Twisted team share hacks to make mid-week meals easy and affordable

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We all have a few comforting meals in our back pockets to whack out on a weeknight, when we need some instant nourishment. 

However, in the current cost of living crisis, even those go-tos may not feel quite as accessible as they once did. Purse strings are tight for many of us at the moment, and understandably, we don’t always want to buy loads of new ingredients or labour over a stove for each and every meal. 

But don’t fear, we’ve got a secret…there’s nothing wrong with cheating a little bit sometimes. 

Yup, more often than not there’s a cheeky way to make your mid-week dinner even more simple and affordable, whether that’s by twisting the leftovers into something fabulous, tweaking the way you cook it or swapping in ingredients to minimise food waste.

Want some inspiration? From Chilli Con Carne to Bangers and Mash, check out some of our mid-week dinner hacks, to get you started: 

Senior Writer, Joanna – Bangers and mash

“Bangers and mash is already a pretty low effort, purse friendly dinner option, but there are still a few tweaks you can make to this dish if you’re feeling the pinch. 

First off, you can trim some time off the cooking of your spuds by popping them in the microwave for five-eight minutes instead of boiling them (which can take 15 to 20 minutes). Then just mash and mix with butter and cheese (if you want), and season to taste. Voila! Your mash will be ready in no time at all.

Got some milk that needs using up? You can whack that in instead of butter and it adds a lovely creaminess. 

As for the most important part.. the gravy. Most of us don’t want to be spending ages stirring a homemade gravy on a Tuesday night, which is why you should always have a trusty store-cupboard gravy (like Bisto’s Chicken Gravy Granules) to depend upon. 

Not only is this ready to be drizzled onto your meal in mere seconds, it also offers an instant and affordable umami boost with absolutely no faff. Truth be told, many of my mid-week dinners have been saved by a tub of Bisto.” 

bangers and mash

Bangers and mash can be your mid-week saviour (Credit: Alamy)

Twisted Green Brand Lead, Mia – Pasta Bake

“I’m always up for a bowl of pasta any night of the week, and my go-to is the humble pasta bake. Great value and super speedy, it saw me through university and is still my absolute favourite, especially after a long day at work when I’ve used up (most of) my creative juices. 

I’d typically opt for gnocchi for ultimate comfort. With an affordable and good quality sauce going in (I like Lloyd Grossman’s Tomato and Chilli Sauce), you don’t have to worry about having all the fresh tomatoes, chillies and onions to hand, saving a trip out for more ingredients.

Simply coat the bottom of a baking dish with the spicy tomato sauce then tip in your gnocchi. The beauty of a pasta bake is that you can really customise it with anything you have lying around the fridge that might otherwise go to waste. If you’ve got some wrinkly peppers, broccoli, mushrooms or courgette they can all go in, too. 

This’ll make the meal go even further and packs some more veg into your meal – win, win. We should all be trying to avoid wasting fruit and veg where possible (after all, it’s not only bad for the environment but for our purses, too). A pasta sauce always offers a solution to this. 

To finish, I top the gnocchi with some more sauce, any herbs I have lingering in the fridge and a lovely handful of vegan cheese, if I’ve got some open. Then, bake and enjoy! 

Creative Culinary Lead, Hugh – Chicken Curry

“Ah, chicken curry – in my eyes there’s no better mid-week dinner. Obviously, with time on your side, making a curry paste by hand can be hugely rewarding, but I’ll let you into a secret…using a jarred curry sauce (I like Sharwood’s Tikka Masala Sauce) can also be an affordable time and mess saver, whilst still offering that authentic and exciting flavour. 

That jarred sauce is an old friend that can help you simplify your cooking when you’re in a rush or low on ingredients. It also means no more tedious peeling and then finely mincing garlic, ginger and onion only to discover you’ve either run out of ground spices or for some reason have five tubs of ginger and basically nothing else. Sometimes, that jar of sauce offers a handy alternative to forking out to stock up half of your spice cupboard. 

You can simply add chicken to the sauce or get creative and add some tinned chickpeas or veg you might have lurking in the cupboard – waste not want not, curry sauce is a great vehicle for a fridge raid dinner! 

Once you’ve made your curry, what’s best is the potential for leftovers. You can add a dollop of any remaining curry sauce into some mayonnaise for the obligatory next day curried chicken sandwiches with cucumber, mango chutney and shredded chicken. Before you know it, your chicken curry has taken on a whole new life. 

You can also use some of the remaining chicken pieces and layer them with fried onions to make a fragrant biryani. Grab a wrap and use leftover rice and remaining curry to make an Indian version of a burrito for lunch the next day. The possibilities are endless! Love your leftovers!

It’s amazing how far one of these jars will go…”

chickpea sweet potato curry

Need a curry in a hurry? (Credit: Premier Foods)

Senior Food Producer, Seren – Chilli Con Carne

“Chilli Con Carne is the ULTIMATE weeknight meal; spicy, tasty, easy to make and most importantly, affordable. 

It has the classic elements of comfort food – mainly that it’s slow cooked and tastes like home – but if you’re in a rush, you can get creative with how you cook your chilli con carne. For instance, throwing your chilli in a slow cooker at the start of the day offers fantastic results (and it means way less legwork before dinner time!)

Whilst some recipes will call for loads of herbs and spices, the truth is you can simplify a chilli con carne and max out flavour with just a few store cupboard ingredients you probably already have to hand –  a splash of coffee, a few sprinkles of cocoa and of course OXO cubes! 

All three of these ingredients are complete flavour bombs, and in particular beef stock OXO cubes add so much depth and richness to the dish without having to go wild with expensive extras or stew your chilli on the hob for ages to achieve the same depth (a reliable but time consuming option).

Chilli con carne is also a dish that is really easy to adjust depending on what you have available in your pantry or fridge, adding any assortment of beans, extra herbs, a rogue chilli you might have laying around. Chuck it all in! 

With these hacks, it’s a cost-effective dinner that can always be relied upon”.

chilli con carne

Hack your chilli with these simple tips (Credit: Alamy)