Healthy Eating on a Budget

This post is a long time coming and I am surprised I have not written it sooner, especially given its a bit part of my weekly food shopping mantra. Healthy eating has an often unfair reputation as being expensive. It can be but then again I think its pretty expensive if you regularly eat takeaways or buy ready meals. Although from the outset cooking from scratch can feel expensive, once you have your store cupboard ingredients you’re pretty much good to go.

I am aware most people who like cooking are pretty good at these, but this post is for those wanting to change their lifestyle but feeling overwhelmed.

  1. Your freezer is your friend. I’ve been surprised by the frozen vegetables you can buy now (I keep thinking of growing up in the 90s when it was peas, carrots and corn). Frozen fish and fruit is also really useful to have in as it means you only have to defrost what you need and it tends to be cheaper to buy.
  2. You don’t have to completely steer clear of food trends but be aware  that it does make your food shop more expensive. Be realistic. Can you justify spending the money on something you might not like, especially if you are prone to buying something, trying it once and then ignoring it while it takes up valuable cupboard space.
  3. Look at your protein alternatives and embrace vegetarian and vegan food. Quorn is our new household favourite. (Can I just say here the people who make Quorn should take a bow, it has improved so much). Not only is it generally lower in fat, it works out as less expensive too. Think about having beans and pulses and adding nuts or eggs to stir fries.
  4. Get your dried fruit from the baking aisle. Seriously, its cheaper buying the bigger packs from here than getting it from the fruit aisle.
  5. Buy your fruit and veg by weight where you can. Again, this stops you spending more than you need on vegetable that you might not finish and not only does it reduce food waste but you spend less.
  6. Plan your meals. Whether this is a vague plan of what you’ll eat or more detailed. Being aware of what you will eat on what night prevents you from buying more than necessary.
  7. Buy yourself some snacks. There will be some days where its just too long between meals. If you buy yourself stuff that you like it’ll prevent you overeating as you’ll feel satisfied. Plus buying more at once can work out cheaper unless you eat an entire multipack of crisps in one sitting (and that my friend is a lot of salt).
  8. Try new recipes. How are you going to enjoy your new healthy lifestyle if you don’t embrace the magic of variety?

Have you got any tips to enjoy healthy eating on a budget?

Giant scone cake

I’m ready to admit it. Blogging can be a funny business. While some people do really well cooking up elaborate meals and writing about them, I always find the most success in terms of number of visitors based on recipes that are straightforward to make at home with ingredients with easy to substitute ingredients; rather than the much more elaborate cooking I originally did when writing this blog.

On that note, I can spend hours making and decorating a cake and, yes, quite a lot of people will show interest. Then on another occasion I can make a giant scone cake due to burning something else, which takes all of 45 minutes to make, bake and decorate and it gets the most interest of any cake recipe I have made. You really cannot predict blog views!

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This cake recipe as mentioned before is really quick to make. Nobody expects a pretty scone so it doesn’t need hours of elaborate decoration. This recipe is also eggless, pretty low on sugar and can be easily adapted into a vegan recipe if you switch the milk and butter for non dairy substitutes and use this gem instead of whipped cream. Pretty much a winner for several dietary requirements then.

To make a large scone cake you will need:

450g self raising flour

100g salted butter

85g caster sugar

Approx 300ml milk

50g sultanas

2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam

200ml double cream

1 tablespoon icing sugar

Heat your oven to 200°C. Line 2 cake tins with grease proof paper. In a large mixing bowl use your fingers to rub the butter into your flour. Add your sugar and sultanas. Pour in about 2/3 of your milk and then gradually add the rest of your milk until just before the point when the mixture goes too sticky and soggy. If this happens add a little flour to stiffen up.

Diving your scone mix between the two cake tine and spread the mix to the edges as scones do not really spread during baking. Bake for about 11 minutes until the scones go golden brown. Allow the scones to cool.

To decorate whip the icing sugar and cream until thick and spreadable. Spread jam on one half of the scone and spread cream on the other half. Sandwich together et voila. A giant scone!

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This is a great crowd pleaser, especially amongst my Yorkshire friends. My grandma served this cake with champagne (this cake was a moving present for her and my grandpa) but it also goes really well with tea of coffee – as scones are traditionally served with tea.

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Chicken, gnocchi and sage soup

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I seem to be riding a total comfort food wave this January. I can’t help it when it’s cold outside I want a warm tummy filled with soup, or stew etc. With this soup there are 2 ways of making this – either you end up with a lot of leftover chicken, or you can use up a lot of leftover chicken. Its completely up to you. Its a great one for anyone who likes to cook economically (you’d be a fool not to really; everything tastes so much better).

Anyway to make this you will need:

For the slow cooked method to get leftover chicken

1 large chicken

2 large celery sticks

1 onion

1 clove garlic, crushed

Fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 carrot

1 pack freeze dried gnocchi

Cold water

Sage leaves

1 handful frozen peas

For the quicker method to use up cooked chicken

3 large handfuls cooked chicken

Approx 1l chicken stock

Ginger

1 carrot

1 celery stick

Salt and pepper

Fresh ginger

1 handful frozen peas

Sage leaves

1 pack freeze dried gnocchi

(Both recipes serve about 4 people)

If slow cooking your chicken; place the chicken in the slow cooker, to this add your (peeled and halved onion), 1 celery stick, the garlic, grate in the ginger and season with salt and pepper. Cover with cold water and cook on a low heat for 6-8 hours.

