Wouldn’t it be great to have a handful of easy and cheap family meal recipes for week nights that you could easily change, depending on seasonal ingredients and use what you had on hand, that didn’t cost the earth? And are still healthy for the whole family?
With my handy meal planning tips and using cheap, healthy ingredients, you’ll be saving money on your weekly grocery shop plus having a lot of meal ideas to choose from for your family.
Table of Contents
- Cheap & Healthy Ingredients
- How to Cook Easy & Cheap, Healthy Family Meals
- Easy & Cheap Family Meal Recipes
- More easy & Cheap Recipes
- Conclusion – Easy & Cheap Healthy Family Meal Recipes
Cheap & Healthy Ingredients
Once you work out your family’s favourite meals, it’s a lot easier to prepare these meals in a hurry when you have the basics on hand in your pantry.
Stocking your pantry with healthy, non-perishable ingredients means you only have to mix and match the protein (eg meat, eggs, legumes) and vegetables.
Rice is such a staple to have on hand for family meals. White, basmati, jasmine, brown, are just some of the different kinds you can buy.
The ‘brown’ version of any rice will always be much healthier because it hasn’t been processed like white rice. It does require longer cooking but if you can cook double the amount of rice you need and keep it in serving sizes in the freezer, you’ll save more money instead of buying pre-cooked rice.
Pasta is such a great family favourite. There are also many different forms of pasta from noodles like spaghetti, linguine. Shapes like penne or fusilli and other shapes like lasagna, cannelloni and large shells are also suitable.
Cooking your family’s favourite pasta sauce but serving it with a different pasta each week, changes things up slightly for the family but you’ll also know that they’ll be enjoying it, without any waste and it will be cheap.
For example, cook up a basic Bolognese sauce one week and double the quantity. Keep the second serve in the freezer to be made up into a pasta bake or lasagne the following week.
Dried or canned legumes add protein, carbohydrates and fiber to a meal which is great for good nutrition.
Legumes like lentils make a great ground meat alternative which is a lot cheaper than ground beef so anyway you serve ground beef can be copied using lentils. For example, burgers, Bolognese sauce, meatloaf.
Chickpeas, kidney or black beans, cannellini beans and other legumes make delicious main meals that I’m sure the family will love.
Buying the beans in dried form will always work out cheaper and when you prepare them, try to prepare double and freeze any extra to have on hand as required.
Contrary to what people might think, canned (and frozen) fruit and vegetables maintain vitamins and minerals from the moment they are picked. In fact, some might even contain more nutrients than fresh, depending on how long it takes from the farmer’s field to the grocery store.
Tinned tomatoes, corn, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, asparagus, and mushrooms are just some of the example of canned vegetables available. Keeping the ingredients you need in canned form in your pantry means you’ll always have the ingredients handy for the meal your family will love.
Buying meat in bulk will always bring costs down. If you don’t have the money up front, it can be a little difficult. Only buying what you need will work out more cheap for you in the short term.
Ground meat and meat that contains a bone are both good money savers. Meat with a bone, eg pork chops or chicken thighs will always have more flavour too.
Canned fish is fantastic to keep on hand in the pantry. Tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, oysters and mackerel are not only high in Omega 3 fatty acids, they make delicious meals.
Having a good selection of sauces in your pantry allows you to create a wide variety of meals. It doesn’t mean you need to stock every single sauce for every single cuisine but Mexican food is one of your family’s favourites, think about adding a spicy chipotle sauce or soy sauce to add to Asian stir fries.
Stock, Dried Herbs & Spices etc
Having the right essentials in your pantry for the recipes your family likes to eat means meals on the table in minutes and not having to worry about take out. These kind of pantry staples are always readily available for a low price from the grocery store.
It doesn’t mean you need a whole shelf full of herbs and spices. Keep those that you know will work across a wide range of cuisines.
Using Stuff Up
When money is a little tight, one of the best things you can do is take an inventory of what you have in your pantry (and fridge and freezer). You might find a whole bunch of ingredients you didn’t know you had.
Some may be past the expiry date or some foods may be something you thought you were going to try cooking but didn’t. Either throw them away if they are out of date or donate these food items. Food banks and most charities will accept non perishable food items if they are well within the best before date.
If you do find food items that you do use on a regular basis and maybe have doubled up on quantities, think of other ways you might be able to use them. For example, corn flakes make a great coating for chicken or a crispy top on a fish pie. Rolled oats make a great filler for meat balls or meatloaf.
If in doubt, google “ways to use up xyz“. There are so many different ways to use different ingredients. You might come across a new favourite dish for your family.
Perishable goods like yoghurt, cheese, milk, some sauces and spreads, will keep for a certain period of time in the fridge so be mindful of exactly what you have in there so you’re not wasting anything.
Fresh fruit and vegetables will always be cheapest when they are in season. So if you think about summer meal ideas, think salad vegetables. Slow cooked soups and stews, which are better eaten in winter, contain root vegetables which are cheapest in the cooler months.
If you do happen to come across a bargain when it comes to fruit and vegetables, or you grow your own, look at canning or preserving your own. Prepping your produce can be done easily enough for the freezer as well.
Don’t overbuy fresh fruit and vegetables. Just buy what you need for the week and ensure that you have some canned versions in the pantry as a back up.
If a recipe calls for sour cream, for example, and you don’t have any don’t go to the store to buy it specially. Look for a substitute like Greek yoghurt. It’s perfect!
A substitute of just about every single ingredient known to mankind can be found here.
If you aren’t growing your own fresh herbs, look at starting up a simple herb garden for those meals your family likes to eat. Alternatively buying small quantities of fresh herbs from the grocery store and then freezing any unused herbs in oil in an ice cube tray in the freezer.
To help make your meal planning easier and putting the meal together in a hurry, having partially or fully cooked meals in the freezer will be your time saver. It will also help save you money because there won’t be any waste.
Cooking extra serves of pasta, rice, and pulses then storing in the freezer will mean not having to buy extra.
All of those leftovers can be added for single meals (like lunch for a busy mom) or added to another meal to make it go further.
The freezer is also where you’ll store all your meat and fish. Just remember to defrost the night before or that morning you plan to cook your meal.
How to Cook Easy & Cheap, Healthy Family Meals
Depending on the time you have, find the best way to cook for you.
If you have time to prep the meal in the morning, pop in the slow cooker in the morning or pop ingredients in a casserole dish or tray to bake in the oven.
If you have a one pot or air fryer, and parts of your meal can be prepared in these appliances, by all means use them.
Don’t forget to cook double or triple when you can so you have a partial or second full meal cooked and ready to go in another dish on another night. (For example, spicy ground turkey in tacos one night and then in San Chow Bau another night.)
Easy & Cheap Family Meal Recipes
These recipes are just an example of how you can keep costs low when it comes to preparing easy and cheap, healthy meals for your family.
Some rules to follow are:
- have a stock take of your pantry, fridge and freezer and get rid of out of date items
- look up ways to use items you may have an abundance of
- buy seasonal fruit and vegetables
- use what you have
- find the quickest way that will work for you to prepare the meal
- substitute other ingredients with what you have
- adjust the recipe to suit your family’s tastes
- cook extra parts of the meal to save time and avoid waste
More easy & Cheap Recipes
Recipes containing Cottage Cheese
Cheap and easy Instant Pot recipes
Conclusion – Easy & Cheap Healthy Family Meal Recipes
Eating well doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. With a wide selection of basic ingredients kept in your pantry and using seasonal produce, you can create many frugal, healthy family meals. Use the above recipes as a guide. If you’re missing an ingredient, don’t rush to the store to buy it. Either use what you have or substitute where you can.
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