Five Nutritious Budget Recipes to Help You to Payday

When you’re living on a starter salary and you’re still getting used to budgeting for rent, electricity and hopefully a few nights out a month, then things tend to get tough toward payday. Although you can lay low on the nights out, you can’t really skip out on meals.

These five meals are super easy to make, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and they’re nutritious enough to fill you up. What’s more, if you’re only cooking for one or two people, then these meals will leave enough to take leftovers to work. Because buying lunch at that cute little coffee shop down the road from your office is definitely not helping your budget either.

1. Shepard’s Pie

You’ll need:

500g of ground beef

4 potatoes

1 cup of beef stock

1 onion

Cooking oil

A sprinkle of all-purpose flower



Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Peel and chop the potatoes and boil in water with a pinch of salt until soft. Drain water and mash potatoes adding salt to taste.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chopped onion until it’s soft. Add the ground beef and fry for a minute or two on a high heat before adding the cup of stock and bringing the temperature down to medium. Let the ground beef cook for about 10 minutes before adding a bit of all-purpose flower to thicken the sauce slightly. 

In a greased casserole, scoop the ground beef first and add the mashed potatoes on top. Put in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the pie is browned.


2. Basil tomato couscous (with optional chicken)*

You’ll need: 

1 cup of couscous

5-8 fresh basil leaves

200g cherry tomatoes


If you’re adding chicken:

3-4 skinned chicken breasts

Salt and pepper


Heat butter in a pan and fry the halved tomatoes face down for 3-4 minutes, adding the chopped basil halfway through. Add one cup of couscous and one cup of boiling water and take the pan off the heat. Mix together and let it stand for a few minutes until the couscous is cooked/water is dissolved.

Adding chicken:

Fry the chopped up chicken breasts adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the couscous. 

*This dish can be served hot or cold.


3. Creamy mushroom pasta (with optional bacon)

You’ll need:

500g pasta of your choice

1 chopped onion

300g chopped mushrooms

1 packet mushroom soup

½ cup cream

Olive oil


Fry chopped onion until soft and add chopped mushrooms, frying until golden brown. Add the soup and cream (with a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce if you have some in the house). Lower the heat and cook everything for a minute or two. 

Cook pasta according to the packet instructions and add the mushroom mixture.

Adding bacon:

Fry the chopped bacon with the onions from the beginning of the mushroom mixture.


4. Baked chicken with potato and butternut

You’ll need:

As many pieces of chicken as you want or can afford - drumsticks/thighs/breasts

2 potatoes

2 sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon of dried sage and/or rosemary (optional)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (optional)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius

Rub the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and other spices/garlic. Place them, skin side up, in a greased roasting dish and arrange the potatoes and sweet potatoes around them, sprinkling these with salt and pepper as well.

Cook for 30 minutes and lower the heat to 180 degrees before cooking for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the liquid of the chicken (when poked with a sharp knife) runs clear – not pink – and the potatoes and sweet potatoes are cooked through.


5. Easy homemade burgers (and optional homemade fries)

You’ll need:

500g – 700g of ground beef

2 eggs

Bread rolls

1 cup of breadcrumbs (you can just crumb up one or two bread rolls too)

Any toppings or sauces that you have in the house

Cooking oil

4 potatoes for the fries


Combine the ground beef, whisked eggs and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl and form 3-4cm patties. Grill in a pan with a little bit of oil until pink on the inside. Put all your toppings, sauces and patty on a roll.

Making fries:

Cut potatoes in thin slices and fry in a pan with oil or bake open on a greased pan at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes or until crispy.

So, there you have it. 5 Simple, cheap and filling dishes to keep you going until payday!


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