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These vegetarian dishes are nutritious and affordable.

| By Chloe McLeod | Wellness

5 Dietitian-Approved Weeknight Dinners That Serve Four and Are Under £12

These vegetarian dishes are nutritious and affordable.

With the cost of groceries being higher than ever, many of us are wondering how we can reduce our food costs. When it comes to eating well, there is a misconception that meals need to be expensive, which simply isn’t the case. With a little bit of planning, you can create tasty dinners that won't break the bank each week.

Below, we look at five dinner ideas that are both nutritious AND affordable, coming in at under £12 for four servings.

1. Burrito bowl

Burrito bowls are a great option, particularly because everyone can choose their fillings. To throw together a delicious burrito bowl for under $20, you’ll need:

  • 2x400g tins four bean mix/black beans/kidney beans (the more variety the better!) OR 450g firm tofu crumbled (as a substitute for mince)
  • 2 cups cooked brown/basmati rice
  • 1 avocado
  • Salad ingredients of choice (e.g. grated carrot, tomato, cucumber, lettuce)
  • 80g grated cheese
  • Taco seasoning
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2. Tofu stir fry

Tofu is such a nutritious food, yet so many Aussies don’t eat it. This is usually due to either never having consumed it, or not knowing how to cook it. Tofu will absorb whatever flavour/sauces you’re cooking with, making it perfect for a saucy stir fry. To make it even easier, you can buy ready-made marinated tofu. Below are what you will need to throw this weekday winner together:

  • 450g firm tofu or pre-marinated tofu
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • Fresh veggies of choice (e.g. carrot, beans, celery, bok choy, capsicum) or a large frozen packet of Asian stir-fry vegetables
  • 1 onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked rice or noodles to serve

3. Lentil Bolognese

A twist on an old favourite! Spag bol is easily one of the most common dinner recipes. With the price of red meat though, it isn’t as affordable as it once was. An easy way to make spag bol more nutritious and affordable is swapping the meat out for tinned lentils. This is a great way to start incorporating legumes into your diet if you don’t currently eat them, as they work so well in a saucy dish like a spag bol, Here is what you will need:

  • 2 tins brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic
  • 400g tinned tomatoes or passata
  • 1 tsp dried oregano and basil
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • 2 cups cooked wholemeal pasta, to serve.

4. Chickpea, beetroot and feta salad

With the warm weather, salad is a winning dinner combo that is a quick and easy weeknight option to throw together. Below is a guide of what you’ll need to throw dinner a delicious summer favourite:

  • 160g packet baby spinach
  • 2 tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced finely
  • 200g punnet cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, sliced thinly or grated
  • 400g tin diced beetroot/baby beetroot, drained
  • 100g Danish fetta, crumbled
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

5. Pasta bake

Pasta bake is an easy, affordable and nutritious dinner option that is quick and easy to throw together! Below is a guide on what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups cooked wholemeal penne pasta
  • 500g jar pasta sauce or passata
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 2 tin lentils or four bean mix
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • 1 cup frozen peas (or other frozen veg of choice)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, shredded

Additional tips to make weeknight dinners more affordable as well as nutritious:

  • Utilise legumes! Legumes are one of the most nutritious yet affordable pantry staples. They make an excellent meat substitute and are a great source of protein, fibre, quality carbs and various vitamins/minerals.
  • Shop in season! Fruit and veg are cheapest when in season. If a recipe calls for capsicum but capsicums are $15/kg, look at alternative vegetables to swap them with.
  • Utilise frozen veg! Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh, and are very affordable. They’re a great way to still hit your minimum five servings per day while keeping the grocery bill down.
  • Choose home-brand. Choosing home-brand products can definitely add up when it comes to money saved on a grocery shop, often they’re the exact same ingredients but for a lower price.
  • Shop late at night where possible. Often fresh produce is heavily discounted in the evenings at the supermarket.

Chloe McLeod is a dietitian and the director of Verde Nutrition Co. Follow her at @verdenutritionco and @chloe_mcleod_dietitian

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