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How to Eat Well for Just £10 a Week
Is it really possible to eat for just £10 a week? That's the claim by blogger Jack Monroe whose blog A Girl Called Jack is brimming with healthy recipes for budget meals. Monroe creates the bargain meals personally for herself and her son.
Monroe isn’t the only person makes waves by making healthy recipes for less; there is a whole wave of budget recipe sites, all offering strategies for making healthy food at home.
Eating heartwarming, homemade food can save you money in tight times; but for many people frugal food is about much more than saving a few pounds (either in the bank, or on the waistline). Learning to cook your own food from pure ingredients is about becoming self-sufficient. You don’t need to rely on other people to sell you pre-made food for a markup, you can look after yourself in a kitchen.
So learning how to cook appealing, healthy meals from scratch is an awesome life skill to possess. Being good at cooking succulent food from scratch gives you independence from processed ready meals, fast-food restaurants and eating endless supplies of noodles or beans on toast. Learning to cook is incredibly rewarding and a great way to boost your self-esteem.
And you’ll save a ton of money…
Save money by learning to cook
The budget savings from cooking your own health food can be enormous. Food is one area where you can make a real saving in your life. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the average household spending £56.80 on food for a week, just shy of £3,000 per year. Learning to cook low-cost, healthy meals can make a huge difference to your lifestyle.
Eat for £10 a week: Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burger
This tasty bean burger is Monroe’s famous meal (the one the press dubbed ‘the 9p burger’). Monroe’s Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burger uses a range of low-cost ingredients that are high in protein. The ingredients are:
1 x 400g tin of kidney beans.
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped.
1 carrot, grated.
1 teaspoon ground cumin.
A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped.
A splash of oil, plus 2 tablespoons to fry the burgers.
1 heaped teaspoon flour, plus another to shape the burgers.
According to Monroe this makes four generous burgers, but she makes a triple batch at once and freezes the spare burgers. The 9p bean burger recipe can be read over on the A Girl Called Jack website.
Eat for £10 a week: Not Meatballs
Monroe’s heartwarming Not Meatballs recipe is a vegetarian alternative to meatballs that you serve with spaghetti and tomatoes. The recipe is also vegetarian (cutting back on meat is healthy and a good way to save costs). The ingredients for this veggie meatball recipe are:
1 onion, red or white.
A fat clove of garlic.
1 red chilli or a pinch of the dried stuff.
1 tablespoon finely chopped black olives (optional).
3 tablespoons oil.
zest and juice of half a lemon, or a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice.
A slice of bread, stale or fresh.
A fistful of herbs: parsley, mint, coriander or basil all work well.
The Not Meatballs recipe is fairly easy to make, requiring you to cook down aubergine and the onion and garlic mix separately before tossing in the other ingredients. Monroe goes over the recipe on her site. More recipes are available from the A Girl Called Jack website, and you can buy A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe from The Hive (which also supports your local independent bookstore).
Eat for £10 per week: find healthy recipes online
While there is a good selection of recipes on Jack Monroe's site for creating a range of succulent meals that cost very little money. She isn’t the only online resource for frugal food; here is a selection of our favourite online budget recipe sites:
Frugal Feeding: There’s a delicious selection of recipes of world food. Particularly Indian, Chinese and Thai food.
Thrifty Lesley. If £10 a week is too much then Lesley’s outstanding blog outlines how to eat for just £1 a day
Low Cost Living. This site has a great selection of quality recipes (including a range of good meat options). Low Cost Living also has an appealing section on making your own butter, cottage cheese, jam, bread and butter.
Reddit /r/budgetfood: Reddit is a large selection of forums that is famous for being a time-waster, but there’s no doubting the people over on the /r/budgetfood sub know their stuff. Over 61,000 people submit and rank some tempting budget eats. You can rank the page by Top and All Time to find classics like Cheesy Melt Roll, Breakfast Burritos and a high-quality Ramen recipe.
20 tips for eating on a budget
If you are going to start restricting your spend on food by an extreme amount, then you should be careful to do so properly. It’s all too easy to end up eating low quality frozen food. Here are 20 tips for eating on a budget:
1. Write a shopping list. Plan your meals in advance and buy the exact ingredients you need.
2. Don’t throw anything away. Plan all the ingredients (including fresh herbs) so they get used. You can freeze unwanted food and herbs.
3. Eat your leftovers.
4. Buy frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen fruit and vegetables are massively underrated. They come pre-chopped and are just as good for you as non-frozen food (but avoid frozen food with added salt, sugar or fat)
5. Trade down a brand. Switch from premium brands to basic brands and buy unbranded vegetables sold by weight.
6. Go veggie. Even if you don’t see yourself as a vegetarian, cutting down on meat and fish is a great way to save money.
7. Discover pulses. Pulses, beans, lentils and peas are budget, healthy and packed with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
8. Freeze leftover bread. Bread is the most wasted household food. You know you can freeze and toast it?
9. List your cupboards. Get to know every ingredient already in your cupboards. You can typically cook a meal with what you already have.
10. Buy budget cuts of meat. If you want to eat meat buy budget cuts. These may lack the style of premium cuts, but they can be just as tasty. This BBC page has a great selection of recipes using low-cost cuts of meat.
11. Work to a recipe. Consider the price of ingredients when making your recipes. Build a collection of budget foods that you enjoy cooking and eating.
12. Learn portion control. Use smaller plates, or add smaller portions to the plate and learn to say no to a second helping. Save the leftovers for lunch.
13. Learn to cook from scratch. Avoiding takeaways and processed ready cook meals can save you a fortune, and they’re packed with salt and sugar.
14. Buy whole chickens. Some of the best-value meat in the supermarket is a whole chicken, which you can easily cut up into regular portions. This YouTube video will show you how to bone a chicken. You can turn chicken bones into an amazing tasting chicken stock (this recipe for chicken stock shows you how).
15. Price-check packaged fruit and vegetables against loose veg. You can save a lot of money by buying loose vegetables, and it’s often the same thing.
16. Cut back on luxuries. Allow yourself a set amount of treats like soda, crisps, and biscuits. They are expensive, and you’ll feel better for it.
17. Beware of BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) offers. It’s not cheaper if you weren’t planning on getting it in the first place. Check the sell-by dates and make sure you’re planning to use the second free item.
18. Cook for your toddler. Blend or chop up their portion to suit their age and freeze extra child-sized portions for later. 19. Get your child used to eating the same healthy food that you eat.
20. Shop around. You don’t owe any loyalty to a supermarket. You can price-check big name supermarkets at MySupermarket.com. Also consider heading back to your local fruit and vegetable market.
21. Shop during ‘happy hour’. Most supermarkets discount fresh items towards the end of the day. Each supermarket cuts prices at a different time (ask in store assistant when they cut prices). As a general rule: shopping very late (or very early) is the best way to save money at the supermarket.