Need a super cheap dinner that tastes amazing and can actually feed your whole family? I made this spectacular creamy meatless baked Ziti for less than $5! That’s total, not per serving. $5 for an entire 13×9 inch pan!
After spending way too much on convenience food for the better part of last year, I made it a goal to start shopping smarter and actually making some sort of meal plan. I am in a bit of a financial rut lately and can’t really afford to go over budget on groceries. It was getting to the point where we were out of food money within the first two weeks of the month, then living on eggs, ramen, and pancakes for the last half of the month.
I’m currently doing two things to save money on food:
- Making a list of 12 meals for two weeks (allowing 1 day a week for leftovers/convenience food) and sticking to it.
- Shopping at Aldi’s and Walmart for more of my groceries, and sticking to a list (with wiggle room for snacks).
I used to shop at Weis, but wow they are really raising prices like crazy these days! I find that Aldi’s and Walmart are close in price for many things, and Walmart does have what I can’t find at Aldi’s, so between the two I should be covered.
So, back to the recipe story. I didn’t actually make this as a recipe for the blog, but it came out so good that I wanted to share it with you! Since it wasn’t specifically a “blog recipe,” I didn’t really take pictures until the next day. The pics against the black plate background are mine. I bought a stock photo that matched it as closely as possible for the other picture. I just want to be honest about that upfront.
My very picky son liked it so much that he ate multiple servings of it. In fact, it was so good he assumed that my mom made it! Thanks for the vote of confidence, kid. It’s even delicious reheated the next day! Often, I find that baked ziti leftovers get very dried out in the microwave. Not the case at all with this recipe!
Read on to see how to make it! You only need four ingredients!
Cheap Dinner Recipe: Super Creamy Meatless Baked Ziti
- 1-lb box of ziti pasta
- 2 24-oz jars of traditional marinara sauce (or one of the really big jars, but I used two smaller ones)
- 5-oz of cream cheese (a little more than half the brick)
- 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
How to make it
- Cook the pasta according to directions, leaving it just a smidge al dente. At the same time, preheat the oven to 350-degrees (F)
- Drain the pasta and return to the pot
- Dump in the sauce and stir
- Cut the cream cheese up into little chunks, about 1 inch big. Drop into pot and stir.
- Dump in the cheese. Stir.
- Dump the whole thing into a 13×9 inch casserole dish.
- Bake at 350 uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.
That’s it! So easy, so delicious! The cream cheese is the secret to making it awesome. I got that from a Martha Stewart recipe. Her recipe used homemade pasta sauce and meat, so I adapted it for my family’s tastes.
Cost for each ingredient:
- Ziti- $1 at Weis, because I couldn’t find it at Aldi’s. Possibly cheaper at Walmart.
- Sauce- $1.70 at Aldi’s ($0.85 each)
- Cream Cheese- $0.79 for the brick at Aldi’s, and I still have some left over for bagels, so about $0.55 worth used
- Mozzarella cheese- $2.49 for a 4-cup bag. I used about half, so about $1.25.
Total for the entire meal: $4.50
Total per serving: about $0.50, depending on how much you eat. We got about 10 servings out of it. Some were ginormous plates of it, some were smaller helpings.
If you prefer meat in your ziti, you could easily toss in some ground chicken, turkey, or beef. Ground chicken averages about $3 a pound at Aldi’s, so even if you threw in a pound the entire meal would still be under $1 per serving.
You can also make your own sauce if you prefer. Like I said, Martha’s recipe called for homemade sauce. I don’t have the time or desire to make my own when I can get it for $0.85 a jar. I’m all about the easy dinner recipes.
I’m definitely making this again, and adding it to my regular meal plan rotation.
Do you have a favorite cheap dinner recipe that your whole family loves? Tell me all about it! I’m always looking for new ideas, especially if they’re good for picky eaters!