20 Thrifty Casseroles to Keep Dinner Under Budget

Megan Zander | Feb 1, 2019 Food & Party
20 Thrifty Casseroles to Keep Dinner Under Budget

thrifty dinner casseroles
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It happens every single week. Even with my carefully organized grocery list, I'm always shocked to hear the checkout clerk announce my shopping total. Surely that's a ZIP code, right? 

Making dinners for the family certainly saves over eating out or ordering in every night, but buying groceries can still eat up a huge portion of the budget. Luckily, there's a way to feed everyone without spending a fortune or sacrificing hours in the kitchen. Enter the casserole. 

The word "casserole" may invoke images of a mom from the 1950s wearing pearls and an apron, but these throwback meals are a classic for a reason. When it comes to an affordable meal the whole family will eat, casseroles are where it's at.  

Not only are casseroles a good choice for anyone looking to shave a few dollars off the grocery bill, but they're also an easy way for busy families to enjoy a dinner that doesn't come from a drive-thru bag. Many can be assembled the day before or even on over the weekend, meaning we may have time to sit for a second between walking in the door and doing the after-dinner dishes (just kidding, we know there's still lunch bags to clean out, the dog to feed, and homework to help with). 

Casseroles are one of the few meals where leftovers taste just as great as they did the first time around, making it possible to cook one once but feed it to the family twice. Rather than a pan for meat and several saucepans for sides, casseroles make cleaning up a breeze. One pan -- boom, done! 

Whether  feeding a crowd or just looking for dinners the whole family will love, these yummy budget-friendly casseroles are sure to please. 

  • Chicken Ranch Pasta Bake

    1

    Parents who love ranch dressing and kids who beg for the blue bag Doritos will all agree that this chicken ranch pasta bake is delicious. Using just a few slices of bacon (rather than a whole packet) and less than 2 cups of cheese helps to add a flavor burst without costing a fortune. 

  • Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole

    2

    Stuffed peppers are delicious, but they can be a pain to fill. And nothing ruins dinnertime like kids who are wary of vegetables. This deconstructed stuffed pepper casserole features bite-sized veggies the kids won't notice (or can easily ignore). If peppers aren't on sale, try frozen pepper strips instead. 

  • Cheesy Ham & Noodle Casserole

    3

    Make a ham for Sunday dinner, and use the leftovers in this cheesy ham and noodle casserole that's ready to eat in less than 45 minutes. Canned cheddar cheese soup or cream of chicken soup work equally well for this recipe, and it can be topped with any well-melting shredded cheese that's hanging out in the fridge 

  • Chicken & Waffles Casserole

    4

    Frozen waffles are the affordable secret behind this chicken and waffle casserole that could work for both a tasty dinner or feeding a crowd for brunch. Breading the chicken tenders by hands helps add to the savings (and tastes better, too). Cooked in a simple homemade savory gravy, this meal only tastes expensive.  

  • Lemon Chicken Pasta Bake

    5

    Lemon chicken tastes great, but moms with young kids know that trying to make a dinner that requires standing over the stove is a recipe for a kiddo meltdown or a call for pizza when dinner gets ruined. Luckily, this lemon chicken pasta bake gives us the dish of one of our favorite dinners in a "throw it in the oven and walk away" package. 

  • Pizza Casserole

    6

    If the family's weekly pizza night habit is burning through the food budget, save with this tasty pizza casserole. It's as versatile as it is easy. Just add everyone's favorite pizza toppings (half veggie, half pepperoni for my crew) with sauce and cheese over a biscuit dumpling base, and dinner's ready in 30 minutes. 

  • Fiesta Chicken Casserole

    7

    This fiesta chicken casserole is a fantastic way to use up leftovers and create a craveable dinner the whole family will love. Leftover chicken, the last of that taco meat, or even shredded pork can be used as the meat. It's also a great dish to use up those half-empty boxes of pasta on the top shelf of the pantry. 

