How to make Family Meals on a Budget: 10 Top Tips

The cost of living is rising, meaning the cost of your grocery shopping is going up too! Although the cost of food is increasing, our budgets are staying the same, making feeding a family is especially difficult. Fussy eating, different ages and taste preferences can result in food waste, cooking multiple meals a night and ultimately, higher cost of food. Check out this blog to help make family meals suitable for all!

Yet despite this, we still want to make sure our family is eating nutritious meals and gaining enough energy to do the things they love. A well-balanced meal will have

  • Energy rich carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, and potato
  • A source of protein, like beans, meat, fish, and dairy
  • 2-3 fruits or vegetables

Meals structured like this can be for the whole family: parents, kids, toddlers, and babies! Eating family foods like this is a fantastic way to reduce the cost of your food shop.

Adapting Meals for All the Family

Here are some of our tricks to adapt family meals for babies and younger kids who are picky eaters:


  • Take our baby portion before you add sugar/salt first
  • Chop pieces (initially shape and size of adult’s small finger, once their pincher grasp has developed you can cut into small dices) to make it easier for babies to self-feed
  • Pre-load spoons with sauces for babies to pick up and self-feed
  • Cook vegetables, fish ,and meat until soft to make them easier to chew- a slow cooker is great for this!
  • Slice small hard foods such as apple chunks, nuts, and grapes into tiny little pieces to reduce risk of choking
  • Offer a range of flavours to promote food acceptance and help reduce picky eating habits in the future


  • Use cutters to make food into fun shapes, you can do this with bread, veggies, rice ,and more! See our examples for the 4 meals!
  • Allow kids to serve themselves. The parent’s role is to determine where, when and what foods are offered, your kids decide how much (if any) food they will have by listening to their hunger cues. This can also reduce food waste.
  • Think rainbow! Make sure plates have lots of assorted colours from veggies, spices, and herbs as this makes them look really appealing
  • Include kids in the cooking process, they can wash, chop, mix, peel, stir and serve!

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it…

With all this in mind, our mission this week was to create family meals for 3 weekday meals and 1 weekend that were gluten free and on a budget of £30.

We made:

  • Fishcakes
  • Samosa Tart
  • Scone Sandwiches
  • Tomato Pasta Bake

Quick, Easy, and Delicious

They are all easy to make, requiring only basic cooking equipment. Many of the ingredients are shared across recipes, and you probably already have them in your kitchen at home! The spices and veggies in these recipes make them tasty without needing sugar or salt, so they are great for everyone in the family.

  • Lemon and onion make the Fishcakes fresh and zesty
  • Scone sandwiches are completely customisable with fillings like cheese and tomato
  • Ginger, cumin, coriander, and turmeric put the spice in the Samosa Tart
  •  Pepper and sweetcorn provide natural sweetness to the Tomato Pasta Bake

The Fishcakes and Scone Sandwiches can be prepared beforehand and frozen or kept in the fridge for a few days. The Tomato Pasta Bake and Samosa Tart are both quick to prepare, and all 4 recipes make great leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day!

Get the Kids Involved!

There is plenty of opportunity for kids to get involved in making these dinners:

  • Mashing and shaping the Fishcakes
  • Chopping veg and spreading filling of the Samosa Tart
  • Mixing and shaping the Scone Sandwiches then filling their own
  • Chopping and mixing the Tomato Pasta Bake sauce, then grating and sprinkling cheese

Top Tips!

  1. Prep like a boss! Meal planning is essential. Use the same ingredients across the week! This saves on waste and means you can buy in bulk, which is often cheaper than smaller packets. We have repeated the use of a couple of ingredients, such as eggs, cheese, cucumber, and red onion, so you can use more of the packet!

2. Join a rewards scheme! We shopped at Tesco’s this week, and by signing up to a Tesco Clubcard, you can save money on different foods every week. Other supermarkets have these schemes too, such as Lidl Plus, Morrison’s More and Sainsbury’s Nectar.

