The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Eating on a Low Budget with a perfect pasta recipe

18 Nov

Healthy eating is never that easy. Whether you’re short of cash or rolling in it, you need to put the effort in and sometimes that just seems too dull. But eating well will not only help your health in the future, it will stop you getting all those annoying bugs and colds that never quite seem to go away. Need more convincing? Eating well makes you better looking – fact! Nobody wants to be that greasy, spotty one that has clearly eaten a few too many pies.

Imagine when your mum phones and you can tell her you’ve had a vegetable – she’ll be so proud!

It all comes down to 4 main food groups:

  1. Fruit and veggies
  2. My personal favourite – CARBS!
  3. Meat, fish, eggs and vegetarian versions of them (I dunno, beans?)
  4. Dairy

Right, fruit and veg , 5 a day, you all know the deal. Some pain in the a**e at the NHS has decided we should be eating that much and it’s been drummed into us for years. So why not just do it? Fruit juice with breakfast, throw a banana on your cereal. Or even on your toast if you’re into that sort of thing – what you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. That’s two already. A tomato sliced on your sandwich at lunch time. Having lasagne for tea? The veggies in the sauce all count, throw a salad on the side and you’re home and dry.

The wonderful, glorious, heaven that is a carbohydrate. The thing that makes you think “I don’t need a boyfriend, I have garlic bread!” or is that just me? Realistically, bread, rice, pasta and potatoey type things provide you with loads of energy without the fat. All this nonsense about not eating carbs if you’re on a diet – ignore! About 50% of your diet should be carbs (this makes me unbelievable amounts of happy – if the other 50% was fat I’d be sorted). Cous cous, breakfast cereals, etc all count too. But I’d rather have a tattie.

Meat, fish and all things protein – you need it to absorb iron and stuff, we don’t need to go into that. Try and vary it, don’t eat too much red meat, throw in an egg or a lentil every so often instead of an animal and you’re there. 2-3 portions a day. You should really try to eat fish, but as a fish hater I won’t lecture you on that. Try a tuna sandwich once a week – problem solved.

Last but not least is dairy. I like this one because it involves cheese. I’m a cheese fiend. Possibly an addict. Along with milk and yoghurt, this is how to get calcium. Strong bones and all that. Again, 2-3 servings a day. The downside of cheese is that it’s high fat, boo 😦 , so you need to limit the cheese and swap it for semi skimmed milk or something. Yay…

Pesto Pasta Bake

This is one of my favourite pasta recipes. It’s extremely simple, tastes amazing and even has 1 of your 5 a day (or even 2 if you put a few more tomatoes on!). I usually use penne pasta for this recipe but any shape will do. Except spaghetti. That would be weird.

This costs £1.33 and serves 1 (easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled…)

What you need:

120g penne pasta

80g frozen peas

40g green pesto

15g butter

10g flour

200ml chicken stock (you’ll only need ¼ of a stock cube as 1 cube makes 1 litre of stock)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

30g parmesan cheese, finely grated

5 cherry tomatoes, halved

How to do it:

In a big pan, boil some water, add a bit of salt, throw the pasta in and boil until al dente (still a bit firm).

Drain the pasta, and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the peas.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, add the flour and whisk to form a roux (this thickens the sauce). Cook for a couple of minutes.

Slowly whisk the stock into the roux (don’t add it all at once).

Bring to the boil and keep whisking until the sauce has thickened up.

Mix the pesto into the sauce, add the lemon juice and half the parmesan.

Add the sauce to the pasta and peas and stir to combine then pour into an oven proof dish.

Top with the rest of the parmesan and cherry tomatoes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Serve with salad (another of your 5 a day, check you out!).

How to make it different:

Try adding in some cooked chicken, it adds an extra dimension.

Try different types of pesto.

Top with SunBlush tomatoes instead of cherry.

Don’t like peas? Try sweet corn.

