With Christmas coming up fast, you may be wanting to try and save some money elsewhere – and with a little creativity it is pretty easy to create meals on a budget, and still keep a healthy diet. When you buy prepared food like a ready meal, washed lettuce or even sliced cheese, you are paying for the convenience of not having to prepare the food yourself. Generally, unless you use premium products to prepare a similar version of a frozen dish, preparing it yourself will be much cheaper. And in the case of a stew or a shepherd’s pie, you won’t be adding too much prep time compared to the time it takes to unfreeze and bake it. Here are a few tips to eat well on a budget.
Get a Big Breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – the one that gets you going until lunch and means you can perform well at work, school or university. With a big breakfast you also will spend less at lunch time if you eat out.
Cheap and filling breakfasts include oatmeal, which takes 5 minutes to prepare and gives you plenty of energy, a couple of eggs with toast, eggs and beans.. If you skip the bacon, eggs are perfect to start the day on a budget. I cook the beans in a slow cooker, one pound at a time, so they cook all night and are ready in the morning, and then it just takes a few minutes to reheat.
If you like orange juice, consider switching to fruit smoothies with whatever fruits are in season and cheap at the time.
Consider the Calories Per Pound
Foods like lentils, rice, beans and potatoes offer a lot of filling calories per lb of product (and pound spent), while a pound of fish will be up to ten times more expensive and won’t leave you full. Reducing your food budget doesn’t mean having to skip meals or feeling hungry. By cooking smarter, you can still leave the table feeling full and satisfied.
Cheap filling meals include fried rice, chilli con carne, potato stew, lentil soup… If you use meat in those dishes, you are looking at under £2 per serving, and under £1 for their vegetable version.
Look for the Reduced Aisle
Most supermarkets as well as outdoors stands at the market have a reduced products aisle. It can be meat that will expire in a couple of days, or vegetables who have a very short lifespan ahead. You can buy them at a steep discount, freeze the meat you won’t use right now in small one meal sized packages, and chop the vegetables to make soup or a casserole.
Spices can turn a dish into a complete other dish, without the need for more expensive complements, such as cheese, cream or ready-made sauces. For example, vegetables mix well with curry, cumin, paprika, herbs de Provence, thyme, laurel… the list goes on. A £1 container of cumin can spice up dozens of meals. In summer, use fresh herbs such as basil, coriander or mint in your salads.
Get Creative with Leftovers
Roast chicken can become chicken fried rice, a chicken sandwich to take to work, chicken salad, chicken soup, or even get shredded on a homemade pizza. Try to challenge yourself to a zero food waste month. Eating exactly the same roast chicken for three days is boring, but by getting a little creative, you won’t even notice you are eating the same thing in a different form.
Have a special space in the fridge for food that only has a few days left before it goes bad, so you make sure to use it before it does. If you don’t know what to do with half a carrot, freeze it in a container and when it is full of vegetable scraps, make a soup.