Gourmet but cheap!

   

Gourmet but cheap.

Gourmet but cheap: delicious meals in a pinch

If you find yourself picking up fast food or rustling up something instant from the freezer every night, it might be worth reassessing how healthy your family’s eating habits are. Gourmet food is often misconceived as time-consuming, expensive or unnecessary, but home-cooked meals can be achieved even by the busiest families. It’s all about having a plan.

Invest in a slow cooker

Especially in winter, batch-cooked stews, casseroles and soups are hearty, nutritious and warming, and having a slow cooker will save you from slaving over a hot stove for hours. Cooking for longer will tenderize meat, meaning you can save money buying cheaper cuts of beef, lamb or chicken. Simply turn on in the morning before going to work, add your ingredients, and come home to a house that smells like heavenly beef bourguignon, ham soup or lamb hot pot. Serve up your meal, and freeze the remainder of the batch to spin it out for longer.

Buy a roomy freezer

Even if you have no time during the week to prepare gourmet meals, batch cook at the weekend, and freeze the week’s meals ahead of time. Buy from a dependable manufacturer and look out for a roomier model-a Hotpoint fridge freezer is usually a good choice. Preserve fresh veg for freezing by trimming, peeling and blanching it to kill bacteria, then storing it in a ziplock bag. When it comes to dinner time, simply blast your tender-stem broccoli, carrots or cauliflower in the microwave or steam for a few minutes, and you’ll have a vibrant accompaniment to any meal.

Make a meal plan

Never head out to the supermarket without a rough idea of the dinners you’ll be eating for the week ahead. If you fancy a roast chicken one night, plan to make soup with the trimmings for the next. Keep your staples well stocked – foods like whole-wheat pasta, baking potatoes and rice make healthy accompaniments, and can live in your cupboard for weeks without deteriorating. Consider having a meat-free night or two. Not only will it work wonders for your overall nutrition, vegetarian food like Quorn, tofu and halloumi costs significantly less than its meaty counterparts.

Image by Diekatrin, used under the Creative Commons license