I have been there myself. I’ve got $20 left in the bank a few days until payday and there’s nothing left in the pantry!
What the hell am I going to feed my family?!
Here are some ideas on some cheap eats to fill the tummies of hungry kids when money is running low. Pick and choose the items that your family likes to eat (if you bought them all, of course it would add up to more than $20). But some staples are relatively cheap!
1. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
This is where I would steer clear of the big supermarkets that can charge upwards of $5/kg for potatoes. If you shop at a local grocer or markets, you can easily pick up potatoes for $1/kg. It doesn’t matter if they are covered in dirt. In fact, the ones that are dirty tend to last longer. And if you are taking the skin off always, who cares about getting your hands dirty! Plus, don’t discount sweet potato. It is pretty cheap too and a superfood.
Slowcooker Baked Potatoes
Baked Potatoes are great as they are cheap as chips and you can bake them and fill them with whatever you have on hand! One of my personal frugal favourites is baked beans and cheese – and the kids love them too!
Most people have a tin of salmon or tuna in the cupboard. If you have a tin of fish and potatoes on hand, you have a meal. Serve with veggies or salad – and you have a yummy meal that can also go in school lunches the next day if you have any leftovers!
Sweet Potato and Kale Sausage Bake with White Cheese Sauce
This is a great way to sneak veggies into dinner for fussy eaters. All kids love sausages, and when baked with these veggies and cheese, it is a filling and frugal dinner.
Other recipes using potatoes:
- Rosemary and Garlic Duck Fat Potatoes
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes
- Barbecue Chicken Loaded Sweet Potatoes
- Based Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Rice and Chickpeas
2. Frozen Vegetables
I’m a firm believer in buying frozen vegetables if you have small children. Yes, fresh is lovely and all, but if you are a busy mum and a slightly forgetful one (like me), the bottom drawer of the fridge is where vegetables go to die! And that is wasting money! Aldi has a good range of cheap frozen vegetables, and the generic brands from the supermarkets vary in taste. Try a few to see which ones suit your family. Just remember to seal the bag well after use so that the remaining frozen vegetables don’t get freezer burn, which tastes nasty (but won’t hurt you!).
Vegetable and Ham Noodle Cups
If you love to eat noodles on the go but tired of the instant ones, this Vegetable and Ham Noodle Cups are a great dish to prepare for yourself because this is healthy and truly satisfying!
Vegetable and Lentil Soup
Even if you make this Vegetable and Lentil Soup every week, you won’t get tired of this because this is a family-favourite! This is a healthy dish that uses ingredients that you can definitely find in your pantry!
Take a break from baking cakes and make this Vegetable Bake instead! This dish is amazing because with this, you can trick your kids into eating vegetables! Plus, you can add any vegetable, even those leftover ones!
Other great recipes using Frozen Vegetables include:
- White Bean Salad Lunch Bowl
- Cheesy Potato and Zucchini Fritters
- Pea and Corn Fritters
- Pick N Mix Fritters
3. Canned Tomatoes
If you have canned tomatoes in your pantry, you always have a meal (OMG can’t believe I’m quoting my mother here!). Whether you are making a bolognaise sauce, a casserole or a stew, canned tomatoes add great taste and bulk to everything you make! In fact, if you have the above three ingredients, you can make a very tasty meal that won’t cost a bomb! I’ve seen tinned tomatoes for as cheap as 70c, so when you do see tins for this price, grab as many as you can!
If you stick to the ingredients listed in this recipe, you would only have to spend $16.40. Yes, it’s cheap. But that doesn’t mean this Spaghetti Bolognaise won’t be tasty!
Tomato and Coconut Chicken Curry
You can still feel like you’re eating in a restaurant even if you’re short on budget. This Tomato and Coconut Chicken Curry is flavourful and is even better than the curry your favourite restaurant serves!
Tomato and Basil-Glazed Pork Chops
You shouldn’t stick to plain pork chops if you can level up the game! Why don’t you try adding tomato and basil glaze and make a meal that tastes divine? Try this recipe!
