7 days of healthy budget family meals
Our nutritionist has put together a week of healthy, budget-friendly family meals. These delicious, child-friendly recipes are full of goodness and make the most of lower cost ingredients.
The recipes in our seven-day meal plan have been picked to provide healthy, delicious suppers for four people across a working week, making the most of affordable ingredients and including ideas for using up leftovers.
We’ve included a balance of lean protein from meat, fish, dairy and plant foods, as well as energising carbohydrates and healthy fats, including the all-important omega-3 variety. The ingredients in our recipes are rich in important minerals for growth and development, including iron, zinc and calcium, as well as nutrients that can often be lacking in our modern-day diets, such as vitamin D and selenium. It’s often difficult to get kids to eat certain foods such as veggies and fibre-rich grains, so these recipes use clever strategies to incorporate them in sauces and stir-fries.
Want even more inspiration for budget-friendly family meals? Check out our collection of budget healthy recipes and follow our new budget family meal plan. For more filling family suppers that’ll do you good, take a look at our healthy family recipes and see our top 10 healthy budget recipes. You can also find plenty more pocket-friendly recipes and cookery advice on our main budget section.
Are you worried about the cost of living? The Which? Money Health Check Tool is free and for anyone looking for ways to help them save money.
A week of healthy, budget-friendly suppers
Chicken & new potato traybake
Our chicken and new potato traybake is a fuss-free, easy way to enjoy your Sunday roast and saves on washing- up – simply cook chicken thighs and Jersey royals in one pot with olives, lemon, garlic and bay leaves. Cooking chicken thighs also uses up less time in the oven compared to a full roast bird, thereby saving on fuel.
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Chicken is a great nutritional option, because white meat is generally lower in fat than red meats such as beef or lamb. It also provides a source of quality protein, which is needed for growth and development, and is especially important for children and teenagers.
Potatoes (especially new potatoes) are a great budget option and provide a source of vitamin C. It can often be a challenge to encourage younger members of the family to eat their veggies, and although potatoes are a starchy food, which means they don’t count as a portion of fruit and veg, their contribution to our vitamin C intake makes them plate worthy. Read more about the health benefits of potatoes.
Budget tip: Double the quantity of chicken thighs so you have some leftovers to use for tomorrow’s meal. We also recommend making the most of the oven by cooking a large tray of roast cauliflower and squash which you can serve as a side and use the leftovers for lunches in the week.
Chicken, leek & brown rice stir-fry
Use up yesterday’s roast chicken with our speedy chicken, leek and brown rice stir-fry with smoky chorizo and soy sauce. Ready in just 20 minutes, it’s perfect for busy weeknights and is easily adaptable with any spare veg you have left in the fridge.
Chicken is a good source of the amino acid, tryptophan, so opting for chicken in the evening will help raise serotonin levels and promote a good night’s sleep – especially important when it’s school the next day.
Kale is a great source of vitamins C and E, and may help to support bone health as well as protecting against heart disease. Discover more about the health benefits of kale.
Using ready-made pouches of wholegrain rice cuts down on cooking time and boosts your fibre intake.
Budget tip: This recipe is perfect for raiding the fridge, so grab the opportunity to use up any leftover veggies. We’ve also used reduced-salt soy sauce in order to lower the sodium content.
This quick and easy one-pan pasta with meatballs saves on washing-up and makes the most of storecupboard ingredients such as chopped tomatoes and dried pasta. As well as being low in calories, it’s a source of vitamin C and counts towards two of your 5-a-day. Opt for lean beef or turkey meatballs, if possible, to cut down on fat.
Beef is rich in the minerals iron and zinc – both are needed for growth and repair, and are especially important in childhood. Zinc helps us to stay healthy by keeping our immune system functioning well and promotes the healing of cuts and bruises. Getting adequate amounts of iron from your diet is especially important for teenage girls because they’re often low in this important mineral and as a result, feel tired and lacking in energy.
