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Spaghetti bolognese in a bowl with a fork

Budget meals for large families

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Planning budget meals for a large family can be tricky. Make your food go further with these these low-cost dinner ideas and learn how to feed your family for less.

Many of us are having to think even more 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 bag of flour – or buy 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 markets and local shops that offer savings.

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Discover the best budget recipes, whether you have six, eight or more to feed, along with tips on how to bulk out your dishes without compromising on flavour. From a comforting veggie chilli to sausage and bean casserole, these recipes make the most of cheaper ingredients and can be easily batch-cooked. We've also taken into consideration rising fuel costs and therefore minimised the amount of oven cooking for these recipes, providing alternatives for cooking on the hob or in a slow cooker.

Make your money go further with our collection of feed-a-crowd recipes and batch-cooking recipes, plus check out our top 10 budget slow cooker recipes and top 10 budget meals. We've also got plenty more money-saving recipes and tips in our budget section.

1. Orzotto with pancetta & peas

Orzo, peas and pancetta in a cooking pot

Give classic risotto a twist with this thrifty one-pot that uses orzo pasta. Ready in under 30 minutes, it makes a speedy and flavour-packed midweek meal that feeds six. Adding frozen peas is an affordable way to boost your veg intake, while a pack of diced pancetta provides plenty of flavour, use a couple of snipped up rashers of bacon instead if you prefer.

Orzotto with pancetta & peas

Discover more budget pasta recipes.

2. Double bean & roasted pepper chilli

Vegetarian bean chilli in a pot

One-pot cooking is a great way to feed a crowd. This warming veggie chillif serves eight, so you might even have leftovers to freeze for later. It makes good use of storecupboard staples, such as kidney beans, black beans and chopped tomatoes, and can be bulked out even further with rice. As well as being budget-friendly, this hearty chilli is also low in fat and delivers three of your five-a-day.

Double bean & roasted pepper chilli

We've got plenty more budget vegetarian recipes to try.

3. Halloumi flatbreads

Flatbreads topped with grilled halloumi, rocket and slaw

These simple and satisfying veggie flatbreads are perfect for sharing with a crowd. Frying the halloumi cheese in strips gives it a delicious charred flavour. Combine with a dollop of hummus, toasted pumpkin seeds, slaw and rocket, then roll up in a flatbread. To cut costs, you can swap rocket leaves for a regular salad and warm the flatbreads in the microwave rather than the oven.

Halloumi flatbeads

4. Slow cooker ratatouille

Ratatouille in a pot

This vibrant vegan ratatouille is packed with veg, such as aubergine, courgette and tomato, providing four of your five-a-day. It makes enough for six, but you can easily double the quantities in a slow cooker and freeze for easy midweek meals when you’re busy.

Slow cooker ratatouille

Try more budget vegan recipes and slow cooker recipes.

5. Easy sausage casserole

Sausage and bean casserole in a black pot

Bulk up with beans – they’re full of fibre and can make a dish go further. This comforting casserole serves six and uses cheaper ingredients such as onions, canned tomatoes and beans to enhance the flavour of the chorizo and sausages.

Beans can vary in price, we love Jack Monroe's tip of using canned baked beans that have been rinsed under a cold tap – once the tomato sauce has been washed away, they become plain haricot beans.

Sausage & bean casserole

6. Courgette & tomato soup

Courgette and tomato soup in a bowl

Knowing which vegetables are in season can help lower the cost of your weekly shop. Make a batch of soup depending on what you can find – this courgette and tomato blend is a great basic recipe to start with, and serves eight people. Here’s our collection of budget soup recipes to help inspire you.

Courgette & tomato soup

7. Mexican pulled chicken & beans

A bowl of Mexican pulled chicken with limes and tortilla chips

Use wallet-friendly chicken thighs to make this easy alternative to pulled pork – cook the meat slowly in a spicy chipotle sauce to achieve that melt-in-the-mouth texture. This comforting recipe serves six to eight, and makes the most of storecupboard ingredients such as canned tomatoes and beans. Serve as part of a sharing platter with salad, tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Mexican pulled chicken & beans

Try more budget chicken thigh recipes.

8. Vegetable curry for a crowd

Large pan of vegetable curry

One-pot curries are a great budget meal idea – if you’re feeding little ones, you can halve the curry paste in this recipe so it isn’t too spicy. The butternut squash, aubergine and courgette provide some hidden veg, too. Alternatively, try our flavoursome pork & chickpea curry. Both serve at least eight.

Vegetable curry for a crowd

Enjoy more of our warming curry recipes.

9. Easy fish pie

Fish pie topped with a layer of mash

Buying a fish pie mix is an inexpensive way to provide your family with essential omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. This simple and satisfying pie also maximises on frozen veg, and will serve up to six (more if you’re feeding toddlers). Although using the oven is energy intensive, this recipe only requires 20-25 minutes cooking time. You can easily double the amount and cook two pies together, then freeze one for a busy weeknight.

Easy fish pie

10. Big-batch bolognese

A heap of spaghetti with bolognese sauce on a plate

For a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, you can’t go wrong with spaghetti bolognese. Serving 12, this healthy meal is fantastic value for money and can easily be halved. If you’re short on time in the week, you can make it ahead and freeze. Vegetarians don’t need to miss out – our easy lentil ragu is also a great option for large families.

Big-batch bolognese

Browse more of our mince recipes for ways to use beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken and veggie mince.

Try more budget-friendly family meal ideas

Budget family meal plan
Quick & budget family meals
10 budget family chicken recipes
10 easy budget family meals
10 quick budget family meals
5 nights of budget family meals for £25
7 days of healthy budget family suppers


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This article was published in May 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 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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