Cheap family meals: 25 budget dinners every parent needs to know about (and they're all under £2 a head)

Casserole, pasta bakes, and more; save money with these cheap family meals - perfect for those on a budget...

A selection of cheap family meals including turkey mince cottage pie, farmhouse chicken tray bake and tuna pasta bake
(Image credit: Future)

Yes, there really is such thing as cheap family meals, and this collection is all under £2 a head and includes vegetarian options, meaty favourites, and more we're sure the whole gang will love.

Cooking dinner on a budget can be tough; deciding what to make, where to buy it from, how much to spend, any dietary requirements or certain things the kids don't like, making sure you choose healthy family meals... the list goes on. As it's still such a challenge to feed a family nutritious food on a budget, we’ve brought together a collection of cheap family meals that are all under £2 per portion, with ingredients from Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, and Sainsbury's.

“I try to keep food costs down by switching to less expensive alternatives, stretching pricey protein with seasonal veg or beans, and slashing food waste. For example, using chicken thighs rather than breasts, and frozen white fish rather than fresh cod," says Faith Archer, mum-of-two, personal finance journalist, and money blogger at Much More With Less. "What makes the difference is planning meals over a week or more, rather than focusing on a single recipe," she adds. "That way if, for example, I splash out on a pack of soured cream, bacon, or fresh coriander for one meal, I can make sure to use the rest in a different meal another day. Binning food is like setting fire to fivers.”

From cottage pie to spaghetti Bolognese, here are our favourite family meals for parents looking to save money on food...

Cheap family meals

Spaghetti Bolognese recipe

Spaghetti Bolognese is a firm family favourite - and a cheap family meal too
(Image credit: Getty)

1. Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.57 | Total cost: £6.29

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onions, 24p
  • Beef mince (500g), £3.49
  • Garlic, 24p
  • Mushrooms, £1.10
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes, 35p
  • Tomato puree, 59p
  • Hearty Food Co. Spaghetti Pasta, 28p

Faith says: “Spaghetti Bolognese is one of my children’s favourite meals, and a budget favourite too. You can pick up value range spaghetti for just 20p and stretch the sauce with vegetables, such as mushrooms or grated carrot, and finely chopped celery. I make Bolognese sauce in my slow cooker to save energy costs too.”

Another great thing about recipes using canned food is when considering 'how long does canned food last?' the answer is indefinite. As long as the can isn't damaged in any way, e.g. bulges, leakages, or rust, they can remain good to eat for several years. Once opened, just pop it in the fridge in an air-tight container and consume it within three to five days.

Get the recipe: Spaghetti Bolognese

cottage pie recipe

A hearty cottage pie is comfort food at its finest

2. Cottage pie

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.49 | Total cost: £5.96

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, 33p
  • ASDA Crunchy & Sweet Carrots, 35p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Beef Mince, £2.49
  • ASDA Mild & Versatile White Mushrooms, 95p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Peeled Plum Tomatoes, 35p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA White Potatoes, £1.49

At just £1.49 a portion, this classic cottage pie is the perfect budget meal for the whole family. You can make this dish even cheaper by mixing the mashed potatoes with mashed carrots, which are cheaper per kilo. Adding in the mushrooms makes the meat go further, as well as adding to your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

Get the recipe: Cottage pie recipe

Bacon and pea risotto

One of our favourite cheap family meals and its delicious too

3. Bacon and pea risotto

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.52 | Total cost: £6.10

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Sainsbury’s Arborio risotto rice (500g), £2.40
  • Stamford Street Co. Cooking Bacon (500g), £1
  • Sainsbury's Garden Peas (910g), £1.45
  • Sainsbury's dried grated hard cheese, £1.25

This delicious bacon and pea risotto is made with ready-mixed risotto but it’s a pricy way to buy it, so we’ve used regular risotto rice which you can cook as normal with stock. Bacon is always a great addition to a risotto because it’s so flavourful and not too expensive either. Opting for a strong cheese means you won't use loads of it in your recipe so you'll have leftovers for another recipe - a great money-saving tip.

