10! UNDER $10 Dinner Ideas (I’ve got lots of these…)


I am a big “fast and inexpensive dinner” fan. However, I don’t like to sacrifice nutritional value with preprepared items or lose that home-cooked feel by eating out (let alone that COST of eating out!) Occasionally the nice, well planned big family meal is in order for sure, but with a strict budget, kids activities, and well, LIFE happening- it is not practical most of the time. Here are a few that we have often at our house:

#1: Spaghetti Dinner Menu
12 oz spaghetti noodles ($.62)
24 oz can/jar spaghetti sauce($.86)
1 pkg Texas Toast, Garlic or Parmesan variety ($1.88)
1/2 lb hamburger or 1, 12 oz can chicken ($1.50)
Lettuce/Dressing (on hand)
1/2 lb Fresh sliced strawberries ($1)
Total cost $5.86
How to prepare it:
1. Break the noodles in half, put them in about 8 cups of boiling water. Occasionally stir to separate the noodles.
2. Brown the meat or open your can of chicken and drain. Add the sauce and set to a low simmer.
3. Turn the oven on and arrange your toast on the pan and put into the oven. The toast will already be done by the time your oven has just pre-heated!
4. Wash and Slice strawberries.
5. Check your noodles for doneness, they will take about 15 minutes. When done, drain and put into a bowl.
6. Set the lettuce and dressing out, set the table, take the toast out of the oven, turn off the sauce and set it out beside the noodles and voila! Dinner ready for 2 adults and 3 small children!

#2: Lemon Chicken and Rice Dinner Menu
2 cups cooked rice ($.50)
2, 12 oz.cans chicken, cooked ($3.88)
3/4 c. vinegar ($.09)
1/2 c. white sugar ($.08)
2 Tbsp lemon juice ($.08)
2 Tbsp corn starch ($.10)
3/4 c. water
1 can green beans ($.55)
2 oranges, sliced ($.65)
Total cost $5.93
How to do it:
1. Add 1 c. rice to 2 c. water, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, cover and simmer until its ready. (About 15 minutes) You can set the table during this time or ask your child to do it.
2. After 10 minutes or so, add the vinegar, sugar, corn starch, and water into a microwave safe bowl. Mix until cornstarch is thoroughly dispersed. Add the chicken, drained.
3. Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring well after each minute, until thickened. May take more or less time depending on your microwave. Add lemon juice.
4. Check the rice. When it’s done, it will be soft and no water will be in the bottom. Remove from heat.
5. Open can of beans, drain and pour into a microwave safe dish and microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until hot.
6. Wash and slice oranges and set all the food on the table and voila! Dinner for 2 adults and 3 small children.
Serve the chicken mixture over the rice.
(You will probably want Salt and Pepper for your green beans and maybe for the rice.)

Of course prices may vary depending on where you shop. But these are the prices I usually pay, give or take a few cents.

NEW! 2.19.2012
3/4 Bag tortilla chips ($1.11)
Cheddar cheese, 2 cups shredded($1.75-ish)
Canned Chicken, 1 can ($2)
Black beans, 1 can ($0.68)
1/2 c. salsa (abt $.40)
2 Tbsp lime juice (on-hand)
1/8 tsp cumin powder (on-hand)
Salt and Pepper (on-hand)
Spread chips on a cookie sheet (jelly-roll pan), I cover it with foil for easy clean-up, but not a necessity.
Sprinkle 1/2 cheese on chips.
Heat the chicken in the microwave in a bowl with the salsa and 1 Tbsp of lime juice and salt and pepper, about 1 minute. Then distribute evenly over chips and cheese.
Heat the beans in a small bowl in the microwave with the remaining 1 Tbsp lime juice and the cumin powder, about 1 minutes. Distribute evenly over the chips, cheese, and chicken.
Spread the remaining cheese over the top of the chips and toppings and then BROIL 4 inches or so from the heat just until the cheese is melted. ENJOY!
NEW! 2.19.2012
#4: BBQ Drumsticks (ok, not 20 minutes total, but the prep time is!)
8 Chicken Drumsticks ($3) (You can do up to 16 drumsticks at this time/temp)
1/2 bottle BBQ sauce ($1)
Fried Potatoes and Cheese ($1?)
Fruit Salad ($1)
On-Hand- Salt and Pepper
An hour and 15 minutes before dinner, preheat the oven to 400F. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the chicken drumsticks evenly spaced and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven. Set timer for 1 hour.
20 minutes before dinner, wash (and peel if you want) and slice or chop 4-6 potatoes and place in a skillet or large sauce pan with a couple Tbsp oil, cover and cook on med-hi heat stirring every 3-5 minutes or so adding Salt and Pepper throughout until tender, about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, when the chicken has 10 minutes left, take out and drizzle about 3/4 c. BBQ sauce over the drumsticks and then return to the oven.
When the potatoes are done, remove from heat and shred 3/4 c. cheese and let melt.
When the timer goes for the chicken, take out and drizzle just a little more BBQ sauce over them and then serve.
Fruit salad: I usually mix one yogurt, 1 apple, a few grapes and a drained fruit cup or whatever fruit you have on-hand and a few marshmallows for a tasty side dish.

1 large or ‘family size’ can of Van Camp’s Vegetarian Baked Beans ($1.39)
1 15 oz can red kidney beans ($.65)
1 15 oz can Chili Beans with Garlic, Onion, and Peppers (? something like that…) ($.65)
1/2 tsp chili powder -onhand
3 Tbsp brown sugar -onhand
1 15 oz can Stewed Tomatoes with onion, garlic, etc. ($.70)
Cost: $less than $4!

