Healthy family meals on a budget

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Budget-friendly meals for the family

It can be a real challenge to provide healthy meals that everyone in the family enjoys, without breaking the budget. In general, the more you focus on buying local, unprocessed food and preparing your meals at home, the healthier your family meals will be and the more money you’ll save. Here are some more tips:

  • Plan ahead, make a shopping list, and stick to it
  • Avoid junk food and processed foods as much as possible
  • Buy in season
  • Check out local farmers’ markets
  • Use cost-effective protein options like beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, and cheaper cuts of meat
  • Buy (and cook) in bulk and freeze meal-sized portions or store in airtight containers
  • Avoid wasting food: get creative with leftovers


Here are some of my favourite recipes (to serve four people):

Lebanese lentil soup
1 cup brown lentils                                      6 cups water
6 cups spinach leaves, washed, dried, and finely-chopped (no stalks)
1 onion, finely chopped                              juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons flour                                        salt and pepper
Handful finely-chopped fresh coriander, or 1 teaspoon dried coriander
Olive oil for frying

Cook lentils in water until tender, adding more liquid as needed. Sauté onions in oil, add coriander, and cook gently for a few minutes. Add this mixture, together with the spinach and lemon juice, to the lentils and simmer for ten minutes. Before serving, thicken the soup with flour mixed in a little water and adjust the seasoning.

Tangy spaghetti
500 grams spaghetti                                  1 medium onion, chopped
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and chopped
100 grams mushrooms, sliced               2 x 400g cans tomatoes
1 teaspoon crushed garlic                                    2 tablespoons olive oil
50 grams grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper                                           2 teaspoons oregano

Sauté the onion, pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil over moderate heat until softened (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, and bring the mixture to the boil. Lower the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti, drain, and return it to the pan. Add a dash of olive oil, half the Parmesan if using, and the oregano, then transfer to a warmed serving dish and pour the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

All-in-one chicken meal
8 chicken pieces                                         1 large onion, peeled and thinly-sliced
500 grams sweet potato, peeled and cubed
500 grams butternut, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil                                 2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon crushed garlic                                    salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock                                                125 grams prunes or dried apricots

Brown the chicken pieces in hot oil and add onion, cinnamon, and a little seasoning. Cook gently until golden. Add the garlic, sweet potato, butternut, and stock; bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for around forty minutes. Add the fruit and let it heat through and soften. Check the seasoning, and adjust if necessary.

Tuna and green bean salad
2 medium to large potatoes                      1 tin tuna (in oil)
200 grams green beans                            1 small onion, finely chopped
Half teaspoon crushed garlic                   Salt and pepper
Half teaspoon thyme                                  2 teaspoons lemon juice
Chopped parsley                                         2 teaspoons olive oil

Boil the potatoes, with their skins on, till cooked (around 20 minutes). Top, tail, and halve beans and parboil with garlic and thyme (5 to 10 minutes). Cut potatoes into cubes, and toss together with beans, onions, and tuna. Add black pepper, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Baked apples
4 green apples                                            60 ml soft butter
60 ml brown sugar                                      3 ml mixed spice
30 ml raisins or sultanas                          40 ml chopped pecan nuts (optional)
60 ml orange juice

Core apples and peel a 2cm strip from around the top. Mix the other ingredients, apart from the juice. Stuff centres of apples and place in baking dish; pour the juice over and dot with butter. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender.

Mango with yoghurt
4 to 5 large fibreless mangoes                1 litre double thick Greek yoghurt
1 cup dark brown sugar

Peel the mangoes and cut them into even slices – you should get around 6 to 8 from each mango. Layer the fruit, yoghurt, and brown sugar (in that order) in a serving bowl, finishing with a layer of sugar-topped yoghurt. Chill in the fridge for an hour, and garnish with crushed nuts if desired. Peeled sliced peaches also work well for this dessert.

Other articles you may be interested in:
Good fats, bad fats
Veganise your diet
Braai day recipes
Healthy party recipes
Warm veggie salad

Written by

Fiona Rom, freelance writer and editor, believes that beauty and wellness have much to do with your state of mind, and that a sense of humour is your best defence against almost any challenge the world throws at you. Fiona on Google

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  1. Kariwo

    times are tough and these meals sound nutritious! even the desert! I’d also use pineapple with yoghurt as a desert…thanks

    5 years ago •

  1. Sammy

    Tangy spaghetti done already excluding mushrooms not a fan of it. I love spinach and feta

    5 years ago •

  1. Dani.Hearts

    Great recipes! That chicken thing has my stomach rumbling!

    5 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    So true, preparing meals at home is so much healthier and cost effective. Great recipes!

    5 years ago •

  1. Hess

    I need to save these meals somewhere! They sound delicious.

    5 years ago •

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