Get the recipe: Bacon and pea risotto

Tomato baked chicken

A delicious one-pot meal with tender chunks of chicken
(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Tomato-baked chicken

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.37 | Total cost: £5.50

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • ASDA Chicken Thighs (1.1kg), £2.80
  • ASDA Bolognese Pasta Sauce (500g) 95p
  • ASDA Extra Special British Baby Potatoes (500g) 80p
  • ASDA Mild & Versatile White Mushrooms, 95p

For this recipe, we’ve used our favourite cut of chicken: tender and juicy thighs. Even though they taste better than chicken breasts, thighs are always cheaper, making them a complete bargain. To keep the per head price down you can make two meals worth. Buy the chicken mushrooms and sauce twice, and use all the potatoes and 1 ball of mozzarella over the top.  You can keep the second portion in the fridge overnight and reheat it the next day.

Get the recipe: Tomato baked chicken

Tuna pasta bake

A family favourite - one of our best cheap family meals
(Image credit: Future)

5. Tuna pasta bake

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.26 | Total cost: £5.04

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • JUST ESSENTIALS by Asda Tuna Chunks in Brine (145g), 59p
  • Red onion, 33p
  • ASDA Mild & Versatile White Mushrooms (250g), 95p
  • Sweetcorn in Water (198g), 65p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Peeled Plum Tomatoes, 35p
  • Tomato Puree, 65p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Pasta Shapes, 41p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA 10 Single Cheese Slices (200g), 65p
  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Lightly Salted Sharing Tortilla Chips, 51p

This tuna pasta bake is so tasty and delicious, it’s always welcome for dinner. The melty cheese topping is one of the best parts, but cheese is an expensive extra on a shopping list (starting at around £4.42 for the per kilo price). These cheese slices are a handy cheat - you can just place them over the top of the past bake before you put it in the oven and it will melt in place.

Scrunched-up crisps or tortilla chips make a nice crunchy topping. You can get a similar effect from breadcrumbs made from stale bread which may end up being cheaper too. And a nifty way to use up leftover bread.

Get the recipe: Tuna pasta bake

Turkey mince cottage pie

Turkey mince is much healthier than beef mince - and leaner too
(Image credit: Future)

6. Turkey mince cottage pie

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.38 | Total cost: £5.52

Priced at Morrisons

Ingredients:

  • Morrisons Turkey thigh mince (500g), £2.99
  • Morrisons tomato passata (500g), 60p
  • Onion, 34p
  • Morrisons Savers Marrowfat Peas (300g), 39p
  • Carrots (500g), 50p
  • 4 Potatoes, 70p

This warm and comforting potato-topped pie is a perfect weekend supper for the whole family. It’s packed with meat, potatoes, and vegetables, a whole meal in one. Turkey mince is slightly more expensive than beef but it’s tasty and healthy - a lean source of protein. This Woman's Weekly turkey mince cottage pie is perfect for Sunday dinner. We've used tinned peas instead of frozen to keep them cheap.

Get the recipe: Turkey mince cottage pie

Macaroni cheese with peas

A portion of this cheap family meal is just £1.38 per serving

(Image credit: Future)

7. Macaroni cheese with peas

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.38 | Total cost: £5.55

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Sainsbury's macaroni (500g), 72p
  • Sainsbury's garden peas (910g), £1.45
  • Stamford Street Co. Cooking Bacon (500g), £1
  • Stamford Street Co. Mild Cheddar Slices x10 (200g), £1.39
  • Sainsbury's British Crème Fraîche (300ml), 99p

This is such a great classic family meal, made even tastier with bacon and even healthier with peas. Faith says: “Adding the bacon and peas to macaroni cheese lifts it from a side dish into a main meal, and this recipe is easy to scale up if you have loads of kids to feed.

Using cooking bacon keeps the costs down. You end up with the same great taste, it’s just that rather than paying extra for neatly packaged rashers you get a mix of streaky and back bacon, some chunks and some slices, some with rind and some not.”

