Everyone knows that you can get end of the day bargains when shopping, but that takes luck, a fair bit of effort, and being in the right place at the right time. Here is a list of some of the cheapest healthy foods routinely available at supermarkets now, along with some meal suggestions that will ensure your family remains healthy but on the lowest possible budget, if you choose own brand value/essential versions of each product.
Fruit and Veg
Tinned kidney beans – Try using these to bulk out mince in cottage pie, or in a chilli con carne. They also can be used in vegetable soups and in Cowboy Bean Bake (fry onion and chopped bacon, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of kidney beans, and let it simmer for 20 minutes).
Tinned tomatoes – The basis of many stews and sauces, they can also be cooked with onions and fresh basil from a window box to make a tomato soup. Serve whole plum tomatoes with mushrooms to bulk out a fried breakfast in a healthy way.
Baked beans – These usually appear on toast but also make a good addition to shepherd’s pie, cottage pie and Cowboy Bean Bake.
Potatoes – The most versatile food available, but leave the skins on when you can to ensure maximum vitamins.
Onions – Different kinds do different jobs, but try making onion soup with the cheapest ones, or red onion tart for a simple lunch.
Turnips – Can taste bitter, but good served with chicken and carrots in a stew. Also try mashing them and serving with mashed potato for the Scottish dish Neeps and Tatties.
Parsnips – These are lovely roasted and cheap fresh or frozen. You can also use them to make a terrific soup with apples and Bramley apples. Top with bacon bits and/or croutons for the ultimate in comfort food.
Swedes – Quite a sweet vegetable, they work well in stews but can also be roasted.
Butternut squash – Comparatively cheap for the amount you get. Like the other root vegetables, it makes a good soup, especially with a pinch of chilli powder in the mix, or it can be roasted.
Carrots – Remember they make a good soup with lentils, and they can also be used in fruit crumbles and cakes as they are so sweet.
Round lettuce – Just the thing for a Sunday evening high tea.
Apples – You may still have these stashed away if you have an apple tree in your garden. Try serving the puree alongside mashed potatoes and pork chops for the German dish ‘Himmel und Erde’ (Heaven and Earth).
Pears – Grated with mixed spice and a few cloves, these transform natural yoghurt. They are also good boiled with lemon juice, sugar and a little water.
Frozen berries – A vastly underrated resource, these can liven up a meal table no end in pies and crumbles.
Tinned tuna – You can add this to pasta sauce, put onto home made pizza or made into fish cakes with a few herbs, creamy mashed potato, and some lemon.
Quorn – Cheaper than mince, replaces most meat things.
Sausagemeat – Try making a family-sized sausage roll, a meatloaf, meatballs, or stuffing your Sunday chicken with it. Goes well with mushrooms and onions if you want to bulk it out.
Mince – Another super versatile food. This can make pasta sauces, meatloaf, meatballs, cottage pie. Bulk out with pulses.
Corned beef – The joys of corned beef hash in cold weather cannot be underestimated.
Liver and onions – If you are careful to avoid overcooking it, then it can actually taste pleasant.
Pork chops – These sometimes come in huge family packs and grilled with a bit of dried sage can be a lovely treat.
Cheap chicken – This is seen as evil, but for families really struggling, this is the perfect Sunday lunch, and you will probably have enough for a chicken soup or risotto afterwards if you buy the largest one you can find. Make stock from the bones, by boiling it up with a couple of carrots, an onion and a bit of celery, as well as a couple of bay leaves.
Crab sticks – Great to add to pasta or to chop up with mashed eggs for unusual sandwiches.
Frozen prawns – Cheaper than they reasonably should be at the moment. Defrost well before use. Mix with seafood sauce to top baked potatoes (to make cheapo seafood sauce, mix together mayonnaise or salad cream with a bit of ketchup), add to pasta sauce, or mix with defrosted frozen white fish fillets and white sauce to make the base for a fish pie. Prawn curry is another staple that austerity minded cooks ought to be aquainted with.
Soda bread – This can be made at home from normal plain flour, which is cheaper than the strong flour normally used for bread that has to rise. It is a lot quicker to make as well. Alternatively you can make a kind of savoury scone in a frying pan that works well with soup, a staple of US pioneer cookery.
Sponge cake – Make one of these a week and nobody will be too miserable.
Frozen cookie dough – Make batches of this and freeze as long caterpillars with enough to make about a dozen cookies at a time. remove, slice and bake when the going gets tough.
Flapjacks – Cheap to make from value oats.
Fats and Dairy
Full fat milk – More vitamins and suitable fats for young children.
Natural yoghurt – Very cheap, and great with fruit or honey as a breakfast or dessert. Try it in milkshakes as well.
Cheddar – Price of this is going up, but you can use it for so many things that it makes sense to regard it as a staple. It freezes well, so you can buy big blocks to save money as well, dividing them up as necessary for the freezer.
Freebies (ask the butcher)
Marrow bones – Add to stew for extra nourishment
Ham bones – Make a stock with this, which is a great base for pea and ham soup, anything to do with lentils, or anything to do with pork and bacon.