Sunday, August 7, 2022

Frugal Dinner - Red Lentil Curry


Anyone who's been to the supermarket lately will surely have noticed that prices have gone up. I for one am struggling to stick to our grocery budget. In fact, I'm failing miserably. 

To try and help combat this, I thought I would test out some really frugal dinner recipes over the coming weeks. 

Tonight I made a red lentil curry, loosely based on Misha's recipe from Rainbow Plant Life. The good thing about the recipe I made is that, even though it's extremely frugal, it's also very nourishing, with the inclusion of my homemade chicken stock as well as extra vegetables from my fridge and freezer.  

Here's how I've been making chicken stock since 2010, using kitchen scraps that would otherwise get thrown out - chicken bones, carrot peels, celery leaves and onion ends.  

I've listed out the cost of each item used for this red lentil curry in the ingredients below, based on current Countdown prices. 


  • 2 Tbsp neutral cooking oil, like rice bran oil ($0.10)
  • 1 onion, finely diced ($0.60)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed (or 2 tsp from a jar) ($0.30)
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 2 tsp from a jar) ($0.30)
  • 2 tsp curry powder ($0.15)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin ($0.30)
  • 1 tsp garam masala ($0.30)
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander ($0.15)
  • Salt, to taste (5c)
  • Black pepper, to taste (5c)
  • 400g can crushed or diced tomatoes (free as I diced up tomatoes from my garden that I had frozen, but $0.90 from supermarket)
  • 1 grated zucchini, optional (free from my garden, but $4.50 from supermarket - okay I would not be buying zucchini in winter at that price!)
  • 2 cups grated pumpkin, optional ($0.50)
  • 1L chicken stock (free as I made my own out of scraps, but $3.50 from supermarket)
  • 1 cup split red lentils ($1.50)
  • 400ml can coconut cream ($1.40)
  • Juice of one lemon, optional (free from my garden, but $0.90 from supermarket)
MY TOTAL (using homemade chicken stock and homegrown garden produce): $6.00
SUPERMARKET TOTAL (if purchasing all ingredients): $15.80

  1. Heat a large frying pan or saucepan over a medium heat and add the cooking oil and diced onion.
  2.  Saute the onion until softened and golden.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning. 
  4.  Add the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, garam masala, coriander, salt and black pepper and cook for 45 seconds, tossing to prevent burning. 
  5. Add the grated zucchini and pumpkin and stir through to coat in the spices.
  6. Add the tomatoes to deglaze the pan, scraping up anything that has stuck to the bottom as this is where the flavour lies. 
  7. Pour in the chicken stock and stir it through. 
  8.  Rinse the red lentils in a sieve under running water until the water runs clear and then add them to the pan. 
  9. Simmer everything together for twenty minutes, stirring often.
  10. After twenty minutes, add one can of coconut cream and stir this through until it is fully incorporated.
  11. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon, if your using it. 
  12. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. 
  13. Serve on rice.
This recipe made so much lentil curry that Paul will be having leftovers for lunch tomorrow and I've also put enough in the freezer for another two dinners for our family of five. That puts this dinner at less than $2 per night, or less than $0.40 per head. Although I just realised that my total doesn't include the one cup of basmati rice I cooked to go with dinner, so I guess I should add something for that. 

Okay, a quick calculation puts the basmati rice at $0.80, bringing the total to $2.80 for dinner for our family of five, or $0.56 per head.

If I was making the curry using all supermarket ingredients instead of homemade/homegrown, the total at this time of year would be $15.80 for the curry + $.0.80 for the rice, which would still work out at roughly $6 a dinner for our family of five, or $1.20 per head. 

That's a frugal dinner no matter which way you cut it, although I was amazed at just how much I saved by utilising my garden produce and homemade chicken stock. 

If you have any super frugal dinner recipes you think I should try, please link them in the comments below. 


  1. Thanks for this. I really miss your regular blog updates. Hope all is going well for yo7 and your family.

    1. Aw, thanks for saying that. I appreciate your support. Sorry I've been so absent this year. It's been a busy one!


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