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It's been a rather big problem for the past three years or so to actually get some good and healthy food in me regularly. Because of several reasons my family struggles with money and as a dance student I feel like my performance could improve by a diet that provides me with all the nutritients that I need.

 

My Mum doesn't cook and I'm always busy with school and dance. Setting time aside to putter around in the kitchen is difficult and stressful most of the time. (I admit that I am also a tiny bit lazy and can't get a move on. The teenager does shine through...) I've seen plenty of people preparing food 'in bulk' that they divide into smaller portions that they can reheat over the course of the week, though. So with the proper motivation and tips that might be an option?

 

But mainly, I wanted to ask you for tips and advice. Maybe you are in a similar situation and have found ways to work around this problem or alternatives that have worked for you to replace the unhealthier ingredients in meals. Maybe you have even found tasty replacements for a meal altogether?

 

To put things in perspective, right now our kitchen is stocked mostly with bread and white rice, formula for mashed potatos, processed and frozen foods. There is powdered soup and in the fridge we have cheese, pudding and some smoothies. There's some fruit every now and then, except for apples that are always there. (And we have candy/sweets. Which I end up eating when I'm sick of all the other options - of course, not a very good choice.)

 

Now, I'm not saying that everything needs to be a hundred percent organic or anything. Not even that I don't want anything that's just a little unhealthy around the flat. We all need to splurge sometimes. I'd just like to be able to have some food around that I can use to prepare/cook something more with so that I can have more of a variety or something that is better for me than chocolate and crisps when I want to snack a little. (Does that make sense? I feel like I can't find teh proper expression.)

 

Mum thinks she's doing me a favour, even when I tell her I'd rather skip the pizzas or the candy for a while she tells me I have to eat *something*. In that aspect, she's right but then again, we can't afford to just go wild in the fruit and veggie aisle and she won't risk any experiments with groceries that we might end up throwing out. And I desperately need help in getting information about some foods and ingredients that are kind of 'universal', in a sense and that can be used for many meals instead of just in combination with that one thing or other.

 

And honestly, before I danced this was mostly fine because I didn't eat as much, just like she still does. (A coffee in the morning, a few more while at work and then some bread or pudding when she gets home in the evening. I can't do that when I want to dance. And it's not very good, either.) I have continuously gained weight since starting classes because my body needs more food but all I can give it leaves me hungry again an hour later. And despite what I told myself in the beginning, not all of that is new muscle mass. Mum tells me to just watch what I eat and simply eat less, but it's difficult when you don't have many options (especially when you want a warm meal!).

 

Even with the chance of sounding whiny or even ungrateful (I promise I am neither of both intentionally) I thought I could reach out here and ask for all the help you can give me.

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I appreciate that this is a very sensitive topic for you.

 

You don't say where you live but in the UK good quality minced beef is relatively inexpensive and forms the basis of dishes such as spaghetti bolognese and chilli con carne which are quite easy to make and can be re-heated if extra portions are made.

 

I'm not an expert on vegetarian cooking but dishes made from pulses (eg lentils and chickpeas) can be cheap, tasty and nutritious but people who are not very adventurous in their tastes can be reluctant to try them. They generally need onions and / or garlic plus herbs or spices to make them flavoursome though.

 

Tinned tuna is a cheap source of protein but it's best not to eat it more than once or twice a week. It can be mixed with drained tinned sweetcorn, a little mayonnaise and cooked pasta to make a wam or cold pasta salad. Alternatively, it can be mixed with some drained tinned chickpeas and a little chopped red onion which has been sprinkled with some lemon juice and left for a few minutes (this takes away some of the sharpness of the raw onion); this can then be eaten with some bread or a roll.

 

Cheese, of course, is a good source of protein but you don't want all your protein to come from cheese. You need iron and there isn't any iron in cheese. Eggs in any form are a cheap and nutritious source of protein and iron. Perhaps you should start with learning how to make scrambled eggs and omelettes if you don't already know how (many teenagers don't) as these would provide a healthy meal when you are in a hurry.

 

Good luck. It must be very difficult for you.

