Meals Under $2 – Budget Pasta #1

I hear so many people talking about how it isn’t possible to eat healthy when you’re on a budget. This is rubbish. It may be difficult, but in reality it isn’t possible to eat healthy when you’re lazy.

The key to eating delicious healthy food CHEAPLY is planning, planning, and more planning. Oh, and tupperware. But re-used takeaway containers do just as well. To stick to any sort of budget the first thing you need to cut out is buying food from that little cafe around the corner from where you work or study. Take your own food with you ALWAYS. You don’t need to starve, or live off lentils or 2 minute noodles.

So here is your shopping list, but first I just want to say one thing

you must be a pirate for the pirate’s code to apply and … the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules

By which I mean these recipes aren’t hard and fast, you can swap items in or out and I’ll give some suggestions where I can. Also, pirates are cool.

  • 2 onions $0.50
  • 500g beef mince $3
  • 2 carrots = about $0.35
  • Pick 2 of: red, green, yellow capsicums (peppers), eggplant, zucchini.. I used 2 capsicums, $1.81
  • 4 cans of diced tomatos $2.76
  • 500g of pasta $1 (you could also use rice, which is even cheaper)
  • 2 heads of broccoli $2.53 (if broccoli is not in season you could use about 3 cups of frozen peas or cooked spinach) 

And from the pantry basics you want

  • Dried spices to your taste – I use oregano and basil on about a 2:3 ratio (optional, chilli flakes)
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • garlic (optional, enough garlic to wage war against a city of vampires)
  • optional: red wine

Step 1 Mince the garlic finely (or use garlic paste) and dice the onions. Begin to cook these first on a gentle heat with olive oil and spices. I find it’s better to add dry spices at this stage because cooking them gently in the oil starts to release the fragrances and the end result is more flavourful than if you wait till later to add them. Think ab0ut the amount of spice that looks right, and add about 4 times as much. Don’t worry if it looks like too much.

Step 2 Once the onion is soft and the oil and herbs are fragrant, add the mince and break the clumps up as it browns.

Step 3 Dice carrots and add to the mix, then add in only two of the cans of diced tomatoes and (optional red wine). Bring to the boil.

Step 4 Dice your (capsicums/zucchini/eggplant)  and add these to the mix, then reduce to a simmer. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot of liquid. You want to keep this on a low simmer for at least 2 hours, preferably like, 6, and I’m not even kidding, so you’ll probably have to add some water every now and then to stop it from drying out. Taste the sauce. More garlic paste, herbs, chilli flakes if required. I added at least double the spices that I put in originally, which had looked like too much back then.

Simmer for freaking ages.

Simmer for freaking ages.

Step 5 Once it’s simmered for a while and everything is soft, and most of the liquid is reduced, remove half of it and put in a container to freeze for later. With the half remaining in the pot/pan, add one more can of diced tomatoes and a little water if needed and simmer again for another 20-30 mins. The fourth can of tomatoes is for the other half of the mixture that you froze.

Step 6 Boil half the pasta (250g) and in the last 1-2 minutes of boiling, throw in about 2 heads/3 cups of broccoli, cut into reasonably small florets. Or you can add frozen peas. If using spinach, cook spinach separately and add 3 cups cooked spinach to the pasta after it’s been cooked. This just adds a little more healthiness and reduces the amount of carbs that you are eating. I particularly like to use broccoli to bulk out my pasta because it’s really good at soaking up sauce.

Step 7 Divide and conquer: Split the pasta and sauce up into 4 portions, using tupperware containers to have ready-to-go lunches to take to work etc.

You’ve cooked 4 portions and frozen the sauce base for another 4 portions.

This meal works out to about $2 and 400 calories per portion, depending on seasonality, and how big a ‘portion’ is to you. If you add a few more vegetables and another 100-150g or so of pasta, I find you can get anywhere between 6 and 12 portions from this recipe before it starts to taste… not ‘meaty’ enough.


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