Cheap meal ideas
Let’s face it, although food is a necessity it can also be costly. Whether you’re a busy family that has too many ready meals or takeaways, or a struggling student who lives on a diet of cheese on toast and baked beans, there are ways to eat well and not over spend.
To get good quality cheap meals you really need to put in some work in before you even hit the shops. By thinking about what you want to eat, and checking what you’ve got in the cupboards before you head out, you can cut back on spending too much in store.
Make a list of your favourite meals and then list out the ingredients. Hop onto mySupermarket.co.uk; a comparison site, and find where the best deals are.
If you see a non-perishable item on offer such as chopped tomatoes, buy a few extra tins for another day. You’ll soon have a good stock which will save you a shed load of cash in the long run.
Cook from scratch
Don’t buy pre-packaged meals and jars of sauces as you will be paying a premium – and getting added extra ingredients that just wouldn’t be there if you made it yourself.
Cooking a Bolognese from scratch is so easy and just uses store cupboard ingredients. You will need to stock up on some herbs and spices but when you have them you can use them in so many other dishes to make many different variations and new flavours.
With a tin of tomatoes (less than 40p), a sprinkle of mixed herbs and a stock cube, you can have your own bolognese sauce at a fraction of the price (and much healthier) than buying a jar of sauce.
There are so many meals that people buy pre-packaged which are really simple to cook from scratch at a fraction of the cost.
Bulk it out
Meat can be very expensive and doesn’t stretch very far. Instead of adding more meat, bulk out your dishes with beans, pulses and vegetables.
There is nothing better than a beef stew on a winter's evening and if you add a handful or two of red lentils, no one ca tell the difference but it will thicken your stew and stretch it that bit further. Also if you have hungry children this is a great way to introduce healthier food into their diets.
Ditch the meat
Don’t get me wrong, I love eating meat. Sausage and mash, chicken roast, beef stir-fry; all favourites of mine but with the price of meat on the rise, you can switch to a non-meat option and keep the cash in your pocket.
Consider leaving a minced beef chilli and swapping for three beans instead. A three bean chilli with some crusty bread is the perfect medicine on a cold winter’s day.
I also recommend checking out the vegetarian section over at studentrecipes.com where they have a plethora of cheap dishes to try for all the family.
Whether you’re a busy family, or a student with a busy schedule, the last thing you want to think about when you get home is cooking a full blown meal!
Instead of getting in late and making dinner, start cooking first thing in the morning so that when you get in your food is hot, fully prepared and just waiting to be served.
Not only does a slow cooker use less energy than a conventional cooker, you can also use cheaper cuts of meat which once cooked for a good 6 – 8 hours taste just as good, perhaps even better than your normal cuts.
There are many thousands of recipes out there and some great Facebook groups where people share their food and recipes. We use ours all the time and a chilli con carne made with turkey mince is currently a family favourite.
To save even more time, you could pre-prepare your slow cooker meal in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. The night before you want to cook, take it out of the freezer to defrost and just pop straight into the slow cooker the next morning – no need to be chopping carrots at 7am.
We all like the odd treat and a takeaway from your favourite Chinese or Indian restaurant is just that. Problem is, when buying takeout food the cost can rapidly add up, especially if there is a few of you.
Instead of going without you can just make your own fakeaway like we do and at a fraction of the cost. Some of the meals we have made include katsu chicken curry (£3.48), beef and vegetable chow mein (£4.99) and a delicious vegetable masala with homemade naan bread (£2.57).
Hopefully that gives you a great start to finding and cooking some cheap meals. If you have any suggestions for other meals we could make on the cheap please let us know in the comments below.