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I'm sure most of the other mums and dancers will be able to recommend a few books for you but to start with - people think that fruit & veg is expensive but it is cheaper than processed and packaged foods if you follow some simple rules. Never buy it pre-chopped, pre-washed or packaged in any way as the price increases dramatically. Buy fresh from the supermarket or if you can, a green grocers or market stall. You can fill your fridge for less than £10. I don't know where you are in the world but if you have access to the BBC, their programme 'eat well for less' is really really good.

 

As for dancing, you need plenty of whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, cereals or wholewheat pasta are good, or potatoes but they have to be actual potatoes!!) and proteins such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, pulses, lentils, nuts etc. plenty of fruit & vegetables will give you the fibre, vitamins and minerals that you need. Lots of people neglect carbohydrates - they are vital for dancers as they provide the slow release calories needed but ensure brown or whole grain where possible. Also don't neglect fats - necessary for nerve conduction and brain function but stick to natural sources such as eggs, dairy, avocado, nuts, fish.

 

Batch cooking is definitely a great idea if you have fridge/freezer space. Plan ahead, use recipes and meal plans to buy exactly what you need so that none of it goes to waste.

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One tip my mum gave me when I was younger is to fry an amount of onions (about half a tins worth chopped) & the same of peppers together until soft (in a bit of oil) then add a cheap tin of chopped tomatoes then liquidise or not as you prefer

 

This can then be used to:

stir through pasta

as a sauce for home made pizza (or a ciabatta or french bread or a bought pizza base)

added to fried mince for bolagnaise or lasagne

as a soup

 

Plus it freezes well

 

Also things like beans on toast with cheese on top or a toastie made with leftover mince or bolagnaise are easy to do

If you like eggs - scrambled eggs & beans are good or cheesy scrambled eggs

 

Or if you have little silicon cake cases - whisk egg, add cheese, cooked veg, bacon or ham and pour into the cupcase & it makes mini omelette in the oven while you are doing something else to save time (proper omelettes need to be watched while cooking

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You might want to have a look at Jack Monroe`s blog here: https://cookingonabootstrap.com/

 

It’s all about learning how to cook on a budget, and there are a lot of delicious recipes to try.

 

When I started to live away from home, money was scarce so I had to learn to cook from scratch. It took me a while but it was also an activity I found very rewarding.

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Dd swears by porridge for breakfast especially on the days she has a morning dance class. Porridge oats are really cheap. She puts them in a microwaveable dish with milk & it takes a few minutes. A chopped banana, some berries or vanilla essence to sweeten

 

Othe chesp nutritious meals are :

 

Scrambled egg on toast (scrambling the egg makes it go further)

 

Beans on toast (not too heavy on the beans because of the sugar

 

We buy a bag of frozen diced chicken that can added to pasta, stir fried or just mixed with noodles or rice & veg.

 

Pasta sauce made in a similar way they Katymac says.

 

Swop the white rice, pasta & bread for whole meal & cut down the cheese - grating it makes it go further.

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Supermarket  own brand fortified breakfast cereals (the ones without added sugar) cheaply and with plenty of milk and a chopped banana that's an easy breakfast. Noodles are quick and easy and with a small amount of cooked chicken (small supermarket packs are cheap and will do for a couple of meals) and some veg make a tasty supper. Eggs are one of the best sources of protein. Try to eat your egg with a glass of orange juice to maximise iron intake. Don't waste money on recipe books - look online e.g. BBC Good Food have lots of ideas and you can search by category - student, cheap and healthy etc. If you like spicy food learn to make vegetarian curries with lentils or chick peas - very easy to do similarly Mexican style bean casseroles. If you do your own  shopping choose your times - I use to go early evening when many items were being reduced especially fresh fruit and veg. I was desparately hard up as a student so sympathise.

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Frozen veg and fruit is cheap and often has more vutamins than fresh as they are frozen within 2h of picking. You can use the frozen berry fruits to make smoothies with milk and yoghurt. I find the frozen soya mince in Aldi very cheap and an excellent mince substitute. If in UK Try to shop at Aldi/Lidl as they are a lot cheaper and have excellent quality fruit and veg. Red lentils are a good introduction to vegetarian protein.

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If you have time to soak overnight buying dried beans is cheaper than tinned.

