We live in a world where everything is instant, ready meals, takeaways not to mention buy one get one free meals. Even though we are all aware of the ingredients used to extend the shelf life of food, we often have lives which run at hundreds of miles an hour. However, there are potentially huge cost savings to be made and more healthy meals to be consumed.
Before we look at some simple recipes for low-cost meals, we have listed some tips for saving money when shopping.
Check portion sizes
You will notice that there can be a huge difference between recommended portion sizes and what you may be buying at the supermarket. As a consequence, not only are we spending money on food which is often not consumed, but there are also health considerations. It is very easy to stick to larger portion sizes, on the side of ready-made meals, and even easier to put on weight.
So, check out the official portion size recommendations from the government and health bodies, then compare and contrast against the portion sizes listed on ready-made meal packaging.
Take the brand/non-brand challenge
It is very easy to be swayed by brand names when buying your food in the supermarket. Often seen as a “sign of approval” you might be surprised if you take the brand/non-brand challenge. While we are not suggesting that supermarket own brand products are on a par with well-known branded products, in many cases they aren’t too far behind!
So, get your partner, friends, and family to sample an array of branded and supermarket own brand food products, you might be surprised.
Simple recipes for low-cost meals
The above tips covering portion sizes and branded/unbranded products are worth bearing in mind, as it is unlikely you will have time to make all of your meals from scratch. However, we will now take a look at some simple recipe ideas for low-cost meals which can potentially save you hundreds of dollars over a year.
One of the easiest meals to make, and often one of the healthiest, is soup. Whether you have this as a starter or your main meal, it can be extremely tasty and you can tweak the ingredients to your preference.
• 2 tbsp olive oil • 2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped (optional) • 7.5cm/3 inch piece root ginger, peeled and finely grated • ½ tsp red chilli flakes (optional) • 300g/10½oz red lentils • 1.2 litres/2 pints hot vegetable stock • 300g/10½oz butternut squash, cut into 1cm/½-inch cubes • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
This soup can be made in less than 30 minutes and while you need to take care when cooking, it is very simple:-
1. Heat half of the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, adding half of the garlic, ginger and all of the chili flakes. Stir for one minute, add the lentils and continue stirring for another 60 seconds.
2. Now pour in the 2 pints of vegetable stock, simmering for between 10 minutes and 12 minutes until the lentils are soft.
3. Using an additional frying pan, heat the remaining oil; add the rest of the garlic, ginger and then the butternut squash. Cook for 12 minutes, constantly stirring.
4. Now pour the butternut squash into the lentil mix and cook for a further five minutes.
5. Once removed from the heat, use a stick blender to create a smooth soup adding salt-and-pepper to taste.
This is the perfect starter for a family meal, it is vegan and gluten-free and with just three main ingredients, plus stock and seasoning, it is not difficult to make. Who would have guessed, your own soup seasoned to taste in less than 30 minutes?
The ingredients required, and the preparation/cooking time, will vary between different types of soup. However, there is nothing stopping you looking at some of the 5 most popular soups across the world:-
• Minestrone • Leek, potato and pea soup • Pea and ham soup • Chicken and barley soup • Seafood soup
While we traditionally use eggs as the main or secondary ingredient meals, in many cases they can provide a hearty snack on their own. One example of a healthy meal is a poached egg with additional trimmings.
