5 Food Swaps For When Your Favourite Food Is Too Expensive

Prawns are lovely but prawns are expensive. How's about using jarred cockles instead? Really.

5 Food Swaps For When Your Favourite Food Is Too Expensive

by Isabel Collinson |
Published on

When payday feels like forever away, the first things we skip at the supermarket are those ingredients we think of as being pricey. These are, according to sod’s law, often the most tasty.

But substituting expensive ingredients for cheaper alternatives means we can still satisfy our favourite food cravings even when we are super skint (woo, steak!).

Here are 5 dead simple ingredient swaps you can make so you don’t loose out with 5 easy recipes using them.

SWAP ONE - Instead of chicken breasts, use chicken thighs

Chicken thighs are loads cheaper than chicken breasts but are basically way better anyway. They are juicier, way more forgiving to cook and have bags more flavour.

Use skinless boneless thighs as you would chicken breasts in curries, pasta sauces and other dishes. But to maximise the savings, buy those with the skin on and bone in. The bones and skin can be easily removed with a little knife trickery but they add loads of extra flavour to your dishes so try keeping them in.

Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Fennel and Lemon

Serves 2

4 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon of ras el hanout - a north african spice blend available

from Waitrose, keeps for ages in your cupboard

2 onions, sliced

1 bulb of fennel, cut into quarters

1 lemon, cut into quarters

4 cloves of garlic

Handful of chopped parsley

Bottle of white wine, 1 glass for cooking, rest for drinking

  1. Rub the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some ras el hanout. Fry all over in a hot pan until they start to turn golden brown and crispy.

  2. Put the onions, fennel, lemon and garlic cloves (no need to peel) in a baking dish. Add a sploosh of white wine then place the chicken thighs on top, skin side up.

  3. Bake in a hot oven for 35 - 45 mins until the juices of the chicken run clear. Serve the chicken with the veg, spooning over some of the lemony cooking liquid. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with couscous or bulgar wheat.

SWAP TWO - Instead of shelled prawns, choose jarred cockles

Prawns are expensive. De-shelled ready to eat prawns are super expensive. A cheap and tasty alternative is jarred cockles. I know this sounds a bit weird and gross, but they are actually a ridiculously cheap way of eating fish. The Portuguese love them. These jars keep for ages in your cupboard and can be kept on standby for a quick and easy replacement for pricey prawns.

Spaghetti kinda Vongole

Serves 2

2 portions of spaghetti. Only you can judge the correct amount for you. I use loads.

3 cloves of garlic, crushed using the flat side of a knife then finely chopped

Knob of butter

Glass of white wine

1 jar of cockles (find them by the tinned tuna)

½ lemon

Chilli flakes

Handful of chopped parsley

  1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of salted water until al-dente. Drain and toss in some olive oil, reserving a mug of the cooking liquid.

  2. Meanwhile, gently fry the garlic in a knob of butter till soft. Keep a close eye as this can burn easily.

  3. Turn up the heat then add the wine to the garlic. It should bubble furiously and omit a cloud of alcohol. This is normal.

  4. Drain the jar of cockles then lightly rinse in tap water. Add to the wine-y garlic with the zest (use the fine side of a cheese grater) and juice of half a lemon and a pinch of chilli flakes. Cook for 3 minutes.

  5. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan and toss together with the parsley. Add a little of spaghetti cooking liquid if it needs loosening up. Serve.

Note: Purists will probably shudder at the use of cockles in a Vongole but I don’t care. Just don’t cook this for an Italian pal.

**SWAP THREE - Instead of sirloin steak, choose sandwich or frying steak **

If you are having a straight up steak and chips meal, you should opt for the best cut of meat you can get, but this is obvs too pricey to do regularly. Cheaper steak cuts such as sandwich or frying steak can satisfy your meaty cravings (ew) at a fraction of the cost of a proper, solo steak.

These cuts can be used in loads of different ways and taste especially amazing when marinated, quickly fried in a very hot pan then left to rest. Plus, a little goes a long way. Buy a big pack, cut each steak into strips and put into separate sandwich bags with a splash of soy sauce, a pinch of five spice and a dollop of honey. Chuck the bags in the freezer to have on standby to add to noodle soups and stir-frys.

Easy Thai Beef Salad

Serves 2

2 slices of sandwich steak cut into strips

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 nests of rice noodles

Toasted seeds

For the dressing

1 clove of garlic, crushed using the flat side of a knife then finely chopped

1 tablespoon of fish sauce

1 teaspoon of sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

Pinch of chilli flakes

For the salad

Half a cucumber cut up into matchsticks

1 carrot cut up into matchsticks

Handful of spinach leaves

Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

3 spring onions cut into rounds

Handful of coriander chopped

  1. Marinade the steak strips in soy and loads of black pepper while you prepare the other ingredients.

  2. Prepare the rice noodles according to the packet. Once done, plunge into cold water.

  3. Put all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

  4. Prepare the salad ingredients then toss together with the drained rice noodles and the dressing.

  5. Fry the steak strips in a really hot pan for 30 seconds each side if you like your steak rare, leave to rest on a plate for about 2 minutes.

  6. Top the salad with the steak strips and some toasted seeds. Serve.

**SWAP FOUR - Instead of fresh peppers, jarred peppers **

Just looking at a jar of marinated peppers you can see how many are crammed in there. They are way better value than buying fresh and are a ridiculously versatile ingredient. They can be added to pretty much anything fresh peppers can such as pasta sauces, salads and sandwiches. Plus, the marinating process gives them a punchy flavour that is srsly addictive.

Red Pepper and Mozzarella on Rye

Serves 1 -a really easy lunch to prepare in your work kitchen

1 red pepper from a jar, cut into strips

Half a ball of mozzarella, torn up

Handful of rocket

Slice of rye bread

  1. Toast a slice of rye bread.

  2. Top the rye with the rocket, followed by the mozzarella then drape over the red pepper strips with a spoonful of the jar liquid. That’s it.

**SWAP FIVE - Instead of salmon fillets….use smoked salmon trimmings **

Smoked salmon can be used for way more things than just topping bagels. Start using it in your cooking instead of expensive solo packaged salmon fillets. Opting for the trimmings is a great way to maximise savings. They don't look as pretty as the whole slices but are just as flavourful and are an easy, no cook way to add extra protein into your meals.

Creamy Salmon Courgetti

Serves 2

1 pack of salmon trimmings

2 courgettes

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

Handful of cherry tomatoes

1 lemon

  1. Roast the cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper in a hot oven for 20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

  2. Turn the courgette into courgetti using a spiralizer if you have one. No fear if not, a potato peeler can be used to create pappardelle-esque ribbons.

  3. Gently fry the garlic till soft then add the courgette, turning up the heat for about 3 minutes.

  4. Add the creme fraiche with the zest and juice of half a lemon and loads of pepper.

  5. When the tomatoes are ready, add them to the pan and finally add the salmon trimmings.

  6. Cook all together for about two minutes then serve.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

How To Make Your Own Herbal Teas

Banana Milk: The New 'Milk' That's Ridiculously Easy To Make

A Meal Plan To Make Your Work Lunches Significantly Less Shit

Follow Izzy on Twitter @IsabelCollinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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