FOOD & DRINK

It’s the poorest day of the year but here’s how to last until pay-day

Be a savvy shopper if December left you feeling the pinch

Today is the ‘poorest day of the year’ apparently. For reasons we are about to outline, few would argue. If you couldn’t already tell by your bank balance and credit card statements, December was an excruciatingly expensive month for us all.

According to The Bank of England, the average UK family spends more than £3,000 in the month of December alone, leaving many out of pocket in the sombre month that follows. So, with a week-long stretch of January left to go, and post-Christmas bills starting to land, the last Friday before pay-day (January 24) is being dubbed the ‘poorest day of the year’. 

Financial expert Jasmine Birtles says: ‘‘January is one of those times when there’s too much month for your money, particularly if you were paid just before Christmas – that makes the reality of Christmas (over)spending really bite.

“So, to get to the end of the month without going too far into the red, make the most of what’s available at home and at the supermarket. Dive into wonderful seasonal vegetables, dumplings and hot, veggie soups to keep everyone well-fed on a tight budget.”

In the spirit of ‘in-it-togetherness’, and to showcase just how easily you can feed your family healthy, balanced and affordable meals right through from the ‘poorest day of the year’ to pay day, supermarket Aldi challenged busy mum, Natalie Lee (pictured), the Style Me on Sunday blogger, to feed her family of four for an entire week with a £25 budget in store.

This is less than the national average family weekly food shop which comes in at £60.60. Documenting how she got the most bang for her buck, Natalie shares creative inspiration aplenty for wholesome family meals, on a budget. 

Follow Natalie’s #Aldipoorestdaychallenge @stylemesunday.

Here are a couple of highlights from her week’s menu.

Natalie’s super quick and easy, cheap and delicious vegetable rice (serves 4):

Ingredients

250g easy cook rice (uncooked)  

500g frozen mixed veg

2 large eggs

Store cupboard essentials: A few turns of garlic granules

Store cupboard essentials: A good glug of soy sauce

Method

  1.  Cook the rice in boiling water and heat the vegetables on the stove
  2.  Combine the cooked rice and vegetables in a large frying pan with a splash of oil
  3.  Sprinkle a dash of the garlic granules and add those to the vegetable rice on a low heat
  4.  Crack and add two eggs and keep stirring until the eggs are combined and cooked through
  5.  Add a good glug of soy sauce and enjoy!

Chicken fajitas (serves 4):

 Ingredients

1 pack Ashfield Farm diced chicken breast

½ of each red, green and yellow peppers

½ bunch spring onions

1 475g pack Fiesta fajita dinner kit

1 ripe avocado

Juice ½ lime

½ tsp Stonemill chilli flakes

Couple of scoops of low-fat natural yoghurt

Store cupboard goods: A little sunflower oil

Method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 200⁰C/400⁰F/Gas Mark 6
  2.  Thinly slice the peppers discarding any white pith and seeds
  3.  Wash, trim and thinly slice the spring onions
  4.  Put all the above into a large bowl, with the chicken, add half the lime juice and mix together
  5.  Sprinkle over the fajita seasoning from the kit and mix well
  6.  Lightly grease a large baking tray
  7.  Spread the chicken and vegetable mix over the tray
  8.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes
  9.  Meanwhile make the avocado dip
  10.  Cut the avocado in half lengthways, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh
  11.  Put the avocado into a bowl, mash the flesh with a fork then add the yoghurt, the rest of the lime juice and the chilli flakes then mix well
  12.  Warm the tortillas in the oven
  13.  To make up the fajitas put some of the salsa from the kit on each tortilla, then add some of the chicken and vegetables
  14.  Roll up and serve alongside the avocado dip
Chicken or vegetable soup with wholemeal bread

Natalie’s meal plan

Monday: Breakfast: smoothie. Lunch: eggs/avocado on toast. Dinner: vegetable rice

Tuesday: Breakfast: porridge. Lunch: rice, chicken and mixed peppers. Dinner: halloumi and asparagus kebabs

Wednesday: Breakfast: cereal. Lunch: meatballs and leftover vegetables. Dinner: chicken fajitas 

Thursday: Breakfast: cereal. Lunch: vegetable soup and bread. Dinner: pasta, olive oil and garlic granules.

Friday: Breakfast: smoothie. Lunch: omelette and salad. Dinner: spaghetti and pesto sauce 

Saturday: Breakfast: smoked salmon and eggs. Lunch: baked beans on toast. Dinner:  chicken, asparagus, potatoes

Sunday: Breakfast: eggs and chilli flakes on toast. Lunch/Dinner: Sunday roast.

Natalie’s one-week Aldi shopping basket contained

Large eggs, blueberries, frozen mixed veg, avocado, soft wholemeal bread, Scottish porridge oats, Specially Selected pesto, Everyday Essentials spaghetti;

Wholewheat pasta, chicken breast fillets, diced chicken breast, cereal, vegetable soup, roasting potatoes, 5% fat beef meatballs, easy-cook rice, iceberg lettuce;

Whole chicken, low fat natural yoghurt, baked beans, halloumi, red chilli, asparagus, lime, chili flakes, fajita kit, spring onions and mixed peppers.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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