Get the recipe: Macaroni cheese with peas

Cauliflower curry

A mouthwatering vegetarian option that you'll want to make time and time again
(Image credit: Getty Images)

8. Cauliflower curry

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.23 | Total cost: £4.94

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • Cauliflower head, £1.10
  • 3 onions, £1
  • Indus Madras Curry Powder Mild, 99p
  • ASDA Coconut Milk (400ml), 85p
  • ASDA Mild Tender Baby Spinach, (180g) £1

This cauliflower curry is a great alternative to a classic meat curry. Swapping meat for vegetables is a great way to keep your meals cheap and on a budget - plus it’s fabulously healthy. If you think you’d make this lovely curry twice, upgrade the bag of spinach for a 1kg bag of frozen spinach. It will last for ages with no chance of leaves going soggy in the bottom of the salad drawer.

Get the recipe: Cauliflower curry

Bean burger

A great vegetarian option at just 95p per burger
(Image credit: Getty)

9. Bean burgers

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.12 | Total cost: £4.48

Priced at Morrisons

Ingredients:

  • KTC Red Kidney Beans (400g), 65p
  • KTC Butter Beans (400g), 65p
  • Spring onions 55p
  • Fresh coriander bunch 85p
  • Morrisons Sliced White Rolls (6), 85p
  • Onion 34p
  • Morrisons Shredded Iceberg Lettuce, 59p

Faith says: “Tinned beans are a good way to add protein for less, and your kids may be more willing to try them when shaped into these tasty burgers. This recipe is priced on using the two spare burger buns to make breadcrumbs, but if you have crusts of bread knocking around you could grate them into breadcrumbs and use the buns for a packed lunch.”

Use the two spare burger buns to make breadcrumbs for the burgers and instead of binding them with egg, add a small splash of milk - just enough to bring them together.

Get the recipe: Bean burgers

Courgette pesto pasta

It takes just 6-7 ingredients to make this budget recipe
(Image credit: Getty Images)

10. Courgette pesto pasta

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.17 | Total cost: £4.69

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • Green Pesto Sauce, £1.30
  • Hearty Food Co. Spaghetti, 28p
  • 2 courgettes, 92p
  • 1 onion, 12p
  • Cook Italian Grated Hard Cheese, £1.55
  • Fresh cut basil, 52p

Light yet filling, this spring courgette and pesto pasta dish is simple to make - you can have it on the table in just 20 minutes. You’ll use about half a jar of pesto here, leaving the other half for another meal (or to make this one again). 

If you want to jazz this recipe up, swap the regular pesto for red pesto instead. Leftovers can be easily reheated the next day and served for lunch or served cold with a leftover side salad from a previous meal.

Get the recipe: Courgette and pesto pasta

Root vegetable layer bake with sausages on top

It takes just 15 minutes to prepare this impressive, hearty family meal
(Image credit: Future)

11. Root vegetable layer bake

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.42 | Total cost: £5.68

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions, 24p
  • Garlic, 24p
  • 1 celeriac £1.20
  • 2 parsnips 40p
  • 3 carrots 30p
  • Baking potatoes 70p
  • Richmond 12 Thin Pork Sausages (340g), £2.60

This root vegetable layer bake uses dried herbs to keep it under budget. Rather than 24 chipolata sausages (4 per person), we’ve gone for regular sausages and allowed for 3 per person. If you want to make it vegetarian, skip the sausages and top with cheese instead, or swap for vegetarian or chicken sausages. Making this dish vegetarian will also cut the cost per person.

Get the recipe: Root vegetable layer bake

Easy sausage and potato casserole

A hearty meal the whole family can enjoy together
(Image credit: TI Media Limited)

12. Easy sausage and potato casserole

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: 96p | Total cost: £3.84

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • Onion 12p
  • Tesco Baby Potatoes 1kg, £1.20
  • Green pepper 55p
  • Woodside Farms pork sausages (8 pack) £1.50
  • Hearty Food Co Tomato and Herb pasta sauce (440g) 47p

This sausage and potato casserole is so cheap you could buy fancier sausages and still keep it under £2 a head. Though there is a pepper in the sauce, you’ll probably want to serve it with another portion of veggies to add to your five-a-day. Curly kale goes really well with the tomato-y sauce and a 180g bag (87p) would take the spend up to £1.17 per person.

