings.

breakfast budget meals and frugal meal ideas for families

7. Breakfast Quesadilla

*Unique twist on a breakfast burrito & freezer-friendly

Make a quesadilla, but use scrambled eggs, cheese, and veggies instead of your lunchtime options. You can also add salsa or guacamole.

8. Oatmeal With Fruit & Nuts

My kids love cereal. But they’re always hungry two hours later.

Oatmeal is a nutritious and frugal alternative. Add sliced bananas, berries, or nuts to make it filling and flavorful.

Pro Tip: Granola is another household favorite for the same reason. It’s SO MUCH more filling than cereal, and the kids think it’s fun with fruit.

9. French Toast Sticks

*Fun weekend treat!

french toast sticks for breakfast

Grab leftover bread and whip up a batch of French toast sticks. Serve with a side of fruit, making for an affordable breakfast.

10. Pancakes or Waffles


Make a batch of pancakes or waffles on the weekend and freeze them for a quick breakfast during the week. You can serve them with syrup, fruit, nut butter, or yogurt.


Frugal Lunch Meals For Families

Next, these frugal meals for families will fill everyone up. And save tons on eating out.

11. Veggie Wrap

veggie wraps budget friendly lunch ideas for cheap

Fill a tortilla with hummus, veggies, and cheese for a healthy and tasty lunch. Add meat or avocado to make it even more filling.

tomato soup and grilled cheese: frugal meals for families, large and small

12. Grilled Cheese Sandwich (With Tomato Soup)

This is a classic comfort food that’s easy to make and budget-friendly. To make it fancy, use different types of cheese or add veggies to the sandwich.

frugal family meal plan, baked potato

13. Baked Potato (Or Sweet Potato)

*Quick & Easy!

Bake a potato in the oven, microwave, or instant pot (my favorite), and add your toppings.

  • Enjoy your potato lighter with veggies and protein.
  • Add cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits for a savory loaded potato
  • Dress it up for the whole family with broccoli or chili.

14. Avocado Chicken Cups

Fresh avocados are halved and served with sauteed and seasoned canned chicken.

Check out these Mexi-Chicken Avocado Cups >>

15. Fish Tacos

*Makes a quick weeknight dinner too. Then, take leftovers for lunch the next day!

Fish tacos: cheap and budget, extremely frugal meals for large families

Fill a tortilla with fish, veggies, and sauce or mayo for an exciting lunch option. You can also add guacamole or salsa.

Fish can be expensive in our area, so we love spreading it out with veggies in tacos!

16. Egg Salad Sandwich

*Boil eggs ahead!

egg salad sandwich: best frugal meals for families

Mix hard-boiled eggs with mayo and spices for a cheap and easy sandwich. Add lettuce or tomato for extra toppings.

17. Chickpea Salad Sandwich

chickpea sandwiches: family meal ideas that are frugal and cheap

Mashed chickpeas are the main protein in this dish and are mixed with fresh veggies. You can use whole-grain bread for your sandwich as a healthier alternative.

Grab the recipe at Love and Lemons >>

18. Chicken Ceasar Salad

This quick and classic salad includes grilled chicken, fresh greens, croutons, and Caesar salad dressing.

frugal lunch meals for families, quick and easy options

19. Cucumber, Onion, and Tomato salad

This salad only needs cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, white vinegar, oil, and seasonings. It takes only a few minutes to prepare and is delicious.

Find a recipe here >>

20. Ramen and Cabbage Salad

This dish elevates ramen noodles by adding shredded cabbage, carrots, and a flavorful dressing that the whole family will enjoy.

Try it out here >>

Related: Free Money Saving Games to Try

Frugal Dinner Ideas For Families

Finally, for frugal family meals, these dinners will have both kids and adults wanting seconds.

21. Spaghetti and Meatballs

*A classic for a reason!

spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti is the best frugal meal for large families because it takes no extra time to prepare big quantities and it’s incredibly versatile. Try the variation ideas below!

NoodlesVary with chickpea or gluten-free pastaVary with chickpea or gluten free pastaUse sweet potato or veggie noodles
SauceAdd frozen veggiesAdd spinachAdd cheeses
MeatballsUse ground beef, chicken, turkeyAdd diced mushrooms to meatballsUse eggplant or plant-based substitute

22. Fried Rice

*Scrambled egg adds cheaper protein

cheapest meals for families, fried rice

Use rice, veggies, eggs, or meat to make a quick and mouthwatering dinner. You can also add soy sauce or sesame oil, based on your preference.

