Category Archives: Dinners under 600 calories

Garlic Butter Chicken

This simple dinner is incredibly tasty and easy to make, and both cheap and satisfying.

Garlic Butter Chicken

  • 500g Farm Foods Frozen Mini chicken breasts.
  • 30g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
  • 5ml olive oil.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into chips.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g broccoli.
  • 5 cloves of garlic.
  • 20ml of olive oil.

Heat the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and the olive oil in a large frying pan, crush and add the garlic (you can use less if you want a more mild flavour). The olive oil is important as it helps to prevent the spread from burning, by increasing it’s smoke point. Once the garlic is starting to brown, add the frozen chicken mini breasts, and gently fry. These will take around 35-40 minutes to cook, unless you chop them into smaller pieces as they cook. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Put the broccoli and carrots on to cook. Allow 30-35 minutes if steaming, or 25 if boiling. Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil all over the chips. I use a basket called a ‘quick chip’ to cook our chips like this, but you can use whatever baking tray, rack or pan that you have. Pop into the middle of a preheated oven at 180 degrees, for 30 minutes, checking a couple of times to make sure they don’t over cook. If using a pan rather than a rack, you will need to turn the chips about half way through.

Once the chicken is all starting to cook (and hence no longer frozen), it can help to cut it smaller. I do it by lifting it from the pan with a fork and cutting with a pair of kitchen shears. This saves dirtying an extra chopping board, and keeps the clutter down.

The chicken is cooked when all of the meat is white or brown-there should be no pink remaining at all. Once cooked, serve immediately with the chips and the veggies.

When prepared as described, this meal has a total of 576 calories, and costs £3.50 in all-just 88p per serving. Adapt for baby-led weaning by using unsalted light butter instead of the spread.

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Gammon and Mash

Gammon and mash always feels Christmassy to me, no matter what time of year it is served. It was always our boxing day meal when I was growing up, served with pickled onions and veg. So it’s kept a certain comforting feel to it, that always serves to cheer me up.

Though it has a long cooking time, it is relatively easy to do, needing only topping up with water regularly. The meat can be served hot or cold, however you prefer.

Gammon and Mash

  • 1 small unsmoked gammon joint, 750g (£2.99 Aldi).
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into boiling chunks (80p worth taken from a 2.5kg bag, Aldi).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (99p, Aldi).
  • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light (taken from a 1kg tub, 8p worth).
  • Pickled onions (Taken from a 440g jar Asda Smart Price, 12p worth).

Place the gammon in a pan that is big enough to hold it, plus enough boiling water to cover it. Cover the pan with the lid and leave to boil gently. Don’t have the heat too high or the water will boil over.

Cooking times vary by the weight of the joint. Allow 20 minutes for ever 450g, plus an extra 20 minutes on top. This is the minimum cooking time. Personally, we like our gammon to be really tender and so I cooked the 750g joint on a low boil for almost two hours.

Gammon is an incredibly salty joint, and though some people like that, others prefer it to be a little less so. Changing the water that you are boiling the joint in 1-2 times during the cooking will help to reduce how salty it is.

Put your potatoes on to boil 30 minutes before serving time. Put your frozen veggies on to cook 25 minutes before serving time if using a steamer-20 minutes if boiling in water.

Once the meat is cooking, remove it from the pan and drain. Cut into chunks by carving, or pulling the meat apart. Drain and mash the potatoes with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and remove the veggies from the steamer, or the pan of water and drain.

Serve altogether with some sweet pickled onions.

The total cost of this meal was £5, or £1.25 per serving. Per serving there were just 581 calories. Very waistline conscious!

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Nice and Easy-Hot dogs, 70p Per Person!

To finish up day 5 of the challenge we decided on an easy option. In short, we’d been busy all day and needed to cut our time in the kitchen. So we chose to have hot dogs and veggies, and an early night.

Hot Dogs and Veggies

  • 1 pack of six large finger rolls (80p).
  • 1 jar of 8 bratwurst style hot dogs (£1).
  • 1 bag of frozen veggies (99p).
  • Ketchup.

