Budget Recipes and Cheap Cooking Ideas

Many of these recipes are ones my mother cooked for our family when I was young. We had a large joint family- three of his, two of hers and two of theirs so the grocery budget was always stretched to the limit. Many of them went on to being favourite foods I cooked for my kids, especially when I was studying at university and on a tight food budget again. All of these recipes are in our submitted recipes section of Aussie Cooking.

Many people with tight grocery budgets find it is often easier to eat cheap frozen foods like generic brand chicken nuggets, fish fingers etc but you can make good nutritious meals for the family on a budget too. Some tips that may help:

  • Most supermarkets have a time of day they mark down meat and bakery items. These foods usually have a day or two left on the use-by date and can be frozen too. You can buy a weeks worth of meat like this if you know when to shop. Usually the best time is late afternoon / early evening or first thing in the morning.
  • Don’t be afraid to try generic brands, most are just as good as popular brands and so much cheaper. You will learn fast which ones are okay. Because I am used to shopping this way I still buy them even when I can afford better. Particularly with staples like flour, rice and pasta you can rarely tell the difference.
  • If you have the money and space to buy in bulk then do it. Same goes for when something is a good special, as long as it is something you normally buy.
  • If you are on a budget because you are out of work then you could do more cooking in your spare time. Cakes and biscuits are cheaper home made most of the time. There are so many lunch box snacks that would be cheaper and healthier if you made them yourself.
  • Try to shop only once a week and buy everything. Even milk usually has an expiry date of a week or more and bread can be frozen. This prevents buying extra when you go to get milk and bread. If you can organise shopping fortnightly or monthly even better! We once changed to fortnightly shops and saved a lot of money.
  • The cuts of meat which go well being stewed or slow cooked are often cheaper.
  • Frozen veges are aften cheaper than fresh and are apparently as healthy because they frozen at optimum freshness.
  • For quite some time, at our supermarket, turkey mince has been cheaper than beef. We often use it many recipes that use beef mince. The added bonus is it is much lower in fat.
  • Having some meals without meat each week can help save money and make for some variety. Here are a few vegetarian recipes.

Budget meals for dinner

Cheap Beef dinners

meat loafBeef Stew: This would be nice with dumplings in it or mashed potato. Stews like this are a great way to use cheaper meat cuts.

Chilli Con Carne: Good served with rice if you need to stretch it farther. This recipe uses fresh tomatoes but I often used generic tinned tomatoes.

Crock Pot Meatloaf: This is a family favourite, especially in winter. Some veges on the side would round it out well.

Curried beef: Again a good way to use cheap beef cuts and I would add more veges or serve with it.

Curried Sausages: This was a weekly meal as a kid. Back then sausages and mince were incredibly cheaper than any meat. They are still cheaper but not as much. I have never been able to work out why people buy a packet mix for this.. its very easy.

Hearty Beef Noodle Casserole: One of my husbands favourite easy meals to cook is pasta bake much like this but with tomato soup.

Oxtail Stew: I love meals like this and lamb shanks where the meat just falls off the bone. I do recipes like this in the crock pot usually and would leave this on low for 6 hours with less water.

Porcupine Meat Balls: Great with mashed potato and veges.

Rissoles: Eat in buns with salad or with mashed potato and veges.

Savoury Mince: This was a weekly meal for many years in our house and as a child. Although my Mum’s recipe was a little different, this one was from my mother-in-law and I think she called it spanish beef.

Shepherd’s Pie: Great served with some veges like peas and maybe broccoli or what-have-you.

Slow Cooker Beef and Potatoes: A mince crockpot recipe.

Tasty Beef Stew: Another beef stew.

Many of the other beef recipes are great for budget cooking too.

Cheap chicken recipes

Apricot ChickenApricot Chicken: I have put sweet potato in this and it was great. You can also add a can of apricot halves. We prefer this recipe to the packet ones and it’s cheaper.

Chicken and Celery Casserole: This recipes uses thigh fillets, which are a fair bit cheaper than breast.

Chicken Casserole: This uses a whole chicken boiled which can be cheap depending on where you get it. Older chickens are good for boiling.

Chicken and Almond Mornay: Also using a boiler chicken.

Chicken Pot Roast: Again a whole chicken is cheaper than breast.

Oven Fried Crispy Chicken: Chicken pieces are cheap as well.

Budget lamb recipes

Devilled Wine Chops: Lamb neck chops are one of the cheaper cuts of meat that are best cooked slowly for a longer time.

Lamb and Bacon Casserole: Bacon pieces are usually cheap but fatty. You could also buy a small amount of better bacon and chop it up.

May Ross’s Lamb Shanks: Lamb shanks are one of my favourite meats to cook. I usually do them in the slow cooker with red wine.

Low cost tuna recipes

Lunchtime Kedgeree: A quick and tasty fish dish from india.

Tuna and Rice Slice: This is nice hot as a dinner or cooled down for a picnic or lunch box.

Tuna Mornay: One of my favourite cheap and easy meals.

Tuna noodle casserole: Great hot or cold as leftovers.

Cheap Dessert Recipes

Apple CrumbleApple Crumble: Yummy! Sometimes tinned apples will be cheaper and of course easier.

Bread and Butter Custard: This reminds me of my childhood.

Coconut Rice: My daughter went through a stage of making this every day for an after school snack and even ate it for breakfast.

Golden syrup dumplings: Cheap easy, filling and naughty (just as desserts should be!)

Self Saucing Chocolate Pudding: My husbands favourite. This is quite easy and yummier than the packet ones.

Cheap convenience food substitutes

Some convenience foods people buy that are easy and cheap to make yourself:

Pancake mixture: Why anyone buys that pancake mix in a bottle is beyond me. Try this easy pancake recipe.

Pikelets: These are very simple and nicer made at home than the ones in a packet.

Muffins: There plenty of muffin recipes here to try and they are simple to make.

Pizza bases: Yes it takes a little time but is still easy.

Soups: Many soups are easy to make and take little time. They can usually be frozen too.

Articles about cooking on a budget:

Once-A-Month Cooking
Cook Ahead to Save Time and Money

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