Remember when you were young, crazy and single? Meeting up with friends for lunch, going on dates, and dining out every chance you got.
That all changed when you hit adulthood. Paying rent became a major commitment, the repayments on you car meant fewer and fewer burger runs, and by the time the kids and a mortgage came along…. forget about it!
But, it doesn’t have to be like that. Being responsible and sticking to your budget doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of delicious meals.
In this article, I’m going to give you a few mouth-watering cheap and healthy recipes that you can prepare very easily in your own home without busting the budget.
But, first we need to cover a few key ideas.
Preparing For Affordable Weekday Dinners
Cook in Bulk
For parents, trying to cook each meal as they come isn’t very practical. To save time, and money, cook meals that you can prepare in bulk. Keep the left overs in the fridge and the family will enjoy them again in the days to come.
Examples of meals you could cook in bulk include:
- Rice and pasta dishes
Buy ingredients that you can use in multiple meals
Try to avoid buying ingredients that can only be used to make one specific meal. For example, cactus paddles may be a Mexican delicacy, but they aren’t as versatile as other vegetables or meats.
Also, try not to purchase items that are notorious for going off quickly. Avocados are great, but if you purchase 5 of them, you better be prepared to eat all five in the same meal.
Buy frozen veggies and berries, but never ready-made meals
Fruits like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are delicious, but also incredibly expensive.
Depending on the time of year, one small 125g punnet of blueberries could cost you anywhere from $4 to $8. The frozen options will provide you a larger amount at an affordable price. 1kg of blue, rasp, straw or mixed berries will cost you roughly $8 a pop, and as they are frozen shortly after picking, they retain all of their goodness as if they were still fresh – this goes for vegetables too.
This will go a long way to preparing healthy meals on a budget.
So, why do I say never buy ready-made meals?
Well, it all comes down to how much value you’re getting from your purchase. They may be the easy option, but they certainly aren’t the cheap option. Let’s take a quick look and compare a couple of options available at your local grocery store.
One 360g Healthy Choice frozen meal will cost you $7.50 on average.
A 1 kg packet of Frozen Mixed Winter Vegetables costs around $4 and 1kg of frozen fish is about $15 a kilo.
Although the Healthy Choice frozen meal may seem like a convenient option, you’re actually limiting the potential your money has for providing you value.
Take a look at this:
Healthy Choice for dinner – 1 meal (360g) = $7.50 per meal
Fish & veg for dinner – 5.5 meals (2kg / 360g) = $3.45 per meal ($19 / 5.5)
That’s nearly half the cost!
Make snacks at home to take with you on the run
Packing yourself a lunch or something to snack on will help you resist temptation when you’re out in public. Trust me, the KFC drive-through is a million times more attractive on an empty stomach.
Never shop hungry
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Food companies spend a lot of money researching the psychology of persuasion. Have you ever wondered why you can always smell the bakery as you walk into a supermarket and why there are all those little stands filled with chocolates at the checkout? They’re not stupid, they put these items in places where your will power will be at its weakest.
Be safe; to ensure you shop efficiently for cheap dinner ideas, eat an apple before you venture out on your next grocery hunt.
Ok, we’ve covered the basics; let’s get into the good stuff!
10 Mouth-watering, cheap and easy family weeknight recipes
To keep everyone happy, I’ve included two chicken, two beef, two fish, two desserts, two snacks and even two vegetarian dishes for you to try. 10 recipes on a budget.
