The last few days before January Pay Day must be some of the longest, and possibly saddest days of the year for cooking. Most people get paid before Christmas, and undoubtedly, we all overspend around Christmas time, so stretching your groceries until January 25th is an art form.
Some people are embarking on a “No-Spend January” (they only shop for essentials such as food and petrol) but let’s get real, most people are on a de fact the Monday before Pay Day in January – Blue Monday – a day filled with no money, Monday blues, broken resolutions, and shattered dreams…OK so maybe that is a BIT melodramatic, but you get the idea.
Here are some top tips for making it through to Pay Day this month:
Use what you have
Stay away from the shops and see what you can make just from the food in your house. You might be surprised by what you find in your pantry and freezer. In just a week I managed to feed my family of 5 without shopping for anything. I usually shop once a week, but I skipped a week and got creative! Dig out those canned foods from the back of your pantry cupboard and those frozen vegetables that have been lurking in your freezer and whip up a tuna and sweetcorn pasta bake or spicy baked beans.
If you have any points on your loyalty cards, now is the time to cash them in. I specifically save them for this time of year, and I can usually swing a free coffee from my favourite coffee shop with my loyalty card as an after-shopping treat.
National Peanut Butter Day
Join National Peanut Butter Day on the 24th January. A tongue in cheek day to celebrate the last of the last left in the cupboard. Although, if I am brutally honest, I rather enjoy peanut butter day for breakfast most mornings.
Sometimes all that is left is rice, pasta, a bag of 2-minute noodles or a lingering box of cous cous. Make a simple spiced, savoury rice, toss in a few chopped veg (frozen works great) and stir in a raw egg just as you finish cooking it for a balanced meal, or try a plain pasta with butter, Parmesan and a few chopped herbs for an elegant and delicious meal.
Fruit and veg
Since most food with a long shelf life tends to be grains or pulses, lighten your meals up with a fresh salad. Check out your local fruit and veg market for specials, and shop for what is in season and therefore cheapest.
Meat free Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…
Forget Meat-free Monday and make a whole meat-free week. Meat, chicken and fish add a lot to your grocery bill so check out these 5 mouthwatering meat-free ideas.
This is my secret money-saving weapon. I can’t make a roast chicken for the price of a precooked rotisserie chicken; the cost of electricity being what it is (never mind the slaving over a hot oven part). One rotisserie chicken can make 3 family meals. Don’t believe me? Try this…
Day 1. Cut off the chicken breasts and make pita breads or wraps (bulk up with salad).
Day 2. Cut off the remainder of the meat and make a chicken pasta, chicken mayo sandwiches or a chicken salad.
Day 3. Keep any little bits of chicken left aside and boil the bones to make a stock and make a delicious Summer time soup.
“Ice Cream for Dinner” Day
This one was a huge hit with my family. My five year-old couldn’t believe I was going to break the dinner rules and serve ice cream for dinner! But if you are anything like me, you have a few almost-finished containers of ice cream lurking in your freezer. Bust them out with a few cones and eat dessert first! In the name of balanced diets, perhaps consider a nutritious lunch on “Ice Cream for Dinner” Day. You will be the family hero, for a few hours at least!
Grow your own
If you have space for a small veggie garden or even a few pots on your windowsill, consider growing your own herbs and vegetables. I planted a few basil bushes and I have been able to make quite a few batches of pesto from them. Plants like spinach and rocket are also easy to grow and when you cut them they grow back so you don’t need to keep replanting. Give this rocket pesto a go for something different.
No Spend January isn’t just for food
If you are feeling like being a crunchy hippie type, you can also try making your own cleaning products. Eco friendly, non-toxic and friendly to your wallet. As far as I can tell, most homemade cleaning involves bicarb and vinegar. So get mixing and get scrubbing!
New Year’s resolutions
Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to spend less and eat healthier. Hooray for No Spend January! With a bit of careful planning, you can do both by eating more vegetables and NOT spending a fortune on groceries!