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34 cheap family meals costing as little as £1 a head

Anyone else struggle to come up with something they actually want for dinner that sticks within a budget?

Coming up with cheap family meal ideas can be a bit of a headache, and sticking to your budget is definitely difficult if you head to the supermarket with an empty stomach and no idea of what you’re going to buy. 

Family cooking cheap family meals

So I’ve got 35 delicious family meal ideas that taste great and are cheap to make, at just roughly £1 a head. Some of these dishes come in at a little over £1 a head, some come in at under £1 a head, but a lot of them will produce enough to give you leftovers to feed the kids for lunch the next day. 

These recipes all assume cooking for a family of four and are all things I’ve made at home myself! 

You may also like: Frugal living tips

Meal plan and shopping list costing just £20 for a week

Budget family meals for a week 

These 34 ideas for budget family meals will help you plan what to cook for the week – or even the entire month!

When it comes to sticking with meal planning I’ve found it really helps to create a master list of all the meals you love to cook. You can add to it regularly as you discover more recipes. 

When you come to plan your shopping list for the week head you can then select meals from your master list. To make it even easier organise your master list by weekend “treat meals” such as pizza and midweek easy meals such as veggie pasta. 

Cheap family meal ideas

To calculate the cost of these family meal ideas I’ve used the price of food from Aldi, however for some ingredients such as flour and yeast I’ve used Tesco.  

This was correct at the time of writing this article however of course due to seasonality there may be some fluctuations in prices. Always check before you shop to ensure something will fit into your weekly budget. I haven’t added the cost of cooking oil to this, but of course this will add a couple of pennies to the cost.

Swapping out certain veggies for more seasonal produce can often help to bring your overall grocery budget down. 

All of these recipes serve four but some may leave you with an additional portion as leftovers so remember to freeze those or save for lunch the next day. 

Homemade pizza 

I used the Jamie Oliver pizza dough recipe to make this from scratch and honestly it’s so easy, and tasty!  

Once you have the core ingredients for this in your store cupboard you are pretty much all set to make it and only need a few fresh items. It’s about 20% or less of the cost of buying a takeout pizza! 

If you feel daunted at the thought of making pizza dough from scratch you can always purchase pre-made bases, however if you have the ingredients for the dough you will save a lot of money over time if you make it yourself. 

I haven’t added salt on here as it only requires a pinch and this is one of those items I’m sure you have in your store cupboard. 

Once I’ve made the dough I roll it out until it’s super thin (around 0.5cm) and then top with passata which I mix with a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs (or just dried oregano) before grating on the cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for around 7 minutes or until the cheese melts and the base is beginning to turn golden. 

Ingredients 

500g Strong bread flour 33p

7g yeast 10p 

200g Passata 15p

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs or oregano 10p

200g grated cheddar cheese £2

1 slice ham 50p

Fresh basil leaves 47p

Total cost: £4.10

Chicken curry 

Your kids may not be big spice fans but if you’re making this from scratch then you can dial down the heat a little so they can cope! 

To cut the costs use chicken thighs which are a much cheaper cut of meat. You can also bulk out the meal for less by adding a can of chickpeas, so you don’t need to use as much meat. 

I always start by slicing up the chicken into bite size chunks and adding the garam masala, then popping it into a bowl to marinate in the fridge for a while. 

I fry the chopped onion and garlic for 5 minutes, then add in the chicken before adding the curry powder and stir really well. Then I tip in the chopped tomatoes and simmer. Once it’s reduced and thickened I serve with rice!  

Ingredients 

Chicken thighs £1.65

Tin chopped tomatoes 37p 

2 garlic cloves 2p 

Onion 43p

3 tbsp Mild/medium curry powder (whatever your preference) 79p

Garam Masala £1.25

Rice 5p

Total cost: £4.51

Shepherd’s Pie

I absolutely love a shepherd’s pie and it’s a regular midweek meal in our house. 

