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    • Friday1989
    • By Friday1989 19th Apr 19, 7:27 PM
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    Friday1989
    Reducing food spending when can't cook (because ill and/or no skills)
    • #1
    • 19th Apr 19, 7:27 PM
    Reducing food spending when can't cook (because ill and/or no skills) 19th Apr 19 at 7:27 PM
    I have realised I spend far too much money on food. Some of that is because I treat myself to things I enjoy and I'm ok with spending on that sort of thing, but the majority of my spending is because I don't know how to cook and struggle with motivation and energy due to health problems.

    I mainly eat pasta, instant noodles and ready meals. I know how to make veggie chilli, a very basic veg stew and dumplings, and veg sushi. That's it I am am very good at putting things in the oven and throwing things into one pan but I have no skills beyond that

    The other hurdle is energy and motivation. I have long term health conditions that really zap my energy and a full time stressful job that wipes the rest. When I come in from work I get straight into bed. I can't manage making anything that takes effort.

    Realistically I need a few quick low effort meals I can make on work nights and one or two I can make over the weekend when I have more energy and freeze. Does anyone have any easy and cheap veggie recipes for lunches or dinners? I am vegan but I can probably veganise any veggie recipes.
Page 1
    • MatyMoo
    • By MatyMoo 19th Apr 19, 9:06 PM
    • 2,911 Posts
    • 13,682 Thanks
    MatyMoo
    • #2
    • 19th Apr 19, 9:06 PM
    • #2
    • 19th Apr 19, 9:06 PM
    I reduced my food spending by batch cooking things like chilli, ragu, stews, curries, soups at weekends and freezing in individual portions. During the week I just need to cook rice/pasta/potatoes/bread & heat whatever I took out the freezer that morning. It’s like having my own ready meals.
    Proud Member of Mike's Mob
    • astrocytic kitten
    • By astrocytic kitten 20th Apr 19, 3:51 AM
    • 74 Posts
    • 227 Thanks
    astrocytic kitten
    • #3
    • 20th Apr 19, 3:51 AM
    • #3
    • 20th Apr 19, 3:51 AM
    I have long term health conditions that really zap my energy and a full time stressful job that wipes the rest. When I come in from work I get straight into bed. I can't manage making anything that takes effort.
    Originally posted by Friday1989
    I could have written exactly this! I used to do a big lot of batch cooking most weekends but now thatís far too much for me. Iím interested to see what other responses you get, my food spend is high too though Iím mostly resigned to it as the cost of eating healthily without cooking from scratch.

    Iím not sure how much help I can be as I rely on both fish and eggs a lot, obviously that wonít work for you. I do use a lot of frozen vegetables though - frozen roast vegetables, frozen steam packs of vegetables, etc, plus bags of frozen steamed rice. I figure the perfect is the enemy of the good in that sense. At the weekend Iíll make a couple of days lunches or dinners ahead by making pasta with either pesto or a very basic pasta sauce and adding lots of frozen roast veg. I also use those stir fry packs of veg for a very quick dinner.

    As far as recipes go, I canít find the exact recipe I used, but I used to make a sweet potato or butternut squash, spinach and chickpea tagine regularly and it worked really well - this one looks very similar: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/butternut-squash-chickpea-tagine
    Total debt: £15,950 (Oct 2019) / £23,167 (Dec 2018)
    • Prinzessilein
    • By Prinzessilein 20th Apr 19, 7:50 AM
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    Prinzessilein
    • #4
    • 20th Apr 19, 7:50 AM
    • #4
    • 20th Apr 19, 7:50 AM
    Another hand raised here for having disabilities that limit cooking!

    I would recommend investing in a couple of items...

    A slow-cooker is an essential - or even better is a multicooker! I have a small one, and it cooks rice, makes porridge, slowcooks and even bakes a cake....the beauty is that it takes just a few minutes for me to prepare a meal and the I just switch on and leave for a few hours...and it is a doddle to clean!...You coulds et it up before you leave for work and have a hot dinner waiting for you when you come through the door!

    If you like soup, then a soup maker might be ab idea...I was given one as a gift and I love it!...it cooks the ingredients, blends them into smooth or chunky soup and has a self cleaning function!...as a bonus it can also be used to blend smoothies/milk shakes.

    A very quick and MSE meal when you get in is what we call 'Auflauf'...basically it is all sorts of leftovers cut up into chunks and put into an ovenproof bowl..pour over a beaten egg or two, and cover with a sprinkle of cheese (or breadcrumbs or 'nibbled' nuts) and bake until the eggy mixture cooks and rises.....drat - just remembered you are vegan! no to the eggs!

    And cooking in paper is also a great idea for beginners...you need oven-proof baking paper....simply take a sheet, place a chicken breast or a piece of fish...or a quorn steak.. in the middle, add some finely chopped veggies (a spiralizer is great for quick veg prep!) and a splash of liquid...foldup the paper into a parcel and bake for about 20 minutes (just long enough for a quick shower and change?...and eat straight out of the paper...no washing up - BONUS!

