Cheap and Easy Casserole Recipes: Reader Favorites
by Reader Contributors
You can quickly get dinner on the table on busy nights with these favorite frugal casserole recipes from our readers.
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I was recently looking for cheap casserole recipes and I found an article on another site that had several casseroles that could be made for around $10. It occurred to me that your readers probably can do better than $10 for a casserole meal.
Can you please ask them to share their favorite cheapest casserole recipes? I am looking specifically for casseroles since they seem to make dinner prep and clean-up much easier during the week in my busy household. Thanks in advance to your smart, frugal readers!
Tuna on a Busy Night
Here’s an easy tuna casserole recipe that will feed six to eight for under $6.
2 cans of tuna (chunk light is healthier)
12 oz. package of broad noodles
can of cream of mushroom soup or a pint of chicken broth
can of mushrooms (optional)
one onion, chopped
one green pepper, chopped
Boil the noodles and chop your veggies while you wait. Grease a 9 X 13 pan. Add all the other ingredients and mix. You can also add a bag of peas or some sliced olives if you wish. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbly. Add a green vegetable and/or salad on the side and you have an easy dinner.
For smaller families, freeze leftover portions individually for quick dinners on busy nights.
Barbara in SC
Related: Buying Better Seafood for Less
Jazz Up Mac and Cheese
I have a very cheap casserole I make often and it is one of my son’s favorite meals. I make up a box of macaroni and cheese and then fry in a separate cast iron skillet 1/4 lb. of chopped meat with a quarter of a medium diced onion and two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. I go heavy on the Worcestershire sauce because it is so full of flavor. I only fry the meat mixture until the onions are translucent and the meat is lightly fried, so the meat remains tender. If you over-fried, the meat becomes dried out and hard. Then I pour off any excess Worcestershire sauce and add the meat mixture to the macaroni and cheese. I toss lightly, sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over the top of it, and serve.
For dessert, I take a can or jar of applesauce, drain lightly in a strainer, and then liberally sprinkle with cinnamon. We love cinnamon in our family, so I am heavy handed with it. When blended, I add one cup of whipped topping and lightly blend it in. Separately in a small cast iron frying pan, I fry some bread crumbs or cookie crumbs in butter with just a sprinkle of sugar and use this as a topping at the time I serve it. This dessert is called Apple Fluff and was created by me to get my toddler son to eat his applesauce. It worked! He is now 46 years old and still loves it!
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Not a Casserole, But Still Great and Easy
Not really a casserole as such, but my family loves this. Also, you can’t get much cheaper. When I ask what people want for dinner, they always ask for this.
4 packs of creamy chicken flavored ramen noodles
1 pound (or so) ground beef
1 can of whole kernel corn
Brown the ground beef in a skillet, leaving a little of the grease in the pan for flavor. Boil the noodles and drain (I usually break up the noodles a little first). Don’t add flavor packets yet. Keep skillet on low heat while you mix ingredients as corn is not hot yet. Drain the can of corn, add corn to ground beef in skillet, and stir in noodles to skillet. Add all four flavor packets to the mix. Mix well and enjoy! This serves four to six people.
Two Tips to Save
Since there are countless casserole recipes out there, I won’t offer anything specific. Two simple tips can save you money on practically any casserole you make. First, cut down on the meat. A lot of recipes call for a full pound of meat (ground beef, chicken, etc.), but most can easily do with quite a bit less, even half, and your family won’t miss it.
Another tip is to be flexible with ingredients. Instead of using the expensive, out-of-season veggies in the recipe, substitute more affordable ones that work with the dish. Similarly, meats can often successfully be interchanged according to what’s on sale or already in your freezer. Making a Mexican enchilada casserole that calls for ground beef, but you’re stocked up on chicken breasts? Season up some chicken with taco spices, and it’ll be just as delicious.
Pull Out Slow Cooker Instead
Forget looking for recipes for casseroles to put in the oven. Use your slow cooker and buy any one of the many good slow cooker cookbooks out there. You will have cheap, easy, and delicious meals, and you can come home to a great dinner that is ready to eat.