It isn’t a quick meal to cook, as you need to cook the sauce and potato topping separately before combining to add to the oven, however it’s a great, hearty meal. 

If you want to make this meal cheaper then use beef mince instead and make a cottage pie – you definitely pay more for lamb mince. 

You can check out my shepherd’s pie recipe over on this article.

Ingredients 

475g Lamb mince £3.49

Tin chopped tomatoes 37p

2x Garlic cloves 2p

Splash Worcestershire sauce 2p

1 beef stock cube 12p

800g potatoes 37p

Splash of milk 4p

Knob of unsalted butter 5p

Total cost: £4.48

Spaghetti bolognese 

This is one of my favourite midweek family meals. 

You can add additional veg to the sauce – carrots and leeks for example – to increase the veg hit if you want to. 

Start by frying the beef mince until it is browned all over, and then add the chopped onion, garlic and beef stock cube and fry for a few more minutes. I then add the tinned tomatoes, then fill the can half up with water from the tap and pop that into the mix. You can then cook this for around 15 minutes, while cooking your spaghetti. 

I usually also add a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs from my store cupboard too for flavour. 

You can find my bolognese recipe here.  

Ingredients 

400g beef mince £2.99

1 onion chopped 43p

Beef stock cube 12p

Tin chopped tomatoes 37p

2 cloves garlic 2p

Spaghetti 10p

Total cost: £4.03

Simple veggie pasta 

An easy vegetarian pasta is not only a healthy option but it tastes amazing too! 

Add a sprinkling of grated cheese on top for extra yumminess. When making this I simply fry the onion in a little oil for a few minutes, then add the chopped up vegetables and cook for a further few minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and stock cube and cooking for 20 minutes. 

You can also add additional vegetables such as cherry tomatoes. 

Ingredients 

350g pasta 20p

Onion 43p

2 courgettes £1.15

Red pepper 42p

Tin chopped tomatoes 37p

Vegetable stock cube 12p

Total cost: £2.69

Mac and cheese 

You could buy a cheese sauce for your mac and cheese but I always make it from scratch as I’ve always got the ingredients to hand. 

You start by melting the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then pop in the flour. You’ll need to stir it continuously to make sure the flour and butter doesn’t form lumps and turn the heat down to low. 

Next you add the milk and warm it through before adding the grated cheese and stirring well. 

You can check out this BBC Mac and Cheese recipe for more ideas.  

Ingredients 

350g Macaroni pasta 20p

250g Cheddar cheese grated £1.25

3 tbsp Plain flour 1p

2 tbsp Butter 10p

500ml Milk 25p

Total cost: £1.81

Lamb wraps 

This really simple lamb wraps recipe came about from a desire to have a midweek meal that didn’t take forever to cook. 

It also goes down really well with the kids because they can assemble their own wrap. 

I sometimes let them top it with a little grated cheese. 

To make this all I do is add the paprika to the lamb and mix it together so the lamb is covered. Then I fry the lamb in a little oil until it’s cooked through. 

We then assemble our own wraps at the dinner table. This one is more expensive due to the cost of lamb, however if you use diced beef you can cut back the cost. 

Ingredients 

300g diced lamb £3.49

Wraps 65p

Pepper sliced 42p

Cherry tomatos 48p

1tsp paprika 2p

Half lettuce sliced 20p

Total cost: £5.26

Fish pie 

I love a fish pie – it’s a brilliant winter warmer of a meal! You can buy pre-packaged fish pie mix – containing a selection of different fish like cod and haddock – which is chopped up and ready to cook. 

Start by making your mashed potato. While that’s cooking melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then pop in the flour. You’ll need to stir it continuously to make sure the flour and butter doesn’t form lumps and turn the heat down to low. 

Next you add the milk and warm it through before adding the grated cheese and stirring well. Then take this off the heat and add the fish and mustard then stir well. 

Spoon the fish mixture into a pie dish or ramekins and topped with mashed potato before baking in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes. Serve with peas on the side. 

