From fresh bread to easy pasta sauce, swapping just a few ready-made products for homemade alternatives can knock pounds off your weekly shop. Most of these recipes are made using storecupboard ingredients, so they’re quick to make at home, and also help you reduce your plastic waste and cut down on your consumption of ready-made foods.
A jar of pasta sauce can come in handy if you’re short on time, but with the right ingredients, you can make a homemade version in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Tomato sauce is a great base – swirl it through cooked spaghetti and you’ll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. It can be used in a multitude of other ways, too: add olives, capers and parsley for a puttanesca- style sauce or chillies for an arrabbiata; mix with mascarpone, cooked chicken and mozzarella for a creamy pasta bake; or use on pizza bases.
If you can find bunches of basil or other soft herbs at a reduced price, you can make a batch of homemade pesto – that’s often more cost-effective than buying jars, plus, you can use up herbs that are slightly past their best. Pine nuts are traditionally used to make pesto, but you can add almonds or cashews instead. And, while fresh pesto doesn’t keep for as long as jarred, you can freeze it in portions.
Satay sauce can be made in minutes – use it to marinate chicken, toss through noodles and stir-fries or dress a salad. A jar will keep in the fridge for up to a week. If you’re a fan of salads, you can also make classic French dressing: mix extra virgin olive oil with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a pinch of sugar with seasoning. Shake together just before using each time.
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Bread, flatbreads and pizza
If you want to save money and reduce food waste, start by baking your own bread. A simple white load made at home can cost about half the price of a shop-bought one, even when factoring in energy costs. Because homemade bread doesn't contain the same additives that mass-produced bread does, it has a shorter shelf life. Wrap your bread in a clean tea towel or bread bag and store in a bread bin to keep fresh. You can freeze loaves, or use leftover stale bread for breadcrumbs, bread and butter pudding or French toast. Flatbreads are also easy to cook yourself and often taste much better than any you can buy in a supermarket.
Snacks and dips
Snacks and dips often suffer from some of the most severe price-to-ingredient cost rations - after all, when we're hungry and reaching for something to fill the gap, cost isn't always our main priority. But, with a little planning, you can prevent spending too much money on expensive snacks.
- Blitz a can of chickpeas, drained, in a food processor to make hummus. It will keep in the fridge for a week - serve with crunchy vegetable crudités or pittas. You can replace the tahini that's normally in hummus with peanut butter or leave it out all together.
- If you suffer from mid-afternoon energy dips or often forget breakfast, combine porridge oats with any nuts and/or dried fruits you have to make snack bars that will keep you going until dinner. Wrap them in a baking parchment or beeswax wraps, and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
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What's your favourite budget-friendly homemade recipe? Leave a comment below...