Eat well without breaking the bank

JAN BILTON
Last updated 14:38 28/08/2014
Curried lentils and kumara.
JAN BILTON

POWER AND PROTEIN: Curried lentils and kumara.

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I know I'm not the only one guilty of impulse buying. Did I really need that pink chocolate crammed with hundreds and thousands, enticingly displayed near the checkout yesterday?

It could have blown the budget (and the calorie intake) for the week.

I noted a colleague falling into the same trap.

Flatters and young marrieds often ask me how they can keep their weekly food bill in check. Here are 10 ideas.

Planning meals well in advance eliminates the need to purchase last minute quick-to-prepare but more expensive convenience foods.

Make a rough menu starting with dinners followed by breakfasts and lunches. Take into account the number of people at each meal, their ages, gender and the amount of energy they expend during a day.

Save fuel by planning some meals to be cooked in your electric frypan, crockpot or microwave oven, all of which use less power than conventional ovens and hobs.

Choose seasonal foods - they're always lower priced than out-of-season goodies and grow your own fruits and vegetables where possible.

Make a shopping list and stick to it. Check the pantry to ensure you're not buying an item you already have on your shelves.

Try to plan the menu choices around the appropriate supermarket specials advertised for the week.

Check the labels on the packets for "use by" and "best by" dates. It's uneconomic to buy an item that will be out of date before you have used the entire amount.

Buy only what you require, especially with fresh produce. For example, it's pointless buying bananas just because they are on special at $3 for 2 kilograms if they are not going to be consumed before they go black and mushy.

Try to cook one evening meal that will last two nights. Stews, casseroles and crockpots are perfect examples.

Avoid those tempting displays in your supermarket - just buy what's on your list.

CURRIED LENTILS & KUMARA

Lentils and chickpeas provide cheap protein and carbohydrate power.

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 red onion, diced
1 tsp each: cumin seeds, mustard seeds
1-2 tsp curry powder
cup red lentils
400g orange kumara, peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
2 cups vegetable stock
400g can diced tomatoes
390g can chickpeas, drained
3-4 Tbsp chopped coriander or parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Sauté the onion, until softened. Add the spices. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add the lentils, kumara, stock and tomatoes. Cover, simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and coriander and heat through.

Great topped with extra coriander or parsley and served with plain yoghurt. Serves 4.

SAUSAGE NIBBLES WITH SPINACH & PASTA

Choose well-flavoured fresh sausages for this recipe, for example minty lamb or Italian.

2 cups dried pasta curls/macaroni
1 Tbsp canola oil
500g well flavoured sausages
3 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can diced tomatoes
pinch chilli flakes
2 cups finely sliced spinach

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

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Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan.

Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins making about four pieces from each.

Roll into rough little balls. Pan-fry the balls in the oil for about 6-7 minutes, shaking the pan so the balls will cook evenly.

Add the garlic, tomatoes and chilli flakes.

Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until limp.

Serve over the drained pasta.

Serves 4.

SPICY RICE WITH SMOKED FISH

Tip: Cook double the amount of rice you need and store the surplus in the freezer to use in stir-fries.

Or reheat and serve as an accompaniment.

1 cups long grain rice
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
tsp ground turmeric
Pinch cayenne pepper
210g can smoked pink salmon
cup chopped parsley
4 eggs

Cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Wash under the hot water tap and drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onion, until soft.

Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the spices and the well-drained rice. Fry for 1 minute.

Drain the fish and break into chunks. Add with the parsley to the rice and heat through.

Meanwhile, lightly poach the eggs. Serve the rice in four shallow bowls topped with the poached eggs.

Great served with lemon wedges and a salad or steamed greens. Serves 4.

CATALAN CAULIFLOWER

One small cauliflower with leaves and stalks weighs about 600g and will provide about 350g cauliflorets.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
250g lean minced beef
pinch chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cups (625g) tomato pasta sauce or diced tomatoes
3 cups (350g) chunky cauliflorets
cup fresh breadcrumbs
cup shopped parsley

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the beef, breaking it up with a fork. Cook, stirring until browned. Add the seasonings and pasta sauce. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, adding a little water if too thick.

Meanwhile, steam the cauli until crisp-tender. Place in an 18-20cm baking dish. Cover with the meat sauce then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parsley. The top can be grilled, if preferred. Serves 4.

- The Marlborough Express

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