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Three flatbreads filled with halloumi, squash and salad with dip

10 easy budget family meals

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To make cooking on a budget simple, we've devised these thrifty family meals. They're nutritious, easy to make and most importantly, taste delicious.

Many of us are having to think extra carefully about how to get the most out of our shopping and fuel budgets. Smart planning and cooking will help you make nutritious meals that taste great. We calculate a budget meal at a cost of £1.25 per serving for ingredients used. (You may have to spend a little more if you need to replenish staples such as a full bottle of cooking oil or a bag of flour or buy a pot of spices, but you will use these up over time and we will give you ideas for how to do this.) You may also have access to a markets and local shops that offer savings.

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Need some budget-friendly meal inspiration for busy weeknights? These simple recipes won't break the bank, are really easy to prep and packed full of fresh ingredients and flavour. Try innovative, cost-conscious recipes that will help you make stress-free midweek meals to feed four. Rustle up a veggie supper like no other or a hearty meat feast – we've got it all.

3 easy budget hacks

For even more budget-friendly ideas, check out our collections of budget recipes and freezable family recipes, plus see our top 10 budget family meals. Also see our budget section for more money-saving tips and recipe inspiration.

1. Easy chicken stew

Chicken stew in a pot and two plates

A healthy and satisfying family meal that makes the most of affordable chicken thighs and plenty of chunky veg. Only 10 minutes prep time is required for this easy chicken stew, before letting it slowly simmer in the pan so all the flavours can meld. Serve in bowls with crusty bread or warm cheese scones.

2. Carrot biryani

Carrot biryani in a wide pan, topped with coriander

Fancy a low-calorie curry with plenty of spice? Try our carrot biryani and prepare to be amazed by how much flavour this humble veg can bring to a dish. Plate up this casual curry in 25 minutes and serve with dollops of cooling yogurt. Try using speedy microwaveable pouches of rice for an even simpler supper.

3. Kale, chicken & pesto gnocchi

A bowl of kale, chicken and pesto gnocchi

Serve a vibrant green bowl of goodness in just 20 minutes with this easy kale, chicken & pesto gnocchi. It's a perfect way to use up any leftover roast chicken and veg. Make your own zesty homemade pesto to really bring the dish alive – double the quantities to use in another pasta dish later in the week. Requiring just 10 minutes prep time, this low-calorie dinner is an easy weeknight go-to.

4. Egg fried noodles

A bowl of noodles, mushrooms and broccoli

Rustle up this veggie stir-fry in just 20 minutes for a speedy, low-cost family dinner. It uses just a handful of ingredients, including dried noodles, eggs, mushrooms and frozen peas, but you can also throw in any leftovers you have.

5. Halloumi flatbreads

Three flatbreads filled with halloumi, squash and salad with dip

These fully loaded halloumi & squash flatbreads are layered with salty slabs of grilled cheese, paprika-roasted squash and sweet chilli beetroot jam – can a sandwich get any better? The secret ingredient in the flatbreads is yogurt – it helps keep them soft. If you can’t find butternut squash, this recipe works well with other squashes or sweet potato.

6. Sausage ragu

A pot of sausage ragu with rigatoni pasta

Transform a pack of pork sausages into this comforting budget-friendly ragu, best served with chunky pasta, such as rigatoni. It's sure to become a family favourite, so why not make a larger batch and freeze the leftovers for another time?

7. Spinach falafel & hummus bowl

Bowl of falafel balls with spinach, hummus and pitta

Bowl food at its best. This vibrant vegan salad is packed with nutrients and a fun way to achieve three of your five-a-day. Only 5 minutes of prep time are needed to whip up the silky hummus and homemade spinach falafel before baking the latter in the oven. Serve this spinach falafel & hummus bowl with warm pittas and salad for a nutritious and affordable plant-based dinner.

8. Posh egg, chips & beans

Fried egg, beans and chips on a plate

In the mood for comfort food? We've given classic egg, chips & beans a healthy twist by making the smoky beans from scratch and baking the chips instead of frying. This satisfying supper makes the most of storecupboard ingredients and really is 'as cheap as chips' – perfect for a Friday night treat.

9. Chipotle sweet potato & black bean stew with cheddar dumplings

Wide pan of chipotle sweet potato & black bean stew with cheddar dumplings

A showstopping veggie dinner if ever we saw one. Try our chipotle sweet potato & black bean stew for a guaranteed crowd-pleasing one-pot that makes the most of canned storecupboard ingredients. Topped with cheesy cheddar dumplings, it's perfect for feeding a hungry family – the chilli can be left out if you're feeding youngsters.

10. Italian veggie cottage pie

Vegetable cottage pie topped with mash

We love a twist on a classic dish, especially when it's combined with mash. Try our Italian veggie cottage pie for a super satisfying spoonful with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and cheesy, fluffy potatoes. This adaptable recipe can be tweaked to include your favourite veggies.

Enjoyed these basic budget recipes? Try other family meal ideas:

Top 10 budget family meals
5 nights of budget family suppers
5 nights of waste-free family meals
A week of healthy budget family meals
Budget family chicken recipes
One week of budget-friendly family dinners
Top 10 healthy family meals

This article was published in April 2022. Cost per serving figures are correct at time of calculation and are based on ingredients available from a mid-range supermarket, selecting products from their value ranges. Costings exclude energy expenditure. Variations in the marketplace, availability of ingredients and changing food prices will impact the these figures, but where possible, our budget articles will feature recipes that cost less than £1.25 per person. For more budget-friendly recipes and cookery advice, visit our budget section.

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What's your favourite low-cost family meal? Leave a comment below.

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