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What is your cheapest (but still nourishing) COOKED dinner?

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#1 Wineandchocolate

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:11 PM

Like most families, we're on a really tight budget and I'm always on the lookout for cheap, nourishing meals for dinner.  I realise there are always options like cheese on toast, egg-based dishes like omelettes, etc. that are very cheap, but I guess I'm looking for more 'traditional' dinners.  'Cooking' rather than just 'assembling' if you know what I mean biggrin.gif

One of my cheapest is one I mentioned in another thread, and basically consists of all our left-over veggies at the end of the week, cooked up with some dry herbs and spices, a bottle of passatta, and then all blended to make a healthy pasta sauce.  Combined with ALDI spaghetti, the whole thing costs about $5 for 4 people.

So... please share your suggestions original.gif

#2 Cherish

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:17 PM

Soup of any description

#3 Pop-to-the-shops

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:17 PM

My kids like chicken drumsticks with rice. I think they are cheap when you buy a big pack.

We do a homemade honey soy marinade.

Maybe add a few carrots and corn on the cob.

#4 JBH

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:19 PM

I like red lentils cooked with some water, some spices (usually cumin and turmeric), some garlic, a box of frozen spinach, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a couple of diced potatoes. Sometimes I add frozen peas or cubed pumpkin. At the end, add some salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and, if you have it, some garam masala and leave to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. It's easy and delicious, cheap is an extra benefit.

Soups are always good. Pumpkin soup is good with some curry spices and cocunut milk for something more interesting.

I often make casseroles, but serve them as topping for baked potatoes, so we eat less meat.

#5 MGB

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:21 PM

Impossible pie-
3/4 cup plain flour
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
4 oz butter
3/4 cup grated cheese

Add any veggies you like, we use - spinach leaves, carrots, mushrooms, capsicum, shallots- grated finely. Then we add dry herbs, Rosemary, Thyme and Basil.

Mix together and put into greased dish. Bake for around an hour and serve with whatever you like.

Only my husband and I eat this so we often get 2 nights out of it.

Edited by Mrs Mel, 24 November 2012 - 08:22 PM.

#6 gina70

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:22 PM

I love this challenge of using 1 chicken breast in so many ways:  http://www.destitutegourmet.com/one-chicken-breast-challenge

#7 ChunkyChook

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:22 PM

Tray of snags, tin of tomatoes, onion and mash.

Cook the snags, fry off the onion, cut up the snags, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, simmer for a bit and serve with mash. And frozen peas, corn, carrot on the side to make it a bit healthier.

#8 MoonPie

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:23 PM

I've just made a pasta bake. Pasta, tinned tomatoes, all the veggies from the bottom of the crisper, mince if I've got it, three bean mix or refried beans, cheese, garlic, salt pepper etc etc etc. Seems likes lots of work (cook pasta, brown meat etc) but I found that I had the dishes done by the time the bake was done.

Made enough for 3 meals original.gif

#9 Lucygoosey1

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:23 PM

The other day we had pulled pork.  You put a pork shoulder chop in the slow cooker with at least salt & pepper but I added chicken stock and American BBQ sauce. Then sort of mash it with a fork.  It was $3 for the large chop. Then I bought a baguette from woolies for $1.  I served it with a garden salad.  One chop served two adults and two toddlers.

#10 Lagom

Posted 24 November 2012 - 08:39 PM

Chicken noodle soup made with drumsticks, cheap veg and homemade noodles.
Fried rice
Rice paper rolls
Corn and potato chowder
chilli con carne made with beans

#11 ms flib

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:05 PM

Red lentil dahl with chopped tomato on top with rice, roast potato and greens (spinach leaves or cooked green beans or cooked silverbeet etc)

Big salad based on roast or boiled potato and chick peas. You can add any other roast vegie (onion, carrots, sweet potato etc) and or fresh tomato, capsicum, beans, spinach leaves. YUM!
(you can boil a huge batch of chickpeas and freeze. Dried are cheaper)

Edited to add

Refried Mexican beans (kidney beans, onion, garlic, tomato, chili) in tacos, wraps,  with corn chip with lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream OR on toast with cheese (my kids love this and it's still very nutritious) I make a huge pot of beans soaked from dried and then freeze in meal sized containers so they're ready to go.

These are all vegie meals and cheaper than buying meat but still very nutritious!

Edited by ms flib, 24 November 2012 - 09:10 PM.

#12 monkeys mum

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:23 PM

I have a few that I do that I class as cheap as I normally only buy meat when it is on special. I pay $8 for Chicken breast, $1.99 for Chicken drumstick, $2.29 for marinated chicken drum stick, and Mince I normally buy the premium one for $5 for a kilo as it seems to always be reduced when I'm shopping.