The veggies were steamed in the steamer for 25 minutes, as normal. We boiled the sausages for about 8 minutes to ensure that they were safely heated. Hot dogs are a big source of listeria, so safe heating is essential.

We split the rolls and serve the sausages on them, with the extra two sausages being split down the middle and served on the adult’s rolls. 1.5 rolls per person were served.

The total cook time was 25 minutes, with less than 5 minutes prep time. Total cost was just £2.79, or 70p per person.

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Stuffed Pasta and Veggies

Tonight I needed to make dinner in a flash. We had been busy all day so I had no time-a prime candidate for a take away night! However with the tight budget, that wasn’t going to happen, so I chose instead to do our easiest meal.

The pasta is ready made, the sauce is from a jar and the veggies are frozen. 20 minutes from freezer to table, and clean up is quick and easy.

Pasta and Veggies

  • 2 packets Danielli stuffed pasta (Lidl).
  • 1 jar Combinio onion and garlic pasta sauce (Lidl).
  • 1 bag frozen floret mix (Lidl).
  • Boil as kettle of water, add to pan (this is faster than boiling on the stove). Add veggies and bring back to boil. Boil for 10 minutes, add pasta. Leave to cook for 4-5 more minutes, and drain.

    While veggies and pasta are draining, heat sauce in the pan. Add back veggies and pasta and stir. Serve immediately.

    20 minutes and one pan to serve a meal that is significantly healthier than take away, and costs less too. With under 450 calories per serving, and a cost of £3.76 (94p per serving) for the meal, take away stops being the easiest option!

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    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice

    Dinner tonight will be a quick and easy fix. The chicken was cooked two days ago in the slow cooker, a chicken joint that gave us enough meat for three meals. That means that all that I have to cook is the rice and veggies, and warm the meat, beans and sauce through.

    Arguably, I could make a better, healthier Spanish chicken from scratch, using herbs and spices to taste. Unfortunately, I don’t have the spices needed for this in my pantry, and I can’t afford the buy them with our budget as it currently is. This ready made sauce jar cost just 79p, and is quick and easy to use, needing no prep and no cooking, no blending or spices, no experimenting to get a nice flavour. When paired up with the already cooked and chopped chicken, and a bag of frozen vegetables, it makes a quick and cheap dinner that should be a hit with the family.

    I have to admit to being a huge fan of such easy, cheap meals!

    Easy Spanish Chicken and Rice 

    • 250g pre-cooked chicken (left over from an earlier meal).
    • 1 can red kidney beans (Asda Smart Price, or equivalent shop own brand).
    • 1 bag of frozen vegetables (such as Lidl floret mix).
    • 300g of white rice (Aldi, or Asda Smart Price brand or similar).
    • 1 jar of Aldi Chicken Delight Spanish Chicken sauce.

    Put your bag of vegetables in to cook the steamer or a pan of boiling water. Add your rice to a pan with hot water according to the instructions on the packet-commonly with twice the amount of water as rice. Cook vegetables for about 30 minutes in the steamer, or 20 minutes in the water, or until done to your liking.  Cook rice until nice and soft, 12-15 minutes.

    Put the chicken and beans in a pan with the jar of sauce to heat while the vegetables and rice cook. Allow to heat together on a medium heat until piping hot-at least five minutes. Serve the Spanish chicken over rice, with the vegetables.

    Per serving, this meal costs just 96p, and has 537 calories approximately. Adding corn adds another 58 calories per person per 80g serving, but is delicious (and is how we did it!).  Day three of our budget challenge is over, we’re almost at the half way mark!

    If you wanted to adapt this for baby-led weaning, you would likely want to take the baby’s portion of chicken and beans out before the jar of sauce is added. As an alternative, a little tomato puree could be added so that baby has a sauce and their meal looks the same. As most baby-led weaning families will know, this is essential for stopping baby demanding your dinner instead!

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    Sausage and Mash

    I’m sure that most children growing up in the UK in the last forty or fifty years will have looked forward to the nights when they were served sausage and mash. The Dinner Mama household is no different, with my children both loving this simple dinner.

    While it’s quick and easy to make, the calorie count is good enough to not scare most people. Perhaps the biggest benefit however is the cost, with a family of four being served for just £3.

