Ideas for Family Meals on a Budget

Updated February 21, 2017

When your family is on a limited budget, meal planning can be a challenge. To make sure that your food expenditures do not damage your bank account, plan meals that use inexpensive ingredients to provide the nutrition your family needs. Buy in bulk whenever possible and make the most of leftovers for additional meals.


Pasta is a cheap and filling base for a variety of meals; depending on the size of your family, you can buy noodles in bulk or in smaller bags. For a quick meal, buy canned spaghetti sauce, add minced meat, and combine with spaghetti noodles. You can make macaroni using healthy cheeses, or sauté a variety of vegetables with tomatoes and garlic to toss with penne pasta. If you want to cut costs, throw in beans as a protein source; you can also use chicken and ground turkey, which are lower in cost than prime beef cuts.

Fish and Chips

If your family likes fish, create a simple, healthy, and tasty meal of fish and chips. Buy pollack fillets, which tend to be available in large quantities for a low cost, or use another type of inexpensive white fish. Cover the fillets in egg and dip in seasoned breadcrumbs and bake. At the same time, cut up potatoes into bite-size pieces, sprinkle with seasonings and bake until they are tender. The potatoes will be filling, and the protein in the fish is healthy for your family. Serve your fish and chips with a simple vegetable side to complete the meal.

Chickpeas and Sausage

For a filling and tasty meal, use chickpeas and sausage. Buy dry chickpeas in bulk and soak in preparation for cooking; cook them separately until just about done. In a large pan, sauté onions, tomatoes, and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add your favourite type of sausage and chickpeas; you may need to add water or olive oil if the sauce is too thick. Cook the entire batch on low heat so that the flavour from the vegetables and the sausage is absorbed into the chickpeas. This is a filling meal, and can be served over rice for extra bulk.

Chicken Stew

Soups and stews are good ways to make use of leftover ingredients and small amounts of vegetables that are not suitable for a full meal; in addition, they keep well in the refrigerator and can be frozen. To make chicken stew, start with leftover chicken or new chicken and sauté until cooked through. In a large pot, combine vegetable or chicken stock, potatoes, tomatoes, barley, carrots, peas, onions, garlic and two or three bay leaves; you can also use any vegetables you have around. Cook the mix together until the vegetables are done, adding salt and pepper to taste.

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About the Author

Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.