Before you say ‘gross’ and ‘my kids won’t eat them’, I have snuck them into sauces and never had a complaint – and I truly believe I have the fussiest eaters on the planet. Lentils make a great substitute for mince in a lot of meals and give a real nutty flavour to foods. Buy generic brands to save even more money or pick them up cheap at Aldi or Costco. An even cheaper version is to buy them in their dried form, but you need to soak them overnight before using them.
Lentil and Pumpkin Lasagna
Looking for something low-fat and healthy? Then this Lentil and Pumpkin Lasagna is just the right dish for you! This is easy to make and can serve up to 4 persons.
If your guests love burgers but there are some of them that are vegan, you shouldn’t let this recipe pass! Lentil Patties, although it doesn’t seem like it, are made of vegetables. This is delicious that even those people who don’t like vegetables will not know they’re eating vegetables!
Vegetarian Lentil Meatloaf
If you have a vegetarian friend that craves for meat, Vegetarian Lentil Meatloaf will definitely not disappoint! This dish is healthy as it is low-fat as well as rich in proten and fibre. Plus, this is also easy to make!
5. Rolled Oats
Rolled oats have become a lot more expensive in the last few years, but they are still a great filling food for breakfast. Not only that, you can use rolled oats in your rissoles or casseroles to ‘bulk it up’. If you make some breakfast smoothies, adding a few teaspoons of rolled oats to the mixture give it some substance – and they are terrific for reducing your cholesterol if you are over 40. A good breakfast of porridge in the morning is guaranteed to get little legs moving until morning tea!
Banana Oat Bites
These Banana Oat Bites are sweet and healthy, making them a very good treat for kids. They can also make one’s tummy full due to the presence of oats so they are perfect their lunches.
Smoothies are refreshing especially if they’re fruity! They are also super quick to make so they’re truly perfect for breakfast. This recipe uses bananas and oranges but you can also mix other fruits you want alongside nuts and yogurt.
Honey Oat Slice
Can’t think of a snack that can go with your afternoon tea? Then try this Honey Oat Slice that is undeniably a snack from heaven! This is sweet and blends to the taste of teas!
If cash is tight, you can buy bulk 3-star mince for only a few dollars a kilogram. It might have a bit more fat in it than the more expensive stuff, but just cook it up, and skim off the fat – easy!
Mince Scrolls are filled with beef, tomatoes, and cheese so if you want to eat something cheesy and beefy that can make your tummy full for a few hours, then this is perfect for you!
This mince recipe has a lot of uses. It can be a main dish, a filling, a spread, or even a Shepherd’s pie. This is truly savoury and satisfying, and this won’t break your heart!
Porcupine Mince Balls
If you aren’t satisfied with just meat, vegetables, or etc., this Porcupine Meat Balls are a good option because this recipe has rice involved. This is flavourful especially because the juices of the meatballs are absorbed by the rice!
7. Rice Noodles
For only 89c, you can pick up enough rice noodles to feed your family, especially when mixed with some mixed vegetables and a tomato-based sauce. Rice noodles are much cheaper than other varieties. For the very best price, try your local Asian supermarket!
Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
This recipe of Chicken Noodle Soup is for people who are health-conscious because this is gluten-free and dairy-free. This is perfect as a reliever for sick people but this can also be served any time of the day alongside the main dish.
Beef Chow Mein
You might find this expensive because of the presence of the beef but then, the thing is, it’s not. Nonetheless, this Beef Chow Mein recipe is delicious and will make the tummies of 4 people happy!
Salted Peanut Pork Larb
If you’re fond of herbs or have a herb garden, you can try this recipe. Although this uses 13 ingredients in total, this is fairly easy and quick to make. This can also serve 4 people.
Seek Help to Feed Your Family
So, you’re in a bind and don’t see a way to feed your family for a longer period of time, where can you go to get help? Seek out your local food bank. Many areas have them where you can pick up a box full of staples for your household.
The quantity of the box will usually depend on your current situation, but they will never send anyone away without something. So, if you need bread, milk, cereal for the kids, etc., give your local food bank a call or a visit. Most local charities will be able to tell you where the nearest one is located.