10 ingredients for the budget-conscious cook
Use these inexpensive ingredients to create satisfying and delicious meals for the family, while keeping your budget in check.
Eat well with these budget-friendly meals that are light on the wallet; they're based on cost-effective ingredients and make great dinners for the family or flat.
A few tips to keep in mind when cooking on a budget:
- Have a well-stocked pantry with a good selection of pantry staples like rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, beans, pulses.
- Always have flavour adders or enhancers on hand such as ginger, garlic, onion, herbs (fresh or dried), spices, condiments, seasonings and sauces.
- Frozen vegetables such as peas, spinach and beans are good to have in the freezer, as are meats like mince, sausages and chicken.
- Buy produce that's local and in season ensures you're getting the best quality, and quite often, the best price. Get creative with recipes by substituting ingredients for in-season alternatives.
As a nourishing and filling ingredient for savoury dishes, lentils are great for feeding the family. They're a good source of protein and with these tasty lentil recipes, you'll be able to create deliciously satisfying meals. Read Peter Gordon's article, Budget-beating lentils here.
- Rosti with lentils, spinach and yoghurt
- Sausage and lentil hotpot
- Kumara, lentil and coconut soup
- Red lentil dahl, spiced chicken meatballs and roast parsnips
For more lentil recipes, go to our Lentil collection.
Another humble vegetable makes our list - the pumpkin is nutrient-rich with a good dose of vitamin A, C and E and antioxidants such as lutein, xanthin and carotenes. Available year-round in New Zealand, the pumpkin comes in a number of varieties including butternut and crown and it's texture, colour and flavour lends itself nicely to roasts, soups, risottos, stews and curries.
- Pumpkin pizza
- Pumpkin and green curry soup
- Curried lentil and pumpkin pasties
- Whole stuffed pumpkin with wild mushroom risotto
Like the potato, kumara is considered to be a good ingredient for the budget-conscious cook. As a carbohydrate-rich vegetable, the kumara a good source of energy and is rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, niacin and potassium, and dietary fibre. Cooks enjoy cooking with kumara because of its sweet flavour and like the potato, its ability to be incorporated into many main or side dishes such as pies, soups, salads and hashes.
Cruciferous vegetables: Cabbage & cauliflower
The cruciferous family of vegetables are known for their health-giving properties - they're high in minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals, elevating them to a superfood status. Cabbage and cauliflower are two economical varieties and their subtle sweet flavours means they can be enjoyed raw or cooked.
- Egg, potato and cauliflower curry
- Fusili with roasted cauliflower and anchovies
- Cauliflower fritters wtih garlic yoghurt
- Coleslaw with chicken and Vietnamese mint
- Five spice pork mince
- Miso fresh bowl
Pasta is an essential pantry staple because it's cheap, lasts a long time, is quick and easy to cook and so versatile that it can be combined with most ingredients from meat, chicken and fish to almost any vegetable you have. With its countless shapes and forms (think spaghetti, fettucini, orzo, lasagne, spirals, penne), it's little surprise that the humble pasta is one of our favourite ingredients.
- Classic tomato spaghetti
- Lamb moussake pasta bake
- Beef, spinach and pasta bake
- Saucy vegetable lasagne
For more pasta recipes, go to our Pasta collection.
Rice is a popular starch that is used all over the world as an accompaniment to stir fries, stews and curries, or as a base for hearty dishes such as risottos, fried rice or paella. Eventhough it is slightly more expensive, brown rice is gaining popularity as a more nutritious alternative to white rice. To cut costs, buy rice in bulk - rice has a good shelf life, and can last even longer if stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Oven-baked mushroom risotto
- Baked shiitake mushroom and baby spinach risotto
- Chicken, mushroom and lemon risotto
- Fried rice with eggs, ginger and lap cheong
- Chicken paella
- Chunky vegetable paella
Noodles are great carriers of flavours and, like rice, they're the base of many good Asian dishes. Fresh noodles can last a week or two in the fridge. Dried noodles on the other hand have a very long shelf-life which makes them ideal pantry staples for the budget-conscious cook.
- Egg noodle with pork and green beans
- Ginger beef and noodle soup
- Beef and flat noodle stir fry
- Chicken, mushroom and spring onion miso udon soup
Investing in good-quality sausages is worth it. The superiority quality of meat will deliver good protein, and it imparts delicious savoury flavours to any dish whether you use it whole, sliced up or just the meat filling. Here are ways to create economical meals with beef, lamb or pork sausages.
- Sausage bake with pesto
- Sausage pie
- Kumara and sausage fritters
- Matakana pumpkin and sausage lasagne
For more sausage recipes, go to our Sausage collection.
Tuna is a lean and healthy protein to incorporate into meals, and the canned version beats its fresh counterpart on cost and shelf life.
- Asian-style tuna omelette
- Tuna fish pies with kumara topping
- Tuna and potato bake
- Pasta with tuna and broccoli
Mince is an affordable and versatile ingredient that can be used for numerous dishes from stir-fries, meatballs and pies through to bakes and burgers. It's handy to have mince stashed away in the freezer to cater for times when a family meal needs to be created with minimal time and effort.
- Bun cha barbecued pork meatballs with rice noodles
- Cheesy beef and baked bean cottage pie
- Lamb burgers
- Chilli con carne
For more mince recipes, go to our Mince collection.