Poached egg on a bed of cheese
The ingredients for this recipe are very simple and it will take you literally 10 minutes to cook. Many people find this to be a healthy breakfast or midday snack. The ingredients for poached egg on a bed of cheese are as follows:-
• One fresh egg • Cheese (grated) • Two slices of toast (brown for additional health benefits) • Low fat margarine • Vinegar • Salt-and-pepper
If you thought that the ingredients for this recipe look simple, the cooking process is even more straightforward:-
1. Using a medium-sized pan, heat half a pan full of water on a high temperature
2. Once the water begins to bubble, turn down to half temperature to simmer
3. Add a few drops of vinegar
4. Crack a fresh egg onto a saucer
5. Hold the saucer over the simmering water and tip the egg gently into the pan
6. Set your timer for three minutes
7. While the egg is cooking, prepare your toast and place a bed of grated cheese on top
8. Once the three minutes has elapsed, remove the egg pan using a perforated serving spoon
9. Ensure excess water has been removed from the egg
10. Place your poached egg onto the cheese
This recipe will create a runny yolk, which you can pierce and watch spread over your bed of cheese. The mix of cheese, yolk and egg is delicious and healthy. All in all, it will take you less than 10 minutes to create a wholesome healthy meal. Using a medium-sized pan, you should be able to accommodate two poached eggs.
If you require further poached eggs, you will need to replace the water, and start the process again.
There are numerous egg-based recipes which include:-
• Devilled eggs • Omelette • Curried egg sandwiches • Baked bean and egg jaffle • Bacon and egg pies
The humble sausage now caters for an array of all different food preferences taking in anything from pork sausage to vegan sausage, hotdogs to a spicy Italian sausage. However, a very tasty and easy to make sausage based recipe is sausage meatball noodle stir fry.
Sausage meatball noodle stir fry
The cooking time for this particular recipe is under 30 minutes and while the following measurements will serve one, you can easily accommodate more people by multiplying the ingredients which are as follows:-
Prior to cooking, you will need to prepare the sausage meatballs as follows:-
1. Preheat your oven to 160°C (140°C for a fan assisted oven) or gas mark 3. Run a sharp knife down the side of each sausage, peeling back the skin and taking out the sausage meat.
2. Place the sausage meat in a bowl, adding chopped spring onion, ginger, coriander stalks, soya sauce, a half measurement of garlic and chili flakes, together with sesame oil (optional).
3. Thoroughly mix the ingredients and then roll the mixture into four large meatballs. You have now prepared the sausage meatballs ready for cooking.
Cooking your meatballs:-
1. Using a wok or large frying pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil and cook the meatballs for between five and 10 minutes.
2. The meatballs should be turned regularly until they are browned all over and cooked thoroughly. Then place them on a baking tray in the oven to keep warm.
3. Follow the cooking instructions for the noodles (traditionally boiled in a pan of hot water for around three minutes). Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.
4. Using the remaining vegetable oil, heat in a frying pan adding the remaining garlic and chili flakes. Thinly slice the remaining two spring onions and, together with the carrot, add these to the mix.
5. Stir fry for between two and three minutes, until the ingredients begin to soften, then add noodles, beansprouts and soy sauce. Stir fry for a further two minutes.
6. Finally, add the meatballs, stir, adding a sprinkle of coriander leaves and soya sauce to your taste.
Your sausage meatball noodle stir fry is ready to serve, having taken less than 30 minutes to cook. There are many different ways in which you can cook and prepare sausage meat, adding in an array of different ingredients to suit your palate. Some of the more popular sausage based meals include:-
• Sausage casserole • Sausage curry • Sausage meatball pasta • Sausage baked risotto • Bangers and mash
When you see the term “recipes for low-cost meals” many people, incorrectly, believe that you are reducing the quality in order to reduce the cost. When you look at the cost of ready meals against some of the simple ingredients required for the above meals, you will very quickly notice the quality is still there. Indeed, as you are cooking from scratch, many people would argue that home-cooked meals are much healthier with no E numbers or preservatives. It is possible to cook your own low-cost meals, increasing the quality and the health benefits.
This article was brought to you by Alternate Finance , New Zealand’s home of personal loans, to help our customers with handy money saving tips.
Mark previously enjoyed 15 years as a stockbroker/financial adviser and still maintains a strong interest in all things financial. Over the years, he has written about subjects such as property finance, loans, pensions, insurance, stock market investments, tax planning and more. Mark believes it is essential to keep up with the latest financial regulations and adapt your finances accordingly, something he portrays in his financial articles.