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?

Bonsoir Mon 19-Nov-12 16:42:10

Lentil or chickpea soup with lots of vegetables would be even more nutritious and very cheap.

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 16:42:22

i can cook but cannot spell on MN.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 19-Nov-12 16:44:05

Pizzas made on wholemeal pitta bread.


afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 16:49:49

verysmallsqueak agree. 6 eggs plus oil costs £2.50?? with bread and herbs and leftover vegetables included you can still feed 4 and have change left from £5.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 19-Nov-12 16:51:09

Tonight I'm making fishcakes with a tin of reduced salmon,bulgar wheat,and sweetcorn.
That's got to come in pretty cheap.

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 16:55:47

It's possible to eat healthily for that amount but:

You need to have adequate shops in your locality (within walking distance)
You need to have adequate cooking equipment and money to pay for cooking fuel
You need to have adequate storage facilities - a fridge, ideally a freezer, tupperware etc
You need to know how to cook, to shop, to menu plan,
You need to be in reasonable mental and physical health
You need to have already eaten fresh, simple, cheap food - or you will probably find it unpalatable compared with salty, fatty, takeaway food

...and even then, your diet will be very limited and repetitive and you won't be having optimal nutrition.

naughtymummy Mon 19-Nov-12 16:59:11

Tonight chez naughty is butternut squash risotto. Butternut squash 75p, rice £1, parmesan £1.25, butter 50p total £2.50. Dh and I will probably get lunch out of it as well

VerySmallSqueak Mon 19-Nov-12 17:01:42

I'd agree with that TheProvincial.
I am not a good cook and I have no freezer. For getting fresh food in between the main shopping,or to look for bargains,it's a over 2 mile round walk for me.
It does present a challenge!

dashoflime Mon 19-Nov-12 17:05:41

Provincial Lady: adding to your list, a decent herb and spice cupboard. My ability to cook cheap and healthy really didn't take off till I managed it. And it took time and money to build up

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 17:06:08

yes, it is easy to be näive about access to cheap ingredients if you live in town and do have access to an aldi, lidl or asda.

cafebistro Mon 19-Nov-12 17:10:42

I agree with you afterdinnerkiss.
It is possible to do this. I do it all the time.
The problem is there is a lack of education and some people just can't cook.

CharminglyOdd Mon 19-Nov-12 17:14:53

I agree about access to a large supermarket - I live in a city centre for work and pay a similar rent as I would in the suburbs but my access to cheap and fresh produce is limited. My diet has been so much poorer since I a) left all my spices/herbs and cooking equipment at home with DP and b) found that the only fresh food places within walking distance were metro-style shops. Of those the 'Little Waitrose' is actually the cheapest hmm I tend to buy my stuff during 'bargain hour' when everything is reduced.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 19-Nov-12 17:20:25

Personal fall-back cheap lunch/supper is always the Big Pan Of Chunky Soup (contents variable according to availability and what's cheap but usually onions, spuds, carrots and lentils/beans feature) that may take a while to cook Day 1 but which gets reheated on subsequent days and serve with some bread. Breakfast... porridge oats. Dirt cheap. Well under £5/day. Money saved during the week goes on a chicken or similar at weekends... bones of which are boiled up as the base for the next Big Pan Of Chunky Soup... and a few tasty bits like bacon, eggs, cheese etc. so that things don't get boring. Fruit limited to mostly apples. Has got me a through a few sticky months in the past and no-one's health suffered.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 17:20:56

If I were so poor that I was struggling to feed my family, I'd bloody well learn to cook. There are plenty of resources from which to learn.

As it is, I cook fresh, cheap, healthy food from scratch every day, more because it doesn't make sense not to than anything else. It's more than possible, and despite not being on the breadline I can't see why I wouldn't try to save money where possible.

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 17:24:11

cogito tell us how you make soup.

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 17:29:23

Well good for you TobyLerone. It's lucky that you have the education, the social skills, the IQ and the mental health to be able to emply these By-The-Bootstrap techniques, as well as access to a library/internet, and all the stuff I described above. Not everyone does.

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 17:37:34

(shouts encouragement for more meal ideas to redirect thread to a more optimistic note)

2 tins of chickpeas/kidney beans, an onion, tomato puree and some garlic= £2. plus bread or rice.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 17:38:42

Look, TheProvincialLady, I'm not sure why you're being chippy with me, but I don't think it's necessary.

