Serina Bird’s Audie, 8, making pizza. Picture: Sean Davey
Serina Bird’s Audie, 8, making pizza. Picture: Sean Davey

Revealed: The best budget dishes for under $10

'What's your favourite dish," people often ask me.

This is a hard question for me to answer because the truth is, I love cooking, I love creating new dishes, even on a budget.

Yep, you can be a frugal foodie - and many people might not even know.

Some of our most-loved restaurant favourites were invented during tough times - in nearly every culture.

Serina Bird loves creating new dishes on a budget. Picture: Sean Davey
Serina Bird loves creating new dishes on a budget. Picture: Sean Davey

When money was difficult, the kitchen cook (usually mum or grandma) got inventive with amazing results.

As a child, I had no idea that my Nana's potato rosti (aka mock fish) was invented because people were too poor to afford real fish, or that her quince jelly was made to use up her backyard quinces and save money.

I loved what she cooked because it was tasty and made with love.

Serina Bird makes soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey
Serina Bird makes soup at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey

I've been blogging and writing about frugal recipes for more than six years. Some people tell me it's not possible to create budget meals, or they would quickly run out of "cheap" food ideas. I'm still cooking new dishes, and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

 

Here are three dishes we love in our household.

1. HOMEMADE PIZZA.

Friday is pizza night in our household. Rather than getting a home-delivered meal, we cook pizza from scratch as a family - and use up whatever leftovers we have in our fridge. We've come up with some inventive options over the years: sardines, homemade olives, potatoes and rosemary, grilled capsicum, crumbled rissoles and even Nutella and banana.

COST:

■ Dough: 60c (It's cheap to make your own dough at home and you'll find plenty of recipes online)

■ Tomato paste: 40c

■ Cheese: $3 (grate yourself as it is cheaper)

■ Toppings: $3 to $4, depending on what leftovers you have

TOTAL: $8 for two pizzas compared with around $40 for gourmet pizza

 

Serina Bird at home with her son Audie, 8, making pizza. Picture: Sean Davey.
Serina Bird at home with her son Audie, 8, making pizza. Picture: Sean Davey.

2. QUICHE

This rustic French tart is cheap (especially if you get eggs from your own chooks), filling and always a family pleaser. In addition to bacon, ham or speck, I like to add bright green spinach, silverbeet or broccoli. It's also delicious when made with a tin of tuna, which is perfect if you are hibernating. I make mine in my piemaker for super quick midday meals.

COST:

■ Homemade shortcrust pastry: $1

■ Eggs: $2

■ Cream: $1

■ Cheese: $1.50

■ Bacon: $2

■ Spinach: $1.50

TOTAL: $9 for a large quiche

3. FRIED RICE

Did you know that fried rice is best made with day-old rice? Yep, rather than throw out leftover rice, you fry it up into an amazing new dish. With some eggs, ham, leftover sausage or chicken and frozen peas - or some frozen prawns if your budget extends to it - you can cook something that will rival any Chinese takeaway from home cheaply and easily.

COST:

■ Rice: 50c

■ Frozen peas: 30c

■ Ham: $2

TOTAL: $2.80

INGREDIENTS

● 200ml water

● 1 tbsp olive oil (or a cheaper quality oil such as Rice Bran oil)

● 1 tsp salt

● 2 ½ cups flour (preferably baker's flour, but plain works)

● 1 ¾ tsp yeast

HOMEMADE PIZZA DOUGH

METHOD

1. If using a breadmaker or thermocooker, add the water and oil, and then add the salt, flour and yeast. Mix at a moderate speed for five to 10 minutes, then allow to rest for 30 minutes.

2. If making by hand, add the flour and salt to a bowl, make a hole (well) in the centre then gradually add in the water and olive oil. Mix until combined, then knead by hand for five minutes. Form into a ball, cover with cling wrap or a damp tea towel and place in a warm place to rise for around 30 minutes.

3. To use the dough, sprinkle some flour onto a bench and then roll out the dough into a circle. Put some flour onto a pizza tray, and place the dough on top. Top with tomato paste, toppings and cheese, and then bake in a hot oven (200C to 220C) for around 15 minutes.

NOTE: Yeast likes a warm environment, but too hot and the yeast will die. Use lukewarm water (i.e. the same temperature as healthy humans), and place the dough to rise somewhere that would be cozy yet safe for your kids (i.e. near a heater but not too close to an open fire).

 

Originally published as Revealed: The best budget dishes for under $10


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