Mix it all together, bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 10 minutes and there you go!

I often serve fresh fruit and muffins with this dish.

#6: Mini Pizzas (this is a great one to let the kids help!)

1 can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 ct) ($.50)
1 small jar Pizza Sauce (ragu and bertoli (?) have great ones) ($1)
1.5 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded ($2)
1 Caesar salad pack ($1.49)
pepperoni, pineapple, bacon, peppers, olives, ect. for toppings. ($1? some on hand)

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Press each biscuit flat with your hands and place on a greased cookie sheet.
Spread each with sauce and top with shredded mozzerella cheese.
Top with desired toppings and bake for 13 minutes until the edges are browning and cheese is melted. Prepare your salad and ENJOY!

#7: Fish Tacos (really, my kids love it)

*Minute Brown Rice, 3 cups (took 15 mins to make) $1
*Frozen Petite Peas, 1.5 cups (took 1 min to make in the microwave) $0.40
*Corn tortillas, 12 ea (warmed up for 15 seconds) $0.60
*Mango Salsa, 2 cups (Took 10 minutes to make while the rice was cooking) $2
*Tilapia Fillets, 16-24 oz Broiled with a little butter and Salt and Pepper, then shredded with a fork (Broiled for 8 minutes after I finished the salsa.. what can I say? I am a master at kitchen dove-tailing.) $3.50
My Recipe for the Mango Salsa: (there are only about a hundred different ways to make it….)
2 Mangos, diced
A Dash each of: Dried cilantro (fresh is awesome too), chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes.
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup red onion, chopped small
2 Tbsp your favorite salsa
-Mix it altogether and enjoy

#8: Tortilla Soup (Pantry Style— meaning, you already have the ingredients…)

1 can chicken breast (12-13 oz, whatever)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 small can green chiles
1/2 c. canned corn, or other cooked corn (totally optional btw)
2 Tbsp dehydrated chopped onion
5-6 cups water with enough chicken bouillon for broth or just chicken broth pre-made
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 dashes cumin powder (or to taste)
2 dashes garlic powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp dried cilantro or 1/4 c. chopped fresh
1 can stewed tomatoes, or I use a home processed pint jar of stewed tomatoes
2 avocados, cut into bite-sized pieces (if you don’t know how to do this properly, msg me…)
2-3 limes, quartered or lime juice in a bottle
tortilla chips- whatever variety you like
sour cream and or chopped jalapeños- optional

1. Bring to a boil the canned tomatoes, chilis, beans and chicken with the dried onions and broth.
2. Add the corn, cumin, garlic and cilantro and turn down the heat a little and gently boil for 10 mins or so and then salt and pepper to taste. Cut up your avocado during this time.
3. Garnish with avocados and lime juice/squeezed fresh limes and tortilla chips. Many people also like to add a dollop of sour cream and a few jalapeños for heat- actually some even add a spoonful of their favorite salsa as well.

Cost is about $8 or so depending on what you already have on hand, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare. My family LOVES this. There is always 1-2 servings left over for me to have for lunch the next day. YUM!!!!!

Serve it with a fresh fruit like grapes or melon on the side and you’ve got a balanced meal!

#9: Smoked Sausage SKILLET

#10  Sweet and Sour Meatballs


  1. Beverly April 14, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    This is a fun idea!

  2. Leslie@leserleeslovesandhobbies February 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I wonder if my kids would eat nachos. They sure don't like tacos. And the BBQ chicken sounds like a good idea. I might have to try the lemon chicken and rice too, though they both complain every time I make rice.

  3. Robyn February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    My kids don't like tacos either. But they eat these Nachos like they are goin' out of style. The BBQ chicken started at our house when I realized that they were 95cents a pound and a package from WinCo lasts two meals… I have to say I like them even better when we can do them on the grill, but BBQ chicken in the winter is always yummy! Good luck!

  4. Robyn February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    My kids don't like tacos either. But they eat these Nachos like they are goin' out of style. The BBQ chicken started at our house when I realized that they were 95cents a pound and a package from WinCo lasts two meals… I have to say I like them even better when we can do them on the grill, but BBQ chicken in the winter is always yummy! Good luck!

  5. Leslie@leserleeslovesandhobbies February 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    We did the lemon chicken and rice on Tuesday night, and I loved it. The kids liked it with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. Leslie@leserleeslovesandhobbies March 3, 2012 at 1:14 am

    We had the BBQ chicken tonight. I did broccoli with cheese sauce for the side dish though. Didn't feel like dealing with potatoes, plus I had broccoli from Bountiful Baskets that I needed to use. We liked the chicken! Thanks for these recipes, Robyn!

  7. Robyn March 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Glad you like them- on the Chicken, we have used Buffalo Sauce in place of the BBQ and Chayce and I liked it a lot- kids, not so much as it is pretty spicey, but if you're looking for variety and like Buffalo wings I would do a few of each.

  8. Breann Mason December 9, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Last night we had tortilla soup. My kids helped make it and we all loved it. It was delicious. I have to admit though I was skeptical at first. My kids as we were making it were making comments like eww gross I am not going to eat that, but they did and I was surprised. It is definitely one of my favorites. I will be using this recipe again! Thanks

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