I don't really know what education, social skills, IQ and mental health have to do with the majority of people struggling for money. Many, many people in the UK are very short of money at the moment and have a decent education and social skills, and 'normal' IQs and mental health.

It is absolutely possible to learn to cook for free, or very cheaply.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 17:47:38

there's eating cheaply, and there's eating slop, tbh. assuming a half-decent pre-recession storecupboard, a good dahl costs buttons but is a great deal more inspiring than a coupla cans of beans, an onion and some tom puree tbh.

amillionyears Mon 19-Nov-12 17:53:15

I would second the poster who mentioned variety in what you eat.
I sometimes think people get ill because of what they dont eat.
It is surprising how many people, young and old, who eat the same things week in, week out.

Vivalebeaver Mon 19-Nov-12 17:54:53

Naughtymummy, your ingredients are £3.50 for a meal that feeds two.

Chips are 90p from the chippy. Pockets of crisps even less. Neither of which require cooking ability, an actual hob or been close to a supermarket.

bigkidsdidit Mon 19-Nov-12 17:59:48

Soups and lentils are very cheap.

That article was infuriating I thought. There will be so many families really struggling and cutting back on everything and they pick one who in one breath says 'I can't afford £20 a term for fruit at school' and in another 'we won't give up the sky package'. It's a shame as it will invite people to think everyone who is struggling is also paying for bloody sky

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 18:02:42

I'm not being snippy with you personally Toby and I'm sorry I gave that impression.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Mon 19-Nov-12 18:03:56

It takes time and effort and it takes a while to get up to speed. There might be a good few weeks of unrewarding meals before you build up a decent spice and herb cupboard, as someone said. If you don't know what the destination looks like (as some people in that Guardian series clearly don't) you are unlikely to persevere.

So basically I think it probably is about education, or at least a culture change.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Mon 19-Nov-12 18:05:17

Also, massively agree re access to shops.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 19-Nov-12 18:08:02

Aitch I would find a couple of cans of beans in a garlic and tomato sauce with rice to be a delicious meal.

It depends on your tastes I suppose.

Give us a nice dahl recipe.I've only made it once and it was lovely,I have to say.

I think a lot of cheaper meals are often meat free.We eat meat free a couple of times a week as meat is so pricey now.
But I agree that until you have a store cupboard with lentils,rice,flout, etc etc the basic elements of something can push the price up.

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 18:08:40

We don't have access to lots of shops. We have a corner shop, then a small Co-Op 2 miles away and a small Morrison's 2.5 miles away.

It is still possible to eat healthily and cheaply.

But I may as well fart into the wind because there are three threads running on this and they all go the same way with excuses to eat junk.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Mon 19-Nov-12 18:13:05

Hm. Having said that I wouldn't assume supermarkets are the cheapest places. Eg there's Indian and Chinese shops where you can get sacks of rice for pennies. The Turkish greengrocers where we are are generally as good or better value than the big Tescos (not least cos they sell by weight not in packaging).

But we only have access to those because we're in a heavily urban area.

Tigerbomb Mon 19-Nov-12 18:17:07

I think the problem is that so many people expect meat with their dish (if they are meat eaters). There's not been a cheap meal mentioned on here that my husband or young adult DC would eat. They would rather do without then eat anything with Lentils in.

Their idea of a cheap meal is egg, home made chips and beans

I can cook - I hate it though.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 19-Nov-12 18:18:35

The Big Pan Of Chunky Soup... Recipe (such as it is). Serves about 8

Green Lentils (about 4oz dry weight)
Barley (about 4oz dry weight)
Salt and pepper
Little bit of oil, marg or butter
Water, Stock or water with a stock cube or two

Plus ... when cheap/available... courgettes, mushrooms, lonely wrinkly parsnips and other root veggies lurking at the bottom of the fridge, any random herbs (dried or fresh), garlic, beans (soaked and cooked up), chopped bacon.

- Heat your biggest cooking pot (mine's six pint total capacity) and melt a bit of oil, marg or butter in it
- Peel the wrinklier veggies and scrub the fresher-looking ones. Then cut up enough of them into a 1cm dice to fill about a third of your pot. Add some salt and plenty of pepper.
- Stir, cover and heat gently for about 10 mins to get plenty of flavour out.
- Add lentils and barley (and garlic and herbs if you've got them) and enough water or stock to nearly fill the pan.
- Bring to a simmer, put on a lid and cook until the green lentils are tender... usually about 20-25 mins.
- Check the seasoning and serve with plenty bread

Only time I've struggled to find the ingredients was on a trip to a cottage somewhere near Ullapool where the idea of celery was met with a suspicious look.... Subbed local swede and it was back on the menu.

