What to Eat When You're on a Budget

Well it's more like what to eat when you have limited cooking facilities and limited food available as well!

I used to be able to travel to various locations for a week at a time for work. I would always have to be prepared to make very fast simple meals as I would often be tired from work and cooking facilities can vary. It actually became quite an exciting challenge to come up with what to cook every night! I know how daunting it is to cook a meal after a long day and how easy it is to just grab take away but trust me the following will work even for the most lazy, unmotivated and unskilled! I thought I'll share with everyone some of the tips for cooking meals that are both healthy, quick, simple and cheap (I once only spent $25 for a week's supply of food for myself).

Always be prepared
Write a shopping list! Write what meals you plan to make! Think of ingredients you can use multiple times in different ways for different meals. This will ensure no food is wasted as well.

This is one of the shopping lists I made before going to the supermarket.

Breakfast Ideas
When I had access to a stove I made eggs every morning. This varied from a fried egg to scrambled eggs with tomato and spinach. I also had some toast with peanut butter.

One of the places I was at only provided a kettle and a microwave. This is where I had to get creative.... (PS we also had no cutlery at times...)

This is something a friend recommended. It's scrambled eggs cooked in the microwave! It's very very simple to make, seriously. Crack an egg into a bowl (Or takeaway container in my case), put a tablespoon of milk into it and then whisk it slightly. Put it in the microwave and watch the magic. You might want to take it out and give it a stir 30seconds in. I would also have the eggs with some instant oats that I heated up in the microwave or a piece of toast. Cereal also works well.

What's really important at breakfast time is having something with protein and fibre. These two things will keep you full and satisfied. In the breakfasts I had, the protein came from the eggs, porridge and the peanut butter. The sources of fibre were the bread, porridge and vegetables I added to the eggs.     

Lunch Ideas
Lunch always had to be something simple and could easily pack into my bag. This usually meant sandwiches and salads.

One of the sandwiches I had. One of the weeks I survived on a tuna sandwich every single day because tuna was on sale.... I always made sure I loaded it with some vegetables such as red onion, spinach, tomato and mushrooms so I wasn't leaving the task of consuming 5 serves of vegetables all at dinner.

This is one of the salads I made. You might recognise this from a previous blog post! Yes I was still obsessed with fruit in salad at that time (and I've had more chances to experiment so look out for them in future posts). This one has some added shredded chicken from the night before and instead of a vinaigrette I just used some olive oil.

A snack after lunch was always fruit to ensure I got my serves of fruit as well.

Dinner Ideas

One of the first days I really couldn't be bothered cooking and it was already an effort to go shopping so I made sure I bought a frozen meal for these kind of days. Instead of eating out of a plastic plate or bowl I made the effort to plate it up and it made all the difference. I often have one or two frozen meals stored in my freezer at home for really lazy days or when there is just nothing in the fridge. Frozen meals can be quite small sometimes so an extra salad or serve of vegetables on the side can bulk up the meal.

The second picture is of a very simple meat and veg meal. I bought a BBQ chicken and took off the drumstick, microwaved some frozen vegetables and had it with a piece of bread. No cooking required! I shredded the rest of the chicken for sandwiches and salads at lunch and to go with pasta for the next night's dinner.     

Pasta is my number one go to dinner on these work trips. I buy a can of low salt tomato based pasta sauce, add in some frozen and fresh vegetables, a source of protein and voila meal done!

How I cooked the above pasta dish on the left... As I said before, one of the facilities only had a kettle and microwave. I was determined to not just live on frozen meals for a week and took inspiration from a video I'd seen on cooking in a hotel room. I filled the kettle with water and added pasta and boiled it with the lid open so it will continue to boil. Lots of stirring in between and there you go cooked pasta! I put some pasta sauce on it, some already microwaved frozen vegetables and some shredded chicken and into the microwave it went. It wasn't as delicious as home made pasta sauce but it was still a comforting meal after a long day and that's all it needed to be.

I also tried cooking lentils and pork fillets in the kettle but they didn't work out so well.....and never try to cook pork fillets in the microwave....

Lentils and any form of canned beans are very cheap to buy and easy to cook. They're a great substitute for meat or simply to add more bulk to a meal. You can never speak ill about beans (maybe the gas...)!

There were still some days when I did end up eating out and I didn't want these photos to sit in my phone neglected while my kettle of pasta got some screen time... You can always go back to my post on tips for eating out.

Looking at that salad is making me drool already....

I hope this post comes back on nights when you're feeling uninspired and unable to get off the couch. These meals are definitely cheaper than some take aways and this is more my definition of fast food. If you think about it, in the time you take to call up a pizza place and have it delivered, you could have had a nice home made meal! 

Feel free to share any quick meals, cooking tips and what you like to eat when you're in a rush in the comments below!


Hannah said...

Yes...pasta is always a go to dish :) I've recently been enjoying spelt pasta spirals, it seems pretty similar to wholemeal pasta. Yum!

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The information presented on this blog acts as general nutrition advice and is not tailored to meet individual needs. It should not be used as a replacement for any medical advice you have recieved from medical practitioners. Please discuss any concerns for your health with your doctor or Accredited Practicing Dietitian before starting a new dietary or exercise regime as they can give more personalised recommendations.

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