Homemade chicken meatball noodle soup

Looking to tighten up your weekly grocery bill? Good news: Kid-friendly dinner ideas on a budget can still be healthy and delicious. Our favourite recipes use fresh yet inexpensive produce, affordable proteins and versatile pantry staples.

To help you plan, we’ve gathered seven satisfying meals that are easy to cook up (your children can even help!) for about $1 to $4 per serving.

From hearty spaghetti Bolognese to crispy coconut chicken, this meal plan offers a week’s worth of cheap dinner ideas your whole family will love.

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dilled salmon fish cakes

Approximate cost per serving: $2.50

Ready in: 20 minutes

Why we love it: Canned salmon is more affordable than the fresh stuff and who can resist a golden-fried croquette? There are never any leftovers of this cheap, cheerful and kid-friendly dinner.

How kids can help: Your kid will love getting their hands sticky by shaping the salmon patties. And you can sit back and relax because they don’t have to be perfect.

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BUDGET WATCH
This recipe uses an easy and affordable protein: You only need one 213-gram can of salmon—which costs about $4 or less—for this cheap dinner recipe.

Approximate cost per serving: $1.50

Ready in: 35 minutes

Why we love it: This kid-friendly dinner on a budget will satisfy everyone at the table. While we love to serve up homemade meals, we still appreciate a good shortcut so we can get dinner ready fast—and this recipe has a couple of those secret ingredients. The bouillon powder and premade spice mix give this soup big flavour so it can be ready in just over half an hour from start to finish.

How kids can help: Kids love getting their hands messy, so let them roll up their sleeves and help you shape the meatballs. Just make sure to wash up well before and after handling the raw chicken.

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HEALTH HIGHLIGHT
This soup is packed with vegetables including carrots, celery, spinach and onion, but if your kid is a picky eater they might not appreciate large chunks of veggies. A stealthy way to hide them is to shred them into the meatball mixture.
classic spaghetti Bolognese

Approximate cost per serving: $2

Ready in: 40 minutes

Why we love it: Spaghetti Bolognese is a classic kid-friendly dinner recipe that only requires a few cheap ingredients. And everyone can agree it’s delicious.

How kids can help: Kids as young as toddlers can start practicing their chopping skills with a plastic serrated knife. (Even the take-out kind will do!) Once they’re older and more comfortable with cutting, around nine or so,[1] you can start letting them practice with a real kitchen knife—under strict supervision of course!

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TIME-SAVING TIP
The sauce for this easy dinner recipe freezes very well so it’s always a good idea to make an extra batch. Just thaw it in the fridge the night before you want to use it.
Shakshouka

Approximate cost per serving: $3.50

Ready in: 25 minutes

Why we love it: We’re all for traditional shakshouka made from scratch with freshly stewed tomatoes — but in a pinch? Pasta sauce to the rescue.

How kids can help: Bigger kids can start by sautéing the onions and peppers, before adding the pasta sauce and breaking the eggs in. (Be prepared to pick out some shell pieces!)

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BUDGET WATCH
When you want something quick, tasty and budget-friendly for dinner, just add eggs. Each nutritious egg in a carton of a dozen costs about a quarter!
Coconut chicken fingers with a side of Great Value brand stirred yogurt

Approximate cost per serving: $4

Ready in: 30 minutes

Why we love it: This chicken-finger recipe is a cheap dinner idea that is way better than anything you can buy ready-made or frozen. And it’s definitely not just for the kids. The shredded coconut makes it super crispy and the yogurt, lime and sriracha in the dip is so good that you can leave the ketchup in the fridge.

How kids can help: Kids will love mixing up the dip ingredients and they can also help coat each piece of chicken before you start frying. Just make sure they wash their hands well before and after! (And if you’re looking for more easy chicken dinners, check out these 7 chicken breast recipes that kids can help make.)

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BUDGET WATCH
This recipe is one of those great family dinner ideas on a budget, but if you want to drive the cost down further—or make more for the same price—you can swap chicken breasts for juicy chicken thighs.
bean burritos with spanish rice

Approximate cost per serving: $3

Ready in: 35 minutes

Why we love it: We’re always looking for new ideas for Taco Tuesdays and these veggie burritos please the whole family. They’re stuffed with Spanish rice, beans, corn and cheese and then grilled for a crispy shell.

How kids can help: Teach your kids the fine art of wrapping the perfect burrito: tuck, fold, repeat.

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Quick Tip
To create delicious crispy shells, wrap the burritos tightly and briefly grill them in a panini press or frying pan.
Slow-cooked lentil stew with sweet potato

Approximate cost per serving: $1.50

Ready in: 6 hours and 15 minutes

Why we love it: You can’t really get more affordable than this cheap dinner idea—a hearty, healthy stew that will feed the whole family and then some.

How kids can help: This is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of recipe, but your kid can still get involved. Get them to gather all the ingredients, including the lentils, veggies, spices and water—and then dump them in one at a time before you turn the slow cooker on.

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TIME-SAVING TIP
This easy and cheap dinner idea is all about low and slow, but if you’re in a hurry, you can make the exact same recipe on the stove or in a pressure cooker.

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