We tried to feed a family of four adults seven dinners for under £35 from Faversham Tesco

As rates of hunger continue to rise in the country and in the light of outrage over the national free school meal voucher scheme, eating healthy for less money has never been so important.

Megan Carr was challenged to provide seven meals to her family of four for under £35, here is how it went.

A £40.83 shop from Tesco
A £40.83 shop from Tesco

Before I could even step foot into the supermarket I soon realised that to feed myself, my parents and brother on a budget a lot of meal planning was needed.

To find the cheapest food I did a comparison of all my local major supermarkets: Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons and Aldi.

As a family we decided on seven dinners we would all enjoy, spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, pasta bake, jacket potatoes, cheesy pasta, turkey burgers and a roast dinner.

I know we could have chosen cheaper foods, used less meat and even chosen some frozen alternatives to keep costs lower, however, it was my goal to cook healthy-ish, fresh meals on a budget.

By using the online shopping options I tallied up which supermarket was the best value for money.

..

On my £35 budget it was no surprise that Aldi was the cheapest place to shop.

For all my meal ingredients, breakfast bits and lunch options, it would have only cost me £31.78.

That price included 750g of beef mince, chicken thighs, turkey mince and pork chops.

Although it was a bargain, I decided to shop with the runner up which was Tesco.

The superstore is closer to my home and I could use the Clubcard system. At only £3.05 more it didn't feel like I was missing out too much.

The receipt from my Tesco food shop
The receipt from my Tesco food shop

After planning my list online it was time to head to the store, I managed to buy everything I needed and was also satisfied with the quality of the fresh produce I brought.

However, in store, I sadly did go over budget. I ended up spending £40.83 because some of the food available online was not in store. I blame the 'Pingdemic'.

I had to buy a different type of cheese and turkey mince, both of which were £2.50 more expensive than the alternative options.

But I did manage to buy porridge, bananas and apples for breakfast, as well as bits for sandwiches and dinner, so I didn't do too badly.

But despite this little set back I was rather pleased with how fresh and healthy our fridge looked.

Our fridge looked healthy and full even on our tight budget
Our fridge looked healthy and full even on our tight budget

Tuesday - Spaghetti Bolagnese

After the shop we decided that the easiest meal to cook was the spag bol, especially as the beef mince had the shortest use by date.

The ingredients we needed were: an onion, beef mince, garlic powder, two tins of chopped tomatoes, frozen veg, pasta, cheese, tomato and cucumber.

After cooking the onion until soft I then added the mince and cooked them until brown.

I drained the mince and added our two tins of tomatoes and seasoned with garlic.

After letting it simmer for a little while I added a cup of frozen vegetables to bulk out the meal and get our veg count up for the day.

The Spaghetti Bolagnese was very filling
The Spaghetti Bolagnese was very filling

I left that on the hob while I cooked the pasta, prepared a small cucumber, onion and tomato salad and grated some cheese.

Overall, you can't really go wrong with a spaghetti bolognese, it was filling and a family favourite.

However, next time I think I might add a little more garlic.

Tuesday's meal was Spaghetti Bolagnese
Tuesday's meal was Spaghetti Bolagnese

Wednesday - Turkey Burgers

Although some people might not be keen on the thought of using turkey for anything but a Christmas dinner, my mum and I love turkey burgers.

They're tasty, full of flavour and rather healthy. We season our patties with corriander, onion, salt and pepper but you can have as much fun as you like with them. You can even add carrot.

For me, the hardest part about this whole dish was chopping sweet potatoes so we part-boiled them before cooking.

I decided to leave the skins on due to personal preference but my dad wasn't a fan – he said it was like eating leather.

I think in the future I'd get the pre-cut and peeled frozen sweet potato fries that Tesco offer. I also forgot to get enough buns which wasn't ideal.

Our turkey burgers were made from scratch
Our turkey burgers were made from scratch

Thursday - Pastabake

When cooking the pastabake in the future I'd use two jars of sauce
When cooking the pastabake in the future I'd use two jars of sauce

The pastabake is probably the easiest dish I cooked all week.

