Half the price and double the flavour: three easy meals to keep you warm this autumn

Now that it is the beginning of term, life has begun to get busier and sometimes it can feel as if home cooking is an afterthought at the end of a long day. Freshers or those moving out of college for the first time may have never had to cook for themselves before and this can be particularly stressful with all the changes that the new academic year brings. As someone who really enjoys cooking but often feels that they never have quite enough time to cook, I am always looking for delicious meals that can be batch made and kept in the freezer. As well as this, ingredients for home cooking can be expensive and may end up only being used once. Due to the cost-of-living crisis and the budgetary limits that students have this can feel like a waste of money. However, it is still important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and cooking from scratch can help achieve this.

As the autumn months grow colder, I am constantly searching for comforting, hot meals after class. Therefore, I thought that I would share some of my favourite money-saving recipes that are perfect for the season and can be kept in the freezer. These recipes are vegetarian as I prefer to cook without meat or fish but ingredients and proteins in the recipes can be adapted easily to suit other dietary preferences. I have also included the rough cost of a portion according to the price at Tesco as most students in Durham have access to this supermarket.

The first recipe I want to share is one of the meals I think about most when I miss home. A dal, which translates to lentil, is a lentil soup or curry which varies throughout the regions and countries of South Asia. When I am living with my parents outside of term time, I often order a dal from our local Nepalese restaurant and this recipe reminds me of family and sharing food with others. If you are new to South Asian cooking, I recommend trying a dal as it is versatile and can be eaten on its own or with roti, naan and rice. The recipe from Alom Shaha is one that I think is perfect for students as it includes ingredients that are either cheap or that you are likely to already own. A portion of this dal costs 48.75p. If you are looking for a creamier dish, adding a bit of coconut milk or yoghurt creates a thicker dal. I would also recommend adding a vegetable stock cube and experimenting with the spices in the recipe if you have some in your stock cupboard as ingredients such as cumin or garam masala can change the flavour of the final dish.

If you have more time to spend cooking, I recommend this next recipe which elevates a tomato sauce. This Pomodoro recipe by The Spruce Eats replaces canned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes by boiling and skinning them before adding them to the pot. I have made this recipe a few times now and I can’t go back to using canned tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes give the recipe a sweetness that I often feel is missing in homemade tomato sauce and it only comes out to be 44p including the cost of spaghetti. Another Italian pasta sauce dish that I enjoy cooking is the BBC Good Food lentil ragu recipe which I imagine would also work well with mince and costs around 52.3p per portion. I think the combination of the technique of using fresh tomatoes and the lentil Bolognese works extremely well together. Although the BBC Good Food recipe includes wine, I have found a cheaper alternative to this is replacing the wine with dark chocolate and adding a little bit more stock to replace the lost liquid. This works perfectly for me as I also love dark chocolate for snacking.

The third recipe is a Japanese katsu curry that I always make when I am looking for a quick and easy meal. The key ingredient in this recipe is the curry cubes which I usually find in my local Asian supermarket but can also be ordered from Sainsbury’s using this link here. I have adapted the recipe on the back of the curry package to include what I have each time I make the recipe. I prefer to cook my curry with Quorn but I have also used tofu and imagine that meat such as pork and chicken would also work well. This recipe is great, as you can add whatever leftover vegetables you have and still end up with a great-tasting curry sauce. If you enjoy spicy food, chilli oil is a great accompaniment for this meal. Below is my adapted recipe:

(for weights of ingredients, I prefer to eyeball this recipe according to the recommended serving size of the protein I have chosen and then double the weight of this for an estimation of how many vegetables to use)

  • Vegetables of choice (I recommend onion and carrot especially)
  • Protein of your choice
  • Curry sauce
  • Rice/ salad (to be served on the side)
  • Vegetable oil


  • Add a tablespoon of oil to a saucepan and add your protein, cooking it according to instructions until it is cooked all the way through.
  • Add the onions to the saucepan and heat these on a medium temperature for roughly five minutes or until they are soft.
  • Add the other vegetables and cook these for an additional five minutes.
  • For as many portions as you are making add 100 ml of water to the saucepan. Heat the water until boiling and then reduce it to simmer. Cover the pan and leave for ten minutes.
  • While the pan is covered, prepare sides such as rice or salad.
  • Turn the heat off or to a very low temperature and stir in the curry sauce (one cube per portion) until it is mixed all the way through and of a thick consistency.
  • Serve over the rice or salad.


Image: Monica Turlui on Pexels

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