Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on a budget

With summative season well underway, stress levels high and spare time hard to come by, I have noticed more and more of my friends and fellow-students economising on their health by skipping meals or resorting to takeaways and ready-made meals. With this in mind, I would like to offer recipes for homemade alternatives for breakfast, lunch and dinner that can be prepared quickly and would ensure a healthy balance of all the major food groups to keep energy high and health intact during this stressful time of year. Not only this, but a New York Daily News article has even postulated that cooking is a hobby akin to therapy, as its creative, multi-sensory nature has been proven to help reduce stress, suggesting that spending an hour or so a day in the kitchen might even be a welcome period of respite.

Moreover, bearing in mind that we are all students, the recipes I have chosen are also very price-conscious (with the prices broken down throughout the article) and will hopefully guarantee my readers with a day’s worth of meals that are cheap, healthy, nutritious and taste delicious. 

Breakfast – Fried spinach and egg on toast 

One slice of toast – £0.04 

100 g of spinach – £0.50

One clove of garlic (finely sliced) – £0.05

Half a chilli (finely sliced) – £0.10

One egg – £0.15

= £0.84 

  1. Heat four tablespoons of oil a frying pan to a low heat and add the garlic and chilli. Cook for 30 seconds or until soft.
  2. Add the spinach with a touch of salt and pepper and fry with the garlic and chilli for about 2 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. 
  3. Remove the spinach from the pan with a slotted spoon. In the remaining hot oil, crack open an egg and fry, adding a little salt and pepper and frequently basting the egg to lightly cook the tops. 
  4. Toast bread (no need to add butter because of the oil in the spinach and eggs) and place spinach and egg on top. 

Pasta with bacon and tomato sauce 

80 g of pasta (I would personally recommend spaghetti or penne) – £0.10

3-4 rashers of bacon – £1.00

One onion (finely diced) – £0.16

One clove of garlic (either finely sliced or crushed) – £0.05

200 ml of tomato passata – £0.04

200 ml of chicken stock – £0.15 

A teaspoon of sugar – £0.00

= £1.50

  1. Place a saucepan of water on the hob, bring to the boil with a pinch of salt and leave to a gentle simmer. 
  2. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a lidded frying pan to a low heat and add the bacon, onion and garlic. Fry very slowly on a low temperature for eight minutes without colour until soft and the bacon is cooked.
  3. Add the passata and a teaspoon of sugar to balance out the tartness of the tomatoes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes or so. 
  4. In the same time it takes for sauce to cook, add the pasta to the boiling water and leave to boil for the time recommended on the packet (usually between 8 or 12 minutes, varying depending on the type of pasta).
  5. Drain the cooked pasta in a sieve or colander then add to the sauce. Turn off the heat and stir the pasta in until every strand is covered by sauce.  

Chinese chow mein 

300 g of noodles – £0.75 

One onion (finely diced) – £0.16

A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (either finely sliced or grated) – £0.20

Half a chilli (finely sliced) – £0.10

500 g of beef mince – £4.00

Three tablespoons of soy sauce – £0.00

Two teaspoons of lime juice – £0.00

350 ml of beef stock – £0.15

100 ml of oyster sauce – £0.80

One teaspoon of sesame seed oil – £0.00

One head of broccoli (divided into florets) – £0.55

= £6.71

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a lidded frying pan to a low heat and add the onion, ginger and chilli. Fry very slowly on a low temperature for five minutes without colour until soft and fragrant.
  2. Raise the temperature to a medium-high heat and add the beef mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon for about eight to ten minutes or until brown all over and the water in the beef has evaporated. 
  3. Deglaze the bottom of the pan with the soy sauce and beef stock. Add the oyster sauce and lime juice before bringing to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli and leave for another five minutes. 
  4. Place the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for three to four minutes. Drain in a colander or sieve and run cold water through to prevent them from cooking any further. Toss in a bowl with a little sesame seed oil then add to the beef mince.  

Grand total = £9.05

Best of luck with all the summatives and enjoy cooking! 

N.B. All of these ingredients and prices (which come from estimations based on average Tesco prices) have been calculated for one person, so if cooking for multiple people, feel free to scale up the quantities accordingly.

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