I'm a mom of 11. Here are 12 cheap, easy dinners I make every month to keep my kids from getting bored.

I'm a mom of 11. Here are 12 cheap, easy dinners I make every month to keep my kids from getting bored.
  • Planning meals for my family of 13 is a feat, but I've found several go-to dinner recipes.

  • My 11 kids range from newborn to 20. I've created a rotation of easy meals for each month.

  • Some of my go-to recipes are fish sandwiches, tacos, and kielbasa noodles.

Feeding a family of 13 isn't an easy feat.

Each summer — when we're not homeschooling — the kids help me plan the meals for the next school year. To keep my family from getting bored, we rotate dinners on a monthly schedule.

My kids, who range in age from newborn to 19, help me decide on a theme for each night of the week, and we brainstorm four or five meals for each one to rotate throughout the month.

This way, we eat our dinner options only 12 times a year instead of once a week.

We've enjoyed a variety of themes, but this year they're roast meat and potatoes; Asian-inspired; taco Tuesday; American; noodle night; pizza night; and seafood. Other themes we've used include soup and sandwiches; Italian; around the world; casseroles; comfort food; fry day; and breakfast for dinner.

During the brainstorming session, I encourage the kids to think of meals that are fairly inexpensive, quick to make, and enjoyed by most of the family.

Read on for a dozen of my tried-and-true meals that help me get dinner on the table.

My kids are big fans of chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes

Chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes
This meal is easy to throw together.Lisa Tanner for Insider

My kids love the combination of chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes. The Instant Pot makes the side dish so simple, even on weeknights.

While the oven preheats for the nuggets, I have one of my kids help me peel the potatoes. Then I cut them in half and put them in the Instant Pot with a cup of water for 10 minutes on high pressure.

As the Instant Pot comes to the right pressure, I get the chicken nuggets in the oven. Then I open a bag of frozen vegetables (usually corn or peas for this meal) and start cooking those. I also whip up a quick cream gravy with butter, flour, chicken broth, milk, salt, and pepper.

When I plan it out like this, everything is ready at about the same time, which works out perfectly.

Breakfast for dinner is a favorite in my house

breakfast for dinner
I get my kids to help me in the kitchen.Lisa Tanner for Insider

Breakfast for dinner is a fun change of pace and a simple meal that the kids can help prepare.

The menu varies depending on what we have on hand, but it typically includes waffles or pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs.

I usually make waffles from scratch, but I keep a bag of pancake mix on hand in case I run out of an ingredient right before dinner.

One of my daughters quickly scrambles eggs while bacon cooks in the oven. At the same time, one of my young sons helps make the waffles, because he loves rotating the handle on the waffle maker.

Sometimes I whip up a quick syrup by boiling two cups of sugar with a cup of water and about a teaspoon of maple extract. Other times the kids put blueberries and whipped cream on their waffles.

Spaghetti and meatballs are a classic combo for a reason

Spaghetti and Meatballs
The simple meal is a winner at my house.Lisa Tanner for Insider

Since it's so easy to prepare, spaghetti and meatballs is one of the first meals I teach my kids how to make on the stove.

They put the frozen meatballs in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 minutes. While those cook, they boil water and cook the noodles.

I help them strain the noodles once they're tender, then they dump a jar of sauce in the pot and heat it all for a minute or two. Marinara sauce is our go-to, but occasionally we try new ones.

When the noodles are done, we get the meatballs out of the oven and serve dinner with a side salad and a piece of garlic bread, which we make by quickly broiling hot-dog buns slathered with butter and sprinkled with garlic.

I like to whip up pork tenderloin and potatoes in my Crock-Pot

pork tenderloin and potatoes
I get my pork tenderloin at Costco to save some money.Lisa Tanner for Insider

Dinner doesn't get much easier than this pork tenderloin from Costco.

I quickly brown the meat in a pan with a bit of oil. I wash the potatoes and put them in the Crock-Pot, placing the browned pork on top.

I add generous amounts of salt, pepper, and garlic, and a little water to keep it from sticking. Then I put the lid on, turn it on low, and let the slow cooker prepare dinner while we get on with our days.

About six hours later, I put together a side salad and slice the meat. It's a simple dinner that everyone eats without complaint.

Fish sandwiches are popular for seafood night at my house

fish sandwich
I serve the sandwiches with a few sides.Lisa Tanner for Insider

Quick fish sandwiches made with frozen fish fillets, hamburger buns, and lettuce are usually on rotation for seafood nights.

While the fish heats in the oven, I wash the lettuce and tear it into sandwich-sized pieces. When the fish is done, I put a little mayonnaise on the bun, add the fish, and top it with the lettuce.

I typically serve this meal with steamed vegetables and french fries.

