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Cost-of-living cuisine

By Genevieve Brown

Lifestyle Editor Genevieve Brown suggests some cheap and cheerful recipes.

To misquote Richard Nixon, “I am not a cook” and I am very hungry as I write this. Such a time is perfect for stuffing one’s face with food, but, as the cost of living crisis escalates, my cupboards are offering fewer obvious solutions. I am also impatient and lazy in the kitchen. If finances are good I’ll use more expensive ingredients like chorizo and mozzarella to make dishes tastier, but recently I’ve needed to be more inventive when searching for recipes. I have listed a few go-to recipes below, should you be interested in some fast, cheap culinary thrills. I will warn you that a not-insignificant proportion are on Tiktok, though I have included creators’ Instagram handles where possible. TikTok is a good medium for recipes, because I find its editing quite faithfully represents how it feels to cook in a hungry rush. The recipes I am suggesting to you are not elaborate, but are the type of thing I am often desperate for when time and money is tight and I need to muster up some enthusiasm!

One way to spend less money is to make sauces using store cupboard staples that last. While your initial expense is higher, a little goes a long way and these recipes have the added benefit of being there for you when the shops are closed. A recent discovery is @dippedtampa’s (Instagram: @dipped_tampa) 5-Minute Garlic Sesame Noodles. Requiring only soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, cloves of garlic, Sriracha, and whichever noodles you have, these noodles are tasty and filling and a nice change from packet ramen. Slightly more involved is Zaynab Issa’s recipe, for Bon Appetit, for Gochujang-Sesame Noodles. This produces a bright, delicious sauce with a still-minimal time-and-effort expenditure. Both of these recipes become nutritious meals with the addition of vegetables and one or two eggs.

Another cash-saving method is to add one fairly-fancy ingredient to your shopping list and use it for multiple meals that week. Parmesan cheese is very easy to use up and really elevates the dishes it is a component of. If you enjoyed the recent trend for Pasta alla Vodka, further popularised by Gigi Hadid, then you will love @dishesbydaisy’s (Instagram: @dishesbydaisy) budget version: Spicy Tomato Pasta. Also using parmesan as its base is @Lorraine’s (Instagram: @healthyfitbella_) Broccoli Pasta. Parmesan cheese can also be grated and frozen in freezer bags for even more saved time. There is no need to defrost it before stirring some into your sauce. These recipes also really demonstrate that a bit of pasta water goes a long way!

A classic piece of advice for cooking on a budget is to focus on beans and pulses, and I have found lately that this can be done while trying out new flavours. Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for butter beans with salsa verde is a revelation. It requires some costly fresh herbs, but parsley and basil are delicious added to many other recipes, such as the above pastas, and so will not go to waste. I really recommend Sodha’s series of vegan recipes for The Guardian because she is so talented with flavour. For hummus-lovers Yotam Ottolenghi’s crushed puy lentils with tahini and cumin serves up a substantial version of the dip – one that can more easily be eaten as a meal. Dish up alongside some flatbread, or toast, and enjoy!

These midweek meals are best supplemented with more time-consuming recipes, such as curries and roasts, to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients as well as keeping costs down. We are heading towards an expensive winter, and having a couple of cheap-but-satisfying options for dinner should at least be a helpful defence against rising prices in a less-than-ideal situation!


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