8 cheap family meals to help you live better for less
Fuel. Energy. Food. The rise in the cost of living feels pretty relentless right now, doesn’t it? But there are many ways to reduce costs and make your hard-earned money go further with cheap family meals. We’ve got lots of great tips on how to keep costs down when doing your weekly food shop, as well as yummy, low-cost easy recipes that the whole family can enjoy.
8 cheap, healthy, and delicious family meals
Cooking from scratch is always going to be cheaper (and healthier) than ready meals, pre-made sauces etc. Here are some of our favourite – and tastiest – recipes with some simple swaps to make them even more cost-effective.
Is there anything more homely and comforting than a traditional fish pie? We don’t think so. And this easy-to-follow recipe will have you making the tastiest fish dish that’ll soon become your new family favourite. For a more budget-friendly version, you can substitute the fresh fish for frozen – a lot of supermarkets sell pre-prepared bags of mixed frozen fish especially for fish pies. You don’t need to use every variety of fish listed, just the ones you like. But we do recommend including smoked haddock, as it provides the most flavour. You can also use dried, rather than fresh, herbs.
A less expensive alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, this slow-cooked Spanish-style recipe cooks a fine piece of brisket to mouth-watering perfection. You should be able to pick up a brisket for a good price (far less than a joint of beef) from a butcher, or the butcher’s counter in a supermarket. You can substitute the Chantenay carrots for regular carrots, and leave out the red wine if you don’t have any in – just add extra stock.
It’s the classic taste of Italy that’s a favourite in many households, and this step-by-step guide teaches you to cook a perfect one. It’s easy to make extra portions to freeze for quick and convenient mid-week meals too. Want to cook a vegetarian version? Use green lentils instead of mince and add some extra veg. Delicious.
Vegetable risotto is an easy vegetarian option (perfect for meat-free Mondays) and can easily be adapted to suit the ingredients you have to hand. As long as you have Arborio rice, stock cubes, any form of fresh or frozen veg and some herbs (dried herbs are fine), you’re good to go. This recipe uses white wine as well as stock, but it’s just as delicious without the vino – just allow for a bit more stock.
Sausages. Fluffy Yorkshire pud. Gravy. Need we say more? There’s a reason this is a family favourite in Britain, and with this foolproof recipe, you’ll be making it every week.
The whole family will love these veggie burgers, which are as healthy as they are delicious. They’re inexpensive to make, and you can substitute the beans in this recipe with any beans (although perhaps not baked…) you happen to have in the cupboard. You could make extra and freeze them for another night too.
This hearty soup recipe is packed with flavour, and with potatoes and lentils, it’s really filling too. Add a slice of bread to dunk, and you have yourself a tasty and nutritious supper that the whole family will love.
Fancy a sweet treat? This super-simple, 3-ingredient ice cream is sure to hit the spot. Made from just frozen fruit, Greek yoghurt and honey, it costs very little to make and is ready in minutes. Oh, and you don’t even need an ice cream maker.
How to save money on your weekly shop
Choose supermarket own brands. Most big supermarket chains have their own version of pretty much every item you can think of, and usually the difference in taste and quality is indistinguishable. Swapping some, or all, of the items on your list to supermarket own brands will cut a substantial amount from the cost of your shop each week.
Take advantage of offers. 2-for-1, buy one, get one free, etc. can offer great savings, as long as you follow the number one rule – only buy the offer if you were going to buy that product anyway. Otherwise, you’re just spending more money and not really saving anything… If it’s a product you needed anyway, it’s worth stocking up and saving those pennies. If it’s a perishable item, check whether you can freeze it and if you can, go for it.
Shop around. We can get used to a certain shop, but is it the best value? There are comparison sites where you can compare the prices of like-for-like items, so it’s worth doing this for the supermarkets in your area.
Sign up to your supermarket’s loyalty card. Whether they offer points that add up to cash, money-off vouchers or discounts, they’re well worth having if you do your big shop there every week as those savings really add up.
Plan your meals for the week so you only buy what you need. This should reduce a lot of wasted food and money. Also, if you know exactly what you need for the week and have a clear list, you’re less likely to stray into unnecessary aisles and pick up items you don’t need.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry – you’ll want everything you see. Speaking from experience…
Avoid the middle aisle… certain supermarkets have a magical, mystical middle aisle, containing everything from gym equipment to DIY tools and hot tubs. Beware. Ask yourself – would I have bought this if I hadn’t seen it today? If the answer is no, walk on. Or, better still, avoid temptation and don’t walk down that aisle.
How to feed a family of 4 cheaply
Batch cook your favourite meals. Freeze extra portions, so you have tasty and convenient ready meals for those evenings when you don’t have time to cook from scratch, avoiding trips to the takeaway and expensive supermarket ready meals.
Stock up on store cupboard essentials. Keep a ready supply of beans, lentils, tinned tomatoes, pasta and rice, as well as jars of herbs and spices, in your cupboard. You’ll be amazed at how many delicious recipes can be made with these cheap store cupboard staples.
Ditch the sliced sandwich meats. Rather than buying packs of sliced meats like ham for sandwiches and salads, buy a joint of meat, bung it in the slow cooker if you have one, oven if not, slice it up and freeze what you don’t use immediately in batches to defrost when you’re ready to use it. Joints of gammon are cheaper than beef or chicken, so this is your most cost-effective option. And a slow-cooked gammon tastes delicious… You could also use the ham to make a ham and egg pie one night, or serve warm with mashed potatoes and veg. The delicious possibilities are endless.
Make a fakeaway. Making your own Friday curry, fish and chips or pizza will save you a lot of money, especially if you have a large family to feed. Get all of your favourite sides and drinks from the supermarket too, so it still feels like an end-of-week treat, but at a fraction of the cost. If you really don’t feel like cooking, most supermarkets sell pre-packed fakeaways, including all the sides, for a great price. All you need to do is heat them up.
Make your food last longer. Check out our ‘How to keep food fresher for longer and feed your family, not the bin’ blog for lots of great money-saving tips.
Some cheap snack ideas for budget eating
When you have growing kids, you can go through an alarming amount of snacks, and keeping them full can become quite an expensive battle. Here are some cheap, and healthy, snack ideas to keep them (and you) full between meals.
- Apple slices with peanut butter.
- Carrot sticks with hummus.
- Seed, nut and dried fruit mixes.
- Home-made flapjack – easy to make and the ingredients are very purse-friendly.
- Crackers or rice cakes with cottage or soft cheese – a couple of slices of cucumber will finish this snack off nicely.
You’ll find lots more great recipes, as well as more money-saving tips, on our blog.