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6 meals to make on a budget

Food is more expensive than ever before. We’ve collated six of our most popular meals to help you make cheap yet nourishing meals for your whole whānau.

With the rising costs of food, you’ve probably made changes to the way you shop and how often you eat out. The good news is that there are still plenty of ingredients that can be used to make a filling, tasty meal that is heart-healthy too.

How have food prices changed?

Food prices have been steadily increasing over the past 12 months. Whether you live alone or in a big household – changes to the cost of food can make it difficult to buy, cook and eat nourishing food.

If you look at the latest food price data (April 2022), food prices have increased by 6.4 per cent when compared to the same time last year.1 The price of fruit and vegetables has increased by 9.4 per cent, meat, poultry, and fish prices by 8.1 per cent and grocery food prices by 6.4 per cent.1

Two ways to keep costs down

1. Planning meals

Planning your main meals at the start of each week can help you to carefully budget the money you spend on food. Get a whiteboard and turn it into a weekly ritual. If you’ve got food already in your fridge, cupboard or freezer, plan 1-2 meals around these items so that you have less ingredients to buy.

The bonus is that planning meals also minimises your food waste. Ever bought a whole cabbage for $4 to find it still there at the end of the week? Without a plan for how you’ll use it – it’s destined to be thrown out.

2. Meal prep

Meal prep is the process of preparing meals for the week ahead. It can help you to save money on food especially if you live alone or cook for one. It is still important to leave room for flexibility so that you don’t get sick of the same food and have variety in your diet.

Find out more about how to meal prep.

Tupperware containing meals ready to be frozen

Budget-friendly meals

Here are six budget-friendly meals to help you plan nourishing meals for you and your whānau.

We’ve costed these recipes using the latest food prices#. Each recipe serves four or six people and easily comes under $4 per serve.

We’ve included a mix of different protein foods from chilli beans through to chicken. Many of the meals in this plan can be adapted to suit what you have at hand and work well as leftovers the next day.

Meal 1: Egg and veggie pie

Serves: 6

Total cost of ingredients: $7.50

Cost per serve: $1.30

This vegetarian recipe will keep you satisfied and travels well for lunch the next day. Try using any fresh, frozen or canned vegetables in place of the ones in the recipe.

Meal 2: Chilli bean quesadilla’s

Serves: 4

Total cost of ingredients: $7.20

Cost per serve: $1.80

Chilli beans are a great way to include more plant foods into your diet if you’re not used to eating legumes like chickpeas and kidney beans.

Meal 3: Chicken and corn soup

Serves: 6

Total cost of ingredients: $7.60

Cost per serve: $1.30

Who doesn’t love soup on a winter’s day? This soup is a warming and nourishing way to feed the family with a couple of cans of creamed corn and a chicken breast.

Meal 4: Salmon potato cakes

Serves: 4

Total cost of ingredients: $10.50

Cost per serve: $2.70

Serve these potato cakes with any fresh or cooked vegetables such as peas, corn or coleslaw. They freeze well and are great for a quick meal.

Meal 5: Apricot and chickpea chicken with vegetable couscous

Serves: 4

Total cost of ingredients: $15.10

Cost per serve: $3.80

We created this recipe in partnership with FinCap for Money Week 2021. Chicken drumsticks are a cheap cut of meat and help to keep costs down in this meal.

Apricot and chickpea chicken with vegetable couscous

Meal 6: Chilli con carne

Serves: 6

Total cost of ingredients: $22.00

Cost per serve: $3.70

Serve this deliciously satisfying meal with whatever you have available including rice, pita bread, pasta, bread or mashed potatoes.

# Countdown online (accessed 12 May 2022) was used to cost these recipes. Items that were the lowest price within each food category were used and ‘special’ or ‘sale’ prices were not used.

Need help budgeting?

For help to make your food budget stretch, talk to Money Talks, Fincap’s free financial helpline.

They offer free, confidential and non-judgemental advice from more than 200 locations across New Zealand.

Free phone 0800 345 123 or visit the Money Talks website.



1. Statistics NZ Food Price Index April 2022:


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