So I have an odd problem, which is that every time I move to a new country, I need to come up with an entirely new list of home-cooked meals. What’s readily available in one country, might be extremely scarce in another. Or that perfect meaty pasta dish that you perfected at home might suddenly become a luxury item when the necessary cheese and meats are three times the price you’re used to spending.
So instead of coming up with entirely new recipes in each country, I’ve come up with a list of meals that tend to be cheap, quick, and easy no matter what country I’m in. So hopefully, whether you’re shopping at a convenience store in Mexico or a wet-market in Vietnam, you’ll be able to find the necessary ingredients for all of these recipes for cheap.
1. Chinese Noodle Soup
I originally found this recipe on Recipe Tin Eats. The basic heart of this recipe is a broth made with chicken or vegetable stock (or bouillon cubes), soy sauce, sesame sauce, and crushed garlic cloves. Then you need some type of noodle, some greens, and any veggies/spices/protein you like. You can find soy sauce and sesame sauce pretty much anywhere in the world. The rest of the ingredients are up to you. I usually go for green onions, an egg, and lettuce or bok choy to make this meal healthy, filling, and cheap.
2. Vegetarian Pesto Pasta
Ingredients: pesto sauce, vegetables, pasta. Surprisingly pesto sauce can be found almost anywhere in the world if you look hard enough, and even though it can sometimes be a bit expensive, usually you’ll get five or six meals out of one jar. And considering the rest of these ingredients are typically dirt cheap, it makes the initial investment in a jar of pesto worth it.
You can get eggs anywhere. They’re always cheap, filling and fairly healthy. A cheap (and obvious) way to spice up boring old eggs are to add toppings. I’ve found that the cheapest and most available topping around the world are onions. Just chop ‘em up, fry ‘em, and pour your egg on top. Easy peasy! Of course, if cheese is cheap where you’re living, you can go for that, or ham, or maybe some toast on the side… Yum…
4. Veggies, Beans, and Rice
This is exactly what it sounds like. You need one pot for white rice, and a pan for beans and veggies. You can make this using canned beans and veggies, fresh veggies, or dried beans. It’s up to you, and whatever is cheapest in your country. If beans and veggies alone are too bland for you, just grab whatever spice is available. I’m currently in Mexico, so I usually reach for some hot sauce, but in Taiwan I always added soy.
5. One-Pot Bean Chili
I can’t find the blog where I originally discovered this recipe, but this one from Budget Bytes is pretty close, so I’ll link it. The key ingredients for this recipe are tomato paste, pasta, beans and cheese. All the spices and vegetables in the recipe can be changed depending on where you live. The one tricky part of this recipe is the cheese, which tends to be quite expensive in a lot of countries, but if you can manage to find some for cheap, cheese really does kick this recipe up a notch.
6. Fried chicken
With some flour, milk, eggs, and chicken, you can make one easy, delicious meal for cheap. Here’s a recipe from The Spruce Eats. Add rice or boiled potatoes for an inexpensive side.
7. Yogurt, Cereal, and Fruit
It’s what it sounds like. It’s basic, available wherever you go, and always yummy.
8. Fried Rice
Here’s a recipe from Genius Kitchen, but the main ingredients are eggs, soy sauce, and rice. Everything beyond that is up to your imagination, wallet, and local market.
9. “Spaghetti and Meat Sauce”
The reason I’ve put this recipe in quotations is because the only main ingredients that I use in this are garlic, onions, marinara sauce (jar), and spaghetti/pasta. If you can’t find a jar of marinara sauce then chopped up tomatoes simmered with garlic and onions will do in a pinch. Now for the “meat” of this recipe, you can use ground pork, beef, or chickpeas, depending on where you are in the world and what’s available.
The hardest part of these dishes are the tortillas, which don’t come ready-made in a lot of countries outside of the Americas. But luckily flour tortillas are pretty easy to make. Here’s a great recipe from Five Heart Home. After you’ve gotten the “tricky” part out of the way, toppings are fun and easy. I personally like heating some chicken on the stove top and using store-bought salsa for the fillings, but I’ve also used beans, ground beef, veggies, cheese, and basically anything else that I thought looked good in the past.
They key to a lot of these meals are versatility, so if anyone out there has some other versatile, cheap, easy meals they’d like to add, please leave a comment! I’m always on the hunt for more quick, easy, and delicious meals.