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?

This is a cereal drama

I wish I could apologise for my dreadful pun, but I can’t. I love a good pun especially in the context of breakfast food. I have mentioned in previous posts trying to have healthy breakfast foods, but struggling to stay full until lunch. Which I must admit I have managed since changing what I ate in the morning and I must admit that adding muesli and porridge back into my repertoire there has been no exception. The added bonus of having a sweet breakfast is that once I get round to lunchtime I don’t seem to crave really sweet food quite so much.

I got sent some muesli by Stoats along with a range of their porridge which I loved and got me back onto cereal in a big way. Its just so easy! While I love smoothies and things on toast this actually means there is less washing up overall. (Also as mentioned previously I’m a big fan of Scottish food and produce as its part of my heritage and what I grew up eating).

I have found however, that it perks me up so much to have fruit first thing and I think my skin has certainly improved since adding more fruit into my diet.

Plus, I think cereal looks so beautiful when you’re hungry.

I was provided with samples of Stoats porridge but you can order online and find stockists here.

Sausage, sweet potato and spinach lasagne

This recipe is one for those days when only something a bit more carb heavy and comforting will do, but at the same time you don’t want healthy eating to go completely out of the window. It was actually born because me really really craving lasagne but only having sausages in and not really being entirely enthusiastic about the whole rigmarole of making bolognese and bechamel sauce on a Thursday night. Still out of laziness comes a lot less food waste and overhearing D telling his friend about a really night lasagne I had made for him, so the recipe seems to have been successful in our house.

To make enough lasagne for 4 people you will need:

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

400g pork and leek sausages removed from their skins

3 large handfuls sweet potato chunks (I used frozen sweet potato)

3 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150ml creme fraiche (I used low fat but all types work)

20g parmesan (plus extra for the top)

Salt and pepper

Approx 230g passata infused with herbs

125g buffalo mozzarella

4-5 lasagne sheets

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Fry on a gentle heat until soft. Add the skinned sausages and sweet potato chunks and season with the salt, pepper, marjoram and chilli. Cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sausage to smooth out, until the sweet potato has started to soften and the sausage is cooked.Add the spinach, creme fraiche and parmesan and stir until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan has melted into everything.

In a medium casserole dish make a smooth layer of this mixture. Top with your lasagne sheets (no need to pre cook). Pour over your passata. Break your mozzarella over the passata and grate over more parmesan and pepper.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.

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I think this will become part of our regular repertoire.

Sausage, broccoli and courgette risotto

D and I are both pretty busy working full time, writing and doing amdram (he’s just landed a part doing the History Boys!). In fact you could technically say we were a busy family if you count the rabbits demolishing cardboard boxes and hiding behind the sofa. Anyway I’ve started trying to think of some relatively quick and healthy recipes that’ll keep us going all evening.

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Anyway, I felt like a start home maker (for once) making this as I used home made chicken stock in this, which did actually make all the difference (but is absolutely not essential and alas I now have no more).

To make enough risotto for 4 people you will need:

6 sausages

250g-300g risotto rice (not going to lie, I just used up a bag of rice and didn’t measure)

1 small onion – sliced

1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed

Chicken stock (about 1L)

1 glass white wine

1/2 broccoli head – cut into small pieces

1 courgette

Rosemary

Pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper

Butter

Fry the onion and garlic in butter until soft over a gentle heat. Remove the sausages from their skins and fry them with the onion and squish this into small pieces before the sausage is cooked.

Fry the rice in this for 1 minute and then add half the chicken stock, rosemary and wine and turn down to a low heat. Stir this occasionally and add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid (and it evaporates). Once the rice seems partially cooked add the broccoli and either spiralize in the courgette (or use a potato peeler to make small pieces of it). Once the rice and vegetables are cooked season with salt and pepper. To serve top with the percorino cheese.

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Serve to your busy (and hungry) family members. Although perhaps not to your bunnies/cat/goldfish.

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Quick chia pudding

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I do apologise, this is going to be another one of my wonderfully vague recipes. Although I would not call this a particularly quick recipe (who can argue something is quick when you soak it all night?); it will make your morning routine more simple. Not having to think beyond “should I grate in that apple or throw in a handful of sultanas” is sometimes the most complex thing I can determine when I get up for work.