    Microwave baked potato with beans is quick and easy(if liked then 'finish' the potato in a regular oven to crisp the skin).

    A very cheap but tasty and filling stew can be made from potatoes,mince (quorn or soya for you!...defo works with soya-mince as have done this for a vegan before!) onions and LOADS of black pepper...simply cook with enough water to make as thick as you like and enjoy with crusty bread
    • Friday1989
    • By Friday1989 20th Apr 19, 11:29 AM
    • 57 Posts
    • 87 Thanks
    Friday1989
    • #5
    • 20th Apr 19, 11:29 AM
    • #5
    • 20th Apr 19, 11:29 AM
    A slow-cooker is an essential - or even better is a multicooker! I have a small one, and it cooks rice, makes porridge, slowcooks and even bakes a cake....the beauty is that it takes just a few minutes for me to prepare a meal and the I just switch on and leave for a few hours...and it is a doddle to clean!...You coulds et it up before you leave for work and have a hot dinner waiting for you when you come through the door!
    I think I might even have the same one. I use the quick rice setting a lot, mainly for sushi. I made a risotto in it a few times and literally just threw things in, no precooking any ingredients, and it came out great. I need to experiment more with the multi cooker. Thanks for reminding me

    If you like soup, then a soup maker might be ab idea...
    I'll look into that. I've been put off soup making because of all the prep but maybe I could do it with frozen veg and cans of beans?

    And cooking in paper is also a great idea for beginners...
    I've never heard of that. Thanks!
    Originally posted by Prinzessilein
    I could have written exactly this! I used to do a big lot of batch cooking most weekends but now thatís far too much for me. Iím interested to see what other responses you get, my food spend is high too though Iím mostly resigned to it as the cost of eating healthily without cooking from scratch.

    I do use a lot of frozen vegetables though - frozen roast vegetables, frozen steam packs of vegetables, etc, plus bags of frozen steamed rice. I figure the perfect is the enemy of the good in that sense.
    Sorry to hear you relate. It sucks being ill. You have a really great attitude. I think accepting our limitations and finding workarounds shows resilience and resourcefulness. You are so right about perfect being the enemy of the good. I also live alone so frozen veg prevents waste

    As far as recipes go, I canít find the exact recipe I used, but I used to make a sweet potato or butternut squash, spinach and chickpea tagine regularly and it worked really well - this one looks very similar: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/butternut-squash-chickpea-tagine
    Originally posted by astrocytic kitten
    That looks great! Thanks!

    I reduced my food spending by batch cooking things like chilli, ragu, stews, curries, soups at weekends and freezing in individual portions. During the week I just need to cook rice/pasta/potatoes/bread & heat whatever I took out the freezer that morning. Itís like having my own ready meals.
    Originally posted by MatyMoo
    I think weekend batch cooking might be the way forward. Love thinking of it as home made ready meals
    • kerri gt
    • By kerri gt 20th Apr 19, 1:29 PM
    • 8,138 Posts
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    kerri gt
    • #6
    • 20th Apr 19, 1:29 PM
    • #6
    • 20th Apr 19, 1:29 PM
    Prinzessilein I believe there are now vegan 'eggs' available and whilst more expensive than traditional eggs, would likely still work out cheaper for OP for something like Auflauf (same with vegan block cheese) vs ready meals.
    Feb 2015 NSD Challenge 8/12
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    • Fire Fox
    • By Fire Fox 20th Apr 19, 1:31 PM
    • 25,155 Posts
    • 29,398 Thanks
    Fire Fox
    • #7
    • 20th Apr 19, 1:31 PM
    • #7
    • 20th Apr 19, 1:31 PM
    Welcome to MSE.

    I am switching between 'different hats' in my reply. Like you and many others here I have chronic health problems that can smash my energy and motivation. Ironically my work background is healthcare, most recently lifestyle (inc. nutrition).

    I would suggest you join the Cooking for One thread, and the Vegan Storecupboard Challenge thread. Several on the CFO thread have long term health issues, and one is veggie or vegan. I am sure there will be several on the VSC thread are very busy and very stressed. You do not have to post regularly just when you can, or simply use the in-thread 'advanced search' function for a specific username or meal type or specific ingredient.

    Another vote from me for making full use of gadgets and appliances. Central in easy, quick, healthy meals is the freezer: a huge range of fruit and vegetables come prepped and frozen. Shelled edamame beans, pomegranate seeds, butternut squash, avocado halves, sliced leeks .... Many are the same price or cheaper than fresh, especially once you consider that there is little waste (stalks/ peel etc).

    A basic stick blender for smoothies and hearty soups from frozen and canned fruit and veg. If you have a birthday coming up, or are willing to spend more, some have attachments to become a mini food processor. A slow cooker or multi-cooker: stews/ casseroles, curries, hearty soups, steamed brown rice, old-fashioned 'creamy' oatmeal (pinhead or steel cut or jumbo oats) can all be frozen.

