A great way to save money, try tasty filling meals and spend time with your friends is to host themed meals with your housemates or friends! Meals that require quite a few ingredients, unusual ingredients, or take a long time to cook can work well for this: from traditional roast dinners, to Mexican fajitas or to an evening of sophisticated Spanish tapas!
If you live with students from different cultural backgrounds this can be a great way to learn more about their heritage and foods too! As a group of housemates, we suggest you agree on a price that suits everybody, say £3 each, put it together and go to the supermarket to buy the ingredients together. Then choose whether you all want to cook separate parts of the meal together (one chops veggies while another prepares the sauce or rice for example) or whether half the housemates cook and the other half doing the washing up afterwards.
Here are our theme suggestions:
Traditional British roast dinner:
- Choose which veggies you all collectively like. Cheap, healthy, tasty and traditional can include carrots, broccoli, frozen peas, green beans, kale and cabbage.
- Choose mashed potato or roast potatoes or both, and whether you can afford to buy them pre-made or want to make them from scratch.
- Choose a protein source (meat-free of course!) – there are lots of homemade recipes for nut roasts or vegetable pies you could make, but if you’re short on time, there are lots of frozen alternatives available too. Linda McCartney do a great range including mock meats, vegetarian sausages or country pies. Many own-brands like Morrisons also provide meat-free alternatives that would be suitable – just look for the meat-free/vegetarian section in the freezer aisle.
- Gravy granules – again, supermarket own brand does the job perfectly!
- Extras if budgets permit: Yorkshire puddings can be bought frozen and last months in the freezer, and stuffing can be found relatively cheaply by own-brands.
- You could even get a tub of ice cream or something similar to share for dessert too. Everything becomes much cheaper when splitting between a house!
- Avoid buying pre-packaged fajita kits here, it can get pricey doing it this way and may not feed an entire house.
- Tortilla wraps: buy enough for how many wraps people may want, usually 2 wraps per person. Any leftover tortilla wraps can be used for lunches the rest of the week or frozen until the next use.
- Meat replacement: own brands provide lots of mock meat alternatives to chicken as well as brands like Linda McCartney or Quorn. One packet can easily serve the entire household and more. Alternatively, use a can of black beans or kidney beans to be your meat-alternative, these can be incredibly filling and a great protein source as well as very cheap. Another option is to make the fajitas full of veggies or even add chopped mushrooms for that meaty texture!
- Veggies: peppers, mushrooms and onions.
- Seasoning: you can buy specific fajita seasoning (look for own-brand for cheaper versions) or mix whatever seasonings you have to hand as a household. The type of seasoning you need to create a fajita flavour: chilli powder, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander and salt and pepper.
- Extras: salsa, hummus, tortilla chips and sour cream (we like using Alpro yoghurt as a sour cream alternative as we can use it for breakfast or snacks the rest of the week!)
- Curry base: buy a pre-made curry paste from the Oriental aisle of a supermarket and add a can of coconut milk and vegetable stock to form the curry base.
- Veggies: use leftover veggies you have in your fridge or buy a choice of any of the following suggestions: onions, carrots, aubergine, broccoli, spinach and potatoes.
- Carbohydrates: what’s a curry without some rice to soak up the delicious flavours! Use rice you already have between you as housemates or buy some.
- Protein source: we recommend using a can of chickpeas and some red lentils to bulk up the meal and give it a fulfilling protein punch.
- Extras: naan bread can be a great addition to a curry but a pitta bread rubbed with a garlic clove can work well too, poppadoms are also great to add – both can be found in the oriental aisles of supermarkets or from a local Asian supermarket.
This can made up of traditional Spanish tapas foods or just be mixture of your favourite picnic food. Ensure to plan this one out as it can get pricey if you’re not careful – the great thing is that much of these ingredients won’t go to waste as they can be used throughout the week for lunches or snacks.
- Spanish style tapas: jars of olives and other antipasti (sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichokes), pitta bread with hummus, salsa and tortilla chips, bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, falafel, potato wedges in a simple spicy tomato sauce (think potato bravas!)
- Finger food/picnic food: chopped up carrots, peppers and cucumbers to dip into hummus and salsa, crisps and dip, vegetarian sausages, bread and butter, sandwiches.