As adults, we make decisions from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until our heads hit our pillows at night, even when we don’t realize it. Did you know that the average adult makes an estimated 35,000 decisions each day?

Everything from the clothes we wear to the route we take to work requires conscious or subconscious decision-making. One thing that can make it easier to overcome the decision fatigue that comes with making all of these decisions each day is a meal plan. After all, who among us enjoys staring into the fridge waiting for inspiration to strike after a long day of working, running errands, and carting kids? Meal plans can be a cost-effective and time-saving way to feed your family.

Cheap Meal Plans for Families

Our focus is on cheap meal plans for families that don’t require extravagant ingredients and can be purchased at reasonable prices, especially in bulk. This way, there’s something delicious for everyone at the table, without spending a ton of time and energy preparing several different meals. Here are our top family meal plan recommendations:

Slow-Cook It Up

When you’re looking for cheap meal planning ideas, it’s hard to go wrong with one common kitchen appliance: the crockpot. With less than two hours of prep work, you can have an entire work week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners ready to go.

This meal plan for a week of family-friendly slow cooker meals makes it easy to feed everyone at home without the process becoming overwhelming. It features items like sweetened oatmeal, veggie-packed salads, stuffed peppers, baked ziti, and more. Mix and match items from different plans to find your sweet spot.

Choose Recipes With a Bit of Wiggle Room

Cheap meal planning isn’t limited to set-it-and-forget-it crockpot dishes. Here is a meal plan consisting of flexible family dinners that you can make with what you have. These meals are quick and easy to make, plus there are items in each that can be swapped out for others you have on hand.

For example, you could swap out frozen vegetables for fresh ones, spinach for broccoli, penne for shells, turkey or chicken for beef, broth and lemon juice for white wine. These delicious and affordable meal options come with convenient flexibility and often make enough for leftovers.

Cheap Meal Prep Ideas

High on our list of cheap meal plans for families is this list of easy family-friendly dinners you can prep ahead of time. By doing the prep work on Sunday, we can have a full week of meals ready before our Monday morning alarms go off.

If you’re like most people who work during traditional business hours, it’s often easier to get ahead over the weekend rather than cooking every night during the week. Pasta and sauce, pizza pinwheels, and hummus bowls are perfect for every type of eater at home.

Make Pantry-Friendly Dinners That Double as Lunches

Big-batch meal planning ensures that there’s an easy and delicious dinner on the table tonight, as well as leftovers to enjoy tomorrow. First on this list is a delicious chicken pot pie casserole. Depending on how many people are eating, you may have leftovers for several lunches after you’re done.

Sheet pan chicken nachos and beef and shells are two others that are sure to be crowd-pleasers. When it comes to cost-effective meal planning, it’s always best to shop in your pantry first. There’s often much more in there than we realize.

Search Pinterest for Inspiration

When all else fails, there is no shortage of easy and delicious recipes that you can find on Pinterest for you and your family. If the meal plans above won’t work for your home, dietary needs, or meal preferences, don’t get discouraged.

There are plenty of other options out there for family-friendly meal planning. You can find them with a quick Google search, or you can browse recipes on Pinterest and build your own plan. The website and app Supercook is another excellent resource for keeping your grocery budget in check.

With it, you can enter in ingredients sitting in your fridge and pantry to produce a list of recipes you can make with items you already have.