This story is a contributing post by FamilyLivingToday

When finances get tight, your food budget is one of the places where creativity can help you save a few dollars. If you’ve got a few inexpensive recipes on hand, you can stretch your money and still keep your family fed on healthy, home cooked meals. Our list includes a few traditional favorites and some that throw caution to the wind. We’ve also included a few tips and tricks to help you cut back your grocery budget without sacrificing nutrition or flavor.

How you approach cooking and meal planning heavily influences your food budget. You’ve probably heard that shopping while you’re hungry is a bad idea as is shopping without a list. Both can end with overspending.

On the other hand, our favorite budget saver is meal planning. Start small by planning your meals for one week. Write down the day of the week, list your recipe, and add any ingredients you don’t have to your shopping list. It’s always a good idea to take a look at the pantry to see what you already have. While you’re looking for recipes, browse the grocery store advertisements to see what meats and vegetables are on sale. Base your meals around what’s the least expensive that week.

As you’re planning, look for ways to make each meal go further. You could double a recipe and freeze one portion to eat on another night. Or plan to use leftovers from one meal to make dinner the next day.

Finally, it’s not all about budget. Fast and simple is important too. Crockpot meals are the ultimate set it and forget it option. They’re perfect for working families. Prep your recipe in the morning and turn the crock pot on before you walk out the door for work. To make it all even faster, try prepping for a week’s worth of meals on one day. Put each meal in a freezer-safe bag, freeze it, and thaw it the night before, so you’re ready to go. All the thought and prep will be out of the way so you can spend more time with your family.

Hamburger Potato Casserole

A short ingredient list made of common household staples makes this recipe a winner in our book. It does take a while to cook, but if you’ve planned in advance, you can still have it on the table when everyone’s ready to eat.

Cheesy Ground Beef Tacos

A little bit of sizzle from south of the border can add variety to your family’s diet, but the short list of ingredients keeps it low cost. To save a few more dollars, you could replace the beef with another type of beans and make vegetarian tacos.

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup

Is there anything simpler than chicken noodle soup? If you’re on a busy schedule, the crockpot will do the work for you so you can come home to a home cooked meal. This is a perfect recipe for using leftover chicken too.

Ravioli with No-Cook Tomato Sauce

A new spin on a traditional recipe will add some variety if you’re tired of premade pasta sauce. The entire meal is made while the ravioli cooks, and you get a sauce that’s straight from the garden.

Fried Egg Grilled Cheese Sandwich

This fresh take on a family favorite will leave everyone smiling. Grilled cheese is perfect for those days you stumble in the door ten minutes before dinnertime.

Conclusion

A little planning goes a long way. If a week feels like too much, try planning for the next two days. Keep a few quick recipes on hand for the days when your crazy schedule doesn’t leave time for complicated meals. Remember, simple and inexpensive can still be fast and delicious