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Blue plate of macaroni and cheese topped with grilled chicken

How to Make Mac and Cheese Better Than The Box and Just as Cheap

by Karen D. Insignares
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Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. 

Remember those days as a kid when you would dive into a bowl of that golden yellow cheese and noodles? I remember growing up eating and loving the stuff. When my sister would take care of me, she would open up that iconic blue box and prepare a quick and yummy bowl. 

It was delicious, and to this day I crave that box of processed macaroni and cheese. But, it’s never really the same as when you were a kid. Every time I crave it, I am wildly disappointed! Oh! How the nostolgia has dissipated. No offense to Kraft.

As a by proxy broke college student, I get the appeal, it’s cheap, quick, and easy to make. For $1 or so you have this instant Mac n Cheese that satisfies the hunger and doesn’t break the bank. 

Let’s do some math.

One 7.25 oz box of Kraft has 3 servings and takes only 8 minutes to make. Each serving is 1/2 a cup! At a dollar per box, that’s about .33 cents per serving.

But let me tell you, for an extra 20 minutes of your time, you can make a delicious budget friendly Macaroni and Cheese for .32 cents per serving! AND! You’ll be getting 5 times the amount of a single box of Kraft! Check out my break down!

So if you’re interested, let’s get started. 

Cooking Tips and Substitutions

Add Some Premium Toppings

So for the basic Mac and cheese, follow the direction above. BUT! If you want an extra flare, consider adding some of these things on top!

  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Leftover Chicken
  • Basil
  • Bacon
  • Toasted Panko Break Crumbs

Just putting it out there!

Simple Macaroni and Cheese

Make this creamy pot of macaroni and cheese, layered with the rich flavors of red peppers, onions, and garlic.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Servings: 6


  • 16 oz Elbow Pasta ($0.87)
  • 8 oz Colby Cheese ($1.00)
  • 3 Cups Almond Milk ($2.00)
  • 1 Small Onion ($0.25)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic ($0.01)
  • 1 Medium Carrot ($0.25)
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper ($0.5)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika ($0.01)
  • Oil of Choice ($0.18)
  • Salt and Pepper ($0.03)


  • This Macaroni and Cheese recipe starts with a sofrito. Which to me means dumping a base of finely diced garlic and onion and other tasty veggies. The key to this Mac and cheese recipe is to use red things in the sofrito. Why? Because if you start with these colors, it takes a LOT less cheese to get that yummy yellow color that Mac and Cheese we know and love.
  • So! Start dicing your onion, garlic, carrot, and red bell pepper. I like to cut them up pretty small, but if you’re okay with larger chunks, go for it! And if you don’t want to see your veggies at all throw it in a blender with a small amount of water and blitz!
  • Heat your pan to medium heat and add a little oil and throw in the veggies! You’ll know you have the right temperature when you hear it sizzle.
  • You should let the veggies cook out for about 5 minutes, just until the onions get translucent. If you notice charr on your onions lower the heat. When we add the milk, those charred bits will go away so no need to start over. Sprinkle smoked paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper to your sofrito to help bring out those flavors.
  • Once your onions are translucent add the milk. I use almond milk which naturally has more water than milk, if you’re using whole milk I would suggest using 1 cup of water and 2 cups of milk.
  • Once your milk starts to simmer add in your elbow pasta. Your noodles should be just about covered, so if it needs more water go ahead and do so. Cover your pot and stir occasionally.
  • Let the pasta simmer for about 7-8 minutes, until al dente ( I like to taste one and see if they still have a bit of crunch in them) add the cheese, mix well, and let it combine for another minute or so and it’s ready to eat!
  • If you want a crusty layer at the bottom, I would let it sit in the post for an extra minute or two at medium heat. MMMmmmm, Crispies!

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