Check out these kid friendly easy cheap dinner ideas!
This month I have been participating in a January Pantry Challenge. My goal has been to save some extra money by eating the food I already have at home and spending less at the store. This is not always an easy task, but I love the challenge and pushing myself out of my comfort zone! As I’ve been trying to cut my grocery expenses I’ve found a few pantry dinner ideas that I am so excited to share with you!
How To Stock A Frugal Pantry
I love having my pantry, freezer, and cupboards stocked with a few of our every day staples. Having a well stocked pantry makes it much easier to throw together a few easy pantry dinner ideas, without having to go to the store.
The best way to stock up your pantry is to buy a few extra of the items you would normally be buying anyways. For example, when I need ketchup, I’ll buy 3 bottles of ketchup, rather than just 1. This gives me the extra food on hand, that I know I buy and use regularly.
When stocking your frugal pantry, try to focus on buying frugal friendly food items. A few of my favorites are:
Related: Cheap Foods to Buy For a Well Stocked Pantry
Easy Pantry Dinner Ideas
Alright! Let’s get to it! Here are a few of my easy pantry dinner ideas. I hope they will inspire you to use food that you already have at home to put together a few easy dinner ideas.
Most of these dinner ideas are kid friendly and easy to customize and change to your personal eating preference.
1. Taco Soup
Taco soup is the perfect pantry dinner to throw together using ingredients you already have at home. It’s really easy to throw together whatever you happen to have in your fridge to make this soup.
Use chicken, beef, or beans (or a combination of all three!) as the base for your soup. Then, add in onions, tomatoes, corn, taco seasoning, and whatever else sounds good to you for a nice, warm, and hearty taco soup.
*My favorite taco soup recipe is included in my Mel’s Home Cooking recipe ebook!
2. Pasta Bake
Looking for an incredibly easy-impossible to fail-quick to fix pantry dinner idea???? This easy pasta bake is just what you need! You only need 4 ingredients to throw it together, and one of them is water (seriously.)! You can find this easy Pasta Bake Recipe here!
3. Chili With Cornbread Waffles
Have a can of chili sitting in a cupboard and some cornmeal? Make chili with cornbread waffles! This is my kids favorite cheap and easy dinner!
To make chili with cornbread waffles, you will first need to heat up a can of chili over the stove on medium-high heat.
While the chili is warming up, make your cornbread waffles using the recipe below.
- 1/3 cup oil
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup buttermilk if you do not have buttermilk just mix 1 Tbsp vinegar into 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp salt
- In large mixer cream together the sugar and oil.
- Add eggs and milk and mix well.
- In separate bowl stir together the baking soda, flour, cornmeal, and salt.
- Add all at once to egg mixture and mix until smooth.
- Pour batter onto waffle iron and cook until lightly golden brown.
- Serve with chili and cheese on top.
Serve the chili on top of the cornbread waffles and sprinkle with cheese. You will now be your kids favorite person, seriously.
4. Spaghetti With Garlic Toast
Spaghetti is one of the easiest pantry dinners around! Have a box of spaghetti noodles and a jar of spaghetti sauce??? All it takes is a few minutes to warm them up on the stove and, boom dinner is ready!
I like to serve spaghetti with a side of garlic toast, which is so easy to make! Get out a few bread slices from a loaf of bread and spread butter on top and then sprinkle it with garlic salt. Cook the bread slices on a cookie sheet, under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until brown and toasty. That’s it! Garlic toast is a great side for a family friendly dinner.
5. Burrito Bowl
Burrito bowls are a perfect way to use up ingredients you have sitting in your fridge and pantry. Layer your burrito bowl with rice on the bottom, and layering with beans, cheese, seasonings. Top your burrito bowl with your favorite toppings.
A few topping suggestions are: tomato’s, salsa, sour cream, tortilla chips, lettuce, corn, avocado, cilantro, ranch dressing, and anything else that sounds good to you!
6. Sloppy Joes
Another great pantry dinner idea is to make sloppy joes. Sloppy joes can easily be made with some ground beef and a few other pantry staples. This is a very freezer friendly meal, so I will double the recipe and then freeze half for another day.
These are best served on hamburger buns, but we have used a regular loaf of bread when in a pinch. All about pantry friendly here!
*My favorite Sloppy Joes recipe is available in the Mel’s Home Cooking ebook.
