Now that I am into my last 5 months of my year long maternity leave my pay has drastically reduced (aaargghhh) which means no (well less) luxuries and trying to keep to a shopping budget. I really love cooking so having less or cheaper ingredients to work with is not going to stop me. Here are a few tips on what to buy and how to cook cheaper ingredients:
1. Firstly I changed the way I shop. Rather than buying everything at my local Asda or Sainsburys store I looked around and found the best places to buy certain products. I now try to buy all my fruit and vegetables in Lidl – there is a lot of snobbery about places like Lidl but I have found their produce to be better than any of the three major supermarkets. I buy most of my tinned/packaged goods at Asda and I try to buy my meat in Sainsburys as the quality there is the best and they do the same 3for £10 deal as their competitors. Sainsburys is no longer the expensive supermarket in my opinion,in fact they have fantastic offers and I get nectar points so it’s all good!
I also buy frozen vegetables from my local farmfoods store as well as my milk as they are the only shop in my area which sells 1%milk which is so much tastier than skimmed but healthier than semi. Finally I buy my herbs, peppercorns etc from a fruit&veg shop in my local market as she has the greatest variety for a very good price.
2. I buy a LOT more beans ( not baked) Mainly butter beans and chick peas which are so versatile and tasty. I will share some of these recipes further along.
3. I buy a lot of items on offer and freeze them.
4. I try to meal plan as much as possible. When I started doing this I didn’t like the idea of having to eat a certain meal on certain days so now I choose 7 or 8 meals and write them on my white board on my fridge then just pick which one I feel like.
5. I bake less. I love it so much 😦 but I still do it around once a week so it’s not so bad.
Also helping my waistline I think.
6. I buy large packs of pasta, rice and lentils. They seem to last forever and the cost per meal is very low.
7. I make my own dips and sauces. I make my own hummus, sweet chilli sauce and various others. Buying a big pot of hellmans light mayo and making my own thousand island, curried mayo etc saves me a fortune and is extremely simple- also mayo lasts around a month refrigerated whereas the shelf life of a shop bought dip is 3-5 days.
8. I buy good quality ingredients to accompany cheaper ingredients. So buying cheap pasta is fine but some products well you need to spend a little more. I buy extra special Chorizo which costs more than others but it’s fantastic and I use it down to the last tiny piece as it is so versatile. This month I have used it in paella,frittata,carbonara and @mycuntrymanor special eggs to name just a few. I also buy a decent olive oil as it makes a big difference.
9. I replace chicken breasts with thighs for as many dishes as possible. I buy the skinless, boneless ones and they still work out cheaper. Thighs are tastier and freeze well.
10. Try not to shop when hungry. I am automatically driven to the confectionary/bakery aisles if I’m hungry so I avoid if possible.
11. I don’t waste as much. Love your leftovers is the slogan for one of Sainsburys campaigns. Leftover cooked potatoes go in my frittata as do peppers, any veggies or meats. Bolognese sauce goes in the freezer to make up lasagnes or a pasta bake. Chicken left from a roast can make a curry or a simple sandwich. Stale bread gets thrown in the food processor and mixed with garlic powder to freeze ready for homemade coated chicken or for recipe below.
Butter bean recipes:
Creamy butter beans with a crispy topping
You will need:
1 small saucepan & 1 baking dish or a cazuela to use both on hob and in grill.
2 x 400g cans butter beans , drained and rinsed
100g light soft cheese (garlic and herb one if possible, if not add garlic&herbs of choice)
2 tbsp snipped chives
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
Heat the butter beans in a small pan for 3-4 mins. Remove a quarter of them to a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth and creamy. Stir back into the rest of the beans in the pan with the soft cheese and chives, then heat for a few mins more until warmed through.
Transfer to a small baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Drizzle over oil and flash under a hot grill for 1-2 mins until the crumbs are crunchy and golden.
Griddled butter beans (side dish)
You will need:
1 griddle pan or cazuela
1 tin of butter beans (usually 400g) drained
1 tbls Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves or equivalent purée/paste
Bring pan with olive oil slowly up to a medium heat and add garlic stirring ensuring it does not burn, add butter beans and cook until lightly bronzed.
* This is a simple dish but you can add many things to make it a bit more special. I’ve added asparagus, bacon and peppers previously and all worked well.
Jamie Olivers butter beans with Bacon ( from 30 minute meals)
You will need:
1 griddle pan or cazuela
50g Bacon ( sometimes I use chorizo)
1 x 400g tin of butter beans and liquid
Splash of red wine vinegar
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked
Heat your pan over a medium to high heat and fry the bacon in olive oil.
Chop your tomatoes roughly into cubes.
Once the bacon has started to brown you can add the tomatoes to the pan, followed by the butter beans including the liquid from the tin.
Let the mixture simmer on the same medium to high heat until all the liquid has dissolved and the tomatoes have broken down, stirring it from time to time so it doesn’t stick to your pan.
Chop up your basil and add to the butter beans once the liquid has dissolved. Add a bit of olive oil, about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and season.
*This is so good. So so good.
Hope you enjoy, please share your tips/recipes.
Griddled butter beans with asparagus, served with sweet potato mash and fish cakes.