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How to Manage your Food Bills on a Low Budget

Updated on March 27, 2016

Healthy eating on a limited income

It is always a challenge when shopping in the supermarket to keep the bill down to a minimum, especially in this day and age when so many people are out of work or struggling to make ends meet on a low wage.

So I have been thinking recently "what is the least amount a 2 people can live off and remain well nourished?".

It has been quite difficult, I can tell you, but finally came up with a weekly diet that should please everyone, even satisfying those with a sweet tooth!

The answer to surviving on a tight budget has to be cooking your own meals rather than relying on ready made ones which are expensive and often filled with unhealthy additives as well as too much salt, sugar and fat.

Finally I devised this plan. As I live in England, the amounts are written in GBP (except the heading which is dual GB/US) but those of you in other countries can easily convert this to your own currency.

There is also an issue of what foodstuffs are called. I realise that what you in the US called 'ground' meat we in the UK call 'minced' meat. Any other alternative words will have to be left to you to interprete!

So, here goes -

Weekly shopping list for 2 people on a tight budget

500g bag of led lentils £1”

250g strong cheese £1.90

250g lamb’s liver £0.60

400g turkey mince (US - ground) £2.50”

10 eggs £1.20

425g tin of pilchards £1

Jar of peanut butter £1.50

2 fillets (220g) of smoked mackerel £2.40

6 pints of milk £1.50*

Large tub of natural yogurt £1.20

2 large tins of baked beans £0.80

2 tins of chopped tomatoes £0.60

1 cabbage £1

4 large carrots £1

6 onions £1

5kg potatoes £2.50

Frozen peas £0.35*

350g broccoli £1

5 oranges £1.00

6 bananas £1.50

Rolled oats £0.55*

Box of tea bags £2

1 kg of strong white flour £0.45*

2 sachets of dried yeast £0.30*

Approx 200g of self raising flour £0.25*

500g bag of mixed dried fruit £0.65

200g Demerara sugar £0.40*

Tub of margarine or butter £1.20

80g Arborio rice £0.25*

4 Chicken stock cubes £0.40*

Total £32.00

Items marked * are parts of larger packs. So although I have averaged the bill out to the total shown, some weeks you may have to spend more.

Items marked with “ will make sufficient for at least 2 weeks, so that brings down the average spend.

Suggestions for recipes


Using the strong flour, yeast and some margarine or butter, make 2 2lb loaves of bread baking them simultaneously in the oven to save on energy and your time. Freeze one of them for later in the week.

Meat loaf

Make a meat loaf using the turkey, the rice (cooked), 1 egg, 2 onions chopped and seasoning. Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin at 130 C for about an hour and 15 minutes.

The meat loaf will provide 2 people with 3 portions each, so you may wish to freeze some for later. Alternatively, you may wish to make the mixture into burgers and fry or make a smaller loaf and reserve some mixture for burgers, to make the menus. more varied. Any unused mix can be frozen for later.

Serve with potatoes and cabbage and a delicious onion gravy..

Fruit loaf

At the same time make a fruit loaf using the dried fruit pre-soaked in tea overnight Add the Demerara sugar and the grated rind of one orange, along with the juice, self raising flour, sugar, 1 egg. Add more flour if necessary. It should be a rather stiff mixture. Bake in a lined 2lb loaf tin.

This takes the same cooking requirements as the meat loaf so bake them together in the oven.

Fish cakes

I never weigh the ingredients for this recipe, just going on ‘feel’!

The general idea is to mash sufficient potato to make 4 fish cakes using the flaked smoked mackerel.

Allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.

Dip in some flour and fry. Meantime make a cheese sauce to pour over the fishcakes.

We love these served with broccoli.

Cheese and lentil loaf

500g red lentils

1 litre of water

2 stock cubes

150g grated cheese

2 eggs

100g breadcrumbs

2 chopped onions


Cook the red lentils in the water with the stock cubes until all the liquid is absorbed.

Mix with the other ingredients and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until firm and golden.

Meantime bake a couple of potatoes in the oven alongside the lentil loaf, make a nice tomato sauce with an onion and tinned tomatoes and serve with vegetables. Like the meatloaf this will serve 2 people 3 portions each, or can be used as a vegetarian spread on toast or in sandwiches.

Lamb liver casserole

Fry an onion in some oil or margarine until lightly browned. Dip the sliced liver in some flour and add to the pan along with some chopped tinned tomatoes and a stock cube. Season and cook for a further 15 minutes or until rich and thickened.

Serve with potatoes and peas.

Fried onion Omelette

Fry some onion in a frying pan and when it is browned add 4 whisked eggs. Cook gently until nearly set. Add some grated cheese and cook until it is melted. Serve with boiled potatoes and vegetables.

Suggestions for breakfasts and lunches

I have included in the lists-

Oats for porridge

Bread which can be toasted or made into sandwiches

Peanut butter


Baked beans,

- all of which are delicious served on toast.




These foods can be imaginatively used to provide tasty nutritious meals.

Plenty of milk and tea for drinking.

And of course, we have a lovely fruit loaf for snacking on!

As an extra, to make your meals even tastier, grow your own herbs for next to nothing!

Have fun experimenting. Maybe you can come up with new ideas!

image by Matthew R Dunn
image by Matthew R Dunn | Source


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    • just helen profile image

      just helen 5 years ago from Dartmoor UK

      Hi everyone

      thank you so much for your positive comments! My nephew is struggling at uni on a limited budget, and I know how he feels.

      It is not that easy when you think about it, though it's taken me a couple of months to get my head round eating cheaply!

      Thanks again. I really appreciate your positivity!

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 5 years ago from Cardiff

      Seems like a pretty well thought out meal plan and you budgeted it well. Voted up!

    • Rebecca2904 profile image

      Rebecca 5 years ago

      Really useful, well planned hub! If only you had written this two years ago, my first few months at uni would have been much easier! Living on a budget can be really tricky, especially when it comes to eating well, so thank you for sharing these tips :)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 5 years ago

      Hi Helen, Thank you for this well thought out hub, really useful for busy people and those who need just a little help with their budget! Voted up and useful!