Low-cost meals at home

Easy, Low Cost Meals cover
Image adapted from (from left to right):
The Spruce, @yakunbali & @live18seventynine

With non-essential businesses closing their shutters this April, it’s inevitable that a large portion of us have been forced to take pay cuts and no pay leaves. We’d have to be extra thrifty this month to ensure we don’t accidentally run out of funds before our next paycheck.

But just because we’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean we have to resort to a diet of cup noodles and bread. You can DIY your own Ya Kun breakfast for less than $2 and make a plate of the creamiest pasta for under $5.

Here are 9 easy, low-cost meals you can make at home for less than $10 per serving:

Check out our other food guides this COVID-19 season:


1. Oatmeal with fruits and/or nuts

Images adapted from:
@greekgodsyogurt & @organicmichelle

Whole Instagram accounts are dedicated to aesthetic breakfast bowls like this with follower counts that can go up to the millions. First of all, they’re pretty, and we love to look at pretty things. Secondly, it’s a great addition to your diet because oatmeal is considered healthy. Plus, it’ll keep you full for longer so you won’t be reaching for snacks between breakfast and lunch.

Versatility-wise, it’s a godsend. You can adjust the ratio of milk and water depending on how creamy you like it and even change it up every morning by adding different combinations of fruits, nuts, and seeds. Some people even add Greek yoghurt for a dash of soury sweetness.

Difficulty: 1/5
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: ~ $1.04 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

2. Pancakes with fruits

Image credit:

Getting some McDonald’s breakfast pancakes delivered isn’t the best idea when we’re trying to make every dollar count. Instead of paying that extra $3-5 for delivery, grab a box of pancake premix instead.

In one serving, you’ll be able to feed more than one person depending on how much each person eats. And just like oatmeal, you can make it slightly different every day so it doesn’t get repetitive. Mix up the syrups and fruits, add whipped cream, or even add chocolate chips in the batter for some extra, chocolatey sweetness.

Difficulty: 1.5/5
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cost: ~ $1.81 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

*Assuming one bottle of maple syrup when used every day takes 2 weeks to finish

3. Ya Kun Kaya toast dupe

Easy, low cost meals: Ya Kun dupe
Image credit:

We all love a traditional Singaporean breakfast. Sipping on a warm kopi or teh while the sweet aroma of kaya toast wafts around us is like a warm hug on a dreary morning. Now that it isn’t the safest or most convenient time to head out for local brekkie, it’s high time we tried making it on our own.

If kaya doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can easily swap it out for peanut butter, sugar, or even Nutella.

Difficulty: 1.5/2
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cost: ~ $1.31 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

* Assuming one loaf has 20 slices
**Assuming one jar of kaya when used every day takes 2 weeks to finish

Get the recipe.


4. Healthy ramen salad

Ramen salad
Image adapted from:
@live18seventynine & Alex Lau

If you have a stash of ramen or cup noodles you can’t seem to clear, here’s how you can upgrade it in the health department. This recipe skips adding the given powdered seasoning and instead adds an assortment of veggies, fruits which you can swap out for ones you like.

For base flavour, the recipe uses rice vinegar and soy sauce which are definitely on the healthier side compared to the pre-packed sachets.

Difficulty: 1/5
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: ~ $1.34 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

*Basic ingredients listed, season as you wish and add desired vegetables

Get the recipe.

5. Saba Shioyaki

Easy, low cost meals: Saba fish
Image credit:

Fish is packed with lots of good stuff like Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and protein. In fact, it’s so good for you that the Health Promotion Board recommends us to include it in our diet at least twice a week.

Cooking a whole fish may seem like a daunting task for amateur cooks but it can be pretty easy. This recipe simplifies it enough that even a complete beginner can manage. Plus, you don’t have to head out to get a $7 saba fish meal, you can just do it at home!

Difficulty: 2/5
Prep time: 25-30 minutes
Cost: ~ $4.97 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

Get the recipe.


6. Mango sticky rice

Easy, low cost meals: mango sticky rice
Image credit:
The Spruce

One of the first things most of us do when we land in any part of Thailand is devour some mango sticky rice. With the lockdown and travel bans in place, it’s unlikely any of us will be doing that anytime soon.

Thankfully, it’s actually easy to make in our own kitchen and above all, affordable. It costs about $5 for 2-4 servings, depending on how much each person eats.

Difficulty: 2.5/5
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cost: ~ $5.12 for 2-4 servings

Ingredients needed: 

Get the recipe here.

7. Satay

Image credit:

Here’s something a bit more local to satiate your appetite until dinner time – good ol’ satay. This takes a little longer to make but it’ll all be worth it when you take that first mouthwatering bite. It’s perfect to snack on in the afternoon and keep you going those last few hours of WFH.

A fun fact about satay: Lau Pa Sat made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 by making the world’s longest satay. It was a whopping 140.02M long and had 150KG of chicken.

Difficulty: 3.5/5
Prep time: 80 minutes
Cost: ~ $3.95 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

*Assuming 100g is worth 4 stalks

Get the recipe here.


8. Mac and cheese

Mac and cheese
Image credit:
Divergent B

Mac and Cheese sounds like a simple dish to make but it can be hard to achieve the right amount of cheesiness. Here’s a recipe that has hundreds of good reviews for creaminess.

Depending on your preference, you can add less or more cheese since this recipe is easily customisable. Overall, it’s a great dinner time dish especially if you want a change from the usual rice.

Difficulty: 2.5/5
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cost: ~ $11.10 for 4 servings | ~ $2.75 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

Get the recipe here.

9. Chicken mushroom pasta

Easy, Low cost meals: chicken and mushroom pasta
Image credit:
Julia Foerster

Pasta is a staple dish for every student who has ever lived alone in a dorm. It’s straightforward to make – some pasta and a bottled pasta sauce can do the trick.

But for those who want to upgrade their pasta-making skills to making a sauce from scratch, here’s a great recipe for a creamy chicken mushroom pasta. The cook even adds ways you can customise it based on what you like and don’t.

Difficulty: 3/5
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cost: ~ $19.90 for 4 servings | ~ $4.97 per serving

Ingredients needed: 

Get the recipe here.

Easy, low-cost meals at home

With a lot of us not working during this Circuit Breaker, we need ways to stretch every dollar without compromising too much on enjoying food. Try out some of these easy, low-cost meals at home that you would typically get outside to spice up your meals.

Check out our other Circuit Breaker articles here:

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