Four Recipes To Get You Through To Pay Day

Pay Day; so close but so far away, and your fridge is looking a little depressing. Is that milk still OK? Why does spinach go bad so quickly? Why didn’t you buy extra meat when you had the money and freeze it? Rookie mistakes.

If money’s tight and you’re feeling uninspired by what’s in your cupboard, then these recipes are not only tasty and mostly vegetarian (meat is a rich person’s luxury in the barren wasteland that is The Week Before Pay Day), but they’re also the kind of recipes you can double quickly if your housemates start looming, asking if you’ll feed them too. (Don’t forget to ask them to chip in for ingredients! You’re broke until pay day, remember?)

1 / 4

Lentil dahl

Cost: $3.35 per serve

When people talk about being poor, they often joke that they’ll be living on cans of beans. Well, why not lentils? It’s following their lead in an alternatively delicious fashion.

If you’re worried about getting enough protein and can’t afford meat, this one’s for you: serving lentils with rice will create a perfect, complete protein on par with that of meat. How is that possible? Most beans and lentils are low in methionine and high in lysine, while rice is low in lysine and high in methionine (essential amino acids). They fit together like a nice complete-protein puzzle pieces.

As well as being high in fibre and protein, lentils won’t cost you much on the money or calorie front, making them ideal for anyone, really. Plus red lentils are fast to cook, making them easy to whip up for weeknight meals. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or thick yoghurt if you fancy.



1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon each mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – or whatever spices you have lying around including coriander seeds, turmeric and chilli powder
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tomatoes, diced
100 grams red split lentils
1 bag of baby spinach
Salt and pepper
Optional: fresh parsley to garnish


Feeds 2 hungry people

–To a medium-sized pot, add the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent

–Throw in the spices and toast until just fragrant

–Add the carrot, garlic and tomatoes and a touch of water, and let the veggies stew and soften, stirring regularly

–Pour in the lentils and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, stirring regularly to thicken. You may need to add a little more water to stop it getting too thick

–After 10 minutes or so, the lentils will be tender and the soup will be nearly ready. Add the spinach and stir in until it wilts then turn off the heat

–If you can, let the soup stand for a few minutes… but we don’t blame you if you’re too hungry!

–Garnish with parsley if your budget allows for it

–Feel smug for being so damn healthy

Image: Georgia Leaker


2 / 4

Eggs, bacon and mushrooms on toast

Cost: $4.50 per serve

Breakfast for dinner is every young professional’s favourite! This recipe requires you to have the courage to go up to the deli counter at your preferred supermarket or butcher and ask for a single slice of bacon and 50 grams of Danish feta (this is the minimum they’ll sell you). You can’t afford to be splurging on unnecessary ingredients, so be strong! Having a loaf of sourdough pre-sliced in your freezer – at all times – is recommended, but use whatever bread you like best and most importantly, can afford. Also FYI, the bakery section at most supermarkets sell single serves.


1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of olive oil
10 button mushrooms, sliced
50 grams Danish feta, smashed with a fork
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 piece of bacon (or you can forgo this for a veggie version)
1 egg, cooked how you like it
1 or 2 slices of your favourite bread
Salt and pepper
Optional: fresh parsley or basil to garnish


Feeds 1 hungry person

–Add the butter and oil to a medium-sized frying pan over a medium heat

–Add the mushrooms and cook until they are crisp around the edges

–Turn off the heat and add the feta and stir until the feta begins to soften. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and stir everything together

–Fry the bacon in a second frying pan, which you can also use for your egg (if you’re frying it)

–Toast your bread and top with the mushrooms, the bacon and finally the egg

–Sprinkle your egg with a touch of salt and slice it so that the yolk oozes over the rest of the dish

–Garnish with parsley or basil if your budget allows for it

–Be the envy of all your housemates

Image: Georgia Leaker

3 / 4

Fancy baked beans on toast

Cost: $1.82 per serve

We’ve mentioned that it’s standard practice to go and buy a tin of baked beans when times are tight, but after trying this version, you’ll gag at the very thought of store bought. These can be whipped up at a moments notice and taste even better the next day for breakfast. If they last that long.

If you don’t want bread with this, instant polenta would make an amazing accompaniment.


1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 tin of mixed beans
1 tin of diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 or 2 slices per person of your favourite bread


Feeds 2-3 hungry people

–To a medium-sized pot, add the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent

–Add the paprika and stir until fragrant, then add the Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar

–Drain the beans and rinse them in a colander, then add these to the pot and stir

–Add the tomatoes and then fill the empty tin half way with water and add this, stir and bring to a boil

–Once the sauce is boiling, turn down and simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring regularly until sauce has thickened

–Season with salt and pepper

–Toast your bread and serve with the beans

Image: The Healthy Chef

4 / 4

Macaroni and cheese

Cost: $2.90 per serve (plus the cost of veggies)
mac and cheese

Proper mac and cheese is worth the extra effort and can easily be packed out with your favourite winter veggies (broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, sweet potato) for a ‘healthier’ feed. 100 grams of pasta is one serve, so reduce the amount of pasta if you’re adding veggies. We recommend whole wheat pasta if it’s on special, as it is far more filling and you can’t tell the difference once it’s baked and covered in cheese.

Parmesan cheese is definitely more expensive than other cheeses, but it gives a superior flavour and you won’t need to use nearly as much to taste it. Don’t chuck those rinds out! Throw them in to your next soup or stew early in the cooking process for a deep umami flavour.


200 grams of penne
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of plain flour
2 cups of cold milk
1 tablespoon of mustard, any kind
1 ½ cups of loosely packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for topping
1 piece of stale bread, crumbled
Salt and pepper
Optional: thyme, if your budget allows for it


Feeds 2 hungry people

–Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook penne according to packet directions, drain and reserve

–Turn your oven the grill on

–In a second pot, melt the butter over a low heat

–Whisk the flour into the melted butter and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly (this is called a roux)

–Add half the milk to the roux and whisk until all lumps are gone, then add the second half of the –milk and continue to whisk over a medium-low heat until the sauce begins to thicken

–Whisk in the mustard and season the sauce with salt and pepper. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon without running off, it’s ready

–Turn off the heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese (and thyme, if using)

–Add the penne to the sauce and toss to combine

–Pour everything into an oven proof dish and sprinkle with the bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese

–Place under the grill until the cheese melts and the bread crumbs toast lightly

Image: Georgia Leaker

Georgia is a writer and pastry chef living in Sydney. As a low-income earner, she’s become a dab hand at creating delicious, budget-friendly recipes that satisfy her need for bold flavours and meals worth getting excited about.

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