Jane in Durham, NH
Related: 12-Hour Slow Cooker Recipes
Enjoy Some “Goobilly Gotch”
Layer leftover taco meat with canned corn, beans of your choice, and corn tortillas. Also, add cheese and salsa. Place layers as you like, using more or less of your favorite things. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Using corn tortillas makes this gluten free, too! This will be very inexpensive if you use leftovers. Leftover chicken or pork could work, too.
Another favorite is cook noodles or rice, add leftover chicken or other meat, add a can of undiluted cheese soup, mushroom soup, or any soup you like. Now add veggies, mix, top with cheese and/or breadcrumbs, and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Many boxed dinners are full of sodium and preservatives. Make this dairy free or gluten free by swapping noodles for rice and non-dairy soup for milk based ones.
Made up recipes in my home are called “Goobilly Gotch.” It’s a made up name for made up recipes.
Judy M. in New York
Chicken and Rice Casserole from Leftovers
I make a very cheap chicken and rice casserole by using leftover rice and chicken broth that I save from boiling chicken. The recipe included one cup of broth and one to two tablespoons of corn starch. Stir this and gently boil until thick. Then add cut up chicken and as much cooked rice as you want. Mix it up, top with shredded cheese, and bake a few minutes. Everything is cooked, so you are just melting the cheese and heating through.
1 pound of browned ground beef
2 cans of spaghetti sauce (I add garlic salt and sugar)
1 pound of cooked penne noodles
2 cups of cheese
Combine browned meat, spaghetti sauce, and noodles. Add half of the mixture to pan. Put one cup of cheese on top of layer. Add the rest of mixture and top with remaining cheese. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until melted.
Don’t Let Meals Take a Huge “Byte” Out of Your Budget
There is a great recipe website I use for budget-friendly meals. It’s BudgetBytes.com. The cost of the meal is calculated and listed with the recipe. Also, I find that using a base of onions, carrots, celery and different kinds of broths, spices, vegetables and meats with either rice or pasta can give you a lot of alternatives for meals.
Hot Dogs in a Hurry
Casseroles are great and I use them often. Here are a couple ideas that I use.
Boneless chicken, cream of chicken soup, and minute rice are all this takes. Place one cup of rice in a greased casserole dish. Pour a can of cream of chicken soup on top and mix well. Place chicken on top, cover, and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. You can add more chicken if more than four pieces are needed. It’s simple.
For hot dog casserole, put two cans of baked beans in a casserole dish. Place the hotdogs from one package on top of the beans, line them up, and split in middle. In a little bowl, mix brown sugar and a little mustard together and spread on top of hotdogs. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes until warm and hot dogs are done.
Easy Couscous Dinner
Mix two boxes of Near East® parmesan couscous, two cans of corn, and two cans of water. Cook in the oven to produce a full large meal for a family of four. The total cost is about $6 if you pay $2.50 per box of couscous and 50 cents per can of corn. You can add chopped walnuts to add more texture or chicken broth for flavor and protein. And you can top it with parmesan and pepper for extra flavor.
We cook it in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F with the lid on while the couscous absorbs the water and/or broth.
Comfort Food Casserole
One of our favorite and cheap casseroles is tater tot casserole. It costs me about $4 to make. Of course, I buy everything on sale and use coupons.
1 lb. ground beef
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 package of shredded potato nuggets or hash browns
1/2 medium onion, chopped
Brown ground beef and onion together. Add cream of mushroom soup. Spray baking dish with cooking spray, add ground meat mixture, and top with shredded potato nuggets or hash browns. I arrange mine to look nice. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes. I occasionally top with cheese. When served with a salad, you are done. Young people really like this.
I buy these ingredients on sale at stock up prices. I also put this together the night before and have my husband slide it in the oven around 5:30pm. Dinner is on the table by 6pm.
Reviewed March 2022
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