Mum-to-be reveals how batch-cooking has helped her clear £16,000 of debt in a YEAR

A savvy mother-to-be has revealed how she cooks up to six weeks’ worth of meals for as little as 87p per portion.

Grainne McNamee, 34, from Belfast, recently spent two days batch cooking 75 meals for herself and her husband Ryan, meaning the couple are all set for the rest of January and well into February. 

The savvy cook uses a £69 hamper from an online budget meat retailer and uses the produce to whip up meals from scratch.  

Since batch cooking, Grainne and Ryan’s food shop bill has fallen from £500 a month to around £200. 

The couple have been living frugally for around 18 months after rejigging their finances in order to pay off £16,000 of debt in one year, ahead of becoming parents. 

Grainne McNamee, from Belfast, spent two days batch cooking 75 meals for herself and her husband Ryan, meaning the couple are all set for the rest of January and well into February

How Grainne used her Musclefood hamper to create 75 portions of food 
Product Meals Portions 
Chicken breastChicken breast Chicken soup / shwarma / BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potato  28 
Minced beef Chilli/spaghetti Bolognese 12 
Steaks Fajita bowl/stir fry 
Bacon Bacon and egg breakfast muffins 
Peri Peri Chicken Peri Peri chicken wraps 
Sausages Roasted sausages with marinara 
Gammon Gammon with pineapple salsa and veg 
Chicken burgers Chicken burgers and sweet potato wedges 
Meatballs Meatball bake 
Hache steaksHache steak and chips 
Protein pots  

The tasty dishes included Thai chicken soup, steak stir fry and BBQ chicken stuffed sweet potato – and she sourced the ingredients from musclefood.com’s New Year Super Lean Hamper.

Grainne, who is seven months pregnant with her first child, explained how planning and batch cooking meals has been financially beneficial to her and her growing family.

‘Planning meals each month and batch cooking them over a couple of days was one of the first things I did when I started to pay off our debts and it’s something I still do now,’ she told FEMAIL.

‘The savings I make are incredible – I still surprise myself sometimes at how little I can cook up a portion for, yet the meals are tasty, nutritious and as good as anything you’d order in a restaurant or from a takeaway.’ 

Grainne’s thrifty meal plan 

ROASTED SAUSAGE AND VEGETABLES WITH MARINARA 

400g tinned tomatoes 29p

3 small brown onions 15p

1 tsp dried basil 2p

1 tsp dried oregano 2p

1 tsp smoked paprika 2p

2 tbsp lemon juice 5p

1 tsp sugar 2p

3 small red onions 15p

3 mixed peppers 99p

8 cherry tomatoes 15p

6 musclefood pork sausages 98p

1 tbsp rapeseed oil 2p

1 tsp salt and pepper 2p

Sprinkle chilli flakes 1p

TOTAL COST: £2.89

SERVINGS: 2

COST PER SERVING: £1.44

Along the way, Grainne has come up with ways to make meals go further including bulking out mince with carrots and using frozen veg to pad out a dish

 THAI CHICKEN SOUP

2 musclefood chicken breasts £2.24

2 chicken stock cubes 7p

250ml coconut milk 45p

Bulb garlic 17p

100g ginger 35p

3 limes 60p

1 lemon 20p

2 chillies 30p

20g fresh coriander 15p

100g cabbage 20p

3 carrots 16p

75ml fish sauce 15p

400g rice noodles £1.10

Garnish – chilli flakes 5p

TOTAL COST: £6.19

SERVINGS: 6

COST PER SERVING: £1.03

The savvy shopper has also created a Thai chicken soup (above) despite being frugal with her money

STEAK STIR FRY 

1 musclefood rump steak £2.74

½ head of broccoli 27p

2 peppers 66p

100g cabbage 20p

1 brown onion 5p

½ bulb garlic 12p

1 carrot 6p

45ml light soy sauce 9p

15ml dark soy sauce 3p

30ml fish sauce 6p

45ml sweet chilli sauce 9p

125g egg noodles 29p

1 lime 20p

1 green chilli 15p

Garnish – fresh coriander 5p

TOTAL COST: £5.06

SERVINGS: 3

COST PER SERVING: £1.68

Grainne cooks up dishes such as her Mexican rice bowl with meat from her musclefood hamper and fresh ingredients

GAMMON WITH PINEAPPLE SALSA 

2 musclefood gammon steaks £2.57

½ head of broccoli 27p

½ green pepper 16p

50g green beans 18p

1/8 pineapple 13p

1 tomato 13p

1 lime 20p

1 red chilli 15p

5g fresh coriander 4p

Salt and pepper 1p

TOTAL COST: £3.84

SERVINGS: 2

COST PER SERVING: £1.92 

Grainne has shared a number of money saving tips on her Instagram page @WannaBeDebtFree

