If you have a family, you know that everyone typically expects to be fed. Every single day. (The nerve!) But in all seriousness, we know that feeding a family of 4 can be expensive. But with a little planning and creativity, you can make delicious and satisfying meals on a budget. Here are five easy-to-make, inexpensive meals that will feed your family of four for under $20.

1. Spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce


– 1 pound of spaghetti ($1)

– 1 can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes ($1)

– 1 small onion, finely chopped ($0.50)

– 2 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.20)

– 1 teaspoon of olive oil ($0.10)

– 1 teaspoon of dried basil ($0.10)

– 1 teaspoon of dried oregano ($0.10)

– Salt and pepper to taste ($0.10)

– Grated Parmesan cheese for serving ($1)

Total Cost: $4


1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until they become translucent and fragrant.

2. Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes and add the dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir well, bring to a simmer, and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions. Drain when done.

4. Serve the spaghetti with the homemade marinara sauce and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Taco night (Could be Tuesday, but doesn’t have to be—you make the rules!)


– 1 pound of ground beef or turkey ($3)

– 1 packet of taco seasoning ($1)

– 1 can of refried beans ($1)

– 8 taco shells ($1)

– Shredded lettuce ($1)

– Chopped tomatoes ($1)

– Grated cheese ($2)

– Sour cream ($1)

Total Cost: $11


1. In a skillet, cook the ground beef or turkey over medium heat until browned. Drain any excess fat.

2. Add the taco seasoning and the amount of water specified on the seasoning packet. Simmer for a few minutes until the mixture thickens.

3. Heat the refried beans in a saucepan over low heat.

4. Warm the taco shells in the oven according to package instructions.

5. Set up a taco bar with the cooked meat, refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese, and sour cream. Let each family member assemble their own tacos to their liking.

3. Vegetarian stir-fry


– 1 cup of rice ($0.50)

– 1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables ($1)

– 1 block of tofu, cubed ($2)

– 1/4 cup of soy sauce ($0.50)

– 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil ($0.20)

– 1 tablespoon of honey or sugar ($0.10)

– 1 teaspoon of minced ginger ($0.10)

– 1 clove of garlic, minced ($0.10)

Total Cost: $4.50


1. Cook the rice according to package instructions.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey (or sugar), minced ginger, and minced garlic to create the stir-fry sauce.

3. Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and stir-fry until they become golden brown and slightly crispy.

4. Remove the tofu from the skillet and set it aside. In the same skillet, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir-fry the frozen mixed vegetables until they are heated through.

5. Return the tofu to the skillet and pour the stir-fry sauce over everything. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes until everything is heated and coated with the sauce.

6. Serve the tofu and vegetable stir-fry over the cooked rice.

4. Baked chicken with roasted vegetables


– 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs ($5)

– 4 potatoes, diced ($1)

– 2 carrots, sliced ($0.50)

– 2 tablespoons of olive oil ($0.20)

– 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary ($0.10)

– 1 teaspoon of dried thyme ($0.10)

– Salt and pepper to taste ($0.10)

Total Cost: $7


1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the diced potatoes and sliced carrots with olive oil, dried rosemary, dried thyme, salt, and pepper.

3. Arrange the seasoned vegetables in a baking dish.

4. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and place them on top of the vegetables in the baking dish.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, and the vegetables are tender and golden.

6. Serve the baked chicken thighs with roasted vegetables.

5. Vegetable and bean soup


– 1 can (15 ounces) of black beans, drained and rinsed ($1)

– 1 can (15 ounces) of diced tomatoes ($1)

– 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables ($2)

– 1 onion, chopped ($0.50)

– 2 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.20)

– 4 cups of vegetable broth ($2)

– 1 teaspoon of dried basil ($0.10)

– 1 teaspoon of dried oregano ($0.10)

– Salt and pepper to taste ($0.10)

Total Cost: $7


1. In a large pot, heat a little oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant.

2. Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, frozen mixed vegetables, vegetable broth, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper to the pot.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

4. Serve the vegetable and bean soup hot with some crusty bread or rolls.

With these five budget-friendly meal ideas, you can enjoy delicious and satisfying inexpensive family meals. Not only will your wallet thank you, hopefully your family will, too. For additional tips on affordable food strategies, check out our article on how to grocery shop on a budget.