Healthy and cheap

Cheap and healthy are two words that don't go well together. Especially not if you live in Iceland where health food stores are like jewellery stores. You browse for a long, long time before finally deciding on a energy bar. But you have to think twice as your salary might not cover it. Ok it's not THAT bad but it is still pretty bad which is why I make so much of my stuff at home. In many cases, ready meals are a cheap option, cheaper than buying something healthy. The cheapest food is probably the soups in cups that you just add water to. They are also very bad for you (most of them at least). When I was a student at college I was so very broke all the time. I didn't have money for anything more expensive than pasta. The problem however was not that I had to eat pasta, but that I didn't know how to make a meal out of it. You can make wonderful, cheap and healthy pasta dishes with little effort, that is if you know how to. I didn't and often ate the pasta dry (yes it's true). The simple truth is, you can make dirt cheap dinners and lunches with pasta, rice, pearl barley and noodles and you can make it last for days. The trick in saving money lies in these three key things: Portions, freezer and containers. You make large portions, you freeze as much as you can and you use containers. I never, ever throw away food but I always make something out of leftovers. I would for example add thawed nut cutlets (in pieces) to stews and if I have leftovers of cooked pasta, rice or pearl barley I will use it in soups (often I have soups in my freezer that I just need to thaw). I would also make my own bread to serve with the soup. Soup and bread go a long way to make a filling and wonderful meal.

Below are some ideas on how to and eat healthy but fairly cheap:

  • Don't buy fast food (such as pizzas). Make your own pizzas, make a large portion and freeze the ones you are not going to eat straight away. Home made pizzas are a lot healthier and cheaper than buying from the supermarket or a large chain.
  • Buy as much produce the space in your fridge and freezer will allow.
  • Look out for deals and offers and fill those cupboards.
  • Always freeze or use leftovers. Food normally keeps well for a few months in a good quality freezer.
  • Use containers and plastic freezer bags for freezing foods.
  • Prepare your menu beforehand and go grocery chopping according to that menu. That way you won't buy anything you are not going to use.
  • Buy as many containers as you have space for. You will use them extensively.
  • Keep in mind that soups are usually the cheapest meal you can make and along with bread you have a fine meal. To make the soup more substantial you can add some cooked pasta, rice or pearl barley (or even eggs, fish or meat).
  • Never throw away cooked fish (or meat). Freeze it and use in soups.
  • Never throw away cooked pasta, rice or pearl barley. You can either freeze it and/or use it in soups or casseroles later.
  • You can make rice patties out of leftover rice pudding (or porridge). You can freeze patties and pop in the toaster later.
  • Prepare your lunch the day before. There is no excuse, if you have time to watch TV you will have time to make your lunch. Kids are no excuse, I've got two of them, and a day job! Read more on healthy and cheap lunch ideas.
  • If you have vegetables in your fridge that are past their best you can always make an cheap and excellent soup. If you have any 3-4 of the following ingredients, you have yourself a nice meal: celery stalks, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onion, red onion, sweet potatoes, parsnips and 1-2 yeast free vegetable stock cubes.
  • If you have fruits in your fridge that are past their best you can always make smoothies and you can even freeze fruit purees to use later.
  • You can use tired bananas, pears, apples and make muffins. You can even freeze them to enjoy later.
  • Potatoes are cheap and there are a million ways to make a nice meal out of potatoes, for example baked potatoes, potato chips, in soups, stews and more. You can even make the meals cheaper by growing your own potatoes.
  • If the chocolate that you have melted is ruined (for example if it is overheated or if there was water in the bowl) you can let it cool completely, chop in small pieces and use in chocolate chip cookies, muffins and whatever doesn't require the chocolate to stand out on its own.
  • If you only use a small amount of your tinned coconut milk, you can freeze the remaining coconut milk in an ice cube tray and then use it in soups or smoothies. You can use the same method for fruit purees/smoothies, baby food and jams.
  • Instead of buying breadcrumbs you can make your own by blending a few toasted slices of bread in a food processor or blender.
  • You can make your own nut butters instead of buying them in a health food store. You will need a food processor, some olive oil or any other oil you prefer and of course nuts. Blend for a few minutes for a smooth consistency. You don't need a fancy food processor but the blade needs to be quite sharp in order to obtain the smoothest results.
  • You can  make your own tahini (sesame paste) by processing the sesame seeds in a food processor with a little salt and olive oil.
  • If everything else fails and if you are broke and hungry you can always invite yourself to dinner at your parents' or friends'!!!