You know that week or few days just before you receive your pay or other income? For most people, this might fall on the last Friday of the month, but it could be any day depending on your employer, or how frequently you get your payments, or any number of reasons. In our household, this tends to come in the first week of the month rather than the last so the past few days have been a bit of a struggle food-wise. We normally try to budget throughout the month, but we always end up scraping together whatever is left in the cupboard or fridge to avoid forking out for any excesses during those last crucial couple of days.
Sounds familiar? This blog is always about saving money on your food, but what about when you’re really pushed to the limit? This might also be especially pertinent at this time of year, when a large portion of our spending goes on Christmas presents and the money we do put towards food tends to be focused on the over-indulgence during a handful of specific days. So here are a few extra-frugal meal ideas to see you through those extra-tough days as well as most of January probably…
The Sunday just gone, I found myself making lentil curry for dinner. Not your traditional Sunday staple, but very necessary. Now, over the last couple of years, I’ve done my best to instil a regular Sunday roast dinner into our weekly routine and more often than not I’ve succeeded in my aims. But occasionally, and especially on the Sunday before pay day, I just can’t justify spending that extra money on a joint of meat. For starters, I think that a Sunday roast demands decent quality meat and this is something you really have to pay extra for. Which is why it’s something we only do once a week, if that and I’d rather go without than buy poorer quality cuts.
So instead of spending even more money on something else meaty, I decided to use what I already had, namely one of the two tins of green lentils I had at the back of my cupboard, along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, a large dollop of curry paste from a jar of in the fridge, an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. The only thing I did buy was a sweet potato to add a bit more texture and, you’ve guessed it, sweetness. With some boiled rice, I managed to create an incredibly cheap, tasty meal. Curry is always a great option for days like these – you can use up any leftover vegetables you’ve got sitting in the bottom of the fridge and it you don’t have an open jar of curry paste in your fridge most the time (unlike myself), then keeping some curry powder in the store cupboard isn’t going to break the bank.
Another option on especially skint days is stir fry. The same principle applies here – use up the suitable leftover languishing vegetables, or a packet of inexpensive stir fry veg and sachet of sauce will only set you back a couple of pounds. Or you can make your own sauce using a couple of tablespoons each of honey and soy sauce. There’s nothing wrong with having a vegetable only stir fry as there’s no getting around the fact that meat doesn’t come cheap these days. Especially if your only realistic shopping option pre-pay day is picking stuff up from the local branch of a well-known supermarket, and the price of meat at these places is sometimes even more costly. But if you do want that extra bit of protein in your dish, I’ve often found pork to be the best value option.
Don’t forget, there’s nothing wrong with beans on toast on days like these. Got half a dozen eggs left in the fridge? Make an omelette. Now there’s something that’s definitely not short on protein. Scraping together meal ideas at the end of the month can be a bit of a struggle, but if you let go of the notion that you must have meat at every meal, rifling through those food stores might further inspire your kitchen creativity.