Meal planning on a budget can be tough, but with a little creativity you can make yummy and nutritious meals. Here are some of our family favorites to get you started.
Eggs (hard boiled, sunny side up, scrambled, as an omelet or breakfast burrito with veggies and black beans, however you like them) with toast and juice. Add shredded cheese to your eggs if you like!
Yogurt and cereal (add fresh berries for extra yum!)
Milk and cereal and a piece of fresh fruit
A smoothie - mix fresh fruit with yogurt and orange juice
Peanut butter on toast with a piece of fresh fruit
Cooked rice with milk, fresh fruit, and a bit of cinnamon sugar (trust me!)
What's easier or more classic than a sandwich? Here are some combination ideas to get you started:
- Grilled cheese with tomato slices, spinach leaves, cooked peppers, or cooked onion. Experiment with different types of cheeses!
- Grilled cheese with sliced apple (trust me it's good)
- Whole wheat bread with cheese, tomato, & lettuce, plus extra fruits & veggies on the side
- Classic peanut butter sandwich - use fresh fruit like sliced apples or berries instead of jelly and pair it with a glass of milk
- Tuna fish sandwiches (try adding lettuce, grapes, or celery, and you can use plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise to hold the tuna together)
- Tuna melts - tuna on a slice of bread with pickles, mustard, and a slice of cheese on top, broiled in the oven until the cheese is melted. (You could use tomatoes or any other vegetable instead of pickles & mustard, that's just what I like)
- Hard-boiled egg salad sandwiches with a bit of lettuce or your favorite veggies on the side
- You can even make "sloppy joes" with beans or lentils - just combine your legumes with peppers, carrots, onions, & whatever else you like, then mix in some store-bought sloppy joe mix or some tomato sauce with spices and a bit of brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce
Serve with juice or milk and fresh fruits and/or veggies on the side :)
Hard boiled eggs + your favorite fruit or veggie
Apples & peanut butter
Juice + yogurt, poured into freezer pop molds & frozen. You can also dip fruit in yogurt, or mix peanut butter & yogurt for a yummy fruit dip as well.
Chips (you can make your own by baking pieces of tortillas) & refried beans
Carrots (or cucumbers, or peppers) & hummus (you can make your own by blending garbanzo beans with lemon juice, garlic, oil, and salt!)
Cheese + apples (one of my favorite combinations)
Mozzarella + tomatoes (add fresh basil & balsamic vinegar to make easy caprese!) (mozzarella also pairs really well with peaches or nectarines in the summer)
Easy Stir Fry
- Cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stove top. Choose your favorite protein (I like chicken) & cook that in a pan, then add your favorite vegetables like carrots, onions, peppers, celery, cabbage, and/or squash. You can even experiment with adding fruits like apples! Add soy sauce for asian flavor. For even more flavor you can add garlic, ginger, or experiment with adding peanut butter or juice!
- You can also make just a rice bowl by serving rice with veggies, cheese, and a protein source like black beans or chicken :)
- Fried rice is an easy way to use eggs and leftover rice dishes! Just pour your leftover rice and veggies into a hot pan and stir in eggs until it looks how you want it to :)
Easy Pasta Dinner
- Boil your favorite pasta, then add some veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, corn, onion, peas, squash, anything that sounds tasty. You can serve this cold or hot! Then just add a bit of oil & vinegar, maybe some cheese grated or cubed, pasta sauce if you're feeling fancy, and for extra nutrition throw in a protein like garbanzo beans or canned tuna :)
Very Easy Soup
- All you need to do make soup is cook some veggies in a pot (try cabbage, spinach, or kale, carrots, celery, corn, onions, peppers if you want to make it more of a chili, tomatoes, potatoes, or squash), then add beans or lentils (or meat if you have some,) then add water or broth and let it simmer. Ta-da! You can also add rice or pasta to your soup, or serve some sliced bread and butter with it :) For a creamier soup, you can add milk or plain yogurt along with your broth.
Who doesn't love taco Tuesdays? Tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, enchiladas, and burritos come together SUPER easily and are super filling. All you need are tortilla shells or taco shells and your favorite things to stuff them with! Here are some ideas:
- Red cabbage & red onion with a little bit of oil & lime juice, with some fish or avocado
- Lettuce, onion, radishes, tomatoes, cheese, and refried beans or black beans
- Cooked onion, peppers, squash, and/or corn with cheese and black beans
- Cheese and refried beans (I make this when I'm feeling lazy)
- Any combination you can think of!
You can also use plain yogurt (instead of sour cream) to add that cold creamy flavor to your mexican dinner :) And all you need to do to turn a burrito into an enchilada is pour on some enchilada sauce and sprinkle cheese on top before baking it in the oven for a bit.
Throw potatoes in the oven and an hour later you have perfectly baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes!) just waiting to be filled with deliciousness and served (for extra deliciousness try rubbing the outsides with a little bit of olive oil & salt.) Some of our favorite fillings are:
- Broccoli & cheese with butter, salt, & pepper
- Cooked onions, peppers, and cheese
- Leftover chili and cheese (with plain yogurt if you want that creamy cold goodness)
- Leftover sloppy joe filling
- "Taco" fillings like tomatoes, cheese, black beans, lettuce, and plain yogurt
- Black beans, corn, salsa, & cheese for a southwest flavor!
Sheet Pan Dinner
Pretty much any vegetable tastes good if you sprinkle on a bit of olive oil and salt, then roast it in the oven at high heat until it's crispy and smells good. Serve that on a plate with your favorite protein, add a baked potato or slice of bread and butter and you've got a perfectly balanced meal :)
Shepherd's Pie is an easy way to use up leftover mashed potatoes (which you can make just by boiling potato chunks and adding milk and butter), and it's super easy. You can start with a base of meat like ground beef or shredded chicken, or you can use beans or butternut squash instead! Then just add your favorite veggies like corn, mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes, whatever sounds good, and stir that all together in a pot with a bit of olive oil, broth, and flour. You can experiment with adding tomato paste or a bit of juice as well! Then pour your veggie base into a casserole dish, stack your mashed potatoes on top, sprinkle on some cheese and bake until bubbling!
One of my favorite casseroles is a hot chicken salad. All you do is mix cooked shredded chicken (you could use canned tuna instead for a slightly different taste,) with some plain yogurt, diced celery, rice, some sliced hard boiled eggs, a can of cream of chicken soup, a pinch of salt and some lemon juice, then pour it into a casserole dish and add cornflakes on top for crunch. Then bake it at 375 for 25 minutes, and you're done!