10 cheap dinner ideas under $10
In the age of food delivery services, mustering the energy or enthusiasm to cook can sometimes be a bit tricky. However, with a bit of forethought and planning you'll be cooking up a storm in the kitchen every night with these simple and cheap dinner ideas. We're going to assume you have a few pantry staples such as oil, salt and pepper, but these recipes will all come in at under $10 per serve. The great thing about many of these dishes is that most of the ingredients can be substituted for things you might happen to have on hand.
So whether you're a freezer forager, have a family to feed, cooking on a budget or just looking for some fun new culinary ideas, feast your eyes on this neat little list of cheap dinner ideas we've put together to help you get the most bang for your buck.
1. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
This cheap and cheerful number is sure to become a favourite due its simplicity, versatility and cost effective nature. Most, if not all, supermarkets stock large Portobello or field mushrooms, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and that's really all you need to get started. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems, dice finely with the other ingredients, place into the upturned mushroom,drizzle with oil and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Of course, there's no limit to the fillings you can have - try sausage meat, nuts, breadcrumbs, potato, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, spinach, pumpkin, cheese-the list goes on! We like to get inventive, but the "go-to'' recipe usually involves onion, garlic, mushroom stalks, breadcrumbs and cheese. The wonderful thing about this dish is that it's perfect for any meal of the day, try adding a poached egg on top for breakfast, or some asparagus spears on the side for dinner, they're also a big hit at BBQs.
2. Potato Salad
Always a crowd favourite at picnics, barbecues, lunches and dinners, the humble potato salad is a quick, simple and cheap dish that takes very little time to prepare. Generally consisting of boiled potatoes and some combination of herbs and other vegetables, tossed in a creamy dressing-usually mayonnaise based. Sometimes meat - usually bacon or speck is added, but plenty of vegan and vegetarian options are possible.
One of our favourite ways to prepare this dish is simply to add to your boiled potatoes a generous amount of mayonnaise, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon of sweet paprika and plenty of salt and pepper and diced raw red onion, then stir the whole lot until everything is evenly coated. It's best to sit it in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving to allow the flavours to set, though we'd also recommend making it the day before and refrigerating overnight to maximise the melding of flavours, and minimise your prep time on the day.
3. Mac and Cheese Bake
With the cooler months abound in Australia at the moment, there's nothing more comforting than a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. Whilst traditionally a side dish in American cuisine, this dish can also easily be served as a cheap dinner idea on it's own. It's ridiculously simple to make and can be levelled up by adding chunks of ham or sausage into the mix, or pumpkin and spinach for a vegetarian option.
One of our favourite ways to have this dish is to bake it with breadcrumbs on top, a great way to use up that stale end of the loaf that you have knocking about. Try making a big batch at the beginning of the week, it will easily keep in the fridge and makes for a great side to any protein you might be having, or, as stated before, it's a great standalone dish for those nights when you're not up for more than a quick zap in the microwave.
4. Spaghetti Al Olio
The ultimate cheap dinner idea, this dish is so simple to make and takes no time at all, yet always comes out tasting delicious. All you need is olive oil, chilli, garlic and parmesan, though if you're not eating dairy, you can skip the cheese and still enjoy a superb taste. The trick with this dish is to slowly cook the garlic until it's just golden brown, and don't skimp on the oil.
Save half a cup of the salted starchy pasta water to add to the pan when combining your pasta and sauce, this will help the garlicky, chilli sauce to evenly coat each strand. We've gone for spaghetti for this dish, however, it works wonderfully with any kind of pasta. Similarly, some recipes will call for fresh chilli, but flakes will work just as well. A simple, tasty, no fuss meal that only takes about twenty minutes.
5. Green Soup
Soups are always a great choice to reduce costs whilst staying healthy. This recipe will call for a blender or food processor to get the texture right, though if you have a stick blender or bar mix that should work as well. Essentially, all you need to do is assemble your chosen vegetables - we've opted for broccoli, peas (frozen is fine) potatoes, onion, and a bit of garlic, add vegetable stock and cook in a large pot until tender, then whizz it in the blender until it is a smooth pureè.
