How do I cook easy meals on a budget?

A woman checks a receipt in a supermarket

When you look up and down the supermarket aisles, it often seems to be the unhealthy options that are on special offer. However, cooking healthy food doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket.

It pays to plan

Planning meals makes it easier to budget and think about how you’re going to use leftovers. Why not get into a routine of planning a week of meals? You could try meat-free Mondays, chilli Tuesdays or fishy Fridays.


  • Make a shopping list and group it by meal – this will make you less likely to buy things you don’t need
  • Measure out portions of rice, potatoes and pasta so you cook the right amount

Get fridge and freezer savvy

Chill out in the frozen food aisle of your local supermarket – frozen fruit and veg are often cheaper than fresh, are just as nutritious and still count towards your 5 A DAY.


  • Check the dates of perishables and put the oldest at the front of the fridge so you use them first
  • Buy one, get one free – and freeze the spare
  • Make batches of stew, soup and chilli, then freeze individual portions
  • Chop up fresh herbs and store them in a bag in the freezer for up to 12 months

Be canny about cans

Canned or tinned foods can be stored for a long time, and can often be bought in bulk. Don’t limit yourself to tuna and baked beans: lots of fruit (prunes, peaches, pineapple), vegetables (sweetcorn, peas, asparagus), pulses (chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans) and fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) can be bought cheaply in tins.


  • Half the amount of mince in a dish and replace it with tinned pulses – an excellent alternative source of protein
  • Buy fish, beans and pulses in water rather than in oil or with added sugar and salt
  • Brighten up a fruit salad with exotic tinned fruit in juice – but watch out for fruit in syrup

Be smart in the supermarket

Special offers are only good value if you use what you’ve bought – make sure extras can be frozen or used up before they go off.


  • Shop towards the end of the day when fresh produce is more likely to be discounted
  • Check dates when buying food

Love your leftovers

Make food last longer by storing it correctly – for some food, the fridge may be too cold or damp. Reusing food in another dish can often save you time and money.


  • Make leftover roast soup after a family Sunday lunch
  • Make fruit or veg that’s past its best into a juice, smoothie or soup
  • Bulk out leftover curry, bolognese or stew with beans or chickpeas