Cheaper ways to feed your child healthy meals

The price of household items and groceries continue to rise every month, making it extremely tough on family budgets, especially in poorer households that earn a minimum wage. This has forced mothers to make tough calls when buying their groceries.

According to research by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice & Dignity Group (PMBEJD), mothers are having to prioritise core foods that satiate hungry stomachs, but don’t necessarily offer high-value nutrition. According to the PMBEJD the average cost of feeding a child a basic nutritious diet in September was R695,74. This is far above the Child Support Grant of R440 a month.

READ MORE: Family meals & finances – How skyrocketing grocery prices are affecting our kids’ nutrition

Budget-friendly recipes you can make with staple foods

Not only are these foods cost-effective, they also add great nutritional value to your child’s diet.

Brown Bread

Brown bread is higher in fibre than white bread. Fibre is good for healthy guts. In South Africa, brown bread is subsidised so it’s actually cheaper than white bread to help encourage more families to choose this option. Look at the nutritional information table on the bread, and scroll down to fibre. Under the per 100g column you will see an amount of fibre. A good rule of thumb is to choose a bread with the highest fibre that you can afford. Even better, if you can get it above 6g of fibre per 100g that’s a double-win.

Recipe ideas for brown bread:

  • French Toast: Scramble 1 egg with a splash of milk, cinnamon, and vanilla essence. Dip 1 slice of bread in the egg mixture until soaked through. Cook on a hot pan until toasted. Serve sliced into fingers or blocks, depending on your child’s age. This is a nice breakfast idea or a quick and easy lunch or dinner. It’s also a very nice finger food for older babies and toddlers to help develop hand and eye co-ordination.

Cheap recipes for healthy meals

  • Peanut Butter Fingers: Make toast and spread it with peanut butter. Serve sliced into fingers or blocks, depending on your child’s age for a quick and nutritious snack.


The humble egg is a very cost-effective protein source and also stores well. An American study reported that early introduction of eggs to the diets of children 6 – 9 months significantly improved their growth. In a country with high rates of malnutrition, eggs have the potential to contribute to both local and global goals to reduce stunting.

Recipe ideas for eggs:

  • French toast: Recipe above
  • Veggie Scramble: For babies, scramble 1 egg with 2 to 3 Tbsp veggie puree e.g. pumpkin, gem squash, butternut.
  • Egg Muffins: Scramble 8 eggs and add in 1 – 1 ½ cups diced veg of choice (e.g. onion, carrots, peppers, tomato, etc). Pour into a muffin pan and bake for 15 min. These egg muffins are a lovely lunchbox filler for toddlers and school-going kiddies. Break into smaller pieces for younger children. These egg muffins store well in the fridge for up to 5 days so make a batch on the weekend and serve through the week.

Egg muffins


Legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils are called plant-based proteins and are not only good for vegetarian families, but can offer up good nutrition for us all. They are a source of fibre for healthy digestion and protein for muscles and immunity. They’re also significantly lower in cost than animal protein like meat and chicken. Tinned versions are convenient and cost-effective, or you can buy the dry versions, soak and cook in bulk to freeze into smaller portions as needed.

ALSO SEE: Save time and money with these easy freezer meals

Recipe ideas:

General: Use legumes to bulk up meat dishes to make them more cost-effective. add butter beans to mince or chickpeas to a chicken curry.

The Lentil & Pumpkin Puree recipe below recipes work for smaller babies, especially right at the start of introducing solids.

Cheap recipes for healthy meals

This Lentil Bake is very quick and easy to make and filling, and you can make this for older babies and toddlers.

Cheap recipes for healthy meals


Pilchards are a fatty fish that offer up omega-3s for healthy brains and eyes. The best part is that they come at a fraction of the cost of its expensive competitor, salmon, while offering up the same great essential fatty acids of omega-3 and good quality protein.

Recipe ideas:

Pilchard Bobotie Bake

Pilchard Bobotie Bake

Click here for the recipe.

Pilchard Meatballs in salad cups

This makes for a nice finger food for toddlers.

Pilchard meatballs in salad cups

Click here for the recipe.

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