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Shepherd's Pie Recipe on a Budget

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

By Dana Hirsch

photo by Dana Hirsch

Looking to cook a great meal but you’re short on cash?

Let me help you out with this delicious recipe for Shepherd’s Pie that you can cook with common food bank items or ingredients you can buy for less than $10. This recipe can be made vegan, vegetarian, or with meat and serves 2-4 people.

Cookbooks or online recipes can call for ingredients that are expensive and that you’ll never need again in your life. When money is tight or you just want to waste less food, this Shepherd’s Pie may inspire you to make do with what you already have. The recipe below offers different options and ingredients for making this dish taste great–substituting is key if you’ve got a budget!

Supplies needed:

  • Stove

  • Oven

  • 1 pot

  • 1 pan

  • An oven safe baking pan, casserole dish, or cast iron pan (I used a 9x9 brownie pan)

  • A colander/strainer

  • 1 mixing bowl

Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes; Active: 40 minutes; Cook and rest time: 40 minutes

Ingredients for Shepherd's Pie for 2-4 people:

Photo by Dana Hirsch

  • For the vegetarian/vegan version: 1 15oz can of chickpeas (currently available at the Purchase food pantry)

  • For the meat version: 1 lbs of ground beef cooked or raw, or premade burger patties currently available at the Purchase food pantry

  • 2-4 tbsp of butter and/or olive or vegetable oil (salted butter currently available at the Purchase food pantry)

  • ½ cup of frozen or canned carrots (canned carrots currently available at the Purchase food pantry) or 2 fresh carrots, chopped

  • ½ cup of fresh, frozen or canned peas (canned peas currently available at the Purchase food pantry)

  • ½ cup of fresh, frozen, or canned corn (canned corn currently available at the Purchase food pantry)

  • Half an onion (optional)

  • 2 cloves of garlic (optional)

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes or powdered mashed potatoes

  • 1 bouillon cube, 1 tsp of broth powder or 1 cup of vegetable or chicken stock

  • 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, or cornstarch

  • 1 tsp of soy sauce (if you don’t have a bottle, consider using a soy sauce packet)

  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional, but recommended)

Photo by Dana Hirsch

  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste or ketchup (if you don’t have a bottle, consider using a ketchup packet)

  • 3 tbsp of milk or your favorite plant milk (or make your own oat milk: mix 1 part oats and 4 parts water, blend for 30 seconds, drain through a fine strainer; keeps in the fridge for about one week and works great in your cereal or for cooking)

  • Spices, (I used: salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, brown sugar, and nutritional yeast flakes) but you can use anything you can find in your kitchen like Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, thyme and rosemary (fresh or dried), etc.


1. If using fresh potatoes, wash and cut the potatoes and cover them with water in a pot. You can peel your potatoes but I prefer to leave the skin on. Add salt if desired and boil for about 15-20 minutes or until soft. The smaller you cut your potatoes, the faster they will cook. If using powdered mashed potatoes, prepare according to the instructions on the box/bag and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 ºF.

Photo by Dana Hirsch

3. While the potatoes are boiling, drain and mash the chickpeas for the vegetarian/vegan version. Pro Tip: you can save the chickpea water–it’s called aquafaba and can be kept in the fridge or freezer and used as a vegan substitute for egg whites in recipes. For the meat version, take out the ground beef or, if using food pantry burger patties, defrost and mash into smaller pieces. Set aside in a bowl.

4. Chop onion and/or garlic. Cook onions in a pan with oil or butter until translucent, add garlic at the end. Make sure the burner is on low. Add salt and pepper as desired.

5. Vegetarian/vegan version: add chickpea mash to pan. Meat version: add meat to pan.

6. Dissolve bouillon cube or 1 tsp of broth powder in 1 cup of warm water, add to the pan. If using stock, add 1 cup to the pan. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes. (If using raw meat, make sure the meat is cooked during this step.)

Photo by Dana Hirsch

7. Add any and all spices you’d like to use (I used salt, pepper, 1 tsp of nutritional yeast, 1 tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of paprika, 2 tsp of brown sugar), 1 tsp of soy sauce, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp of tomato paste or ketchup (if using ketchup, you can omit the sugar). Add 2 tbsp of flour or corn starch and stir until well combined.

8. Cook on low to medium until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes, then turn off the burner.

9. If you haven’t already, drain potatoes, add 2 tbsp of butter or oil to the warm pan and add the drained potatoes on top. Make sure the burner is off.

Photo by Dana Hirsch

10. If using canned goods, drain and rinse peas, carrots, and corn. Add a generous ½ cup of each to the pan with the chickpeas or meat mixture. Pro Tip: rinse canned goods before using because they often contain lots of added salt. If you are not using the whole can, consider freezing the rest for later use.

11. Mash the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in 3 tbsp of milk, plant milk, or homemade oat milk. Set aside.

12. Lightly oil your oven-safe dish and add the chickpea or meat mixture to the dish. Pat down lightly with a spoon to get rid of air bubbles.

13. Spoon mashed potatoes on top, starting from the edges and smoothing to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling over in the oven.

Photo by Dana Hirsch

14. Bake at 400 ºF for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes start to brown.

15. When done cooking, let the dish sit for 10 minutes before serving.

16. Serve hot or freeze in portions for later!

Food insecurity is a common problem among college students. According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, 44% of college students cut the size of their meals or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food, 15% lost weight because there wasn’t enough money for food, and 20% did not eat for a whole day because there wasn’t enough money for food.

If you’re struggling with food insecurity, visit the Food Pantry website, follow their Instagram, or email Food Pantry Supervisor Dilenny Diaz at for more information on how you can access services you need.


1 Comment

Frye Jacob
Frye Jacob
Oct 27, 2021

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