    Sausage and Mash

    • 1 packet of 8 pork sausages (Aldi).
    • 1 bag of frozen floret mix (1kg bag, Aldi).
    • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
    • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.

     

    Peel potatoes and chop into evenly sized pieces. Put into a large pan and cover with water, put onto boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. Put frozen veggies in a steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam for 30 minutes or until done to your liking. If boiling, allow around 20 minutes.

    Place sausages under a high grill, or on the cooking plates of a stand alone grill (such as a George Foreman). Prick to allow the fat to drain out, and cook until golden brown all over, turning frequently.

    Mash the potatoes in with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and serve with the veggies and two sausages per person. When prepared as directed, this meal has 593 calories per serving. Each serving costs just 75p, making this a cheap and easy go to meal!

    This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using salt free butter in the mash and slicing the sausages down the middle lengthwise. Day two of the challenge is complete, 6 meals down, 15 more to go!

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    Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (500 Calories)

    I tend to buy the biggest chicken that I can find when I’m shopping, because it works out the best value for my money. This week, with the budget being more challenging than normal, I’ve decided to cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker instead of the oven, in the hopes of losing less to drying, and because a slow cooked chicken tends to literally fall apart, allowing you to get more from the carcass.

    Cooked in the slow cooker, the chicken needs little to no attention and so will not take up much of your day. The vegetables tonight are frozen, as these are cheaper than buying fresh. The almost certainly will not look as appealing as the fresh varieties, but are far easier to use and cook as there is no prep needed. Allow 200-250g per person, and remember that they generally don’t take as long to cook as fresh vegetables would.

    Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Dinner

    • 1 Large Chicken (around 2.2kg).
    • 1.1kg of potatoes (peeled weight).
    • 1kg bag of frozen floret mix frozen vegetables.
    • 40g of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light

    Line the slow cooker with a double layer of tin foil. This isn’t essential but is a really useful step to take, as it allows you to use the foil to lift the chicken out. When cooked it will be so tender it will be literally falling apart, so trying to remove it with forks is likely to be difficult, if not essential. Preheat the slow cooker on high, and place the chicken in it, on top of the foil. Do not add any liquid. The chicken will produce lots of it’s own when cooking.

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    Allow to cook on high for one hour. This brings the meat up to temperature more quickly, a precaution that though possibly not necessary, I prefer to take with poultry. Turn down to low, and cook for a further five to six hours. Turn to warm if the chicken is cooked thoroughly too early. You can check by piercing through the thickest part of the meat-the thigh-and check the colour of the juices that run out. If they are clear, it’s cooked. If they are pink or red, give it more time (on high).

    Once fully cooked, the chicken should be gently lifted from the cooker using the foil, and left to rest for ten minutes. I wrapped the foil around it and used this to turn the chicken over, to help the breast stay moist.

    Put potatoes on to boil, and add the frozen veg to the steamer about half an hour before serving the chicken. The chicken can be carved as the potatoes and veggies cook. You may find that the chicken is too tender to carve easily, in which case it may be better to simply pull the meat from the bones, in chunks. Take care to ensure that any small bones are removed.

    Boil the potatoes until soft, then mash with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Serve the mash and veggies with 50g of breast meat, and 45g of dark meat (from the thighs, drum sticks and so on) per person.

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    When cooked as prepared, this meal provides 500 calories per person, and costs 91p per serving. Gravy can be added, at 15 calories extra per person for Bisto.

    This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using unsalted butter, or milk instead of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light to make the mashed potatoes.

    3 meals down, 18 more to go and day 1 of the budget challenge is over!

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    Roast Chicken Dinner, Under 500 Calories!

    There’s nothing as comforting as a lovely Sunday roast dinner, but it is possibly improved by it being less than 500 calories per serving. Even the most restricted calorie diet can make room for this comfort food.

    With 100g of chicken per portion, a good serving of mashed potato and steamed broccoli and carrots to boot, there’s no need to go hungry.

