Get in the kitchen and save money at the same time!
Learning how to cook cheap, healthy dinners isn’t as difficult as you might think it is…
One of the chief excuses (yes – excuses!) that parents come up with for not feeding their children properly is that it’s too expensive to buy fresh ingredients, or simply too difficult to make healthy food that their children will like and that is within their budgets. This is, of course, nonsense. Whilst it might be fair to say that cooking using fresh ingredients might take more time (and effort) than giving your kids a pound and sending them down to the chippy, the sooner you embrace this style of cooking, the sooner you’ll be able to get to grips with these skills, and the better you’ll be able to cook in the future.
As with learning any new skill, you should try to remain patient when starting your cooking journey. Perseverance is key to cooking success and you shouldn’t be disheartened if your early attempts do not quite hit the mark.
If you’re new to cooking then it’s best to start simple. Luckily, most kids prefer simple foods so your family will be able to ease into your new food routine without too many tantrums or trip-ups. Think simple pasta bakes with chopped tomatoes, pesto, basil and mozzarella; or sausage and mash, with peas and gravy. These meals won’t break the bank and require minimal equipment, there are also plenty of recipes online that you can use to get started.
Get your larder stocked
Before you start your new cooking journey, you should think about pulling together a larder of food that will be able to support your future meals. A few years ago, James Martin presented a television show for the BBC with the purpose of explaining how cooking from fresh ingredients doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. He published a list of basic store cupboard ingredients that would cost around £20 at the time of writing, and then asked his chef friends to offer up healthy recipes that would cost an extra £3 for 4 portion on top of this – both of these resources are highly recommended.
In order to make the most of your limited budget and time, it’s crucial that you plan your meals ahead, depending on your work schedule, this is best done on the weekend. Find the recipes you want to cook, factor in any evenings where you’re busy and consider subbing in frozen portions, if you have them and make sure you have everything that you need in your cupboards. You’ll find yourself slipping up if you don’t get this preparation done in advance.
Cook in bulk to save
Finally, try and prepare meals in bulk so that you can either freeze your leftovers, or save them dinner or lunch later in the week. Although eating the same meal a few days in a week might not be the most attractive of prospects, if your priority is keeping to a budget and providing your kids with a healthy diet then this shouldn’t be an issue. Always make sure that your food is completely cooled before popping it in the freezer. Once your food is frozen it should be consumed within 2 weeks, keep a record of what you’ve got in there so that it doesn’t get forgotten!