I'll get a kilo of mince $5, ten or so mushrooms roughly $2 ($6 a kilo tops), two tins of diced tomatoes $1.50, a chunk of sweet potato $2, three or four carrots $1 for a kilo, pasta $1, and potatoes $2, so total $14.50. Oh also garlic, three onions $1, and some herbs.

From that I make three dishes, the mince gets cooked, add mushrooms, garlic, onions fry or a few minutes, then add the rest of the veg grated, add the tinned tomatoes and some tomato paste if needed and simmer on low. Cook the pasta, and the potatoes seperately. Separate mince into three, put two lots into oven dishes, divide pasta in half and put in with the mince, stir through and put in fridge/freezer for another night. The left over mince add a bit of gravy powder and water if needed, whack in a oven dish top with the mashed potato and whack in the oven for 5-10minutes then serve. You could do cauliflower with the potato too. With the pasta bakes I pull them out of the freezer to defraost then top with some grated cheese and cook in the oven for about half an hour. Or I do then into serving sizes and freeze. It's not too bad, I tend to overload it with veg, the kids love my pasta bake.

Another one I do that is cheap but also uses one dish is what my kids call Mac n cheese. Its pretty easy to make and is another hit in our house. You need flour, milk, water, pasta, cheese, veg, bacon. mix flour and milk, add water, and any herbs or seasoning you like, we add garlic, we love garlic! Our last one had grated mushroom, sweet potato, carrot, roughly chopped broccoli and the last bit of cauliflower chopped. make sure it is all covered in liquid and cook in the oven for half an hour, stir through some grated cheese and cook for about ten minutes then serve. You could use tinned tuna too.Or cook it on the stove by cooking the veg with the pasta, then in another pot add some butter, the mushrooms and garlic, then remove the mushrooms and garlic and add flour to the butter then remove from the heat and add milk slowly, then water, return to heat and stir till it boils, add grated cheese, once that has melted add the pasta and veg, and a tin of tuna or two. You can use more milk but there's a limit to how much milk I can stomach so I keep it to a minimum. I am sure there are more precise recipes out there but I just wing it every time and it turns out fine.

We do a lot of pasta dishes as DS2 will only eat soft food.

Chicken drumsticks we serve with veg, or use them to do a one pot roast, basically add the veg, and drumsticks a little oil and roast.

Chicken breast you can do all sorts with, chicken and veg soup, curry with lentils and veg served with rice, oven baked chicken shredded for wraps or salad, cut up and crumbed for chicken burgers with salad.

I love cheap meals, but I also like ones that are easy or quick to do, morning sickness and a dp that works afternoons means lately I have been looking for more meals that can be either frozen so can be cooked in bulk or don't take much to prepare.

#13 IShallWearMidnight

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:23 PM

Easy Mince:
200g of mince ($2)
1 cup of raw rice (50c)
500g of frozen veg ($2)

bbq and Worcestershire sauce, HB gravy powder to thicken
Serves 4 easily (especially nice on a slice of toast!)

That was my bulk cook meal when I was in uni, I froze portions and the other 3 nights of the week was either soup and bread, or pasta (200g mince ($2), 500g pasta (50c), tinned tomatoes (70c) 500g of frozen veg ($2).

#14 Funnington

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:45 PM

I don't particularly like sausages, cheap mince, chicken drumsticks so our frugal meals tend to be things that can be spread across two nights.  

There's a myth about buying a roast because they're expensive (lamb, beef, pork).  A large roast can be used for at least two meals and enough cold meat for sandwiches - at least one day.  For example, I large piece of roast beef can be:

- A traditional roast dinner one night.  Roast potatoes, yorkshire puddings, steamed vegetables.  The yorkshire puddings (milk, egg & flour) really bulk this dish up.

- A shepherds pie using the left over beef.  Dice, fry with onion, add finely chopped carrot, sweet potato and simmer with gravy.  Top with mashed potato and grated cheese, serve with steamed veg.  Again, you can bulk it up using tonnes of chopped vegetables.

- Or, if you don't particularly like shepherd's pie, you can make a beef curry.

- Save enough slices for sandwiches or wraps the next day.

- One of my favourite things to have with leftover roast beef is, make extra yorkshire puddings (made in a muffin tray).  Sandwich 2 yorkshires with thinly sliced beef in between and leftover gravy - viola, pommy sanga.  Yum.

I think of budget meals as something beyond one dish.  Things like roast pork, lamb, corned beef can be stretched across a couple of nights with lunch for one day.

Edited by Funnington, 24 November 2012 - 09:46 PM.

