440gm can of black beans ($0.75), two tomatoes ($1.20), one red onion ($0.30), one avocado ($3.00), grated cheese ($2.00), sauce and rice (free food shelf). Total cost: $7.25
Upgrade your boring old rice and beans by adding diced tomatoes, onions and cheese, as well as avocado if you can afford one, coriander if you can stand the taste, and chilli sauce if you can find some on the hostel kitchen share shelf.
500gm packet of couscous ($1.75), one packet of fetta cheese ($3.00), one continental cucumber ($2.00), one lemon ($0.80). Total cost: $7.55
You know a recipe’s easy when the hardest step is boiling couscous for five minutes. Toss it in a big bowl with crumbled feta, diced cucumber and a squeeze of lemon for a filling no-frills feed.
500gm of chicken thigh fillet ($7.00), stir fry sauce ($3.00), 200gm bunch of broccoli ($1.10), 100gm of mushrooms ($1.20), one brown onion ($0.30). Total cost: $12.60
Gotta love a meal you can just toss together in a pan, especially if you can save a few bucks on the sauce by cobbling together a mixture of soy sauce, peanut oil, ginger and garlic off the share shelf. Add whatever veggies you like but mum will be happy if you’re eating your broccoli.
Six eggs ($2.80), 400gm can of crushed tomatoes ($1.20), one brown onion ($0.30). Total cost: $4.30
Whip up a sauce out of the crushed tomatoes, onion and whatever garlic, paprika and chilli flakes you can find on the share shelf, pop it in a ceramic bowl or baking dish with the cracked eggs on top, and leave your meal in an 180°C oven for about 15 minutes until the egg white sets. Add chickpeas, spinach or coriander if you’re feeling fancy.
Eight-pack of tortillas ($2.25), tub of hommus ($2.00), head of iceberg lettuce ($3.50), two tomatoes ($1.20), one green capsicum ($1.70), one Lebanese cucumber ($0.60). Total cost: $11.25
Add all this to your shopping trolley and you’ll have easily enough food to fill up two people for both lunch and dinner – not bad for a tick over ten bucks. Throw in tuna or mayonnaise or chicken or avocado or ham or whatever else floats your boat (and fits into your budget), too.
500gm of pork mince ($5.50), two heads of butter lettuce ($4.00), one white onion ($0.30), stacks of stuff you can pilfer off the share shelf (free). Total cost: $9.80
The lettuce becomes the wrap in this Chinese favourite, which is another zero-effort dish. Just fry up the pork mince and chopped onions with peanut oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, peanuts and whatever else you can spot on the free food shelf then spoon it into the lettuce leaves.
One kilo of gold sweet potatoes ($4.50), salt, pepper and butter (free food shelf), topped with whatever tickles your fancy. Total cost: $4.50
Freestyle this one. The fluffy orange goodness of a sweet potato baked in a 200°C oven for around 45 minutes is delicious enough with only some salt, pepper and butter on top – or you can get creative by topping it with sour cream and beans, or caramelised onions, or pulled pork, or toasted nuts, or wherever else your stomach leads you.
500gm beef mince ($4.00), 440gm can of black beans ($0.75), 400gm can of whole peeled tomatoes ($0.80), one brown onion ($0.30), rice and spices (free food shelf). Total cost: $5.85
Another one-pot wonder that doesn’t take an Iron Chef to prepare. Toss all the ingredients into a frying pan with any chilli flakes, paprika, cumin, beef stock and tomato paste you can find on the share shelf, then plonk the chilli on top of some rice for a big dinner that leaves leftovers for days. Vegetarians and vegans can sub mince for lentils for a meat-free version.
500gm beef mince ($4.00), six eggs ($2.80), 250gm of bean sprouts ($2.15), 200gm of baby spinach ($2.80), 200gm of mushrooms ($2.40), Lebanese cucumber ($0.60), two carrots ($0.40), rice (free food shelf). Total price: $15.15
Shove all this is in your shopping trolley and you could serve this Korean favourite to at least four hungry diners… or keep it all for yourself the next day. Just whack the fried mince, blanched spinach, sliced cucumber, julienned carrots, sautéed mushrooms and raw bean sprouts on top of a bed of rice with a fried egg on top and voila.
Loaf of bread ($2), jar of peanut butter ($1.85). Total cost: $3.85
Come on, we couldn’t end this list without mentioning the budget backpacker meal par excellence. The nutritional value of the humble peanut butter sandwich is dubious but, hey, it never hurt the generations of penny-pinching globetrotters it’s fuelled before.