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7 Quick Meals You Can Make on a Budget

By Michael Crump | 05 January 2015

You’re sitting at your desk, studying hard, when – suddenly – your stomach starts to rumble. You need a quick fix solution so you can keep working without feeling hungry, but eating out can be so expensive. On average, a take-out meal in Australia costs around $10. This may not seem like much, but multiplied over a week’s worth of lunches and dinners and, well, the cost certainly adds up.

But you don’t need to worry! If you take the money you would have spent on take-out or cheap, unhealthy packet noodles to the supermarket, you’ll be amazed at what those dollars can buy you.

The best thing about Australian cooking is that we’re constantly inspired by cuisines from all around the world. Sure, on a budget, you may not be able to make a pizza as fresh as one from Naples or a green curry as authentic as one you might eat in Thailand. But the flavours and tastes from abroad can be incorporated into your home cooking. Fresh vegetables and wholesome flavours await your nutritional requirements in the following budget-friendly recipes for quick meals that will change the way you look at cooking.


This Asian-inspired option for quick cooking is an absolute gem. There is no hard rule with stir fry, so you can essentially put anything in there. Those carrots that have been sitting there too long or the squash that was discounted in the supermarket will both work perfectly in this dish.

Buy a sauce to flavour up your stir fry, or save even more money by creating your own. To make a your own satay sauce, just grab some peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce and combine the three together. Toss it in the wok while the heat is still on and your vegetables will soak up all the inspired flavours. This meal can be vegetarian-friendly with some tofu, or add some chicken or pork for extra protein. Next, add in some crunchy noodles or egg noodles for that extra texture and taste. Delicious!

Recipes to Try:

Fried Rice

Rice is an absolute staple in the broke student’s pantry, so cook it up with some flavour and nutrients. As with stir-fry, you can use almost any vegetable here. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, beans, capsicum… they all go in nicely! Crack an egg over the vegetables while cooking and then flavour it with soy sauce before eating – in no time, you’ll be sitting down and devouring this great meal.

Recipes to Try:


Going with rice again, risotto is a perfect meal, especially when the weather is getting a little chilly. Cooking risotto-style rice takes a little longer than the basic absorption method, but the results are worth the effort. A delicious pumpkin or potato risotto with some chickpeas, beans or meat for added protein is a cheap and healthy meal to cook on any budget.

Recipes to Try:


What can’t you do with pasta? There are so many options here to suit any palette. Start by creating a basic pasta sauce that will be cheaper – and healthier – than whatever you could pour out a tin from the supermarket shelf. Take a carrot, a capsicum, a zucchini, two tomatoes and some lentils (or minced meat) and cook them up together in a stock pot.

While you’re chopping your vegetables, boil up the water for the pasta. Once the vegetables are simmering nicely, add some tomato sauce for extra flavour. Check the pasta, toss it all together, and voila… that’s one deliciously cheap meal you’ve just made!

Recipes to Try:

Vegetable Curry

Thanks to India, we have the secret to one of the best meals around. A delicious curry sauce is quick and easy to make and can be tossed over most vegetables and meats to create a meal of Masterchef quality. Some coconut milk is the key here. Toss in some curry powder, or cumin, paprika and salt, and let it boil together.

The beauty of this dish is that you can adapt the strength of the flavours to your own preferences. You won’t have to risk having your nose dripping like a tap with curry space you can’t handle if you don’t want to!

Recipes to Try:

Egg Salad

A salad can seem totally boring and unappealing, but don’t let that deter you. A hard-boiled egg can go a long way in dressing up a salad and making a real meal out of it. With some mayonnaise or Dijon mustard, you’ll really have a well-dressed salad.

So cut up some cheese, tear off some lettuce leaves and chop a tomato into a bowl. Add some mixed beans or cooked chicken to bulk it up and you’re all set for a quick and easy meal.

Recipes to Try:


The beauty of soup is that you can freeze your leftovers, so one cooking session can mean a week’s worth of meals if you play your cards right.

Tomato soup, potato and leek soup, pumpkin soup, or mixed vegetable soup – there are so many options here. Flavour up any soup with some mixed herbs, garlic and onions, and then mix it altogether with a blender (or use a masher by hand if you’re really living on a budget). Toast some bread and your belly will be filled up in affordable style.

Recipes to Try:

Don’t let your budget leave you worried about what you’re going to eat tomorrow night. Save time, money, and unnecessary stress with these great recipes that’ll leave you and your bank account feeling full.

Do you have another favorite budget recipe to share? Let us know!


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