Recently I decided that I should probably stop eating lunch from the fast food place across the road from where I work and that existing solely on oven fries and breaded chicken did not a happy Kitty make. Along the way I found some quick and easy things that I could do to improve the quality of my food whilst still being on a tight budget.
(Psst: I know a lot of Homies are from the US and Canada. I’m British and a lot of the names we give to foods are a bit different. I’ve tried to stick to US English names for things but forgive me if I’ve forgotten a few!)
It sounds simple but adding healthy bulk to meals makes them much more filling and stretches ingredients like meat (expensive and not the healthiest thing sometimes) much, much further. I add bulk to things like curries, stews, and pasta dishes with frozen vegetables and dried legumes. A bolognese with an extra carrot chopped in and some frozen peas and sweetcorn is awesome (I actually prefer it) and a lamb curry with half the meat replaced with squash or pumpkin chunks is tasty as hell. Lentils are great for adding to most things and are really filling, too.
Bonus: By adding more veg you get tons of delicious vitamins and minerals with nearly zero extra effort!
2. Complex Carbs
Replacing things like white rice and pasta with brown is easy, and means that your meals are healthier and more filling too, because all that extra fibre fills up your stomach. I’m not a huge fan of the texture of brown rice and pasta, so I tend to do it 50/50 with white. Just remember that brown takes longer to cook and adjust accordingly.
3. Have a plan
Yes, I know… every healthy-eating-advice thing EVER says to “have a plan.” But it really does make a difference.
4. Cook in big batches
If I’m already cooking something in a pan I figure I may as well make extra, and save myself the hassle of cooking later in the week. I tend to build meal plans around making enough of things to have two meals of it, or even three if I really like it. Then later on in the week when I’m feeling tired and lazy I just need to re-heat something healthy in the microwave — just like a ready-meal but without all the extra junk.
5. Cook once a week
This kinda ties in to number four, but I tend to cook all of my big stuff on one day (normally a Sunday for some reason). I really meant it when I said that I’m lazy about cooking but I find I can motivate myself for one epic cooking marathon, and then not have to cook at all for the whole week. If you make truly incredible amounts of something, then you can freeze half to have in a couple of weeks, or in emergencies.
6. Make lunch
Another cliché, I’m afraid, but it really does help. I’m lucky enough to have access to a fridge and a microwave at work so I can be pretty flexible with what a I take for lunch. Obviously, if you don’t have those facilities, then you will need to be even more organized with your planning. When I do my epic cooking marathon I also make one HUGE stock pot full of soup, and then just take a portion to work every day. This works because I don’t mind eating leek and potato soup every day for a week, but if you find you get bored easily then you could always make two smaller soups and alternate them. I’ve also found that homemade dips and crackers or veg sticks works well if I’m sick to high heaven of soup.
Snacks are important, particularly if you’re doing something active during the day. Do not neglect the snacks. Nuts and dried fruit are good, so are raw veggies. There are some awesome recipes out there for homemade vegetable chips. My favourite is to rub kale leaves with olive oil and sea salt and then bake in the oven until crispy.
Obviously there are loads more things that you could do but these are the things that I’ve found really work for me.
I’m always trying to pick up more tips, so please share anything you’ve found helpful below!