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31 Budget-Friendly Dinners for December

Make your dollar stretch just a little bit farther this holiday season with this budget-friendly meal plan.

1 / 31

Day 1: Stuffed Meat Loaf Slices

This is a family favorite requested for special occasions. We received it from a fellow faculty member when my husband and I were in our first years of teaching. —Judy Knaupp, Rickreall, Oregon
2 / 31

Day 2: Muffin-Tin Chicken Potpies

I made these personalized chicken pot pies in muffin tins for my kids, and they gobbled them up. For the record, the grown-ups did, too! —Melissa Haines, Valparaiso, Indiana
3 / 31

Day 3: Slow Cooker Spanish Rice

Here’s an economical dish with authentic Tex-Mex taste. Even the little ones will go for this Spanish rice. —Sharon Tipton, Casselberry, Florida
4 / 31
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Day 4: Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes & Ham

Creamy, cheesy and easy to make, this casserole is the definition of comfort food. This makes two casseroles, so it’s great for a crowd; it freezes nicely, too. —Salina Bontrager, Kalona, Iowa
5 / 31
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Day 5: Black Bean Chicken Burritos

I try to hide as many veggies as possible in these burritos. Another way I bump up the nutrition level is by using thinly sliced cabbage instead of regular iceberg lettuce. The filling freezes well, so double the recipe! —Jeni Pittard, Statham, Georgia
6 / 31

Day 6: Pizza Lover's Casserole

When you’re looking for a surefire crowd-pleaser for a kids’ party, it’s hard to go wrong with pizza. This dish delivers the taste of pizza in a convenient and delicious casserole. Pair it with a salad and bread, and you have a great meal for a table full of kids without the pizzeria tab! —Jackie Hannahs, Cedar Springs, Michigan
7 / 31
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Day 7: Bean & Beef Slow-Cooked Chili

This chili may be loaded, but we love to build it up even more with toppings like pico de gallo, red onion, cilantro and cheese. —Mallory Lynch, Madison, Wisconsin
8 / 31
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Day 8: Turkey Ramen Noodle Salad

My husband and I make this awesome salad together—he does the chopping. When we bring this salad for potlucks, we pack the ramen and almonds separately and toss them in right before it’s time to dish up. They stay nice and crunchy that way. —Kristen Pallant, Big Arm, Montana
9 / 31

Day 9: White Beans & Bow Ties

When we have fresh veggies, we toss them with pasta shapes like penne or bow ties. For add-ins, think heirloom tomatoes, onion and garlic. —Angela Buchanan, Longmont, Colorado
10 / 31

Day 10: Teriyaki Glazed Chicken

I love to experiment with food. We're able to buy sweet onions grown on Maui, so I stir-fry them with chicken and carrots for a tasty teriyaki meal. —Kelly Brenneman, Riverdale, California
11 / 31

Day 11: Big Batch Cheeseburger Soup

When my mother-in-law gave me her recipe for cheeseburger soup, I changed it a little to make it my own. You can use turkey meat instead of beef or add bell peppers or jalapenos for a little kick. —Christina Addison, Blanchester, Ohio
12 / 31

Day 12: Tuna Noodle Cups

Older kids can get a jump on preparing dinner by stirring up these miniature tuna casseroles. Or serve them for brunch with fresh fruit, a tossed salad and rolls. —Marlene Pugh, Fort McMurray, Alberta
13 / 31

Day 13: Easy Chicken and Potatoes

Since returning to work after having my daughter, I have a lot on my plate just like every other mom out there. To make life easier, I came up with this time-saving recipe. I make it once a week now. —Lisa Turco, Cumberland, Rhode Island
14 / 31
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Day 14: Breaded Pork Tenderloin

Meat is a hard sell with my teenage daughter, unless I make it look like a restaurant dish. Drizzle ranch dressing or barbecue sauce on top, and it's a home run. —Donna Carney, New Lexington, Ohio
15 / 31
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Day 15: Meat Shell Potato Pie

