Low-cost recipes and healthy snacks

By Alex Ward

Whether you are a keen home chef or a reluctant family feeder, it is possible that you may be losing some inspiration in the kitchen around about now.  As we begin our 9th week of lockdown and with restaurants and cafes still closed, many of us have been making more meals at home than usual.  Combine that with the constant cry of “I’m hungry” from growing kids or limited money for groceries and it may feel a bit of a stressful time.

We’ve gathered together some tasty vegetable-based recipes below, which include basic ingredients.  Some are based on food items that have been included in our emergency food parcels and others based on the price of the Free School Meal Vouchers. We hope this sparks some inspiration for some of you but do feel free to share on social media any other healthy, affordable meals with vegetables that are a winner in your home using:

Photo Credit: Monkey and Me Kitchen Adventures


Main meals for £3

These meals are costed at the price of a Free School Meal Voucher and assume that you have some herbs and spices.  We have also listed where some things can be left out or substituted if you do not have them at home.  I always add extra veg into my meals to ensure I’m getting my 7-a-day.  An extra handful of spinach seems to go well in most meals.

This sweet potato and lentil curry is one of my favourites. It is simple but extremely tasty and it doesn’t take too long to cook.  The herbs and spices listed in the recipe are as follows:

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (any colour)
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • ¼ small pack coriander (optional)

If you don’t have all of these in your kitchen cupboard then you can switch cumin seeds for ground cumin if you have it and the mustard seeds aren’t essential if you don’t have them in the cupboard.   The lentils and the potatoes mean it is a substantial dish for growing kids, but you can also add rice on the side if you want to bulk it up a bit.  Why not add a handful of spinach for some extra goodness.

Have you ever been forced to buy a packet of vegetables when you only need one or two?  Smaller grocery stores tend to have vegetables in plastic packaging meaning we are unable buy the required quantity.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t only mean more plastic packaging, it can also lead to food waste in the home if you’re buying more than you need.

This next recipe uses some of the same ingredients as the previous recipe.  Sweet potatoes for example, onions and spinach if you added it.  If you buy celery to add to this stew then see below for a great celery based snack to use up the remaining bunch.

This bean stew is also a great belly filler with beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables.
The ingredients you may wish to leave out or substitute if you don’t have everything in your cupboard are:

  • Butter beans – these can be swapped with kidney beans or cannellini beans.
  • Paprika – can be substituted with cayenne pepper or half a t-spoon of chilli powder
  • If you are cooking for sensitive taste buds, then the chilli flakes can be left out.
  • Oregano can be substituted with mixed herbs or basil or left out if you don’t have anything
  • Skip the tomato purée if you don’t have any (although it does help thicken the sauce and give a deep tomato flavour).

You can also add rice to bulk it up and make it go further.  Any leftover stew will be delicious on top of a baked potato for lunch the next day (and leftovers means one less meal to cook!).

Photo Credit: Food and Wine Magazine

There is something about the pea and mint combination that makes me think of English summer.

This pea and mint pasta recipe is a real comfort meal and because you can’t get enough leafy greens, perhaps throwing in an extra couple of handfuls of spinach would be a great nutrition addition. A diced courgette would work just as well.  A small packet of pre-grated hard cheese is a cheaper way to add cheese without the pressure of trying to finish a big block before it goes mouldy.


Recipes from food parcel ingredients

If you are in receipt of an emergency food parcel, or if you have had to visit a food bank recently, check out these recipe ideas for some of the common staples in your boxes right now.

Carrots, apples and oranges

SOUPS are a good way of using up different combinations of vegetables in your fridge and you can bulk out any soup with potatoes, lentils or beans. Use these recipes as a guide; if you don’t have some of the ingredients just substitute with what you’ve got or leave out.

  • Carrot, orange soup uses basic ingredients with a delicious result and there is another version here with lentils and some spices that you may wish to add if you have them. You can use ground versions if you don’t have the seeds.  If you have apples in your food parcel instead of oranges you can try this tasty carrot and apple soup.

SAUCES are useful to have to bung into a stew or to have with pasta, baked potato or rice. You can make a larger amount and it will usually keep well for 4-5 days in a fridge or you can freeze portions.

  • Basic tomato sauce: the herbs can be left out if you don’t have them or switched in with oregano or something different.
  • Tinned soup – you can make a quick sauce for pasta or meat by using a can of soup – cream of mushroom or tomato have been included in recent parcels. Just fry some chopped onion and/or garlic with a little oil until soft, add some other veg if you like e.g. peppers or sweetcorn, add the soup and let it simmer for 5 minutes or until all the veg is cooked.

Something sweet:

Sometimes we all just crave something sweet and fruit doesn’t quite hit the spot on its own.  These great fruit-based desserts are a fantastic way to treat yourself and try something new .

  • Apple and orange crunch: A great way of using up bread that is going stale and some of your apples and an orange.
  • Carrot and apple muffins: You can use sugar if you don’t have honey. Substitute the spice for ground cinnamon or simply leave it out.

Different ways to use UHT milk:

  • You can use it to make a white sauce to have with pasta, on top of a baked potato with tinned fish or veg.
  • Add it into mashed potatoes to make them extra creamy
  • Bread and butter pudding uses any leftover bread and you can serve with the tinned fruit or put the fruit in the pudding.

Healthy snack ideas

Do you ever have the feeling that your children are ALWAYS hungry?  They quite often need snacks to help them through to the next meal and it can be tricky to keep them healthy.  Inspiration might turn to exasperation after hearing ‘I’m hungry’ for the 100th time.  So below are some great snack ideas, all of which can be made with the children for added entertainment.  We’ve tried to find recipes that double up with ingredients mentioned above to limit household waste.

Photo Credit: Vegan Sparkles

Celery & peanut butter – otherwise known as ‘Ants on Logs’ this great tasty snack is quick, easy and filling.

Carrot & cheese flapjack – a great way to sneak vegetables into another meal with this savoury snack and an easy one to make with the children.

Rainbow fruit skewers – we had to throw this NHS rainbow supporting snack in!

Apple & peanut butter –  These healthy cupcakes can be topped with anything you have in the cupboard for example, sultanas, cinnamon or nothing at all.

Filo pastry spring rolls – Another great activity for the kids – roll your own veg packed spring roll. Although perhaps best to start before they get hungry as these are not a quick fix.

Top tips for eating well on a budget

There are many things we can do to ease the pressure when shopping on a budget.  Below are just some ideas to help and more ideas can be found on our website.

  • Frozen and tinned fruit and veg still count towards your daily recommended fruit and veg intake. They are also cheaper and last longer in your cupboard.
  • Check out this A-Z list explaining ways in which you can store different fruit and veg. If you benefit from a multi-buy offer, you can freeze some veg until you’re ready to use it.
  • Another way to benefit from offers in the store is buy bulk cooking food when you get home and freezing meals in portions, ready to eat another day.
  • Instead of dismissing a recipe you like because you don’t have the ingredients have a go at using the things you’ve got.
    • No kidney beans for a chilli? Add in borlotti beans, or even a tin of rinsed and drained baked beans – they’re just cannellini beans in sauce after all.
    • Not got enough meat for a stew? Add in some tinned beans or lentils and a chicken or beef stock cube.
  • Check out our resources on eating well on a budget and cooking with limited equipment and money.

Thank you to Fran Taylor, the Brighton Nutritionist, for contributing some of the healthy recipe ideas in this blog.

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