Serve with a slice of buttered toast or a hunk of crusty bread, a dollop of yoghurt, or cream can also be added if you have it on hand. Another handy thing about making a big batch of soup is that you can freeze the leftovers and save them for whenever you need.
6. Beetroot and Sweet Potato Salad
This is a quick and easy salad full of colour and fresh flavours that will have you coming back for seconds every time. The most labour intensive part of this is the roasting of the sweet potatoes, the rest is as simple as chopping and mixing. To make this, all you'll need is a bag of baby spinach, a sweet potato, a tin of beetroot, a carrot, half red onion, a splash of red wine vinegar, a tin of chickpeas and you're all set. Now the trick to getting perfect roast sweet potatoes is to par boil them before roasting, check them every 10 mins or so and give the pan a shake to make sure they crisp evenly and don't stick.
The onion can go in raw, but for a more delicate flavour, try sitting it in a small amount of red wine vinegar for a mild pickling before adding it to the rest of the salad. We like to serve a yoghurt tahini dressing with this one, but it's fine as it is, maybe add a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of oil. If you want to bulk it up a bit try adding slices of fried halloumi.
7. Buffalo Cauliflower
A cheap dinner idea that makes for a healthy and meat free alternative to a pub classic, buffalo cauliflower is a great option to serve as a snack or side. Though, there's nothing to say you can't have it as a main sized portion too! T
here are a few ways to make it depending on how much effort you want to put in. The simplest involves roasting the florets and tossing them in a combination of melted butter, honey and hot sauce to coat them. Alternatively you can make a batter and deep fry, or give them a whirl in the air fryer if you have one. However you decide to cook them, the key is to get your cauliflower nice and crispy and make sure you get plenty of spicy sauce all over them. You can knock up a blue cheese dip to go with them, but a store bought chipotle mayo or ranch will also do the trick.
8. Bacon and tomato pasta
This hearty and delicious pasta makes for a great cheap dinner idea, as it is quick and simple enough to easily put together any night of the week. All you need is bacon, a tin of tomatoes, pasta, chilli, onion and lots of garlic. It's very straightforward to make, but a few key steps will elevate this dish to a higher level. An important part of this recipe is to get the bacon right, make sure it's finely diced and then cooked on a medium heat until golden and crispy. Similarly, be sure not to overcook the garlic, keep it slow and low, to allow it's more delicate flavours to arise. If you're after a meat free option, try adding mushrooms and pine nuts instead of bacon.
9. Kangaroo Stew
The rich, earthy taste of kangaroo makes it perfect for stews. Due to it's relatively low fat content you'll want to cook this for a long time at a low temperature-if you have a slow cooker that's perfect, if not a sturdy saucepan on a low heat will do the trick. The great thing about this recipe is you can pretty much throw in whatever you want to pad it out, but we usually opt for onions, carrots, sweet potato, garlic, stock and about half a bottle of your favourite beer (the darker the better).
Low and slow is the key here, make sure you sear the meat first, but then the longer you cook it the better. A great cheap dinner idea for a winter warmer that keeps costs down, as well as being sustainable and healthy.
10. Honey Soy Drumsticks
A classic dish that you can serve hot or cold once cooked, these drumsticks are so easy to make and are perfect for BBQ's and picnics.Or, just make up a batch at the start of the week and use them for lunch or dinner.
Most poultry shops will be able to sell you a bag of drumsticks (though wings and drumettes work just as well) and then all you need is honey, soy sauce, ginger, salt, pepper and oil. Add all of this to an ovenproof dish and bake for roughly 45 minutes, depending on quantity, regularly basting. A dash of orange juice and a bit of chilli can level this dish up a bit if you're looking to show off.