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If you have a growing family and are worried about rising food costs here are some ideas to bulk meals up without breaking your budget. . .(and not a lentil in sight!)
With food costs ever on the increase and even budget supermarkets like Aldi becoming more expensive it can seem like feeding a growing family can eat into more and more of your budget. In particular, teenage boys can often seem as though they never stop eating and have hollow legs.
In this post I’m going to show some fab ways to bulk meals out and make sure there’s always something extra around to eat without breaking the bank.
Some of the most popular ideas to bulk up meals include using things like lentils, porridge oats and grated carrots. While these are all great suggestions and I wanted to offer alternative and more creative ideas. Perfect if you have fussy family members that won’t eat certain things as lot of these ideas bulk meals up without actually adding anything to the dish itself.
I love this idea – if you’ve got kids that like late night snacks or teenagers that are always hungry after getting in late from football or rugby this is a simple way of making sure there’s something filling in the house for them when they most need it – without resorting to crisps and chocolate.
I’ve talked a lot on the blog about how much I like buying reduced food and this idea lends itself perfectly to using cheap reduced ingredients. Simply make sandwiches up as you usually would with, pop in a plastic baggy and freeze.
These can then be toasted straight from frozen – either in a toaster bag in the toaster, in a sandwich press or in a griddle pan. Quick and easy and reasonably cheap too. Give ingredients like salad and mayo a miss but use plenty of cheese, meats and condiments like mustard. You could also make ‘Pizza Toasties’ filled with cheese, tomato puree and pepperoni or salami.
Add a Soup Starter
Having a soup starter may sound old fashioned but it works for many reasons. Firstly soup is cheap to make, it can cost as little as a few pence per head and you can pretty much make it from any vegetables you might have lying around. It can be prepared ahead, in bulk and then frozen – simply reheat when needed. Starting with a bowl of soup also means those around the table will be tucking into their main meal less hungry and therefore smaller portions will be needed to satisfy them and less of the expensive ingredients, like meat, need to be used.
Soup is also pretty much free if made with leftovers from other meals. See this post for 40+ Recipes that used up leftover food.
Putting a bread basket out with every meal is a cheap and easy way to fill up those who complain they are still hungry even after a decent meal. Mix things up by switching between simple bread and butter slices, chopped up baguettes, crusty loaves and even garlic bread. For me personally I always try and buy bread when it’s reduced at the end of the day although some other cheaper alternatives could include the ‘Bake at Home’ baguettes (usually around 50p for two) and a budget range garlic baguette (around 40p)
Buying cheap dry stuffing mix can be a great way to bulk meals out and add flavour too. It can make chicken breasts and other joints of meat seem bigger and a plate of stuffing balls is a great addition to a Sunday Roast (see below or more tips on making Sunday Dinner go further!) However, my favourite way to use dry stuffing mix is to add it to a pie filling. I often make a chicken (or turkey if it’s Christmas!) ham and Stilton pie and use stuffing mix to bulk out the mixture and help thicken the sauce.
You could also make you own budget stuffing if you have some stale leftover bread and an abundance of herbs.
Bulking out The Sunday Roast
The traditional Sunday Roast is of course a staple in many households. However, with the cost of meat always increasing the cost of producing this classic weekend meal can soon mount up. Stretch your roast even further with the following tips:
- Serving less meat – it can be easy to pile up everyone’s plates but there’s so much else that goes with a roast you could give each person a little bit less and have enough left over for another meal.
- Include plenty/extras of the more filling items such as Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire puddings
- If you want to serve extra veggies, remember frozen is often cheaper – in particular Broccoli and Green Beans.
- Love any leftovers – Boil up chicken bones to make stock and add any leftover meat and vegetables and blitz for a super quick soup. Don’t be afraid to use the leftovers from people’s plates too (if there are any!)
Beans, Beans, Beans
The humble tin of baked beans can be jazzed up no end and when added to various meals can really help stretch other ingredient further. Beans are full of protein as well as multitude of other nutrients and are often referred to as a poor mans meat. If you feel a meal doesn’t quite have enough meat to stretch between your whole family try adding a tin or two of budget baked beans to help bulk meals out even further. This could be anything from Cottage Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese and Stews to Sausage casseroles, Chili Con Carne and even curry.
It may sound like adding a dessert to each meal is going to cost a lot more, but it honestly doesn’t have to. I have this recipe for a peach sponge cake that comes in at just 62p (or a little more if you want to add custard!)
Most supermarkets have budget ranges for sponge mix, custard, rice pudding and instant pudding. Serving these once or twice a week will cost a lot less than having to add more meat or vegetables to your meals.