Are you struggling to feed the family on a tight budget? Try these 7 recipes all under $2 per serve

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Feeding babies and toddlers can be challenging at the best of times. But when families can’t afford enough food, let alone the recommended range of different coloured vegetables, or iron-rich meats, it’s even tougher still.

In recently published research from The Conversation, parents shared how much effort they put in to feeding children when there is little money.

They also admitted the ever-present juggle of budgets and the realities of family life strained relationships and increased their mental load.

How stress affects the immune system and how to get rid of it

Living in poverty

In the cost of living crisis, one in six Australian children live in poverty. More families than ever are seeking help from food banks.

The Conversation asked parents what it was like to feed young children when money was tight. They interviewed 29 Australian parents with at least one child between six months and three years old. Most had an income around or below the poverty line.

The average age of parents was 32 years, including 28 mothers and one father. This is what they said….

Family tensions rise

Families’ financial position was precarious, with little buffer to cope with more financial strain. One parent said:

We’re still on the one income […] We try and get a lot of free vegetables from the food banks and whatnot. We’ve borrowed money in the past, but the main thing we do is make sure [our child’s] food is fine.

This uncertainty about money flowed into relationship tension, and stress about food waste and the food bill. Another parent, who said they had lost weight due to not eating proper meals, said:

Things have been tense, and [my partner’s] pretty upset about outgoing money for [food …].

There was also strain when young children created a mess with food or threw it on the floor:

But then my partner’s like ‘why are you buying that bunch of bananas? Most of it’s, like, in his hair.’ As trivial as it might sound to some households, [it] caused a lot of stress in ours.

Mum with toddler on lap offering banana

Making trade-offs and sacrifices

Parents described feeding the family as a difficult balance. They put the needs of children and partners first. They often hid their sacrifices from their partners. One parent said”

My partner doesn’t miss out anywhere near as much as what I do. He doesn’t know that either. […] But there is many, many, many days where I will go without a meal.

The unseen mental load

Not having enough money increased the load caused by the thinking, planning and emotional strain of getting enough food to feed everyone. One participant said:

It’s always there in the back of my mind […], what would I do if I really didn’t have anything left to feed all of us.

Resilience and creativity

Parents described multiple strategies to make the most of the food they had.

We will now go to the fruit and vegetable shop that’s quite far away from our house because it’s cheaper to buy it in bulk [… We] pre-plan, absolutely, and meal plan.

Despite hardships, parents adapted to challenges by being creative with food and cooking. One parent said:

In the last food parcel I got there was this big bag of polenta, […] you don’t want to be wasteful […]. I’ll look at […] simple recipes that have that ingredient […] and go from there.

Parents valued mealtimes as family time, to connect and share. Parents tried to make the most of their situation and remember that when it comes to meals, “basic doesn’t mean bad”.

What does this mean for supporting families?

Health professionals working with parents need to know many struggle to feed their family. It’s not just a matter of budgeting or cooking; parents already do that. The high mental load parents experience needs to be recognised. Programs and support should be accessible, brief and realistic.

Common advice, such as offering food many times and providing variety to children, may need to be adapted. Variety could be sourced from foods on special, and food waste reduced by offering small amounts of new foods at first.

We also need to ensure the food offered in childcare centres is adequate and healthy. Providing good-quality school meals would relieve the pressure on parents to supply a healthy lunchbox, or give money for the canteen. This would give all Australian children the chance to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods, regardless of their situation at home.

The above article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Family meals on a budget under $2 per serve

Bolognese Bake – $1.56 per serve

cheap dinner ideas

A twist on the classic spag bol, this family and budget friendly dinner makes for a comforting mid week meal. It’s a great easy cheap dinner recipe to prep ahead and just pop in the oven for 10 minutes.

Get Bolognese Bake recipe

Curried Sausages $1.99 per serve

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly recipe that will keep your whole family happy you can’t go past this delicious Healthy Curried Sausages Recipe.

