When you're living on a budget it can be tempting to opt for cheap processed meals which are low in nutrition but kind on the wallet. However, eating healthily need not be the preserve of the wealthy and, whether you are a dedicated meat eater or prefer nature's plant-based alternatives, there are some creative and tantalizing meals to enjoy that are both affordable and nutritious.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 twelve inch tortilla
  • ½ cup roasted vegetables of your choice (parsnip, red or green pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash and zucchini are all great choices), finely chopped
  • ½ cup small broccoli florets, halved or quartered if necessary
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce or tomato puree
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 450f

red-bell-pepper

2. Chop your chosen vegetables into small pieces and toss in a little olive oil on a baking tray. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender. (Leftover roasted vegetables from a previous meal also make a delicious and convenient alternative and avoid unnecessary food wastage.)

3. Place the tortilla in the oven and heat at 450f for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly crisp to the touch.

4. Remove the tortilla from the oven and spread a thin layer of pesto sauce or tomato puree over the entire surface. Spread the roasted vegetables evenly on top and add the slices of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle olive oil over and sprinkle a little pepper.

5. Return the tortilla to the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble. Serve immediately.

Spicy Fried Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 8oz diced chicken breast
  • 1 piece ginger
  • 4 medium green chillies
  • ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 plastic food bag

Method:

1. Extract the juice from the lemon and blend this with the ginger, chillies, salt and pepper to form a smooth paste.

Root ginger

2. Place the uncooked diced chicken into a plastic food bag, add the paste and seal the top. Thoroughly mix the contents together by hand, ensuring that all the chicken pieces are completely covered (this can be done from outside the bag by kneading the contents for a minute). Leave the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes.

3. In a cup, mix the cornflour and water together until a smooth, thick liquid forms, similar in consistency to batter.

4. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over a plate or chopping board. Remove the marinated chicken from the bag and immerse each piece into the batter, ensuring complete coverage. Remove the chicken pieces from the batter individually and roll in the breadcrumbs thoroughly.

5. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Add the chicken pieces and cook on a low heat for 8 minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Cheesy stuffed tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 tomatoes, medium sized
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup feta cheese, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon chopped parsley
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 390f.

tomato

2. Prepare the tomatoes by cutting off the tops approximately half an inch from the stem. The tops will be required later, so place to one side safely.

3. With a teaspoon, scoop out the inside of the tomatoes as close as possible to the skin without piercing it.

4. Place the tomatoes on a lightly greased baking tray approximately two inches apart.

5. Mix the chopped feta cheese with the parsley in a bowl. Spoon some of the mixture into each tomato, ensuring it is evenly distributed.

6. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper into each tomato and drizzle with olive oil lightly.

7. Place the tops back onto the tomatoes, place the baking tray into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes soften and the melted cheese begins to ooze out from the inside. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients:

  • 15oz minced beef
  • 2 14oz. tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3oz. carrot, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 14fl oz. beef stock
  • 14 oz. dried spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mixed Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Method:

1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan until hot. Add the minced beef and the salt and pepper, stirring frequently over a low to medium heat until the mince is browned all over. Take care not to overcook the mince. Once browned, remove the pan from the heat and spoon the minced beef onto kitchen towel to drain.

2. Place the frying pan back onto the hob and heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Over a medium heat, fry the onions until softened (this will take approximately 4-5 minutes). Add the chopped garlic and grated carrot and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

3. Transfer the minced beef and fried vegetables to a large saucepan. Add the chopped tomatoes, stirring thoroughly, and sprinkle the Italian seasoning into the mixture. Slowly pour in the stock, continuing to stir, and heat the saucepan until simmering point.

4. Reduce the temperature so that the contents of the pan simmer gently for 40-45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

5. After 35 minutes, boil a saucepan of water and add the dried spaghetti and a pinch of salt. Cook on a medium heat according to the instructions on the packet, or until the spaghetti is soft.

6. Once cooked, drain the spaghetti and serve onto a large plate or bowl. Remove the minced beef from the heat and pour over the spaghetti. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the top as desired. Serve immediately.

Chinese crispy beef stir fry

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. lean beef steak
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
  • ½ red pepper, cut into long strips
  • 1 small leek
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoons Chinese spice powder
  • 4 oz. noodles

Method:

1. Slice the beef steak into pieces approximately 5cm wide. Next, slice each piece into thin strips. Add these to a bowl with the Chinese spice powder and cornflour and mix thoroughly. Ensure that the beef strips are completely coated.

2. Slice the leek and carrot into 5cm lengths. Next, slice each piece into thin segments, the width of matchsticks. Mix the vegetables in a bowl.

3. Boil half a saucepan of salted water and add the noodles for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain. Immerse the noodles in cold water and drain for a second time.

4. Mix 2 tablespoons of water and the soy sauce in a jug or cup.

5. Put a dry wide frying pan or wok over a high heat until hot and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When it begins to smoke, add the beef and stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Make sure that you keep turning the meat during stir frying to prevent it from becoming burnt.

6. Remove the beef from the pan or wok with a large draining spoon and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and stir fry the garlic and ginger for one minute. Add the other vegetables and stir fry for 30 seconds.

7. Tip the soy sauce/water mixture from the cup into the pan or wok and mix in the noodles and beef. Stir for a further minute before serving. Sprinkle soy sauce over the crispy beef stir fry, as desired.

Tuna Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes (approximately 8 oz. each)
  • 1 7oz. can of fresh tuna
  • 6 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced

Method:

Cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 360f

2. Juice the lime, setting the juice aside in a suitable container. Drain the tuna.

3. Scrub the skins of the sweet potatoes thoroughly. Using a fork, price each potato in several places with a fork.

4. Place the potatoes on a baking tray and cook for approximately one hour in the oven, or until the centre of each potato is soft when skewered with a sharp knife. Increase the cooking time, if necessary, until the blade slides effortlessly into the centre of the potatoes.

5. Remove the potatoes from the oven and cut in half. Arrange them so that the inside of the potatoes are facing upwards.

6. With a fork, flake the tuna and spread equally over the potatoes. Add the chopped red onion to the lime juice, mix briefly and add a teaspoon of the mixture to each potato.

7. Add a dollop of Greek yoghurt and sprinkle some coriander leaves before serving.