  • Cornbread Cheeseburger Casserole

    8

    For feeding a crowd of meat-eaters, this cornbread cheeseburger casserole hits the spot. Use any frozen veggies on sale or hiding in the freezer for a boost of vitamins and minerals, and look for bulk meat sales to increase the savings. Because the meat can be pre-cooked a day or two before, this could be a good dinner choice the next time the kids have a game or late practice. 

  • Vegan Tater Tot Casserole

    9

    Most vegan dishes call for expensive produce or pricey spices. Not this vegan tater tot casserole.  It's budget-friendly and familiar (who doesn't love tater tots?), making it a good meal to satisfy a teenager who's trying to live vegan while also making sure her younger siblings don't go hungry. 

  • Cheesy Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

    10

    Canned chicken and that box of stuffing leftover from the Thanksgiving sales make this cheesy chicken and stuffing casserole a filling and affordable dinner on a night when everyone's over having pasta again. Serve it with a side salad to get those greens in, or try adding some thawed frozen green beans to the dish before cooking. 

  • Dorito Casserole

    11

    When hosting a tween or teen sleepover, getting takeout for everyone adds up quickly. Make this Dorito and beef casserole that features their favorite snack instead, and get ready to be referred to as "The Cool Mom." Leftovers (if there are any) make a great next day quesadilla or salad topping. 

  • French Onion Noodle Casserole

    12

    Shake up the traditional (and pricy) game day menu of subs and wings with this creamy, satisfying French onion noodle casserole. Made with leftover rotisserie chicken and a heap of sweet, caramelized onions, this affordable dish might just turn into a new family favorite. 

  • Rice & Vegetable Casserole

    13

    Brown rice and tons of veggies make this rice and vegetable casserole a budget-savvy meal for those trying to eat health-consciously. Make it as a side for a crowd when there's leftover chicken or meat for dinner, or give it a go as a main dish for Meatless Mondays. It's also great for potlucks and holidays. 

  • Cabbage Casserole

    14

    For a St. Patrick's Day dinner that can be made quickly, look no further than this cabbage casserole. Layers of cabbage take care of the veggies requirement, and putting everything into a casserole is so much easier than trying (and failing) to stuff individual leaves. 

  • Johnny Marzetti Casserole

    15

    Those from the Midwest probably grew up eating Johnny Marzetti casserole. For those of us who haven't experienced this plate of yum, it's a beef and pasta dish with tomatoes, plenty of mushrooms, and Italian spices. Kind of like Grandma's Sunday gravy, but more affordable and without spending hours in the kitchen. 

  • Baked Burrito Casserole

    16

    This baked burrito casserole is a thrifty way to make a Mexican feast for a crowd. With only eight ingredients, mixed and layered, it's a dinner older kids can easily help prepare. Cheesy burritos that won't spill open all over the plate and floor? I know what I'm making tonight.

  • Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

    17

    Kids who beg for macaroni and cheese for dinner every night might find a new favorite in this cheesy broccoli rice casserole. It's so ooey and gooey, they won't realize they're eating veggies. Make it as written for a warm and hearty vegetarian meal, or add some leftover roasted chicken or cooked ground beef for a protein boost. 

  • Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

    18

    Whether the goal is a fancy family dinner for Saturday night or impressing a crowd at a potluck, this chicken cordon bleu casserole is so good, no one will suspect it's also affordable. (In fact, they might even think it came from a restaurant!) The recipe can be doubled (or even tripled) easily, and leftovers taste as good as the day it was made. 

  • Chicken Mushroom Marsala Casserole

    19

    If Sundays are all about meal prep for weeknight dinners, this chicken mushroom marsala casserole can be made ahead of time to get dinner on the table in about half an hour. Throw it in on the way in the door, and by the time the kids are changed and showered from practice, it's time to eat. 

  • Chicken Enchilada Casserole

    20

    Scoring tortillas and salsa on sale help make this chicken enchilada casserole even more of a bargain. So much more affordable than taking the family out for Mexican. this dish makes a great weekend meal. It can also be baked and frozen for quick and easy weeknight meals. Want it extra spicy? Just choose a salsa with some heat. 

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    21
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