Living on a tight family budget is not an easy task – especially when food prices seem to be constantly rising! But imagine cooking your family meals for less than $15 a pop? Sounds impossible? Here are 10 easy and delicious meals you can whip up for under $15 each.
Note: The budget of $15 per meal may vary due to seasonal fluctuations, inflation, sales and regional availability of produce. Costs are proportional. For instance, the cost of one egg is assumed to be one-twelfth of the cost of a dozen eggs. The cost of electricity to cook the meals and other incidental costs are not included.
Most of these dinners will feed a family of four (two adults and two kids) or a family of six for the bigger meals.
Ingredient costs were checked at Pak’nSave in May 2022.
We have not included the cost of these pantry items as they can be used for many more meals:
- Salt & pepper
- Sugar (white and brown)
- Bay leaf
- Italian herbs
- Dried thyme
- Curry powder
- Chicken stock powder
- Soy sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Sweet chilli sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
- Vinegar and balsamic vinegar
1) Beef casserole
All in one pot and forgotten! This is a great one-pot dish that you can pop in the oven and enjoy the aroma while it slowly cooks.
Casserole steak is one of the most tender, yet most economical cuts of meat you’ll find at the butcher or the supermarket meat section. It’s perfect for slow cookers and after a day of stewing in sauce, is melt-in-your-mouth juicy!
2) Bubble and squeak
An English classic! If you’ve cooked up a roast the night before, this family favourite is a great way to make the leftover spuds and vegies stretch into another family meal.
This is great served up with leftover roast or deli meats. If you have none to hand, serve with baked beans and roasted tomatoes (all within the $15 budget!).
3) Vegetable curry
Cutting out meat from one meal a week can save at least $10 from your weekly food bill, and you’ll also be helping the environment. You may not know it, but meat production actually produces more global warming greenhouse gases than driving cars, according to the UN. So by having one meat-free night a week, you’ll be doing your little bit to help save the planet.
A great vegetarian winter-warming dish with an added tang of yogurt. You can use your leftover vegetables from the crisper to fill this curry. Serve with rice.
4) Chicken fried rice
Skip the takeaway and make this great dish at home, packed full of flavour.
This easy recipe for chicken fried rice is a family favourite and chicken is traditionally one of the cheaper meats. Just toss in a few frozen veggies, along with some fresh ones, and you’re done. And, you’ll have dinner on the table for under $15!
5) Bolognaise sauce
You can ensure your kids are getting their daily nutritional needs met by making your own simmer sauces – and you’ll absolutely save $ buying the ingredients for this homemade bolognaise sauce rather than a bottled imitation.
Make a pasta bake, chilli con carne, nachos, lasagne and more with this sauce. Store-bought sauces are great for super-fast meals but slow-cooked and homemade brings out great flavours.
This recipe works out at around $20 but by using it as above you can freeze half of it for another dinner and you will still have some budget left to buy pasta, rice, or corn chips.
6) Curried sausages
This curried sausage recipe appears in my house every week because it is cheap, nutritious and really tasty.
Sausages are usually cheap, no doubt about it. And even if you splurge on the more expensive organic variety, you can still buy half a kilo for under $10. This recipe for curried sausages will add a twist to your usual snags and three veg meal. Serve with rice.
7) Homemade family meat pie
A great pie that you can make with ingredients you already have in your pantry. All you need is some fresh mince, a few veggies and a little puff pastry.
Sure, you can buy a supermarket meat pie, but unless you scrutinise the ingredients lists, you don’t really know what mystery meat you’re feeding your kids. This homemade family pie makes a cheap and cheerful meal. Grab some frozen veg (peas or mixed veg and green beans) and serve. It’s also great for lunches the next day too.
8) Spaghetti bake
This is a really easy, fast recipe to make and will appeal to little ones. For some added goodness, toss in a bag of fresh baby spinach – the recipe is so affordable that it won’t break the budget.
Want to know how to make your dollars go even further? With leftover spaghetti bolognaise, cook up a little extra spaghetti and make this pasta bake. Voila, a cheap leftovers meal!
9) Fish cakes
Ah, a toddler staple! Fish cakes are also extremely economical. For the cost of a tin of salmon or tuna, you can make this easy meal stretch four ways and your kids are guaranteed to eat it – you may have to leave off the chilli sauce though!
The really nice thing about this recipe is the chilli mayo. It appeals to parents’ tastebuds and kids love the patties. Serve on lettuce cups with carrot and celery batons for more dipping delight.
10) Stuffed baked potatoes with corn & bacon
This comforting family dinner is not only affordable but very adaptable. You could substitute the corn and bacon for baked beans, leftover bolognaise, tuna mayonnaise, salsa and so much more.
Basic, home brand or non-label supermarket products often come off the same conveyer belt as the more expensive brands of the same product. By buying these you will save serious dollars at the checkout.
Written for Kidspot by Jen Cheung with editing by Kidspot NZ.