What’s For Dinner?

For most of us food is a top budget item. One of the best ways to free up cash in your spending plan is to cook at home. This page is a collection of meal plans that I use to feed my family on a moderate-conservative food budget. Each meal plan includes a grocery list so you can pull up this page on your cell phone before you walk into the store and have a grocery list ready to go! If you have some favorite recipes please send them in to me; I would love to share them here.

Southwest Quinoa & Ground Beef Stuffed Peppers

Believe it or not, this was extremely well received by my kids. I honestly wasn't sure how the quinoa would go over with the kids but it actually blended well with the texture of the ground beef. We loved it and will definitely make it again.

My youngest was a little skeptical of the peppers so he got his in a bowl with melted cheese on top. We added avocados to the side because we love avocados and they were on sale. You could easily make this meatless by using black beans instead of beef, but I would probably up the spices a little if you do. I think beans tend to absorb a lot of flavor so you need more of everything to pull that flavor thru.

Plan on a whole pepper for each person 7 and over. I made a little extra and it reheated well the next day.

Your Grocery List

  • 4-6 Bell Peppers (any color)
  • garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 c. of shredded Monterey Jack cheese (we used Colby Jack)
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups of chicken broth (to cook the quinoa in, I used water seasoned with salt, pepper, & garlic)
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne (we omitted this because #kids)

Optional Add-Ins

  • limes
  • avocados
  • Jiffy Cornbread mix (needs an egg and some milk) or tortilla chips
  • package of lettuce for a side salad
  • wine (did I need to list this?)

Pantry staples: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher salt, black pepper

(click on the link below for the super easy recipe)

Shrimp and Roasted Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

The shrimp-free version of this dish.

I have waited 9 months to post this recipe because I was waiting for tomato season as this is a perfect way to use up fresh tomatoes! As per usual, I made some changes and it still turned out well, so feel free to experiment.

I used regular tomatoes as that is what I had at the time. I also made half of it without shrimp or cheese and half of it with. Everyone liked their own version.

I grabbed a half cup or so of the pasta water (after the noodles were cooking) to make the tomato basil sauce coat the noodles better. Reserve some before you drain the noodles in case you need it. I also used dried parsley because I don't like fresh parsley (I'm weird) but definitely grab some fresh basil.

If you don't use cheese - taste for salt. Parmesan tends to be salty so you may need to compensate if you skip it.

Your Grocery List

  • 3 pt. cherry tomatoes
  • garlic
  • 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 c./4 oz of nice Parmesan (Parmigiana) cheese if you skip the shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or dried)
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • crusty bread
  • package of lettuce for a side salad
  • wine (let's not kid ourselves here)

Pantry staples: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher salt


Chicken and Avocado Salad

I love this simple, light yet filling dinner when it's hot outside. I am including the basic recipe but I did make some subsitutions/additions for my version. To bulk up the meal I added a can of black beans (rinsed) and three ears of corn. I also swapped fresh tomatoes for salsa because summer time in Virginia is tomato season. I happened to have some grilled onions left over from a weekend cook-out so I tossed those in as well. It's definitely worth it to get fresh cilantro for this meal. I added some cornbread (Jiffy mix if you must know. I'm a busy woman.) although you could serve it with tortillas or tortilla chips. 

Here's your shopping list:

1 rotisserie chicken or 1 package of chicken breasts (about 2 c. of meat)

(marinade the chicken breasts in some olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder because there is nothing more revolting than plain chicken.)

1-2 avocados (more is more when it comes to avocados)

1 can of black beans

tomatoes (I used 5 campari tomatoes but a giant fresh tomato from the garden would be delicious)

3 ears of corn (or half a bag of frozen white corn quickly cooked in the microwave) 

(steam the corn and then cut it off the cob. This is a great way to use up leftover corn on the cob.)

1 large onion sliced in giant grillable rings if that's your thing.

1 bunch of fresh cilantro (You really only need about 2 TBS finely chopped)

1 lime

1 pkg. of Jiffy mix/tortillas/rice/whatever starch you want to serve

Pantry staples: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar

Here is the dressing recipe I used:

2 TBS. Olive Oil

1 TBS of Lime Juice (about half a lime)

1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt 

1/4 tsp. of black pepper

1/4 tsp. sugar

Toss together your salad ingredients, mix up your dressing and then gently combine with with your chicken/corn/beans/tomatoes/cilantro. Enjoy!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

This Lemon Rosemary Chicken is crazy good and easy. I make a couple of substitutions, we omit the capers because my kids don't particularly like them, swap in skin-on chicken breasts cut in half and we add sweet potatoes in with the regular potatoes. Caramelized sweet potatoes with a lemon rosemary sauce sounds odd but is completely delicious! Also, the recipe calls for French Bread - not as an ingredient but as a side for a reason. Your kids will go crazy dipping bread in this sauce during dinner, it's that good. Here's your shopping list and recipe:

