breadline britain - cheap fresh healthy food IS possible

(151 Posts)
afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 16:39:28

cannot see another active thread on this so sorry if there is

following the guardian stories on families in recession and some on the relyted MN threads e.g. here and was thinking that actually is possible to feed a family of 4 decently enough for five pounds without resorting to ready meals.

What I cook:
a tin of tomatoes, an onion and some cheap dried herbs with cheap pasta can feed a family with enough change left over for some cheese to sprinkle over??

a few boiled potatoes and carrots and a dash of milk makes fresh mash. add frozen peas and frozen herbs and you are still under five pounds.

am i being näive or do you do this too?

LadyMargolotta Thu 22-Nov-12 18:33:30

If you have the time, ability and orgnisational skills, then yes it is possible to live cheaply and healthy.

I once stood in the queue behind a woman in a chemist. She was buying prescription medicine. I live in Belgium and medicine can be very expensive, but you can have a card from the pharmacy to get money off. The woman in front of me had learning difficulties and didn't understand the card system and therefore did not take advantage of it, and paid full price for her prescription.

She also had a heavy limp, and limped across the road to the corner shop where she did what looked like her main shop of the week. The corner shop of course is one of the most expensive ways of buying food, but what choice did she have?

It's people like her who suffer the most in recessions - people who find it difficult if not impossible to travel to the cheapest shops and find the best offers.

alemci Thu 22-Nov-12 18:24:03

also alot of the junk food tends to be heated in an oven. e.g. oven chips. is it not cheaper to cook nutritious food on the hob. I just don't always buy the arguments that the people eat badly because they are poor.

stressedHEmum Thu 22-Nov-12 18:09:40

Exactly, Toby. It's a totally different thing.

My DD doesn't like squash so either I don't cook with it or she has the choice of eating or not when I do. She also doesn't like mushrooms or eggs, same goes. (*Toby*, is your DD mine in disguise?)

None of them will eat sundried tomatoes or olives. This doesn't impact on my ability to cook a nutritious meal. Not eating an olive will not impact on their health or development. Never eating any kind of vegetable or eating processed meat every night will.

Like Toby, I can make a variety of healthy, nutritious meals while still, mostly, catering for everyone's individual tastes. That's a whole lot different to making chips and crispy pancakes every night because my family won't eat other kinds of food.

TobyLerone Thu 22-Nov-12 15:00:16

It's completely different.

My DD won't eat butternut squash or mushrooms. DS isn't keen on brussels sprouts or lettuce.

Cooking without using these things is not the same thing as having to cook meat and potatoes every night because my family won't eat a meal which doesn't include these things. Not in the least bit.

It is very easy not to include these things in meals I make, without resorting to convenience foods and nutritionally suspect crap.

OttilieKnackered Thu 22-Nov-12 13:39:28

Erm, stressedHEmum you just mentioned several things one or more of your children wouldn't eat.

What's the difference?

TobyLerone Thu 22-Nov-12 08:13:29

It annoys me, too, stressed. Especially when they're not giving their children the chance to eat healthily. Adults can eat what they want, IMO. But it is our job as parents to provide adequate nutrition for our children, and Iceland ScrotumBurgers and chips isn't going to cut it.

stressedHEmum Thu 22-Nov-12 07:59:54

I know this sounds harsh but all the talk of "wouldn't eat that" and "meat with every meal" really hacks me off. Why should people expect meat with every meal, why "couldn't" people eat things like lentil curry or Spanish rice? Of course they could, most people are physically capable of eating most foods. People CHOOSE not to, often without even trying because said food doesn't meet their expectations. They would rather eat chinese style ribsteak things at £1 a packet or value burgers that cost even less.

If all you had in was pasta and tomatoes or chick pea stew, then you would have to eat it or go hungry and most people I know prefer not to go hungry.

Also agree with the point about frozen chips. You get a 2.5kg bag of potatoes for less than the price of a bag of oven chips and the potatoes mean that you have more options. In saying that, there is nothing wrong with fish fingers, chips and peas or a fish finger and lettuce sandwich, it's just not as cost effective as cooking from basic ingredients.

