At some point or another, we’ve all been a little strapped for cash. Maybe you lost your job, your student loan was late to come in – something all students dread, or you had an unexpected bill to pay out for. Whatever it was that left you short of money, the first thing on your mind is probably food.
You can live without that new Topshop shirt or that awesome new mascara for another couple of weeks, but food is another story. When it comes to buying food with a low bank balance, far too many of us make the mistake of stocking up on freezer food and value ready meals.
These types of foods – frozen chicken goujons, pizzas, and breaded fish fillets, might be okay on the odd occasion, but eat them every day, and you’ll pile on the pounds. Not only will you gain weight, but as these foods have very little nutritious value, they won’t give you all the vitamins and minerals that you need. As well as an expanding waistline, your skin may breakout – something all girls dread, and to make matters worse, your hair and nails may also become brittle and unhealthy.
The answer is to swap those frozen foods and value meals for healthy homemade alternatives. And yes, before you ask, these meals are affordable to make, even when on a budget. For my last two years at university, money was incredibly tight. If I wanted to stay healthy and not balloon in size, I knew that I had to find meals that were cheap to make, as well as nutritious, and that’s exactly, what I did.
In case you are struggling to make ends meet – for whatever reason, and want to be able to make some delicious, healthy meals. I thought I would share my favourite tips and ideas for doing this, with you, here:
Shop the reduced section
No matter what supermarket you have close by – Tesco, Asda, or Sainsburys, you should find that the store has a reduced section. This is where they put all of their products that are going out of date, from fish and meat to fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll find all sorts of gems here.
When it comes to buying reduced meat and fish, as long as you consume it or freeze it on the day of purchase, or the day after, you shouldn’t have any problems. You can safely freeze meat, including poultry, and fish for up to six months, so don’t be afraid to fill your basket with reduced items.
As long as fruits and veggies are kept in the fridge, these can last up to a week after their sell by date and still be safe to eat. What I like to do when I buy lots of veggies is take half of them and make soup. All you need for this is veggies, stock – chicken or vegetable, and any extras you want to add, like bacon or chicken, and also, a small amount of milk. (If you’re lactose intolerant, almond or rice milk works just as well.)
Make sauces yourself
Instead of spending £2 on a jar of curry sauce, learn to make it yourself. It might sound difficult, but actually, making your own sauces couldn’t be easier. You can pick up a couple of tins of tinned tomatoes for 30 pence each, add some spices, and a little salt and pepper, and you’ve got your curry sauce for around 80 pence – that’s a saving of £1.20.
Every penny adds up, if you make a saving of £1.20 four times a week by making sauces yourself, that’s a saving £4.80 a week. That’s just under £20 a month you’ll save, just by making your own sauces – think how much you would save over the course of a year, by making this simple change.
Buy staples for your cupboard
Some of the best meals to make when you’re on a tight budget are things like stews, curries, risottos, and pasta dishes. That’s why you should ensure that your cupboard is stocked with staples like rice, pearl barley – amazing with stews, risotto rice, and dried pasta.
You can make these meals healthy and affordable by making the sauces yourself and throwing in any meat or veggies you have in your fridge or freezer. If you have a look here, you can find lots of simple recipes that won’t break your budget to make.
Try out these recipes
To give you some inspiration, I thought that I would share some of my favourite budget recipes with you, all of which are healthy and easy to make. Bacon and pea risotto – I often leave the wine out as it makes it cheaper, square pizzas, beef stew with dumplings, chicken curry, and last but not least, potato skins.