A savvy mum regularly makes a range of delicious and healthy meals for her family for less than £1 per head, and has now shared her money-saving hacks with people online
A thrifty mum has gone viral online for sharing her money-saving meals that cost less than £1 per portion and are still delicious and nutritious. Claire Gillies, 45, has been making her cost-cutting creations for years, but decided to start sharing her methods online following the cost of living crisis, as she wanted to help other families make the most of their money.
Now, Claire regularly posts recipes for her favourite dishes, including a healthy aubergine and lentil dish that comes in at just 63p a portion and butternut squash mac and cheese for less than £1 a plate. The mum, from Harpenden, Hertfordshire, said she learnt how to cook on a budget from watching her own mum when she was younger, as she’s always had to live on a tight budget.
She said: “We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, and my mum had three children to cook for. There wasn’t as much processed food back then. My mum would always be cooking potatoes and vegetables, and when I started thinking of my own healthy, cost-cutting recipes, I knew I wanted them to be simple.
“I do not want to spend hours in the kitchen. My meals are cheap and healthy, and you can cook an average one in about half an hour. For me, meal planning is the number one way to keep your costs down. If you have a plan, then you know exactly what you need to buy. You aren’t going to be as easily tempted by special offers in the shops. Ingredient-wise, I keep costs down by shopping around. Once a month, I go to Aldi and I stock up on all of my store cupboard essentials because they’re so much cheaper there.”
One of Claire’s favourite go-to cheap eats is a pasta bake, and while she’s acknowledged that it can be made for around 50p a portion, she stressed that this will be a version of the meal without protein, which makes it less nutritionally balanced. Nutrition is of the utmost importance to Claire, who works as a primary school teacher, and said that to add some protein to a dish in a pinch, you can always use a tin of tuna.
She explained: “A tin of tuna tinned fish is a brilliant thing to add to it – or some cheese on top. It will only increase the price slightly, and it will still come to less than a £1 portion but be a tastier, more nutritionally balanced meal.”
Some of Claire’s most popular dishes include a butternut squash mac and cheese, which she made four portions of for just £3.98 based on current Aldi prices using butternut squash, homemade cheese sauce, pasta, and breadcrumbs, equating to less than £1 a head. She also made a delicious aubergine dish for four that cost just £2.50 – that’s just 63p a portion – from one large aubergine, four garlic cloves, a leek or onion, tinned tomatoes, lemon juice, seasoning, and red lentils.
The mum explained that she has been hit by the cost of living crisis like many families, and even though her meals include cheap ingredients, she also has to think about how much they will cost to cook. She explained: “We’ve all noticed how much not just food’s gone up but energy costs have gone up. Now if I’m cooking a roast dinner on a Sunday, I will put my jacket potatoes that we were going to have on Wednesday in the oven too. Then all I have to do on the day is warm them up. I try and think clever about things like that.”
Claire also shared some top tips for bringing costs down when it comes to shopping, as she said that getting protein from beans and pulses is cheaper than buying meat, and insisted you should never throw away your leftovers as there’s “always a way to repurpose” them. She added: “Have things in your freezer that you have batch cooked that you can grab out when you can’t be bothered to cook. Sometimes it’s also cheaper to batch cook because you can buy your ingredients in bulk.”
You can find more of Claire’s recipes at www.deliciousandreal.com.
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