It’s easy to eat dinner for less than $25 … if you’re a single person. (Okay, I’m a single person and honestly I still spend more than that sometimes!) However, once you start talking about feeding a whole family, it can feel nearly impossible to keep the dinner budget that low. It’s not. Your family can enjoy tasty, nourishing meals at a much lower price than you might expect. You just have to plan ahead. Here are our top five summer dinner ideas under $25. That’s right; you can feed a family of four (and sometimes as many as six) first $25 total with these menu ideas.
General Tips to Reduce Summer Dinner Costs
Before we get into the exact five summer dinner ideas under $25, let’s talk about some general ways to keep all of your dinner costs down this summer. Here are our favorite tips:
- Eat lots of fresh seasonal produce. Bought in season, it’s usually quite affordable. Check farmer’s markets.
- If you eat meat, don’t be afraid to try the less expensive cuts. Learn how to get creative with them.
- Also, meat eaters should make meat more of a side than an entree. Grains and produce should make up the bulk of the plate for an affordable dinner.
- Make grains a staple of your summer dinners. Prepare big batches ahead of time.
- Reduce your consumption of packaged foods. Honestly, you’re paying for the packaging and processing.
- When entertaining guests this summer, do potlucks. You don’t have to pay to feed everyone.
- Drink water. When you add soda, juice, or wine to your dinner table, you add costs.
- Buy staples in bulk. For example, dried legumes are a great bulk item to keep in your pantry for dinner.
- Grow your own fresh herbs. If you’re able to, grow some of your own fresh veggies and fruits, too.
- Get used to meal planning. Food waste contributes to financial waste. Plan out your summer dinners.
5 Summer Dinner Ideas Under $25
You might be surprised how many great summer dinner ideas under $25 can feed a whole family. Collect a bunch of them for your meal planning this summer. It will go a long way towards reducing your food budget. Here are five of our favorite summer dinner ideas under $25:
1. Pasta Bar Dinner … Build Your Own Pasta Bowl
She Knows offers a bunch of great suggestions for affordable summer dinners. Of those on the list, this one was our favorite. The idea is that you cook up a variety of different pastas. Then you warm up a selection of different sauces. You might even add a few toppings in there – cooked mushrooms, cheese to sprinkle on, etc. Then everyone at the dinner table can mix and match the kinds of pasta, sauce, and toppings that they want.
Here are our bonus tips to keep it under $25:
- Buy pasta on sale and/or in bulk.
- Keep your sauce choices down to 2 or 3.
- Use what’s already in your fridge for topping ideas.
2. Run With That Mix-and-Match Bar Idea
Take that idea of the pasta bar and apply it to as many different meals as you can. You’d be surprised how many summer dinner ideas under $25 come to mind when you think of making dinner this way. This works whether it’s just for your family or if you’re hosting guests. If you’re doing the latter, don’t hesitate to ask your guests to bring some of their own ingredients to share. It just adds to the fun!
Some of our “build it yourself” dinner ideas include:
- Personal pizzas
- Grain bowls / rice bowls
- Pancakes (who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?)
3. Soups and Chilis
We don’t always think about doing soup for dinner during the summer months. After all, we like soup to get cozy when it’s cold. However, soups and chilis do make great light dinner. Plus, they’re so affordable. Mix a whole bunch of ingredients together and you’ve got a nourishing meal in a bowl. You can often use extras from your fridge or freezer to complete the meal and keep the cost down.
Thrifty DIY Diva has a list of 25 meals for less than $25. She’s included several soups on that list. Moreover, she links to the recipes. The soups on her list include White Bean and Vegetable Soup, White Chili, and Vegetable Soup. Obviously, vegetable-rich soups are the most affordable. However, you can add cheap meat cuts to your soups and chilis as well. I also like noodle-based soups like homemade ramen.
4. Stuffed Bell Pepper Casserole
This was one of the most interesting items on the aforementioned list by Thrifty DIY Diva. (It’s number 13 on the list f you follow the link above.) The recipe itself comes from Blue Cheese Bungalow. This is a good one for the meat lovers out there. Obviously, stuffed bell peppers are a popular choice, typically filled with ground beef and rice. However, this recipe’s creator felt like there was never enough meat. So she turned the basic idea into a meat-rich casserole.
If you’re interested in this option, buy your ground beef in bulk / on sale. Make a huge batch of this casserole. Then either eat or freeze the leftovers. You can keep the entire meal very affordable. This recipe does have a few spices in it. Hopefully, you keep a stocked spice rack. That helps a lot when you’re trying to eat affordably. Obviously, you have to pay to stock the spice rack. However, then you can use those spices to change the flavor profile of all types of basic foods. Therefore, you save in the long run. You don’t get bored with your meals. Moreover, a little bit of spice goes a long way.
5. Rice Bowls and Fried Rice Dishes
Tasty has another great list of 20 meals under $20. In fact, stuffed bell peppers are on that list as well, going to show that they’re a terrific affordable summer dinner to work into your meal planning. However, the main thing we want to highlight on this list is their smart use of rice. They offer ideas for rice bowls and fried rice dishes. And if you head back up to that aforementioned link for Thrifty DIY Diva, you’ll notice that she has a few fried rice dishes on her list as well.
Tasty’s meal list includes Asian Beef and Rice Bowls, Pork Teriyaki Fried Rice, and Cilantro Lime Rice. One of the things we love about this list is that it actually includes the total cost of each meal. Moreover, it shows the break down of the price item by item for the recipe. While prices will obviously vary depending upon where you live, this gives you a great idea of how to start planning your own summer dinner ideas under $25.
Do you have any terrific summer dinner ideas under $25 for families of four or more? Share them in the comments!
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