My recent diagnosis of gluten/dairy/meat/soy etc. intolerance has been a tricky installation to my budget lifestyle. I wish I could afford all the healthy-looking trimly-packaged items in the always appealing health food store, but unfortunately, my current budget doesn’t always allow these luxuries.
For some recipes, it’s simply meant swapping the pasta for gluten-free, or white rice for brown, or the introduction of gluten-free bread (not a huge fan). But more so, it has changed the way I look at what I eat.
Half the food I can’t have is food I would have considered healthy in moderation; mushrooms, kale, strawberries and so forth. Adversely encouraging me to see some nutritional food as the enemy.
My new overly watchful approach to what I could and couldn’t eat was making me paranoid about everything, as if I had been diagnosed as deathly allergic, rather than simply intolerant.
Worried mealtime would become burdensome, I started focusing on what I can eat, rather than my restrictions. Gluten-free bread and pasta, vegan products, my new amazon-ordered condiments, beans and nuts, most vegetables, and fruits. And I went from there.
Though I enjoyed the extra time it was taking to perfect these nutrient-packed meals, I knew that there would come a time when I was back working full-time and I would curse myself for not prepping earlier in the week.
So here are my newly perfected quick-fire-recipes for days when you want to keep the cooking saga short and sweet.
1. Homemade Pesto.
I can’t believe I spent all this time thinking homemade pesto involved hours of prep, would cost ten times the price of a jar and the patience to use a mortar and pestle (though I would love one for my kitchen) when really, homemade pesto is so easy and it doesn’t break the bank!
Serves: 2 plus some leftover pesto to put in a jar and keep in the fridge for 1-2 more portions another time.
300g of pasta – 70cents, I used Gluten Free so it cost me €1.20
Basil – I bought a plant in Lidl, seeing as they are more value for money than the containers in the shop. €1.50
Walnuts – A packet from Lidl sets you back about €2.20. You can just pinenuts too, but the only ones I could find were too expensive and walnuts worked just fine.
Spinach Leaves – you only need a couple of hand fulls, so the total needed is about 70cents worth.
3 cloves of garlic, chopped and quickly fried in olive oil – price n/a
100g of cherry tomatoes – 50cent. (optional)
3-4 Tablespoons of Olive oil – price n/a
6 Tablespoons of water – price n/a
1 Lemon, squeezed – 30cents
Salt and Pepper to taste.
- Boil Pasta of choice (I used Gluten-Free Spaghetti or Penne)
- In a blender (or mortar and pestle if you have it- good luck!), add your basil and spinach, both teared up.
- Crush up or chop about 100g of Walnuts and add it to the blender, along with the water, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper.
- Blend until thick and smooth.
- In a pan, add olive oil and lightly fry some garlic, the remaining walnuts, and cherry tomatoes.
- When pasta is ready and drained, add the pesto sauce and mix through. Then add the cherry tomatoes, walnuts and garlic from the pan.
- Serve with any cheese if you like (I used goats because its the only one I can have!)
Total Cost: €6 but remember there will be leftover pesto for another dish!
2. Baked Sweet Potato.
I’ve been using sweet potatoes way more now that I can’t have regular potatoes, and I’m rediscovering their versatility. Making baked sweet potato in a microwave had me skeptical at first, but I’m glad I tried.
Serves: Two, but use 1 Big Potato per person so you can tailor it to your needs.
2 Sweet Potatoes, fairly large – Because they’re not in season right not it cost me 3 euro.
1 small Red Onion – 20cent
2-3 Cloves of Garlic – n/a
100g of Walnuts – €1.40 for half a packet in Lidl
Cherry tomatoes – €1 for a full packet, and I didn’t use them all.
A knob of butter – n/a
A handful of Spinach – the amount needed is about 70cent worth.
Salt and Pepper to taste
Goats cheese to decorate – 30cents
- Wash the sweet potatoes and pierce them with a fork or knife several times. Place in microwave for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, flip them and see if they feel soft. Mine were huge so it took a lot longer than I thought, but you will know when they’re ready for your taste.
- When its been 10 minutes, see what you think. I like mine quite soft so I kept them in there for another 10 minutes, even cutting a slit at one point to ensure they were really soft.
- While they’re cooking, prepare your filling. You can literally use whatever you normally like in your baked potato.
- In Olive oil, I fried some garlic and red onion and added a teaspoon of honey to carmelize the onions.
- Then I added some walnuts and finally some cherry tomatoes and spinach.
- When my sweet potatoes were complete, I cut them open, added some olive oil butter to melt, added in my filling, sprinkled some goats cheese and voila!
Total Cost: €5-6 because of the sweet potatoes price!
3. Peanut Butter Stir Fry.
Serves: two people, or one with leftovers!
1.5 Cups of Rice – 30cents.
3-4 Carrots – 30cents.
Half or full head of Broccoli – 50 cents.
2-3 Cloves of Garlic – Price n/a
1 Fresh Chilli, or dried or chili flakes are fine. – price n/a
Salt and Pepper to season.
A few dashes of Soy Sauce to taste – I use this one because it’s a healthy, soy-free alternative.
2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter – Price depends on what peanut butter you use. I would estimate about 50cent for this amount. I order in bulk this one without any additives.
1 Lime or Lemon – 30 cents.
- Boil rice, I use brown rice which takes at least 20 minutes so I make sure that boiling before I begin.
- Peel and chop carrots into thin slices, chop broccoli.
- Chop garlic and chili and begin frying in oil, preferably coconut oil.
- When slightly brown, add in other vegetables.
- Add in the juice of a lime or lemon, some soy sauce and any spices you have in the cupboard (I added some paprika)
- Sit and let cook for 5 minutes until everything looks a little softer.
- Add in cashew nuts and 1-2 tablespoons of butter and a little more soy sauce.
- Stir and cook for another 5 minutes until vegetables are coated and a little soft.
- Serve over rice.
Total Cost: €3.50
4. Homemade Hummus
I generally eat hummus by the spoon-load so this recipe is super handy for piling on bread, crackers or just some carrots, and the high fiber chickpeas will leave you full for some time. The price works out at cheaper than store-bought in the long run if you eat a lot of hummus, and I always prefer to make my food from scratch if I can.
300g of Chickpeas drained and washed – 50cent
2 Tablespoons of Tahini – A jar costs about €3.50-4 so for this amount it will set you back 40cent. This ingredient lasts a while and is very versatile, so worth investing in.
1 Lemon, squeezed – 30 cents.
2 Garlic Cloves, fried in a little olive oil until soft – price n/a
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil – price n/a
A sprinkle of Paprika or Cumin, if you fancy.
- Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add water if necessary for a creamier consistency and season to taste.
- Serve with raw vegetable sticks, bread, crackers or with a bowl and spoon!
Total Cost: Approx €1.80