Healthy Curried Sausages Recipe

Zucchini and bacon slice $1.71 per serve


This Healthy Zucchini Slice recipe is delicious and will be a winner with all family members, including the kids.

Quick and healthy zucchini slice recipe

Slow Cooker Porcupine Meatballs $1.71 per serve

Slow-cooked, delicious, and full of hidden veggies. If you’re looking for a healthy dinner to feed the kids, then you HAVE to try this porcupine meatballs recipe!

Porcupine Meatballs

Slow Cooker Asian Chicken $1.84 per serve

Healthy slow cooked Asian chicken

Packed with lean protein and delicate Asian flavours, this delicious recipe uses 3 kilos of chicken and will provide 3 containers of Asian Chicken with each container serving 5.

You can either bulk cook this recipe to use with rice and broccoli OR use the left over Asian Chicken for Satay Chicken Noodles and Asian Rice Paper Rolls in the Healthy Mummy App!

Slow Cooked Asian Chicken

Easy fried rice $1.05 per serve

Packed with wholesome ingredients and bursting with vibrant flavours, this fried rice recipe will have you and your family coming back for seconds.

Easy Fried Rice Recipe

Two Ingredient Pizza Dough 0.35c

Such an easy recipe that can be used in many ways! Scrolls, naan bread, pizza, wraps, bread rolls you name it!

2 Ingredient Pizza Dough Recipe

Discover how Single Mum of 2 feeds family for just $150 a week

Super-saver Mel, a single mum of 2 manages to feed her family on $150 a week with help from The Healthy Mummy app. Find out how you can too!

It only took Mel a total of 2 hours to prep 71 meals all under $2.50 per serve to help make her life so much easier, because like she said herself, if she doesn’t do it no one else will!

Planning, planning, planning is the key to Mel’s savvy savings.

To save money and to ensure she is feeding her family healthy meals and snacks all the time, Mel sticks to the Healthy Mummy app meal plans and likes to meal prep a week worth of meals in advance to keep her from snacking on the wrong foods and spending even more money.

Find out more here >> Single Mum of 2 feeds family for just $150 a week

Mel’s budget tips

mel timmer meal prep

1. Plan. Plan. Plan. At the start of the week write out all your meals for the week, do one big shop of everything you will need that way you won’t find yourself purchasing unexpected things when you make your way to the shop during the week for items you have forgotten to buy.

2. You can always replace a few of the ingredients with something similar. For example if you don’t have carrot use zucchini. I’m always replacing certain ingredients with similar foods, so I’m not running to the shop every time I don’t have something.

3. Add extra veggies to your meals to make the meals go further.

4. When you come across fresh produce that is on sale, stock up and freeze it.

5. Keep your fridge and pantry organised so that way when you have leftovers you will remember to use them and nothing gets wasted.

6. Explore your taste buds and experiment with cheaper foods. Mexican is full of flavour and does not cost an arm and a leg to make, think beans and tomatoes.

7. If you can buy in bulk, it’s usually cheaper.

8. Online shopping is a great way of purchasing groceries there is no temptation there, you type in what you need and buy the one you like best.

PLUS you can filter the supermarket app to the discounts for the week and grab some great bargains.

9. Consider shopping at local markets. If you’re lucky enough to have these, usually you can find produce much cheaper than the stores.

10. Don’t be afraid to buy the store brand or homebrand items as well, majority of the time it’s the same thing but in cheaper packaging.

11. Shop produce that is in season. Check local road stalls and farmers for fresh fruit and veg.

12. Freeze any extra supplies like a loaf bread, and even leftover fruits. They are great to add to smoothies or yoghurt.

Read more:

Family Meals on a BUDGET: 10 Dinners under $3 per serve!

The Healthy Mummy top 22 recipes of all time

How to meal prep for a family of 6 on a budget

Fiona made 232 snacks for just over $70 thanks to her top meal prep tip!

We compare the prices of back-to-school snacks to save you time and MONEY!


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