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Oh my, all of you are such a marvel! Thank you for these great tips and pointers, this is already so much more help than I expected! :o And all of your suggestions sound delicious, to boot. I'm not kidding. ALL of them.

I've fried eggs before, taking it a little further and learning how to scramble them sounds very do-able.

 

I live in Germany but we have Aldi and Lidl, too. We used to shop at the Aldi near where we live but they tore down the building and ever since there isn't one near us anymore. Then we switched to the other supermarket chain that's close to us but they have higher prices :/ Maybe if we got one of these bags that keep things cool, do you think that would keep everything fresh for 30+ minutes? Then we could probably manage switching back to Aldi or find a Lidl...

Edited by Peccopa
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There's a programme on BBC1 called Eat Well For Less which gives hints and tips on eating a decent diet on a budget.  I know it's repeated on a Sunday afternoon and will be available on the iplayer too.

 

Sarahw mentioned about frozen fruit.  This programme also said frozen fruit is a good way of saving money.  I let some defrost overnight and put it on my DIY muesli.  I also used some to make a fruit crumble using a mixture of porridge oats and flaked almonds bound together with a little honey (courtesy of Dean Edwards on the Lorraine show a couple of months ago!).

 

For store cupboard ingredients, I have discovered the joy of pasta with (shop bought) pesto.  You can add in whatever you have got around.  Tonight I used a courgette donated by my friend from her garden.  In the larder I have got cheap jars of roasted peppers and sun blush tomatoes in case I can't get out to get some shopping in.  I also add a few pine kernels for a bit of crunch.

 

Salmon is the most wonderful fish - it doesn't matter how it has been processed (e.g. tinned) it keeps its omega-3.  Tuna, for example, loses its omega-3 when it is processed.  I buy salmon fillets when they are on offer and freeze them.  You do have to defrost them before cooking.  I sometimes cook them on my George Foreman but my current favourite is to cook them with a little lemon juice and soy sauce in a foil packet in the oven.  The packs of fillets from Tescos chiller cabinet gives you the cooking time and temperature.

 

An American chum often posts links to recipes that he has tried from this site: http://www.budgetbytes.com/recipes/

I have tried a couple of them and they are delicious!!!

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Oh my, all of you are such a marvel! Thank you for these great tips and pointers, this is already so much more help than I expected! :o And all of your suggestions sound delicious, to boot. I'm not kidding. ALL of them.

I've fried eggs before, taking it a little further and learning how to scramble them sounds very do-able.

 

I live in Germany but we have Aldi and Lidl, too. We used to shop at the Aldi near where we live but they tore down the building and ever since there isn't one near us anymore. Then we switched to the other supermarket chain that's close to us but they have higher prices :/ Maybe if we got one of these bags that keep things cool, do you think that would keep everything fresh for 30+ minutes? Then we could probably manage switching back to Aldi or find a Lidl...

 

 

I like my eggs very well done and find scrambling eggs in the microwave gives them enough of a rubbery texture for my taste!

 

Yes, a cool bag will keep your food cool for around 2 hours - a bit longer if you have an ice block thingy in it.

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DD's favourite breakfast is egg muffin we saw recipie on BBC eat well for less.

Melt a little butter in a mug, (a few seconds in microwave) add an egg and splash of milk, whisk and pop in a little grated cheese. Cook for a minute and serve in a toasted muffin.

Delicious and keeps you going all morning especially if you use wholemeal muffin.

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Yes to all of the above suggestions.. Couscous is also very cheap and lasts for several days ( google couscous salad and I'm sure you'll find lots of ideas) x

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My DD seems to live on pasta (very cheap if you use chopped tomatoes as a sauce) You can then add whatever else you have in the fridge..... or jacket potatoes with beans, cheese or tuna.

 

It might also be worth investing in a slow cooker, you can get them for £20 or less now, throw in a bag of frozen veg, some chicken (you can also get cook from frozen chicken) chopped tomatoes and a few herbs and spices. This will give you a hot meal when you come in and can be portioned into tubs and frozen for another day.

 

For snacks I would go for yoghurts, rivita crackers or rice cakes. Look out for which ones are on offer. xx

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DD's favourite breakfast is egg muffin we saw recipie on BBC eat well for less.

