Over 30 delicious cheap meal ideas that will feed your family for less

by Hayley Merrick |
Updated on

Delicious meals are possible on a budget. Our cheap meal ideas include ingredients that can be found in most budget supermarkets, so tasty meals are within reach. They range from cheap family dinners, ideas for 2, one-pot dishes, after school or work snacks, vegetarian, fakeaways, classic recipes and meal prep ideas to freeze ahead or use up your leftovers. Many of the recipes can be cooked in an airfryer or slow cooker instead of the oven – saving on hefty utility bills.

Our recipes cover all bases, from cooking from scratch, to using clever tricks and cheat’s products – ultimately, creative recipes that prove you can still have tasty, delicious meals on the table.

All meals have been costed by choosing the best price from all major budget supermarkets, and prices are kept up to date on a regular basis. Just make sure your cupboard is stocked up with the basics, such as oil, stock cubes, dried herbs and spices.

Sausage rolls

1 Ultimate sausage rolls

Makes 24 Takes 50min Cost per roll 23p

These bite-sized sausage rolls combine pork sausages and beef mince, as well as barbecue sauce, all encased in a ready-rolled puff pastry. Prefect for an after-school or mid-morning snack, and can be frozen for up to two months.

Cream soup of roasted pumpkin & paprika

2 Roast vegetable soup

Serves 4 Takes 35min Cost per serving 25p

Make the most of leftover roasted veg by cooking up this Moroccan-inspired soup, made all in one pan. Perfect for flasks or a cheap warm evening meal with hunks of baguette.

Mini omelettes with chorizo and courgette

3 Mini chorizo & courgette frittatas

Makes 6 Takes 45min, plus cooling, Cost per frittata 42p

These mini frittatas are perfect for lunch boxes and picnics. Made in an everyday muffin tin, they can be whipped up in no time. Use mushrooms instead of chorizo for a veggie alternative.

Spaghetti bolognese cups to go

4 Spaghetti Bolognese cups

Makes 12 Takes 50min, plus standing Cost per cup 46p

Great to pack up for days out and tasty snacks, these Bolognese cups can be enjoyed hot or cold. Using storecupboard Bolognese pasta sauce, they are also delicious served for dinner with roasted potato wedges.

Gnocchi matriciana

5 Spicy gnocchi

Serves 4 Takes 30min Cost per serving 58p

The ultimate comfort food, guaranteed to fill hungry tums, toss gnocchi into a spicy bacon tomato sauce and you have the perfect lunch or dinner.

Chickpea burger with beetroot and mayonnaise

6 Meat-free burger

Serves 4 Takes 30min, plus chilling Cost per seving 59p

A healthy burger that is filling too. Using storecupboard staples, this veggie burger is whizzed up in minutes, and is packed with goodness to boot.

Southern Chicken Wings Buffalo-Style

7Buffalo-style chicken wings

Serves 4 Takes 55min Cost per serving 80p

Chicken wings are cheap as chips and make for great finger or ‘picky’ value meal. The Buffalo sauce is made of basic storecupboard ingredients, and the whole lot can be cooked in the airfryer.

Slow-cooked beef topped with pillowy potato mash

8 Slow cooker cottage pie

Serves 6 Takes 3hr 45min Cost per serving 82p

This classic meal is a perfect comforting family dinner, all made in a slow cooker. It’s perfect as an alternative to a Sunday roast.

Maccaroni cheese with tomato and basil

9 Macaroni cheese bake

Serves 4 Takes 40min Cost per serving; 91p

This macaroni cheese recipe with added tomatoes is easy and delicious. Perfect for a family dinner. You can use up your slightly stale bread for the breadcrumbs, too.

Saucy Tuna Balls

10 Saucy tuna balls

Serves 4 Takes 30min Cost per serving 39p

A twist on a family favourite. Using canned tuna, this dinner can be rustled up in half an hour. Served with couscous, these tuna balls can also be served with spaghetti.

Sausage and tomato risotto

11Sausage risotto

Serves 4 Takes 40min Cost per serving: 93p

This easy, tasty rice dish uses salami or chorizo, but use regular sausages, if that’s all you have. This is a super special family dinner.

Cauliflower and ham casserole

12 Cauliflower & ham pasta bake

Serves 4 Takes 1hr Cos per serving: 97p

A great way of sneaking more vegetables onto kids’ plates, this cauliflower cheese bake comes with a creamy cheese sauce and has a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Fish and bean burgers with mayonnaise

13 Fish & bean burgers

Serves 6 Takes 30min Cost per serving £1.09

A healthy alternative to traditional burgers, using frozen fish fillets and cannellini beans, these zesty burgers can be made the day before and cooked in no time.

Ham, spinach and tomato risotto

14 Ham, spinach & tomato risotto

Serves 2 Takes 35min (plus standing) Cost per serving £1.10

Everyone will enjoy this deliciously soft and creamy risotto. The ham adds a saltiness and cherry tomatoes a sweetness. Enough for two or one with leftovers.

Angel's hair noodles with spinach and tomatoes

15 Creamy spinach & bacon spaghetti

Serves 2 Ready in 15min Cost per serving: £1.12

Whip up this creamy spaghetti dish in just 15 minutes. Chopped bacon, capers and sun-blush tomatoes are mixed into soured cream and served with grated Parmesan. A special meal for two.

Mini-pies with chicken

16 Mini chicken pies

Serves: 6 Takes 1hr 5min Cost per pie: £1.13

These mini chicken pies pack a flavour punch, featuring juicy chicken thighs, coconut milk and crunchy peanut butter, encased in ready-made shortcrust pastry. Great for making and freezing.

Classic Beef Burgers

17 Classic beef burger

Serves 4 Takes 30min (plus chilling) Cost per serving: £1.24

Classic beef burger using beef mince, topped with Cheddar, lettuce and tomato slices, all served in a classic sesame bun. The perfect fakeaway for Saturday night dinner.

Meatballs with chilli tomato jam

18 Meatballs with speedy chilli jam

Serves 2 Takes 35min Cost per serving £1.45

These lamb meatballs are on the table in 35 minutes. Served with a chilli jam, these meatballs can be prepped ahead, frozen or stored in the fridge for up to two days, making them an ideal weekday family meal.

Five-spiced Chicken and Noodle Stir Fry

19 Five-spice chicken & noodles

Serves 4 Takes 35min Cost per serving £1.55

This five-spice chicken stir fry is quick and easy to make and packs a flavour punch. Easily adaptable, use rice instead of noodles or pork instead of the chicken.

Vegetables with Chilli

20 Veggie stir fry

Serves 2 Takes 15min Cost per serving: £1.59

This easy vegetable stir fry is packed with colourful vegetables and served with creamy cashew nuts. On the table in 15 minutes, it’s easily adaptable for whatever veggies you have in the fridge.

Tomato with prosciutto and rocket pizza

21 Rocket & prosciutto pizza

Makes: 2 Takes: 45min (plus standing & proving) Cost per serving: £1.67

Homemade pizza base topped with the flavours of Italy, with thinly sliced sweet prosciutto ham and creamy mozzarella. The perfect cheap family meal.

Potato, Swede and Sausage Gratin

22 Swede, potato & sausage gratin

Serves 4 Takes 1hr 20mi Cost per serving: £1.70

A dish to take your time over – perfect for a weekend family meal. Using pork sausages, kales, potatoes and swede, this creamy gratin is enough served on its own.

Fish pie with mashed dill peas

23 Fish pie with mashed peas

Serves 6-8 Takes 1hr 20min Cost per serving: £1.72

A meal in one, the iconic fish pie has a puff pastry base topped with a creamy fish layer, mashed peas, and mashed potato. A family favourite.

Spaghetti bolognese

24 Solo spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 1 Takes 40min Cost per serving £1.78

Make a double batch of this classic rich Bolognese and freeze the leftovers for another day. Serve with spaghetti. The perfect meal for one.

Oven-baked fish and chips

25 Oven baked fish & chips

Serves 4 Takes 1hr 5min Cost per serving: £1.83

At a fraction of the cost of shop bought fish and chips, these cornflake-coated cod fillets are baked at the same time as the potato wedges, making them a healthy family meal. Serve with a lemon mayo for dipping.

Beef and Red Wine Casserole

26 Beef & red wine casserole

Serves 6 Takes 2hr 25min Cost per serving £1.86

This classic casserole is slow cooked using braising steak, beef stock, red wine and thyme, making it a cheap family winter warming dinner.

Chicken and Broccoli Curry

27 Chicken & broccoli curry

Serves 2 Takes 35min Cost per serving £2.19

This cheat’s spicy chicken curry uses jalfrezi curry paste and coconut milk, and takes just 35 minutes. Perfect for a midweek lunch or dinner.

Sunday Lamb Roast & Mint Pie

28 Minty lamb pie

Serves 4 Takes 2hr Cost per serving: £3.14

Perfect alternative to a Sunday lunch, this lamb pie uses cubed lamb leg steaks, red wine and canned cherry tomatoes. A delicious idea for a family meal.

29 Roast chicken with veg

Serves 4 Takes 2hr 20min Cost per serving: £3.53

Break from tradition and serve a family roast chicken with roasted vegetables including courgettes, butternut squash and peppers. There will be enough leftovers for another meal, making this a cheap family meal idea.

