Budget friendly recipes that don’t sacrifice taste

Vegetable and chickpea stew


Posted January 31, 2024

From hearty dinners that are easy to make to desserts designed for comfort, this collection of budget-friendly recipes will make your family meals a breeze.

If you work full-time or have a family to feed, then you need some quick and easy recipes as part of your cooking repertoire. Even if you’re cooking for one, it’s great to have food you can freeze or eat as leftovers for lunch the next day.

With that in mind, these budget-friendly recipes from our RACV Club chefs favour simplicity over sophistication, without sacrificing taste.

It’s also handy to know the many creative ways you can turn leftovers into family favourites, especially if you’re looking for ways to save money on groceries.

Budget friendly savoury recipes

Vegetable Thai green curry

Vegetarian dishes can be a thrifty way to create a satisfying meal. This Vegetable Thai green curry recipe is easy to make and contains your daily serve of vegetables.

Using a green curry paste from the supermarket will save you time and avoid the cost of buying all the individual ingredients. If any of the vegetables in this recipe are out of season, which can increase the cost, consider using potatoes, sweet potatoes, or frozen vegetables instead.

You can add some diced chicken before the vegetables, if you want to boost your protein intake. Either way, vegetarian or not, you’ll have a delicious family meal in no time at all.

Spaghetti with roasted Mediterranean vegetables

Here’s an easy mid-week recipe, using one of the most popular forms of pasta. Tinned tomatoes are a great pantry staple and form the base of this Spaghetti with roasted Mediterranean vegetables recipe. If you want to cut costs, leave out the chargrilled artichokes, but make sure you add the parsley because it gives the recipe a lift.

Roasting is a simple cooking technique, and in less than an hour, you can serve your family or friends a nutritious pasta dish that’s bursting with colour and flavour.

Thai green curry and rice

Thai green curry is an easy and tasty way to get your daily dose of vegetables. Image: Getty


Sweet potato and red kidney bean hot pot

This sweet potato and red kidney bean hot pot will satisfy the biggest appetites. Serve this dish with brown rice, polenta, or mashed potato, and you have a wholesome and hearty meal that will taste just as good the next day.

Kidney beans are high in fibre and a great source of plant-based protein. According to Nutrition Australia, when you combine beans or lentils with grains such as rice or quinoa, you get a complete complement of protein, which makes this recipe great for vegans.

If you have a large family or want leftovers for lunch the next day, double the recipe measurements. It’s so tasty, you’re going to want more.

Moroccan vegetable tagine recipe

Easy and cost effective, this recipe for Moroccan vegetable tagine or stew infuses a few humble ingredients - potato, sweet potato, and carrot - with mouth-watering flavours.

You end up with a fabulous, hearty family meal and any leftovers keep well in the fridge for a day or two. This dish is also suitable for freezing.

A balance of sweet and savoury, the key ingredient is harissa, which is widely available at supermarkets, Middle Eastern grocers, and Melbourne markets.


Homemade gnocchi pasta

Making your own gnocchi is easy and sure to impress the family. Image: Shannon Morris.


Slow-cooked beef ragu with gnocchi

Because of the slow-cooking, you’ll need a few hours to prepare this beef ragu with gnocchi recipe, but you’ll be rewarded with a delicious pasta dish.

Chuck steak is a cost-saving choice for casseroles, curries, and stews. But like other budget friendly cuts of meat, you need to cook it low and slow, and with plenty of liquid. If you want to cut costs further, leave out the wine in this recipe and use a stock cube instead to boost the flavour.

Once the meat is tender and falls apart easily with a fork, it’s ready to serve with your homemade gnocchi. It’s perfect for a weekend meal.

Banana bread loaf

Banana bread is a baker's delight and great for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. Image: Getty


Budget friendly sweet recipes

Best-ever banana bread recipe

Banana bread is a clear winner when it comes to avoiding food waste and creating a fast and tasty treat for afternoon tea. 

The riper the bananas the better, as this adds moisture to the mixture, and the bananas are easier to mash for this best-ever banana bread recipe. It is also versatile. You can add walnuts or chocolate chips to the recipe and, once it’s cooked, serve it with cream or ice cream.

It’s yummy the next day too. Warm a slice in the microwave, smear it with butter and enjoy it with your favourite hot drink.

Simple bread and butter pudding

This old-fashioned dessert has stood the test of time and for some households it's on repeat during the cooler months. Combining eggs, sugar, and cream to create the custard, along with fruit jam and cinnamon for a traditional taste, this simple bread and butter pudding is the ultimate comfort food.

The use of stale bread – which gives the pudding a nicer, less mushy texture – might also help you minimise the amount of food that gets thrown away at home. Add sultanas for variation and serve it with cream or custard.

Best-ever oat-free apple crumble

Is there anything better than a bowl of warm caramelised apple crumble?

This delicious oat-free apple crumble recipe is suitable for gluten-free guests and destined for second helpings.

The beauty of apple crumble is that your apples don’t need to be top grade. Granny smith is the apple of choice, and it’s usually cheaper to buy them in a prepacked bag. If your apples have been sitting in the fruit bowl for a while, buy a couple of fresh ones to give your filling a nice texture, otherwise it will be too mushy.

The aroma of apple and cinnamon will fill the kitchen as the pudding bakes, and all you need is some cream or ice cream to turn it into a classic dessert.