Good Food for Less Than a Quid!

Hey all!

What are your thoughts on cooking and eating healthily in terms of expense? Do you think eating a typical healthy diet is cheaper or more expensive than typical unhealthy foods?  I think it varies; I believe if you buy ‘healthy’ options in a restaurant or cafe, it is  generally more expensive than their ‘unhealthier’ alternatives.  I say ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ because it’s so complex these days to the point where people (including myself) often question what is actually healthy or unhealthy for this week!  But, I believe that if you buy your own ‘healthy’ options to cook at home, for example buying groceries and using cooking skills to make a dish or a snack, I think this is actually inexpensive. 

To prove this, I have been monitoring and reporting my spending and have been working out to the nearest penny, just how much my typical healthy dishes cost.  I’m talking a standard ‘healthy’ diet, involving fruit, vegetables, difference sources of protein, carbohydrates and plenty of home cooked food made from scratch using basic ingredients.  These meals include red meat, chicken, seafood, vegetarian and vegan; basically no junk food, no meals high in sugar or salt or processed/ready meals filled with added preservatives…and of course leaving room for plenty of healthy snacks. 

I did not alter my shopping or spending in order to write this blog, so some of the meals and food items listed below aren’t even the cheapest products or meals available!  So, the next time somebody tells you ‘oh I can’t eat/cook healthy meals because it’s expensive’, send them right to this blog!  Below is a list of meals that I can cook for £1 per head or LESS (or per serving in my case because I don’t often cook for many people).  In fact, without snacks, below you will find your ‘3-meals-a-day’ for a grand total of £2.12 OR LESS, sounds great right?!

Breakfast

PORRIDGE and FRUIT – 41p per bowl

This is my typical breakfast, porridge oats mixed with milk (but you can just use water if you wanted), topped with one or two fruits (fresh or frozen such as strawberries or banana).  I’m not talking about the fancy porridge pots either, just a big bag (500g – 1k) of porridge oats from the supermarket.  I choose to eat this breakfast almost every day because: 1) It’s an easy way to have at least 1 piece of fruit; 2) It is a good source of iron and other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; 3) It is a good source of protein; 4) It is a good source of fibre and 5) It’s so filling!

You will need:

500g porridge oats – 39p, using 100g per bowl at £0.07- Lidl

300ml organic Milk or water – £1.50 for 4pts, therefore £0.20p for 300ml of organic semi-skimmed or water is free! – Sainsbury’s 

A handful (1 portion) of fresh banana (chop up) – 14p – Lidl

Bonus: Add a second piece of fruit to add to your ‘5-a-day’ – total will still be less than £1 

How to:

Step 1  – Pour 1- 2 handfuls of porridge oats into a pan

Step 2 – Add 300ml milk or water so that it covers the oats

Step 3 – Cook until combined on a low heat

Step 4 – Chop and top banana on top (and/or other fruit)

Step 5 – Eat and enjoy!

2 x SCRAMBLED EGGS ON TOAST- 31p per plate

I can hear you all thinking ‘I don’t like porridge’ or ‘ohhh cooking porridge takes so long I never have time for that in the morning that’s why I can’t make it’.  Okay, well how about scrambled eggs on toast?  You can scramble eggs in less time than it takes to wait for the toast! Eggs/egg on toast tends to be my weekend breakfast, not sure why!  But I sometimes have this as my lunch during the week. Eggs are great because 1) It’s a good source of protein; 2) It’s filled with vitamins and minerals; 3) low in calories; 4) It’s also filling for hours.

You will need: 

1 or 2 x free range eggs – £2 for a pack of 15 (£0.13 per egg = £0.26)

1 or 2 pieces of brown toast – approx £0.65p per loaf of 25 slices or more = £0.05 for 2

How to: 

Step 1 – Toast your bread first (this takes the longest)

Step 2 – Scramble your eggs

Step – Top your toast with the eggs and enjoy!

Lunch

BROCCOLI AND STILTON SOUP – 40p per bowl

That’s right, forget about your daily £3 meal deals from the supermarket and instead, opt for a homemade (not shop bought) soup costing you around 40p per bowl!  I feel like soups are such a good lunch time option, especially in this heat when you’re looking for a lighter option.  When you make your own soup, you’re not adding any sugar or salt, which you’ll find are always added in the tinned or pre-made soups in the supermarkets.  Instead, you’re getting 1 or 2 fresh vegetables in your diet which count towards your ‘5-a-day‘.  You could make soup in the evening; store in the fridge for a couple of days and take some to work if you have a microwave/cooker.   For those who don’t enjoy broccoli and stilton, click this link to access my other blog which talks about alternative lunch time ideas, which includes a list of soups to make.  

You will need:

1 medium Onion – £0.20 – ASDA, Sainsbury’s Lidl

1 fresh broccoli (but you could use frozen) – £0.45 – Asda

1 blue cheese / stilton – £0.90 

1 vegetable stock cube + 1 litre of water – £0.50 pack of 10 = £0.05 per 1 – Sainsbury’s 

How to:

Step 1 – Chop and cook the onions in a large pot

Step 2 – Add the vegetable stock and 1 litre of water to the pot

Step 3 – Add the broccoli florets and crumble the cheese into the pot

Step 4 – Once softened, blend the ingredients until smooth

Step 5 – Leave on a low heat, then serve and enjoy on it’s own or with a slice of bread!

