A full week of food on a BUDGET (for a family of 4)

A full week of food on a budget (for a family of four) - Embers on the hearth

This shopping list is an example of how my shopping list works in real life. I bought all these things on a Monday and used it to feed my family of 4. All the food was made exclusively with those ingredients and nothing else.

This time around I went to my local Aldi, and buying enough for 4 people (including breakfast items that I don’t use for meals) and the basics was all under £50. At the time of writing, my husband and I ate all meals at home, my children ate all meals except for weekday lunch (one had school meals, the other one used to take a simple packed lunch usually made out savoury muffins, veggies, and fruit).

I chose this week to show how the shopping list works because I had just emptied the kitchen for a cleanup. The only foods I had were the mayo, the sweet chilli sauce, the red lentils, and the seeds (which I incorporated into the list and hoped to finish) and oil from the 10 basics list.


Shopping list

  • 10 basics
  • Breakfast must-haves
  • Fruits
    • Mango
    • Orange
    • Strawberries
    • Mixed frozen berries
  • Vegetables
    • Mixed greens (watercress, baby spinach, rocket)
    • Corn (frozen)
    • Green cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Salad tomatoes
    • Frozen broccoli
    • Mushrooms
    • Cucumber
  • Proteins
    • Red lentils
    • Canned tuna
    • Basa fillets
    • Beef mince
  • Starches
    • Potatoes
    • Rice
    • Egg noodles
    • Wraps (herbed)
  • Herbs and spices
    • Ginger (fresh)
    • Garlic (fresh)
    • Green onions (fresh)
    • Basil (fresh)
  • Acid
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Pickles
  • Heat
    • Wholegrain mustard
    • Sweet chili sauce
  • Umami
    • Miso
    • BBQ sauce
  • Salty
    • Anchovies
    • Olives
  • Creamy
    • Vegan mayonnaise
    • Mild cheddar cheese
  • Crunchy
    • Sesame seeds
    • Flaxseeds

I had no plans whatsoever on what I would be cooking. We came up with the ingredients based on the few things I had left and what everyone fancied while at the supermarket and what was on sale.

Snacks and puddings

  • All the fruits: sometimes I will bake with fruit, but most often than not we eat them as fresh fruit. I keep a very large fruit bowl in the kitchen that everyone has access to throughout the day.
  • Some vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers are a regular snack for my children and myself. Instead of having crisps or biscuits while we watch telly, we often grab one of these 3.
  • Pickles and olives: whenever we wanted something savoury.

Ate, but barely cooked

  • Broccoli: I just cooked it in the microwave for a few minutes and added some salt. We kept it simple.
  • Cabbage: I used half as slaw, the other half was boiled. My daughter and I absolutely love boiled cabbage!
  • Pickles and olives: used as sides mostly.

Things I didn’t finish

  • Red lentils: I only used them once. I’ve had them for a while and I’ve been trying to find uses for them. I was planning on making a dip, but just didn’t get around to it!
  • Mustard: somehow I didn’t use it a lot, even though I love it. But it did work really well in a cottage pie I made!
  • Miso: another mystery. Usually, we use it a lot and it should’ve been a given with the noodles and greens. Yet, somehow, I just didn’t get around to using it at all.

Not too bad! And the 3 things I have left will keep for a long time.

The food

I included some recipes, but they are very, very loose and more guidelines than actual recipes aimed to give an idea of what can be cooked rather than to provide fully-fleshed out recipes. My goal is to show how the shopping list template works in real life.

Tuna melt wraps

These wraps are very fast to put together and require no cooking at all. Great for a quick lunch, snack, or on-the-go meal.

Ingredients: tuna, cheddar cheese, mixed greens, corn, wraps.


  • Mix everything (except for the wraps) in a bowl to make the filling
  • Fill in the wraps
  • Toast (or eat without toasting).

Cottage pie

The British classic. It takes a while to prepare, but it’s well worth it. And it can be prepared ahead of time, and frozen! I often make it vegetarian with Quorn mince, and vegan with nutritional yeast instead of the cheddar.

Ingredients: beef mince, mushroom stalks, onions, garlic, salt, mustard, potatoes, cheddar cheese.


