Preparing dinner with cheap recipes can help you stay within budget


Melanie Greene

Household budgets are being squeezed and with the average UK family spending £550 a month on food. Finding some healthy, filling but wallet friendly recipes is ticking all the boxes. Even a small change here and there can add up to some significant savings over the year and contribute to a degree of financial robustness. This robustness can help if you experience a cash flow emergency, perhaps negating the need for a payday loan.

All hail the slow cooker

Slow cookers are pretty cheap to purchase, economical in terms of energy use and they are great for maximising cheaper ingredients. In addition, they can provide a healthy, low-fat style of cooking and require the minimum amount of fuss. Awesome huh?

Chopped vegetables ready for the pot

7 unusual slow cooker recipes

  • Porridge
  • Sticky toffee pudding
  • Spiced poached plums in chocolate sauce
  • Paprika chilli bowl
  • Goat curry
  • Sweetcorn and smoked haddock soup
  • Baked mushrooms with ricotta and pesto

"Eat cheap but eat healthy #budgeteating"
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Prepare your steak carefully

Star cheap eats

We have gathered together some cheaper, more cost effective recipes that might float your boat. We have selected dishes that are part of a balanced diet and go some way to help you achieve your health goals. Meal prepping is preparing set dinners and lunches in advance and then freezing them, ready to be used as and when. By meal prepping some of these dishes and avoiding expensive take-aways and convenience food, you can help your money stretch much further. Check out the following:

In our view, this is one of the tastiest and healthiest burgers that you can put together on the cheap. Kidney bean burgers start with a 400g tin of kidney beans, cumin, coriander, flour and onions. You can add in a helping of peppers to taste as well. This is enough to make four, generously sized burgers and are super kind to your wallet too. These burgers not only taste great but are also suitable for vegans and those that want to reduce the amount of meat they eat. An added tip is to get meal prepping by making a large batch and freezing them, smug in the knowledge that you can just remove one the night before and enjoy a tasty burger treat for dinner!

Vegetarian meatballs added in with some of your favourite pasta (or even on their own) offers an inexpensive meal that saves on costs and is actually quite healthy. The ingredients in this meatball include one-part aubergine, one-part onion, garlic, chili pepper, chopped olives, oil and bread crumbs. Adding in your favourite herbs and spices can also be an excellent way to season the entire mix. Aubergines are really awesome and can often make up to 10 small meatballs or a larger grouping of larger meatballs for enjoying them on their own as a meal.

Rather than a calorie buster of a meat pie that is loaded up with gravy and other ingredients, you could consider substituting vegetables for the meat coupled with baked beans and puff pastry. Use Hummus for the gravy. Using veg will not only cut down on the calories per portion but it also packs a punch when it comes to protein. Great for all you fitness fanatics out there. With a quick and simple recipe like this one it's possible to cook in bulk and build up a fridge full of pies, enough for the whole week! Alternatively freeze a few so that you have a ready-made stash when you need a quick meal.

Fish cakes are generally made up of mashed potatoes, spices and a bit of fish. Instead of using fresh fish it's possible that you could use sardines in tomato sauce or even flavoured tuna. Any type of canned fish can work quite well as a substitute when making fish cakes. You could even consider using canned crab as well. Fish cakes are extremely easy to make once you have all the ingredients and actually freeze quite well too. You could consider making a massive batch and then freezing them down for fast healthy meals in the future. Price varies on the quality of the fish. Pollock and River Cobbler are some of the cheapest fish you can buy, followed by tuna and then salmon. On occasion you may be able to find frozen or inexpensive whitefish or smoked fish on sale and this can serve as another substitute if you happen to find it at a good price. Tasty and frugal fish cakes but that pack a flavour punch, yum!

A quick macaroni and cheese bake is a favourite for many children and adults. This recipe utilises a reduced fat cream fraiche in order to save the pennies. So make sure to add reduced fat cream fraiche, around 200g of grated cheese and then 250g of macaroni to your shopping list. The whole process is extremely quick and a great dish to produce in bulk. Consider adding in some of your own spices and herbs to refresh the recipe from time to time. Macaroni and cheese has long been a favourite for many families and it's something that kids will continue to request at meal times.

Soups are a wonderful way that you can save money on food costs because they can often be produced using a number of leftovers. Boiling left-over chicken bones for example or even fats from other meat dishes in your home could help you to produce a wonderful stock that could be used in items like minestrone soup. You can also get started with stock that you might buy at your local store which is generally quite inexpensive. Some of the main ingredients that you'll have to gather for this recipe includes celery, cloves, garlic, fennel, onions and perhaps a small bit of leftover meat or bacon that you would chop up for the dish. Frying all of these ingredients together and then adding them into the soup stock for a slow simmer is one of the easiest ways that you can build up an extremely tasty soup that will be just as good as any canned minestrone soup you would buy anywhere else. The big advantage of this type of soup is that it can be traditionally far less expensive to put together and it also stays preserved quite readily. You can easily freeze the soup after you have finished it or consider packaging it up for lunches throughout the week.


Root vegetables are extremely hearty and often a fantastic way that you can make the most out of vegetables that are readily available throughout the year. Some of the main ingredients that you will need to prepare a spicy root vegetable soup include butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnips, Chili's or peppers, garlic and spices of your choice. By putting together vegetable and soup stock and peeling and chopping all the vegetables, you can achieve a wonderful soup that's extremely filling. If you wanted to make this soup a little creamier you could consider using a hand blender and simmering all the vegetables, storing them as frozen cubes, so that they can be blended into a thicker and creamier soup later on. If you don't have one of these blenders you could consider chopping all of the vegetable items as thin as possible so that they can be easily blended with a fork. Finishing off this soup with a dollop of cream is pure heaven in a bowl.

Pork shoulder goulash

Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts of meat that you can pick up and has an extensive amount of fat and protein on it. By removing the fat and the bone you can achieve a very tasty piece of meat that is perfect for a slow cooked dish. Start by putting together some onions, chilies and spices and stew some tomatoes into a sauce to surround the entire pork shoulder. From there you can slow cook all of the ingredients together so that you can produce an extremely tasty piece of meat that will melt in your mouth. You could describe this is as bit like tomato style pulled pork but it can be an extremely tasty item to have with some roasted potatoes or even on its own with some of the tomato puree poured over the top.

Get freezing

Freezers have become a household staple since they first came on the scene in the 1940s. An obvious benefit is that they have the ability to keep foods from developing bacteria or mould and from spoiling, but they also allow you to buy items in bulk. This cuts down on trips to the supermarket. Freezers are also great for keeping ice cream and other frozen treats nearby.


With all of these wonderful options available to you to start saving money on your food costs each year, you should consider picking up some of these ingredients today. Prepping some of these items on the weekend can save time. However, it really is a case of just giving it a crack and having a go at some of these recipes. By picking off a few key meals done to budget could help you to cut your regular monthly food bill. Preparing some of these meals in advance will not only help you save time but money too!

Eating cheap does not mean eating less or eating rubbish. We see this a being a responsible shopper and it is the same for a payday lender in the way that they lend in a responsible fashion. For more on this see our responsible lending page.