It’s happened to everyone at one stage or another. You’re faced with something unexpected and you suddenly have to tighten the purse strings until your next payday.
Cutting out things like a night out at the movies or your lunch-break latte is easy enough, but saving money on your “three-square-meals a day” can be a bit trickier.
Don’t head straight for the baked beans and two-minute noodles just yet – we have 10 delicious dinner ideas you can whip up on the cheap to keep you fed and satisfied until payday rolls around…
Fried Rice Without the Price
Rice doesn’t cost a lot, and with a few more extra ingredients and a bit of flavouring added, it doesn’t take much to turn it into a meal. With a bit of culinary creativity with what you’ve got around the kitchen, you can create an excellent meal for not much at all!
Using a base of rice and frozen mixed vegetables, you can quickly whip up a batch of meal portions that will last you the whole week. Anything goes in a fried rice, so you can also fill it out with whatever meat or veggies you already have in the fridge.
Check out these examples and fry away:
No meat but plenty of heat: Vegetarian chilli
Meat can bust a lean budget, so a few good meatless options are great to have in the repertoire. A vegetarian chilli is so delicious and rich, the local carnivores won’t even realise they’ve gone without!
Lentils or beans give the chilli it’s hearty and filling punch, plus throw in some tomato, capsicum, onion, garlic and chilli flakes to ensure a flavourful and spicy kick.
Get started with these great recipes:
Versatile pasta sauce with all your favourites
When it comes to an easy and delicious meal, a simple tomato based pasta sauce is king. Dried pasta is cheap and keeps for a long time so you can stock up on it when it is on special.
You can customise the sauce with any of your favourites; olives, anchovies, greens, vegetables, spices. Then throw in some left-over mince, bacon or sausages for that meaty bite. The pasta sauce is a great all-rounder and very tasty, so you can raid the back of the pantry and throw in anything that works.
Try out these ideas:
Put it between the sheets with cheesy lasagne
With similar ingredients from your pasta sauce you can make a cheap, simple and tasty lasagne. A pack of dry lasagne sheets is pretty inexpensive and it’s easy to load up your baking dish with all your delicious favourites.
Find some cheap mince for a classic lasagne, or for a vegetarian version try layers of eggplant, pumpkin and other roast vegies. These recipes make huge servings and stores great in the fridge or freezer, so you can enjoy it throughout the week.
Have a go at this one:
Creamy dreamy pumpkin soup
A good pumpkin is pretty much all you need to buy for a delicious pumpkin soup. Add some stock cubes, onion and garlic and you get a classic creamy soup.
You can throw in any other veggies you have in the house and play around with the flavours. Carrot, sweet potato, lentils and beans all add different elements, and with the addition of some toasted, buttered bread, you get a rich hearty meal that will really satisfy both your taste buds and your budget!
Mix it up a little with these suggestions:
Bake it ‘til you make it: Pasta bake
Back to the dry pasta – if you’re getting sick of having it with red sauce try a cheesy pasta bake. Just throw your favourite ingredients in an oven dish with pasta and some cheese and you’re ready to go.
It’s easy to make in large batches and is very filling. You can combine what you have around the pantry and fridge into a delicious and easy meal. For a cheap and delicious alternative, tinned tuna is a great filling that will keep you happy until payday.
Throw these in the oven:
Unleash the quiche
If you’ve got a few eggs, a frittata or quiche is a great meal to whip up on the cheap. Throw the eggs and all your spare meat and veg ingredients in an oven dish, and you’re all sorted with a filling and tasty meal!
To create a quiche, simply put these ingredients into your own homemade pastry, or spend a few dollars on a store bought base. It’s a tasty meal to reheat and eat later and keeps well in the fridge.
Try whisking these up:
Curry without the worry
It’s not hard or expensive to whip up a delicious curry. You can cook up some simple ingredients with whatever meat or veggies you can get on the cheap and have a rich, delicious meal.
While curry pastes aren’t exactly expensive from the major chains, many international or specialty supermarkets sell affordable curry mixes for even less and are usually tastier. Starting with a base of rice, you can add lentils, chickpeas, vegetables and meat. As already mentioned, going vegetarian for a bit is a good way to tighten the purse strings, and with a good curry you won’t feel like you’re missing out!.
Try these recipes:
Prepay tuna mornay
Tinned tuna is a cheap and handy way of adding a large amount of protein to your meal and tuna mornay is a tasty comfort food that you can cook up quickly.
Tuna mornay is another recipe where you are likely to have all the ingredients at hand without having to go to the shop. Just throw the tuna into an oven dish, with cheese, breadcrumbs, flour and some milk and you’re away.
Check out these recipes:
Kick a goal with a casserole
Ok this one is kind of cheating…Casserole can really mean anything, but it usually involves creating combinations of food you have lying around to make delicious, easy and large meals.
The beauty is you can see what you have in the pantry and mix your different items to create a cheap and tasty meal. Go classic with a chicken and veggie casserole, or mix it up with vibrant nacho dishes, or a classic mac and cheese.
Here are a few to try:
Have you got your own go-to recipe for when things get a bit tight coming up to payday? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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