MEXICAN RICE BOWL 

150g rice 15p

2 mixed peppers 66p

8 mushrooms 32p

10 cherry tomatoes 20p

1 small red onion 5p

1 tsp smoked paprika 2p

1 tsp paprika 2p

1 tsp oregano 2p

1 tsp cumin 2p

1 tsp dried coriander 2p

1 tsp chilli powder 2p

1 musclefood rump steak £2.74

2 limes 40p

½ avocado 28p

2 tbsp sour cream 10p

Garnish – fresh coriander 5p

Salt and pepper 1p

TOTAL COST: £5.41

SERVINGS: 2

COST PER SERVING: £2.70

Grainne’s steak fajita bowl with rice costs just £2.70 per head 

BBQ CHICKEN STUFFED SWEET POTATO

1 sweet potato £1.12

1 musclefood chicken breast 81p

2 tbsp BBQ Sauce 5p

1 tbsp goats cheese 20p

Garnish – red onion 1p

Garnish – lettuce 5p

Garnish – fresh coriander 5p

Salt and pepper 1p

TOTAL COST: £2.30

SERVINGS: 1

COST PER SERVING: £2.30

Grainne’s BBQ chicken sweet potato costs £2.30 per serving 

 CHICKEN SHAWARMA BOWL 

2 musclefood chicken breasts £2.24

1 tsp paprika 2p

1 tsp smoked paprika 2p

1 tsp turmeric 2p

1 tsp garlic granules 2p

4 tbsp rapeseed oil 8p

1 tbsp lemon juice 5p

80g quinoa 52p

1/3 cucumber 20p

½ green pepper 15p

¼ red onion 3p

4 lettuce leaves 3p

1 wrap 11p

1 lemon 20p

2 tbsp sour cream 10p

10 cherry tomatoes 20p

Garnish – fresh coriander 5p

Salt and pepper 1p

TOTAL COST: £4.05

SERVINGS: 2

COST PER SERVING: £2.02

The savvy home cook has still been able to create an array of meals including BBQ chicken and steak stir fry

 BACON AND EGG MUFFINS  

6 musclefood bacon medallions £1.28

6 eggs 95p

2 mushrooms 8p

5 cherry tomatoes 10p

30g frozen peas 3p

½ green pepper 15p

Salt and pepper 1p

3 lettuce leaves 2p

Garnish – chilli flakes 1p

TOTAL COST: £2.63

SERVINGS: 3

COST PER SERVING: 87p 

Grainne makes breakfast muffins with bacon and eggs, costing 87p per serving

The mum-to-be has been able to make 75 meals that will last her and her husband Ryan for over a month

Along the way, the frugal home cook has picked up hints and tricks to help her make the most out of her meals.

But she has also come up with some of her own, which she shares on her Instagram page @WannaBeDebtFree

Grainne said: ‘I always bulk up mince to make it go further by adding grated carrot. It adds a nice sweetness and is a great way of getting some of your five-a-day. If I’m cooking a kilo of mince, I’ll add a kilo of grated carrot.

‘Adding frozen veg is another great tactic to bulk up a dish. I always add it to chilli, spaghetti Bolognese and any pasta dish. Half pasta and half frozen veg is the ratio I work to. Frozen spinach is another good vegetable to add and cheap to buy.’

Grainne used musclefood.com to create her meals. Since starting batch cooking, Grainne has saved £200 a month on her food bill

Reminding people that they should think of portion size when trying to save money, she added: ‘It’s also important to look at portion sizes. 

‘One decent sized chicken breast can easily feed two when you add lots of veg and other ingredients. Again, that means you’re stretching the meat further and getting more for your money. 

GRAINNE’S TIPS FOR FIRST TIME MEAL PREPPERS 

1. Leftover night – Every week I take a look at what we have left in the fridge and use it all up. Sometimes the meal can be slightly odd but I look at it as a free dinner. In the past I would have ended up throwing those away.

2. Inventory – Look through your cupboards regularly and do an inventory. That way you’ll know exactly what you have in terms of store cupboard essentials, herbs and spices. Also check your fridge and freezer.

3. Meal plan – Make time to meal plan and be realistic about what you eat. In other words, don’t forget the treats. For example, I keep a packet of biscuits in my desk drawer so I’m not tempted to head to the shop to buy a chocolate bar. That can save 60p a day which over a working month works out at £12.

4. Breakfast and lunch – When meal planning, factor in breakfast and lunch and remember to take lunch to work. A meal deal will set you back around £3 a day or £60 a month. That’s a big saving to potentially make.

‘I keep the cost down by being repetitive with ingredients when I’m meal planning. For example, if I buy a bunch of fresh coriander, I want to use it up so will make sure it appears in lots of dishes.

‘If you’re starting meal planning for the first time, there are a few simple rules to follow to make sure you get the most out of your ingredients.’

Aware that the thought of batch cooking might take some getting used to, Grainne insisted that it’s life-changing. 

‘It can seem daunting at first but when you start to see the savings you make, it’s most definitely worth it,’ she said.

‘You do need to make the food tasty, with lots of variety, and appealing or the danger is you’ll go back to shelling out on takeaways.

‘The important thing to bear in mind is by shopping around and buying decent ingredients in bulk from retailers like musclefood.com, you can cook well on a budget.’

In an interview with The Irish Sun, Grainne revealed how she and Ryan were able to get married completely debt free.

‘Our journey to become debt free hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it,’ she admitted.

‘Ryan and I got married last year with no debt, and we’re now saving so much money every month that I can actually afford to just work two days a week!

‘This gives me time to concentrate on my Instagram blog and I even wrote a book in December last year, called How to Get Out of Debt: An Eight-Stage Strategy to Pay Off Debt and Fix Your Finances for Good.

‘People often think that living frugally means being miserable, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.’

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