SPICY MEATBALLS – 63p per plate

For some of you, soup may not be filling enough, or maybe you just don’t like soup! So why not make a batch of something warm and filling on the weekend to enjoy for lunch during the week.  In fact, this dish is so cheap, you will probably question why you’ve been paying £10+ in a restaurant!  I love pasta and spicy foods, so I make this dish from time to time in the winter months.  Below is the list of ingredients you need to make this dish for 5 people (4-5 meatballs per person), or for 5 lunches!  Bonus: You could make your own meatballs too!

You will need:

1 pack of spaghetti, 45p – Lidl

2 x 400g of canned chopped tomatoes – £0.39 per can (£0.78) – Lidl

24 meatballs – £0.91 per pack of 12 balls (£1.82) – Lidl

1 x tsp of crushed chills –  £1 per pot, approx 10p per meal – Sainsbury’s

How to:

Step 1 – Cook the pasta in hot water

Step 2 – Place the meatballs into a slow cooker or pan and gently cook

Step 3 – Add the chopped tomatoes to the meatballs and stir until warm 

Step 4 – Add the crushed chills to the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat

Step 5 – Place the meatballs on the cooked spaghetti, serve and enjoy!

Bonus: For added extras to this meal that are still under this £1 budget, you can add more mixtures of herbs and spices.  I tend to add oregano and thyme, bringing my grand total to £0.91 per head, if that!

Dinner

Red Meat

BEEF and ALE STEW – 99p per plate

One of my absolute favourite dishes, especially on a cold evening, is a beef stew.  Sometimes I make this with ale, sometimes I make it with red wine (100ml) and sometimes I don’t add alcohol.  I find there’s so many different ways to cook a stew and many people probably have their own spin on it, you can even have a vegetarian stew, but for purposes of this blog this is going to be a beef and ale stew.

I can cook a beef and ale stew for 8 people costing just 99p a head.  Just to save even more money, I can even knock this down to 93p a head and that’s without even going out of my way to buy on a budget, which I could knock down even more with a few tips.

A warm beef stew on a cold wintery day is just what you need to stay healthy with plenty of vegetables that fills your belly until you burst.  As mentioned above, I wasn’t consciously shopping to see how I could shop cheaply, but in order to save even more money, instead of buying the Whole Vegetable Selection Pack *below, you could buy the vegetables individually, for example a whole pack of carrots are just 40p in Sainsbury’s; you only need 2 for this meal and could use the rest for a roast dinner or to dip in hummus.

You will need:

700g of lean (5% fat) British Diced Beef – £4.79 – Lidl

500ml spitfire Ale – £1.25 – Lidl

750g whole Vegetable Selection Pack – £1 – Sainsbury’s ( 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 turnip, 1 suede)

2.5kg Potatoes – £1.50, I have approximately used £0.30 – Sainsbury’s

1 x jar of Bay Leaves – £1, I have approximately used £0.15 – Sainsbury’s

^ that alone is 93p a head, but I personally love dumplings in a stew and my boyfriend loves rice with stew so…

200g suet – £1.15, I have approximately used £0.28 – Sainsbury’s

2.5kg flour – 50p, I have approximately used less than £0.01 but will say £0.01 – Sainsbury’s

2kg rice – £2.50, I have approximately used £0.16 – Sainsbury’s

How to:

Step 1 – Seal the beef and place in a slow cooker

Step 2 – Chop all the vegetables and potatoes then place in the slow cooker

Step 3 – Add the ale and let that simmer for 8 hours

Step 4 – 20 minutes prior to serving, make your dumplings and place on top of the stew for 20 minutes, or make the rice, or both!

Step 5 – Eat and enjoy!

That delicious meal brings a grand total of just 99p per head, even with the extra dumplings and rice, which may or may not be for everyone.  What are you waiting for?Invite your friends over and enjoy this belly-warming dish, or if you’re cooking for yourself or for 2, freeze the rest to enjoy another day when you’re lacking time.

Chicken 

STEAMED CHICKEN, RICE and VEGETABLES – 95p per meal

Admittedly, it is difficult to have chicken meals for less than £1 BUT, it is do-able on a budget!  If you’re low on cash but want to eat chicken, including chicken breast, the secret is to get down the frozen isle of any supermarket.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to have free range on a budget, so if you don’t mind have non-organic, non-free range, keep reading!  So, for £0.95 per plate/per meal, it is possible to have chicken breast with rice (white) and 2 portions of vegetables, my example today includes 2 green vegetables.  This leaves you with £0.05 left to throw some herbs/spices on your chicken breast for added flavour.  It’s a really simple meal that 1) can be cooked in no time once the chicken breast has de-frosed (perhaps leave out in the day before cooking in the evening), 2) is a great way to add 2  portions of vegetables to your day 3) seems plain, but it is really filling 4) you can have as cold leftovers the next day or re-heat 5) is a source of protein 6) has vitamins and minerals from the vegetables.  Tip: It is not recommended to cook, freeze and re-head rice. 

