How to Feed Your Family for Less

I often hear people say “It’s so expensive to eat healthy!” This is especially true for anyone with a big (or even small) family.

So, I thought I’d share a few meal ideas and tips that are both cost-effective and healthy!

Cost-effective proteins

Meat, fish and chicken always stand out on a receipt as they can be some of the most expensive grocery items. To reduce the cost, try some of these tips:

  • Buy bulk meat packs or meat that is on special and freeze
  • Add lentils or legumes to mince dishes to bulk out the portions. Kidney beans and lentils are cheap and work really well in bolognese, taco mince or Shepherds’ pie
  • Try eggs as the hero on the plate! Boiled and poached, or made into omelettes or frittatas – eggs are a nourishing and cheap source protein
  • When cooking a chicken casserole, bulk out the portions with diced tofu! It works really well in hearty winter casseroles with flavoursome sauces! My very fussy toddler loves tofu

Add wholegrains and frozen veggies to the plate

Growing kids need (and love) extra carbohydrates to fuel their active and growing bodies.

Ingredients like quinoa and freekeh are fabulous, but the following options are far more cost-effective.

  • Wholemeal pasta or brown rice are a fibre-rich and cheap carbohydrate source
  • Peas and corn are a winning combo. You can serve them as a side or add them to your casseroles or bolognese
  • Try meals like a tuna pasta bake loaded with some frozen peas and corn for a cost-effective option. Serve with a side of salad

Buy seasonal and shop around

Heading to the Farmer’s Markets or buying seasonal can really reduce the cost of fresh fruit and veg.

Adapt recipes by swapping out expensive fruit and veg for more seasonal ones.

Be smart about your choices – if asparagus is expensive, opt for green beans. Swap expensive ingredients for similar (and cheaper) ingredients! Also, looks for fruit and veg that may be unconventional in its shape and look. Often these are the ‘rejected’ produce, even though they still taste the same.

Now, let’s put some of these suggestions into a recipe! Click here for 12WBT’s Beef and Bean Chilli Recipe which is delicious, cheap and feeds the whole family!

Or try our Lentil Bolognese Recipe below!

4 Serves
20 min prep time
35 min cooking
280 Cal / serve


2 Teaspoons Olive Oil (10g)
1 Onion (89g), finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic (6g), crushed
1 Carrot (61g), grated
1 Zucchini (101g), grated
1 Celery Stalk (55g), finely chopped
1 X 400g cans Canned Lentils (280g), rinsed & drained
1 X 400g cans Diced Tomato (400g), diced
160g Spaghetti, or Zucchini noodles
1/4 Cups Basil Leaves (10g)
40g Parmesan Cheese, shaved


Heat oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft.
Add carrot, zucchini and celery to pan. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in lentils and tomatoes.
Add 1/2 cup (125ml) water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling water following packet directions. Drain well.
Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss to combine. Divide between bowls. Top with basil and parmesan to serve.

Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

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