Budget dinner party ideas | BBC Good Food

Many of us are having to think extra carefully about how to get the most out of our shopping and fuel budgets. Smart planning and cooking will help you make nutritious meals that taste great. We calculate a budget meal at a cost of £1.25 per serving for ingredients used. (You may have to spend a little more if you need to replenish staples such as a full bottle of cooking oil or a bag of flour or buy a pot of spices, but you will use these up over time and we will give you ideas for how to do this.) You may also have access to a markets and local shops that offer savings.

Saving the pennies doesn’t have to mean cutting back on entertaining or treating yourself. We’ve come up with a selection of budget-friendly starters, mains and a delicious dessert, each jam-packed with flavour while not costing more than £1.25 per serving. You’ll thank us when guests leave yours feeling satisfied and impressed! Think warming, hearty and, most importantly, affordable.

For more delicious budget-friendly recipes, check out our budget recipes and budget dinner recipes.


1. Mushroom, ricotta & rocket tart

Tart topped with mushrooms, rocket and ricotta

This puff pastry slice is a brilliant dinner party starter as it is fuss-free. With only 10 minutes of prep and 25 minutes of cook time, it can be on the table in under 40 minutes. It is easy to share as guests can cut their ideal portion size and are free to go back for seconds (which we think is likely).

For more savoury pastry inspiration, check out our savoury tart recipes.

2. Carrot & tahini soup

Carrot & tahini soup in bowls and pan

This carrot & tahini soup is a great way to start a dinner party as it is flavourful, light, and healthy. Topped with a scattering of fried chickpeas to serve, this adds a delicious variation in texture.

For more soups that are big on flavour but low on cost, check out our budget soup recipes.

3. Sardines & tomatoes on toast

Sardines, tomatoes and greens on toast next to lemon

Tinned sardines are a cost-effective way to get plenty of heart-healthy oily fish. While this recipe is designed to serve 1, it can easily be multiplied to serve as many guests as you wish. It can be made in only one ten-minute step, making it incredibly quick and easy to whip up.

For more budget-friendly fish options, check out our budget fish recipes.

4. Masala frittata with avocado salsa

Frittata with tomatoes and greens

Our Masala frittata recipe is a spicy twist on a simple frittata using Masala paste, coriander and plump cherry tomatoes. It is an excellent starter as it can be divided between guests. It is also healthy, low in calories and keto-friendly.

For more inspiration on flavourful frittatas, try our frittata recipes.


5. Sausage ragu

Pot of rigattoni with tomato sauce, parmesan and green herbs

This sausage ragu is a hearty and filling main to serve your guests. Fry garlic, chilli and rosemary until fragrant before adding tomatoes and sugar and simmering. Separately fry squeezed sausage meat for around five to seven minutes before adding to the sauce with milk and lemon. This recipe will be a winner, but if there are any leftovers, they can be frozen to reduce waste and taste just as delicious when reheated.

For more pasta-based dishes that don’t break the bank, check out our budget-friendly pasta recipes.

6. Sesame & spring onion stir-fried udon with crispy tofu

Udon noodles and greens in a bowl

This stir-fry is packed with greens and tofu making it vegan friendly, but it’ll be a winner with all your guests. It can be whipped up in only twenty minutes, ideal for a dinner party where you don’t want to miss the action. Plus, it’s healthy and low in calories.

For more sizzling stir-fries, perfect for a speedy midweek meal, check out our stir-fry recipes.

7. Spaghetti puttanesca

Spaghetti in a pan with tomato sauce

This one-pan pasta is ideal for a dinner party as it involves minimal washing up. Cook onions for ten minutes before adding garlic and chilli. Then, stir in the tomatoes, anchovies, olives and capers and simmer uncovered for fifteen minutes. The use of anchovies adds extra depth to the tomato sauce.

For more budget-friendly recipes that involve minimal washing up, check out our storecupboard one-pot recipes.

8. Chorizo & rosemary pearl barley risotto

Pearl barley and chorizo in a bowl

This vibrant dish is a great dinner party main as replacing arborio rice with pearl barley becomes extra filling. The addition of spicy Spanish sausage adds a smoky flavour and gives the dish its beautiful red-brown colour.

For more inspiration on using the versatile grain pearl barley, look at our pearl barley recipes.

9. Lemon & herb chicken traybake with butter beans & potato wedges

Chicken thighs, lemon and beans in a traybake

This traybake is filling, flavourful and fuss-free. Half the ingredients can be found in your storecupboard; potatoes, red onion, garlic, tomatoes, butter beans, and mixed herbs. It also uses chicken thighs, which can be more tender than breast and are a cheaper cut of meat. To top it all off, this dish is high in fibre and gluten-free.

Traybakes are a quick and easy family dinner; for more inspiration on flavour combinations, try our traybake dinner recipes.


10. Coconut & mango sponge

Sponge cake with coconut and mango

This thrifty traybake uses canned mango and Greek-style coconut yogurt, making it exceptionally moist. Serve warm with ice cream or an extra dollop of coconut yogurt for a great end to any dinner party. Leftovers can also be frozen or kept in a tin for up to three days.

If you’re more of a chocolate lover, why not try one of our chocolate traybake recipes?

Like this? Get more budget dinner inspiration….

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One week of budget-friendly dinners
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5-ingredient dinners
Cheap slow cooker recipes

What special ingredients do you use for budget entertaining? Leave a comment below…

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