Budget Living

Cheap Fast Foods You Can DIY At Home

From Indian to pizza and Chinese to the beloved burger, there’s nothing quite like a naughty treat at the end of a long, hard week. Sometimes though, a feast for all the family can cost as much as a meal in a restaurant, which is hard to justify when you’re on a budget. So, it’s time to roll up those sleeves and make your own versions. Read on to discover our favourite cheap fast foods to make at home for an even cheaper treat.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips is the staple of many a household on a Friday night and once you’ve tasted it you’ll know why. It started to become widespread among the working class in the late 1800s to the point where 35,000 ‘chippies’ existed in the UK by the 1920’s. Thankfully, part of the reason the simple meal of fish and chips became so popular was that it was quick to make and serve. To make your own fried fish at home you won’t need much except the fish itself, some oil and your batter mixture. If you’re not sure what fish to opt for then a white flaky fish is best – pollock is a lot cheaper and just as tasty as cod! If you’re veggie consider swapping your fish for vegetables such as broccoli and peppers for a twist on this traditional dish.

Image of fish and chips

To batter your fish, mix together white flour, some ice-cold water, salt and pepper until you achieve a consistency similar to pancake batter. You can also add a teaspoon or two of baking powder to make your batter light. Dip your fish in this before shallow frying in a pan. This is a lot healthier than traditional deep-frying and much safer an option to do at home, too. Lay the fish some kitchen towel after frying to remove excess oil and serve with chips.

Curry night

It’s pretty easy to replicate Indian food at home and you don’t necessarily have to make it from scratch either. Sauces can be bought in jars, naans and poppadoms pre-made and you could even buy microwavable rice. However, you can make a pretty good veggie curry for a fraction of the price you’d pay for pre-made sauces and, what’s more, the measurements here will make 8-10 portions, meaning you’ve made a sizeable meal for a pittance. If you don’t already have some spices at home then you may find this option a little more expensive, though once you have them in your cupboards you’ll find you’re able to make a wealth of tasty meals for a tiny cost.

Image of curry

First, chop 2-3 medium onions and 4 garlic cloves and fry with a splash of oil until softened. Add cheap veg such as carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and peppers, all cut chopped into bitesize pieces. Add some chopped red chilli pepper to taste, before adding two teaspoons of garam masala, a sprinkling of parsley and coriander. Mix in 400ml of vegetable stock, two tins of chopped tomatoes and a tin of coconut milk. To bulk out your meal at this stage, you could add some frozen veg to your meal, or some lentils. This is an inexpensive way to bulk out your meals and means you can eke out a few more portions, too.

Allow your curry to simmer away slowly until the sauce has thickened and serve alongside rice, ready-made naan bread, poppadoms and chutneys for a real takeaway feel. Recipe adapted from this one which costs 30p.

Skip the dip and save a fortune

Pizza takeaway chains are often great if you have a voucher, but the cost soon racks up without. The average price for a large pizza in the UK ranges from £14.99-18.99, and the more mouths to feed, the higher the price! However, it’s relatively easy to bypass this and instead opt for own-brand frozen pizzas which can be bought in any supermarket.

As savvy as this life-hack may be, for many of us it’s not actually the pizza that draws us to a takeaway. It’s the all important side dish: our beloved garlic dip. So, to make your cheap fast food imitation closer to the real deal we’ve found a recipe for garlic sauce to dip your crusts in, and it’s not quite the  700 calories per 100g that Domino’s is . . .

Image of pizza, a cheap fast foods

Quite simply, mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with equal parts mayonnaise, 1 minced garlic clove and some thinly chopped parsley and coriander. Serve with your pizza of choice and get dunking!

Read more: Easy Ingredient Swaps To Cut Cost, Not Nutrition

A takeaway staple

What’s not to love about a good Chinese takeaway? Spicy, sweet, sour and moreish, this type of takeaway is best enjoyed as a combination of lots of different dishes. It’s easy enough to find some cheap frozen spring rolls to heat up in the oven, but what do you do about the main course?

Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest cheap fast foods to make your own sauces for. This sweet and sour sauce is a great one to start with and uses only a few ingredients.

Image of sweet and sour food

First mix 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of ketchup and a teaspoon of soy sauce in a small pan, bringing to a boil. Mix together 2 teaspoons of cornflour and 4 of water before adding to the other ingredients. Stir until thickened or add another teaspoon if the consistency is too watery for your liking.

Other cheap fast foods to DIY

There are plenty of other cuisines you can make, whether you fancy a sweet Chinese dish or a fancy burger. If you have a favourite meal that you love to order out it’s well-worth trying to replicate it from home. Not only are you likely to create a much healthier meal, but cheap fast foods like this could eventually replace your weekly takeaway, saving you money in the process. And, you might learn new culinary skills along the way!

What cheap fast foods have you managed to make at home?