Get the recipe: Easy sausage and potato casserole

Winter vegetable soup with crispy bacon

This is one of our cheapest family meals and just delicious

(Image credit: Future)

13. Winter vegetable soup

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 75p | Total cost: £4.55

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • COOK by ASDA Scratch Cook Casserole Root Veg Mix (1kg),  £1.50
  • ASDA Delicious 10 Unsmoked Back Bacon Rashers (300g), £2.25
  • White cabbage, 80p

Start this week with a bowl of this deliciously filling winter vegetable soup, serving six. It’s so simple to make - just 10 minutes to prep and then about three-quarters of an hour to cook. It’s also one of our cheapest dishes at 75p a portion. It freezes well, so you can batch cook it too.

To make more of a meal, serve with JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Garlic Bread Baguette at just 37p, taking the per portion to spend up to £1.23.

Get the recipe: Winter vegetable soup

Chicken and spring onion pancakes

Not just for Pancake Day, these pancakes are great as a midweek dinner
(Image credit: Future)

14. Chicken and spring onion pancakes

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1 | Total cost: £4.00

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Stamford Street Co. Cooked Chicken Breast (240g), £1.95
  • Sainsbury’s British Free Range Eggs, £1.50
  • Spring onions, 55p

This recipe is one of our oldest and still really popular. In fact, it first appeared in 1924 in Woman's Weekly magazine. Lots of the ingredients are things you will already have in the store cupboard, so there are only three items to add to the shopping list.

It’s also a great way to use up the last of the roast chicken if you had one for Sunday lunch - you don’t need all that much per person to make a nice, tasty meal.

Get the recipe: Chicken and spring onion pancakes

bean hot pot

It costs just £1.30 per person to make this hotpot per person

(Image credit: Future)

15. Bean hotpot

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.30 | Total cost: £5.20

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Celery, 57p
  • Loose sweet potatoes, £1.78
  • Yellow pepper, 55p
  • Stamford Street Co. Green Beans (220g), 89p
  • Napolina Butter Beans (400g), £1.05
  • Stamford Street Garlic Baguette, 36p

This 20-minute bean hotpot is packed full of veggies. Instead of ciabatta topped with thyme and cheese, we’ve served it up with two garlic baguettes. This makes a really lovely filling vegetarian dinner.

Feel free to add more veggies if you have them lurking at the bottom of the fridge: carrots, parsnips, or swede would all work well, for instance. It's a great dish for using up leftovers.

Get the recipe: Bean hotpot

Slimming World's Spanish-style tortilla

This Slimming World recipe is just £1.16 per serving

(Image credit: Slimming World/Gareth Morgans)

16. Spanish-style tortilla

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.16 | Total cost: £4.65

Priced at Morrisons

Ingredients:

  • Wonky Potatoes (1kg), 99p
  • Morrisons Medium Free Range Eggs (6), £1.50
  • Onion, 33p
  • Garlic, 24p
  • Morrisons Savers Salad Peppers, £1.59

Spanish omelettes are filling and healthy as they're made with spuds and peppers. Try this simple Spanish-style tortilla recipe for a weekend lunchtime. There’s enough money left in the budget to get a packet of salad tomatoes (95p) alongside. Slice them up on a large plate, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle a little olive oil over the top to make a pretty tomato salad.

Get the recipe: Spanish-style tortilla

spaghetti and meatballs in a blue bowl dusted with cheese

A simple dish the kids will love making meatballs from scratch
(Image credit: Future)

17. Meatballs with spaghetti

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.09  | Total cost: £4.39

Priced at Tesco 

Ingredients:

  • 11 brown onion, 12p
  • 500g minced pork, £2.50
  • 1 garlic, 24p
  • Hearty Food Co. Spaghetti Pasta, 28p
  • 1 egg, from a pack of 6, 25p
  • Tomato Puree, 65p
  • 1 can Grower's Harvest Chopped Tomatoes, 35p

Meatballs are a great cheap family meal. A nifty trick is to bulk up mincemeat dishes using vegetables to make them go further. Adding an extra onion and a couple of finely chopped carrots would cost less than 50p. It would add another portion to the sauce and the 500g pasta will easily serve five.

