Cooking from scratch and healthy eating are cheaper than pre-prepared convenience food and give you more options for variation that suits your taste. That is a fact. If I can do it on £70 a month, so can anyone. There is nothing special about my diet. I am not vegetarian or vegan. I don’t take supplements. As with everything it’s ‘in moderation’. Yes, I am an omnivore and yes I eat cake. I also eat three meals a day, plus the little extras. There is no magic to this.
I don’t own a microwave, a smoothie maker or a slow cooker. You don’t need lots of fancy fad ingredients to do a good job or make smoothies or eat clean if you don’t want to. Wherever possible, I use own brand and saver products. You can’t tell the difference on a day to day basis, particularly if you are mixing those products into something else, or unless you are a Michelin star chef and I’m not even going to try and compete with that.
Recently, I have got back into making cakes. Treats are allowed on a calorie deficit and making good cake is cheaper on the calories as well as the purse and is far more satisfying to eat. I pick up deals on the reduced shelves at the supermarket if they are there, but they’re few and far between and I need regular planned treats to keep me on the straight and narrow.
My favourite recipe, and one I discovered when I was a mature student living on a student loan was a World War Two recipe for a ration fruit cake. And it’s the best of all fruit cakes, only trumped by proper wedding fruit cake. It’s also a very versatile recipe. I have made it with mixed fruit, and then bananas and dates. I could probably make it with cherry’s, nuts, whatever and I will experiment with that when the budget allows.
It contains self raising flour, granulated sugar, cheap margarine, fruit of your choice, milk and water and it bakes in a modern fan oven in about 1.10 hours. It’s also great with custard which I make from scratch with custard powder which is cheaper than ready made custard and means less packaging. I mean, come on, making custard is one of the easiest things in the world, surely?
Now that I’ve got back into baking, I’ve stopped buying dessert foods as a general rule. Tea cakes were my food of choice for a while but I’m bored of those. I still pick up the occasional cake when it’s on the reduced shelves. A gluten free tray bake will make its way into my basket if it’s there at 90p. It would be a shame to turn it down. The packaging suggests 9 servings, but I can get 15 out of it because it’s quite high in calories for what it is, so that’s effectively two weeks worth of cake right there. I use it as a lunch sweet dessert to keep me from snacking on biscuits. As part of my routine, it works.
My fruit cake will do 8 normalish servings or 16 if I’m putting it with custard or icecream and treating it more like a pudding dessert than a cake on a plate. It just depends on my mood.
I have been dividing my usual cake recipe in half because it will last me a week, so I am currently making it in a 1lb bread tin. This way I can eat it before it dries out. It costs less than £1.50 to make and I’ve worked out it’s between 200 and 250 calories a piece depending on the fruit you’re using. They are fairly generous slices, I think.
I also recently picked up this refined sugar free recipe for flapjacks from the Frugal Living In The UK website. This is great from a calorie perspective as well as a cost one and again, it’s versatile and uses ingredients I generally keep in the cupboard anyway. I gave it a go at the end of February and it’s pretty good. This recipe gave me six pieces which come in at 124 calories each. You can tell it has no sugar in it, but it makes a nice snack regardless.
The same website also has a genius recipe for beer battered onion rings which I love and can use for battered fish too. In fact the website has loads of recipes on offer. I am picking my way through the ones that are frugal for my budget, but if you’re just looking to vary your home cooking skills this could be a good site for you.
A new staple for me is an easy homemade cheese sauce recipe which breaks up the regular stirfrys I have probably become too accustomed to. Fish or chicken casseroles also break up the routine and are easy to freeze in portion sized amounts that go straight into the pan. Calorie wise they come in at about 350 calories and are loaded with vegetables.
I haven’t started baking bread again, because I am trying not to get back into the habit of eating a lot of that. Plus I don’t have the freezer space to make loaves anymore. I cook from scratch most days anyway whether that’s a stirfry, a cottage pie or a lasagne and all my veg is fresh so I never feel like proper cooking is a rare occurance. Like me the Frugal Living in the UK website thinks eating healthily goes hand in hand with cutting your bills and they are absolutely right.