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15 low-cost meals to get you through the week

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With budgets stretched for many of us, making healthy, tasty and money-saving meals can be a challenge. Here’s some inspiration for a week of eating that’ll have you feeling good in body and pocket.

Budget-friendly breakfasts

Get your morning off to a great start by alternating these inexpensive, nutrient-dense meals:

• Porridge made with wholegrain oats, milk and a pinch of cinnamon. Serve with seasonal fruit: look for what’s on special or go for frozen berries. Add a little homemade yoghurt.

• Eggs on wholegrain toast. Scramble with a little milk for a meal in minutes, or boil and serve with toast soldiers. Add leftover green vegetables for a nutrition boost.

Low-cost lunches

Plan for at least two lunches of leftovers in your week by making extra of the dinners below. Then add in some of these budget-boosting ideas (add a piece of fruit on the side):

Pumpkin soup garnished with tasty cheese on toast
• Lentil salad made with leftover roast vegetables and a small can of tuna. Dress with mayonnaise and yoghurt mix, or a vinaigrette-style homemade dressing
• Spicy Mexican beans on an oven-baked kumara (sweet potato), garnished with cheese and plain yoghurt
Tuna potato salad
• Pasta salad with vegetables and leftover chicken (try this one and use what you have on hand)
Wrap or sandwich with peanut butter, salad and cheese
• Frittatas – make ahead in a muffin pan and add vegetables like broccoli, spring onion and herbs. Try this one for inspiration.

Cheap dinner ideas

Experiment with different whole grains and meat-free meals to make your week of dinners great for you and for your bank account. You can make meat go further by making clever use of powerhouse pulses, too. Try these ideas for starters:
Satay tofu curry adapted to use in-season, inexpensive vegetables. Make an extra serving for leftovers for lunch.
• Make your favourite Bolognese sauce for pasta but add a can of lentils to the mix. It’ll taste great, have a fibre boost and go further, so you can have leftovers for lunch or even another meal.
• Make the most of winter vegetables by cooking up a big pot of tasty vegetable soup. Include beans, chickpeas and/or grains for a complete meal in a bowl. These kinds of soups taste even better the next day, too. Try this Moroccan quinoa and vege soup for inspiration; you could use barley or rice in place of quinoa for a low-cost swap.  This vegetable barley soup is a hug in a bowl, too.
• Make eggs the base of a tasty and low-cost dinner by baking eggs in a spicy, tomato-based stew. You could use this recipe as a guide and use spices you have on hand in place of harissa to vary the flavour. Try cumin and paprika for a Mexi-style blend, or curry powder and chilli for a spicy curry version.
• Fritters are a family favourite and can be made with almost anything! Try these pumpkin and corn fritters with herby hummus.  But let your imagination lead you… almost anything you can grate can be fritter fodder.
• Make an end-of-the-week sweep of the fridge and put it all together in a Friday (or Sunday) fried rice. Use leftover cooked brown rice from earlier in the week, if you have it, or cook and cool some and add to a pan in which you’ve stir-fried chopped raw and leftover vegetables, meat, tofu and egg. Add spices to your taste and a dash of soy and chilli sauce if you like. Don’t be limited to rice; you can make fried barley, buckwheat, quinoa or other grains.

First published: Jul 2020

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