Cheap Healthy Meals that work for Trim Healthy Mama!
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Money is tight. This month especially, since my refrigerator is hopelessly broken and I have to buy a new one…and replace the spoiled food inside (grrr). I really needed some cheap healthy meals that would fit into my THM lifestyle.
Special note: this post was updated to reflect pricing as of 2021. However, I understand that prices vary depending on sales and your current location. If you can't find foods at these prices, they are still fairly frugal ideas that should help you feed your family on a budget, even if it doesn't quite come out to under $7 for you in your area!
I am constantly searching for inexpensive dinners, but since we’ve started eating gluten-free and I am still eating Trim Healthy Mama style, I can’t find many resources for cheap meals that work for us. 90% of the cheap meal ideas I could find were loaded with white potatoes and pasta, both no-nos for Trim Healthy Mama, especially a gluten-free Trim Healthy Mama diet.
It took a lot of time, but I finally have an inexpensive, easy, and healthy week of dinners with no special ingredients and no coupons required. Best of all, I spent less than $50 for 7 dinners to feed my family of 6! That means that the 7 meals averaged to less than $7 each, or quite a bit less than $2 per serving!
Update: $7 Dinners Part 2 and $7 Dinners Part 3 are now available!
Not quite as cheap, but still very helpful, is a new 2-week Trim Healthy Mama menu with FREE printables! This is new to workingathomeschool.com, and perfect for a busy mom who needs menus and shopping lists – or would just like to print her own blank templates to plan her own meals. Either way, it's a great resource!
You can buy all of these easy-to-find ingredients at just about any store, but I chose Target, which I find to be middle-of-the-road price-wise. I saved about $1.69 with my Target card, but I didn't use any coupons, or even my Target Cartwheel, which means you can definitely get these ingredients cheaper than I did!
Here is Exhibit A, my Target receipt (note how I couldn't even keep it unwrinkled and untorn for 20 minutes until I got home. I'm sure one of my kids is to blame for the condition of the receipt):
The one thing I didn't count on was that Target was totally out of four ingredients I needed. So I checked the prices at my local Kroger, and found that those four would add $15.11 to my Target total of $33.25…bringing me to a grand total of $48.36, definitely keeping me on a budget! Even with that addition, I'll still have about 3 pounds of pork shoulder leftover, which will create almost an entire meal on it's own, since the pork is only sold in 5 lb packages and I only need 2 pounds for Tuesday's recipe. That means that I technically spent closer to $45 total for this week of dinners, which is just over $1 per serving. Here is exhibit B, my Kroger receipt:
I know I personally have bought chicken broth, olives, ground beef, brown rice, pork shoulder, and chicken thighs MUCH cheaper in bulk at Costco, so I really think you could get all of the ingredients for less than $40!
Here are the recipes links and instructions, with the price breakdown, and the free printables are at the bottom of the post.
Prep: Sometime before Friday, make these black beans in your crockpot. It should yield about 6 cups of cook beans, and you'll use three cups on Friday and the remaining three on Sunday. The recipe calls for you to soak them overnight, so make sure you plan with that in mind.
Monday: Ground beef taco salad w/ lime dressing (S)
1 lb. Ground Beef $3.49
1-2 heads of lettuce depending on how much your family eats (reserve the third head of lettuce in a 3-pack of Romaine for salad on Wednesday). $2.99 for a package of three
1 Tomato .17
Black Olives $1.34
Green onions $1.29 a package, you'll use just a few stalks today and the rest later in the week
Taco Seasoning (I make my own)
Dressing: ¼ cup olive oil, juice of one lime ($.69 today, although I usually find them for $.33), ½ tsp cumin, salt and pepper to taste. This is a super simple dressing and I usually just taste it until I like it.
Directions: Brown one pound of ground beef, drain fat. Add 1-3 Tablespoons of homemade taco seasoning to taste, or just add cumin, salt, and pepper, and a bit of chili powder to taste. Move to a plate to cool. Chop lettuce and tomato and toss with beef and olives. Whisk Dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and toss with salad to combine.
