Fried garlic pieces can be bought from most Asian supermarkets and cost about 1.50 for a bag that will last months (plus it saves all that peeling/chopping/ crushing carry on....you just throw em in the frying pan).
Dried herbs can save any meal...especially basil, oregano, chilli and cumin (although not usually together)
Freshly grown herbs are lovely
Find a big bag of Thai green curry sauce....combine a dessert spoon of that with a cheap can of cocoanut milk and sundry veges lying around the place (stir fry the veges add the sauce, cocoanut milk, a dash of brown sugar, coriander if you have any and some salt) serve on rice for an absolutely fabulous curry.
If you can find a weekend market you can usually pick up slightly misshapen but tasty fruit and vegetables very cheaply (I can usually keep my flat of 3-4 supplied with $16 or so worth of vegetables including decadent stuff like coriander).
Try turning that mishapen fruit into muffins.....
Make use of your supermarket's deli counter to buy tiny little luxurys (it's amazing how much 50 cents worth of olives can improve a meal).
If you're really splurging on eating out......go vegetarian, in most Chinese/Indian restaraunts it's much much cheaper
On that note....Krishna food is a wonderful way to treat yourself to a meal out at a very low cost.