Not to brag, but I kind of have a hidden talent for being able to pull dinner out of thin air. The hubby or the kids complain and tell me there is nothing to eat. It is like a challenge for me then to look through the pantry and see what I can whip up! After raiding the pantry and one of my 4 freezers (no joke) I can have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.
Even when we “have nothing to eat…”
With a family of 7, we have learned to make our meals stretch. Even if we haven’t been grocery shopping in weeks (this happens more than I would like to admit…)
When I plan my meals and my grocery shopping out, I can buy groceries for a week, for my large family, for under $50! Want to know my secret? Check it out here>>>🤫
I came up with this recipe one night after the hubby had a long day at work and I had a long day with the kids. Boxed meals and sides have become a staple in our house. Not only are they cheap, but they are quick and easy to make. Especially when you have children screaming at your feet because they are starving.
As a kid, I grew up on boxed meals because that’s what my mom made. My dad was the cook, but he was in the Navy and worked a lot.
While I would love to feed my kids an all organic, whole foods diet, I’ll be honest, it can get very expensive and I simply don’t have the time to spend making every meal from scratch.
This recipe is incredibly easy to make and can easily feed a family of 4-6, with some veggies on the side of course. The nice thing about this recipe is that it is very customizable. You can use a brand name or generic. I purchased everything at Aldi, and it cost about $6 or so (if you factor in the serving cost of the cheese melt).
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While I would like to develop my own homemade hamburger helper recipe in the future, this is my easy cheat way of doing it!
First, gather up your ingredients. You need a box of mac and cheese, a box of “hamburger helper,” anything cheesy works really. We generally use the hamburger helper cheeseburger macaroni kind but have also used other hamburger helper flavors like Italian shells or lasagna kind and it was just as good. Some cheese melt, and real bacon bits, and your ground chuck
(we use ground turkey from Aldi it’s $1.87 per pound). I recently started to shop around more and realized that a pound of ground turkey at Walmart is $1.66, so I stock up when I go there!
If you are looking for some more frugal ground beef recipes, then check out these 25 frugal ground beef recipes.
When I first made this I only had those crunchy, imitation bacon bits on hand, and those worked just as well. The imitation bacon bits give it a nice texture, actually. I pretty much always have some of these real bacon bits 🥓 on hand. They are great for adding to pasta, salads, or even scrambled eggs. Or, if you want to get super fancy, you can fry up some bacon and crumble it up, but I generally don’t have time for that so I take this little shortcut 😊.
Next, you want to brown your meat. I used a cast iron pan for this. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it as the cheese gets pretty stuck on and it can be more difficult to wash off. Live and learn, I am still a novice with using a cast iron pan and learning as I go! But the cast iron pan looked way cooler to cook with in these pictures than my crappy old pan lol!
Related: Easy Keto Egg Roll in a Bowl
Once your meat is browned, add your noodles from both the boxed mac and cheese and hamburger helper. Then add both powdered cheese packets as well.
I vaguely remember my mother doing something like this when she made dinner when I was little. In order to make the hamburger helper stretch for our family of 4, she would add some extra noodles. The problem with this is that was all she added, do the flavor was stretched out as well.
This recipe is set up to pump up the flavor rather than take away from it.
Next. stir in your milk and water. About 2 1/2 cups of each. I know this might sound like a lot, but you do have a lot of noodles to absorb the liquid. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. You want the noodles to be mostly cooked through before you move to the next steps.
When most of the liquid is absorbed into the macaroni noodles, add in about half of the bag of bacon bits, or about an ounce to an ounce and a half of bacon. Stir to combine. If you are using imitation bacon bits, cover the pan again to soften them up a little bit.
Pro Tip: If the noodles have absorbed all the liquid before they have cooked, just add another 1/2 cup of water or 1/2 cup of milk and continue to cook.
Now it’s time to get cheesy🧀! Add about a cup to a cup and a half to cheese melt or Velveeta to your pan. This is about 2 1-inch slices that are then cubed. Stir to incorporate and melted. You want to be sure that there is still some liquid in the pan to assist in the melting of the cheese.
If you wanted to get really fancy, you could add various kinds of cheeses. You will want to pick a cheese that is pretty soft and melts easily. Some mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Colbey Jack, or even a bit of cream cheese. You can also top the finished meal with some shredded cheddar cheese.
If your boxed hamburger helper had one of these squishy cheese packets in there, this is the time to add it. If it didn’t that’s ok too, just add some more cheese melt! It will still taste good, I promise! You can either stir to combine or just leave all fancy like on top.
Now it’s time to dig in! This hamburger helper is sure to become a family favorite!
This easy to make, cheesy dinner will have everyone going back for seconds! It's so simple to make and you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 2 1/2 cups water
- One box hamburger helper, (or cheap version)
- One box mac and cheese
- 1-2 ounces bacon bits
- 1 cup cheese melt (Velveeta)
- 1 lb ground meat, or ground turkey
- Brown the meat in a skillet.
- Add both boxes of noodles and powdered cheese packets to the browned, ground meat.
- Add the milk and water to the noodles and meat. Stir well to combine.
- Cover and cook the noodles until most of the liquid is absorbed and they are al dente.
- Add in the bacon bits. Stir to combine.
- Add in the cheese melt. Stir to combine.
- If there is a squishy cheese packet, add that in.
- (Optional: You can also add shredded cheddar to top it off)
This recipe is easily customizable. You can substitute ground beef for ground turkey, or vice versa and use off-brand items to save some money on groceries.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 700Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 134mgSodium: 905mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 46g
All nutritional information is an estimation.