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7 Most affordable ingredients for low-budget dinner

Easy Italian-style baked beans

Turn the ordinary into extraordinary with ingredients already in your pantry or freezer.

Getting the most out of your food shop is so important right now, with most families tightening their budget. But rather than spend more, there might be some handy, money-saving ingredients hiding in your pantry or freezer. Make the most of forgotten canned, packaged and frozen ingredients and turn them into a hearty, filling weeknight dinner.

Fresh Ideas expert Amanda



“We’re all looking for ways to feed our families without breaking the budget. This is where canned, frozen and dried ingredients can help. Think canned chickpeas, which are a great plant-based alternative and packed with fibre; frozen peas, which add an extra serve of veg to risottos, stir-fries and soups; or canned tomatoes, which make a perfect saucy base for recipes. Just remember to check for added salt in canned foods and opt for the healthier no-added-salt option where possible. I tend to stock up on frozen and canned goods when I see them on special; then they’re always on hand when I need them. I just love the convenience of these pantry staples. They’re so versatile and simple to use. See for yourself with the following recipes.”

– Amanda

Healthier slow-cooked minestrone soup


Canned chickpeas

This hearty minestrone soup recipe is versatile and easy to make. Canned chickpeas are a great budget-friendly pantry staple. They add affordable plant-based protein to soups, as well as curries, stews, salads and dips. Don’t have zucchini? Add whatever leftover veggies you’ve got on hand. This recipe is a great way to use up whatever might be hiding at the bottom of your fridge’s crisper drawer.

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vegan lentil bolognese


Canned lentils

Keep canned lentils in your pantry to bulk out meals and add fibre and protein to your dish. This healthier version of a classic bolognese sauce with lentils will make a delicious addition to your meat-free Monday repertoire. (It also makes a delicious veggie base for a lasagna, or cottage or shepherd’s pie.). Dried pasta is also a must-have pantry staple as it can be thrown together with a sauce to make an easy midweek meal.

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Cauliflower cheese pasta bake


Frozen cauliflower florets

This cauliflower cheese pasta bake only costs $2.47 per serve. Use up your frozen cauliflower florets or even a mix of cauliflower and broccoli. Add frozen cauliflower to the pasta and only cook it for two minutes, so it keeps its shape and texture when it goes in the oven. If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, leave out the bacon.

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Baked chicken, pea & spinach risotto


Frozen peas

Remember that forgotten bag of green peas in the freezer? Put it to use in this moreish baked chicken risotto recipe. You’ll find that most of the ingredients used in this risotto are already in your pantry, fridge and freezer. This baked version is a brilliant way to make a filling risotto without standing around the stove stirring.

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15-Minute satay noodles with grilled chicken


Instant noodles

Instant noodles are perfect for meals like this quick and easy Asian-style satay noodle dish. They’re the ultimate pantry staple and come in handy when I’m whipping up a fast stir-fry with leftover veggies or cooking a simple noodle soup. To quickly add extra flavour to your cooking and give it a fiery kick, keep a few different spice pastes and seasonings in the pantry.

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Quick beetroot & lentil salad


Canned beetroot

This must be one of the quickest salads to prepare. With just four ingredients, it’s a no-brainer for an easy midweek dinner. Canned beetroot and lentils are among my pantry essentials. For starters, what ultimate Aussie burger would be complete without canned beetroot? For all its simplicity, this vegetarian salad recipe is big on flavour and texture; the sweetness of the beetroot, saltiness of the haloumi and crunch of the coleslaw add plenty of punch to canned lentils.

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Easy Italian-style baked beans


Canned beans

Canned beans (such as cannellini beans, butter beans and kidney beans) are pantry heroes, whether you make them the star of a meal (such as in this fast Italian-style baked beans recipe), or use them to stretch salads, soups, stews and casseroles. This is my go-to dish when I need a simple, satisfying meal. For $1.85 per serve, it’s easy on the wallet, too. Serve with slices of toasted Turkish bread or crusty ciabatta to mop up the delicious tomato sauce.

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*The cost per serve is calculated by dividing the approximate cost of the ingredients (excluding ingredients marked as "extra to serve") by the number of serves in the recipe. Ingredient prices are based on standard shelf prices in NSW Woolworths Supermarkets as at [17/2/23]. Prices and products may vary by State and may not be available in all Supermarkets, Woolworths Metro, MetroGo, Woolworths Online (including Everyday Market) and Ampol Woolworths Metro. Where a specific brand is not listed for an ingredient, calculations are based on the price of the Woolworths own brand version of the ingredient or the next cheapest alternative.

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