Core list of family dinner recipes

Our Go-To Family Dinner Recipes

Meal planning can be a total pain. It used to take my husband and myself hours because every week we started at square zero. We would search cookbooks and Pinterest for new recipes and get lost trying to decide if something sounded good or not. It was a huge headache. So, one of the major hurdles in helping us finally cut our grocery budget by 50% was to create a short, go-to recipe list!

Narrowing our meal ideas to only around 20 options made meal planning a breeze. It also reduced food waste, because we know we are always making food that we like. These meals are a mix of quick & easy meals, recipes that are great for leftovers, and some slightly more complicated dishes that we know are worth it.

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After sharing how we finally stopped wasting money on groceries, some readers reached out asking what exactly our go-to recipe list looked like. Here’s what we’re eating!

Smart Money Mamas Family Dinner Recipes

I’ve broken down our top recipes below by protein type and linked to where we originally found the recipe we loved. Enjoy!

I apologize for not having photos of all these meals like those fancy food bloggers. The fact is, we take more pictures having fun while cooking with Fuss Fish than we do of the finished product!

Soups & Stews

Getting to cook as a family is one of my favorite parts of eating at home!

Soups are one of the best meals for leftovers. We usually make a loaf of fresh bread and eat it with the soup for 2-3 days that week! Even when we don’t need the leftovers right away, we can freeze extra soup in mason jars to help bail us out when we don’t feel like cooking.

Chicken / Turkey

Roasting a whole chicken or turkey only takes a little prep but feels so extravagant!


Because we buy our meat in bulk, we tend to have a lot of ground beef, steaks, and roasts to work through in the freezer. For steaks, we usually just throw them on the grill and serve with rice and vegetables. But the below gives us a few great options for ground beef and roasts.


Fuss Fish likes putting the water on the won ton wrappers and helping pinch the potstickers closed!

Eating Simply

At first, we thought limiting our recipe list to 20 or less different meals would feel repetitive. But with leftover nights and times where we cook super simple meals not listed here (like salad, stir-fry, burgers, or grilled cheese & tomato soup) we really don’t have repeats all that often. We feel like we eat a great variety of delicious meals, but having that shorter list instead of getting lost in the many corners of Pinterest saves our budget! What does your family’s go-to list look like?

Do you have a short-list of family favorite recipes to meal plan from? How do you keep variety in your diet while saving money on groceries? Comment below and let me know!

Grab Our Free Meal Planning Sheets!

Weekly & monthly meal planners and a simple grocery list to get a handle on your grocery budget.

Easy family dinner recipes

6 thoughts on “Our Go-To Family Dinner Recipes”

  1. Thank you for these recipes! I am always looking for new ones to try. I have a folder in my kitchen that has a list of meal options. The folder also contains recipes, most of which we have tried. When I am struggling to think of ideas for dinner while meal planning, I pull out the folder and start with my list of meal options. By the way, if you’re into BBQ chicken, this is one of the easiest recipes I make and everyone loves it in my house:

  2. I love this, we started meal plannig about 6 months ago and I can’t believe how much our budget has saved. Not to mention the less stress of having to decide what to make. I haven’t made a short list but I buy chicken breasts in bulk and when I separate into baggies to freeze them I put marinade so we have them ready to go for dinners instead of having to do it day of. Its so nice to have fajitas done with just chopping the veggies. I like the short list idea and we’ll give it a whirl!

  3. Awesome list of recipes! Thank you very much for sharing these!
    I love cooking at home (it’s one of the reasons we so rarely eat out) and am always on the lookout for new ideas. The way I find new recipes to try is by simply browsing Facebook 😀 I’ve followed a few pages that constantly share delicious and quick-to-make ideas and just save the links when something interesting pops up.

  4. I will have to explore your list further. I try to always have supplies to make fried rice, or tacos in the house. I ♡ my crock pot for chili & beef stew/ pot roast.

  5. We do theme nights in my house.
    Mondays are for sandwiches: sloppy joes, shredded beef, meatball subs, cheesesteaks.
    Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays but instead of just eating tacos every week, I’ll mix it up. We’ll have taco salad, burritos, loaded nachos and I’ll rotate beef, chicken, shrimp.
    Wednesdays are usually some type of soup: beef, chicken, tomato, etc.
    Thursdays are skillet meals/one pot meals
    Friday is homemade pizza-every week
    Saturday is usually some kind of comfort food: pot pies, fried chicken
    Sundays are for pasta & naps 🙂

    1. Theme nights are such a good idea! If we could get in the habit of eating leftovers for lunch I think it would work for us too, but we like our nights off from cooking 🙂

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