After the holidays money might be tight. Whereas we spent a quarter of our income (25%) on food 40 years ago, it’s now only about 10% and price is one of the most important factors when people choose what to buy.
A common reason people give me for not eating real food, is that it’s too expensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you’ve ever watched Eat Well for Less, every family ends up saving £1000s by doing their own cooking. Why do we think real food is more expensive than fake food? Perhaps because the manufacturers are so adept at presenting their wares as cheap.
Ready meals are £2.50 a pop, (should that be a ping?) and most people recognise they often aren’t great (read the reviews eg not the mouth wateringly delicious dish you see on the ads and the picture on the packet but “90% salty, watery mash, 9% chicken, 1% mushroom & didn’t even see any leek – rubbish” ). Many are not even complete meals but parts of meals to which you have to add your own veg or salad – that pushes up the cost still further. Takeaways are very expensive costing anything from £3 or £4 upwards for the basic meal, plus sides and other unhealthy extras like fizzy drinks which can push the meal up to a fiver.
Other people might be willing to sacrifice their money and food quality to avoid a few minutes of cooking but you want good food, good value and good health so I’ve had a go at costing some recipes. They all come out under £2 per person, from the most decadent pork stroganoff and salad at £1.87, through pasta with salmon sauce and salad at £1.62 (below), to liver and onions with cabbage and mash at 81p for the most nutritious food on the planet (NB liver is high in vitamin K so not good with warfarin).
If you have a take-away twice a week and eat ready-meals the rest of the time, you could save at least £500 a year per person, probably far more, by cooking your own food. Adding up seven of these meals comes to £9.73 for a week. Does that sound worth a little time in the kitchen?
Recipes serve 2 adults, final price per person shown in bold.
Pasta and salmon sauce
In a pan of fast boiling water, cook pasta 25p
In a small saucepan melt a knob of butter 10p
Add a 213g tin of pink salmon £1.84
Add 1/3 tin tomatoes (freeze the rest in two containers) 12p
Add a big pinch of fresh dill (freeze the rest for other meals) 6p
Make a salad while everything cooks – see below 52p
When the pasta is almost ready, add 1/3 tub double cream 25p
to the sauce – warm it but don’t let it boil.
Drain the pasta, stir in some butter 6p
Pour the sauce over and serve with the salad
Total cost £3.20 that’s £1.60 per person.
So easy, so quick, so tasty!
Some meals seem to go with salad, others with veg. There are so many ways to make salads and wonderful varied ingredients you can use. Here’s an easy one that I’ve used in this recipe series.
Wash and chop a few lettuce leaves 5p
(buy a whole lettuces, not expensive, chemical-soaked pre-prepped bags)
Slice a carrot very thinly or grate it 8p
Slice some radish 9p
Add some baby plum tomatoes 20p
Drizzle with dressing 10p
Total for salad 52p for 2 or 26p per person
For the sake of your health, make your own dressing with olive oil and some sort of vinegar. Bought dressings usually contain vegetable oil which you need to avoid – here’s why.
You can make salad that costs even less by slicing savoy, white or red cabbage very finely and adding grated carrots, tomatoes, chives, celery etc.
Savoy cabbage tastes good with olive oil and white wine vinegar.
White cabbage is better with mayonnaise. Here’s an easy way to make your own.
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to use loads of equipment and make lots of pans dirty. Here’s one you can make for one in a little pan or for 20 if you have a huge cauldron – but there’s only the one pan to clean. Hurray!
In a medium pan, melt a knob of butter 10p
Chop one medium onion and cook for 3 mins 20p
Add a teaspoon of coconut oil 5p
Fry 4 chicken thighs until browned all over £2.64
For the best flavour, use thighs with skin on and bone in.
Turn down the heat
– 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes 12p
– 125ml brown rice 15p
– a dash of lemon juice 12p
– ½ pt stock 7p
– good pinch of dried oregano 4p
Stir, cover with a lid, simmer gently for 20 mins, turning the chicken pieces over and stirring the mixture 4 or 5 times.
5 minutes before the end, add two good handfuls of peas 12p
Towards the end, add a good pinch of fresh chopped parsley 7p
Total cost £3.78, that’s £1.84 per person and the chicken price is for free-range. You can cut it to £1.07 if you use frozen thighs.
Delicious, satisfying and only one pan to clean.
Here’s a link to two recipes (pork stroganoff and pork in a mushroom cream sauce) and a note about low-cost weight loss.
Top Tip – Get Cooking – it could save you a packet!