After the seasonal spending comes the post-Christmas penny-pinching and January is a time when most people aren’t exactly flush.
But that doesn’t mean we have to rule out hearty winter meals which have just as much taste as bulk.
The key isn’t just about finding budget beating recipes, although they can be a great help.
It’s also about putting a little imagination into making meals. Cash-conscious cooks can substitute what’s in the recipe with the contents of the kitchen cupboard, buy popular ingredients in bulk and think of tasty ways to use leftovers.
‘It’s fine to substitute certain ingredients with what you have available,’ says Barbara Crick, who runs the Emsworth Cookery School.
‘Herbs and spices, for instance. If a recipe lists thyme but you have mixed herbs in the cupboard it should be fine to use those instead.’
Barbara, who runs cookery courses for adults and children at her Emsworth home, says casseroles, soups and sauces are great for piling in anything that’s available or in danger of being wasted.
‘Pizzas too, you can use so many things as toppings. You can buy bases but making them isn’t difficult and is fairly cheap. And it’s a good way of involving the kids – seeing what’s in the cupboards and thinking of different toppings they might like,’ she says.
And don’t forget desserts for something scrimpy but scrumptious. Barbara suggests using brown bananas in cake and other fruit for crumbles and says stewed fruit with ice cream is usually a winner with the kids.
Opting for cheaper cuts of meat and getting creative with eggs are also good ways of loading up on nutrition and taste but avoiding a big assault on the bank balance.
Lentils and chickpeas are low-cost and can be quickly transformed with the help of onions and spices into a delicious curry.
Or you could try this recipe taken from Family Food For A Steal, edited by Kyle Cathie and published by Vincent Square Books.
Try tasty spaghetti with chilli, prawns and parsley (Serves 4)
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 large red peppers, diced
225g prawns, cooked and peeled
Red chilli flakes (optional)
2-4tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
· Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the garlic and peppers, season with salt and pepper and cover. Sweat on a gentle heat until tender but not coloured.
· Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. When it’s almost al dente, add the prawns to the peppers, toss for a minute or two to heat through and add the cream and chilli flakes, if using. Bubble up and taste for seasoning.
· As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain well, add the sauce to the pan and toss over the heat until well coated.
· Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.