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Eating on a budget - Hidden Veg Pasta Bake

Eating on a budget - Hidden Veg Pasta Bake

Being a savvy shopper isn’t just good for your wallet, it’s can also be good for your health.

Having started University binging on pot noodles, cheese toasties and ready meals, I was spending a fortune every week on branded products that were not only unhealthy – but very expensive considering my limited budget.

So what’s the answer to eating healthily when you're a strapped-for-cash student?

Fruit & Veg

Buying regular batches of fresh fruit and vegetables is key to keeping your diet healthy.  Meat is a great way to add protein to your food, but it can be expensive so why not try and bulk out your meals with plenty of veg too - this way you can make your money go a little further and you'll be getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins too.

Okay, okay, you might not think that vegetables are the nicest of things to eat but there are plenty of ways to jazz them up and get them tasting great within your meals.

Here is one of my favourite suggestions for beginner chefs on a budget - this was one of my favourite meals that I learnt to cook at University - believe me if I can do it, you’ll be an accomplished cook in no time!

Hidden Veg Pasta Bake

What you’ll need…

  • 250g of dried pasta - Penne or Fusilli would work really well (bargain ranges from most supermarkets cost 30p for 500g)
  • 4 chicken thighs or vegetarian alternative (1.89p)
  • 1 broccoli (39p)
  • 4 medium sized carrots, chopped (24p)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (20p)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes (30p) or jar of pasta bake sauce (80p)
  • 2 cups of Cheddar cheese, grated (1.49p)


Firstly, set your oven to 200°, then chop the chicken, onions, carrots and broccoli heads up into pieces. I normally do these around the same size as a £2 coin to give the dish some texture.

Place some cold water in a large sized saucepan and bring to the boil, once it's bubbling add 250g (approx. three handfuls) into the boiling water.  After about 5 minutes of boiling add the carrots and broccoli too and cook everything together in the same pan.  The total cooking time should be around ten minutes.

Whilst the pasta, broccoli and carrots are cooking in the pan,  take a frying pan or wok and heat a little oil in the pan.  Toss in the chicken and the onion and fry until the chicken is browned on all sides and the onion has softened.

When the pasta and veg has cooked, drain well and place in a large oven-proof casserole dish.  Now add the cooked chicken and onion too and mix together.  Take your tin of chopped tomatoes or jar of pasta sauce and pour over the chicken, pasta and veg mix. 

Finally, grate a generous amount of cheese over the entire mixture.  You can use as much or as little as you like (if you use the low-fat variety, you can have double the quantity but don't blow you entire budget on cheese!)

Now it's time to bake it!  Just pop it in the oven and bake it for around 20 minutes at 200° or until the top is golden brown and bubbling.

This dish should serve between 5-6 portions of delicious cheesy hidden veg bake.  If you have a freezer in your halls, you could always freeze some portions to eat at a later date or if you don't mind eating the same meal for a few days this is a great way to stretch out your budget! Or why not cook for all of your housemates - it will give you a chance to impress your new friends, everone gets to eat healthily and they'll all have to return the favour one day!

And the best best thing about this meal ?  The whole dish comes to less than £5 so you're looking at approx £1 per head.  Tasty doesn't always have to be expensive!

Check back next week for more yummy meals on a budget!

About the author

Ben Kibble-Smith

Ben Kibble-Smith

Ben recently graduated from Leeds Beckett University, where he gained valuable skills not only on his course but also becoming an accomplished cook!

Ben currently works at Wrexham Glyndwr as a Student Engagement and Recruitment Assistant. 

To contact Ben please email