If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re not sure whether to try and scrounge up a meal from the vestiges of what’s left in your fridge or go to sleep hungry for the night, you’re not alone. As a foreign student living half a world away from the comfort of my childhood home a few years ago, there were a number of times when I hadn’t budgeted properly, and was forced to think outside of the box when it came to feeding myself. And that’s when I found that there were a number of staple ingredients that didn’t cost much, but was nutritious and filling enough to tide me by until the end of the month.

Rice

If you’re Asian, you’d have grown up eating this from as far back as you could remember, and for good reason. It’s loaded with carbs, doesn’t cost too much per kilogram, and if you don’t have any meat dishes to go along with it, you could always just cook an easy fried rice dish with some vegetables, eggs and garlic!

Pasta

Yet another staple in a significant part of the world. Pasta’s an extremely versatile dish, and incredibly inexpensive as well (I used to get $1 a pack that would feed me for up to a week if I rationed properly). It definitely won’t be a huge drain on your wallet. Make a simple pasta dish with some tomatoes and olive oil, and garnish it with your choice of herbs for an quick, but classy dinner at home in front of your laptop.

Bread

This is another underrated food ingredient in one’s home. When you’re sick of either rice or pasta, you can always make a few sandwiches in lieu of cooking up yet another heavy carbs-based meal! My go-to when I need to rush out of the door is a quick peanut butter and jelly with banana sandwich, but when I’m feeling a little extra, I like to upgrade a simple grilled cheese with a sunny side up inside.

Potatoes

Mash it, dice it, fry it, bake it; there are infinite amount of possibilities with a potato at hand in a kitchen, even if it isn’t well-stocked at all.

Shout out to these super sidekick ingredients:

Cheese

Great for a sandwich, a pasta dish, melted as a dip for your fried potatoes.

Eggs

While eggs shouldn’t be your only source of protein, it does well enough when you’re in a pinch and can’t afford meats for the time being. Forget about the notion that eggs are a breakfast food; it belongs in any meal, any time of the day.

Bananas

An inexpensive dessert that can be used as a sandwich filling, a pancake topping, or even eaten on its own, and a good source of energy for the day as well!