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Eating healthy on a budget

As a vegetarian, I heard many times that my food expenses must be high. I don’t agree, as eating healthy on a budget is possible. It’s only that people assume that being a veg*n means eating smashed avocado on toast, eventually topped with quinoa. Which, funnily enough, is not that expensive, only at posh bistros this kind of dish is expensive, but, at the same time, any kind of dish can be considered expensive at a posh bistro anyway.

Today I’m sharing a few of my tips on how to eat healthy which is possible on a budget. I will mention the prices we have here in UK, but I imagine the prices are similar for similar products in all parts of the world. All the pictures are with food I made and shared the recipes on my food blog, CookStyle, if you fancy trying them.

pulses
Bean Houmous; Houmous; Pea and mint dip.

Eating healthy on a budget: Pulses

Pulses are a great way of making sure you eat healthy without spending a lot of money. First of all try to change the way you think about cans of baked beans. If you start to think of them as an ingredient and not a meal, you can discover an array of different ways to use them and save some money. I always buy the supermarket’s own brand, in the light version, with less sugar and less salt, these come in packs of 4 for £1.

If you blitz a can of baked beans with a spoon of tahini and some herbs and spices, you can have a delicious dip for 2 people for less than 50p. You can eat that with some toast and tomato salad. The whole meal costs £1 for 2 people and each boosts 2 servings of vegetables in just one meal. Add a small glass (150ml) of juice from concentrate, which is £1 per litre, and you add a serving for your 5-a-day.

To make another dish, mix a can of baked beans with a can of three or five beans in water, drained. Add some chopped onions, a bit of tomato paste, herbs and spices, and a couple of dark chocolate pieces to give it a delicious flavour and you’ll have a chilli. It takes around 20 minutes to make and it is very cheap.

Frozen peas are great, as they only need a bit of boiling water over them to defrost. Pour some olive oil, add some salt, pepper, and dried mint (1/2 of teabag of mint tea works just fine), and blend it to have your own delicious pea and mint dip. This works great with a sandwich in the morning, and it costs only pennies to make it.

Houmous is easy to make at home and it is cheaper than the shop-bought one. Even if you buy it ready made, it is still a cheap and healthy alternative. Works great as a spread on a sandwich, as a dip, or on its own with some chopped tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers.

Filling meals
Pesto Pasta; Leek Stew; Stuffed Aubergines.

Eating healthy on a budget: Filling meals

Lunchtime can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to. Pasta is cheap and making your own pesto is not hard at all. I’ve made pesto pasta many times, using basil or spinach for the base. Just add herbs and hard cheese (vegan equivalent, depending on your diet). By the time the pasta is boiled, the pesto is ready too. So, why not make something like this at home? As for the costs, a bag of fresh spinach is £1 for 300g, and that is enough for 4 people. Alternatively, you can use half and make a salad with the leftover spinach. On top of that, you can also tick another serving of vegetables with a spinach pesto pasta lunch. Isn’t that just great?

Stews are, obviously, a great way to make healthy and cheap food. This leek and black olives stew should cost about £1 per person and counts as 2 servings of vegetables. Most veggies can be used in stews and the frozen or canned ones work just as well, and it takes less time to prepare.

Roasted veggies too make for a fabulous and cheap meal. It does not take long to prepare and the cooking means that they are left in oven without having to faff around them. I like cooking like that when I’m busy with work or something else. My suggestion is to make stuffed veggies, like this stuffed aubergine on a bed of rice. An aubergine is less than £1 and it is enough for 2 people. If you add some rice and a can of chopped tomatoes, alongside herbs and spices, you can have a filling meal for £1/person. How great is that. You can also stuff peppers or tomatoes.

Light soups
Spring Onion Soup; Chilled pea soup; Cauliflower and Pepper Soup.

Eating healthy on a budget: Light soups

Soups are not only great for a diet, but they are great for a budget too. I use frozen veggies, fresh veggies, and canned veggies, depending on what soup I’m making. All versions are really good and nutritious. Most of them are ready in less than half an hour. I have the soup with some crackers for dinner or with a sandwich if I feel I need a bit more.

I think soups are a good way to make someone who does not necessarily like some veggies, eat them. A rich creamy soup can be made with cauliflower. Using lots of spices and another veggie or two, the taste of cauliflower might not be detected by a fussy eater. I like to use cauliflower because it has a mild taste and it will not interfere with the flavour combination I have in mind.

Most frozen veggies are £1 or less for a bag of 750g to 1kg. That means you can make enough soup for 4 people, up to 4 times from a single bag. Adding an onion, a can of chopped tomatoes or baked beans, a handful of pasta, some chopped peanuts, and lots and lots of spices and herbs will make the soups taste different, providing much needed diversity too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips.

5 Comment

  1. Fantastic post, Anca. You seem to have a talent for budget cooking, your thoughts are both refreshing and inspiring. It goes without saying everything looks delicious. My Mum is the main cook in our house, she sticks to a budget and typically vegan food. My Dad and I have been growing vegetables, mostly spinach at the moment but also radish, lettuce, etc. and it’s rewarding to eat my own produce. 🙂 xx

    Helen

  2. Great tips Anca! Homemade soup is one of my favorite things to have in the ready in the fridge. Easy to make and always delicious heated up. While I love beans, my tummy does not always like them. So we use them in moderation. Roasted veggies are also a favorite in our house, particularly when spiced up! We are attempting to grown an avocado tree from seed. The tree is about 60cm now so hopefully it is successful.

  3. This is such a great post, Anca. Thank you for sharing meal ideas, it’s great because it motivates me to try new recipes! I never thought we could do so many different fun recipes with baked beans. I just eat them on their own… I will try something new now!
    And I don’t understand people who think being a vegetarian is expensive – meat is the most expensive thing one could buy… And cheap frozen veg can take you a long way!

    Julia x
    PS: Hope your exam went well! xx

  4. Excellent post! I’ve also heard folks talk about how expensive it is to eat plant-based and totally agree with you that it’s not really pricy at all. My mouth is watering looking at all your photos!

    My fresh basil has been prolific, so I’ve made several batches of white bean & basil hummus as well as a couple of suppers of avocado pasta (which uses a lot of basil). I also tried a recipe for vegan pesto yesterday that I’ll definitely do again since it can be frozen.
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  5. This is a great post, Anca. And you offer some wonderful ideas for those of us who aren’t vegetarians, too. love pesto and hope my basil is abundant enough to make a lot of it to freeze this summer. We also get a bushel of tomatoes in the fall and I make a pasta sauce of tomatoes, garlic, basil, camerlized onions and mushrooms and freeze it. We’re still working on it (three bags left!) You can add artichoke hearts, olives, and we’ll add clams or sausage sometimes, though you wouldn’t! It really helped us a lot when going to the store during covid was anything but easy.

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