Optional: Spend more to add avocado, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or add more meat or lettuce to make more if you need to.
Another option is to make some brown rice (you'll only need a cup of rice for Friday) for the kids to make the meal stretch further.
Tuesday: Melissa D’Arabian’s Crockpot Carnitas (S) I’ve shared this one before. Whether you're gluten-free or THM, serve it without tortillas.
Pork shoulder around $3.50 for 2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (already in my pantry)
2 teaspoons dried oregano (already in my pantry)
Wednesday: Lemon-Rosemary Chicken Thighs and Salad (S)
Chicken Thighs $3.98 for six bone-in thighs (one per person in my family)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon) $.59 (I know these are much cheaper elsewhere!)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (already in my pantry)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (already in my pantry)
1 garlic clove, minced (cost already included above from purchase of 1 head of garlic)
salt and pepper (already in my pantry)
Salad: use remaining lettuce from taco salad and whatever veggies you have in your fridge
This is another meal that you could stretch by adding rice for the kids or non-THM eaters. Just make sure you reserve 1 cup of long grain brown rice for Crockpot Beans and Rice later in the week.
Thursday: Fried Eggs over Spinach (S)
This is incredibly simple, but very filling and packed with protein!
Baby Spinach $2.99
Parmesan: $1.02 for a small canister
olive oil or butter (butter is included in my list at $3.44 for a whole pound, but just use a pat of butter in your pan for this)
Heat butter or olive oil over low heat and add several handfuls of spinach (I usually end up using an entire bag). Season with salt and pepper, and stir for about 2 minutes or until wilted. Distribute spinach among six plates. Fry eggs in butter and season with salt and pepper, then put 1 or 2 eggs over spinach on each plate. Top with grated parmesan.
This looks similar to my recipe, except I don't use shallots and I use the less-expensive parmesan instead of Asiago. I also don't bake my eggs because this is one of my quick-and-easy meals, but you could cook your eggs her way, too. The end result looks very similar.
Friday: Crockpot Beans and Rice from Stacy Makes Cents (E)
1 pound black beans $.99 cents
1 pound long-grain brown rice $.99 cents
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes with mild green chiles $.99 cents (in the recipe, the author calls for one can of diced tomatoes and an optional can of diced green chiles. I just go for the Rotel and kill two birds with one stone).
1 Tablespoon of butter (remember I have that pound of butter on my shopping list)
salt to taste (already in my pantry)
1 teaspoon cumin (already in my pantry)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (already in my pantry)
I usually keep some cooked, shredded chicken breasts in my fridge. If you have any on hand, I love to throw it in in the last 1/2 hour of cooking in the crockpot to add some extra yummy protein and texture to the rice and beans. But this is really fine without the additional cost of meat. Remember to check the instructions on the recipe for how much you can eat if you're a THM.
Saturday: Egg Roll in a Bowl from Jessica Shepherd:
2 teaspoons oil (already in my pantry)
1 lb. ground beef $3.49
1 head of green cabbage $1.69 (another item I know you can find cheaper!)
1 cup shredded carrots $.69
1 onion $.36
3 cloves garlic (already purchased for previous meals this week)
2 green onion stalks (already purchased for previous meals this week)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (already in my pantry)
1/4 cups Bragg's liquid aminos (already in my pantry, recipe also allows for soy sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
Sunday: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (E) Special notes: Please omit the cheese to keep this an E!
Sweet potatoes $1.78 for six
black beans (use remaining 2 or 3 cups from your prep earlier in the week)
0% Greek yogurt $1.00 + lime $.69 + salt (already in my pantry) + chili powder (already in my pantry) chives (sustitute a few finely chopped green onions leftover from previous recipes)
pumpkin seeds (unfortunately, I couldn't find pumpkin seeds or pepitas ANYWHERE so they aren't included in the prices. They are optional, but if you find some your total should still be under $50).