I get my kids to help set up our taco bars full of toppings and sides

taco bar night ingredients
My kids can customize their tacos.Lisa Tanner for Insider

My kids can help me prepare a taco bar in no time — and by setting out all the ingredients individually, everyone can decide exactly what they want.

While my kids prepare the toppings and arrange them on the counter, I brown the meat with a little bit of chopped onion and flavor it with taco seasoning.

Since most of my kids prefer meatless tacos, one pound of hamburger meat is enough for my whole family.

Chips and salsa, Mexican rice, and corn are some of our favorites things to add to the simple taco bar.

Meatball subs are an easy option for sandwich night

meatball sandwich
Meatballs are a great hot-sandwich option.Lisa Tanner for Insider

When we need a quick option for sandwich night but are tired of cold sandwiches, meatballs come to the rescue.

I cook them in the oven, pour marinara sauce on top, and pop them back in for a few minutes until the sauce is nice and warm.

Then I spoon the meatballs over sliced French bread, ensuring that everyone gets several meatballs on their sandwich. Hoagie rolls are another great bread option.

I serve these sandwiches with chips and a side salad.

My chicken gravy over potatoes comes together quickly

chicken gravy over potatoes
I use my Instant Pot for this meal to speed up the process.Lisa Tanner for Insider

For this meal, I plop several boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. The kids help me peel potatoes, and we start them in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes on high pressure.

When the chicken is close to done, I start the gravy in another pan by melting butter and sprinkling flour on top.

I whisk it while it cooks for a few minutes to get the flour taste out and add about a tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon, about a cup of water, several cups of milk, and salt and pepper. I mix this all well to get out any clumps and let it thicken over medium-low heat.

While that simmers, I drain and dice the chicken to add it to the gravy so it all mixes together. Around this time, the potatoes are ready to drain and mash.

I serve this meal with a cooked vegetable and a roll or piece of bread and butter.

I like to spice things up with my simple kielbasa noodles

12. Kielbasa noodles
I sneak some vegetables into this meal.Lisa Tanner for Insider

This meal adds a bit of variety to our noodle nights.

I slice Polska kielbasa and cook it in a pan with a bit of oil. Then I follow the directions on the package to boil some egg noodles until they're tender.

During the last minute the noodles are cooking, I dump in some frozen peas. This is the perfect amount of time to get them hot but not mushy.

Once the noodles and peas are done, I drain them and dump them in the pan with the sausage. I typically add a bit of butter and garlic or a can of Alfredo sauce to keep the noodles from becoming too dry.

I serve the noodles with a piece of bread and sometimes a side salad to round out the meal.

Corned beef and cabbage is one of my family's favorite comfort foods

corned beef
We don't just eat this around St. Patrick's Day.Lisa Tanner for Insider

I know I'm not the only one who stocks up on this delicious piece of meat each March around St. Patrick's Day. It's a family favorite and too good to eat only once a year.

I start by putting the meat fat-side up in the Crock-Pot. Then I add small potatoes, a sliced onion, and baby carrots.

This takes nearly all day to cook on high, so it's great for when I have time to plan ahead.

When it's getting close to dinnertime, I slice a head of cabbage and sauté it in a pan. My family prefers this method to cooking the cabbage with the meat and vegetables.

When everything's ready, I serve it with seeded rye bread.

I like to switch up the sauce when I make roasted chicken drumsticks and potatoes

roasted chicken drumsticks
I can easily transform this recipe with different sauces.Lisa Tanner for Insider

For this meal, I place chicken drumsticks in a baking dish, season them with a little salt and pepper, and let them cook in the oven.

I also prepare a pan of diced potatoes, diced onions, a little bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper to cook alongside it.

These both take about 45 minutes to cook.

Once the meat is done, I add some kind of sauce, usually either Panda Express' sweet and tangy Beijing sauce, barbecue sauce, orange sauce, or sweet-and-sour sauce.

Once the sauce is on, I cook it for about another five minutes to let everything get hot.

Some of the kids enjoy bread and butter with their chicken and potatoes, but I also set out a side salad.

Cheese quesadillas are one of the easiest, crowd-pleasing meals

cheese quesadillas
Even my younger kids can help with this meal.Lisa Tanner for Insider

My young son loves helping make this quick dinner for the family.

It's the perfect option when we have somewhere to be and need to eat as fast as possible while avoiding the expense of takeout.

My son is in charge of sprinkling shredded cheese on a tortilla. Then he puts it in the microwave and pushes the "add 30 seconds" button. When it beeps, he can take it out with a bit of help and fold the tortilla in half.

I help him cut it, and he puts one on a plate for each family member.

We usually serve the quesadillas with quick sides like fresh fruit or carrot sticks and ranch dressing so cleanup can be as simple as the meal itself.

This story was originally published on June 8, 2021, and most recently updated on February 22, 2024. 

Read the original article on Business Insider