Warm Meals on a Budget

It's always important to eat well and budget sensibly. Here are some seasonal suggestions for what to cook this autumn that will taste delicious and won't cost you a fortune! One of the great advantages of cooking seasonal food is that it is often far cheaper than buying expensive imported fruit and vegetables.

Furthermore, it is also a great feeling to support your local growers and reduce long distance transportation of products. This autumn, try and get the most from using potatoes, beans, squash and apples. Here are a few fun menu suggestions for some autumn family classics that won't push you over budget!

Soup Sensations

When you can start to feel a bite in the air, pardon the pun, it's undoubtedly time to find a nice large cooking pot and make some soup. There is nothing more homely than to serve up a nice bowl of healthy soup, and it's even better and more satisfying when it doesn't have to cost much and can make lots of portions.

Let's start off by suggesting an absolute classic, a French Onion soup. This standard can be highly flavoured and it will appeal to the vegetarian or vegan members of the family. The really fantastic thing about this particular soup is that onions are cheap and always readily available. The main trick is to caramelize the onions to produce the most wonderful balance of sweet and savoury flavours. It is truly a great budget soup as there are no expensive ingredients to buy, and it provides a taste that delights on a cold autumn evening. Don't forget to use up any old bread and make a few croutons, then close your eyes and you could be in Paris!

To Bean or Not to Bean

Another fantastic staple now the temperatures allows it is of course a bean soup. The variety of tinned and dried beans means that this is affordable and very simple to knock together. Traditionally bean soups are eaten all across the world and classics like the Jokai Bean Soup from Hungary combines smoked pork, sweet paprika and pinto beans. The wonderful thing about this kind of meal is that all you need to be in a kind of foodie heaven is a nice slice of fresh bread and maybe add a spoon or two of sour cream! Let's not forget there are also varieties of classic bean soups from Italy and France that are equally deserving of your attention.

Get a Pulse (Or Two)

Naturally, we must not forget the wonderful possibilities we have when soaking a few lentils. High in fibre and rich in protein, red, brown or even the yellow split pea provide chefs with so many opportunities for a hearty supper. How about trying red lentil and tomato soup, when you can add plenty of garlic and chilli to spice up this classic use of pulses. Adding turmeric to this soup just enhances the rich shades of orange to this autumnal staple.

Casseroles and Hot Pots

This is a great time of year to dig out your casserole pot or slow cooker and combine all the best that the season has to offer. One perennial autumn favourite is a butternut squash casserole cooked in a slow cooker or in a ceramic pot. With the addition of a generous amount of tomatoes, onions and a few kidney beans, this is both filling and nutritious. Why not add a few Indian spices to this dish, like coriander, turmeric and chilli, which not only taste great but will help fight off those seasonal coughs and colds. Naturally, hot pots vary enormously, from a Lancashire hot pot with stewing lamb and a splash of Worcestershire sauce to an Irish stew. The great thing about this kind of slow cooking is that once you've got things under way you really can relax and get on and select a nice wine to accompany all those rich flavours.

Apples 'n' Pears

One thing is for sure, apples are a vital part autumn’s classic dishes. There are ample choices of apple deserts if you have a few kilos of apples at home. It's time to get in tune with the pastry chef within and make a family favourite apple pie with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg or, perhaps, go for a more upmarket French style apple tart. As they say in cockney rhyming slang, after all this food, you will need to go up the 'apples and pears’, or rather your 'stairs' to bed and sleep off all these autumn delights. But seriously, why not substitute pears for apples and have a tasty change with the best of the season's flavours!