Budget tip: Swap spaghetti for pasta shapes. They’re easier for little ones to manage, which cuts down on wastage.
Chole with cumin rice & raita
Make this flavour-packed chickpea curry for a satisfying veggie supper that also scores two of your 5-a-day. It’s a great fallback if you haven't got time to go shopping because it uses up storecupboard basics such as canned chickpeas, dried rice and spices. Served with cumin-spiced rice and a cooling cucumber raita, it’s full of exciting flavours and textures, and you can easily dial down the spice levels for youngsters.
Beans and pulses, like chickpeas, are rich in protein, resistant starch and soluble fibre, all of which slow the speed at which we digest them and help to lower blood sugar levels. This means they have a low glycaemic index (GI) and release their energy more steadily, which is great if you have an energetic family. Find more healthy chickpea recipes.
Budget tip: If you don’t have time to make raita, a dollop of Greek or natural yogurt will provide a cooling accompaniment to balance the curry powder. Scattering with pomegranates is optional, but it’s delicious on its own if you want to keep costs down.
Sesame & spring onion stir-fried udon with crispy tofu
Rustle up a simple yet satisfying vegan stir-fry in just 20 minutes. This low-calorie dinner combines thick udon noodles with crispy tofu, fresh spring onions, green beans and crunchy sesame seeds, so there are plenty of exciting textures. We’ve also used low-salt soy sauce to provide a hit of umami flavour without raising sodium levels too high.
Tofu is a popular plant-based meat and dairy alternative derived from soya, which provides a rich source of 'complete' plant protein. It also contains natural compounds called isoflavones which are powerful antioxidants, support heart health by lowering cholesterol and may help to alleviate menopausal symptoms in women. Read more about the health benefits of tofu.
Budget tip: Shopping for a balanced plant-based diet shouldn’t be more expensive than for a non-vegan diet. Supermarkets often have their own-branded versions of meat and dairy alternatives.
One-pot coconut fish curry
NHS guidelines recommend we should eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, at least one of which should be an oily variety such as salmon. Fresh fish can be pricey, so we’ve kept costs down in this easy one-pot coconut fish curry by using a frozen fish pie mix instead. Ready in just 30 minutes, this one-pan wonder is ideal for feeding the family quickly on a budget. Serve with rice and yogurt, or opt for cauliflower rice if you want to keep it low-carb.
Frozen fish pie mixes typically include a combination of cod, salmon and smoked haddock. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are thought to contribute to a healthy heart and help maintain skin, joints and hormonal balance. Cod and haddock are high in protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamin B12, which is needed for energy and nervous system support and may be important in helping prevent depression.
Budget tip: As well as using frozen fish, we’ve made the most of frozen peas, which often have a higher nutritional value than their fresh counterparts, as well as being good value. Canned coconut milk is another low-cost ingredient which provides richness in this recipe without significantly increasing the fat content.
Discover more frozen fish recipes.
The dried apricots in these easy turkey burgers may seem an unlikely ingredient, but they help keep the burger succulent and moist, as well as packing in extra flavour. That’s not all – the sweetness of the apricots will win over even the pickiest of eaters, while also supplying extra fibre and iron and counting as one portion of fruit. Turkey is not only a lean meat but it’s one of the richest in the immune-friendly mineral, selenium, and supplies all of the B group of vitamins.
Adding oats to these burgers helps the meat go further and makes them more filling – just remember that young tummies can’t manage too much fibre so vary the quantity depending on your kids’ ages. Oats are a great source of slow-burn carbs, which help to stabilise blood sugar levels.
Finishing these burgers in the oven rather than frying or griddling keeps fat levels down.
Budget tip: Using thigh mince in place of breast mince cuts costs. Although slightly higher in fat, dark thigh meat is actually richer in minerals, including iron and zinc.
You’ll notice a number of veggies feature throughout the week, so buy loose and in bulk to keep costs to a minimum.
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Have you got any other tips for how to eat healthily on a budget? Leave a comment below...