Guests always comment on the presentation and flavor of this delightfully different dish. —Julie Sterchi, Flora, Illinois
16 / 31
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Day 16: Chicken Cucumber Pitas

I wanted a good recipe for pitas. Seeing the large stack of garden-fresh cucumbers on my counter, I decided to improvise and create my own filling. It was a huge hit. —Sheena Wellard, Nampa, Idaho
17 / 31

Day 17: Triple Cheese Twists

Our stovetop macaroni and cheese is extra special, thanks to the buttery crumb topping. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
18 / 31
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Day 18: Turkey a La King

This is a smart way to use up leftover turkey. You might want to make a double batch! —Mary Gaylord, Balsam Lake, Wisconsin
19 / 31
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Day 19: Deluxe Walking Nachos

This slow-cooked potluck chili makes an awesome filling for a bag of walk-around nachos. Cut the bag lengthwise to make it easier to load up your fork. —Mallory Lynch, Madison, Wisconsin
20 / 31

Day 20: Red Beans and Sausage

Turkey sausage, beans and a zesty blend of spices make this a deliciously unique meal.—Cathy Webster, Morris, Illinois
21 / 31
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Day 21: Meat Lover's Pizza Rice Skillet

My son named this “pizza rice” after I threw together a quick dinner from what I had in the fridge and pantry. Add any other pizza topping ingredients you desire. I often add black olive slices or mushrooms. Teri Rasey, Cadillac, Michigan
22 / 31
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Day 22: Stovetop Turkey Tetrazzini

A very special aunt shared this fun spin on creamy tetrazzini. We think it’s even better the next day. —Tasia Cox, Niceville, Florida
23 / 31
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Day 23: Black Bean and Beef Tostadas

Just a handful of ingredients add up to one of our family’s favorites. Also easy to double for company! —Susan Brown, Kansas City, Kansas
24 / 31

Day 24: Mushroom Hunter's Sauce

Hunter sauce is a rich brown sauce with an accent of tomato. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
25 / 31
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Day 25: Make Once, Eat Twice Lasagna

Our family loves this recipe accompanied by a green salad and garlic bread. It is so handy on lazy days or when guests arrive to have an extra, ready-made pan in the freezer. —Geri Davis, Prescott, Arizona
26 / 31
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Day 26: Jezebel Chicken Thighs

This easy-to-prepare, sweet and spicy baked chicken dish is a quick favorite that we make throughout the year. Tender and moist, it’s a filling and easy dinner for busy weeknights. —Judy Armstrong, Prairieville, Louisana
27 / 31
Day 27: Sliced Ham with Roasted Vegetables

Day 27: Sliced Ham with Roasted Vegetables

To prepare this colorful, zesty oven meal, I "shop" in my backyard for the fresh garden vegetables and oranges (we have our own tree!) that spark the ham's hearty flavor. It's my family's favorite main dish. —Margaret Pache, Mesa, Arizona
28 / 31
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Day 28: Greek Stuffed Banana Peppers

If you’re looking for ground turkey recipes that deliver, this is the one! The filling is flavorful and the peppers add some nice heat. You can easily stuff them ahead of time and bake them up when you’re ready. —Ola Snow, Powell, Ohio
29 / 31

Day 29: Baked Nectarine Chicken Salad

This casserole is a fun twist on a classic. Folks love the crunchy chow mein noodles on top. I love that I can make it a day in advance and refrigerate until it's time to serve. Serve with hot bread or rolls. —Faye Robinson, Pensacola, Florida
30 / 31
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Day 30: Crunchy Tuna Salad with Tomatoes

On a hot summer day, there's nothing more refreshing than this salad. I grow a few tomato plants in my garden and the fresh-picked taste makes the dish even more of a treat. —Diane Selich, Vassar, Michigan
31 / 31

Day 31: Pepperoni Pizza Baked Potatoes

These tasty taters were a spur-of-the-moment recipe I created from leftovers! It’s a true mash-up meal that combines two dinnertime favorites into one super-fun meal. —Dawn E. Lowenstein, Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.
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