food and recipe ideas

Hi everyone!

My boyfriend and I are trying to budget and save without compromising eating healthily image. We want to shop cheaply but not by eating super noodles and ready meals. So, I need some inspiration!! What are peoples favourite healthy meals that don't cost an arm and a leg?! What are some ingredients/foods you always make sure are on your shopping list??

I look forward to some inspirational replies image

Thanks everyone image



  • I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions. Here are a couple to start with.

    Pasta - preferably wholewheat  - with a chopped onion fried gently in a little oil, few mushrooms, can of chopped toms and can of tuna. Add mixed herbs and olives if you have them.

    Sausage casserole - I use Linda Macs veggie sausages which non veggie husband likes in this too. Brown sausages under a grill whilst frying a chopped onion, few mushrooms and thinly sliced carrot. Add a can of chopped toms; 400ml of stock; mixed herbs and a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree. Bring liquid to a simmer, add sausages when brown and simmer for about ten minutes - serve with mash and green veg.

    If you think you can or you think you can't you're probably right.
  • keep to the simple foods of life - potato, lentil, pasta, rice for carbs and a wide range of standard veg and you won't go far wrong.  by combining textures and flavours simply you can cook a whole range of healthy food.  

    for cheap cuts of meat look out for pig cheeks, ox cheek, oxtail, lamb neck etc (most offal in fact bar things like calves liver which are pricey) which are excellent in curries and stews.  you don't need to go for the expensive cuts.  a good chicken will make 3/4 meals for 2 people as long as you strip it and boil the carcass - the stock will make a good soup or risotto base.  rabbit is an excellent, cheap ignored food.

    fish can be bought cheaply if you have a good fishmonger (independant is best) - fish like mackerel, gurnard, pollock, dabs are just as nutritious as the pricier fish like cod and haddock.  our local fish place sells small fish at a better prices to larger ones as they generally can't sell them at standard prices - e.g. small lemon sole for a £1 each.  that's one meal per person.

    just never buy ready meals - they're no brainers and expensive

  • if you use a base of mince, onions, garlic and tinned tomatoes and oxo can turn it into many meals........

    add some dried herbs to make a bolognese to eat with jacket potatoes, rice or pasta......

    add kidney beans and chilli powder to make a chilli con carne....

    add some carrots and peas and top with mashed potatoes for a shepherds pie.....

    or instead of the veg add baked beans and worcester  sauce and top the mashed with cheese for a different shepherds pie...

  • I always use leftovers from Sunday roast to make meals for 2 night so if it's pork I make ragu - fry celery, onion and garlic. Add fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme, add tinned tomatoes and simmer; pork risotto - fry celery and onion, add risotto rice, gradually add veg stock, add cooked pork and some peas, sprinkle some parmesan. If it's chicken I mix with pasta, fried onion, peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes or make a risotto and maybe add some mushroom - makes the Sunday roast go a long way and gives lots of nutritious cheap meals.

  • with the mince......i forgot you also add some ginger peppers and chinese spices thicken it up with a bit of cornflour and serve with noodles...

  • seren, mmmm, lots of my favourites!
    another suggestion is lasagne!

    SoleRunner I have a great book, that would be ideal for you, called 'the paupers cookbook'
    some great meal planning advice, recipes, and weekly planning also

  • I get a bit bored of budgeting after about a week, so I like this blog for fancy food ideas on a budget
  • my butcher always says the best meat for a budget is a gammon joint image

    lasts alot longer than one meal.

  • Big Bean Chilli!

    We make up a batch in a huge stockpot and freeze loads of it - that way you can have a decent meal ready in ten minutes as it reheats in the microwave in the time it takes to cook rice alongside it.

    I haven't got the recipe written down anywhere (it's in my head) but can try and make it up as I go along. It takes a few hours to cook but once it's done you've got the frozen ones to save time later. You can save more cooking time and therefore gas/electric with tinned beans, or more money with dry ones (depending on energy costs!) I use dry ones because they taste better and for a big volume buying loads of cans seems wasteful to me.

    Use as many beans as you can - pinto, black eyed beans, haricot, kidney beans all work well. Soak overnight and then cook according to instructions on the pack - essentially it usually comes down to ten minutes of fierce boiling and two hours of simmering. It's worth adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the soaking and cooking water as it makes the skins softer, but it doesn't really matter that much. If you're using tins, just chuck them in with the other stuff a bit earlier than described below.

    While the beans are simmering, fry onions (chopped up so each piece is smaller than the kidney beans) in some oil or whatever fat you like really, keep the temperature fairly low to avoid burning off the oil and needing more, use about the same weight of onions as the pre-cooked weight of the beans. add to this as much garlic as you can stand and as many chillies as you can stand. The beans will need quite a bit of flavouring. Also add as many veggies as you can/like here - I use carrots, peppers, mushrooms, celery, but you could add almost anything you like. Again, all chopped nice and small. Herbs can go in here too, especially is you're using dry herbs - oregano and basil work well.

    Once the onions and other veggies have had a bit of a fry, chuck fresh or tinned tomatoes in. I usually use tinned as they're alreayd peeled and no-one likes the peel. I would always use at least one tin, but two if it doesn't look like much against the other veggies. Chuck a bayleaf in if you like hunting for it later.....