CarpeThingy Mon 19-Nov-12 18:24:17

That sounds good, Cogito. Do you need to pre-soak or pre-cook the barley and lentils?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 19-Nov-12 18:38:42

I don't pre-soak the lentils or barley and they seem to cook OK in the soup itself. If they're still a bit firm after 20 -25 mins I just turn off the gas, keep the lid on and let them soak a bit longer in the hot liquid. Beans, yes. I soak and cook whole packets of dried beans/chickpeas in advance and then keep them in bags in the freezer so that they can be thrown into yet more Big Pans of Chunky Soup. Realise not everyone has a freezer.

BTW... for those who have fussy families who turn up their noses at lentils I have converted various fussy family members to pulses with the razor-sharp logic that if they like baked beans, they haven't a leg to stand on palate-wise with the lentil. smile If green lentils are bit too obviously round and 'lentilly' then try red ones which disappear into a fluff.

Pack of chicken thighs - about £4 maybe a bit less.
You get at least 6 in a pack.

Make a stew with any veg you have , potato, carrot , peas. Bag of carrots is what 70p ? Potatoes maybe £1 for a decent sized bag.

So if you use say 3 thighs , half the potatos , all the carrots and a bit of bread to go with it , it would feed 4 for £3.10.

Viviennemary Mon 19-Nov-12 18:44:58

A cheap soup is buy two of those stew packs and make soup in a large pot. Lasts a couple of days.

dashoflime Mon 19-Nov-12 18:48:15

For Dal,
Fry a chopped onion with some garlic and chillie
Add lentils
Cover with water and cook till mushy, adding more water if too dry
serve with a swirl of yoghurt if liked.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 18:48:25

The best ever budget meal is dirty rice new Orleans style

Cook value rice in one pot
Soften onion and garlic in another pot slowly
Add peppers/what ever you like I also add chicken stock and all purpose seasoning
Add chicken livers (44p!) mushed up
Add rice and mix up

It does not taste livery it tastes bloody lush and 44p for your protein and the smug mum feeling that your dc eat liver grin

dashoflime Mon 19-Nov-12 18:59:40

By the way, Anyone who blames poor people for not managing their money or not cooking: I will check to see what you have posted on here
You have been warned angry

anklebitersmum Mon 19-Nov-12 19:03:45

Ham hock £1.99, Pearl barley 59p for a whole bag (of which you use a couple of handfuls per soup), bag of carrots 69p, three onions roughly 20p, water to fill a large (5litre type) pot & a couple of stock cubes. Splash of oil.

Chop veg & bung in pan with a splash of oil. Pop on lid and give it 5 mins. Add ham hock (slice into chunkier sections to aid cooking speed) & fill pan to an inch off the top. Boil until meat is falling off the bone. Add pearl barley & cook for another hr.
Take out bones and separate meat into 'string bits'.

Eat on own or serve with cobs (£1 for 12 at Morrisons) and eat as a hearty broth serving six for a couple of days grin

In need that is a great way to use livers- I will def try it, thanks!

My cheapest meals are veg soup- onion, carrot,celery,parsnip, anything goes, fry off add stock and dried herbs, (fresh sage is lovely but not cheap unless you grow it) all in slow cooker for the day, and make bacon dumlings., two rashers makes 10 dumplings. Costs about three quid for four if us I think.Very nice.

The next day, with my remaining 6rashers I make pan haggerty- thinly slice 5 potatoes, 5carrots, 3onions, fry bacon until crispy and chop up, then layer carrots,onions and potatos, in a large frying pan, adding pepper and bits of bacon between layers. Finish with a potato layer, add 1ltr stock and simmer for twenty mins. If available, sprinkle cheddar on the top and grill for a minute before serving- not essential, but nice.

stressedHEmum Mon 19-Nov-12 19:12:37

We are on the breadline, I have a maximum of £50 for food for a family of 6 (7 during uni holidays) and none of my children are small, 2 are adult males, another 2 are teens and the youngest is 10. I have ME so have poor health, can't shop around or anything like that; don't have a car; live several miles and several pounds in bus fares from the nearest supermarket, even if I was fit enough to go there; only have an extremely expensive and poorly stocked Spar within walking distance (£2 for 2l milk).

