Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mo Money Mo Meals - Budget Cooking Tips

Roller Derby Spag. I'm drooling!
Forgive me for mixing genres on the above title - does hip hop and vintage work? Hell yeah!

Today's post is really timely since people always ask how can they make wonderful healthy meals without spending a fortune. Well today I received a lovely Tweet from a cool roller derby friend of mine who said she had dug out her Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meals recipe book and was making the spaghetti alla puttanesca meal tonight. Mmmmm! She emailed me the pic of the result AND she has leftovers! Now that recipe has a few ingredients that could make one think that one requires an overdraft extension to make that meal a reality -  it features olives, capers and anchovies as well as the rest. However my fellow Tweet-ee informed me that she can make that whole recipe for under £3 which is mighty fine! She has sourced those ingredients in Aldi. Yes I love plush deli's as much as the next person but in order to eat like royalty frequently you don't necessarily have to be wadded to foot the food bill.

As a vintage lover I'm in awe of how our war time sisters made meals to feed a whole family in the times of rationing. 115 grams of meat per week? So that in mind and inspired by the roller derby princess, I thought it would be a good time to share some top tips with you so you can eat like a King (or Vintage Queen!) and still have some change for that new lippy you've had your eye on.

1. With reference to the above, you can get some fab Mediterranean delights in Aldi and Lidl such as olive oils, continental cheeses, olives, hams (parma etc) for a lot less than from a deli. Yes support your local stores to keep them alive where you can but if you're tightening up on the budget these 2 stores will be your new haunt.

2. This warrants it's own blog post but for now visit your nearest Asian supermarket for herbs and spices. SO much more cheaper than those teeny jars from le supermarche and they're sold in bigger quantities so last for ages. Also fresh chillies, herbs, fruit and veg tend to be a lot cheaper from these stores. Another option is to look in the world foods section of your supermarket. They're crafty buggers and put the cheaper herbs and spices (and tinned goods) in the WF aisle and keep the most expensive ones in the usual place and think we've oblivious. No longer!

3. Ensure your pantry is well stocked with key tins. Tomatoes are great for soups and sauces and mega cheap (the budget ones are totally fine) Passata is reasonable too again for soups and sauces and has a smooth consistency. Tins of mixed beans or other pulses; chickpeas, kidney beans are cheap, healthy and are great for bulking up meals such as chilli which makes the meal go further and tinned fruit (in juice not syrup) are great for your five a day when you run out and need a healthy snack.
Tins are a must

4. For meat I'm lucky that I'm near farms so I can get my hands on decent meat for a reasonable price. However previously I was living an urban (but always vintage) life and if I couldn't get local meat I would buy turkey breast, turkey mince and chicken thighs which have loads of flavour and are cheaper. For beef and lamb cheaper cuts tend to be the ones that are tough and need longer, slower cooking such as stewing in casseroles.

5. Quorn or other equivalent brands are great alternatives to meat. I love the mince and meat balls, dead quick to make and they have mighty yield so I tend to freeze my leftovers. There's usually bogofs on these too! To make your meat go further you can mix quorn mince with real mince if you can't cope with the whole hog.

6. Use up leftovers in soups, casseroles, curries, bubble and squeak or even tomorrow's lunch.

7. Make the freezer your friend. Frozen veg such as peas, broccoli, well pretty much everything are so handy to have in. It saves on waste too as you only need to take out what you need for that meal. Many people think they're not as good as fresh but that's a bit of a misconception as a lot of the time the veg is frozen soon after being picked so keeps it's vits and mins intact.

Beans means mo money!
8. To make fresh herbs last longer, freeze in water in ice cube trays. Pop one out when needed.

9. Re-introduce the humble egg into your life. Jeepers - can they be any more flexible? Plus they're cheap and healthy. Use as a filling for sandwiches, boil for breakfast or chop into salads. Scramble or poach them and have with toast or bacon, combine your leftover veg with them in an omelette or frittata. The ultimate at chez Vivi is Mr V's kedgeree. Old skool and yummy. You can even use tinned fish to save pennies. Mr V uses a nice recipe from the beeb website so click here and have a go.

10. Kill 2 birds with one stone. Shop and socialise. Go shopping with your best pal, get the bogofs then split the bill.

So that's my top 10 tips. I'd love to hear yours too.



  1. My top tip is Living Lettuce. Both M&S and waitrose sell a tray of it for £1. Pop it on the windowsill, keep it watered and be careful when picking leaves and it will keep for weeks!

  2. Love it! Wow Waitrose for a quid? Posh and frugal. The slugs ate all of my lettuce in the garden so I'll be getting my butt for some LL love. Merci! Vivi.x