Using healthier cooking methods often means a happier wallet, and who doesn’t want that? I’m often asked whether this also applies to cooking large meals for big families, and the answer is definitely yes. I was lucky enough to go away for a weekend recently where everything was organised; all I had to do was rock up. There were about 15 of us making food together, and a couple of huge meals plus various snacks later, it came to under 60 bucks each. Pretty good going if you ask me! Here are a couple of affordable healthy cooking tips to make your food go further when you’re feeding a whole lot of people.
Use legumes to bulk things up – lentils, chickpeas, beans etc.
- They give you a whole lot of fibre and some protein, and there are many ways to hide them in a meal if you’re worried that the kids won’t eat them: cook chickpeas and butter beans until soft and blend them into your usual sauce using a blender, mash cooked chickpeas into mashed potatoes, add cooked brown lentils to minced meat, add cooked red lentils to tomato-based sauces, make a bean paste and mix it with a little plain yoghurt or mayo to use as a spread, finely slice raw green beans to bulk up a salad etc. Read more about these Little Kitchen Heros
Use those healthy carbs
- Carbs give you energy, and the unrefined ones give you longer lasting energy meaning you won’t be eating as often throughout the day. Experiment with couscous, brown rice and sweet potatoes. If you don’t add carbs to your meal you’ll more than likely end up hungry again before you even know it, craving high-sugar, high-fat and processed convenience foods which are usually pretty expensive. So rather spend a little more on making a proper meal and save in the long run.
Don’t underestimate veggies
- Veggies that you can buy in bulk make a meal go a long way. And not just as a side to the meal, but in the meal. Grate baby marrow or mushroom and add to minced meat, cook and mash butternut along with potato, add sweetcorn to salads, add whole tomatoes or even fruit such as tinned apricots, litchis or mango to a stew, potjie or roast. And if you can, keep a large bag of peas in your freezer – perfect to add to almost any meal and kids adore them!
- Cook your veggies until tender but still crisp, or try eating some of them raw. Overcooked and wilted veggies make for much smaller portions. Crisp veggies take longer to chew, which means you eat slower and are therefore better able to gauge when you are full.
Stirfry or sauté veggies and chicken using water, vinegar or lemon juice instead of oil
- While a little oil is good for us, using large amounts while cooking is unnecessary, fattening and expensive, especially when you are making a big meal. Rather heat the pan until hot, pour in just enough water, vinegar or lemon juice to cover the base of the pan and then add the food.
Make the food flavourful, using natural ingredients instead of highly processed and expensive sauces
- The more flavour you get from herbs and spices, the more you’ll savour and enjoy each bite instead of wolfing it down in no time. Using real food saves you rands and makes your tastebuds happy!