Shopping List

1 package of skin-on chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)

1 package of chicken thighs or legs (about 2.5 lbs)

10 garlic cloves

2-3 lemons (or 2 lemons + lemon juice if you don't have a juicer)

1 package of rosemary (or 1.5 tbs of dried rosemary)

1 jar of capers (optional - I don't use them)

2 lbs of Yukon gold or red potatoes

1 large sweet potato (peel and dice it)

1 loaf of french bread

1 package of green beans (just steam them for a side or use the recipe below)

Pantry staples: olive oil, sea salt, pepper

Brown Sugar - Dijon Pork Tenderloin

This is one of our favorite recipes at our house! What makes it great is that it's easy enough for a weeknight but interesting enough for a party. It's delicious and my kids love it! Try it on the grill or just pop it directly in the oven. In an effort to be budget and environmentally friendly we only eat one tenderloin at dinner and save the other one for another night. Add some roasted potatoes and sauteed spinach (garlic, olive oil, a little butter and salt) and you'll be set! (side note: if you use dried herbs use a little less than the recipe calls for)

Here's your grocery list:

1 package of pork tenderloin (no marinade)

brown sugar

dijon mustard

dried or fresh rosemary

dried or fresh thyme

rolls (if you want them)

Yukon gold potatoes


a big box or bag of spinach

*Pantry staples: olive oil, butter, salt and pepper




Beef Teriyaki Ramen

This delicious dinner is perfect for a weeknight and since it includes noodles you know your kids will like it. Use whatever vegetable you like but I prefer it with either asparagus or broccoli. The recipe calls for ginger and scallions but my kids don't like ginger and I don't have time to worry about scallions. Feel free to include those if you want. If you have more than two kids or big eaters in your family consider stretching this by using an extra packet of ramen, more vegetables and make a little extra sauce. I like to toss the ramen in the sauce instead of simply serving the meat and veggies on top of the noodles. Here's your shopping list:

1 lb. pkg. beef for stir fry (try a skirt or hangar steak)

1 bunch of asparagus or big head of broccoli

2-3 pkgs. ramen noodles (discard the spice packets)


teriyaki sauce

toasted sesame oil (just buy a cheap bottle)

chicken or beef broth

vegetable oil

Ginger (optional)

Scallions and sesame seeds for garnish (optional)


Quick Roasted Chicken

This recipe from Gimme Delicious is new to me but I love it! It's easily adaptable and perfect for using up random vegetables you have in the refrigerator. I stretch this meal by adding potatoes (diced really small) and carrots. Just put any root vegetables in about 10 minutes before everything else. This is great served with crusty French bread and wine. As written it feeds a young family of four. If you need to make more just increase your ingredients and use two baking sheets.

Change the flavors by tossing the vegetables with sesame oil and soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, lemon and thyme, or any of your favorite spice combinations. I marinate the chicken in Italian salad dressing for better flavor.

Here's your grocery list:

2 chicken breasts 

1/2 an onion 

3 small potatoes or a sweet potato

2 carrots

1 small head of broccoli

1 zucchini

1/2 bell pepper

1/2 cup of tomatoes

olive oil

salt, pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning or whatever you have in your pantry already




Rotisserie Chicken to the Rescue


For me, rotisserie chicken is right up there with sliced bread when it comes to the world's greatest inventions. Rotisserie chickens taste great and they help put a (semi) home-cooked meal well within reach on a busy work night. You can put together a delicious meal for a family of 5 for less than $15. Which is awesome considering you would easily pay $15 for one person to eat a roast chicken dinner if you went out to eat. Here's how I estimate the cost breakdown:

Rotisserie Chicken $5-6

Roasted potatoes and carrots about $6

Green beans tossed with butter, lemon and black pepper $3

Here's your grocery list:

1 Rotisserie Chicken

4 Yukon gold potatoes

1 sweet potato


1 lemon

3-4 whole carrots (baby carrots can be substituted but they don't roast as well)

1 pkg. frozen whole green beans or 1-2 lbs fresh if you're feeling fancy

Olive oil & butter

salt & pepper, red pepper flakes (optional)

My recipe for the Roasted Potatoes and Carrots:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Wash the potatoes, sweet potato and carrots and dice them into 1" chunks.

On a baking sheet toss the vegetables with a generous amount of olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Roast the vegetables for 25-30 minutes stirring once around 15 minutes. 

Quickly taste the potatoes when they come out of the oven and season again with salt & pepper if needed. Done.

Honestly, green beans tossed with salt and butter are delicious but if you want to take it up a notch here is a recipe for green beans from the Neelys on Food Network (grocery list is included above).