OR: How to plan a week of great and affordable food!
Your first task: check your storage cupboards!
Essentials you should always have at home: pasta, rice, pureed tomatoes, canned tomatoes, beans and corn, onions, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, olive oil.
Essentials you should always have in your freezer: shredded cheese, herb butter, value packs of veggies, meat (whichever you like), bread.
Well, living cheaply is quite easy, if A) you are single, B) you are not very demanding and C) are willing to actually cook.
Potato week: since potatoes tend to wrinkle up and sprout if you don’t use them in a certain amount of time, a potato week is ideal. My suggestions for quick and simple meals:
- Mashed potatoes with franks (or any other sausage you like)
- Mashed potatoes with green beans and grilled chicken
- Microwaved potatoes cut into slices and fried with some butter and salt – for variations add onion, slices of sausage, veggies, or just make a dip
- Microwave potatoes, cut them into slices, cover with ham and cheese and microwave again. Serve with cranberry jam or ketchup (or both)
- Potato goulash with spicy sausage – cook more to freeze or reheat. It tastes even better reheated.
- Microwaved potatoes with ground meat sauce. For the meat sauce just fry an onion, add mushrooms, tomatoes and pepper bells, if you want to, then the meat, season with salt, pepper, some sugar, mustard, ketchup and BBQ sauce, or a variation of it and voila. Quick and easy.
- Raclette. One of my favourite Sunday dishes. All you need is cooked potatoes and sharp cheese to melt. For the luxury version enjoy it with pickles and melting the cheese on the Raclette grill, for the cheap version just microwave your potatoes, slice them, cover with cheese and microwave again. (In my “Raclette grill” days, we used to layer potato slices and cheese in a fireproof dish and bake it in the oven!)
Pasta week: everyone loves pasta, I could eat it every day. Spaghetti, fusilli, rigatoni, tortellini … and my new favourite: green Spinach pasta. For the cheap pasta week I would stick with spaghetti and fusilli, the common semolina type pasta which is most affordable.
- Pasta with butter and breadcrumbs – brown the breadcrumbs in butter, toss in the pasta with some pasta water, delicious!
- Pasta with tomato sauce – all you need is onion, pomodori passati or canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, some sugar, I also like to put in some BBQ sauce for this smoky flavour, and cheese. If you want to spruce it up – add shredded veggies like carrots and zucchini, ground meat and for the luxury version, add red wine!
- Pasta with pesto! This is one of the few ready-made sauces I actually buy. My favourite on is only about 1€ – and I get 3 portions out of it.
- Pasta with onion and cream cheese – variations by adding ham, veggies, meat. Just use whatever you have at home.
- Pasta with … the list is endless, guys! If you are creative, just use whatever’s at home. From eggs to plain sour cream. Every day something new and affordable!
- Rice with any kind of sauce you can think of
- Rice cooked with any kind of veggies
- Rice with peas, parsley and parmiggiano
- Rice with leftover meats
- Rice with … again, whatever you have in your fridge!
White / red cabbage week: since you usually can only buy whole cabbage heads – at least here in Germany – I have to find ways to use it up in a week.
- Make red cabbage and freeze to serve with dumplings, meat, sausages, …
- Pasta with red / white cabbage. Cook pasta, fry the cabbage with some onion, salt, pepper and sugar and that’s it. In Austria, we call this dish with white cabbage “Krautfleckerl”. It also works with red cabbage (add red wine, you will love the taste). And if you don’t mind the changing colour of the pasta due to the red cabbage – you will enjoy it as much as I do.
- White / red cabbage with fried ground meat, add pasta if you want to
- Coleslaw (I bet you know at least a dozen more recipes than I do). I simply use yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and sugar. To be enjoyed with BBQ, potatoes or plain.
- If you’ve still got cabbage left, I discovered that you can also freeze it raw. Shred it, freeze and use for a fried dish as described above.
I hope I gave you some inspiration for your own “cheap” cooking – you will discover that it’s much cheaper to cook fresh and in bulk to freeze instead of stocking up on ready-made meals. (Even though, I have to admit, I do love frozen ready-made pizza and occasionally have a pack at home too. But always just the Margherita style pizza, which is A) cheaper and B) I add ham, pepper, corn and extra cheese or whatever I want!)
So, happy cooking! Let me know how it worked out for you!