This price does include butter but does NOT include other staples, or cheese, sour cream, and pumpkin seeds which are all optional, so if you have bare cupboards and no spices you might need to spend a little more. But I did include the staples on the shopping list, so cross those off if you already have them. If you don't, just be aware that anything under the “Staples” heading on the shopping list will add to your cost.
I am not a couponer, so I was really excited to make a week of dinners for under $50, or about $7 per dinner! If you are a coupon Queen and are able to save even MORE money using this list, please let me know! I will be posting a new week’s worth of 7 dinners under $50 soon, so stay tuned!
*Update: NEW list of $7 Dinners is HERE! <—– Click the link for another list of cheap easy gf Trim Healthy Mama dinners! And if you are interested in cheap breakfasts, and lunches, check this out —–> How I fed my family of six for a week for under $100
Linked up at Menu Plan Monday by OrgJunkie; the Modest Mom Blog
Living Well Spending Less; Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
I've done the meal planning for you!
I'll send you free meal plans and shopping lists! All gluten-free, all sugar-free, and all work for THM.
This is wonderful!! I was just wondering how much more you spend for breakfast and lunch.
I probably spend $40-$60 a week on breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. I’ll have a blog post with more detail soon. I generally eat overnight baked oatmeals, overnight refrigerator oats, or eggs for bacon. We eat a lot of hardboiled eggs and cheese for snacks, and salads for lunch. I also love having shakes from Dashing Dish – basically protein powder, cottage cheese, and extracts. SO GOOD! And pretty cheap, too. 🙂 Some of my 31 Day meal plans have cheap breakfast and lunch ideas too.
I forgot to mention – since I homeschool, we eat at home and snack a lot, so my grocery bill is a bit higher than some of my friends whose children leave the house during the day. I’m pretty sure you can save money on breakfast and lunch items, but I have a hard time finding time to coupon.
I keep trying to sign up for this and it tells me it’s not a valid address. I have a gmail address and have never had problems before?
I’m so sorry; I know it can be frustrating! I assume you’re trying to sign up for the free ebook? There is a weird Facebook glitch that disallows people coming from Facebook to sign up. It’s not your email address, even though it says it is! If you go to the page from a different browser window or type “workingathomeschool.com” in directly, you shouldn’t have a problem. Or I can sign you up if you give me your permission. I’m sorry for the inconvenience!
This is a great meal plan! We try to eat THM meals and 2 out of 6 of us are strictly GF so it makes it challenging to stay under budget. I think I need to cut back on the meat my kids eat – it really ups the cost of a meal.
Thanks for writing this all out. Very helpful.
Sure, I’m glad you like it! We skip a lot of the “special” GF items and only have the kids eat GF pasta about once or twice a month. The rest of the time we eat meals like this together. A few meatless meals per week is definitely helpful, but those chicken thighs are super cheap and yummy. Bone-in chicken thighs and ground beef really go far.
THANK YOU! I randomly came across your post on the THM Facebook page and this thrills me. I am just venturing down the gluten free road and finding my way, and not really THM at all, but wanting to be…. I am allergic to eggs so THM can feel doubly overwhelming since so many recipes call for eggs. Regardless, most of this menu would work for my family!
You’re welcome! There are a few with eggs here, but there are TONS of THM recipes that don’t use eggs or gluten. There’s an “Allergen-Free” THM group that has a lot of suggestions, too!
I’m so glad I found your blog. I’m just now linking into THM and my family is GF. Plus I’m pregnant with baby # 4, so I want us to eat healthy but we are on a tight budget. I’m definitely going to try some of your recipes this week when I meal plan! Thank you so much!!!
Thanks Dayna! I’m glad you found some recipes you can use! Congrats on baby #4! I’ll be posting more cheap and easy THM meals soon so hopefully there will be more available for you to choose from. Thanks for coming by!
Such a helpful post! Thank you. We are a family of 9 & I know we can keep the prices down. Especially since we have Aldi.
