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3 affordable throw

Jul 05, 2023Jul 05, 2023

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Rhiannon Lambert's go-to meals.

Congratulations - you've nearly made it to the end of the month which means it's nearly pay day. But if your bank balance and your fridge is looking a little, erm, slim until then, you're not alone.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 97% of adults say the cost of food is one of the reasons their lives feel more expensive than just a month ago. So when it gets to this time of the month - the 'I only have a few quid left' time of the month - the big shop is just a distant dream and we reach for bowls of frozen peas and pasta from the very back of the cupboard for tea.

In fact, research suggests many people are more likely to choose food based on price than nutrition, with healthy items like olive oil, cheese, eggs and vegetables experiencing some of the highest price hikes since last year.

'As the cost of fresh foods including vegetables, lean meat products and whole grains rises, individuals and families with a limited budget are finding it increasingly challenging to afford the foods which are traditionally understood to be the ‘most nutritious’,' says nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. 'This can lead to the decreased consumption of essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which are necessary for promoting optimal health.'

According to her, more people than ever are at a risk of nutrient deficiency as a result of changing eating habits. 'It has become apparent that to many, the most affordable and accessible options are thought to be those which are highly processed and lack nutritional value,' she says.

So what does a nutritionist eat when there’s nothing left in the fridge, dropping £50 on a proper restock is out of the question yet they need to throw together a meal that's delicious and affordable?

We asked Lambert just that, and she's shared her suggestions of simple, nutritious, budget-friendly meals. An FYI that these recipes assume you still have some dregs of oil, a few spices and some seasoning in your cupboard, but all of the flavours are very adaptable depending on what you've got knocking around. Because of that, the recipes are very loose, but the essential shopping list is the same (with prices worked out depending on the cheapest options in Ocado).

'This is a go-to meal using affordable ingredients. The low cost of canned chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes and coconut milk means this dish is not only budget-friendly, but also incredibly nutritious. This is an adaptable, incredibly nutritious meal which can be cooked in large batches for multiple people or stored as individual portion sizes,' says Lambert.

Essential shopping list:

1x can chickpeas

1 x can lentils

1x can coconut milk

1x can chopped tomatoes

Total: £3.40. Serves four. Per meal: 85p

How to: Heat a large pan on the hob. Add a splash of oil and some onion and garlic if you have them, then a few teaspoons of spices. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, then the chickpeas and lentils. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat down and add the coconut milk.

Add: You can use any curry-like spices you have in your cupboard, such as garam masala, cumin, chilli powder, curry powder, ground coriander, turmeric. You can stir in spinach, peas or other green vegetables too and simmer in the sauce. The lentils and beans offer a good source of complex carbohydrate, but feel free to serve with rice, naan or flatbread if you want extra.

'This is a great meal which aligns with the Mediterranean style diet. Fresh or tinned tomatoes make the base of the meal, which are cost-effective and rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Eggs are the source of protein in this dish, containing a complete protein profile providing all nine essential amino acids, as well as unsaturated fat, B vitamins and vitamin D. This dish can be paired with wholegrain bread for dietary fibre (a complex carbohydrate), creating a very affordable, well-balanced nutritional meal.'

Essential shopping list:

1x six-pack eggs

2x can chopped tomatoes

1x wholemeal bread

Total: £2.80. Serves three. Per meal: 93p

How to: Heat a large pan on the hob. Add a splash of oil and some onion and garlic if you have some, then add the spice. If you're adding veggies, add them in now to cook for a couple of minutes, or go straight in with the chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. You may want to transfer some of the sauce to a separate pan if you don't have room for all six eggs or remove some if you are only cooking for one or two. Then make wells for the eggs (we recommend two per person) and crack them into the sauce. Place a lid on the top so they cook through, then serve with running yolks and toasted bread.

Add: You can use paprika, chilli or even harissa to flavour the sauce, and season with a good dash of salt. You can add almost any veg to the sauce too, like bell pepper, spinach or black beans, to enhance the nutritional profile of the dish.

'A Greek salad stuffed inside a wholemeal pitta is another nutrient-rich, affordable meal. With tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, extra virgin olive oil, olives and the option to add feta cheese, stuffed inside a wholemeal pitta, a great source of dietary fibre, this meal incorporates foods which follows the goal of eating the rainbow, but at very little cost,' says Lambert. This makes a great lunch option for two people for three days.

Essential shopping list:

1x six-pack wholemeal pitta

1x block of feta

1x bag tomatoes

1x cucumber

1x olives

Total shop: £6.14 Serves six. Per meal: £1.02

How to: Make the Greek salad by dicing the tomatoes and cucumber, halving the olives and slicing the feta, then season and dress with some olive oil. Toast a pitta, cut it open and spoon the salad inside.

Add: Season well with pepper (feta is already salted, but you can add more if you like). You could add another source of protein, like chicken or prawns, more veggies or extra dressings like houmous or mayonnaise.

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