Once the chicken is cooked drain the juices into a large pan and allow the chicken to cool. Peel and thinly slice the carrot and thinly slice the celery and add this to the chicken stock soup base along with the peas. Heat your soup over a medium flame. Pull chicken (preferably the brown meat) from the chicken in small pieces and add to the soup (use about 3 large handfuls). Tear in the sage . Once the carrot and celery have softened reseason with salt and pepper and add the gnocchi. Once this is cooked serve.

Once the rest of the chicken is cold, pick this off the bones and keep for sandwiches, salads or curries.

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For the quicker method heat your stock over a medium heat. Grate in the ginger. Peel and slice the carrot and slice the celery. Add this to the stock along with the peas and chicken. Season with the salt, pepper and sage. When the vegetables are cooked add the gnocchi and serve once this floats on the surface of the liquid.

Very easy slow cooked beef curry

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This curry is hardly a recipe. It can be knocked together in less that 4 minutes on a busy morning. While it isn’t quite as delicious as the curry my father has made me and its not a patch on the ones made by my friends from work (who have their own favourite blends of spices); it does provide a healthy comforting meal after a busy day. It can be made by even the most inexperienced cook and its a good way of using up peppers that are past their best, or beef that’s nearly at its expiry date.

Anyway; to make this “throw together curry” you will need:

1 small onion, sliced

1 1/2 peppers or a large handful of frozen peppers

1 can chopped tomatoes or 1/2 jar of passata

400g diced beef

100ml chicken stock

1 heaped tablespoon curry paste of your choice (or any blend of spices you fancy)

Switch the slow cooker on low. Place all the ingredients into your slow cooker and give a gentle mix. Cover and leave to cook for 6-8 hours. For the last half hour (or while your rice is cooking) uncover to let the sauce thicken.

I serve mine with rice. If you’re not sure how to make rice (some people struggle to get it fluffy) I usually put my rice in a jug. Measure the volume of it and cover with 1 and 1/2 times as much cold water. Put the rice on a high heat. Once the rice is simmering, turn the heat right down, stir the rice and cover the pan. Allow to simmer for 11 minutes. After the 11 minutes remove from the heat and leave to stand still covered) for another 11 minutes until fluffy.

D was working from home while this cooked and said the smell of this was making him hungry all day (I think he is a fan of this recipe).

Easy ramen for tired stomachs

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Around Christmas time you really do just need to enjoy a bit of a treat and the odd overindulgence. Its practically mandatory, what with chocolate, cheese, wine and roast dinners aplenty. However after 2 Christmas dinners at D and my respective parents houses and our usual boxing day mini buffet my stomach was feeling pretty tired of rich food. I needed a break from overindulgent and to eat something a bit less hearty; something at the opposite end of the comfort food scale.

Anyway, this was so easy to make and the good news is *drumroll* I made this just for myself so you can scale it up or down to your heart’s content. Feel free to make any substitutions (like the tuna for another fish), I had to work with what I had in. I suppose this makes this a bit of a store cupboard recipe.

To make this you will need (per person):

250ml vegetable or chicken stock

Ginger root

Soy sauce

A spring onion

1 handful frozen peas

1 brick frozen spinach

2 forkfuls canned tuna

1 egg

1 bundle noodles – I used sweet potato and buckwheat

Boil your egg for 7 minutes – so that it is cooked but still slightly soft inside. While the egg is boiling heat your stock, grate in some ginger and add a dash of soy sauce. Add your frozen vegetables and stir to loosen out the frozen spinach. After about 4 minutes add the noodles to this as well as the spring onions. If your egg has cooked rinse it a few times with cold water to prevent a grey ring forming and set aside. Once the noodles have cooked, stir in your tuna so that it disintegrates into the mixture. Serve your soup out. Remove the shell from your egg and half it. Top your soup with the egg and serve.

I can assure you, your stomach will feel a bit happier once you’ve finished eating this.

One for all you students – 5 ways to feel like you’re winning the toastie game

DSC_0110No word of a lie, toasties are still one of my favourite fast foods. During my university career I ate countless toasties due to my sheer love of cheese in all forms. My poison of choice: cheddar cheese, mushrooms and mayonnaise on brown bread. Anyway, here are a few suggestions of what you may have in your cupboards to liven up your mealtimes (a true toastie fan knows they can be eaten around the clock). Obviously ingredients can be substituted and I’ve tried to keep realistic with ingredients. I know student loans only stretch so far.

  1. Make your own tuna melt. I personally never use a full can of tuna in one go, so this is a great way to use up any leftovers. Mix your tuna with a bit of mayonnaise (I usually use light mayo) and season with salt and pepper. Add to any cheese you like.
  2. Use up leftover pasta sauce or enchilada sauce by adding it to a toastie with mozzarella or other mild cheese. A great way to save money and reduce food waste.
  3. If you have 1/2 avocado, sliced avocado, chilli sauce and cheese is dreamy.
  4. Cooked chicken, pesto and strong cheddar (or feta cheese). Mediterranean vibes, even when its raining, you’re sitting in your pyjamas and you have an essay to write.
  5. Try a dessert toastie. If you want to pretend to be healthy banana and Nutella (because of the fruit), otherwise marshmallow and chocolate button is the one. Especially handy to know if your flatmate has had a horrible day and needs cheering up.

If you’re a student returning to university soon, or you’re a Fresher this year have a great year. Even if you aren’t a student, you just love toasted sandwiches; I hope you enjoy these easy ideas to make one of the most simple snacks even more dreamy.

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