There’s a great BBC fish pie recipe here.

Ingredients 

Fish pie mix £3.55

500ml Milk 25p

800g Potatoes 37p

100g grated cheese 75p

2tbsp butter 10p

2tbsp plain flour 1p

1tsp English mustard 3p

Handful frozen peas 5p

Total cost: £5.11

Mushroom risotto 

A great midweek meal option if you want a vegetarian dish! First I begin by mixing up some vegetable stock with the stock cube and a litre of boiling water. 

Next I fry the onions in a little olive oil and then add the crushed garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan then add the rice and cook for a few more minutes. Add the wine to the pan and let it bubble for 3 minutes. 

Pour on enough stock to completely cover the rice and mushrooms and simmer. 

As the liquid reduces away add more of the stock to the pan. The rice will cook in around 10 to 16 minutes. Finish by adding the butter and giving it a good stir to melt into the risotto, now add some chopped parsley and serve. 

Ingredients 

300g Mushrooms 99p

Onion chopped 43p

2 garlic cloves 2p

300g Risotto rice 80p

Vegetable stock cube 12p

Knob of butter 5p 

175mp White wine £1

Bunch parsley 37p

Total cost: £3.78

Chilli con carne

A beef chilli is one of my favourite meals to have! If your kids aren’t that keen on heat then you can tone the spice levels down by deseeding the chilli or avoiding adding any extra hot chilli powder. 

This is a really easy one to make. Brown the mince all over then add the chopped onion and stock cube and fry for a few minutes. Next you tip in the chopped tomatoes, fill the tin up with water halfway and add that too. 

Now add your spices, kidney beans, and chilli and give it a good stir, then simmer for 30 minutes. This makes a really decent amount which often leaves leftovers for the next day too. 

Ingredients 

500g beef mince £1.49

1 tin red kidney beans 30p

1 tin chopped tomatoes 37p

Onion chopped 43p

2 garlic cloves 2p

Beef stock cube 12p

1 red chilli chopped 5p

2tsp ground cumin 5p

2 tsp ground coriander 5p

1tsp hot chilli powder 5p

Rice 10p

Total cost: £3.98

Meatballs and pasta 

A classic midweek meal! You could make the meatballs yourself with some beef mince but I like to cut corners in the week and just buy them pre made. 

The method of making this sauce is very similar to spaghetti bolognese, apart from you will take a little longer browning the outside of the meatballs to get them cooking through to the middle. 

Ingredients 

Beef meatballs £1.85

Tin chopped tomatoes 37p

Onion 43p

2 garlic cloves 2p

Beef stock cube 12p

Pasta (shape of your choice) 20p

Total cost: £2.99

Turkey goujons 

I always really enjoy making these turkey goujons. It’s really straightforward to do and makes a tasty, healthy meal for the family. Plus this is a super cheap family dinner! 

On the morning I’m going to make this I leave the two slices of bread for the recipe out on the side in the kitchen so they can dry out a little. This isn’t essential but it makes better bread crumbs. 

You can buy packs of pre-made bread crumbs but it’s much cheaper this way! 

I make my bread crumbs buy just whizzing the slices of bread up in a food processor for two minutes or so. 

I then put the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl, as well as beat the eggs into another shallow bowl and put the plain flour into a third shallow bowl. 

I cut the turkey breast steaks into strips and then dip each one into the plain flour, ensuring they are coated all over. I then add them to the egg mixture, again ensuring they are coated all over, before then putting them in the breadcrumbs. 

An even coating is essential. 

The goujons are then ready to be roasted in an oven at 180C for 25 to 35 minutes. I tend to heat a little vegetable oil on a baking tray before adding the goujons to that and roasting. 

Serve with a green salad made up of the lettuce, onion and cherry tomatoes, or chips. 

Ingredients 

Turkey breast steaks £2.59

2 slices white bread 5p

2 eggs 24p

2tbsp plain flour 1p

Half head lettuce 20p

Red onion 18p

Cherry tomatoes 48p

Total cost: £3.75

Pancakes with bacon 

It does not need to be Pancake Day in our house for us to enjoy pancakes for dinner! 

