As a student or recent graduate, cooking can be not only a nightmare but an expensive one, too. With some of us leaving home with next to no cooking experience, even frying an egg or making cheese on toast can be tricky. But never fear, here are 8 recipes of varying difficulty that should be incredibly affordable so long as you shop wisely.
1. Egg and Avocado Feta Smash
The easiest on the list, it’s impossible to mess this dish up. Rather than poached eggs, boil them for 7 minutes (6 if you want the yolk nice and runny). While the eggs are boiling, mash half an avocado with a fork onto a small flat plate and spread it onto some toast. Remember to plunge the egg into cold water to stop the cooking process before peeling and cut it into pieces over the avocado. Once you’ve done that if you like dairy you can crumble over some feta cheese, add a teaspoon of olive oil over it all. If you’re feeling fancy, tear up a few mint leaves and sprinkle over the top. Unless you forget about the egg or burn your toast, this dish is foolproof.
2. 10 Minute Banana Pancakes
Another easy and affordable breakfast, banana pancakes will sweeten your morning and give you one of your five a day. With only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make and only takes a few minutes. Here’s a recipe I found that involves a just a smoothie blender and a frying pan!
3. Meal Prep Pasta Lunch
Here’s a little something that will have you sorted for lunch all week. Meal prep may seem like something reserved for those in strict workout and diet plans but it happens to be a brilliant money saving technique. Pre-portioned, pre-cooked and stored away in a fridge or freezer, you only need to put it in the microwave or eat it cool all through the week. Boiling pasta (any kind you like) for 10 minutes, put a sieve or colander over the top and steam a good handful of spinach. While all of that is cooking, chop up any fresh fruits such as tomatoes and avocado. Once the pasta is done, drain the pasta, portion everything into reseal-able containers and leave to cool. You can even come up with your own pasta sauce (I always recommend, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little honey and a pinch of chilli powder).
4. Roasted Cauli-Broc Bowl
This one is a more experimental lunch, but if you’re keen on clean eating, this is a wonderful vegan and gluten-free recipe to try. To keep things cheap and cheerful, leave out the walnuts and replace the quinoa with rice or buckwheat.
5. 15 Minute Pad Thai
This one’s my favourite of all the affordable recipes. It’s one of Thailand’s most popular noodle dishes and is customisable so you can put in all your favourite proteins and veggies. Chop up all your veggies beforehand and throw them into a hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil. While this is cooking, soak some noodles in boiled water for a few minutes. Crack an egg or two into the pan and stir quickly to lightly scramble and once you’ve drained the noodles, add them to the pan and turn off the heat. You can either make your own Pad Thai sauce or buy a mini sauce packet sold in most supermarkets. Sprinkle over some crushed cashews and enjoy!
Quick tip: use a potato peeler to create thin carrot strips to pick up with your noodles.
6. Seafood Taco Bowl
This dish doesn’t require much cooking at all and it’s healthy. It’s a mish-mash of delicious spicy seafood, mango salsa and a yummy coleslaw, the latter of which you can make much earlier on in the day. Use frozen prawns and whole mangoes rather than sliced from your local supermarket to save money. Check out this video on how to make the perfect seafood taco bowl.
7. Cheesy Risotto
This is perhaps the most difficult dish on the list, but it’s in every professional chef’s basic repertoire. It involves quite a bit of multi-tasking but if you’re looking to impress your family or friends, this is the best dish to cook. There is a multitude of ways to make this dish, with mushrooms or chicken, creamy or cheesy, thick or soupy. The trick is to add a ladle of stock at a time to the rice while it’s cooking, stirring frequently but not too often.
Here’s a cheeky link to a recipe for the best simple cheesy chicken risotto. This website is also brilliant for free simple recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients!
8. One Pan Rice Meal Kit
One pan rice is an absolute wonder when it comes to saving time and money. This is the number one among the affordable recipes you cannot mess up. This one-pan rice dish can be found in a yellow box in most supermarkets (either the brand listed above or the supermarket’s own brand version) and only requires a handful of fresh ingredients, diced chicken and boiled water. The rice, the seasoning and the sauce come in a box for you to add to the pan once you’ve browned your chicken and veggies. Cook until the rice is done and enjoy!