    Stress and many long term health conditions can mean we need more micronutrients (minerals/ vitamins/ essential fatty acids) at a time we are less likely to be able to prepare and eat a varied, balanced diet.

    On days or weeks that all you can manage is ready meals or instant food, try not to fall into the trap of the low-nutrient stuff. Some of the meat substitutes are the cheapest carbs (potato/ refined wheat) not protein-based. Similarly noodles, pasta and rice dishes are often highly processed, refined versions.

    Consider keeping in stock frozen wholegrain/ vegetable mixes, jar vegetable-based pasta sauces and curry sauces (I rate Loyd Grossman), brown rice thread noodles and vegetable stock powder (Marigold), canned flavoured pulses (World Foods aisle). I make surprisingly tasty and healthy curries and even stir fries in the microwave using a jar sauce and ready prepped vegetables!

    HTH and does not come over preachy.
    Last edited by Fire Fox; 20-04-2019 at 1:36 PM.
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
    • Doom_and_Gloom
    • By Doom_and_Gloom 20th Apr 19, 3:52 PM
    • 3,837 Posts
    • 13,237 Thanks
    Doom_and_Gloom
    • #8
    • 20th Apr 19, 3:52 PM
    • #8
    • 20th Apr 19, 3:52 PM
    Vegan and disabled here. OH cooks for me the majority of the time however I am an obstenant one and like to be independent too.

    My multi cooker is my saviour. The brown rice setting goes for 1 hour 30 minutes and can be used to make curry/chilli/shepherdless pie mix etc. Can even add brown rice and water in first then ingredients to make a one pot meal one stirred when cooked. Cool down fast and put in fridge for a microwave full meal for later. Brown rice setting good for red split lentils without soaking, if you want to use brown or green lentils though make sure to soak.

    White rice setting can do pasta dishes. I have to do gluten free but works with any pasta. Just shove pasta, water, chopped tin tomatoes, frozen veg mix etc in and turn on. When done mix and there you go a full meal. Always extra for fridge.

    Mine has a quinoa setting. You can also do one pot meals with this setting with quinoa too. Just like brown rice setting I found to do full meal.

    You can boil potatoes using the white rice setting. Always good to have some potatoes, white or sweet for the addition to a meal or just put in microwave with beans.

    Slow cooker setting. Well loads. Just search online there really are loads of recipes. I've been known to use this setting overnight (for cheaper electricity) and then have with rice/quinoa/potatoes done when needed and microwaved a portion of what I slow cooked. Or if already have the rice/quinoa/potatoes put all in microwave when needed.

    Porridge setting; oats, plant milk, water like instructions state. I add chopped apple, cinnimon and so times some frozen fruits. Depending on how much I do (it has instructions for 2 or 4 portions) and how hungry I am this does 2-6 portions. Good in the fridge for a few days, microwave with a bit extra plant milk or water.

    I sit on my chair and cut up ingredients when able but don't worry if you have to buy ready chopped or frozen items. As said it can help with less waste of money and actual waste (taking out rubbish is a chore I know!)

    I wouldn't be without the microwave or the multi cooker. I keep thinking we should get a microwave oven combi, the oven is too dangerous for me due to placement but a combi would be safer.
    Oven meals don't have to be junk; Mediterranean vegetables, pasta bake, even vegan pizza with sweet potato wedges isn't too bad etc.
    I am a vegan woman. My OH is a lovely omni guy
    • astrocytic kitten
    • By astrocytic kitten 20th Apr 19, 5:52 PM
    • 74 Posts
    • 227 Thanks
    astrocytic kitten
    • #9
    • 20th Apr 19, 5:52 PM
    • #9
    • 20th Apr 19, 5:52 PM
    I’m fascinated by how useful everyone finds multi cookers - I have friends who love them but I always thought anything made with them would still involve a lot of prep and cleaning and so they wouldn’t be for me. Looks like I’ll need to revisit that!
    Total debt: £15,950 (Oct 2019) / £23,167 (Dec 2018)
    • Friday1989
    • By Friday1989 22nd Apr 19, 7:55 AM
    • 57 Posts
    • 87 Thanks
    Friday1989
    Thanks everyone. It's nice to hear from others who are in the same boat, though I wish none of us were in this boat.

    I'm going to try come up with 7 easy meals that aren't pasta and pasta sauce and start using more than just the quick rice function on my multi cooker. I'll hop over to the vegan store cupboard and cooking for one threads for inspiration
    Last edited by Friday1989; 22-04-2019 at 7:55 AM. Reason: Spelling
    • Mistral001
    • By Mistral001 23rd Apr 19, 11:16 AM
    • 3,955 Posts
    • 3,033 Thanks
    Mistral001
    I would make an attempt to learn how to cook properly and not just give up and think that it is beyond you. Even if you just try to learn at the weekends only and eat pre-prepared or a bunch of ingredients thrown in a pot or pan as you have described for the rest of the week.

    The secret of cooking is knowing the cooking times for every ingredient. I would not be afraid of cooking things in individual pans in the traditional way so that you give respect to very cooking ingredient and learn the basics of cooking.
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