I cook fluffy, thick pancakes, rather than the super thin ones. My recipe for pancakes is here. 

Sometimes I’ll serve it with some simple fruit like grapes and orange segments but my favourite is serving it with bacon (and a little maple syrup on the side). 

Ingredients 

225g Plain flour 30p

2.5tsp Baking powder 2p

2 Eggs 24p

30g Butter 15p

300ml Milk 40p

Bacon £1.25

Total cost: £2.36

Chicken pie 

This recipe for chicken pie is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe that always works great and tastes amazing. I’ve simplified this version of it, but you can see the original one by Jamie here.  

Chicken pie recipe cheap family meal idea

I use chicken thighs here because it’s a cheaper cut. Start by frying the chicken in the butter until it’s sealed on every side. Then add the mushrooms (sliced) and cook for a few more minutes. 

Mix the stock cube with 500ml water and then tip this into the mix along with the creme fraiche and English mustard. Cook for 10 minutes. 

Next tip the chicken mixture into a pie dish before topping with the puff pastry (I always buy pre-rolled for convenience). Brush the top of the puff pastry with a tiny bit of milk. Roast in the over at 190C for 20 minutes, or when the puff pastry is golden on top. 

Ingredients 

Puff pastry 85p

Skinless, boneless chicken thighs £2.75

Creme fraiche  95p

10g Butter 10p

200g Button mushrooms 75p 

Chicken stock cube 12p

1tsp English mustard 5p

Total cost: £5.57

Mini toad in the hole 

This easy mini toad in the hole recipe is always a hit with the kids. You need to cook the sausages before adding them to the batter.

To make the batter simply mix the flour, eggs and milk together with 110ml with water. Give it a good stir to ensure it’s well combined. Then just roast in the oven for around 20 to 25 minutes, or until the batter has turned crisp and golden. 

I serve with a few veggies, and gravy too if you like. 

My recipe for mini toad in the hole can be found here.

Ingredients 

Chipolata sausages £1.35

150g Plain flour 20p

2 Eggs 24p

150ml Milk 20p

Broccoli 47p

Carrots 10p

Total cost: £2.56

Sausage and beans tray bake

Veggie curry 

Lasagne 

Ribs with BBQ sauce 

This is a weekend treat meal that comes in a little pricier than £4 (over £2 more) however it’s way cheaper than a takeout!

I start by mixing the sauce, ketchup, soy and garlic (crushed) together in a bowl. I then drizzle this all over the ribs (in a baking tray).

Pop this in the oven at 160C and cook for around an hour until the ribs are cooked through and starting to brown on the edges. Serve with corn on the cob. These also taste great when cooked on the BBQ, but just cook in the oven for 30 minutes before finishing on the BBQ.

Ingredients

Pork ribs £4.20

Hoisin sauce 89p

1 tbsp ketchup 2p

1 tbsp soy sauce 5p

2 garlic cloves 2p

Corn on the cob 95p

Total cost: £6.13

Chicken with rice and beans 

This is great if you’re a big fan of spicy food!

Grab all of the ingredients for the sauce (chilli, honey, spring onions, soy, garlic) and whizz up in a food processor, then drizzle on the chicken legs and roast in an oven at 180C for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cook the rice with the tin of mixed beans (I sometimes add a stock cube to this to add a little more flavour) and serve.

A scotch bonnet is a seriously hot chilli so either deseed it before cooking or choose a milder chilli.

Ingredients

Chicken legs £1.69

Honey 10p

Scotch bonnet chilli 15p

1tbsp white wine vinegar 5p

Bunch spring onions 37p

1tbsp soy sauce 5p

2 garlic cloves 2p

Rice 10p

Tinned mixed beans 53p

Total cost: £3.06

Eggy bread (AKA French toast)

This is my go-to dinner for when I don’t have time to cook anything elaborate. It’s super cheap but it’s always something the kids enjoy.

