The $20 Meal

The $20 Meal: Yes it’s possible! You can feed a family of six for around $20. Our tips & tricks, workshops, and website will show you how. In today’s busy world it may not seem like shopping, cooking, and sitting down for a home cooked meal is possible. Especially on a budget. Convenience foods and eating out may seem like the solution but will only end up costing you more.

How to make it possible! You will need to plan meals ahead of time with your family, prepare meals using low-cost natural ingredients and then share it with people you love. Changing your meals, shopping routines and kitchen tasks may seem difficult but with a few simple steps and guidelines, we can all be cooking meals that our families will enjoy.  

A little more about our Family Meals:

  • This is not a diet plan. There is no “DO NOT EAT” list.
  • We do, however, suggest some foods to avoid.
  • Whole foods with natural ingredients are included for use in your meal plan.
  • Variety, for use of different food throughout the week.
  • Processed foods are used sparingly to avoid refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and toxins.
  • Our meal examples include small meat and dessert portions.
  • A large part of our meals focus on colorful above the ground veggies, below the ground veggies, legumes, whole grains & some added fruit.
  • Meals include, soups, salads, casseroles, main dishes, skillet meals, instant/crock pot meals, breakfasts, healthy snacks and even a few sweet treats.
  • Calorie and nutritional information is not listed. For precise nutritional information, there are websites and handbooks to provide you with that information.
  • Consult with your physician for any special dietary needs or if making significant changes in your eating plan.

The $20 Budget

  • Pantry staples like, spices, flours, oils and other condiments and are not included in our $20 cost.
  • A great deal of money can be saved when buying bulk: Repackage and divide for future meals.
  • Under “Tips & Tricks”, posts will suggest other strategies such as: utilizing coupons and store specials, buying store brands, planning to use vegetables in season, and purchasing less expensive meat cuts.
  • Cooking once for several meals, planning to use leftovers and making use of those instant/crock-pot meals saves energy and time.
  • Make your own soup bases, spice mixtures, sauces, and dressings from scratch. In the stores, processed dressings are expensive items loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats and preservatives.


Be sure to look at all our Tips & Tricks and Recipes to find your next family!

Below are some of our favorite $20 meals!


Plan. Prepare. Share.