How I long for Aldi! I’m glad you have one though. 🙂 So the average recipes don’t work for a family of 9, right? Do you end up doubling most recipes and having leftovers, or do you just add extra meat, rice, and veggies? Just curious. Thanks for stopping by Claire!
What a great menu at such a great price. I shop at Target and at Aldi and do well without coupons. Of course, we are now down to just two of us!!
Well…I have to admit that it almost physically hurt not to use Target Cartwheel and Target coupons. But I really wanted to see if it could be done under $50. Now that I know that, I feel like the Cartwheel and coupons give me a budget cushion. But when I don’t really have time, knowing I can do this really helps! Do you shop the sales if you don’t use coupons?
This is great! We are SUPER tight on money right now… some of these recipes will help me mix it up from rice and beans and beans and rice 🙂
Stasia…there are beans and rice on this menu! Oops! Lol, it was the first thing I thought of when I started putting this menu together. But at least it’s only one dinner…
I am so impressed with this. My daughter is doing meals this summer in training for marriage in December. This will be so easy for her to follow. She’s a great cook but wants to work on menus and a budget. Thank you for taking the time to share it. ~Pamela
Wow, congratulations! If I were cooking for two, I would likely still keep a lot of the recipes the same and have leftovers for lunch the next day! I think it’s wonderful that your daughter is preparing for marriage! I was 19 when I got married and served my husband undercooked chicken our first week of marriage…after I’d just spent $250 on groceries. :/ I hope my daughters plan ahead like yours!
I just wanted to pop in and say a hearty THANK YOU for this wonderful week of affordable THM meals. It was exactly the right thing just when I needed it! I am using your menu this week.
All I can say is “More! More! Please share more weekly THM meal plans!”
Awesome, I’m glad you were able to use it! I have another week of $7 dinners coming in a few weeks!
New favorite blog!! Thank you so much for this!
I am getting ready to do a review on a newbie first reading and following THM. It is my October book review. Would you be okay with me including a link to your blog. All I have to say is fantastic!!! I am a working mom of seven and I have been trying to figure out cost and time and your site is really helping. Thanks
I can’t believe how cheap meat is in the US and you say you can get way cheaper! No wonder the ag industry is in such a state. Still I did appreciate your plan and will look at adding some meals to my plan, they just won’t be near so cheap.
Thanks so much! I made your the other set of weekly menu last week and it worked great. This week I’m doing grocery delivery and without the service fee my total is just about $40. 🙂
Wow, that’s great to know, thanks!!!
Friday: Crockpot Beans and Rice from Stacy Makes Cents (E) This recipe site is no longer working. Do you have the recipe still.
It works!!! Sorry operator error. LOL I am loving your blog! Thanks for everything that you do!
Hi Jessica – I bet it wasn’t you, actually! Stacy has moved to a new website, and I read that all of the old links should still work but since they are being pointed elsewhere there could easily be a few glitches. I’ll look for a more direct link so this doesn’t happen again; thanks for letting me know! 🙂
Shop at Aldi, it is so much cheaper. Eggs this week .49doz. Romaine for 3 heads $1.99 Check it out – you won’t be sorry.
Jean, thanks so much for the tip! I don’t have An Aldi in my state, but I’ve written letters asking for one because I keep hearing such great things!
Hi Jen! Thanks for these! One question… Do any of these freeze well? I am just one person, but am thinking of making a few of these and freezing the leftovers to push my $50 a week a little further 🙂
Hi Karis! They will all freeze well except for Egg Roll in a Bowl and the sweet potatoes. For the taco salad, I’d recommend cooking the full amount of ground beef and freezing half, then you can thaw and use it for another salad if needed. I hope that helps!
Egg roll freezes very well actually. The cabbage isn’t as crispy maybe, but I prefer it that way and tastes great.
Hi there! I am interested in a bootcamp. Do you have a date for the next bootcamp? I have no idea where to start. I am purchasing the meal plans now.
Hi Stephanie! We just started a new session that’s full, but the next group will start on June 19th. Are you looking for information on getting started on THM in general?