Quick, cheap, and nutritious meal ideas

Niamh Hennessy
Lead Dietitian, Cromwell Hospital
29 December 2023
Next review due December 2026

Eating well needn't be complicated or expensive. With a little forward planning you can easily create some tasty and nutritious meals to keep you feeling your best.

Here, I will share some top tips for eating well on a budget. I'll also include a couple of easy recipes for you to follow.

bowls of tomato, spinach, chickpeas, onions and spices

How can I eat well on a budget?

There are lots of ways to follow a healthy diet whilst keeping costs low. Below are some of my top tips.

Check your cupboards

Before you go shopping, have a look at what you already have in your cupboards and shelves. You might be surprised at how many staples you already have. You can then base your meals around these ingredients, and only buy the extras you need to make a meal. This should keep costs down, whilst also reducing food waste.

Make a plan

Create a rough meal plan for the week. While you might not want to plan out every single meal you eat, having a rough idea about meals for the week can help you when shopping for food. Creating a meal plan can help to reduce food waste, and you can plan to use up your leftovers too.

Try shopping online

Many of us get tempted when we see offers in the supermarket. Lots of these are trying to encourage us to overspend. Instead, by shopping online we can focus on our ingredients list, and we are less likely to make impulse and unnecessary purchases.

Don't fear frozen

Frozen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious as their fresh alternatives. Keeping bags of frozen broccoli, peas, carrots, berries and even garlic can help us to make a quick and nutritious meal on a budget.

Choose plant-based proteins

While there's nothing wrong with eating good quality, unprocessed meats in moderation, it can increase the cost of your food budget if eaten regularly. Instead, try to use a range of pulses, beans, and legumes into your meals. This will provide you with a source of fibre and protein, whilst reducing your budget.

Healthy meal ideas

Below are two easy to make, cheap and nutritious meal ideas for you to try. We have included one plant based and one meat option for you.

Chicken and butter bean wholemeal pasta with spinach

This recipe is packed with protein, whole grains, and vegetables. By eating complex carbohydrates, you will get slow-release energy which will keep you fuller for longer.

Having a good source of protein in each meal will also help to fill you up and may prevent you from overeating.

Including dark green leafy vegetables in your diet is a great way to increase your intake of magnesium, folate and other key vitamins and minerals.

Follow the recipe below, or you can also watch how to make it in this video by registered dietitian, Tai Ibitoye.

plate of spinach, broad bean, chicken wholemeal pasta


(serves 2)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 350g diced chicken breasts
  • 400g butter beans, drained & rinsed
  • 8 sundried tomatoes, sliced
  • 300g wholewheat pasta
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger powder
  • a handful of spinach


  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and fry the chicken for 10 to15 minutes until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, cook the wholewheat pasta as per pack instructions.
  • Add the butter beans and sundried tomatoes and cook - stirring frequently for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the seasonings while stirring.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the frying pan or wok alongside the handful of spinach.

Chickpea curry with brown or wholemeal crusty bread

Chickpeas are a versatile and nutritious ingredient. They provide you with a source of protein and help to bulk out stews and soups.

Combining this curry with a whole grain such as brown or wholemeal bread will increase your daily fibre intake and help to keep you full and satisfied.

Follow the recipe below, or you can also watch how to make it in this video by registered dietitian, Tai Ibitoye.

bowl of chickpea curry and crusty bread


(serves 3-4)

  • 2 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 100g spinach
  • 1 x mild red pepper or 1 x red bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 onion (red or white)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 x low-fat coconut milk, canned
  • wholemeal crusty bread to serve


  • In a pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, then add in the onions and tomatoes; tomato puree, red bell peppers and stir together.
  • Lower heat to medium and simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add in the chickpeas and the spices and stir to combine.
  • Add in spinach and coconut milk and stir again.
  • Bring the curry to a boil, and then reduce to medium-low so that the mixture continues to simmer for 10 to 12 more minutes.
  • Once cooked, you can serve with wholemeal crusty bread.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Niamh Hennessy
Niamh Hennessy
Lead Dietitian, Cromwell Hospital



Julia Ebbens, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(3):957-62. doi: 10.1021/jf5058793
    • Eat well, spend less. British Dietetic Association., last reviewed April 2021
    • Protein, a practical guide for dietitians. British Dietetic Association., accessed 20 December 2023
    • Fibre. British Dietetic Association., last updated April 2021
    • Carbohydrates British Dietetic Association., last reviewed September 2021
    • Magnesium. National institutes of health., accessed 20 December 2023
    • Folic acid. British Dietetic Association., updated July 2023

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