Stay under budget by using dried herbs in this recipe and skipping the Parmesan and pesto, but use store cupboard ingredients to boost the flavour instead. Half a crumbled beef stock cube, for example.

Get the recipe: How to make meatballs

Farmhouse chicken braise

Swap the Sunday roast for this mouthwatering tray bake instead
(Image credit: Future)

18. Farmhouse chicken braise

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: £1.20 | Total cost: £7.23

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • 2kg British Fresh Chicken Skin on Thighs, £4.30
  • 500g carrots, 50p
  • 2 leeks, 79p
  • 150ml double cream, 95p
  • Sainsbury's English mustard, 69p

Faith says: “I’m a big fan of using tasty chicken thighs rather than more expensive chicken breasts, and the creamy mustard sauce makes this dish special. It goes well with value range rice if you have hungry teenagers to fill up.”

Chicken breast is probably the nation’s favourite cut, but it’s expensive and it’s not nearly as tasty or tender as thighs. You can get a really good deal on this large pack, which portions out at two thighs per person. Remove the skin if you like, to keep the fat content lower but it's not necessary.

Get the recipe: Farmhouse chicken braise

Bacon and broccoli pasta salad

It takes just a handful of ingredients to make this healthy, filling recipe
(Image credit: Slimming World)

19. Slimming World's bacon and broccoli pasta salad

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.42 | Total cost: £5.70

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Pasta Shapes, 41p
  • Butcher's Selection 12 Unsmoked Back Bacon Rashers, £3.50
  • Mild Tender Baby Spinach, £1
  • Broccoli, 79p

This Slimming World recipe for bacon and broccoli pasta salad is not only cheap to make but healthy too. We've doubled the ingredients so it serves four. We swapped the Tenderstem broccoli for regular broccoli which is more affordable. When you prepare the broccoli, don’t discard the stem - you can cube it and use it in the pasta sauce too. It has a lovely texture.

We used back bacon here, but check the prices of the streaky bacon too as it’s often cheaper. Keep any bacon leftovers in the freezer and you’ll have some ready for next time.

Get the recipe: Bacon and broccoli pasta salad

Lentil and spinach curry in skillet

A bargain vegetarian curry priced at £1.41 per portion

(Image credit: Getty Images)

20. Lentil and spinach curry

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.41 | Total cost: £5.64

Priced at Asda

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin green lentils, 49p
  • Tinned spinach leaves, 85p
  • Smart Price peeled plum tomatoes, 35p
  • Red onion, 33p
  • Garlic, 25p
  • Pataks Madras paste pots, £1.85
  • Fresh coriander, £1
  • Smart Price Long Grain Rice, 52p

This veggie curry is a lovely weeknight supper. We’ve served it with rice rather than naan bread and chutney to keep the price down. Faith says: “This curry can be whipped up from store cupboard staples. Onion, garlic, rice, and tins all last for ages.

The tinned spinach and paste pots keep costs down for a single meal. But if you have the cash and might repeat the recipe, or cook other curries, A jar of balti curry paste for £1.50 and an 850g bag of frozen spinach for £1.40 would make at least four meals and be cheaper over the long run.”

Get the recipe: Lentil and spinach balti

pork goulash

This pork goulash is just 93per portion
(Image credit: Future Publishing LTd)

21. Pork goulash

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.23 | Total cost: £4.95

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Extra Lean British Pork stir fry (300g), £2.50
  • Onion, 37p
  • 1 red pepper, 55p
  • Tomato puree, 59p
  • Garlic, 24p
  • Hubbard’s Foodstore Chopped Tomatoes (400g), 35p
  • Stamford Street Co. Low Fat Natural Yogurt (500g), 35p

This hearty pork and pepper goulash recipe is flavoured with paprika and packed with veggies such as red onion, tin tomatoes, and roasted red pepper. To save money we’ve used a fresh red pepper - you can roast it yourself in the oven in about 45 minutes. Chop it in half, place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and bake for 40 minutes. The skin will be blackened and ready to peel off.