Serves 6
This 5-Ingredient Italian Sausage and Kale Baked Ziti recipe is made easy with just 5 ingredients. It is a fun family dinner that everyone is sure to enjoy!
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Cook Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 2 ounces whole grain ziti (or any pasta shape)
  2. 1 lb. ground Italian sausage
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 3 large handfuls roughly-chopped kale leaves, stems removed
  5. 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. *optional add in for more flavor: one can 14.5oz of stewed tomatoes or one 8oz can of tomato sauce
  8. *optional additional toppings: shredded Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large stockpot full of generously-salted water for the pasta.
  2. In a (separate) large skillet, saute the Italian sausage over medium-high heat until browned (about 8-10 minutes), breaking the sausage up with a spoon into bite-sized pieces while cooking. When the sausage has browned, add in the minced garlic and saute for 1-2 additional minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. While the sausage is browning, cook the pasta al dente in the stockpot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain.
  4. Return pasta to the stockpot and add the sausage, garlic and kale. Gently toss to combine until the kale is dark green and slightly wilted.
  5. Pour half of the pasta into a greased 11×7-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of cheese. Layer the remaining half of the pasta evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and serve immediately, sprinkled with additional toppings if desired.
  7. *if using stewed tomatoes or sauce, stir in your selection when adding sausage and kale to pasta.
  1. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
  2. -1 box ziti: $1.59
  3. -1 lb ground sausage: $5.49
  4. -1 bulb garlic: 0.60
  5. -1 bag kale: $3.49
  6. -1 bag shredded mozzarella: $4.19
  7. Total cost: $15.36
  8. Adding in tomatoes stewed or sauce: $1.19
Family Meals Project
Serves 6
An easy salad for the week night which is easily customized to your families liking! Store everything individually in the fridge for easy access.
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Cook Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
  1. 1 lb ground turkey
  2. 1 (35g) taco seasoning mix
  3. 2/3 cup water (or amount your seasoning mix calls for!)
  4. 1 head iceberg lettuce (or any green of your choosing)
  5. 1 (19oz) can black beans, drained
  6. 1 medium onion, diced
  7. 1 red pepper, diced
  8. 1 green pepper, diced
  9. 1 cup frozen corn
  10. 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  11. Salt and pepper
  12. Optional Toppings
  13. Sour cream
  14. Ranch dressing
  15. Cilantro
  16. Homemade tortilla strips(recipe below!)
  1. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook for 1 minute. Stir in peppers and onions. Cook until meat is browned and cooked through. Add seasoning. corn, and water, cooking for a few more minutes or until sauce thickens.
  2. Layer salad with other ingredients and enjoy!
Tortilla Strips
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tortillas into strips. Place on baking sheet and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until crispy.
  1. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
  2. -1 lb. ground turkey: $5.99
  3. -1 package taco seasoning: $0.99
  4. -1 head iceberg lettuce: $2.99
  5. -1 can black beans: $0.99
  6. -1 onion: 0.79
  7. -2 peppers: $1.79
  8. -1 can corn: $1.59
  9. -1 bag shredded cheddar: $2.99
  10. -Salt and pepper: Pantry staples
  11. Total cost: $18.12
Family Meals Project
Serves 6
A very easy and tasty meal, and a great way to add new flavors to kitchen.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. ½ tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 cup onion, roughly chopped
  3. 1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger ( or dried if you can not find fresh)
  4. 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  5. 1 lb 96% lean ground beef
  6. ¼ cup soy sauce
  7. 1 tbsp brown sugar or honey (optional)
  8. Add any extra veggies you like, carrots, broccoli or bell pepper
  9. Cooked rice for serving (about 3 cups)
  10. For serving: chopped green onion, and rice
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions and the other veggies you have chosen on medium-high heat until translucent. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so.
  2. Add the ground beef and break up the meat into small pieces. Cook until no longer pink, and drain the extra liquid. Add in the soy sauce and brown sugar or honey, stirring to mix everything evenly. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Serve over rice with chopped green onion!
  4. Instant, White, Jasmine or Brown rice can be used, keeping in mind brown rice has a longer cooking time.
  1. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
  2. -1 lb ground beef: $6.99
  3. -1 ginger root: $1.60
  4. -1 onion: 0.79
  5. -1 bulb garlic: 0.60
  6. -1 box rice: $2.09
  7. -1 bunch scallions: $1.99
  8. -Soy sauce: $2.29
  9. -Olive oil, brown sugar: Pantry staples
  10. Total cost: $16.35
  11. ( you still have $4.00 to spend on your additional veggies.)
Family Meals Project
Lemon Pepper Chicken with Cilantro Lime Rice
Serves 6
This meal comes in at just over $20, but it is completely worth it. A great meal to expand on your cooking skills and use of flavors. A special meal the family will remember,.
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Cook Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
For Chicken
  1. 6 chicken thighs (chicken breasts also work, bu tend to be more expensive.)
  2. 2 Tablespoons Lemon Pepper Seasoning (optional, but adds flavor)
  3. 1/4 cup butter
  4. 1/2 cup chicken broth
  5. Juice of one lemon
  6. salt and pepper to taste
For Rice
  1. 2 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 1/4 cups rice
  3. 2 1/4 cups chicken broth
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  5. zest and juice of 1 lime
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  8. 2 garlic cloves minced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with the lemon pepper seasoning( or salt and pepper). Bake on a greased baking sheet for 20-25 minutes or until completely cooked throughout. Broil the last couple of minutes to get the crisp tops.
