Money saving

Foods you don’t need to waste money on buying

As you know by now, I’m a stickler for not wasting anything, whether that’s food or money.  Which is why I quickly discovered that especially when you’re on a budget there are some things you really don’t need to spend money on. I’m talking about pestos, sauces, soups and condiments.  The kinds of things that we’ve been told are complicated and too much hassle to make yourself, when in reality the opposite is true.  Most of these things are actually more expensive to buy and usually contain some dodgy ingredients that you’re better off avoiding (sugar in mayonnaise I’m looking at you).

I’m hoping to convince you that by making some simple swaps in your diet you can save a few £££ and also enjoy some quick, healthy versions of your favourite foods.  It’s really not as hard as you might think, or have been told.

Firstly, to give you an idea about what I’m talking about, below is a list of the main things that I don’t buy anymore (or I should say very, very rarely buy.  If I say ‘never’ someday you’ll catch me in the supermarket with a tub of hummus in my hand and call me out on it):

  • Pesto
  • Hummus
  • Tomato sauce (for passata, pizzas, pasta or otherwise)
  • Salad dressings
  • Soup
  • Stock
  • Spice pastes (for curries or rubs etc.)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Gnocchi
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut (or most fermented/ pickled vegetables)
  • Flavoured salts
  • Ketchup
  • Chutneys
  • Sauces (for pasta, steak, curries or otherwise)

The best thing about making these yourself, apart from saving money, is that you can use up all your leftovers or odd scraps of things that would otherwise go to waste – and you know I really hate food waste.

The following are three things I make regularly.  I hope you’ll see how quick, easy and cheap they are to DIY-it.  I’ve given you basic ‘templates’ of how I make them but do freestyle if something isn’t to your taste – it’s ok to add more lemon juice and less garlic in if that’s what you’d prefer.  The important thing is to try.

Salad dressings

I’m really against shop bought salad dressings.  Next time you reach for a bottle do me a favour and check the ingredient list.  I bet you there’s sugar or some kind of artificial sweetener in there.  And here’s the thing, there shouldn’t be.  You wouldn’t sprinkle granulated sugar over your salads so why pour them over in a dressing?  DIY salad dressings are so simple and taste so much better than the gloopy stuff you find in a bottle.  Promise me you’ll try this at least once and see how easy it is to switch?

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How to make it

A quick point to note before we get started.  I learnt from the lovely Jamie Oliver (not personally, sadly), that most salad dressings, apart from yoghurt based ones, tend to work best on a 3 to 1 ration of oil to acid.  So bear that in mind if you’ve no measuring spoons and are just winging it by eye, which is usually how I do it.

You will need:

  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of an acid (lemon juice or white/red wine vinegar)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • OPTIONAL: Mustard (Dijon or wholegrain), fresh or dried herbs, yoghurt

To make, pour the oil in to a jar, add the lemon juice/vinegar, shake vigorously and then add salt and pepper to taste.  It is as simple as that.  If you’re feeling fancy and want to change it up a little you can start to add in mustards or herbs.  A really simple variation is a French dressing: use white wine vinegar for the acid and add in a teaspoon of Dijon mustard before shaking.  Or for something sweeter try a balsamic dressing using balsamic vinegar in place of the red/ white vinegar and a few thyme leaves (fresh or dried).  The balsamic one is great for tomato based salads.

For ease I make all my salad dressings in jars as you can shake them up easily (no messy whisking) and it means they are instantly portable for lunch on the go.

Ways to use it

Do I need to tell you how to use a salad dressing?  In addition to pouring over your salads you can also use these dressings for dunking bread in or drizzled over veggies – French beans covered in a bit of French dressing whilst they are still warm is delicious.  Homemade dressings will last for about a week in the fridge but check regularly for odd smells or mould.

Pestos

I’m not just talking about the standard green pesto alla genovese (basil, pinenuts, garlic, oil and parmesan) you probably think of when I say the word pesto.  Although that is definitely a favourite of mine I like to use up all my leftover veggie bits and bobs to make my own pesto which tastes just as good as shop bought (or in my opinion better as it’s fresher) and also uses up veggies that would otherwise have gone to waste.  I got this original idea from the I Quit Sugar books where kale pesto and even broccoli is featured.  Now I go crazy and use up any green scraps I can find.