Melt a little butter in a mug, (a few seconds in microwave) add an egg and splash of milk, whisk and pop in a little grated cheese. Cook for a minute and serve in a toasted muffin.

Delicious and keeps you going all morning especially if you use wholemeal muffin.

I saw that idea too - I love it! I do 2 eggs and no bread but I'm an adult who needs to lose weight not a student dancer!

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Peccopa, if it is available on amazon.de, there's a great book called "Nutrition for dancers" by Zerlina Mastin. It is mostly aimed at full-time dancers but has lots of ideas for healthy snacks and meal ideas too.

 

Everyone has given great advice above and all I'd add to it is to do some research on the Glycaemic Index of foods, which will give you an idea of foods and food combinations that have a lower GI and therefore release energy steadily over a longer period of time. This helps keep your blood sugar at steadier levels so that you won't have a sudden dip during class. Foods with a lower GI are more complex carbohydrates like brown rice, wholemeal or semi wholemeal pasta, rye or wholegrain bread instead of white bread - and so on. :)

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You can do so much with home made soups too. Especially if you look out for vegetables that are in the reduced shelf where the sell by date is soon/same day. You can cook, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, some other frozen veg then blend in a blender and freeze into portions.

 

If you have some space you could even think about growing your own vegetables such as carrots :)

 

Good luck

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If you'd like a source of iron without eating meat, as it can be very expensive if you buy free range, my DD takes a natural iron supplement in her drink (usually juice) every other morning:)

 

edited to add: she takes the spatone one

Edited by Primaballerina1
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A quick and easy cheap recipe to share that my DD loves is mince (buy cheap and drain off excess fat as cooking), boil up a load of broccoli. Cook lots of brown rice. Mix the broc in with the mince and a jar of Oyster sauce (not cheap but this will make asst least 4 meals for 1 dancer)

Drain the rice and make egg fried rice.

Serve.

Loads of iron and goodness in this and so easy. It's my fall back for rushed / hectic dance days :)

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we also use mince quite a lot, after cooking/draining you can add a tin of tomatoes and a pack of microwave savoury rice for a very quick cheats risotto. For a lower fat version you could use turkey mince and you can also add any other veg you have such as peppers/courgettes.

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I second the soup suggestion, especially in winter. I love a good sweet potato soup with Thai spices, for about £5 I can make enough soup for lunch for a week. There are some wonderful soup flasks available too so you can take soup with you as you go about your day. I think mine is a thermos one cost about £10 from Asda and holds enough for me to eat lunch and still have a little left for a late afternoon snack. Saved us loads of money on day trips out as we haven't needed to pay for expensive coffee shop lunches or restaurant meals.

 

Frozen diced chicken is a favourite in our house too as its so quick to use and can be added to anything, pasta, fajitas, grilled sandwiches. Equally frozen sliced peppers.

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A trick I learned as a poor student was to go to the supermarket at the end of the day when they reduce the price of both meat and fresh veg.  we used to buy up all the cheap carrots and make carrot & coriander soup in winter.  If you buy the reduced chicken and fish you can freeze it and use it all week. 

 

Now as a busy working mum, who is not always home before my daughter goes to dance, I have learned to batch cook and freeze.  Usually stuff like lasagne, chicken curry and Bolognese so my daughter can have a home cooked ready meal when she gets in from school and isn't dancing on an empty stomach.  Also if you batch cook it works out cheaper in the long run.

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Maybe if we got one of these bags that keep things cool, do you think that would keep everything fresh for 30+ minutes? Then we could probably manage switching back to Aldi or find a Lidl...

 

 

Unless it's very hot out a cool bag with frozen stuff in it will be fine. In the good old days we all used to walk/take the bus to and from the shops with our frozen products for at least that long. Put the sensitive stuff (ice cream, for example) in the centre and put stuff like frozen peas/carrots on top. The trick is to mass the frozen packages together so they keep each other cool.

 

"Nutrition for the Dancer" is pretty good, (and available second hand from Amazon.de for €10), but it does expect you to be able to cook. 

 

First thing: most of the conversation about organic/fresh/blah-de-blah food is irrelevant here. You can't afford it, you can't afford wastage, you can't afford the middle class angst that is associated with a it - better taste and minor tweaking of nutrients isn't your problem. So ignore it. Frozen is fine, get some basic fresh fruit in small quantities and that'll do. Some fresh salads would be nice to have too. 

