The first rule if you want to save money is to stop eating takeaways and convenience foods and start cooking from scratch. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this. However, there are times when cooking from scratch is almost impossible for some of us. Maybe we have no time between work and taking the kids to their swimming lesson, have to work overtime, have caring responsibilities or are suffering from illness.
Some folk have long term chronic conditions that zap them of energy or give them constant pain. They are usually the people that would benefit most from food that is cheap and nutritious.
It’s not always easy cooking from scratch
Take my recent bout of disc problems. Most days I was in so much pain I could barely warm up a can of beans, let alone make a roast dinner. I battled on for ages, somehow producing something cheap and edible and cooking it from scratch. After all, I managed it most days working full time, so why not when I was off work?
After a time, I realised that not cooking from scratch wasn’t an admission of failure. It didn’t mean we had to bust the budget on takeaway pizzas every night or develop malnutrition eating junk food. I have found ways for us to eat healthy, budget friendly food without taking more than 15 or 20 minutes to prepare our meals.
So how do you eat a healthy diet and save money without having to make everything from scratch? Here are a few ideas.
Not cooking from scratch: staying healthy, sane and within budget
I have taken to buying really large, family sized bags of pre-cut salad to save time. This makes a good, healthy base to a meal. You can add hummus, cheese, tuna, eggs or tinned meat for protein and either a big chunk of bread or a can of spuds mixed with mayo to fill you up. I don’t mind having salad several days in a row and it saves cooking.
Let them eat beans
Beans on toast is a balanced meal, containing protein, carbohydrate and fibre. Some grated cheese on top or a fried egg makes it even better.
You can also buy cans of mixed beans in tomato or chilli sauce, which are nice over rice or a jacket potato.
Buy good food cheaply
Easier said than done, I hear you cry! But it is possibly to buy good food cheaply if you know where to look. Approved Food is always good for basics at cut prices, including lots of canned food and sauces in jars (this is my recommend a friend link). Lidl and Aldi do lots of fruit and vegetables on their weekly specials. Watch out for things that can be cooked quickly or chucked in a stir fry.
Fresh ready meals can often be found with yellow sticker reductions at the end of the day in other supermarkets. If you freeze them or eat them the same day they can provide quick and easy dinners.
Eggs can be very quickly turned into an omelette or tortilla with minimal preparation or energy. They are cheap and nutritious. Hard boil them and throw them on your salad leaves or have them fried or poached with chips (oven chips if you can’t be bothered to make them). Have some tinned peas, sweetcorn, grilled tomatoes or fried mushrooms too so you have at least one of your five a day.
Jars aren’t an admission of defeat
A jar of sauce is a marvellous thing. Chuck one over your chicken or vegetables and serve with rice for a super easy dinner. I also find stir fry sauce sachets an absolute godsend when I am lacking energy or motivation with a pack of supermarket chopped veg (preferably yellow stickered, obviously).
Ready made sauces are the type of thing you can pick up mega cheaply on Approved Food or in shops like B&M or Home Bargains.
Iceland is brilliant for frozen food at great prices I find. Packs of frozen veg needs no prep, you can pick up chicken breasts and other meat already cut and ready to use, sausages and all kinds of vegetarian fayre.
And, of course, Iceland sell a lot of ready meals. Choose some with vegetables built into the recipe or make sure you serve with salad or vegetables so you get some of your five a day.
Frozen fruit is also nice with custard or yogurt for a healthy pudding.
In the can
Tinned veg is full of nutrients and can be served with pretty much anything. I buy a lot of tinned ratatouille when I see it as it makes a nice easy dinner with pasta or rice and grated cheese on top. Tins of curry are good too.
I am a big fan of tinned fish such as sardines and tuna. Both make good ingredients for pasta bakes and sardines are good on toast. Very cheap and full of good omega oils.
Ready made pastry
I used to always make my own pastry and I do prefer it. However, once in a while I will buy ready made and will used it as a cheat ingredient for a tuna plait or an apple pie. You can also buy tins of pie filling, although it’s probably just as cheap and easy to buy ready made pies!
Who doesn’t like pasta? This is where I will happily use a jar of bolognese sauce, mixed with some lean mince or Quorn. I love tuna penne as it is pretty quick and easy to make, but if I can’t even be bothered with that I will mix up a packet of tuna bake and serve with salad.
A large jacket potato with a can of chilli beans, ordinary beans in tomato sauce, tuna mayo or just plain cheese is such an easy dinner. Again this is good with a pack of salad.
The odd ping meal won’t kill you
If all else fails, a microwave meal every now and again won’t kill you, especially if you serve it with some vegetables. It’s not often I give into one, but if I do it will be a curry!
None of the above is likely to be news to you. It’s all just common sense really. The point I am trying to make is that I beat myself up for taking short cuts for far too long. Sometimes you need to. Hopefully now that I am starting to feel better I will do more scratch cooking, but if I don’t feel like it then I won’t!
What about you? Are you a slave to cooking from scratch or do you like some convenience meals?
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