Cheap family meals: Budget recipes under £1 per head

Casserole, pasta bakes, and more; save money with these cheap family meals all under £1 a head...

A collage of cheap family meals all under £1 a head including sausage casserole, pasta bake
(Image credit: Future/various)

From spaghetti Bolognese to fish and chips, from tuna pasta to risotto, our cheap family meals are budget recipes all under £1 ahead.  

The cost of living crisis isn't going away – in August, figures by Statista showed that over half of households in the UK saw their bills increase on the month before, and the price of food has gone up by almost 50% since the start of 2023, according to the Office of National Statistics. Even more shockingly, 5% of adults reported that in the two weeks before they were surveyed, they had run out of food and been unable to afford more.

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 £1 per portion, with ingredients from Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury's, and Aldi (when it comes to where to shop, it might also help to know the answer to the million dollar question is Aldi or Lidl cheaper?) 

Faith Archer, mum-of-two, personal finance journalist, and money blogger at Much More With Less says, “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.

“What really 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 halloumi and tomato salad, here are our best recipes for everyone looking to save money on food.

Cheap family meals: Budget recipes

How to make meatballs

A simple dish the kids will love making meatballs from scratch

1. Meatballs with spaghetti

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: 96p | Total cost: £3.82

Priced at Tesco 


  • 1 brown onion, 10p
  • 500g minced pork, £1.79
  • 1 garlic, 25p
  • Hearty Food Co. Spaghetti Pasta, 20p
  • 1 egg, from a pack of 6, 85p
  • Tomato Puree, 35p
  • 1 can Grower's Harvest Chopped Tomatoes, 28p

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. Tesco Classic Green Pesto is an extra £1 (for a 190g jar) but you only need a spoonful, leaving plenty for other meals. An opened jar will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Get the recipe: How to make meatballs

Farmhouse chicken braise

Swap the Sunday roast for this mouthwatering tray bake instead

2. Farmhouse chicken braise

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 92p | Total cost: £5.53

Priced at Sainsbury’s


  • 2kg British Fresh Chicken Skin on Thighs, £3.50
  • 500g carrots, 23p
  • 2 leeks, 60p
  • 150ml double cream, 75p
  • Hubbard’s Foodstore English mustard, 45p

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

3. Bacon and broccoli pasta salad

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: 89p | Total cost: £3.57

Priced at Asda


  • Smart Price Pasta Shapes, 32p
  • Butcher's Selection 12 Unsmoked Back Bacon Rashers, £1.75
  • Mild Tender Baby Spinach, 90p
  • Broccoli, 50p

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

The ideal recipe, on our cheap family meals list, for summer evenings

4. Courgette, garlic, and herb oaty crust quiche

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 75p | Total cost: £4.50

Priced at Tesco


  • Tesco Scottish Rough Oatcakes, 80p
  • Soft Cheese with Garlic & Herb, 90p
  • 3 courgettes, £1.20
  • 2 eggs (from a pack of 6), 85p
  • 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 leftover 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

A bargain vegetarian curry priced at just 95p per portion

5. Lentil and spinach curry

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: 95p | Total cost: £3.80

Priced at Asda


  • 1 tin green lentils, 48p
  • Tinned spinach leaves, 75p
  • Smart Price peeled plum tomatoes, 28p
  • Red onion, 10p
  • Garlic, 25p
  • Pataks Madras paste pots, 99p (at Tesco or Aldi)
  • Fresh coriander, 50p
  • Smart Price Long Grain Rice, 45p

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, Asda sells a jar of balti curry paste for £1.50 and an 850g bag of frozen spinach for £1.40. These would make at least four meals and be cheaper over the long run.”

Get the recipe: Lentil and spinach balti

This recipe is perfect for sharing at picnics too

6. Tomato tart

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 84p | Total cost: £5.06

Priced at Sainsbury’s


  • Cherry tomatoes (500g), £1.35
  • Green pesto, £1
  • Sainsbury Frozen rolled puff pastry, £1.30
  • Iceberg lettuce, 46p
  • Sainsbury’s balsamic dressing, 95p

One of our favourite cheap family meals that uses readymade pastry. Check the frozen aisle for readymade puff pastry, as it’s often cheaper than the chilled versions (though Sainsbury’s chilled puff pastry does go on offer at £1 from time to time).

This tart is quite big and serves six people. We’ve served it with a dressed salad here, which still comes in under £1 per person. The tart on its own is 61p per portion.

Get the recipe: Tomato tart

This recipe costs just 71p per serving - well under the £1 a head mark

7. Baked vegetable polenta

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 71p | Total cost: £4.25

Priced at Asda


  • Tropical Sun Fine Cornmeal Polenta (500g), 85p
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, 50p
  • Garlic, 25p
  • Farm Stores White Mushrooms, 50p
  • 2 leeks, 60p
  • Cherry tomatoes (325g), 80p
  • Asda Greek-style cheese, 75p

Polenta is ground corn that can be cooked to a thick, creamy consistency, or left to set, then you can slice it. It’s an Italian staple, and it’s cheap. If you’re not tried cooking with it before, this recipe is a delicious, filling way to start.

Fresh cut herbs are pricey and tend to only be good for 1-2 uses; you can use dried instead. Alternatively, it’s only 10p more to buy a parsley plant from Asda. You can use it for this recipe then plant it in the backyard or in a window box. It’s a really low-maintenance plant and should survive all summer, if not longer.

Get the recipe: Baked vegetable polenta

It takes just 6-7 ingredients to make this budget recipe

8. Courgette pesto pasta

Serves: 4 | Cost per person: 98p | Total cost: £3.92

Priced at Tesco


  • Green Pesto Sauce, £1
  • Hearty Food Co. Spaghetti, 20p
  • 2 courgettes, 80p
  • 1 onion, 10p
  • Cook Italian Grated Hard Cheese, £1.35
  • Fresh cut basil, 47p

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). Over two meals, that brings the cost down to 86p per portion.

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

Bacon and onion make a delicious combo in this recipe

9. Smoked bacon and onion tart

Serves: 6 | Cost per person: 91p | Total cost: £5.43

Priced at Morrisons


  • Everyday Value cooking bacon (500g), £1.49
  • 2 onions, 20p
  • Free Range Eggs (6), £1.20
  • British soured cream (150ml), 75p
  • Greenside Deli Mature Cheddar, £1.79

“This tart demonstrates how small amounts of cooking bacon and cheese can add loads of flavour, while still leaving lots to use in other meals," says Faith. "If you buy a larger container of soured cream, crème fraiche, or double cream it typically costs less per gram, and you could substitute the rest in the chicken braise or macaroni cheese. Plus, the tart tastes good cold too, so it works well for packed lunches or summer picnics.”

The original recipe serves eight but to give everyone a nice main portion, we’ve costed it to feed just six. There is enough room in the budget to serve it with an iceberg lettuce salad (an extra 55p).

Get the recipe: Smoked bacon and onion tart