  2. In a medium skillet add the butter and cook over medium high heat. Continue to whisk for a few minutes until the butter starts to become frothy and brown. Add in the chicken broth, garlic, and juice of one lemon.
  3. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet and coat in the sauce. Let simmer for a couple of minutes before serving.
  4. While Chicken is in the oven start the rice.
  5. In a saucepan over medium-high heat combine the butter and dry, uncooked rice. Stir together to toast the rice until the butter has melted.
  6. Once butter has melted and rice smells fragrant (about 2-3 minutes) add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  7. Bring to a boil and then cover with lid and turn heat down to low. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed.
  8. Fluff with fork and serve.
  1. This meal is a little over the $20 budget so we just recommend serving it as is or with a side of any veggies you have already in your kitchen!
  2. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
For the chicken
  1. -4 chicken thighs: $6.89
  2. -1 stick butter: $1.40
  3. -1 can chicken broth: $2.99
  4. -1 bulb garlic: $0.60
  5. -1 lemon: $0.89
For the cilantro lime rice
  1. -1 box rice: $4.99
  2. -1 can chicken broth: $1.29
  3. -1 bunch fresh cilantro: $1.29
  4. -1 lime: $0.60
  5. -1 onion: $0.79
  6. -Olive oil, salt, cumin: Pantry staples
  7. Total cost: $21.73
Family Meals Project
Sheet Pan Sausage and Vegetables served with Roasted Reds
Serves 6
This a great meal, that doe snot require a lot of work or dishes. Full of flavor and veggies!
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Cook Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 3/4 pound green beans
  2. 1 large head of broccoli (1 and 1/2 cups)
  3. 1 and 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers (2 large or 6-7 mini sweet bell peppers)
  4. 9 ounces smoked sausage turkey or chicken, not ground sausage
  5. 6 tablespoons olive oil
  6. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
  7. 1 teaspoon paprika
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  10. 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  11. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  12. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For Potatoes
  1. 6 red potatoes cut into wedges
For Seasoning
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  5. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Use a non-stick large non-stick baking sheet or line with foil or parchment paper.
  3. Prep the veggies: chop the red potatoes (pretty small pieces here so they will be tender in time), trim the green beans and halve (see video above recipe), chop the broccoli, chop the peppers into thick squares, and coin the sausage in thick slices.
  4. Place all the veggies and sausage on a sheet pan. Pour the olive oil and all the spices on top.
  5. Toss to evenly coat all the veggies and meat.
  6. Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven and flip/stir all the veggies around. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender and sausage is browned.
  7. If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the veggies and sausage as soon as they come out of the oven.
For Potatoes
  1. Combine all potato seasoning ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.
  2. Add potatoes and toss well until potatoes are coated in spice mix.
  3. Place potatoes side by side on baking sheet, making sure none are overlapping.
  4. Bake 20 minutes, flip and bake 25-20 minutes more.
  1. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
For the sausage and veggies
  1. -1 red potato: 0.60
  2. -1 package green beans: $2.99
  3. -1 head broccoli: $3.49
  4. -2 bell peppers: $2.99
  5. -1 12. oz package smoked sausage: $6.49
  6. -Olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, parsley, and red pepper flakes: Pantry staples
For the roasted potato wedges
  1. 6 red potatoes: $2.40
  2. Olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder: Pantry staples
  3. Total cost: $18.96
Family Meals Project
One Pan Chicken and Potatoes
Serves 6
A simple, easy and delicious dinner idea that can be thrown together in minutes. Coming in under $20 we encourage adding extra veggies to this meal, like celery, bell pepper, zucchini or broccoli.
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Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
Cook Time
1 hr 25 min
  1. 8 chicken thighs
  2. 6-8 large potatoes cut in quarters or halves
  3. 5-6 carrots cut in 1-2 inch pieces
  4. 1 onion cut in quarters
  5. 2-5 garlic cloves whole
  6. 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  7. 1 tsp Black ground pepper
  8. 4 tsp garlic powder or 5 cloves garlic crushed
  9. ½ tsp paprika optional
  10. 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  11. (if adding additional vegetables just chop and add)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed 12in x 18in baking sheet with foil or even better, parchment paper. Non-stick is fine too.
  2. Thoroughly wash the potatoes & carrots with a scrubber and cut them in smaller pieces. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Pat dry chicken with a paper towel.
  4. Add chicken, potatoes and carrots, onion & garlic to the lined rimmed baking dish and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp salt, 1 tsp ground pepper, and 4 tsp garlic. Drizzle with 3-4 tbsp olive oil. Carefully toss everything to coat. (if additional vegetables are begin used, add here)
  5. Place in the oven and bake chicken and potatoes for 1 hour 20 minutes. Check for doneness -if the potatoes and chicken thighs are soft and easily pierced with the fork they are ready.
  6. If the chicken and potatoes have not browned up as much as you would like, turn the broil setting on and broil for 5 minutes. Watch carefully, or they will burn.
  7. Remove from the oven and serve right away in the baking pan or transfer to a warm serving plate.
  1. Grocery list: (these are an average cost)
  2. -8 chicken thighs: $9.78
  3. -8 large potatoes: $4.77
  4. -1 bag large carrots: $1.59
  5. -1 onion: $0.79
  6. -1 bulb garlic: $0.60
  7. -Salt, pepper, paprika, and olive oil: Pantry staples
  8. Total cost: $17.53
Family Meals Project