The Wonderful World of Budget Cooking

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I am a regular home chef. I don’t have the budget of the fancy restaurants. As much as I like cooking from Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks, I don’t have their budget either. I’m not able to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive ingredients that I only use once. I just don’t have that kind of spare cash.

And I’m guessing neither do you.

However, I’m not about to compromise on the meals I cook and the variety of meals in which my husband and I enjoy. So, I’ve had to become pretty creative over the last couple of years. But in doing so I have explored new techniques, discovered other cuisines, invented wonderful combinations of foods or spices, read about a million cookbooks and websites and learnt so much about the world of cooking. Oh, and I’ve also watched two whole seasons of Masterchef, and that changed my life.

I’ve come to a realisation:

Budget cooking doesn’t mean drab meals. It doesn’t mean bland leftovers. It doesn’t mean poor quality ingredients or food past its use by date.

Budget cooking:
  • Means getting creative and using foods and techniques in ways you wouldn’t have done before.
  • Is aromatic, almost alchemy, and especially inventive.
  • Is fun, tasty and breaks you out of your comfort zone.
  • Is at the heart of any home chef.
  • Is the way to make a difference to the health of yourself and to that of your family.
  • Means a reduction in waste as you’re not wasting foods that went bad after you only used them once.
  • Means time spent in the kitchen, not watching TV or being lazy.
  • Means giving the whole body a workout because you’re making foods from scratch.

Yeah, food from scratch.

It’s such an odd concept in these technologically advanced times, when it’s easy to open a packet or grab some food on the go.

But what’s in that stuff you can just pick up and use? Has it ever actually been anywhere near the food it’s supposed to have come from? And how much are you paying for this pleasure of convenience? How much does it cost your waistline, your health and your pocket in the long run?

So, be creative, have a go, and start creating meals that are cheap, simple, colourful and full of healthy benefits.

Its called budget cooking, but it really should just be called cooking.

This is the stuff our grandparents and their parents did. They used the foods they had in their homes, they created meals from the leftovers and made sure everyone had enough to eat, even in times when food was scarce.

Okay, I’ll never convince you without a few examples:

·        A 69c tin of diced tomatoes from Aldi supermarkets can be used in the following ways
          Pureed to make pasta sauce (just add pesto, vegetables, ricotta, etc).
          Semi pureed and mixed with hot chilli sauce to make salsa for nachos.
          As a base for a casserole.
          Drained and the liquid kept for making tomato flavoured risotto or couscous (but keep the tomato pieces for something else tomorrow, maybe mixed with some fresh tomatoes as bruschetta?).
          Pureed and used in Portuguese potatoes (see the Variety in Potatoes blog for this recipe).
·        A 79c kilo of plain flour from Aldi supermarkets can be used in the following ways
          Make your own white bread or bread rolls.
          Make flavoured bread loaves with ingredients such as olives, sundried tomatoes and cheese.
          Make breadsticks rolled in mixed herbs and salt.
          Make za’ater foccacia.
          Make bagels.
          Make Lebanese flatbread.
          Make your own tacos.
          Make your own naan breads.
          Make muffins, cakes and slices too.
·        Overripe fruit can be used in the following ways
          Mashed bananas can be added to cakes for extra moistness minus the extra fat content (no matter whether it’s a banana cake or a chocolate cake).
          Mango cheeks or berries can be frozen and then whizzed in the food processor to make homemade sorbet/gelato (careful of the berries with too many seeds).
          Use older oranges and lemons for their zest if they have lost their taste, or for juice in dressings and spice pastes as they give more juice the older they are.
          Soft apples can be baked in the oven with spices and sultanas for a yummy warm dessert.
          Soft apples can be added with dried fruits and oats to make your own healthy version of muesli bars.
          Soft apples can be sliced and fried with butter, sultanas and chopped dates and served over pancakes. Add caramel sauce to make it a dessert or a truly decadent weekend breakfast.
          Dried out sultanas past their best can be rehydrated in juice or water and added to porridge with some grated or finely chopped soft apples.

And yes, in case you were wondering, I have made each and every idea listed.

Give budget cooking a go, and discover a world of creativity.

Discover what real home cooking is all about!

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