You chuck some pasta in a dish cover it with a jar sauce and a bit of water, cook for half an hour and then top with cheese before cooking for another 15 minutes.

You can't go wrong, I love pasta and I love cheese, granted it might not be the healthiest meal we had all week but it is quick, simple and perfect for a family.

We brought the own-brand jar of pastabake sauce for only 70p and everyone commented on how flavoursome it was.

With a side salad and some more grated cheese the meal was a simple success, however, next time I think I'd buy two jars just to make the final product a bit more saucy!

Friday - Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry is another one of our family favourites and it is ever so easy to make.

As we were heading out for the evening we decided to make our chicken curry in the slow cooker.

It was as simple as putting onion, curry powder, the chicken thighs and boiling water to the bowl.

We left the ingredients and decided, for ease, to also cook our rice earlier in the day and then add that to the slow cooker as well.

Although it looked more like a risotto than a traditional curry, the dinner was lovely and flavoursome, the chicken thighs had fallen apart and it was really tasty.

Chicken Curry on a budget
Chicken Curry on a budget

Saturday - Jacket Potatoes

Jacket potato, cheese and beans
Jacket potato, cheese and beans

Bunged in the convection oven for 15 minutes, jacket potatoes are quick and filling.

It's another reliable comfort food.

In the future I'd buy single potatoes instead of a pack of four. It'd work out cheaper and I can use the biggest ones.

My only disappointment with this meal was the beans. As a Heinz the branded option just didn't quite cut it.

The cheap Tesco beans we had lacked a lot of the tomato flavour. But what do you expect for 30p.

Sunday - Roast Dinner

A pork chop roast dinner on a budget
A pork chop roast dinner on a budget

A classic Sunday roast, a favourite around the country, what more could you want.

Our budget meant no stuffing or Yorkshire puddings, however, with the money we had we didn't do bad.

After adding our gravy the very filling dinner was another hit with my family.

Vegetables are cheap, filling and tasty, we had plenty of cauliflower, carrots, peas, broccoli and roasties to feed us all.

We fried our pork loins, to perfection might I add, which added a nice flavour to the rest of the meal.

Lots of vegetales are key to a cheap filling meal
Lots of vegetales are key to a cheap filling meal

Monday - Cheesey Pasta and Bacon

Cheesey pasta and bacon
Cheesey pasta and bacon

Our last dish of the week was another success.

Similar to the pastabake we had cheesy bacon pasta and it was gorgeous.

Another quick meal that is low in price and makes large filling portions.

Personally I liked the tomato pasta bake more, however, the bacon bits were lovely so maybe I'd mix the two together next time.

Overall, I think feeding a family of four with substantial meals on a budget is doable.

Our budget meant we had sandwiches for lunch
Our budget meant we had sandwiches for lunch

My family and I enjoyed every meal we ate and felt full and satisfied. Mum and dad were convinced it would cost £25 per person to have proper dinners every night for the whole week.

The two of them were very impressed that I managed to feed us all with breakfast, sandwiches and dinners for just £8.75 per person for seven days.

The key to eating healthy for less for us was being able to cook from scratch. Julie Clark, a registered nutritional therapist, agrees and says it can help people stick to a budget.

She said: "It is possible to eat healthy on a budget because a lot of foods are cheaper, as long as you know how to cook from scratch, that's the key.

UK local food insecurity of Adults Jan 2021
UK local food insecurity of Adults Jan 2021

"Pulses, for example, are really, really cheap, but the truth of the matter is, the price of food has gone up.

"I've noticed that myself, so it is harder to stick to a budget but then when I look at what it costs to buy a ready meal versus making a really healthy vegetarian based meal, it's more expensive to buy already made.

"So if you know what you're doing in the kitchen it will be cheaper.

"Not everybody knows how to cook. However, a really simple meal could be like a dahl, using red lentils as a base, and then you've just got your curry powder in there.

"You can add any vegetables like cauliflower, you can make a dahl out of anything, my kids love a dahl.

"And when you combine lentils with rice, you get a low sugar, low fat meal."

For support, advice, events and all things to do with parenting in Kent, visit My Kent Family here.

Share this story

Helpful links

© KM Group 2021