    Roast Chicken Dinner

    • 1 large whole chicken, without giblets. I used a 2.23kg chicken from Aldi, giving us enough meat for three meals from the one joint.
    • 950g potatoes (peeled weight).
    • 400g carrots (peeled weight).
    • 400g fresh broccoli.
    • 20g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
    • 4 heaped tsp Bisto original.
    • 280ml boiling water.

    Unwrap the chicken and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels and throw them away. Place the chicken in a roasting tray in the middle of a preheated oven at 190 degrees. My preference is to start the cooking with the chicken upside down, standing on the breast. I turn it to breast up half way through the cooking, as this helps to stop the breast from drying out too much, and so keeps the breast nice and moist.

    The roasting time will differ depending on the size of the chicken. It needs 20 minutes per pound of weight, plus an extra 20 minutes. Chickens are normally sold by the kilogram these days so you’ll need to work out the cooking time. There are approximately 450g per pound, so a 1.6kg chicken will take about 95 minutes to cook.

    Peel and chop your carrots, and chop the broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the potatoes into small chunks for boiling. About 20 minutes before the chicken is due to come out you need to start steaming both veggies-they will need 30-45 minutes cooking time. Start the potatoes boiling once the vegetables are on.

    When the chicken is roasted take it out and allow it to rest for about five minutes in a warm place. Carve or pull the meat from the carcass as you prefer and place on a serving plate. Add the boiling water to the Bisto granules in a jug and stir well. We personally like to use less water for a thicker gravy. We also enjoy making the gravy from the meat juices in the roasting pan, however this pushes up the calorie count for the meal so we don’t often do it.

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    Mash the potatoes once cooked, with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and serve with the cooked vegetables. Serve 50g of breast meat and 50g of dark to each person, and 50ml of gravy.

    When made and served as directed, each portion has a tiny 479 calories per portion. Good enough for a Sunday roast every day! The entire meal costs less than £3.50 (assuming three meals from a 2.2kg chicken), which is 88p per serving.

    To adapt for baby-led weaning, simply mash baby’s potatoes with unsalted butter instead, and don’t serve them any gravy.

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    Fajitas, Salad and Healthy Coleslaw

    Tonight is going to be a ‘use it up’ kind of a night. There’s a half a head of savoy cabbage in the fridge awaiting inspiration, and a tray of turkey breast steaks that I keep meaning to use. The only dinner ideas for those that I can match up on this dull and overcast morning, is turkey breast fajitas and a healthy, low fat coleslaw.

    Coleslaw, as delicious as it is, just isn’t that healthy. With a large measure of mayonnaise in it, it normally has both a high fat and calorie content, as well as having additional delights such as sugar.

    This recipe uses an extra light mayonnaise, that is incredibly low in both fat and calories, and mustard (rather than sugar) to give some flavour to the dressing. Natural sweetness comes from the carrot rather than from a refined sugar, and with it only having a small amount of raw onion there isn’t that strong flavour to need to cover.

    Turkey breast is an excellent choice for a fajita. With a flavour similar to chicken, the difference is minimal once seasoned in the fajita. The nutritional content is good too, being lower in fat than chicken, and having a higher iron content too. For simplicity I use a fajita kit.

    Low Fat Coleslaw

    • 1 small white onion.
    • 2 medium carrots, grated.
    • half a head of cabbage-white or green.
    • 6 tbsp Lighter Than Light Mayonnaise (or the Aldi own brand equivalent).
    • 1 tsp of mustard
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Chop the cabbage and onion as finely as you can manage, and grate the carrot. Mix together in a large bowl.

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    Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, and seasoning together and add the cabbage, onion and carrot mix. Stir well to coat all of the vegetables in the dressing.

    Turkey Breast Fajitas

    • 450g Asda turkey breast steaks.
    • 1 red pepper.
    • 1 small white onion.
    • 4-5 chopped mushrooms.
    • Fiesta fajita kit (Aldi).
    • 1 bag Lidl sweet and crunchy salad.
    • 120g grate light mature cheddar.

    Follow cooking instructions on the packet and serve with coleslaw and 80g of salad. The fajitas can be adapted for baby-led weaning by not adding the seasoning until after the veggies are cooked. Remove the baby’s portion and then add seasoning. The salsa can be substituted for tomato puree, keeping it nice and mild. Pair this with either the salad or some steamed veggies for a perfect dinner for a baby or toddler.