On the side I tend to add a few carrot sticks for the kids, but you could also serve with bacon.

All you need to do is beat the eggs into a shallow bowl. Next dip the slices of bread into the egg until they are coated on both sides.

Heat the butter in a frying pan and then gently fry each slice of bread for roughly 2 minutes each side.

Ingredients 

5 eggs 60p

8 slices of bread 20p

Butter 10p

Total cost: 90p

Sweet chilli salmon with cous cous 

A simple but really tasty way to enjoy fish! This one is a little more expensive due to the salmon however everything else is pretty low cost so keeps it to around £1.50 a head. 

Put the salmon fillets onto some tin foil on a baking tray. Add the sweet chilli sauce on top and then fold the tin foil so it covers the salmon. Cook in an oven at 170C for 15 minutes until cooked through. 

Meanwhile add boiling water to the stock cube and cover the cous cous with your stock. Cover with cling film and leave to absorb the stock for five minutes. 

Serve with the green beans. 

Ingredients 

2tbsp Sweet chilli sauce 25p

4 Salmon fillets £5.38

250g Cous cous 20p

Vegetable stock cube 12p

Green beans 69p

Total cost: £6.64

Chicken with corn on the cob and mash

This simple roasted chicken recipe is great comfort food with the mash and buttery corn.

Rub the chicken all over with a little olive oil and the dried mixed herbs and then roast according to cooking instructions on the pack.

Cook up a little mash and add some corn on the cob and voila.

Ingredients

Chicken whole £2.75

1tbsp Dried mixed herbs 10p

Corn on the cob 95p

800g potatoes 37p

Splash of milk 4p

Knob of unsalted butter 5p

Total cost: £4.26

Enchilada tray bake 

This is a tasty weekend meal. You can make the enchilada sauce from scratch yourself but I prefer to grab a jar of sauce to save time.

Combine the cooked chicken with a quarter of the enchilada sauce.

Warm tortillas in a microwave for 40 seconds, then fill each individual tortilla with the chicken plus a handful of grated cheese. Place each tortilla in a row in a baking tray with high sides. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top and the rest of the cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese bubbles.

Ingredients

Enchilada sauce £1.99

Chicken thighs (cooked and diced into small chunks) £2.75

Tortilla wraps 65p

400g Grated cheddar cheese £1.79

Shredded lettuce 20p

Total cost: £7.38

Stuffed baked potatoes 

The humble baked potato is a classic for a reason. It’s filling and delicious!

I love this recipe with a little bacon and cheese – it’s indulgent but easy to make.

Cook your baked potatoes in the oven at full heat. Meanwhile fry the bacon lardons in a pan in a little oil until crisp. Then cut open and remove the fluffy potato from the skins and mix together with the bacon and cheese and butter. Place back into the potato skins and serve! There’s a similar yummy recipe here.

Ingredients

4 baking potatoes 39p

80g Cheese 50p

200g Bacon lardons £1.49

50g Butter 20p

Total cost: £2.58

Omelette 

A simple omelette is a great way of using up leftover vegetables in your fridge. 

I add pretty much anything we have – including things like leftover cooked roast potatoes. These are really great when fried and added to an omelette. 

I also love to add peppers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, onion, and courgette. If you’ve bought veggies for a specific dish and have some leftover this is a great dish to make sure nothing goes to waste. 

Ingredients 

8 eggs 88p

Red pepper 42p

Onion 47p

Splash milk 4p

100g grated cheese 60p

Total cost: £1.94

Chicken and chorizo with rice 

I love this easy one pot dish because it doesn’t leave me with too much washing up!

To make it mix up 500ml of chicken stock with the cube.

Start by frying the chorizo (cut into chunks) and then add the chicken thighs (chopped into chunks) and cook together for around five minutes. Add the paprika and stir then tip in the chicken stock and add the cherry tomatoes (sliced in half) and red pepper (sliced). Finally add the rice and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Add extra water if it runs a little dry before the rice is cooked.

