It’s so easy to make incorrect food choices when you are hungry, and even more so when you are strapped for cash. Often we end up eating unhealthy processed foods purely because we don’t plan properly.

But by buying just a few key ingredients, and planning your menus in advance, you can get away with unexpectedly cheap dinners. 

And guess what? We’ve done the planning for you. Here are 5 meals for 2 people for just under R200. Yep, that is 10 dinners at R20 a pop. 

(This does not include kitchen staples such as cooking oil, vinegar, butter, sugar, herbs and spices.) 

Read more: Are almost 1 out of 2 SA women obese?

Shopping list:

Imbo brown lentils – R12.50
Beef shin 150grams – R14.09
Beef mince 300grams – R26.99
2 Knorr stock pots – R10.99
1 bag of carrots – R5.99
3 onions – R11.90 
5 potatoes – R12.98
1 large sweet potato – R7.88
1 sachet curry powder – R5.99
1 cabbage – R17.40
1 can of tomatoes – R13.99
1 sachet of tomato paste - R3.99
1 green apples – R4.99
Bag of dried beans – R14.99
2 pork chops – R17.89
Small bulb of garlic – R8.99
3 small chillies – R3.99

That comes to about R200 give or take a few cents. 

Meal 1: Traditional cottage pie 

Fry half of the mince until brown. Add crushed garlic, half an onion, and two chopped carrots. Add the half of the tomato paste sachet and a cup of water. Simmer. While this is cooking, peel and boil 3 potatoes and mash with butter and salt.

Put the meat and vegetables in an oven-proof baking dish and spoon and spread the mash over. Bake until the mash begins to crisp.

If you want to splurge a bit, you can try out this luxe, low GI version from Food24.

Meal 2: Hearty beef, lentil and vegetable soup 

Brown the beef shin in a large pot and add one and a half litres of water with 1 stock cube, bay leaves, cloves and pepper. Chop one onion and the celery tops and add to the pot.

Let simmer for 40 minutes and spoon off any scum that rises to the top. Grate the potato and carrot and add to the pot and simmer for a further 40 minutes.

Add the lentils, herbs and cook for another 40 minutes until meat is very tender, lentils are cooked and soup is thick. Serve and enjoy.

There should be leftovers, so have for lunch the next day (and rest assured, this soup freezes really well). 

Meal 3: Pork chops with sweet potato mash and apple and cabbage slaw 

Mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of ginger and 2 crushed cloves of garlic together and pour over the chops to marinate overnight (or for 2 hours minimum).

Read more: Lose weight by eating more – the diet behind Sam Smith and James Cordon’s dramatic weight loss

Meanwhile, cut the sweet potato in pieces and boil in salt water until soft. Chop a quarter of the cabbage and one of the green apples and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar to wilt.

Grill the marinated pork chops – about 10 minutes on each side while you sweat the cabbage and apple slaw in a pan with a pat of butter. Mash the sweet potato and serve with chops and warm slaw. 

Meal 4: Vegetarian tomato curry 

Soak beans in water overnight or while you’re at work. Chop 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 potato, 2 cloves of garlic and a quarter of the cabbage. Slowly fry onions in a pan with turmeric, ginger, coriander, cumin and the sachet of curry powder.

When the onion is translucent, add garlic, chilli, carrot, potato and cabbage and fry for another 8 minutes over a low heat.

Add half a sachet of tomato paste, a quarter of a cup of lentils and a half a cup of soaked beans. Add half a tin of tomatoes and 1 and a half cups of water and simmer gently until beans are cooked. 

If your fridge and cupboards aren't entirely bare, check out this lentil curry from Food24.

Meal 5: Chilli con carne

Fry the other half of the mince until brown with the other half of the onion, 2 cloves of garlic and some finely diced chilli.

Add some Worcestershire sauce, sugar, the other stock pot and herbs. Add the other half of the tin of tomato and a cup of soaked beans. Cook until beans are soft. 

For more recipes, check out Food24's Budget Meals

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