How to sex up cheap food... cheaply
How to transform your loaf of bread or bowl of pasta into a gourmet extravaganza!
There's only so much plain bread or pasta a person can take. However, it seems that these kinds of carbs tend to be the only things left in our cupboard. Here are some suggestions to make your staple foods a little more appetising, without having to break the bank:
The bowl of pasta
Value pasta sauce just isn't cutting it anymore. Try spicing things up with some of the following simple varieties:
- Add some chilli powder and mayonnaise to make a cheap, spicy sauce.
- If chilli isn't your thing, mix the mayonnaise with other things such as tuna and tinned sweetcorn to create a delicious pasta salad.
- Another more frugal pasta salad could be whipped up by cutting up some spring onion and rocket, and drizzling some olive oil and lemon juice on top. Simple yet effective!
- If you have some leftover spaghetti from the night before, throw them in the frying pan with some eggs to make a tasty stir fry.
The dry cous cous
Cous cous does not need to be dry! Always try to add a bit of oil to moisten - flavoured oils are particularly good, the cheapest being olive oil. Here are some other ways to make your cous cous more interesting:
- Try adding various spices, for example curry powder can add a little extra oomph to the flavour.
- Once more, tinned meats are the way to go, as are tinned beans: try mixing with some kidney beans and chick peas to make a great veggie option.
- Another way of mixing up the textures is by using nuts. Pine nuts aren't too intrusive, but add a bit of crunch to the meal.
The loaf of bread
We all know how to make toast, but even this precious commodity can become dull. Try varying the types of bread you choose, whether it be rolls, baguettes, or different types of loaf, and then try some of the following options:
- Dip your bread in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Italian-style. Simple, but absolutely delicious!
- Spread some tomato puree over your toast, with a little bit of cheese and mixed herbs, before popping in the microwave to make your own mini-pizza
- Cheap patés and other pastes make a good spread, for example some 58p Brussels pate in Tesco!
- Try branching out and buying some Mexican wraps. Not only are these great for sandwiches, if you have some leftover these can be put to great use. For example, put some barbecue sauce and cheese in between two wraps, and then place in a frying pan for about a minute on each side, then cut into slices to create some homemade quesidillas! Or if you cut them into slices and then fry in a lot of oil, you can create some tasty nachos.
Lentils are one of the cheapest staple foods you can buy, and yet also seem like the dullest. Liven up your lentils!
- Adding some cheap tomato sauce can transform lentils into a cheaper alternative to pasta. Lentils have the added bonus of providing a lot of protein as well!
- Try adding some curry powder and coriander to your lentils, and boil until they become mushy. This half-soup, half-curry makes a great side dish.
Noodles are ridiculously cheap and quick to cook. Whether buying Super Noodles or some own brand variety, there are various things you can do to make them more fun:
- Try stir-frying your noodles with a bit of soy sauce, and if it's too salty, add a sprinkle of sugar (yes, sugar!)
- If you have bought some plain noodles, try placing in a broth with chicken or vegetable stock to create a hearty noodle soup: great if you have a cold! This is also a great way to use up any chicken bones you may have from previous meals: boiling these will also create a delicious broth that will complement the noodles perfectly.
Porridge is a fantastic way to start the day, providing you with enough carbohydrates to fuel the rest of the day. However, it can get pretty unappetising, particularly when you're craving some Frosties.
- Adding some sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon will liven up your porridge, and if you can get your hands on either fresh or dried apple, this makes the perfect start to the day.
- Try buying some tinned fruit, which are always fantastically cheap, and you don't have to worry about them going out of date. The ones to watch out for are peaches, pineapple and mandarin oranges.
Rice is great to go with a main course, but if you're particularly strapped for cash, and want it to be a little bit more exciting in its own right.
- Try boiling with stock cubes, and then once cooked add some lemon juice and lemon rind, before garnishing with some mixed herbs.
- Stuffed peppers are tasty and easy to make: boil your rice and add some onion, garlic and tomato puree, before stuffing into a pepper along with some cheese. If you have any minced meat lying around, you can add this as well, or alternatively try using dried soya mince which is ridiculously cheap and a great substitute. Bake for 20 minutes, and there you have a fantastic veggie meal.
With all these simple ideas, you should never have to resign yourself to a dinner of plain toast ever again - happy cooking!
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