Granted, I have a normal IQ and education and I don't have mental health problems but I can still feed my family a decent, healthy and varied diet for hardly any money. I really believe that a great deal of the problem is to do with expectations. People expect to eat meat with every meal, perhaps have salmon or whatever and feel disappointed when they don't/can't get it. They look at the kind of food I cook and think that they could never eat that. The harsh fact is that when you have no money, you have to make do and adjust your expectations. I don't allow fussiness in here, I make one meal, if you don't eat it, you don't eat because that's all there is. Kids soon learn that they would rather not be hungry, even the three of mine who have AS know this now.

Cheapest meal I make is probably pasta with caramelised onions, which costs about 25p a portion, followed by things like pasta with chick peas and garlic, baked potatoes with mushy peas, pea dahl with rice, tomato and cheese rice, chick pea and pasta soup, pinto bean chilli, barley mince, savoury bread pudding all of which cost between 40p and 50p a portion.

Soups, potato bakes, fish things made with tinned fish, potato and lentil curry, potato and onion pie, sweet potato quesadillas, sausage risotto, pasties, judicious use of a chicken, spiced cabbage and potatoes, slow braised cabbage pasta with sour cream, all these things cost much less than £1 a head, are tasty, nutritious and easy to make.

For most people, there is no real excuse to eat junk all the time. There are plenty of ways to learn about cheap, seasonal, easy and balanced cooking whether it's from the internet, a cookbook, a community cooking class or even from your neighbours (I've had neighbours come knocking on my door asking me to show them how to cook things.) It just takes a bit of motivation and facing up to circumstances which I understand can be difficult for some people. Surely, though, if you can't feed your kids properly, that should give you a bit of motivation.

colditz Mon 19-Nov-12 19:21:31

It is possible, but y need access to a cheap supermarket, you need the mental ability to juggle cost analysis for recipes, and you need a good idea of nutrition for EVERYONE in your family, not just for an overweight thirty five year old woman.

For example. The rice, tomatoes and beans recipe. I could probably live on that quite adequately. A toddler would be malnourished. My nine year old, who has asd, would end up hospitalised because he wouldn't eat it. My six year old could be starved into it, but he's a slim child on a high fat diet, on a low fat diet he would be clinically underweight.

There is no government resource telling us what to cook for our families on a budget, to meet their varying nutrient needs.

Now, I'm quite bright, I'm fascinated by nutrition and I'm a reasonable cook, although TheProvincialLady may have cause to believe otherwise. I have access to a fresh food market and a farmers market, and two cheap supermarkets within walking distance, by which i mean three miles. I could pull it off. But you take any of those factors away, such as the market, the supermarkets, the ability to research or the knowledge of differing nutritional needs, and you are going to land in the cacky, resulting in child malnourishment, or obesity from chips.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 19:24:49

We had a sausage casserole today, nice sausages, two each, chicken stock out of the freezer, a few carrots, potatoes, garlic, a big onion then rice 20 mins before the end, its lovely, like a sausagey paella and below a fiver for 4 easily.

stressedHEmum Mon 19-Nov-12 19:26:23

The American government has leaflets and recipe booklets on it's site that you can print out full of low cost, easy recipes which their nutritionists have devised for families living on what they call the "thrifty plan", which is their lowest cost balanced diet plan.

They actually have a lot of resources and good stuff about food and nutrition.

colditz Mon 19-Nov-12 19:28:48

Hemum, that's brilliant, could you link us please?

TeaDr1nker Mon 19-Nov-12 19:32:41

I really want to add that in a lot of areas there are veg box schemes that are very reasonable and they deliver TO YOUR DOOR.

I switched to a box scheme a year a go and although in the winter it can get a bit boring - potatoes/carrots/parsnips etc I have really learnt a lot about the seasons of food and now appreciate the food that comes in the box. The produce is Class II so doesn't look as pretty as the supermarket but tastes great. At this time of year apple crumble is a favourite. I have managed to cut my weekly shopping budget because I am guilty of going round a supermarket and getting 'things on offer' that I don't need. Now when I go (about once a month) I have a list, things like loo role, pasta, rice etc and I stick to it.

I do agree that lots of different herbs/spices make all the difference.

OwedToAutumn Mon 19-Nov-12 19:41:07

you could make Smoulder's sausage casseole even cheaper, and just as nutritious by having one sausage each, cut up into coins and adding a drained tin of butterbeans.

