This week were having another, what we call, “Skint Week” where I am trying to not spend any extra money on food during the week. I do a main food shop once a week spending between £30 and £50 depending on whether we are eating in over the weekends etc or not and so often I end up having to buy bits and bobs over the course of the week as well. Either because I forgot something or because I hadn’t planned well enough.
Every now and then we have a few weeks where I refuse to buy any extra’s and instead I substitute the usual ingredient for something we have in the house or we get creative and just make up a side dish/ pudding using store cupboard ingredients. This often means varying the recipes I am following which can sometimes be a blessing in disguise and sometimes it’s just a flat out disaster.
I thought I would share some of the things I substitute in these Skint Weeks. I apply this theory when doing the actual food shop, I spend a lot of time looking at the prices of various produce and if something seems more expensive than usual then I will swap it for a cheaper alternative.
They’re not exactly a break the bank ingredient but I find them boring and they don’t freeze well in bulk meals so if I am cooking a lot of recipes in a week which call for potatoes or root veg in general then I tend to look for an alternative.
If being mashed or roasted then potatoes can be swapped for any root veg, look out for deals on parsnips, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, celeriac, butternut squash and even cauliflower!
Sometimes I will find a bag of mixed root veg often marketed as “casserole mix” on sale and I use this instead of potatoes for mash or roasting them as a side dish. Any Leftovers I chuck in a soup with some lentils, canned tomatoes, herbs and vegetable stock to create an easy soup which will be my lunch for the week.
I have noticed that the price of butternut squash goes up and down frequently in my local supermarket, sometimes over £1 for a small sized squash so I often substitute this for sweet potato, especially in dishes like chilli, stews, soups and enchiladas.
If making a Jacket Potato then you would probably want to stick to a traditional potato so look out for deals and also I find that buying loose potatoes can be much cheaper than the packets of 4. Although if you eat a lot of potatoes then bulk buying from a farm shop (a good ole sack of potatoes) is your best bet…then you can flip the whole exercise on it’s head and use normal potatoes instead of other root veg to use up the abundance of potatoes you now have.
Again, not an expensive ingredient but my point here is that whenever I see the word ” diced shallots” in a recipe I just use a finely chopped onion. I hardly ever see shallots that you can buy loose, they are always in a bag of around 20 shallots for £1.50 etc so I buy a single 10p onion..ta daa!
I am always finding loose chard on sale in the supermarket, either because it is not a widely recognised vegetable in our supermarkets or because it’s in and out of season, however this is a great alternative to spinach in a dish because it wilts like spinach and it is very good for you.
You can also swap greens like spinach for kale, dark spring greens and even savoy cabbage if it’s cheaper in the shop.
If I am making a stew/ soup etc and it asks for lots of greens I have been known to skip a lot of the ingredients if I know I have a bag of frozen spinach and frozen peas at home. As long as there is something green in the dish that’s fine by me! If the main ingredient is spinach in a recipe such as “Spinach and Ricotta pasta” then you can still add alternatives but you may just want to use spinach.
I usually have a tub of grains in my cupboard whether it is cous cous, quinoa, barley or even rice. Don’t be afraid to just use what you have in the cupboard when a recipe asks for something different. I often swap cous cous and quinoa around in salads or I serve cous cous instead of rice along side a curry or stew.
Rice is mainly a side dish in my house I would rarely eat a rice salad however sometimes if I don’t fancy a rice along side my main meal then I use up things like quinoa salad which may be in the fridge from lunches.
I know this is a vegetarian blog but I do still buy meat for Scott on a weekly basis. If a recipe asks for chicken breast I usually find it cheaper to look for turkey or even pork. I often swap beef mince for quorn mince and I look for whole chickens which have been reduced which I can carve up and freeze on the same day!
I always buy organic free range meat for Scott so sometimes to reduce cost I will make a big one pot meal and mix the meat with beans or vegetables to make the meat stretch further. Plus I feel like I’m giving him a much healthier meal!