    Now the secret ingredients - Stock, Coffee, and Cocoa. In a jug, crumble one stock cube, one teaspoon of coffee and one teaspoon of cocoa powder, then a pint or so of boiling water and mix, then chuck in the pan. Do as many pints as you need. Once that's boiling, and your beans are cooked, chuck the beans into the pan as well. Let it cook for an hour or so all together, check for taste and add salt, chlli powder and fresh herbs to taste. I almost never add anything at this stage now but that's because I know what it needs in earlier stages and it's something you get used to. The consistency you're aiming for is quite thick - if it's too watery you can use a masher to smash some of the beans up, which will thicken the sauce quite nicely.

    When I re-heat it later I serve it with 30 grams (dry weight) of rice each and a wholemeal pitta, and just a good couple of ladles of the chilli.

  • I think you can eat well on a modest budget if you plan your meals. My weekly shopping budget is normally about £25-30, which includes all my lunches which I take into work with me.

    I tend to cook many meals in batches, things like curries, paella, bolognese, soups, chilli etc. Make a big batch and freeze what you don't use in individual portions for quick meals through the week. Things like pizza are dirt cheap to make too. I tend to make the dough for four portions, use one and freeze the others before they rise. It'll rise when you defrost them and works just as well as from fresh.

    I make a shopping list and stick to it. That way you have no waste or unused items left in the cupboards for months.

  • Also; Porridge. Just buy the cheapest bags of value porridge, it's fantastic pre-run food (for me at least) and costs pennies per portion. 45 to 50 grams with one coffee cup full of water, bunged in the microwave on high for 1 minute 30 and you're done.

    I usually put a bit of honey in mine, but sugar or jam, or raisins or whatever you like will work.

  • Also; Black Pudding. Yes its fatty and salty, but if you don't eat a ton of it it's not that bad. It's very filling and very, very cheap. Offal too is incredibly cheap and cooked right its delicious. A big hot pot with a cheap cut of beef, some black pudding and offal in it can do two or three days of dinners in one go!

  • lots of veg and lentils and beans etc. You can make soups, casseroles, chilli. Rice is a good one and if you're buying meat look in the reduced sections and then freeze it until ready to use.

    If you have access to a market you'll probably find that you'll get much fruit and veg for your money (and it tends to last longer than shop bought stuff!).

    I'm a rubbish cook but casserole and just plain ol' meat and veg are easy to make!

  • My weekly shopping list generally consists of onions, garlic, ginger, chopped tomatoes, various veggies (I tend to see whats on offer when I do the shop before deciding which ones to go for), pasta, rice.  As others have said though, always make sure you have plenty of spices, pulses and grains in the cupboard as well as a range of stock cubes (I tend to use Kallo organic as they taste better imo). 

    One of my favourite recipes is stuffed peppers.  I prefer them stuffed with spiced lamb mince although you could use pork instead.  I cook the mince with some garlic, onions, cumin and a tiny bit of garam masala.  Add a handful of frozen peas and spinach (you could use a block of defrosted frozen spinach if you don't want a huge bag of spinach lurking in your fridge) and some roughly chopped spring onions.  Halve the peppers, fill wth the mince mix, sprinkle a little bit of grated parmesan and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes.  If you don't want meat you can use either veggie mince (cheaper, healthier and goes further) or substitute it with wholemeal rice or cous cous/bulghar wheat.

  • I've just made this smokey black bean stew

    That chipotle paste has got a kick to it image

  • @Karen Samuels

    You can substitute ground hoof if you don't have any cocoa.

  • WOW!! thanks so much guys image that is an awesome amount of advice and when making my shopping list later, I will be sure to incorporate a whole lot of it!! The reason we are on such a budget is becuase we are currently travelling (in New Zealand at the moment) and food is pretty expensive here compared to the UK (well compared to when I was last there 2 years ago anyway!)

    Great advice once again image Annoying thing is though that the other half doesn't like tomatoes and I always have to think of something to substitute those tinned tomatoes for!image

    Thanks everyone xxx

  • Buy cheap! We often get some bargains on a Sunday afternoon - big bags of veg and meat. Best deals we have had were a massive bag of sprouts for 20p - made a big soup with plenty left over for roasts etc and guinea fowls at £1.25 each (we nabbed one for my tea and a few for the freezer)! Another was at a market on a Saturday afternoon - literally a carrier bag full of cherry tomatoes for £1! Most of them were roasted with garlic and herbs to make the base of many a tasty dish!

  • For bulk buys of staples like rice, pasta etc, check out the local Asian or other ethnic corner shop. 5 or 10kg bags of rice can be ridiculously cheap. Ditto beans, lentils, tinned chickpeas etc for bulking out those casseroles.

    Use your freezer. When you get a carrier bag of toms for a quid, use them for a basic sauce and freeze the portions.

    A slow cooker is a good investment. Mine is the basic Tesco one, cost a tenner.

  • Ah, you say you're in NZ. Grab a gun and go bag yourself a couple of possums for pie. I'm told they're regarded as vermin.

  • Soups are healthy and cheap.

    We have leek and potato, tomato, bacon and lentil and finally butternut squash.
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