OwedToAutumn Mon 19-Nov-12 19:41:30


OwedToAutumn Mon 19-Nov-12 19:47:23
Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 19:50:43

I am not a great cook and I don't enjoy it. I also despise lentils and all their family! (no I don't like baked beans either). If I were really hard up I doubt I would take the risk of cooking an unfamiliar meal with the risk that I would get it wrong and make it inedible or the kids wouldn't eat it. Knowing that even if I got it right I would struggle not to heave while eating it. And we would probably be miserable and cold so would want something tasty. So I would do chips I'm afraid. With burgers or similar. And outside the bigger towns there are none of these cheap ethnic supermarkets anyway. I would have to drive over 30 miles to find one. I couldn't get there at all by bus. So I don't blame people for their poor diets. Also tomato and veg and pasta has no protein. We would be hungry again within an hour. Fat keeps you full for longer. I know the OP added cheese to hers but cheese is expensive. Sausages are cheaper.

Time too. If you're out of the house all day it's even harder to prepare cheap, nutritious meals

dashoflime Mon 19-Nov-12 19:52:13

Colditz: "you need the mental ability to juggle cost analysis for recipes"

This is where I fall down. Having finally learned to cook, I still struggle to make a menu plan for a week. And having made one, I struggle to adapt it to take into account different offers and reductions once in the store.

Hopefully, as I get confident with more recipes, this will become easier.

CarpeThingy Mon 19-Nov-12 19:53:10

Thanks, Cogito smile Haven't cooked much with barley before but that sounds lovely!

Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 19:54:59

Yeah. I get in at 6 and need to have tea on the table before 7 unless I want the toddler to go into meltdown. I have tried cooking ahead and freezing but its the last thing you want to do in the evening after a full day at work and putting kids to bed.
Most poor families are working. They don't have time to cook and shop around.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 19:58:45

I must confess that i dont menu plan. I buy the same protein for the week, one thing of mince, one pack of sausages, streaky bacon, one tin of salmon, maybe some lambs liver or some stewing beef for curry and occasionslly there will be a sunday roast.

I then make whatever i fancy with what i have. But yes to do that you need some cooking capital. You cant wing it if you dont know what youre doing.

Oh and avoid anything involving dairy, lots of cheese and eggs as it really pushes the portion price up. I.e. toad in the hole and you cant bulk it up to use for two days like you can with spag bol sauce, ie chilli one day, spag bol or shepherds pie the next iyswim.

naughtymummy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:02:43

500g of rice and a whole butternut squash fed 4 of us tonight with some over for lunch tomorrow

freetoanyhome Mon 19-Nov-12 20:03:14

what is cheap and fattening? Thats what one of mine needs. He is seriously underweight.

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 20:03:20

Colditz you know what to do with a dead rabbit. That makes you an expert in my eyes.

Imagine if you had been brought up on frozen meat shapes and chips from Iceland, and progressed to having children and feeding them more or less the same. What cooking equipment would you have? What knowledge of cooking would you have? What would you and your children be prepared to eat? If you attempted a simple pasta and tomato sauce meal as described above it would probably be pretty grim (hard or burned onions, tomatoes not cooked enough to make them sweet cooked in cheap veg oil not olive oil, and with no herbs - pasta soggy). Chances are no one would eat it, in which case you wouldn't have saved £3.00 but wasted £1.50.

Most reasonably well off people in this country eat a hell of a lot of ready made food. The difference between them and poor folk is that it has more nutrition in it, and they have also probably learned to cook well enough for social reasons - dinner parties, etc, read recipe books, tasted good food in restaurants and at other people's houses. SOME poor folk live in areas where there is very little food culture to pass on. They have been brought up by parents who did not cook and no one has shown them since. Fact is, the knowledge of cooking basic food has been declining in this country for 30 years. Why just blame the people who have less money?

We need compulsory cooking classes in schools for every child to learn how to make mashed potatoes, cook rice, make tomato sauce, cook meat, plan a week's meals, understand what is good value and good nutrition - and I don't mean label the different parts of an egg and draw a poster promoting healthy eating. I don't see an alternative.

Violet77 Mon 19-Nov-12 20:08:57

I agree that we need cooking and budgeting classes at schools. Its sad that people do not have these skills.

I cook almost all my meals from scratch, saves a fortune.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 20:10:05

Lambs liver freetoanyhome. Roast veggies of any sort. Mackerel or other cheap oily fish on the fish counter.