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How to make it

You will need:

  • A big bunch of stems (I use ones from kale, spring greens and cauliflower leaves).  To make sure I have enough, when cooking with greens I remove the stems from the leaves and pop in to a freezer bag until I have enough to make a pesto.  This also works well for broccoli and cauliflower stems or odd scraps of greens you have lying about.  Put them all in a designated freezer bag and when you are ready you’ve got what you need to make pesto.
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic (peeled but not crushed).
  • About a handful of grated parmesan (about ¼ cup if you want to be precise but I go by taste) or a handful of nuts (I’ve used pinenuts or almonds but mainly whatever is in my cupboard – again my quantities vary depending on how chunky I want the paste but start with ¼ cup and go up to ½ cup)
  • Extra virgin olive oil – I start with about 3 or 4 tablespoons, but again add more if needed
  • Juice of ½ – 1 lemon – I prefer mine on the lemony side and always go for at least one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Quickly steam the greens/ stalks (I do this in the microwave as it takes seconds) then throw the greens and the rest of the ingredients in to a blender or food processor and blend until you form a paste.  If it’s looking a little too chunky or dry you can keep adding small amounts of oil to make it smoother.  Once it’s the texture you want, have a taste and season to your liking.

To store, decant the pesto in to a clean jar and cover with a layer of oil.  This should keep in the fridge for about 10 days.  Make sure every time you use some you re-cover the paste with a layer of oil to prevent mould growing and check regularly for mould or if it starts to smell funny.

Ways to use it

I probably have at least a hundred different ways but here’s ten to get you started: stirred through pasta or gnocchi, on toast as a spread, mixed in to scrambled eggs, spread on toast under smashed avocado, as a side to leftovers, added to a toasted sandwich, drizzled over cooked veggies, added to salad dressing or mixed in with crème fraiche (if you can tolerate/ eat dairy) for a quick sauce to be added to pasta or straight up poured over veggies.

Hummus

I love hummus.  It’s been a recent discovery for me but now I’m on it, I’m really on it.  Chickpeas are very cheap (about 33p a tin) and full of protein so they are a great addition to your diet.  If you’re not a fan of shop bought hummus then this might change your mind as it’s a slightly different texture but (I think) a better taste overall.

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How to make it

You will need:

  • 2x 400g of tinned chickpeas (you can soak dried chickpeas overnight and use these but I’m guessing you’re not here for that kind of advice.  I sometimes like to do this when I have time but being realistic, during the week I reach for a tin or two)
  • About 10-12 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (plus some water to thin)
  • 1-2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves (depending on how much garlic you like)
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons (depending on how bright you like it)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of tahini (or I have used smooth peanut butter in its place before with marvellous results – a Nigella Lawson tip.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all everything to the blender and whizz until you reach a paste.  Keep adding in small amounts of oil or water until you achieve a consistency and texture you like (sometimes I like it totally smooth, other times I like it a bit chunky).  Once you’ve achieved your desired texture/ taste decant in to a clean pot and like the pesto, I like to cover mine with a thin layer of oil.  Mine tends to keep in the fridge for about a week and I make sure to top up the oil layer after I use some.  Hummus is so customisable that once you’ve got your basic recipe down you can add in herbs and veggies, basil or even sundried tomatoes are good options.

Ways to use it

Hummus is not just for dipping my friends (although I can go through a whole batch of this in one sitting).  It is also great in sandwiches (try it in place of  mayonnaise), spread on toast and topped with mashed avocado, or stirred in to pasta sauces – try adding a tablespoon or two to a tomato-based pasta sauce, it tastes amazing.  It’s also good as a side to boiled eggs with toast.

Ok, so this has been a long post but I hope you can see I’m really passionate about this and these three ideas are just the tip of the iceberg.  I have loads more I can share with you so if that’s something you’d be interested in let me know.

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2 thoughts on “Foods you don’t need to waste money on buying”

  1. I really like this! Especially as I’ve just been putting my Ocado shopping together and I have included hummus in it! I also love my Newman’s Own Balsamic Dressing, and regularly get a jar of pesto, but you’ve inspired me to try out making my own now… Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you! I used to buy this stuff all the time & it adds up week in, week out. Definitely give it a go – & if you don’t fancy any of my recipes there are hundreds out there online. Even a simple lemon & oil salad dressing is a great place to start. Super cheap & easy! xx

      Liked by 1 person

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