#15 MrsShine

Posted 24 November 2012 - 09:59 PM

My aunt taught me a great, easy meal which is really hearty:

Chicken drumsticks or cheap cut of chicken like thighs - onion and a tin of cream of mushroom soup (Campbell's I think) served with mash or rice. Probably more of a winter dish, but literally fry off the onion (add garlic if u like) add chicken until browned and lastly add the soup, you may need to add a bit of extra water too to thin down. I like to add chopped celery, carrot and lots of crack pepper and parsley too if you want to make it more fancy.

My other cheap, tinned failsafe meal (which may not fit the brief?) whic I generally have all nfredients in fan bar fresh basil is tomato, basil & cannelini bean soup:

Saute 1 onion with some garlic in olive oil, add one tin of cannelini beans, season with salt & pepper, simmer 5 mins, add 2-3 tins of tomatoes, simmer on med heat a while longer or until it begins to bubble.

Lastly; roughly tear off basil leaves (approx half bunch) and add either a sml tin of light & creamy condensed milk, or cream, or sour cream/yoghurt and then blend.

It's honestly the most delicious thick, yummy tomato soup ever and everyone's know adores it! original.gif

#16 imamumto3

Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:11 PM

QUOTE (MrsShine @ 24/11/2012, 10:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My aunt taught me a great, easy meal which is really hearty:

Chicken drumsticks or cheap cut of chicken like thighs - onion and a tin of cream of mushroom soup (Campbell's I think) served with mash or rice. Probably more of a winter dish, but literally fry off the onion (add garlic if u like) add chicken until browned and lastly add the soup, you may need to add a bit of extra water too to thin down. I like to add chopped celery, carrot and lots of crack pepper and parsley too if you want to make it more fancy.

i do something very similar to this.  I use either mushroom or asparagus soup, add garlic, onions, carrot, celery or peas and tinned corn kernels.  i also add rosemary and thyme from the garden and a dash of cooking sherry if I have it.

i have even made it for guests.  everyone loves it

#17 cinderellainsydney

Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:18 PM

Make your own ravioli for 6 people by using mince of your choice. I like pork.
250g of pork mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
spices of your choice eg salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, oregano etc
1 cup of water - must be cold

600g flour
1 pinch of salt
1 egg

make the dough by mixing the egg and cup of water into sieved flour in a bowl until its elastic and homogeneous in consistency and set aside for 30-40min in the fridge, covered by wet towel/ plastic film etc.

Meantime mix well the mince with garlic, onion, carrot, herbs/salt/pepper of your choice.

Get the dough out, roll it out so it's pretty thin and use a glass/cup/cookie cutter to make circles 4-5cm in diameter. Place the filling (1 teaspoon) in the middle, close the parcel up (a bit of water on the fingertips helps the joining process), bring over the ends so they meet and twist them together.

Place each one on a tray with a bit of flour so they don't stick and place in freezer. You can keep them there for 3-6 months, and they make a great quick meal.

When frozen, these can be cooked in water/chicken stock with a bay leaf for 6 min.

Very filling! I personally like them drizzled with white vinegar.

#18 Silver Girl

Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:22 PM

Pizza with toppings like grated carrot, onion, roast potatoes and pumpkin, corn from the cob, grated zucchini, capsicum, tomatoes, spinach leaves,  broccoli, etc - whatever's in season. I use flat bread as bases, but you can make your own scone dough base instead which would be cheaper.

#19 Chalkie

Posted 25 November 2012 - 06:08 AM

A whole roast chicken is a pretty good budget meal. I get two meals out of one chicken  - roast and veges, then something else using the leftover meat or sometimes sandwiches for a few days. Then I use the carcass for stock and make soup.

Dhal is also a favourite here.

#20 SuboptimallyPooks

Posted 25 November 2012 - 07:38 AM

Chicken casserole

Cheap chicken cuts, diced
Cream of chicken soup
Mixed frozen veg
Pasta of any description

Throw in casserole dish and bake.


Cheap mince
Zucchini (grated)
Carrot (grated)
A bit of tomato paste or herbs or whatever you've got
An egg

Mix it all together and form into meatballs. Place in a casserole dish and bake.

You can divide into meal sizes then freeze accordingly. These are great squashed in a sandwich, over pasta with some cheap past sauce, with some mashed potato with gravy, or whatever.

Fish ball curry

You can buy all of this very cheap at Asian grocery stores
Fish balls
Egg noodles
Frozen mixed/ fresh Asian veg
Coconut milk
Spoon of curry powder of your choice

Throw in frying pan or wok. Yay!

Edited by Pooks_, 25 November 2012 - 07:38 AM.

#21 Wineandchocolate

Posted 25 November 2012 - 10:56 AM

Thanks for some great ideas original.gif

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