And just like that, I feel like summer is starting to wind down. Soon, we’ll be back-t0-school and back to busy schedules, but we always try to have dinner as a family. I talk all the time about how picky my kids are about eating, which makes it very complicated to plan meals. Keeping everyone happy and well-fed can be a challenge. That’s why finding simple dinners that double as budget friendly meals can make all the difference.
I started using the Make Your Own concept with several different types of recipes, knowing that I could make all my kids and husband happy by allowing them to customize their dinner. Plus, it gives them a little bit of that control young kids seem to want so badly! More ‘perceived control’ = happier kids!
The Build Your Own Mac n’ Cheese & Kid-Friendly Crudite is a family meal favorite around here. It’s delicious and what’s even better – the entire meal is under $20 with Rollbacks at Walmart! If you’re on a budget, especially right before the 1st and 15th of each month, this a great option!
For this Under $20 meal, I purchased Velveeta Shells and Cheese Dinner, Kraft Ranch Dressing and Kraft Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese – all on Rollback at Walmart.
Other ingredients purchased were fresh peppers, carrots, zucchini and bacon bits. Pantry items needed are breadcrumbs – which can be made easily if you don’t have them on hand. The way I make the meal more substantial and add in some veggies by making a kid-friendly crudite to start. Paired with Kraft Ranch Dressing, this quickly stops the “I’m hungry” chant that always seem to precede dinner and it’s a great way to get them to eat veggies.
For the Mac n’ Cheese Bar (or in this case, shells and cheese!), the possibilities are endless. To save money, I’ve doubled some of the toppings in my crudite, as well as the toppings. Your family will love having a Mac n’ Cheese Bar.
green peppers, red peppers, bacon bits, breadcrumbs (panko or Italian), broccoli, carrots, shredded cheese (for baking) – or anything you like! You can also try different sauces as well, like KRAFT Barbecue Sauce.
Quick Tip – Try a contrasting flavor shredded cheese. After toppings are on, we bake each bowl with cheese on top for an amazing flavor. Sharp Cheddar is so yummy when paired with the smooth taste of Velveeta.
Mini baking dishes work great for this recipe – everyone can prepare rigth into their bowls, to the oven and then serve, all in the same bowl!
Once the shells and cheese is prepared, portion out and allow everyone to create their own personalized, custom dinner.
Once everyone has created their dish, simply toss them in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts. And that’s it, you’ve got a budget friendly, simple dinner that everyone is happy with.
What are some of your favorite simple dinners for weeknights?
- Mac N' Cheese Bowls:
- VELVEETA Shells & Cheese Dinner - prepared as per directions on box
- Toppings - mix, match and choose:
- Bacon Bits
- KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Sharp)
- KRAFT Barbecue Sauce
- 1 Red Pepper - Dice half, slice half for crudite (below)
- 1 Green Pepper - Dice half, slice half for crudite (below)
- 1 cup baby carrots - steamed and chopped
- 1 cup broccoli - steamed and chopped
- ½ cup breadcrumbs - italian or panko
- Kid-Friendly Crudite:
- KRAFT Ranch Dressing for Dip
- ½ Green Pepper - sliced
- ½ Red Pepper - sliced
- Handful Baby Carrots
- Kid Friendly Crudite:
- Cut Raw Vegetables to Desired Size & Serve with KRAFT Ranch Dressing - before or during meal!
- Mac n' Cheese Bowls/Bar
- Prepare Toppings in seperate bowls for display
- Prepare VELVEETA Shells & Cheese Dinner according to directions on the box.
- Spoon equal amounts into small baking dishes.
- Customize each bowl by sprinkling ingredients on top. For KRAFT Barbecue sauce, you can mix it in with the shells & cheese before topping.
- Sprinkle with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and place in oven, preheated to 350 for 3-5 minutes.