I don't think that you need to have an extensive store cupboard, tbh, and things like mixed herbs and curry powder can be bought cheaply. The shepherd's pie example is a good one,. Yes it costs more to buy the ingredients, but you have enough stuff to make more than one meal. People have to learn how to think like that and take a slightly longer view - not beyond the capabilities of most folk.

babbas Wed 21-Nov-12 22:00:55

Stressedhemum, thanks for the treacle tip. I'll try it. I also make quick hot chocolate in winter. Hot milk in pan, add milk choc buttons. Keep stirring until all choclatey. Kids love it.

HappyTurquoise Wed 21-Nov-12 20:45:28

fish fingers, chips & peas.

Disclaimer: I don't cook on a tight budget. However, ace value meal from Sunday night, pork and rice pot ...

Make sausage meatballs, either from skinned sausages or actual sausagemeat. I sed half a pack of sausagemeat from Tesco, whole thing cost £2 and half has gone in the freeze for another occasion. Make them small so they cook through quickly. Fry them and set aside.

Fry onion and garlic.

Add rice, stir - recipe says 140g for 4, I did 100g for three of us, but DD eats next to nothing and even so it was a bit scant.

Add a tin of tomatoes and some veg stock (I haven't got a record of how much stock). Plain water would do at a push, any other flavour of stock could work.

Cook for ten minutes or until the rice is cooked, put the meatballs back in, heat them through, then serve.

It's supposed to be served with bread, but doesn't really need it, especially if you upped the rice a bit. Bit of cheese on top might by nice, but actually with so few ingredients it's surprisingly tasty. DD doesn't actually like it, but that's par for the course.

InNeedOfBrandy Wed 21-Nov-12 19:29:52

We tuna pasta bake made with yesterdays tomato sauce with a bit of philly to make it not the same as yesterday.

A big bag of potatoes is £1 the average oven chip price is £1/£1:50. You do get more for your money with a bag of potatoes, plus other meals then just chips, mash/jackets/roast/cheesyPP/ yadayada but some people just don't get it or are unable to get it. If you only had a fiver to last you a few days and no store cupboard ingredients I agree crap Iceland food is cheaper but not as a weeks worth of food.

alemci Wed 21-Nov-12 19:22:42

i made falfael burgers tonight out of chickpeas, frozen herbs are a good thing to have. tomato salsa went with it.

i read the Guardian article.

TotemPole Wed 21-Nov-12 19:09:21

I agree that cooking from scratch is cheaper in the long term and is healthier but....

Many families that rely on cheap ready meals aren't going to take to a lot of the veggie ideas posted here. They're used to meat with nearly every meal.

The costs people are quoting are based on a decent store cupboard with a range of herbs and spices. That isn't the same as the cost of the shopping basket to make the meals the first time. So, when they're looking at the family size shepherd's pie for £4 that you just pop in the oven compared to what seems like a more expensive alternative plus the extra effort, it's understandable why they take the easy option.

The change would need to be gradual.

stressedHEmum Wed 21-Nov-12 11:44:30

Mine have biscuits with hot milk as well, babbas, even though they are pretty grown up now, most of them. Mine like a spoonful of treacle stirred into the milk - boosts iron, tastes delicious, costs pennies.

babbas Wed 21-Nov-12 11:17:49

If my kids leave any dinner then it gets put to one side for them to have before bed as they always need a snack before bed. If we have a stew and one of them doesn't like it they still eat some but will have a bigger chunk of bread with it to fill up. We always have the same meal. Last night we had lasagna all home made which I made in two smaller trays so we have another for later on in the week. It cos £6 to make and will feed 5 twice. I have with big salad (£1) and shop bought garlic bread (£1). That's two big meals feeding 5 for sum total of £8. We don't have dessert every night unless it's fruit but I always bake midweek and if very hungry as a treat the kids can have two biscuits with hot milk. They love it and it's something I used to have as a kid.

HappyTurquoise Tue 20-Nov-12 21:20:03

I'm learning to keep it simple...Tonight we had tuna potato bake... Tuna (1 whole tin, steak) with one tin chopped tomatoes with 1 tin of borlotti beans, par cooked sliced potatoes on top with grated cheese on top of that, baked. Everyone very hungry, so when I came home from evening job, hardly any left for me!

multitaskmama Tue 20-Nov-12 19:29:19

Hi littleducks, it's not easy I can tell you! When I used to get in from work, I would unwind with a cuppa and then 30 - 45 mins in the kitchen. But my kids are not too young (2,8,10) and sleep at 9pm so we have dinner as a family as 7pm whereas your little ones are in bed by 7pm. I would struggle to get food on table any earlier after getting back from work, so I understand your point. I am a SAHM mum now and look after an elderly father in law (92!) who likes his food as being Pakistani you will understand. Even if I make pizza for kids and hubby, I still need to dish out a traditional curry every day. This has just made me very efficient blush.

