Sam's tip of the month: Cooking healthy on a budget
Sam Platt, Head of the Vegetarian Society Cookery School, gives five tips to help you cook healthy food on a budget this autumn.
Batch cooking is our top tip for economy but also time efficiency. Whenever you cook, think: “Can I cook a couple of extra portions? Can they keep in the fridge or freezer to use later?” So many dishes can easily be reheated. Good ones are stews, curries, chillies, and risotto. Most sauces freeze really well too. We like to make a big batch of a tasty tomato sauce that can then be used for pasta, lots of different one-pots, pizza, moussaka, and lots more.
Your microwave is your friend!
Lots of dishes heat up quickly and easily in the microwave. Remember to use a microwaveable container and loosen the lid. Stirring sauces and stews partway through cooking speeds things up and ensures even heating. To cut down on heating time, defrost your batch-cooked meals in a fridge overnight before microwaving.
Veg is great in the microwave too. Steaming veg in the microwave takes a fraction of the time.
Beans and pulses
Beans and pulses can take a while to cook, but dried are much cheaper than canned. I’d always opt for dried pulses. Most pulses will soften if you soak them overnight, cutting down the cooking time. Cook them in larger batches and chill or freeze them for later use. Pulses are a really cheap (and lean) protein source. Use green lentils in place of minced beef or make a tasty butterbean curry.
Soups are a great way to use up odds and ends of veg and leftovers that might otherwise go to waste. You can use up veg at towards the end of its life in blended soups. Add in broccoli and cauliflower stalks too. You don’t need to peel root veg; just give them a good clean.
To make a tasty mixed veg and lentil soup, sauté off onion, carrot and celery if you have it (you can use celery trimmings as long as they’re clean). Add a large pinches of salt, pepper, cumin, and chilli powder. Next add a couple of handfuls of dried red lentils. They’re full of protein, will thicken up your soup and they cook quickly. Add any veg you have, diced up; the more, the merrier! Add boiling water and vegetable stock to cover the ingredients. Cook until all the lentils and veg are soft. You can then choose to eat as it is or blend for a smooth soup.
Eggs are an economical source of protein for any meal, scrambled for breakfast, egg sandwiches at lunchtime or a quick veg-stuffed omelette for dinner. They’re a yummy addition to a rice and pasta dish too. They cook quickly, have a great long shelf life and don’t need to be kept in the fridge.