7. Tomato Soup With Cheese Toast
We always keep a can of tomato soup stocked in our pantry for nights when I’m to tired, or busy, to make a big dinner. It only takes a few minutes (and hardly any effort!) to heat up some tomato soup over the stove
I love to serve tomato soup with a side of cheese toast. Make cheese toast by placing some cheese onto slices of bread and then cooking them on a cookie sheet under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Tacos is another quick and easy dinner you can throw together using pantry ingredients. Make your tacos using any meat you happen to have at home, such as chicken, pork, or beef.
To make tacos just cook your meat over the stove. Once cooked add 1/2 cup water and a packet of taco seasoning.
If you don’t have a packet of taco seasoning in your pantry, that’s ok! You can make it yourself! Check out my favorite taco seasoning recipe below!
Easy Taco Seasoning Mix
- 1 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- In small bowl mix all ingredients together.
- Use 2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix in replace of 1 packet of taco seasoning.
- Store seasoning in a tupperware container or jar in your pantry.
Cook and stir your meat with taco seasoning and water until the water has cooked off, about 5 minutes.
Serve in tortillas with your favorite toppings. We love cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, salsa, sour cream and guacamole.
9. Homemade Pizza
We love homemade pizza at our house! Use this homemade pizza dough recipe to make the crust, and then top it with your favorite toppings, or whatever you have in your pantry.
Get creative! You can use barbecue sauce, marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, or even Thai sauce. For toppings try different kinds of cheeses, vegetables and meats.
If you don’t feel like making homemade pizza dough, you can even use French bread, biscuits or tortillas to make your pizzas. Find out how here: Easy Pizza Alternatives.
10. Bean Burritos
Another great pantry dinner idea is to make bean burritos! This is a very quick and easy meal to prepare, and they are freezer friendly! (yay, I love freezer friendly!)
To make bean burritos just mix beans (we use black or pinto beans), cheese, rice, and taco seasoning together. Place mixture on tortillas and gently roll up.
Heat your burrito in the microwave or oven and serve! Easy peasy!
11. Stir Fry
Stir fry is another dinner staple at our house! It’s the perfect meal to make on busy days. The three steps to a good stir fry are vegetables, protein, and sauce.
Choose whichever protein and vegetables you have in your home already. A few protein suggestions are: chicken, beef and shrimp. There are so many vegetables that make a great stir fry, such as: peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms and peas.
Sauté your protein in a large frying pan. Add vegetables and continue to sauté until cooked. Next, add sauce and stir together. Cook and stir for a few more minutes until sauce has thickened.
Serve your stir fry over rice or noodles, whichever is in your pantry.
My favorite stir fry sauce is included in my Mel’s Home Cooking eCookbook, but I also really like this 3 ingredient stir fry sauce.
Stroganoff is another simple and pantry friendly dinner. You can whip up some stroganoff with ground beef, sour cream, cream of chicken soup mix and some seasonings. Serve it over noodles or eat it Idaho style, served over a baked potato! Yum!
13. Breakfast for Dinner
My kids love when I make breakfast for dinner. It’s such an easy, fun dinner to make when your pantry is feeling bare. We love to make waffles, pancakes, eggs and a smoothie for Saturday night dinners once or twice a month.
14. Twice Baked Potatoes
I grew up on an Idaho potato farm, so potatoes are always a staple at my house. They are so cheap, easy and filling!
Twice baked potatoes are a great way to make a filling meal out of ingredients you probably already have at home. I love this recipe from Ree Drummond.
Have some tortillas and cheese??? Make quesadillas for dinner! You can customize your quesadilla in whichever way you want! We use salsa, beans, chicken, onions, peppers and green chilis.
A fun way to serve quesadillas is to set out all of the ingredients you have to make them for a quesadilla bar. Let everyone fill, and customize their own tortilla and cook on the griddle.
Save Money and Cook At Home
I hope these pantry meal ideas gave you some inspiration for cooking without having to go to the store. Cooking dinner using your pantry ingredients is a great way to save extra money on groceries.
Remember, to try to use the foods that you already have at home. If a recipe calls for something you don’t already have, be creative and find a good substitute, do not run to the grocery store! Because we all know if we go to the grocery store for “just one thing” we always leave with more (is that just me????).
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