For example, today I made a cod curry, but kids don't like coriander and tomatoes, so made crispy shallow fried cod for them, toddler eats neither, so she is having a cheese omelette, and thrown some homemade masala wedges (something everyone will eat!) in the oven whilst I feed little one.

Its not perfect to look at but hey, who cares smile, everyone is fed!

My Family Dinner tonight

TobyLerone Tue 20-Nov-12 18:26:02

You can leave out anything you don't want in it, stressed. That's the beauty of it. It's the 'one pot, cook it all in the oven' part which appeals to me.

I've just added half a chorizo which I found lurking in the fridge, and a courgette. And some fresh tomatoes.

If I'm making it with sausages I'd add lentils and maybe chick peas, and leave out the olives and rice. Or do sausages, rice and beans.

stressedHEmum Tue 20-Nov-12 17:45:06

That looks lovely, sadly my lot won't eat olives or sundried tomatoes at all. I'd have to eat it all myself. I don't like tarragon, either, it ruins decent food.

InNeedOfBrandy Tue 20-Nov-12 17:40:18

We are having gnocchi thats a day past it's use by. Meh we have strong stomachs in this house, will a tomatoes sauce made by 1 onion, a hacked off piece of frozen garlic, carrot and mushrooms, passata and water thats been boiling down since 4. I just added half cooked gnocchi to the sauce with parmasan and chedder shoved in the oven and dinner will be ready soon. If I had made the gnocchi this meal would have cost pence.

TobyLerone Tue 20-Nov-12 17:29:04

Ha! We're having this tonight, because it's really easy and cheap (everything but the chicken is standard storecupboard stuff in our house, and even the chicken thighs are from the freezer via Aldi!)

DD (11) has just informed me that she HATES this meal, despite me having cooked it many times before and her never having mentioned it. She'll be eating it or going without grin

This recipe works brilliantly with sausages (chopped up, so they go further) and lentils in place of the chicken and rice, by the way. Leave out the tarragon -- I always do that anyway because I hate it. Oregano (fresh or dried) or thyme work well instead.

littleducks Tue 20-Nov-12 17:28:21

Multitaskmama- I'm impressed but can't stop and wonder just how? Dud you cook after kids were in bed? I just don't have time before they need to sleep, bedtime us 7-7.30 here latest or they are grumpy. My dh is also Pakistani and likes traditional foods but it takes over an hour even with a pressure cooker. So these things are reserved for days I am at home (which are also shipping cleaning and ferrying kids about days)

stressedHEmum Tue 20-Nov-12 17:27:04

I never throw out anything, either, Laurie. If something is getting past it, it gets turned into soup/cake/pasta sauce or whatever.

If you get chard again, it makes a lovely pasta sauce, either made into a creamy sauce with garlic and nutmeg or a tomato one. It also makes a nice quiche or as a sub for spinach in curry. I like it gently steamed and tossed with lemon and butter.

stressedHEmum Tue 20-Nov-12 17:24:12

Toby, butternut, or any other kind of squash, is on DD's hate list, as well. She is currently sitting with her arms crossed giving her dinner the evil eye, but she's not getting anything else. If she doesn't eat it, she'll be hungry. She's 13, so old enough to know the score.

I made a really shit soup last week - totally bogging - still insisted everyone ate it.

Even though I could have 'afforded' to chuck it I refuse to throw out food and when I make a 'mistake' we still eat it.

I've made 2 soup 'mistakes' so far - one was a rainbow chard soup (green gunge) as I didn't know what else to do with it as it was past its best

And last weeks when I made broth which had that horrible claggy, wallpapery paste texture.

I have a problem with throwing food out morally and environmentally and these soups were nutritious but palatable so we ate them. DD wrinkled her nose a bit but she drank it with good grace (after adding tabasco sauce to it to make it bearable grin)

£6bn of food is thrown away by families every year - last year I threw out £2 quids worth in the whole year (an teeny box of raspberries that went unnoticed at the back of the fridge).

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