Budget eats up meal prep challenge – 30-minute meals for less than $30

June, a Delish senior food manufacturer and local nutrition expert, set out to cook a full week’s worth of meals for two on a $30 budget. Catch? There was a 30-minute limit for each meal! Check out how she did and watch the rest of her series, budget eatson youtube!


Our Low FODMAP budget eats The episode received over 2,000 votes and the best comment inspired the theme for this new challenge.

budget eats cooking edition

Jun Se

Due to inflation, we raised the $25 threshold to $30. I bought a piece of pork shoulder, canned vegetables, beans, rice and cheese. I also spotted some mind-blowing deals: a huge bag of spinach and a bag of 8 discounted green bananas. Then there was the frivolously daring purchase of a can of Lay’s Stax, but girls need chips sometimes, you know?

budget eating cooking

Jun Se

As we started this episode, Julia and I agreed on some new rules:

  1. Budget $30, no dietary restrictions.
  2. Each meal must consist of at least 2 servings and no meal may be repeated.
  3. After the initial prep day, all meals must be completed within 30 minutes of the shoot.
    1. If you haven’t figured it out yet, all episodes budget eats (except for the episode with our campaign) were shot dead by your obedient servant in my kitchen of 90 square feet.

      If you’ve never tried filming yourself cooking from different angles with meaty hands, you’ve probably never thought about how long the whole process takes. On average, 30 minutes of video recording corresponds to approximately 15 minutes of actual cooking time. So if you are inspired enough to recreate any of these dishes, it should take you no more than 20 minutes.

      After spending a day preparing most of the raw ingredients, chaos ensued.


      Patacon Sliders

      sliders patacon budget eating food cooking edition

      Jun Se

      They were so breathtakingly good that I rated them 12/10. The juicy fat of air-fried lightly crispy pork dripped down my chin as I took the first bites. Simply incredible and ecstatically fantastic. While the bananas could benefit from double frying – which is how they are traditionally cooked – they were decent enough that I didn’t care. With mashed beans and a bit of acetic onion and carrots on top, all the ingredients made this dish well balanced.

      Rating: 12/10

      Pork “Belli” Fried Rice

      budget eating food cooking pork fried rice

      Jun Se

      This humble dish also got 12/10. I’m starting to think that maybe fatty pork with skin on is the secret ingredient that makes everything delicious. Who needs butter when there’s lard?

      I fried the leftover rice with poached garlic, onions, carrots, dill stalks, spices and seasonings until crispy and soaked in flavor and the rest was history.

      Rating: 12/10

      Pizza Spinach Rice

      budget eating food cooking pizza spinach rice

      Jun Se

      This one only got 10/10, a relative underdog compared to our first two recipes, but still a winner overall. I have a fascination with “pizzafating” food that isn’t pizza, mainly because I’m pretty obsessed with pizza in general. I’ve made oatmeal pizza as well as fried rice pizza and I liked both, so this option was a no-brainer.

      I mixed the rice with canned tomatoes and then sprinkled it with seasoned ricotta and spinach leaves. After about 12 minutes in the microwave everything started to melt. It wasn’t pretty in terms of presentation, but the dish captured all the familiar flavors of a classic lasagna, except for the meat.

      Rating: 10/10


      Chips and sauces

      budget eats chips and sauces for cooking

      Jun Se

      Sometimes you ruin a good job by doing too much. While trying to make another dish with leftover beans, I decided to make three hummus-like sauces with my chips. They weren’t that bad, but paired with perfectly seasoned chips, they just didn’t affect the overall taste. I probably would have spent my time better with other snacks like pita chips or pretzels.

      Rating: 7/10 (I was generous this week)

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