Anyway chia pudding is convenient, really healthy and can really easily be adapted into a vegan recipe or made with things you really like.

To make chia pudding for 1 you will need:

Chia seeds

Milk of your choice (mine is coconut milk)

Yogurt (I used Alpro strawberry and rhubarb yogurt)

The topping of your choice (sliced banana, grated apple, etc etc)

Pour a small quantity of chia seeds into a cereal bowl so a thin layer covers the bottom. Cover this with about 2cm milk. Add 1 large spoonful of yogurt. Stir this so that all the seeds are as evenly dispersed as you can manage. Cover this and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning stir again. Add your toppings and serve. Enjoy your beautifully simple and delicious breakfast.

Italian sausage risotto stuffed peppers

As much as I loved Christmas, I’m glad to be back in my kitchen tinkering with recipes. Risotto stuffed peppers proved to be a triumph, combining the warm comforting feeling of having risotto in your stomach while feeling all virtuous about the vegetables you’ve consumed in this. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I like occasionally removing skins from sausages and using it like mince in dishes and the herbs in the Italian style sausages add a wonderful depth of flavour. The other benefit in this recipe is that if you use gluten free sausages this would be perfect for those who suffer with coeliac disease (and other gluten free diets).

Anyway, the risotto on this is so delicious D and I were both scraping it out once the peppers were in the oven.

Anyway to make these you will need.

4-5 peppers (depending on how packed with rice you want the peppers to be)

1 pack of Italian style sausages or similar (6 sausages)

1 small onion (sliced)

200g risotto rice

1 clove of garlic (crushed)

Chicken stock

Splash of passata

100g frozen spinach

1 sprig of rosemary

Salt and pepper

Percorino cheese

Cooking spray (I used flora cooking spray)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Half your peppers and scoop out the sleeves and arrange them onto a roasting tray. Keep the stalks on the pepper halves in order to keep more of the filling in.

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Fry the onion and garlic over a gentle heat until soft. To skin the sausages use the flat of a knife to squish out the meat so it is more like mince. Add this to the onion and garlic and fry until the meat is no longer pink. Add the rice and then about 300ml chicken stock, the spinach, rosemary and passata. Season with a little salt and pepper.

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Cook over a gentle heat, topping the rice mixture up with water when it dries out too much. Remove from the heat once the rice is cooked. The risotto should have slightly more liquid in it that most risotto as it will dry out a little when it is in the oven. Reseason with salt and pepper to taste.

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Divide this mixture between the peppers. Top the rice mixture with a little grated pecorino and bake the peppers for 15-20 minutes.

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I suppose you could serve these with salad or as part of a bigger spread of food; but honestly we had these on their own and they were a delicious week night meal. Perfect if you have a little more time. I think D liked them as a post gym meal too.

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Baked eggs with spinach and chorizo

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I’m all for winter warmer type recipes but I dont believe they always have to be overly stodgy. There’s something wonderful and cosy about baked eggs and they’re certainly very popular in this household! We tend to have these for our tea (dinner if you’re fancy) but they also work as a breakfast or a brunch (if you’re instagram fabulous).

Anyway, there’s not much more to say except using the oil the chorizo gives off when heated and using low fat cheese makes this a healthy and delicious recipe. I don’t actually think you can even tell it is particularly healthy.

Anyway to make enough baked eggs to serve 2 you will need:

4 eggs

1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 1/2 a large jar of passata)

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

Approx 50g cooking chorizo

Approx 100g frozen spinach

A handful of low fat cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to about 200°C. Peel and slice your onion, crush your garlic and dice your chorizo. Fry this with no oil in a non stick pan over a medium heat. Your chorizo will release oil which you can cook your onion and garlic. Once the onion and garlic have softened add your spinach and tomato. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the spinach has cooked. Season with the salt and pepper.

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Add the tomato sauce to a heavy ovenproof dish. Make indentations in the sauce and crack the eggs into these indentations. Top with cheese. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have set.

To serve eat with crusty bread.