Top tips for frugal meals

Frugal Meals for Families

As a family of 8 we are always on the lookout for great tasting, frugal meals. Yikes I hear you cry, 6 children. That’s a lot of food. Uh huh, I know! With foods prices rising, I wanted to share with you some of our current fav frugal meals for families.

Let’s start with a run down of who is in the family…

Miss D is the eldest, aged 13yrs. Pretty much eats everything and anything. I’m not sure I’ve come across a food she doesn’t like. Right now has huge appetite (I’m talking a girl who can put away 4 portions of pasta) and an adventurous palate.

Miss K is the 12 yr old foodie with quite a palate, the child who can pick out all the flavours in a meal. When she weaned she literally ate everything apart from Wasabi (yup I tried her on it). She can be quite specific in her food preferences and loves a Mediterrean style diet, but has to compromise. She also loves to cook, bonus.

Mr C has autism and has a very limited range of foods. Potato waffles, rice, pasta and baked beans feature a lot at main meals. He eats most forms of protein and we adapt our meals to suit him. We give him the seperate version of things like pasta, rice, meat and fish. Over time he is slowly trying new things, seaweed and seafood for example.

Miss R was pretty fussy about food until recently. She has decided this year to try more foods and is doing very well at expanding her palate.

Mr J refused to eat vegetables as a toddler. That was stressful. I still remember him throwing my homemade vegetable lasagne on the floor, yet now lasagne is something he adores. Now he eats pretty much all the vegetables and loves trying new foods.

Miss E is the smallest one and is still in that phase where she isn’t keen on some vegetables, so we always makes sure to have some available that she likes. Large plates of vegetables to share out are a win here.

The husband has also had to expand his palate since meeting me (we have only been married 6 months at time of writing this). He is embracing more plant based meals and is brilliant at taking his turn cooking in the kitchen.

I’m one of the tricky ones. I have a digestive disorder and I manage this via my diet. Which means I can’t eat a variety of foods and am currently mainly vegetarian. So you can see the context of cooking in our home.

Frugal Meals for Families Planning Tips:

Whilst it can seem like a real chore we always weekly meal plan. It helps save money on the shopping, vary our meals for nutritional benefit Plus it means we can make the leftovers from one meal stretch into the next so there is no waste.

Here’s how we do it. At the weekend the husband and I have a chat in the kitchen about the weeks plans, with the diary in hand. I have a meal planner on the family diary so I jot down some ideas. My husband shops on a Monday with an idea of things to look out for, but he also bargain shops so will come back with cheap deals. I can then amend our meal plan to suit what he has bought.

An average week for us involves a roast on a Sunday. I then I use the bones to make stock. This then is stored for soups, risotto and other meals. I usually always have some in the fridge. The leftover meat (yes we have leftovers as I don’t put all the meat on the table!) from the roast is kept for another meal (soup, stir fry, risotto) which I make in the week.

Thursdays are usually a jacket potato day to use up leftover bits of chilli, stews and we add baked beans with cheese to bulk this out.

Sample Meal Plan for Frugal Meals:

Here’s a sample of one of our meal plans:

Sunday: Roast Chicken (save some meat and use the bones to make stock)

Monday: Chicken noodle soup using that leftover meat and the stock

Tuesday: Mixed bean chilli (or a meat chilli) with rice and salad

Wednesday: Tuna Pasta Bake

Thursday: Jacket potatoes with leftovers, plus beans and cheese, cooked vegetables on the side.

Friday: Homemade Pizza with a homemade pizza sauce topped with sweetcorn, ham, peppers, mushrooms, mozzerella

Saturday: Salmon with potato wedges and peas (for that omega 3 intake)

Frugal Dinner Ideas:

Chicken Noodle Soup

This chicken noodle soup is a great frugal dinner and a huge hit in our family. I can make this most weeks and they don’t get bored of it! I use homemade stock (you can use a stock cube) and all the leftover vegetables that are around. If there aren’t enough I simple tip in a bag of mixed frozen veggies.

Oh and this works a dream with tofu too, so my version is tofu noodle soup.

Mixed Bean Chilli in the slow cooker

Such a simple one. This can be made all from tinned ingredients making it so simple and a meal you can make ahead or just leaving cooking whilst you get on with other jobs.

Mixed Bean Chilli

A simple one-pot bean and vegetable chilli that uses store cupboard tins and spices, plus whatever veggies you have to hand!
Servings 4


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tins of beans mixed beans or any types you like rinsed and drained
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 4 carrots chopped
  • 1 peppers chopped
  • 2 cups sweetcorn
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • black pepper


  • Cook the spices, onion and garlic in the oil.
  • Add the beans, chopped tomatoes and simmer.
  • Add the chopped vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Season with lemon juice and black pepper.

Homemade Pizza

Who doesn’t love a pizza? Making the dough is my husbands job, he uses a super simple pizza dough recipe like this one. We use normal plain flour with some wholemeal flour mixed in to bring the costs down. The trick to a good dough seems to be to leave it an hour to rise and then bang it on the worktop! As I can’t eat wheat my base is made from buckwheat normally.

A tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic, black peppers, mixed herbs, simmered will make you a pizza sauce. Then simple add your toppings and bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes at 200C fan.

Frugal Air Fryer Fish Pie

Looking for a one pot fish pie? Here’s one I cook in the instant pot/airfryer. You could totally make it in the oven of course.

Jacket Potatoes

We make these in the instant pot in order to save the oven going on. It’s been a game changer for us using the pressure cooker with the number of potatoes we have to cook. Simply pressure cook with 1 cup water for 30 minutes. Then air fry for 15 minutes.

Serve with leftovers from other meals and any toppings you love. I save leftovers in the fridge and freezer for these meals.

Super cheap tuna pasta

Here’s a tuna pasta dish, made all in the one pot that cost us 97p per portion (plus we had leftovers for packed lunches!).

Whilst I have used the instant pot you could do this dish in a sauce pan on the hob, simply simmer it for 15 minutes instead of pressure cooking it.

One pot tuna pasta



  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 red peppers
  • 150 g mushrooms
  • 320 g frozen vegetables
  • 320 g pasta
  • 2 x 160g tins of tuna drained
  • 1 litre stock
  • 200 ml water
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs

Other ways to save money for frugal meals:

I think between my husband and I we are pretty good at feeding the rabble on a budget. Here are some top tips:

  1. Stick to a list so you know what you need for the week.
  2. If you see an offer then really check you can use it and it will save you money, often they don’t.
  3. Look for “out of date” style shops where they sell off the food cheap that is otherwise going to waste. We go around twice a week to these shops and then can meal plan from what we pick up.
  4. Use your freezer if you have one. Those frozen vegetables, fruit and fish are all great buys.
  5. Buy in bulk but then split the food up into what you need for a meal and store it or share it with a friend. Rice or potatoes in a large sack, dried lentils and beans are all cheaper bought in bulk than in tins and packets.
  6. Go down a range. Often the food can be more nutritious or it is made by the same higher brand company!
  7. Keep your reciepts and work out how much you spend per month. What are your biggest spends and what can you cut down on without losing the fun in life!
  8. Limit the childrens snacks to less pre-packed items which can cost more. Get them baking! Remember toast with a topping is a fabulous snack, natural yoghurt with berries from the freezer is a fab pudding as is tinned fruit.

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