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Winter Fuel on a Shoestring

By: Cara Frost-Sharratt - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Winter Fuel Shoestring Cheap Nutritious

As summer becomes a distant memory and you need full thermal gear and some serious patio heaters to even consider sitting in the beer garden of your local pub it's time to think about some good, old-fashioned hearty food. Colds, flu and other unsavoury germs spread like wildfire amongst students and a good diet can really help to build your immune system so you're better able to fight the bugs. A bowl of chicken casserole or a fiery chilli will also warm you up on those chilly evenings in draughty houses with ancient and decrepit boilers.

Penny Pinching

Hearty, warming food doesn't mean spending more money. Often, winter meals can work out costing less as you can cook in bulk and you'll be using lots of seasonal home-produced root vegetables and pulses, which really won't break the bank. Many soups and stews are also very easy to prepare and can be easily adapted to suit the contents of your cupboard.

For example, you can make a quick veggie soup with any vegetables you happen to have at home.

  • Boil them in a large saucepan with plenty of water;
  • add a veggie stock cube or some tomato purée for flavour.
  • Add some fresh or dried herbs and season well.
  • When the vegetables are cooked, you can either blitz everything in a blender or food processor, or mash it with a potato masher for a coarser consistency.
  • Add a little more water if it's too thick.
  • Now you can store the soup in a container in the fridge and just heat up a portion whenever you're peckish - simple!

Feeling Chilli?

Nothing quite gets the blood going on a freezing winter night like a bowl of chilli con carne. Get everyone in the house to chip in a few pounds and you can enjoy a real feast. Here's a really quick, foolproof recipe that will serve about 4 people:


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 red or green chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped (depending on how hot you want it!)
  • 500g minced beef
  • 2 x 425g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 425g can kidney beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • Boiled rice, to serve
  • Soured cream, to serve
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened. Add the pepper and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes.
  2. Add the mince to the pan and fry until it browns, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let the chilli simmer gently for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce has reduced down.
  4. Add the kidney beans to the chilli about 10 minutes before the end and stir well.
  5. Serve with boiled rice and a dollop of soured cream on top of each portion.

Other Ideas

There are plenty more really easy ideas for hearty winter meals throughout the site but it's also good to think about what you have at home and then work out recipes to fit. Chicken is perfect for casseroles, as is lamb. Lentils work really well in slow-cooked recipes and they're a cheap but substantial food that can take a lot of other flavours. Look out for special offers then cook in bulk and freeze any extra for another time.

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