23. Chili

*A cool weather favorite! Freezer-friendly

frugal family dinner meals on a budget: chili

Cook ground turkey. Then, add beans, tomatoes, and spices for a hearty and filling dinner. You can also add veggies and corn. And take out or switch up the meat if you prefer.

Top with your favorite add-ons: olives, cheese, green onion, etc.

Here’s a great chili recipe to use as a baseline >>

24. Baked or Roasted Chicken

*Buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying the parts

whole chicken in a pan

Season your chicken with oil, herbs, and spices. Then bake in the oven. It’s a simple and tasty dinner that allows you to add whatever sides you feel like. We love this dinner with roasted potatoes and veggies.

25. Shepherd’s Pie

*Freezer-friendly classic

Shepherd's pie: frugal meals for families to freeze or make ahead

Layer ground meat, cooked veggies, and mashed potatoes in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. This is another great dish for using up leftover veggies!

26. Soup (Frugal Meals For Families)

*Incredibly versatile and freezer-friendly!

frugal family meal ideas, soup

We have a rotating soup dinner once a week. It’s cheap, filling, and healthy – not a combination that’s easy to get!

I also love that it’s an effortless way to have a meatless or low-meat meal.

Here are our favorites:

  • Leek and cauliflower soup
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Chicken noodle soup

For a bean soup (like in the picture): Cook your bean of choice, veggies, and spices in a pot. Add broth and cooked meat (if you want), then let your soup simmer. Taste test and get creative!

27. Meatloaf



This is a classic, cheap comfort food made with ground beef, breadcrumbs, vegetables, and spices. Swap out with ground turkey or add diced or shredded veggies to the meatloaf mix to make it healthier (and even cheaper).

28. Stir Fry

*Great for using up leftovers!

Mix veggies, chicken, and rice or noodles for a wholesome and tasty dinner. You can use frozen veggies to save money. Or clean out your fridge so that you don’t waste food.

cheap budget meals for families to stay on track

29. One Pot Pasta

Cook pasta and dinner ingredients in one pot. Not only is this quick, but you only have to clean one pot! Add cheese and herbs for a more savory pasta.

Here’s a great one-pot pasta to try >>

30. Chicken and Rice Casserole

These casseroles are easy to make and can be adjusted to whatever flair you’re feeling at the time. Make it a cheesy broccoli dish or give it a cultural flair.

Cook the rice ahead of time or use instant rice to make things easy.

Try this Mexican style chicken and rice casserole >>

Related: Best Quality Over Quantity Ideas

Top 5 Frugal Meal Planning Tips

Now that you have plenty of ideas, let’s make sure you use them! Here are the top five frugal meal-planning tips for families:

1. Plan your meals ahead of time

When feeding small or large families, meal planning can save hundreds of dollars and reduce food waste.

You know this. But we’re going to take it a step further.

Put yourself on a rotating frugal family meal plan. It could be every week, two weeks, or a month. But by rotating meals you already know what you need at the grocery store.

And you’re never scratching your head at 5 p.m. wondering what’s for dinner.

Switching to this method has saved us at least $200 a month in last-minute takeout runs!

weekly meal plan: how to stop eating out all the time to lose weight and save money

2. Cook in batches

Cooking in batches saves you time and money. Make extra and save the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or freeze the leftovers for a future dinner on the go. Your future self will thank you!

3. The Best Budget Meals Use leftovers

Don’t let leftovers go to waste. Many of the family frugal meal ideas above are excellent for re-using food you’ve already cooked.

  • Use leftovers for lunches
  • Incorporate them into your next meal
  • Freeze them for later use

4. Make substitutions

If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient, look for a cheaper substitute. You’d be surprised at how much cheaper you can make fancy meals by simply switching out a few items. (Like using ground turkey instead of ground beef)

Related: Best Creative Ways to Save

5. Grow your produce For Extremely Frugal Meals

If you have a backyard or balcony, consider growing a few fruits or vegetables you eat often. This saves you money, and also gives you the freshest ingredients for your meals.

Related: 5 Wealthy Woman Cooking Hacks to Try Today

Frugal Meals For Families: Low on time and energy?

Don’t fret! It happens to all of us. Save your takeout money and whip up something from the list below instead.

monthly family meal plan ideas on a budget; menu template

What’s Next?

Grab a free printable monthly meal plan to help with meal planning this month! You’ll be thanking yourself in a week when you’re too tired to think about dinner planning.

monthly meal planner template free printable

And check out these other articles too!

Top Frugal Meals For Families To Enjoy

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