Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Cheap and Healthy Dinners
A couple of years ago, I wrote this:
Nothing annoys me more than news stories that claim that a growing number of people are too poor to eat healthily. Now I find this claim to be ludicrous. True healthy eating is the cheapest way to eat. It's true that fresh fruit, vege and meat prices are rising, but in Australia our prices our still cheaper and our quality still higher than so many other countries.
So what does eating healthily mean? It must be universally recognised that a diet weighted in favour of fresh fruit and vege with some (not too much) animal protein and plenty of whole grains is the healthiest way to eat. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.
BUT while you can eat healthily, here's what you can't do on a tight budget:
You can't eat anything you want on a budget.
You can't eat greedily on a budget.
You can't eat wastefully on a budget.
You can't eat without knowing what's in season on a budget.
You can't eat meat every meal on a budget.
You can't eat lots of processed food on a budget.
But, my friends, you CAN eat healthily on a budget!
Another thing - to eat healthily on a budget you might have to do two things. Firstly, adjust your palette. If you are used to fatty, salty packaged food every meal. It might take a while to start enjoying a salad plate. Still we aren't talking about meeting your every gourmet whim on a budget - we are talking about being cheap and healthy. Secondly, you need to know how to cook. I'm not talking about Masterchef, fabulous dinner parties or pretentious "plating up", you just need to know how to chuck things in a pot and have them turn out tasty most of the time. You need to know how to treat food to bring out flavour and not ruin it.
I've been thinking about this lately - probably due to the bill shock I posted about last week! I'm trying to cook really cheaply and have found that my go-to meals involve lots of veges: Salads with grains, sautéed vegetables, flatbread wraps, rice paper rolls and burgers (a bread roll with a home-made vegetarian or meat patty makes it a burger, but it is packed out with salad veg). It's been a warm winter, so I haven't cooked as many soups as usual, but they are another super cheap and healthy way to eat. And there are endless variations on pasta that are cheap crowd-pleasers. Like this Herb Spaghetti recipe. If you grow your own herbs, this recipe will feed a family of four for the 70c it cost you to buy the pasta.
1 packet of spaghetti
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped or crushed
1 cup of finely chopped soft herbs (I use parsley, coriander and basil with a little mint but it really depends on what I can find in the garden)
Cook pasta according to directions on packet.
While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil in a frying pan over a low heat.
Add the garlic to the oil while it warms - you don't want the oil to get hot, you just want the garlic flavour to infuse.
Drain the pasta when it is cooked and then toss it into the frying pan with the oil and garlic and add the herbs.
Toss every together in the pan for a minute or so til the pasta is coated in herbs and oil.
Serve with some grated parmesan cheese.