Eat on a budget: A week of thrifty suppers and leftover lunches
Tightening the purse strings means getting creative with your weekly menu. We have five days of dinnertime dishes that also make great leftovers the next day.
The cost of food is on an upward trajectory, so it's good to get into the practice of batch cooking enough for two or more meals. We've selected five budget suppers that stretch to leftovers you can take for lunch the next day.
Sunday roasts usually yield surplus food, but bank on it by picking up a bigger bird than usual. Roast chicken is versatile and flexible, a great combination for those on a budget. Try our foolproof recipe then take time to pick off every scrap of meat. This can then be used in a pasta salad, in a Thai broth or classic chicken soup. You can use the carcass to make stock too.
Get over start-of-the-week blues by rustling up a comforting casserole. Make more than you need then take it in Tupperware for Tuesday's lunch. Keep a smaller portion for lunch, and bulk it out with boiled new potatoes or quinoa, which adds a little variation too. This sausage casserole is enough for six and is ready in just over an hour.
Look out for offers on fish in supermarkets – you can often buy family-sized packs at slashed prices. Plentiful sustainable fish like coley, whiting and pollock are far cheaper than cod or haddock with no less flavour. Roast your fish simply with lemon, herbs and garlic then serve with a spiced pilaf. Throw in enough rice for lunch the next day then pack up with added canned pulses.
Chilli con carne uses cheap ingredients, especially if you think outside the box and use turkey mince, which is low in fat to boot, or pork mince. Our version with smoky chorizo is quick to make so ideal for a weeknight, plus the quantities are easily doubled. Throw a few potatoes into the oven while you're eating, and gain yourself some jackets to go with leftover chilli for lunch.
Keep it light towards the end of the week. This simple pan-fried chicken in sauce uses budget ingredients that can also be used in lunch the next day. Serve the chicken with rice, and make double what you need. With a few added ingredients you have Friday's lunch – a tuna salad that uses surplus tomatoes and olives from the chicken dinner.
Caroline's tips for storage and transport
Our food editor reveals her top tips for safely serving food up the second time around.
- If you're planning to keep food for the next day, cool it as quickly as possible and get it into the fridge. Once cooked, you should aim to get it into the fridge within 90 minutes. Avoid the temptation to leave things cooling on the hob overnight.
- Reheat food so that it's piping hot the whole way through, otherwise you may risk food poisoning.
- Keep food in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Don't pop it in your bag to take to work and then leave it there until lunchtime.
- If you've made a big vat of food, decide what you'll need and freeze the rest in portions. Don't wait a few days and then freeze or even worse let it go off and have to throw it away.
- Keep your foods in well-covered and sealed containers to avoid cross-contamination. You don't want raw food that needs to be cooked dripping onto food that's ready to eat. Smells can also transfer, so good sealing will avoid your milk tasting of onions!
More about transporting and storing food:
We have lots of recipe ideas for using up leftovers, or share your ideas with us below: