When November arrives with its colder weather and darker nights, it can feel hard to see the positives, especially when money’s tight. This is the perfect season for meals that are comforting, filling and cheap. That’s not to say they can’t be healthy! With a bit of time and planning, your family can enjoy amazing, nutritious comfort food without breaking the bank. We know this because part of our work here at Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is to create budgets that prioritise food and household bills for people struggling to make ends meet.
Firstly, raid your cupboards
It can be hard to find inspiration for a meal when looking into an empty cupboard, so here’s a tip: each week or month, stock up on one or two handy basics to keep in the cupboard, such as a tin of chopped tomatoes or some herbs and spices. Most will last for a few months so can work out as good value for money in the long-run. With a well-stocked cupboard, you’re less likely to reach for a ready meal when you’re craving something quick and filling. Search ‘What you need in your store cupboard’ to get started.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Experts suggest that creating a meal plan before you go shopping can help keep costs low. Before you head out to the supermarket, decide on your meals for the next week and what you need to buy, bearing in mind what you’ve already got in your store cupboard. Stick to your list while shopping to avoid unnecessary impulse buys. Spotted something in the reduced section or an offer? Ask yourself:
Is it on my list?
Is it a genuine bargain?
Am I going to use it straight away or can I freeze it?
If it’s ‘yes’ to all three, then pop it in the trolley.
Get excited about cooking
Cooking doesn’t have to be repetitive and boring. Check out jamieoliver.com/family/money-saving-recipes or cookingonabootstrap.com for some fantastic meal ideas designed for people on a budget. No internet access? See if your local supermarket offers a free magazine – these often include a range of seasonal recipes to suit all kinds of budgets. You could even start making a scrapbook or binder of your family’s favourite go-to recipes.
Here’s a recipe for you to try that’s comforting, filling and easy:
Fish pie (serves six)
(Prices from a leading supermarket, correct at time of writing)
Use a fish pie mix from the supermarket (£4)
Add mash (loose jacket potatoes: 83p per kilo) and a nice creamy sauce (£2)
For extra protein, add in a boiled egg for each person (half a dozen eggs: 89p)
Serve with frozen veg like peas, broccoli or sweetcorn (£1 for a bag)
If you’re struggling with debt and are worried about affording food for yourself and your family, please get help as quickly as possible from a free debt counselling service like CAP. You can contact CAP free of charge on 0800 328 0006.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity with over 580 services across the country delivering debt counselling, money management, job clubs, life skills groups, and support for people breaking habitual dependencies. Visit capuk.org to find out more.