The Ultimate Guide to shopping on a budget with a pot noodle alternative

18 Nov

Apparently, the average student in the UK spends £20-28 a week on food. That’s only £2.80-4 a day…pretty tight if you start dividing that up between breakfast, lunch, dinner…jeezo! I don’t know about you, but I for one can get pretty carried away in the supermarket (especially if you’re hungry, shopping and the munchies DO NOT mix) and that £20ish could quite easily be blown in one trip. And then what happens? Oh hi beans on toast, long time no see! What you need to do is learn how to shop so that your money – or lack of money as the case may be – will go the distance. Follow these budget friendly tips and you might even be able to afford a wee treat for yourself!

1 – GET ORGANISED!

Get old fashioned and write a list – pen, paper, you remember that stuff, yeah? Make yourself a plan of what you’re going to eat for the next few days, have a look through the cupboard and see what you already have then write down anything you need to buy – easy!

2 – Shop twice a week

If you try and plan too far ahead, you’ll end up changing your mind about what you fancy munching, wasting what you’ve bought and spending more money on something different. If you plan in 3 or 4 days at a time it gives you the chance to change your mind and stuff won’t go off!

3 – Be mean at the start of the week

If you spend less at the start of the week, then you have enough left for a weekend treat like a bottle of wine. Or a big bar of chocolate. Or both. Also, maybe some crisps.

4 – Learn what things cost

Simple but effective – if you don’t know the usual price, how do you know it’s a bargain? And remember, as my mum would say, it’s only a bargain if you need it!

5 – Avoid convenience foods

By convenience foods, I mean daft things like pre-grated cheese. I mean really? Is that even necessary? And what’s in there to stop it going hard? Weird stuff I bet. But obviously boiling up a few kilograms of tomatoes to make your own ketchup is going a bit far.

6 – Eat what you planned

Don’t demolish the leftovers because you were still a bit peckish after your tea. If you planned to eat the leftovers the next day, sorry, but that’s where they have to stay! Clearly the occasional midnight fridge raid is going to happen, usually when alcohol is involved, sometimes these things happen, but if you really want to save money you really can’t afford to eat two days food in one night.

Since you’re avoiding the ready meals, have a go at this “not pot noodle” as I like to call it…

Peanut Butter and Lime Noodles

It might sound a bit odd with the peanut butter but it actually works really well – and I don’t even like peanut butter! This dish costs £1.24 and serves 1 (easily doubled).

What you need for the sauce:

1 tablespoon oil for frying

1 garlic clove

1 red chilli (or whatever colour you have)

1 tablespoon chunky peanut butter

About 50 ml water

½ tablespoon runny honey

1 tablespoon soy sauce

A wee stub of ginger, finely chopped or grated

A generous pinch of chilli flakes (or just a wee bit if you don’t like it hot)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Half a lime

What you need for the noodles:

Another tablespoon oil for frying

50g beansprouts

½ a pepper (any colour, I use green), sliced

1 nest of noodles (either dried that you’ve boiled in advance, “straight to wok” or fresh)

1 tablespoon crushed peanuts

How to do it:

Start off by making the sauce.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic and the whole chilli. When the garlic has started to brown, remove the chilli and throw it away.

Add the peanut butter, give it a minute or 2 to melt a bit, then add the water the keep the sauce from going claggy.

Keep stirring it, add the honey, soy sauce, ginger, chilli flakes and sesame seeds. Finally, squeeze the lime juice into the sauce.

Keep the sauce aside until you’re ready to use it.

Move on to making the noodles.

Use a wok (or a frying pan if you don’t have a wok) to stir fry your pepper and beansprouts in some oil.

When the veggies are cooked through, add the noodles and mix in the sauce.

Keep cooking on a high heat for about 5 more minutes.

And you’re done! Serve in bowls and scatter with crushed peanuts. Attempt chopsticks if you dare.

How to make it different:

If you have a bit extra cash, try adding in 60g of prawns or chicken just before frying the peppers.

If you want to make it hotter, finely chop the chilli and fry it with the garlic instead of putting it in whole.