Get the recipe: Pork goulash

Spicy sausage and cheese pasta

(Image credit: Getty / Carlo A)

22. Spicy sausage and cheese bake

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.38 | Total cost: £5.52

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • Hearty Food Co penne pasta (500g) 41p
  • Woodside Farm pork sausages (8 per pack - 454g) £1.50
  • Cathedral City Mature Sliced Cheese (150g), £2.40
  • Fresh cut thyme (20g) 52p
  • Creamfields mozzarella (210g) 69p

You may already have some of the ingredients, such as butter, flour, and milk, to make this delicious sausage and cheese bake. Prep in just 15 minutes. We used normal pork sausages instead of spicy ones to keep the recipe on budget. Slice the mozzarella ball thinly so you get lovely gooey layers of soft white cheese in the dish.

Get the recipe: Spicy sausage and cheese pasta bake

Courgette, garlic and herb oaty crust quiche

The ideal recipe, on our cheap family meals list, for summer evenings
(Image credit: Future)

23. Courgette, garlic, and herb oaty crust quiche

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 82p | Total cost: £4.94

Priced at Tesco

Ingredients:

  • Tesco Scottish Rough Oatcakes, £1
  • Soft Cheese with Garlic & Herb, £1.30
  • 3 courgettes, £1.39
  • 2 eggs (from a pack of 6), 50p
  • Sour cream, 75p

This makes a lovely, vegetarian-friendly Sunday lunch. With the homemade pie case, it does not feel like a budget dish at all. You can use any cream cheese with garlic and herbs, and we swapped the crème fraîche for sour cream as it works out a little cheaper. Butter is one of our store cupboard staple ingredients, but you do need a large portion for this recipe - about half a pack.

This recipe is great for sharing and as you've got a bit of budget left over you could easily serve it with a salad for a summer meal. Leftovers also make the perfect lunch option the next day.

Get the recipe: Courgette, garlic, and herb oaty crust quiche

Tomato tart

This recipe is perfect for sharing at picnics too
(Image credit: Future)

24. Tomato tart

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: £1.02 | Total cost: £6.15

Priced at Sainsbury’s

Ingredients:

  • Cherry tomatoes (500g), £1.35
  • Green pesto, £1.30
  • Jus-Rol Puff Pastry Ready Rolled Sheet, £1.75
  • Iceberg lettuce, 75p
  • Sainsbury’s balsamic dressing, £1

One of our favourite cheap family meals that use readymade pastry. Check the frozen aisle for readymade puff pastry, as it’s often cheaper than the chilled versions. This tart is quite big and serves six people. We’ve served it with a dressed salad here, which still comes in just over £1 per person.

Get the recipe: Tomato tart

Fish and chips

The perfect Friday night dinner on a budget
(Image credit: Getty / Teamjackson)

25. Beer-battered fish and double-cooked chips

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: £1.41 | Total cost: £5.66

Priced at Morrisons

Ingredients:

  • Morrisons Savers fish fillets (450g), £2.16
  • 4 baking potatoes, 70p
  • Whitstable Bay Pale Ale Bottle (500ml) £2.25
  • Morrisons Chip Shop Mushy Peas (400g), 55p

Faith says: “Rather than splashing out on a takeaway, save by making your own fakeaway fish and chips instead. Frozen white fish fillets are often much more affordable than fresh fish, and will last a lot longer in your freezer. Value range frozen peas are another of my freezer favourites, and if you get some for the macaroni cheese recipe above, you could substitute some of the rest of the bag for the mushy peas.”

You will need enough sunflower oil to deep fry your fish and chips. You can actually re-use oil around 10 times before you need to replace it so keep this in mind when cooking.

Get the recipe: Beer battered fish and triple cooked chips

How were prices calculated for these recipes?

Storecupboard essentials: For these recipes, we have assumed you have basic store cupboard ingredients already including milk, butter, cooking oil, flour, dried herbs, and spices like dried chillies, salt, and pepper, mustard powder, vinegar, ketchup, except where large amounts are used.

