Winter warmers on a budget

With the cooler weather well and truly upon us, there is nothing better than a big bowl of comfort food after a day’s study. Soups, casseroles and pasta dishes become a winter staple and the best bit is, they are not only good for your soul but also for your budget!

It is no secret that I love a home-cooked meal but I don’t always love the price-tag. So, step out of the classroom and into the kitchen with my top tips to help your winter dinners (and wallet) stretch even further:

Ditch the meat:

Or at least some of it! Have you ever heard of Meatless Monday? Opting for vegetarian meals for just one day a week is a sure-fire way to reduce your shopping bill.

The classic Mac and Cheese is one easy, cheap and belly-hugging suggestion, as is Mexican chilli.

Love your legumes:

Using brown lentils in place of (or in addition to) beef mince is a cost-saving hack I love. This works perfectly for lasagne, shepherd’s pie and tacos. Chickpeas are a great stand-in for chicken in curries, and kidney beans will be your best friend for any Mexican dish.

A 400g can of beans will set you back around 70 cents and is shelf-stable, much cheaper than that half kilo of mince that you might not get around to cooking!

Eat your greens:

I know, I know. Eating enough veggies can be a real mission. Smuggling them into your meals isn’t just for kids – grating carrot, zucchini, celery etc. into your meals will help them stretch further and they’re cheap. Anything mince-y or sauce-y is perfect for this.

Take it slow:

Investing in a slow cooker made a huge difference to my winter budget and my schedule. I can use cheaper cuts of meat in a beef and red wine casserole and get dinner cooking in the morning before a long day of classes.

There’s nothing better than returning home to the scent (and convenience) of dinner being already cooked.

Get prepped:

Shop the markdown sections before you plan your week’s menu and let the savings do the talking. Discounted veggies? Hello minestrone! Cheap eggs? Looks like it’s quiche!

If you have the freezer space, making a double – or triple – batch of your favourite meal is a great way to take advantage of specials and save you time later in the week. No freezer? Leftovers for lunch the next day works too.

Retreating indoors over winter doesn’t have to drive your food bill up, nor do you have to resort to take-out (again). Make the next book you study a recipe book and together with these tips, you’ll be saving money and time all winter long. Bon Appetit!