The Ultimate Guide to your store cupboard essentials with Marmalade Muffins Recipe

17 Nov

It’s amazing what you can throw together from what you find lurking at the back of the cupboard. I’m talking about recipes you’ll actually want to eat. And surely anything that means you don’t need to take a daily trip to the supermarket has got to be a good thing, right? It’s well worth investing a bit of money in your store cupboard; it could be the thing to keep you going when you’re proper broke. Here is my ultimate guide to your store cupboard essentials and a nice wee recipe to get you started!

CUPBOARD:

Stuff in tins – beans, soup, vegetables, fish.

  • Beans are an easy way to bulk up casseroles, etc.
  • Soup – generally I’m against tinned soup but it can be handy for a quick lunch or even as a base for a pasta sauce a la Claire from 90’s pop sensation Steps (I really hope some of you had that video when you were little, otherwise that reference is totally wasted).
  • Vegetables – particularly tomatoes, for sauces. If you don’t have any tinned tomatoes, sort yourself out!
  • Fish – Like tuna, which I absolutely loathe and despise with a passion but I believe tuna sandwiches are quite popular among normal people.

Sea Salt – Maldon – the best of the best!

Oil – olive for making things tasty and sunflower or vegetable for general cooking.

Dried pasta – literally a million tonnes.

Gravy Granules – for flavouring sauces, for chips and, I won’t lie, sometimes for drinking.

Mustard – great in macaroni cheese! Choose the type you prefer.

Mayo – get a chicken friendly free range one please!

Worcestershire sauce – will transform cheese on toast, trust me.

Tabasco – my one true love.

Garlic puree – possibly the best invention in the world, ever.

Ketchup and Brown Sauce – always Daddies, none of this Heinz nonsense.

Tea – Preferably Twinings ‘cos I’m a classy bird.

Sugar (caster and brown), flour (plain, self-raising and wholemeal), baking powder (if you plan on baking), herbs and spices (of your choosing), salt and pepper, soy sauce, stock cubes, tomato puree, lentils, rice, noodles, porridge oats, honey, pesto, curry paste, sweet chilli sauce.

Wine and Nutella optional.

FRIDGE:

Cheese – sandwich friendly i.e. cheddar, parmesan and any others you want.

Milk and butter.

Eggs (these could also be in the cupboard section, depends on your thoughts on life).

Why not throw some of these together and make yourself some muffins! Could be eaten as a snack or even for breakfast!

Orange Marmalade Muffins

Image

As far as muffins goes, these aren’t horrifically unhealthy. The wholemeal flour and only a wee bit of sugar make them, in my opinion, an acceptable breakfast food. Or at the very least a mid morning snack.
These cost £1.20 and make 8 muffins (that’s an unbelievable 15p per muffin)

What you need:

100g self-raising flour

75g wholemeal flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons caster sugar

250g strong, chunky orange marmalade (150g for muffins, 100g for glaze)

Zest and juice of 1 orange (keep 2 tablespoons aside for glaze)

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 tablespoon plain yoghurt mixed with 150 ml semi-skimmed milk

You’ll also need a muffin tin and 8 muffin cases

How to do it:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl then throw in the wholemeal flour (don’t bother trying to sieve wholemeal, it’s just a hassle). Sprinkle over the sugar.

Mix the marmalade with the orange zest and juice – remember to keep some aside for the glaze.

Make a hollow in the centre of the flour, add the egg, sunflower oil, marmalade mix and milk then fold it all together lightly with a big metal spoon. It might look lumpy but don’t worry, it’s meant to.

Spoon the mixture into the cases until they’re about 3 quarters full.

Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and while the muffins are cooling make the glaze by putting the remaining marmalade and orange juice/zest in a small saucepan and heating over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until it’s bubbling away. When the muffins have cooled a bit pour the glaze over, give it 10 minutes to cool and voilà!

Bon apetit!

How to make it different:

Inspiration has struck sitting in the library across from someone eating toast with jam (bizzare – surely that must be cold?). Why not try swapping the marmalade for jam? UNTESTED, but worth a go. I take no responsibility for the results. Unless it’s amazing, then it was all me.

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The ultimate guide to eating well on a low budget