Full product price: For all budgeted ingredients, we have used the price of a full pack, even if less is required for the recipe. This is not included in the £1 per portion budget. For example, if the recipe calls for mustard, we’ve priced a full pot of mustard. If a recipe calls for 1 egg, it’s still necessary to purchase a pack of 6, so that is the price we’ve used in the recipe.

We have budgeted for garlic, fresh herbs, and garnishes like Parmesan. Where a recipe uses a large amount of milk we have included the cost of a pint of milk in the budget.

Prices and portions:

  • All prices in a particular recipe relate to a single supermarket.
  • Most meals serve four people, except where otherwise stated.
  • Prices may vary but are correct at the time of publication.

Which supermarket was the cheapest?

If you're wondering which supermarket is the cheapest, then this for us varied widely depending on the recipes. Aldi often proved cheapest for large quantities, though we found it difficult to purchase smaller portions - for example, items of veg, like onions, are not sold singly. This pushed up overall costs to some degree.

Asda had the cheapest sausages and their Smart Price and Farm Stores range often represented the cheapest options. Tesco and Sainsbury's performed well for fresh vegetables; while Sainsbury's also has a good range of affordable cheeses like mozzarella and feta.

Woman bulk cooking budget meals for her family

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to cook on a budget - expert tips

We spoke to food blogger Caroline Hartley from The Happy Food Kitchen to find out her top tips and tricks when it comes to cooking on a budget. From batch cooking to supermarket-own brands, here's everything you need to know about cooking cheap family meals...

Batch cook everything

“You'll save on fuel by batch baking, so never use your oven with one item in it – always fill it. If you're using two shelves to cook dinner, bake a tray of flapjacks or roast some veg for tomorrow at the same time," says food blogger Caroline Hartley from The Happy Food Kitchen. 

“Get into the habit of cooking double what you need. Bolognaise, stews, curries, and pies freeze brilliantly so ‘eat one, freeze one’ and soon you will have a wealth of choices in your freezer.”

Don't always follow 'best before' dates

"Check the dates on your perishable food and bear in mind the sniff test for things like milk – it is often fresh for days after the date on the packet but if you're worried about drinking it, use the milk in pancakes and Yorkshire pudding so you're not throwing it down the drain," says Caroline. Equally, over-ripe fruit can still be used. 

“Black bananas have the best flavour. Make pancakes or freeze the banana before blending it with cocoa powder and a splash of milk for a delicious healthy chocolate ice cream. Or blend with berries for a cold, thick smoothie.” 

Choose your cooking appliances wisely

"Slow cookers, microwaves, and air fryers are cheaper to run than trying to heat a whole oven if you are cooking smaller amounts or reheating, so it is worth adapting recipes to use these," says Caroline.

Prevent food waste

"Some people find a meal planner the best way to do this, others buy online to prevent impulse purchases or shop the offers in the supermarket before deciding our meals," says Caroline.

Make inventive use of leftovers

"It can be fun to have a ‘random’ or ‘use up’ meal every week, where all the things that need using from the fridge and freezer – like small bits of cheese or the odd slice of ham and the end of a bag of oven chips – are put together with jars of pickles and sauces to make a meal in itself,” says Caroline. 

“Got half a courgette, an onion, a bit of garlic, and a couple of sad carrots in the bottom of your fridge before shopping? This is a quick and easy soup! Or leftover mashed potato can be used as the base for another dish. It's perfect with a tin of tuna or some ready-cooked mackerel to make fish cakes.”

Make the most of your freezer

We all use our freezer to house a packet of frozen peas and a tub of ice cream, but there are more inventive money-saving uses for it. “Pre-packaged lunch box treats are expensive, so do a cheaper version of the treat box in your freezer. Make brownies, flapjacks, cookies, and rice krispie cakes and portion when cool before wrapping and freezing. The night before, take one out and pop it into the kid's lunch bag,” says Caroline. 

“And if you see a loaf of reduced bread but you don’t need any bread, freeze it or turn it into ready-prepped sandwiches. Cheese, jam and peanut butter, ham or chicken sandwiches can all be pre-made on buttered bread and frozen. Wrap and label them before freezing then they can be placed in a lunchbox the night before. The cheese version can be toasted straight