You will need: 

1 kg frozen chicken breasts (or if you like use thighs or legs) – at £3.33 for 5-6 breasts, therefore it’s £0.66 per breast maximum – ASDA

1 handful of rice – £2.50 for 2kg, I have approximately used £0.16 worth – Sainsbury’s

1 handful of frozen peas – £0.76 for 1kg (12 servings), using £0.06 per serving – ASDA

1 handful of frozen broccoli – £0.90 for 1kg (12 servings), using £0.07 per serving – ASDA

How to:

Step 1 – Defrost the chicken

Step 2 – Cook the rice 

Step 3 – While the rice is cooking, steam the chicken breast and vegetables (chicken below vegetables)

Step 4 – Add any herbs if necessary

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

Sea Food

CHILLI PRAWN LINGUINE – £1

Similarly to chicken, it is difficult to have a sea food dish for £1 or less, but again, it is do-able on a budget!  Similarly to a stir fry, this is a really simple dish that you could cook in no time and have for lunch or dinner.  If you’ve got more money, this dish would be nice with a side of crusty bread or a fresh salad. 

You will need:

200g cooked and pealed prawns, £2, using approx 70g per person = £0.70 – ASDA

1 pack of linguine, 45p – Lidl, using approx £0.11 per person – ASDA

1 pack of cherry tomatoes, £0.53, using approx £0.13 per person  – ASDA

1 pack of bird’s eye chillies, £0.55, using 2 chillies per batch = £0.04 – Sainsbury’s

1 loose garlic £0.27, using 1 clove, approx £0.02 – Sainsbury’s

How to: 

Step 1 – Cook the linguine in a pot of hot water on a medium heat

Step 2 – Fry the garlic and chillies in a pan

Step 3 – Add the prawns to the garlic and chillies to infuse 

Step 4 – Drain the linguine and add to other ingredients

Step 5 – Add the tomatoes until cooked, serve and enjoy!

Vegan

VEGETABLE STIR FRY – 98p per plate

You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this!  Apparently a stir-fry is one of the most popular dishes in the UK, so it had to make my blog!  Similarly to some of the other meals, this could also be a good evening dish, but it is so filling, why don’t you cook it in the evening and take it to work to stop you from having all those unhealthy afternoon snacks?  Typically, these ingredients make 2 portions, so you could either cook this meal for a friend or family member, or store in the fridge for another day!

You will need: 

300g spicy Rice Noodles – £1.20 (2 servings, £0.60 per serving) – ASDA

500g frozen Vegetable Mix – £1.00 (6 servings, £0.16 per serving) – ASDA

230g black Bean Stir-fry sauce (or other flavour) – £0.44 (2 servings, £0.22 per serving) – ASDA

How to: 

Step 1 – Fry the frozen vegetables until cooked

Step 2 – Add the noodles until warm

Step 3 – Add the sauce

Step 4 – Serve and enjoy!

Vegetarian

MUSHROOM RISOTTO – 63p per plate

I recently made this dish for friends so I know these ingredients make 4 hearty portions, so you could either cook this for friends or eat 1 meal and freeze the other 3 for another day! Vegan and vegetarian diets are so popular right now, so I’ve made sure these are included in this blog.  You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this dish and it is always a good idea to have a day off meat.  It is really nice to eat on a warm day when you don’t want something massive to eat but still want to be full for the rest of the night. 

You will need: 

1 pack of arborio rice (to use 300g+) – £1.30 – ASDA, Sainsbury’s

1 medium onion – £0.20 – ASDA, Sainsbury’s Lidl

1 pack (250g) of mushrooms – £1 – Sainsbury’s

1 vegetable stock cube + 1 litre of water – £0.50 pack of 10 = £0.05 per 1 – Sainsbury’s 

Approx 40g of butter – £1 per box = £0.08 per 40g – Sainsbury’s

How to:

Step 1 – Heat the butter (or oil) in a pan, chop onions and mix together

Step 2 – Chop mushrooms and mix with butter and onions

Step 3 – Add rice (bonus: you could add 175ml of white wine)

Step 4 – Add the stock 1 ladle at a time until it is all socked up

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

I hope this blog has altered your perceptions of ‘healthy food’.  You really don’t have to eat pre-made, ready-made, take-away, fast-food meals, in order to eat on a budget.  I have suggested meals where your entire 3-meals-a-day, can cost you just over £2, of which most people usually spend £3 just on their supermarket meal deal; leaving plenty of money left over for healthy snacks in-between meals.  When you next go shopping, remember to:

  • Know your meals in advance (so you know what to buy)
  • If you don’t know, search for meals online
  • Buy in bulk (save money in the long run)
  • Buy frozen, such as frozen fruit, frozen vegetables and frozen meats – there is nothing wrong with frozen, often you will get more for less too.  You will just have to allow time for de-frozen or longer cooking. 
  • Cook in bulk – take left overs to work or freeze in containers to eat another day

 

draft 3© 2017 Naomi Laws. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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