  • Chop the onions, mushrooms stalks, and garlic.
  • Mix with the mince, salt, and mustard.
  • Cook in a pan until beef is brown.
  • Cover the bottom of an ovenproof dish with the cooked beef mix.
  • Boil the potatoes.
  • Rinse and mash.
  • Mix with cheese and add salt (if needed).
  • Top the beef with the mash.
  • Add more cheese on top (if wanted), and heat in a medium oven on a high rack until the mash (or cheese) browns.

Rice with green onions

And easy and quick side or main. Can be made in a rice cooker or pressure cooker too (how I usually make it).

Ingredients: rice, green onions (scallions), salt, oil


  • Wash the rice until the water is clear.
  • Put in a pot and cover with water (for basmati, use 1.5 cups of water for every cup of rice).
  • Add oil and salt.
  • Cover, bring to a boil, and immediately lower the heat so that it will simmer.
  • When all the water is gone, take away from heat.
  • Leave to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

5-ingredient slaw

Another quick side for when you need a veggie and don’t feel like cooking! It works great as a sandwich or wrap filler too, and can be made vegan with any vegan mayo (which is what I used this time around).

Ingredients: onions, cabbage, carrots, mayo, salt


  • Slice all the vegetables.
  • Mix with mayo and salt to taste.

Sweet chilli grilled fish

Continuing the theme of quick and easy: grilled fish. Any white fish or chicken will go fantastic with sweet chilli sauce and will only take a few minutes to cook.

Ingredients: white fish (fillets), salt, sweet chilli sauce


  • Salt the fish fillets.
  • Grill on one side until cooked.
  • Flip over and spread sweet chilli sauce on top.
  • As soon as the sauce is warm, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Mushroom omelette

Simple lunch, great on top of some nice bread. If you’re not a fan of omelettes, this can always be turned into a scramble or even add some rice for egg-fried rice.

Ingredients: eggs, green onions (scallions), cheddar cheese, mushrooms, salt (if needed).


  • Slice the mushrooms. Either slice them thinly so they cook inside the omelette or sautee them.
  • In a bowl mix the eggs, sliced green onions, grated cheese and salt.
  • Cook in a pan until only the top is still raw.
  • Add the mushrooms on one half of the omelette and fold over the other half.
  • Cook until the inside is as hard as wanted.

BBQ ginger meatballs

Really flavourful and juicy meatballs, packed with veggies! I served with noodles and broccoli (for a variation of beef and broccoli noodles), in a sub with slaw, and a a side for rice.

Ingredients: BBQ sauce, beef mince, green onions (scallions), ginger, garlic, carrots, salt (if needed)


  • Grate the carrots, ginger and garlic, and slice the green onions.
  • Mix with the mince, BBQ sauce, and salt (if needed).
  • Shape into meatballs.
  • Either fry in a pan or roast on the oven.

Tomato sauce

Italians will probably have a heart attack if you do this in front of them, but when you just don’t have the time to make a proper slow-cooked tomato sauce, this version is a great alternative.

Ingredients: tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt


  • Boil (or microwave for a few minutes) the tomatoes until they are soft and the skin starts to peel off.
  • Take off the water and in a blender (or food processor) add the tomatoes, garlic, basil, and salt.
  • Blend and use.


Homemade pizza is a lot easier than it seems, and the taste is well worth the effort!

Ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, yeast, tomato sauce (the recipe above), cheese, toppings (olives, anchovies, basil)


  • Make bread with the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast.
  • Divide the dough into the pizzas and shape. They don’t have to be round, you can make the most of your oven by making them square or rectangular.
  • Bake until the dough starts to cook but is still white.
  • Take from the oven and add all the toppings.
  • Put back in the oven until the dough and cheese turn golden brown.

Cheesy garlic bread

The perfect companion to pizza, pasta, and pretty much anything Italian. Or have it on its own (I won’t judge).

Ingredients: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, garlic, butter, cheese


  • Same first 3 steps as the pizzas above.
  • Top with minced garlic, softened butter, and cheese.
  • Keep baking until the cheese and dough are golden brown.

Berry muffins

Delicious muffins, quick to make and with real fruit!

Ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, frozen berries, sesame seeds, milk (if needed)


  • Thaw the berries, and separate the liquid.
  • Follow my muffin recipe using the liquid of the thawed berries instead of milk. If the liquid is not enough, add milk.
  • Add sesame seeds on top before baking.

Fish and chips

Just as good as the fish from the chippies, but a lot healthier.

Ingredients: white fish, flour, egg, potatoes, salt, mayo


  • Cut the potatoes.
  • Salt and roast in a medium-high oven until cooked.
  • Dredge (cover) the fish in flour, salted egg, and flour again.
  • Fry in a pan with very hot oil.
  • Serve with mayo.


Easy, cheap, and filling. Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack.

Ingredients: wraps, cheese, mixed greens


  • Fill a wrap with cheese and mixed green.
  • Fold in half.
  • Heat in a grill (or pan).

Noodles with broccoli

The go-to when you want something delicious, somewhat healthy and cannot be bothered to cook.

Ingredients: egg noodles (the kind that needs to be boiled), stock, broccoli (or any vegetable you have around), ginger, garlic, salt, oil


  • Boil the noodles in stock with chopped vegetables.
  • When the noodles are cooked and the vegetables have soften, drain the stock (you can keep it if you want a soup, or for later use).
  • Add minced ginger and garlic, and salt if needed.
  • Saute for a few minutes in oil.


A longer, more involved recipe. But a great way to use leftover potatoes or mash, and it can be frozen. A good weekend project to enjoy the whole week!

Ingredients: mashed potatoes, flour, salt, other ingredients to serve with (tomato sauce, or butter, cheese and basil for example)


  • Mix the mashed potato with enough flour to make a soft dough that is easy to shape and not sticky. Depending on the liquid content of the potatoes, you might need more or less flour. The amounts could range from half the weight of the potatoes, to the same weight.
  • Divide the dough into smaller amounts that are easier to work with (about a large handful is a good size).
  • Roll the dough into snakes of approximately 1 centimetre (just under 1/2 inch) of width, and cut every 2 centimetres (just under 2 inches).
  • You can shape each gnocchi or leave them with the cutting shape (what I did this time).
  • Boil in salted water. When the gnocchi float, you want to let boil them for an extra minute or two (depending on how ‘al dente’ you want them).
  • Serve with your prefered sauce (I generally use tomato sauce or butter, cheese, and basil).

Basil salad

No-fuss salad to have as a side with anything and everything!

Ingredients: mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, fresh basil, mustard, ginger, oil, balsamic vinegar


  • Dice the tomatoes, grate the carrots, and cut the mixed greens and basil in ribbons (if needed).
  • In a separate bowl prepare the salad dressing with oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and ginger.
  • Combine right before serving.

Seeded crackers

A fun and versatile recipe, great as a snack or with some soup.

Ingredients: flour, butter, milk, sesame seeds, linseeds (flaxseeds), salt


  • Basic cracker recipe, but add the seeds to the mix.

Red lentil broccoli soup

One of those great cold day soups. Very quick to make, and very filling.

Ingredients: red lentils, broccoli, onion, garlic, ginger, oil, mustard, stock, salt, sesame seeds


  • Dice the onions, and mince the garlic and ginger. Brown in a bit of oil.
  • Add all the other ingredients and boil until lentils become a paste.
  • Serve with sesame seeds on top and crackers or bread.

Rice with mushrooms

It’s rice, with veggies. Not much to say, other than: easy, cheap and delicious.

Ingredients: rice, onion, green onions, mushrooms, garlic, salt


  • Cook the rice (or warm up leftover rice).
  • In a separate pan, brown diced onions, green onions, sliced mushrooms, and minced garlic.
  • Mix with the rice.

Tuna quiche

Inspired by a meal served by a friend, but simplified to become a weekday meal.

Ingredients: flour, butter, salt, eggs, tuna, cheese


  • Make a shortbread dough (or use a premade one), and cover a quiche or pie pan.
  • In a bowl mix the eggs, tuna and cheese.
  • Fill the pastry with the egg-tuna mix and bake at 180 C (350 F) until golden brown on top.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.