Can cooking be nutritious and save you money?
It’s so tempting to eat out in this city. After all, we work hard and don’t want to spend hours preparing a home cooked meal. Let’s admit it: We like convenience!
Unfortunately, convenience isn’t always cheap and together we other lifestyle choices, it’s easy to spend more than we earn. If you’re anything like me, your food bill is making up a large amount of your spending. Have you looked how changing the way you cook can help you save money?
We’ve collected the best ingredients and recipes to help you eat healthy and save money:
1. Oats: Breakfast is such an important meal. Skip it and chances are high you’ll end up snacking away throughout the day. You eat them hot as oatmeal (just add hot water from the kettle if you don’t have enough time to cook them on the stove) or mix them with yoghurt, they’re nutritious and filling. The perfect start for a busy day!
2. Eggs: Another breakfast favourite. In fact, eggs can be cooked for any meal. Whether you make egg and spinach muffins, a Spanish omelette or a ham and cheese casserole, options are limitless. You get your protein and similar to oats, eggs will leave you full and ready to tackle the day.
3. Soups: They are a great starter, filling you up just like that glass of water you should drink before a meal, and a warming main course. Many soups are water based, making them a cheap meal. Cooking with lentils or beans (I love Greek giant beans soup called Fasolada), you get a rich source of folate, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, iron and zinc as well as protein. Just don’t forget to soak beans in water before you’ll cook them (check their recipe to find out how). No need to eat (expensive) meat!
4. Gallopinto: This is a Nicaraguan dish and while it’s simple, it’s so yummy! Cook rice. In the meantime, dice onion and sauté together with some garlic. Once the rice is cooked, strain and add to the onion and garlic. Add Central American beans and a pinch of coffee grounds. Serve with some fried Nicaraguan hard cheese, avocado or fried egg.
5. Courgettes (zucchinis): Not only can you grow them in your garden (I’ve grown mine on a balcony before!), they are a versatile vegetable. You can spiralise them and create yummy spaghettis, all gluten-free. Create a sauce with creme fraiche or sour cream (add some milk if you don’t want it too thick) and chopped tomatoes. If you need meat, add some salmon (smoked or cooked).
6. Chicken: You can cook, broil, fry almost every part of a chicken from your very own chicken wings to using the breast pieces for salads. You can also use it as a base for your own stock. Money Magpie has tried how far they can get with one chicken: They cooked 7 dinners for one person!
7. Tacos: Everybody loves tacos and very little cooking involved! Your kids can create their own mix. Have some tomatoes, lettuce and cheese (shred it yourself if you want to save some more). You can add some shredded chicken or ground beef. Compared to beef, chicken is very affordable and you can use left over pieces. Top up with some salsa and sour cream.
8. Quesadilla: Another creative meal where you can you use tortillas and almost anything what’s in your fridge. Tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, chicken, sausage or ham, some jalapenos. Shredded cheese melted on top holds it all together and you can eat it with some salsa and sour cream.
9. Spaghetti: This is my favourite! You have so many sauces you can cook for your pasta. Cook chopped tomatoes, sauteed onions and garlic. Season with some salt, pepper, oregano and paisley and you got your basic tomato sauce. You can also make it with diced peppers, mushrooms, carrots, courgettes or even small broccoli florets. Delicious without any meat!
10. Vegetables from your own garden: Now, I admit, most folks in this region don’t grow many vegetables. We’ve grown tomatoes and peppers before and simply loved it. If you have a little herb garden in your kitchen, use them to season your dishes. If you have a garden or even a well-lid balcony, you can still plant the seed for some winter vegetables and grow some more in the Spring.
To save more money, use a meal planner. Looking at the upcoming week, decide what you want to cook. You can first check what’s on offer and what’s in season to lower your food bill. A meal planner lets you review the ingredients needed and think how you’re going to use left overs. An extra batch cooked at night can become lunch for the next day. Think of the chicken which can become more than just one meal for you.
As meat is expensive, going vegetarian for a day can make a big difference. Vegetables don’t need to cost a fortune and many can give you the same (or more) nutrients as meat. Can you cut meat on more than one day per week?
Before you’ll head to the supermarket, check your pantry and only put on your shopping list those ingredients you’re missing. Ideally, you’re also using this time to clear what’s in your freezer and your cupboards.
Don’t have the time to create your own meal plan? Let us create a 7, 14 or 30 day meal plan based on your personal preferences just for you (recipes included)! Email us if you want to find out more!
Until next time,