Cheap Family Dinner Ideas
Feeding your family delicious, healthy meals doesn’t have to cost the earth. The price of your weekly shop may feel like it’s going up month after month, but we’re here to help you make the most of your ingredients, with savvy tips for cooking on a budget.
With a few ideas for cheap family dinners up your sleeve, you’ll be able to make sure mealtimes are always organised, hassle free and tasty!
When you’re trying to make your food (and your money) stretch just that little bit further, often the key is all in the organisation. Making a meal plan and sticking to it will mean that you can do one big shop to see you through the week, without finding yourself picking up extra midweek supplies or reaching for the takeaway menu.
Our Family Meal Planner is ideal for this task; not only does it have dedicated weekly food planner pages, you’ll even find pull-out shopping lists so you can make sure you never miss an ingredient. Order a copy here.
Fruit and vegetables are always cheapest and tastiest when they’re in season, so it’s better for both your dinner plate and your pocket to make the most of each season’s fresh offerings.
While the supermarket shelves might be stocked with all kinds of veggies all year round, if it’s out of season in the UK, chances are it’s being flown in from warmer climates. Not only does this ramp up the price, it’s not great for the environment. You can see which veggies are in season and when, in our Seasonal Recipes Round Ups:
- Seasonal Recipe Round Up: January – February
- Seasonal Recipe Round Up: March – April
- Seasonal Recipe Round Up: July – August
- Seasonal Recipe Round Up: September – October
- Seasonal Recipe Round Up: November – December
You’ll find that staples like broccoli and cauliflower are in season all year round, so you’ll be able to pick them up relatively cheaply. Packing your meals full of veg is an easy, cost-effective way to make your ingredients go as far as possible, while getting your family closer to their 5 a day.
This Sneaky Mac and Cheese is a cheap meal that you can make any time of year. It uses fresh cauliflower, paired with some pasta and a handful of other affordable ingredients, to make a crowd-pleasing dinner that even the fussiest of eaters will tuck into.
Mushrooms are also in season month after month, so you should always be able to pick up a punnet of the supermarket’s basic range for less than a quid. Grab a carrot, onion and a tin of chopped tomatoes too, and you’ll have this Mushroom Bolognese on the table in under an hour.
Cheaper to make than a meaty version, it’s a great way to get extra vegetables into the whole family. You can serve it with whatever dried pasta you’ve got in the cupboard – spaghetti, fusilli or pasta bows, it’ll be delicious!
If you’re serious about stretching your budget, it’s always helpful to cut down on grabbing food when you’re out and about. Even if it’s just a supermarket sandwich a couple of times a week, it all adds up! This goes hand in hand with slimming too – convenience often means extra calories.
The good news is that, simply by cooking a bigger batch of your favourite foods at home, you can save money, and stay on track with your diet plan! Every time you cook a family meal, portion up a serving to pop in the freezer and you’ll soon have a stock of homemade ready meals for busy days.
An oldie but a goodie, our Campfire Stew recipe is perfect for batch cooking. Not only is it bulked out with plenty of budget friendly ingredients, it’s one of those dishes where the flavours get better over time. You won’t feel any disappointment when you take this for lunch the next day; it’ll be even yummier than the night before.
When you’re buying meat, some cuts will always be more expensive than others. Chicken thighs are often cheaper than breast, and we think they’re actually more flavourful! We’ve used them in this One Pot Mediterranean Chicken Orzo recipe, which is perfect for batch cooking.
This will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days, so if you know you have a busy week ahead, you can prep it on the weekend and reheat it when the Monday madness has left you short on time.
Stick to the basics
A well-stocked store cupboard is essential if you’re trying to spend less money on food. If you invest in all the right bits and pieces, you’ll be able to turn them into a multitude of different dinners that will feed your family and keep everyone happy. As well as spices, seasonings, pasta and rice, tinned beans, lentils and chickpeas are super affordable and a great way to pack protein into your diet – which is essential for keeping you feeling full.
Crack open a pack of dried lentils (usually around £1.20 for a 500g packet) and pick up some low fat bangers to make our Sausages with Creamy Lentils recipe. It’s good, hearty food that will fill everyone up without costing much at all.
Our recipe serves 6, so if you don’t have as many mouths to feed, you’ll have plenty of leftovers to freeze for a rainy day.
Sometimes it’s the inexpensive, simple ingredients that transform into the tastiest meals. We can’t think of a better example than this Bacon, Onion and Potato Bake. You can’t get much simpler than spuds, bacon, cheese and onion, yet this comes together into such a delicious bowl of comforting goodness. It’s a crowd-pleaser that your family will ask for every week, and it’s so cheap to make that you’ll happily say yes!
Make a Fakeaway
Do you ever go online to order a takeaway and then realise that it would cost as much for one meal as your weekly shop? There’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then, but if you’d rather pocket the pennies on this occasion, it can only mean one thing; it’s Fakeaway time!
All the flavour, fewer calories and much more change in your pocket? Yep, a homemade version of your favourite restaurant meal really does tick all the boxes.
If it’s a curry you’re craving, go ahead and fetch that tin of mushy peas from the back of the cupboard – it’s their time to shine! This Mushy Pea Curry is a money-saving dream. Don’t be worried when you see peas and beans in the ingredients list, by the time you taste your first mouthful, you’ll have forgotten they went into the mix!
Fancying a Chinese-inspired dish? Chinese style recipes can often have long lists of ingredients to make their flavour-packed sauces, and it can get pretty pricey if you need to go buy it all at once.
This Lemon Chicken is far less faff, needing only a handful of ingredients, and nothing too out of the ordinary (you can even use tinned pineapple instead of fresh if it works out cheaper). With bags of flavour, all you need is a spoonful of fluffy rice on the side for a family friendly fakeaway that will leave everyone smiling.
Looking for more cheap family dinner ideas?
Come have a chat with the lovely lot over in our Facebook group! It’s a whole community of people just like you, trying to eat a bit healthier and save pennies wherever possible.
Plus, did you know that you can now share your hints, tips, quotes and photos in our PON Gallery? It’s an all-new space on the website to show off what you’ve been cooking up. Psst…there might even be some SWAG up for grabs for our favourite submissions!