 

Slow cooking sounds like a good idea, but the energy cost can be a problem if you're really tight for money. 

 

Don't drain the fat off meat - it contributes flavour and calories you can't afford to waste - you paid for that fat! Just make sure there's lots of veg to soak it up. Something like a bolognaise should be mostly tomatoes, celery and carrots. The point of a lot of that sort of peasant cooking is to stretch out expensive meat (bolognaise was originally a dish made with leftovers) with cheap vegetables and make the fat palatable. My current bolognaise - which serves as a place to hide veg for a 5 year old and an 8 year old - is probably 3/4 vegetables by volume and 1/4 meat. Make a big batch of that, serve with a sensible portion of pasta or rice or bread and you're doing pretty well. 

 

Don't despise things like frozen fish either. A couple of fish fingers, a tin of peas and some bread isn't a bad meal. 

 

If you want detailed advice, recipes etc, feel free to ask here or PM me. I still remember teaching myself to cook as a teenager.

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I'm sure my slow cooker allegedly costs the same to run as an (incandescent) lightbulb.

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I'm sure my slow cooker allegedly costs the same to run as an (incandescent) lightbulb.

 

 

<potters around Amazon for a while> 

 

Ah, there are two types of slow cooker - faster ones (like the one I have) and really slow ones, which take much longer to do any thing but have very low input. 

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A trick I learned as a poor student was to go to the supermarket at the end of the day when they reduce the price of both meat and fresh veg.  we used to buy up all the cheap carrots and make carrot & coriander soup in winter.  If you buy the reduced chicken and fish you can freeze it and use it all week. 

 

Now as a busy working mum, who is not always home before my daughter goes to dance, I have learned to batch cook and freeze.  Usually stuff like lasagne, chicken curry and Bolognese so my daughter can have a home cooked ready meal when she gets in from school and isn't dancing on an empty stomach.  Also if you batch cook it works out cheaper in the long run.

 

I am neither a poor student nor a working mum, but both of these tips form the absolute foundations of how I run my (busy single professional, at work all day, out most evenings) household.  Cooking for one gets time-consuming and expensive otherwise! :-)  The two principles are particularly satisfying when combined - that is, finding a kilo of mince or a big box of diced chicken thigh (or whatever) reduced to a couple of pounds just before closing time on a Sunday, and getting six or eight portions of chilli, curry, risotto out of it for the freezer!

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First thing: most of the conversation about organic/fresh/blah-de-blah food is irrelevant here. You can't afford it, you can't afford wastage, you can't afford the middle class angst that is associated with a it - better taste and minor tweaking of nutrients isn't your problem. So ignore it. Frozen is fine, get some basic fresh fruit in small quantities and that'll do. Some fresh salads would be nice to have too.

 

Slow cooking sounds like a good idea, but the energy cost can be a problem if you're really tight for money.

.

Hang on a minute - I may be the only one but I find your comment quite ill-placed and totally unnecessary. Several times in your post, you are contradicting or telling people to ignore advice kindly given by previous posters based on 'middle class angst', and using terms like 'peasants'. Regarding telling someone not to drain the fat off meat "because you paid for it" is not a helpful rule to live by, it is not a "minor tweaking of nutrients" and seeing as the OP has asked for advice on HEALTHY eating, for a young dancer it is responsible to heed advice regarding intake of saturated fats.

 

Furthermore - yes frozen vegetables are good, but they are often more expensive than fresh, especially if you go near the end of the day as other people have said. So many people believe that fresh fruit & veg is expensive but it really isn't! Agreed don't worry about paying extra for organic - but going to Aldi and filling up a basket of fresh veg for a few Euros or pounds is the way forward.

 

(I regularly "mix with the peasants" and get my fruit & veg from Lidl - it's a good job I go straight to yoga so I can work through the "middle class angst" it caused me.... ????)

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Besides I don't think any poster has advised organic food. It was mentioned in the OP but not by anyone else.

 

I agree that it's poor advice not to drain fat off. Healthy fats are needed. Saturated fat from mince etc is not.

 

And you can't get more working class origins than my family.

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