Quick, thrifty meals

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Quick, thrifty meals

In an ideal world, we would grow our own produce and lovingly cook a week's worth of meals at the weekend to freeze. And probably photograph them and pin them on Pinterest whilst we are at it. But unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. By not having quick and easy meals to hand, you may find yourself opting for a pricey takeaway, eating out more or consuming a dinner of chocolate and crisps. I'm guilty of all 3 – and this time of year, with cold, dark night doesn't exactly motivate me to do anything, never mind cook. So here are some great ideas to save you time without blowing the budget.

Quick, thrifty  meals

Batch cooking

If you have the time, and you are so inclined, you can cook a batch of meals to freeze and enjoy at a later date. To start batch cooking, you will need:

  • A list of meals you plan to prepare.
  • Ingredients for each dish.
  • Containers to freeze your meals in – you can typically get 8-10 for £1 in pound shops.
  • A permanent marker or sticky labels.
  • A couple of hours spare.
  • Motivation to clean the kitchen after cooking 5-7 different dishes.

Batch cooking is a time consuming task, so below are more ideas that don't involve batch cooking.


If you have the storage space, such as a freezer, then when you are cooking your meals cook twice the amount and freeze half. This takes just a little bit more effort and you will just need to defrost and reheat to enjoy. Some foods, curry in particular, taste better reheated. If you don't fancy the same meal again, or you don't have the ingredients to make double then you can always cook double of a part of the meal e.g. marinated chicken.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead takes away that chore of thinking about what to eat when you are already hungry and tired. If you have already meal planned for the week ahead then you know you will have the main ingredients to make your chosen dish. Having to think about what to cook for dinner can be half the battle – after a long day at work do you really want to go trudging through your freezers? Planning ahead also means you know whether you need to lift something out of the freezer or buy something on your way home.

Shop smarter

Changing the things you buy can help you to prepare meals in a few minutes.

  • Boil in the bag rice is my new lifesaver. Aldi sell a box with 4 x 2 servings for just 59p.
  • A pizza is a great staple to keep in the freezer – it has fewer calories than a take away pizza (half a Domino's peppeoni pizza has a massive 1,560 calories, compared to half a pepperoni pizza from Tesco which has 409 calories) and costs a fraction of the price. My favourite pizza is just £1.50, and I prefer it to any take away or restaurant pizza.
  • Frozen vegetables offer both a cheaper and a more convenient alternative to fresh vegetables.
  • Passata can be jazzed up with a few herbs and spices – serve with some pasta and you have a meal in minutes.

Have some go to meals

Whether you have meals that you have cooked and frozen, a pizza in the freezer, Pasta N Sauce packets or tins of soup – have something on hand to make a filling meal without resorting to takeaways.

Love your slow cooker (Don't have one? Win one below!)

Having a slow cooker means that you can literally throw everything into it in the morning, and come home to a cooked meal. Slow cookers are a great addition to any kitchen, and they can be used to make delicious casseroles, cook whole chickens or even make a cake! You can see some great recipe ideas in Savvy Annie's slow cooker series.

I'm giving From Aldi To Harrods readers the chance to win a slow cooker. To enter, just complete the Rafflecopter below. Entry is available to UK participants only and the competition closes at midnight on 30th November 2014. The prize will be posted within 10 working days of the winning entrant claiming their prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you have any tips for creating meals quickly, but on a budget?

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Quick, thrifty meals

42 Comments on “Quick, thrifty meals”

  1. Thank you for your informative tips. I’m in my mid-twenties and just getting to grips with all the ways to either save or make money.

  2. I have a great rice pot that you use in microwave from Jamie’s range not cheap to layout initially but you simply add rice to first mark (40p for bag at lidl will do us 4+ meals!) add boiled water to second mark and bung in microwave for 8 mins leave for 5 and then take lid off viola!
    Also roast chicken usually does 3 meals plus make stock from bones v easy! After taking off as much meat as can cut bones, skin and juices if not used for gravy, put in sauce pan add onion chopped in half skin on, couple of carrots broken in half celery if you have it whole peppercorns and a load of water and boil it down for hrs, sometimes if I’m lazy I just do the bones and water, once reduced down but still liquid left pour into jug with sieve on top to catch bits, put jug in fridge overnight then scrape off fat next morning and under should be jelly like stock I use for soups or in cooking put it into tiny pots and freeze then ready to use! Or can use from fresh 🙂 I use by putting into jug and adding boiling water on top depends what cooking but never worry about measures etc freestyle!

  3. I find sachets of Chinese stir fry sauces a great time saver too – you can slice up almost anything in the fridge to make a quick and tasty stir fry. And because you only need a small amount of each thing it’s a great way to use up odds and ends!

  4. I buy rice, spices, pulses like lentils and chapati flour at Asian grocers or the market. The prices are sometimes a quarter of the usual brands and even supermarket own. I make my own chapatis a batch of 8 is about 20p. A roast chicken makes three meals, I save carcasses after the meal for big soups with spaghetti in. Plus I try to fill my oven when I am cooking one meal with other stews to save.

  5. I’ve never had a slow cooker but I’m beginning to think I’m missing out! With the horrible weather fast approaching there could be some tasty meals. Thanks for the opportunity I will read with interest.Love your kitten by the way 🙂 x

  6. I do do batch cooking and freeze leftovers but I’ve only just realised how cheap a slow cooker is to run and how much you can cook in one! Thank you for the information and for the competition.

  7. Thanks for the great tips. I find Chilli Con Carne is great to freeze extra of and it tastes better after it has been frozen too.

  8. I definitely buy things like pasta and rice in bulk – requires storage space but really saves some money

  9. I adore your blog, thank you! Keep it up!
    I’ve never had a slow cooker but I think it’d transform my cooking habits!


  10. have just discovered your blog and have been whiling away a few hours reading, thanks for the chance to win such a great prize. Keep up the great work, you really are an inspiration

  11. I found your blog via CouponKid on FB and am in the process of signing up for the survey companies you faved. I’m determined to make this work!! 😉

  12. I think a slow cooker would be a great way to get some well needed batch cooking under way!! I am really enjoying cooking just lately and also looking to save money wherever we can so these tips have come in super handy!

  13. Slow cookers are amazing! It was a godsend for me when we had no cooker. Mine died recently. It was involved in an accident cause by the hubby – it split straight down the middle :/ Its like losing a right arm 😀

  14. I love my slow cooker!! It’s a lifesaver on days my refluxy baby is particularly not good.

  15. I also (like another commenter) use a microwavable rice pot by the way – just a cheap one from Amazon but it’s so quick and simple – add the rice, add the water and pop in the microwave for 12 min, done!

  16. I’m very bad for eating takeaways and filing myself up with crap instead of cooking something. I have frozen leftovers and batch cooked before but not for a long time. It’s just down to lack of organisation. Maybe that should be myNew Years Resolution.

  17. I have always fancied having one, although not quite yet sure of all it can do, so I’ll need some research!

  18. I always do batch cooking, especially for my 10 month old, he only has home made food.
    I would love a slow cooker, at the moment I am using the oven and as you can tell, it’s very costly when I am doing this 4-5 times a week.

  19. I am dying to get one – they look really good and my friend Sarah does some lovely meals in her one!

  20. I really do feel my life might be improved by a slow cooker. Thanks for these tips and the competition

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