Turkey and Kale lasagne (Low Carb)

30 Turkey & kale lasagne

Serves 4 Takes 1hr 25min (plus standing) £2.13

Everyone will love this healthy turkey lasagne recipe, using turkey mince, nutrient-dense kale, and a low fat cottage cheese sauce and homemade tomato sauce.

Tuscan Baked Fish

31 Tuscan baked fish

Serves 4 Takes 30min Cost per serving £2.31

This tasty fish dish delivers a flavoursome low-fat protein-packed family dinner, all in just 30 minutes.

Lemon, Herb and Garlic Pork Steaks

32 Lemon, herb & garlic pork steaks

Serves 2 Takes 30min Cost per serving £1

At just £1 per serving, these zesty pork steaks are served with potatoes and spinach. It’s the perfect midweek cheap meal for 2.

Lamb and lentil curry

33 Lamb & lentil curry

Serves 4 Takes 1hr 10min Cost per serving: £1.70

This lamb curry is perfect for a family Saturday night fakeaway. Using cheap lamb mince, a storecupboard curry paste, and packed with fibre lentiils, it’s good for you as well as cost-saving.

Beef and Parsnip Ragu with Pappardelle

34 Beef & parsnip ragu

Serves 4 Takes 2hr 30min Cost per serving £2.21

Take your time with this slow-cook ragu using cheap braising steak and a can of chopped tomatoes. A perfect family dinner.

Thai Fish Cakes with Noodle Salad

35 Thai fishcakes & noodle salad

Serves 4 Takes 35min (plus chilling) Cost per serving: £2.24

Using omega-3 rich salmon, these fish cakes are packed with Thai flavours. Serve with a rice noodle salad, and swap out the salmon fillets for canned salmon, if liked

Creamy leek and potato soup

36 Leek & potato soup

Serves 8 Takes 50min Cost per serving 34p

This family friendly creamy cheap soup can be batch-frozen in freezerproof containers and reheated when needed. Use milk instead of cream if you prefer.

Tuna Pattie Burgers

37 Tuna burgers

Serves 2 Takes 20min (plus chilling) Cost per serving £1.29

Using canned tuna chunks, these burgers are a great bargain after school and work dinner and can be whipped up in 20 minutes. Serve with rolls, mayo and lettuce and the whole family can dig in.

Kale and mushroom omelette

38 Kale & mushroom omelette

Serves 4 Takes 15min Cost per serving: 91p

A delicious midweek meal or weekend brunch. Easily whipped up for the whole family, it’s healthy, delicious and is great for using up any leftover fresh herbs in the fridge.

Chicken Fettuccini with Broccoli and Cream Sauce

39 Creamy chicken & broccoli with pasta

Serves 1 Takes 15min Cost per serving: £2.25

Perfect for one, this pasta dish can be on the table in 15 minutes. Cooking for one need not be dull. Using frozen peas and cooked chicke, it’s great for using up leftover ingredients.


What is the cheapest thing to make for dinner?

If you’re stretched towards the end of the month, keep things simple. Whip up an omelette or scrambled egg or fried egg on toast. Stock up on dried pasta and toss with cheese or stir through a teaspoon of marmite (it works, honestly) or a can of mackerel in tomato sauce. Whip up a cheese toastie – add a couple of slices of tomato, or enjoy a jacket potato with tuna-mayo. How about chicken wings tossed in a BBQ sauce and cooked in the air fryer, or make simple crumpet or pitta pizzas. Try a banana whizzed up with milk for an after school ‘milkshake’. And, of course, there’s nothing better than beans on toast or a jacket potato with cheese!

What to cook when you have little money?

Making a meal plan helps with the food shopping budget, as you only shop for what you need, and won’t need to nip out to the shops every day. Plan and choose seven or more budget recipes and create a rotation of dishes each week. Just mix and match, write your shopping list and get cooking!

How can I feed a lot for cheap?

Buy large bags of pasta, rice, lentils and couscous and keep in the cupboard. It works out cheaper in the long run and you know that you will have them to hand for midweek and weekend meals. Stock up on cans, frozen fish and meat and veg when you get paid or are able to, and they will always be there for when you need to cook up a cheap meal.

How can I feed my family for cheap?

Stay away from scary ingredients and lean towards storecupboard staples – such as canned fish, tomatoes and beans, flour, butter and frozen veg. Many meals can be frozen – to be defrosted at a later date, so you can meal prep, making shopping and budgeting a breeze. Some recipes also make the most of leftovers, making food waste a thing of the past.

Hayley Merrick has been the food editor for Bauer Media for six years. With a degree in home economics, and more than 24 years’ experience in editorial research, planning and recipe writing and testing, proof reading and editing, food styling and photo shoots.

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