7 clever budget meals to get you through until payday

The secret to a super-efficient kitchen, a healthy budget and a well-fed family is planning. Put some time aside to make one ‘base meal’ that you can make ahead, freeze and then tweak for different, delicious budget meals when the month gets too long.

ALSO SEE: 10 quick and easy freezer-friendly meals to save time

A basic tomato stew is a great foundation for a week’s worth of meals. You can add ingredients as you need, and use it in a variety of filling, nutritious dishes.

How to make the tomato stew

  • Fry onion and garlic until tender, then add three or four tins (depending on how many people you’re feeding) of peeled, chopped tomatoes.
  • Cover with vegetable or chicken stock, add a sprinkling of mixed herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook for 20 minutes until you have a glossy, thick tomato stew.
  • Once cooled, pour the tomato mixture into seven different smaller containers or Ziploc bags to use throughout the week.
  • Place them carefully in the freezer and use when you need them.

ALSO SEE: 5 budget dinner solutions to help stretch your rands

Here are a few ideas on how to use the tomato stew in your budget meals for a week:

Monday: Scrumptious soup

Reheat the tomato mixture with a tin of sweetcorn until piping hot, for an affordable and mouth-watering soup. Serve with toast and butter.

Tuesday: Endless pasta-bilities

Boil macaroni noodles or spaghetti until they’re cooked but firm. Drain then add a knob of butter and the defrosted tomato mixture. Toss together and top with some grated cheese for a yummy pasta dinner.

Wednesday: Perfect potatoes

Boil potatoes or sweet potatoes until completely cooked. Place on a baking tray, cut the potatoes open and pour a little of the tomato mixture over each potato. Top with some grated cheese and mixed herbs, then grill until golden and bubbling.

Thursday: Brilliant beans

Heat the tomato mixture with a tin or two of mixed beans and 1 tbsp sugar for homemade baked beans. Serve hot over toast.

Friday: Succulent chicken

Fry chicken pieces until crispy on the outside. Place in a baking tray with some cooked, chopped spinach. Pour over the tomato mixture and bake until the chicken is completely cooked.

Saturday: Mince magic

Fry some mince until brown, then add the tomato mixture with some mixed herbs and 1 tsp curry powder (depending on the heat you prefer). Serve with thick slices of bread.

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner

Toast a few slices of bread. Butter the toast, and top with fried or scrambled eggs and a generous spoonful of the tomato mixture – everyone loves breakfast for dinner.

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