3. Use what is on offer! Look out for offers like 2 for 1, Buy One Get One Free, and 3 for 2, as well as price reductions and clearance items. Certain types of foods such as meat and fish are also cheaper, so keep a look out for these:


  • Whole chicken to cook whole or break down at home
  • Chicken wings, drumsticks, or legs
  • Pork, beef, chicken, or turkey mince
  • Pork chops
  • Beef “Stewing Steak”


  • Smaller prawns such as Coldwater Prawns
  • Seafood such as Mussels
  • Mackerel
  • Basa
  • Tinned fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines

Gluten Free Bread and Pasta

  • Supermarket own brand, like Asda Free From, Tesco Free From, Sainsbury’s Free From….
  • Any more well-known brands that are on offer, such as Schar or Warburton’s Gluten-Free

Any of the vegetables we used could be easily swapped for others that are in season or on offer in the shop. Right now, in July, here is some of the seasonal veg that is likely to be cheap:

  • Fruit: Blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, cherries, gooseberries, greengages, loganberries, raspberries, redcurrants, rhubarb, and strawberries
  • Vegetables: Aubergine, Beetroot, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, New Potatoes, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Summer Squash, Swish Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress

For seasonal veg in the rest of the year:   

4. Use naturally gluten free foods! Loads of foods are naturally gluten free and cheap including fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and pulses. For example, we used potato, lots of veggies, chicken and tinned tuna. Since these foods are unprocessed, they are unlikely to have come into contact with cross contamination. More processed foods such as sausages, ready-made sauces or pre-marinated meat and veg can contain hidden gluten. This could be added in the form of breadcrumbs, thickeners and binders containing wheat and therefore gluten.

5. Eat family foods! You can save money if the whole family eats the same meal. Use out simple tips (see above) to make all these meals baby and child friendly. Babies and younger children love to assert their independence at mealtimes and want to feed themselves. Many foods can be chopped or slices to promote self-feeding. Here’s how we did it in our meals

6. Let kids serve themselves! Presentation and large portion sizes can be deal breakers for young children. Don’t overload their plate. Use child sized plates and bowls that are brightly coloured and let them take a portion they are happy with. This reduces food waste and saves money! Why not try adding fun shapes to foods like we did in the Fishcakes?

7. Including 2-3 veggies in each meal! Vegetables are budget friendly and contain fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals. They also provide a range of flavours and help children in eating the rainbow as well. Our recipes contain loads of veggies like:

  • Onion and broccoli in the Fishcakes
  • Tomato and cucumber in the Scone Sandwiches
  • Cauliflower, peas, and onion in the Samosa Tart
  • Pepper and sweetcorn in the Tomato Pasta Bake

8. Use tinned and frozen vegetables! Tinned and frozen vegetables have a similar nutritional profile to fresh and are sometimes even fresher as they are preserved soon after being picked. These can be lifesavers when you need to make a quick meal and limited foods in your fridge! In our Tomato Pasta Bake, we have used tinned sweetcorn and tomatoes.

9.Cooking gluten free! Cooking without gluten can be tricky, as it is often used as a binding agent, and gives baking a lighter texture. Here are some tips for success when cooking our gluten-free meals

  • The eggs in the Fishcakes are a great binder. Add more or less gluten-free flour to your mix depending on how wet or dry it is. It should hold its shape without running or crumbling.
  • If the breadcrumbs are a bit too chunky, try substituting this with more flour for a softer fishcake more suitable for younger children.
  • Try adding a little xanthan gum and/or baking powder to the Scone Sandwich mix, if you have it, for extra rise.
  • Using ready-made gluten-free pastry for the Samosa Tart is a great timesaver and means the hard work is done for you!
  • Swapping pasta for gluten free pasta is a really easy swap.  

10. Use your leftovers! Using leftovers is a terrific way to save waste and save money. Our Scone Sandwiches are a great example of this- they’re dinner one day, lunches and snacks the next day! Or double up on portions and freeze for another day.

These 10 tips and 4 delicious new recipes will have you well on the way to budget-friendly, gluten free meals for the whole family! We hope that you and your children love making and eating these together. Enjoy!

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Need more support?

Check out the Nutrition 4 Kids NI Fussy Eating online course or Feeding Toddlers webinar workshop. Dr Kirsty can also provide one-to-one consultations to establish effective personalised strategies for you and your child. More information about all of these services is available on the website.

Written by Lucy Fortescue & Dr Kirsty Porter

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