This is done when all of the liquid is gone and the rice is cooked through.

Ingredients

Chorizo £1.59

Chicken thighs £2.75

Chicken stock cube 12p

1 tsp paprika 4p

Cherry tomatoes 48p

Red pepper 42p

300g Rice 10p

Total cost: £5.50

Quick puff pastry pizza 

This quick puff pastry pizza recipe is a great way of using up leftover vegetables in the fridge. You can chuck basically anything on there – courgettes, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, etc.

All you need to do is roll the puff pastry out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and spread some passata on it (leave a 1cm gap around the edge for the crust). Then you load it up with toppings and the cheese.

BBC Good Food also has a recipe here.

Ingredients 

Puff pastry 85p

Cheese £1.50

3 tbsp passata 10p

Pepper sliced 42p

2 tomatoes sliced 40p

Red onion sliced 43p

Handful spinach 30p 

Total cost: £4

Quesadillas 

You can fill your Quesadillas with whatever you choose – mushrooms, olives, onions, peppers, tomatoes, there’s a lot of options! You can also add meat or just keep it vegetarian.

To make this simply fry a tortilla in a pan with a little oil and then add your toppings and cook for a few minutes. Fold the tortilla over to create a sandwich and remove from the pan. Slice into wedges and service with a little lettuce.

Check out this Quesadilla recipe from Simply Recipes.

Ingredients

Flour tortilla wraps 65p

Grated cheddar £1.50

2 tomatoes 40p

Handful black olives 20p

Avocado 75p

Quarter head lettuce 11p

Total cost: £3.61

Fajitas 

We love fajitas in our house! We add jalapenos when it’s just the adults but those are a little too spicy for the kids. It’s easy to cook in one wok or pan and makes a hearty meal!

Ingredients 

Chicken breasts £2.59

Wraps 65p

Onion 43p

Red pepper 42p

Yellow pepper 42p

Fajita seasoning 60p

Total cost: £5.11

Homemade burgers 

Burgers are the perfect Saturday night treat! Making them can be really fun to do together as well.

Start by mixing the mince with the herbs and egg in a bowl. Once it’s all combined well then shape the beef mixture into individual burger patties.

Now fry each one for around 5 minutes each side and serve in the buns with the lettuce and cheese.

Ingredients 

500g Beef mince £1.49

1 tsp mixed dried herbs 5p

1 egg beaten 11p

4 Burger buns 89p

Quarter head lettuce 11p

4 Cheddar cheese slices 40p

Total cost: £3.05

Pea and ham pasta 

I use this for leftover thick cut ham slices that we haven’t used in sandwiches.

All you need to do is cook the pasta according to instructions then drain and return to a low heat. Add the cream, butter, ham and peas then stir for a few minutes before serving.

Ingredients

Diced ham £1.19

Pasta 20p

Frozen peas 10p

Single cream 75p

Grated cheddar £1.50

2tbsp butter 10p

Total cost: £3.84

Teriyaki beef stir fry

This one you can cheat with either the Aldi Teriyaki kit which comes with virtually everything you need or Tesco does a meal deal on its stir fry essentials.

Substitute beef for pork if you want to cut the cost.

Ingredients 

Teriyaki beef stir fry kit (Aldi) £3.29

Egg noodles £1.19

Total cost: £4.48

Easy Tortilla pizzas 

I love this easy tortilla pizza as the kids can help out with it.

All you need to do is spread a little passata on each wrap and then top with cheese, ham and cherry tomatoes. Bake in the oven at 180C for around 4 to 6 minutes until the wrap is starting to brown and the cheese has melted.

Ingredients 

Wraps 65p

Cheddar cheese £1.50

5tbsp Passata 25p

Cherry tomatoes 48p

Ham £1

Pepper 43p

Total cost: £4.31

Cheap family dinner ideas for the whole week