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How do you cook for your family on a tight budget? All you need to know about finding cheap recipes

Here's a handy list of food bloggers, chefs and resources helping people to cook for cheap.

Cooking for the family on a tight budget/ Image of child eating

There are plenty of cheap recipes already out there to help you cook on a budget. Image: Pexels

Struggling to feed your family on a tight budget? As the cost of living crisis hits millions of households across the country, many of us are searching for cheap recipes to feed our families without splashing the cash. 

Energy bills are skyrocketing. And that means turning on the hob, heating up the oven or even using the fridge can cost more than you want to spend. 

But there are recipes out there which are affordable, and there are meals you can scramble together without using too much energy. We’ve rounded up a list of food blogs, chefs and resources helping people plan meals on a tight budget. 

Cooking on a bootstrap

Food writer, journalist and activist Jack Monroe was once called the “poster girl of austerity Britain”. She made a name for herself when she started a blog about her struggle to feed her young son on a budget of £10 a week. And a decade later, her blog is packed with useful recipes for feeding your family on a tiny budget. 

Monroe is currently trying to publish multiple recipes a week in a series called ‘15 Minute One Pan Meals’. These are low-energy recipes, critical at a time when so many of us are struggling to pay our energy bills. The first is a recipe for bacon black and cheese, which she says will cost you just 45p. 

Monroe writes: “Let me tell you from bitter experience, that ten pence deficit feels like ten grand when you just simply haven’t got it, and like winning the lottery when you find it in the gutter outside the supermarket while trying to fill a shopping basket with a handful of change.”

Tiny Budget Cooking

Limahl Asmall’s blog and book Tiny Budget Cooking aims to offer you recipe ideas for just £21 a week. Each meal should only take around 15 to 30 minutes to prep and cook. 

When Limahl was first starting out in work, his career didn’t take off and he had a £20 note to spend on food each week. His whole first book ‘Eat Delicious’ is available to download on his website for free. You can also find more recipes on Tiny Budget Cooking.

Full Time Meals

Celebrity duo Tom Kerridge and Marcus Rashford have set up a campaign called Full Time Meals. It’s in collaboration with charity End Child Food Poverty, and the team regularly share easy and cheap recipes to feed the whole family. You can find these on their website or social media. 

They have also kindly shared a few with us as part of The Big Issue’s summer survival guide – keep an eye out for recipes for pizza tortillas, turkey burgers, rainbow and halloumi couscous, Rashford’s leek and potato pie and his mum’s pimped up super noodles. 

Thrifty Leslie

Thrifty Leslie really goes back to basics. It’s proper frugal, old-fashioned cooking, but the blog is filled with important tips to help people who are struggling to afford food. There are plenty of unusual ideas, like how to make a chicken stretch to a whole week’s worth of meals.

There’s a No Power Meal Plan for anyone who has no access to any power to cook, heat water or refrigerate. You won’t even need a kettle. It lists three meals a day, enough to feed two adults – but you can change the ingredients around and add more food to suit your household. 

Beat the budget

Beat the budget is a recipe platform for healthy and cheap recipes. They range from meal prep recipes to cheap dinner ideas, one-pot dishes to loaded vegetable meals. There are ideas for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free recipes too. The recipes are exciting and flavoursome, ranging from katsu curry to Nando’s spicy rice

The Starving Student

Students have been budgeting for generations and there’s a huge number of resources out there for people struggling to cook for themselves while at university. But there’s no reason why you can’t use exactly the same resources – grab yourself a student cookbook or check out social media accounts and blogs like the Starving Student. There’s a wealth of recipes, from chilli con carne to meatballs. 

BBC Good Food’s budget meals

BBC Good Food has a recipe for practically everything. If you’re looking to save money, your best bet is to look at the budget meals. There are 61 recipes to help you keep the costs down when cooking. There are jacket potatoes, curries, pasta and pizza recipes – something for the whole family, whatever your tastes. 

Reduced grub

Another blog to check out with plenty of recipes and tips is Reduced Grub. This spaghetti and meatballs recipe will cost you £4 for six portions, for example. And this tortilla tower recipe is £3 for four people. 

Jamie Oliver’s budget recipes

Jamie Oliver has 67 budget recipes on his website. They put leftovers to good use and are packed with frozen veg so you can eat healthy without splashing the cash. Why not try the sardine spaghetti? It’s a speedy weeknight dinner which makes use of tinned sardines. You could also have a go at cooking the classic tomato pasta – the sauce takes just minutes to cook. 

Tesco’s wallet-friendly midweek meals

Tesco has a selection of wallet-friendly midweek recipes which you can cook for very little cash. These include fish finger tacos, loaded sweet potatoes and beef keema. The supermarket also has a number of budget-friendly family recipes which you can cook for less than £2. 

Asda’s Essential Living Hub

Asda has launched its Essential Living Hub, where families can find recipes for cheap meals, as well as hints and tips from a range of experts about budgeting and saving on your grocery bills. There are 30 recipes which you can cook for under £1, seven recipes which you can cook in batch, easy recipes you can make using tinned food, and more. 

Sainsbury’s feed your family for a fiver

Sainsbury’s has a Feed your family for a fiver campaign, helping customers with budget-friendly meal ideas to feed a family of four for less than £5. Recipes include chilli con carne, beef kebabs and thai green vegetable curry. There are plenty of tasty options which your family will enjoy. 

If you’re struggling to afford food, you can ask for a referral to a food bank. These need to be from frontline professionals – such as your nearest Citizens Advice, health or social care workers, children’s centres, housing associations, advice charities, and mental health teams. They will then give you a food bank voucher. 

You can find your local food bank through the Trussell Trust’s website or the IFAN’s member’s map. You can also call the Trussell Trust’s free helplines and talk to a trained adviser. It’s 0808 208 2138 if you live in England or Wales, and 0800 915 4604 if you live in Northern Ireland. You should contact your local council if you live in Scotland. You can find advice and cash first support options through the IFAN’s cash first referral leaflets.

And here’s our Summer Survival Guide, which we will update regularly with new articles and tips on making sure your kids have a fun summer without breaking the bank

Get involved with the conversation on social media and share all your tips and advice for families using the #SummerSurvivalGuide

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For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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