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    Budget Burgers and Healthy Pumpkin Soup

    Tonight’s dinner was bought as a balance of budget, and flavour, but also to meet our calorie requirements. There are cheaper burgers available for sure, but the flavour may not be so good, and they are far more likely to contain more fat and so be higher in calories.

    The soup is the result of a play afternoon with my son. The pumpkin was bought for him to play with as he loves pumpkins (he’s not even 2 yet so he has no preconceptions over what should and shouldn’t be a toy). It was then cut up for messy play, letting him play with the ‘guts’ of the pumpkin, while I chopped and peeled the flesh. There’s nothing more budget pleasing than getting so much out of something as simple as a pumpkin. It isn’t a typical, large carving pumpkin, but the smaller type as they are generally sweeter and nicer to eat. They are on sale in most shops for £1 each at the moment.

    Most pumpkin soups call for the addition of heavy cream, butter, sherry, or a range of other items that drive the calories up. This recipe instead makes a tasty and healthy soup that uses a fresh, in season item without the need for extras that make it less healthy. What’s more it’s dairy free, a bonus for those who love pumpkin soup but who can’t have eat dairy.

    Healthy Pumpkin Soup

    • 1 small pumpkin.
    • 1 large carrot.
    • 1 medium onion.
    • 3-4 cloves of garlic, to taste.
    • 2 vegetable OXO cubes.
    • 500ml of boiling water.
    • 10ml of olive oil.
    • Seasoning and herbs to taste.

    Remove the seeds and the stringy inner from your pumpkin, and either scoop out the flesh from the skin, or chop the pumpkin and peel. Peeling is easier, but scooping is more fun with kids in the house!

    Peel and roughly chop the carrot, and chop the onion. Gently fry the onion and the crushed garlic in a large pan in the olive oil for a few minutes, until the onion is soft. Add the carrot and the pumpkin and turn down the heat-fry for a few minutes more.

    Add the OXO to the water in a large jug and stir well. Pour into the pan and bring to the boil before turning down to simmer. Cook for around 35-40 minutes, when the pumpkin and carrot should both be soft. Remove from the heat and blend using a hand blender, taking care to make sure that you don’t get splashed with hot soup. It hurts. Believe me.

    Add your chosen seasoning. I use half a tradingl teaspoon of tikka spice blend, and a large punch of thyme, though chili goes very well with this soup, as do coriander, fresh chilies,  paprika, and others that you are daring enough to try.

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    This is the cooked soup, before blending. As you can see, it’s darker than it should be. I used beef instead of vegetable stock, which you can try for some variety.

    To adapt the soup for baby-led weaning swap the OXO for Kallo Organic low salt stock cubes and avoid spices that may make the soup too hot.

    Burgers and Veg

    This is almost so simple that it doesn’t need explaining, but is included for completion and for the calorie count.

    • 1 pack of Lidl Strathvale quarter pounder burgers.
    • 4 Kingsmill wholemeal bread rolls.
    • 200g peeled, chopped carrots.
    • 200g chopped fresh broccoli.
    • Sauce to taste.

    Grill the burgers till cooked through and serve on a bun. A George Foreman style grill is wonderful for maximizing the fat drainage, reducing the calories further, whilst being really easy to use.

    Steam the vegetables until cooked, and serve with the burgers. There, easy as pie.

    When made as described the burgers and veg come in at just 474 calories. Sauce on the burger will of course add calories, but there are some healthier choices that won’t cost so many calories. Helman’s Lighter than Light mayonnaise for instance is only 10 calories for 15g (a small tablespoon full). The soup is another 67 calories for a grand total of 541 calories. And if you want a more filling meal with just the burgers and veggies, serve more veggies and omit the soup starter.

    The best bit about this meal is that it costs just 63p per serving for the burger and veg, and the soup costs 38p per serving, totalling £1.01 per person. Double the veg and forget the soup and it costs just 75p each. That’s my favourite kind of a dinner.

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