BEEF WEEKNIGHT-DINNER RECIPES
- 2 T oil
- 1kg Diced beef
- 2 Onions, diced
- 2 Celery stalks, diced
- 2 Carrots, diced
- 2 Garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 x tins of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup beef stock
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a pot on a low heat and cook the onion until transparent
- Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently
- Add the diced beef and cook on a medium heat until brown
- Add the beef stock and simmer for 5 minutes
- Add the tinned tomatoes and cover the pot, turning the heat to low once boiled
- Cook for about 30 minutes on a low heat with the lid on the pot
- Remove the lid and let it simmer for another 10 minutes
Steak, Veg and Mashed Potato
- Your preferred cuts of beef
- 2 sliced carrots
- 1 head of broccoli (or frozen vegetables)
- 6 potatoes, peeled, washed and cut in quarters
- Salt and pepper
- 1 T Butter
- Boil the potatoes in a pot with a small handful of salt and boil for roughly 30 min
- Place the vegetables in a steamer on the stove and steam until their colour becomes bright and vibrant
- Poke the potatoes with a fork, if you can push the fork in and out without resistance, they’re ready
- Remove potatoes from the water and mash them with the butter
Rather than spending time teaching you how to cook your steak I’ll let the professional do it for me:
CHICKEN WEEKNIGHT-DINNER RECIPES
- 4 T oil
- 2 Chicken breasts cut into slices
- 1 Head of broccoli, chopped
- 1 Capsicum, sliced
- 2 Handfuls of green beans, topped and tailed
- 2 Handfuls of sliced mushrooms
- Ginger, diced
- Garlic, diced
- Salt & pepper
- Chilli flakes (optional)
- Soy Sauce
- Steam the broccoli and green beans in a steamer until they’re a bright green, then remove from the heat and run them under cold water
- Heat half of the oil in a pan and add the chicken
- Remove the chicken when ready and place on a nearby plate
- Add the rest of the oil and vegetables to the pan and cook, stirring frequently
- As the vegetables begin to soften add the chicken back to the pan and cook throughout
- Add seasoning and soy sauce to taste
- Cooked chicken pieces (this is great option to make use of any left over chicken from previous meals)
- 500g mixed frozen vegetables
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 1 cup of water
- Add all ingredients to a pan and bring to the boil
- Simmer for about 10 minutes before serving
FISH WEEKNIGHT-DINNER RECIPES
Baked Salmon and Vegetables
- Salmon fillets
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Salt and pepper
- Season the fish with salt & pepper
- Bake salmon in the oven on 180 degrees for about 15 minutes (checking occasionally)
- Steam the frozen vegetables
- Add butter to the vegetables or lemon to the fish for added flavour
Baked Cod, Potato, and Capsicum
- 1kg cod
- 8 potatoes, peeled, washed, cut in quarters and boiled
- 2 Capsicums, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Salt & pepper
- Space all ingredients out evenly on a baking dish
- Bake for roughly 15 minutes, checking occasionally
VEGETARIAN WEEKNIGHT-DINNER RECIPES
- Diced and sliced vegetables of your choice
- 1 T Tomato paste
- Cheese, shredded
- Bazaar pizza bases or wholemeal wraps
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Spread the tomato paste around the pizza base leaving space around the edges
- Space out the vegetables toppings evenly on the base
- Add the cheese to the top
- Place in the oven and cook for a few minutes, checking occasionally
Vegetables curries can often contain a lot of ingredients and are a pain to make. Lucky for you I’ve found this handy little recipe. It’s really simple and will be ready in 30 minutes.
CHEAP AND HEALTHY SNACK RECIPES
Sweet Potato Wedges
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
- Salt & pepper
- A dash of cumin, cayenne and paprika
- Mix the oil and seasonings in a bowl
- Coat sweet potato with the seasoning mixture
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees
- Cook wedges for about 30 minutes, turning them over at the 15 minute mark
Check out this link to a very affordable and easy to make trail mix recipe
CHEAP AND HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT DESSERT RECIPES
- 1 cup of milk or yogurt
- ½ frozen banana
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 tsp of honey (optional)
- Place in a blender and watch that sucker fly
Yogurt & Berries
- 1 cup frozen berries. Thawed
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- 1 T of muesli (optional)
- Put in a bowl and enjoy
There you have it. 10 affordable and healthy weekday meals that the whole family will enjoy.
Do you have any tips or recipes for cheap, healthy and easy family recipes? Well, don’t be greedy! Do something nice and share with us in the comments below so we can all enjoy!
Author: Chris Strano
After playing a vital role in the creation of his two sons, Chris Strano gave up his former-life as a financial adviser to dedicate his time to providing everyday families with basic money management advice. Drawing on his years of education and experience, he has also developed an affordable 100% digital course showing young families how to build their own custom household budget and savings plan to work towards their goals, using financial planning strategies (without the cost of a financial adviser). You too can get started by grabbing his free 6-Step Budget Cheat Sheet at Build A Family Budget and follow him on Facebook and Instagram @SmartFamilyBudget.