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5 Easy & Affordable Meals That Will Stretch Out Your Grocery Budget

The irony of Singapore is that it’s cheaper to eat out in hawker centres than to cook for one at home, but too much of it can be unhealthy and can add up over to a lot of cash spent over time.

With plenty of inexpensive options for eating out in Singapore, most busy professionals would rather have their daily meals at hawker centres for S$3 to S$5 per meal. According to the 2018 Nielsen Out-of-Home Dining Survey, “close to one in four” respondents eat out daily, with dinner being the meal most consumed outside of the home. However, constantly eating out is an expensive habit, with Singaporean households spending an average of S$9,722 per year on dining. While dining out is more convenient than grocery shopping and cooking for the busy worker, the money saved from preparing meals that can last for a few days can be a worthwhile reward. If you want a healthy and cost-saving alternative to eating out, we have 5 easy, affordable and healthy meals you can make to help you stretch your grocery budget and reduce your spending.

Whole Roast Chicken with Veggies

Roasting a whole chicken is one of the most economical ways to cook as all you need to do is to season it and put it in the oven for 90 minutes while you unwind after work. A whole chicken that can last you 2 days costs about S$7.40 at Fairprice and you can use existing seasonings in your pantry—salt, pepper, butter/oil, a lemon, and garlic. For a balanced meal, you can also roast a couple of potatoes, carrots and onions.

Cost of Making Roast Chicken with Veggies (Fairprice)

This table shows the cost of making a roast chicken with vegetables by buying the cheapest ingredients from Fairprice

While a whole roast chicken may initially seem like too much food for a couple or single, there are multiple dishes you can make with the leftovers. First, after you’ve carved the roasted chicken to serve, save the carcass to make broth. We recommend boiling the broth on the same night and storing it in the fridge for up to 3 days or freezing it in jars for up to 6 months. There will most likely also be leftover meat, which you can use for another meal like chicken noodle soup or fried rice.

Chicken Noodle Soup

With the bones from the roast chicken, you can boil about 1.5 litres of broth, adding some salt and pepper to taste. If you’ve already prepared the broth a day before, you can cook this meal in 5 minutes. To make a healthy chicken noodle soup, add broccoli and carrots for fibre and use the leftover chicken meat from the roast chicken for protein. If you don't like carrots or broccoli, you can add the leftover vegetables from your roast chicken dish instead. Otherwise, the only ingredients you’d have to buy are broccoli and a pack of egg noodles, which comes to a total grocery bill that's less than S$5.

Cost of Making Chicken Noodle Soup (Fairprice)

This table shows the cost of making chicken noodle soup by buying the cheapest ingredients from Fairprice

One Pot Pasta

Made popular by Martha Stewart, the one pot pasta takes only 10 minutes to cook. Using cheap basic ingredients like onion, garlic, oregano, salt, olive oil, pepper and tomatoes for flavour, you don’t even have to spend much as you probably have most of the seasonings in your pantry. There isn’t even a need to buy a jar of tomato sauce, since just a few chopped fresh tomatoes would suffice to achieve a sauce-like consistency. If you can’t do without meat, add minced chicken for cheap protein or mushrooms for a vegan/vegetarian meal. A 500g pack of the cheapest brand of pasta costs just $1.95 for 4 to 6 portions depending on your appetite, so you can make a big batch of it and reheat it for consumption for your next few meals over 2 days.

Cost of Making One Pot Pasta (Fairprice)

This table shows the cost of making One Pot Pasta by buying the cheapest ingredients from Fairprice

Vegetable Curry

If you have a few tomatoes, carrots and potatoes left from the individual packs of 5 you bought, a vegetable curry is a very cost-effective meal to make. You can add a few more cheap vegetables like eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower and frozen peas, to make it a filling meal to enjoy with the white rice you might already have. Since it takes about an hour from prep to serve, you can make it on a Sunday, and have leftovers during lunchtime at work or for dinner on Monday and Tuesday. A big pot of vegetable curry makes 6 to 7 servings that can last for a maximum of 3 days. All of the ingredients you need are available at Mustafa, so it’s best to do your grocery shopping there.

Cost of Making Vegetable Curry (Mustafa)

This table shows the cost of making vegetable curry by buying the cheapest ingredients from Mustafa

Fried Rice

Since fried rice is best made using leftover rice, it’s a simple solution for a quick and easy meal, especially when you need to clear out the fridge before ingredients expire or go bad. You can simply fry the rice with any meat and fresh or frozen vegetables you can find in the fridge, adding seasonings like salt, pepper, garlic, chilli, and soy sauce which are essentials in any Asian pantry. With this meal, you don’t have to go grocery shopping and you can save a meal’s worth of money that you’d have spent eating out. As fried rice lasts for 5 to 7 days in the fridge, you can also cook a bigger portion to reheat for your next few meals.

How To Plan & Save on Home Cooked Meals

Contrary to popular belief, cooking at home even for yourself doesn’t have to be an expensive and troublesome affair. This list of one-pot, one-pan and oven dishes require little effort and cleaning up. Furthermore, these dishes last for days, so you don’t even have to cook every day which will save you time as well money. Best of all, most of the aforementioned servings cost less than the standard hawker dish of S$3 to S$5. Even the roast chicken recipe, which costs about S$3.75 per serving, is still much cheaper than what you'd come across in restaurants or a Western hawker stall. To stretch your budget even further, you should look out for offers and discounts on different ingredients and pay with credit cards that give you rebates on groceries.

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