It’s not just you – everything is getting more expensive: utilities, housing, fuelling up the car and, yes, putting food on the table. We can’t help you with the first three, but for the latter we can definitely lend a hand. We’ve brought together 11 recipes that’ll help you stick to budget, from a gnocchi that makes use of ingredients you likely already have, to a recipe that makes budget-friendly scrambled eggs infinitely more exciting, and plenty more that harness pantry staples and cheaper meats and proteins. Cooking to a budget shouldn’t suck all the joy out of cooking and eating, so get stuck into Ellie Bouhadana’s green sauce conchiglioni, Danielle Alvarez’s famous spaghetti, Victor Liong’s congee and more.

Ellie Bouhadana’s conchiglioni with braised leek and cavolo nero green sauce

Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients in this vividly green recipe by Ellie Bouhadana, the former head chef of Melbourne’s Hope St Radio. Look a little closer and you’ll see it’s chock-full of bits and pieces you might have laying around already (parmesan rinds, bay leaves), not-too-pricey pasta and budget-friendly veggies like onions and carrots. But it’s really a choose-your-own-adventure: don’t want to make the stock? Just use water instead. Have veggies that need using up? Chuck them into the pot as well. And if you make extra stock, you can bung it in the fridge and use it for another dish later in the week.

Never miss a moment. Make sure you're subscribed to our newsletter today.


Joseph Abboud’s barbequed chicken wings with toum

Being on a budget doesn’t mean entertaining is off limits – for example, you could whack this zippy dish by Joseph Abboud, chef-proprietor of Melbourne Middle Eastern diner Rumi, on the table at any dinner party and get a positive reaction. It’s made with chicken wings, which tend to be cheaper than their breast-and-thigh counterparts, with just a few added extras – spices you can use over and over again. And toum is the ultimate condiment, a garlicky joy that requires few ingredients and can liven up almost any meal.

Julie Goodwin’s gnocchi with pea and speck

Masterchef alumnus, cook and author Julie Goodwin is notorious for recipes that are family-friendly, comforting and don’t punch a hole in your wallet. This recipe calls for ingredients you likely already have in your cupboard and freezer – and, despite making the gnocchi yourself, is on the table in less than an hour. It’s a true weeknight winner.

Sophie Hansen’s one-tray rice, potato and chorizo pilaf

The beauty of this recipe by food writer Sophie Hansen is that it’s eternally adaptable – to the seasons, your budget and what you already have in the pantry. Following the recipe straight-up yields a dish large enough to feed up to eight, using basics like brown rice, onions, butter and spices commonly found in home pantries, like ground cumin and smoked paprika. And like any cheap eat worth its salt, it knows that onions are always a great way to bolster a cheap meal and make it sing.

Danielle Alvarez’s spaghetti alla Nerano

Not all great wallet-friendly recipes lean only on cheap ingredients – this pasta recipe from Danielle Alvarez also relies on the magic of pasta water, and how it transforms the spaghetti and is in turn transformed by the spaghetti. Beyond that, it harnesses cheap-yet-wholesome ingredients including zucchini, garlic and dried spaghetti.

O Tama Carey’s scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are a staple of the wallet-friendly diet: they’re filling, nutritious and quick, and made with basic, cheap ingredients. And if you have a take on the classic, like this one by O Tama Carey, they’re far from boring. The chef-owner of Sydney’s Lankan Filling Station jazzes her eggs up with turmeric, curry leaves and mustard seeds for a high-octane, spice-laden version of this ever-favourite budget meal.

The Dolphin’s spaghetti carbonara

Like many of the best Italian dishes, spaghetti carbonara is comprised of simple, non-expensive ingredients that come together to form something brilliant. Eggs, spaghetti, guanciale, garlic and cheese are really all you need. And The Dolphin executive chef Danny Corbett reckons his version is foolproof – there won’t be a curdled egg in sight, just a meal that costs very little but is big on impact and flavour.

Victor Liong’s congee

Six ingredients are all it takes to put together this recipe by Victor Liong, chef-restaurateur of Lee Ho Fook in Melbourne – and one of them is water. The rest of the ingredients aren’t much more expensive than that, either. One of the great things about this warm and nourishing dish is that you can add whichever topping you like to it: oysters and Chinese celery if you’re feeling flush with cash, shredded chicken and ginger if your finances are a little tighter.

Shiyamalee Somaweera’s red curry

Lentils have long been a staple of the budget diet – cheap, healthy and endlessly versatile, they’re an essential protein when eating on your last dollars. This recipe from Shiyamalee Somaweera, of Melbourne Sri Lankan diner Citrus, calls for red lentils cooked with plentiful spices, which you can add to other recipes and split the cost per meal. Eat it solo, or add mallung (sauteed greens), plus a fish, chicken or beef curry. Quick, warming and nourishing, it’s an ideal one to have up your sleeve for the days leading up to payday.

Molly Baz’s cauliflower salad

Cauliflower has had a bit of a reputation revival recently, appearing on menus in various iterations – roasted, with Middle Eastern-style yoghurts and more. This salad, by US chef and cookbook author Molly Baz, also takes this very cheap flavour vehicle as its base, cooking it two ways for a textural surprise, and bolstering it with a deceptively creamy vegan ranch dressing. Pull this one out for your next barbeque, or as a light-and-easy weeknight meal.

Rita Macali’s minestrone

Minestrone is another of those dishes from the vast pantheon of Italian recipes designed to feed many people for not many dollars. The version by Rita Macali – former chef-owner of Melbourne’s Supermaxi – is no different, harnessing the powers of tinned foods, and notably cheap veggies like cabbage and cauliflower. The result is a big, hearty pot of soup that’ll easily feed – and fill – up to six people, or just a couple of people with enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.