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 20:10:57

OP returns from her pasta dinner made with 4 fresh tomatoes plus a tin to top-up. i added some green frozen beans to the pasta when boiling to get in some more vitamins.
i really like the suggestions and ideas and agree that a bit of spice makes everything taste better - like jamie oliver i add chilli to practically everything, and either thyme (dried) or cumin to everything else. a little packet from the asian section of the big supermarkets costs 50p and lasts 6 months.

my daahl recipe: pre-soak the lentils (i like the orange ones best) and rice - pre-soaking reduces cooking time by up to half and stops the rice from breaking. fry a little onion, add the pre-soaked and then washed lentils. add a pinch of chilli powder and half a spoon of cumin, cook for ten minutes.

ishchel Mon 19-Nov-12 20:12:03

Already mentioned but needs mentioning again, 'ethnic' shops are great for certain things. Spices cost buttons vs supermarket prices. Rice, pulses, lentils the same. I noticed a spike in prices at the big supermarkets for basics since more people start to use them post 2008. Aldi/Lidl work out better for things like frozen peas and sweetcorn, tinned toms, pasta. Even with some veg. Sainsbury's £1 for 12 okra. Local Asian shop: 50p for 3x that amount. (Egg and okra is a meal in my house.)

Chrestomanci Mon 19-Nov-12 20:23:41

Cooking without meat undoubtedly takes far more skill, and time, meat is so popular because it is tasty. I love vegetarian food, but do find it takes more effort to make it appealing to DH for example who is less keen.

Also, if you are poor it is exhausting and depressing having to think about money all the time. Food is a shared pleasure, and eating something quick and guaranteed tasty in the evening is cheering. The easiest way to get that is junk food because of the high salt and fat content. I cook from scratch, but I have to be honest, the sound of some of these recipes is off putting - yes they are cheap and nutritious, but coming in at 6, tired and fed up I would much rather have some chips than inexpertly cooked rice and lentils. It takes time, skill, and to a certain extent re training of taste buds - all of which are long term projects and don't help the immediate need at 6pm!

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:26:48

Mmm I like okra never had it with eggs before.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 20:27:38

I dont think quick food needs to be junk food though. When i have got ten mins the dc get microwaved jacket potatoes topped with tinned salmon mixed with salad cream, sounds disgusting but its actually quite nice. Honest. blush

dementedma Mon 19-Nov-12 20:29:10

Cheap favourite in our family is spaghetti mozzarella bake. Own brand spag- about 45p in Aldi -tin of toms or jar of cheap pasta sauce, two mozzarella balls, one onion.
Cook spag, fry chopped onion, combine and mix with tomato sauce. Put half in dish, layer of torn mozzarella, repeat, bake. Yum.

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 20:32:38

4 portions of chips, £5. What if you truly couldn't afford that every night for one meal? Best buy a cheap slow cooker and plug that in.

Of course, there's always an excuse to eat junk.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:04

I usually have a load of froozen portions of things like spag bol and chilli which I batch cook. Before I leave to take dc to school and go work I put one in the fridge so when I come home all I have to do is cook rice/pasta and heat froozen portion up in microwave. Batch cooking doesn't really save money though it re-arranges it, it saves time.

I don't like any ready meals apart from Icelands lasanga (sp) mmm I can eat a family sized one to myself blush

Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:39

I cook my own chips. Lots of people have a chip pan. Cheaper than a slow cooker.

Meglet Mon 19-Nov-12 20:34:18

I would love to buy the giant bags of rice or potatoes but I don't have a big enough kitchen. It could sit in the living room I suppose but I don't rate its chances against the dc's. Although the problem with rice dishes is that as I now understand it can be risky to store and re-heat so I'm not starting cooking rice when I get in after work / swimming / beavers. Pasta is more practical.

My priority for my next house is somewhere I can put a big freezer so I can batch cook and store more food.

I wish I could buy the reduced items at the end of the day, but as a LP I can't leave the DC's in bed to dash out to stock up.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:35:49

YY meglet if I had a dp my freezer would be stocked with about to go off meat grin

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 20:37:05

I agree Chresto. For example, a decent dal recipe IMO requires about five different spices and takes a bit of practise. Plus it is still only 1 of the 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.

Indian food is by far the best for dirt cheap, tasty and healthy IMO if you live in an area where there are Asian grocers. But it takes a serious amount of time to learn even the basic skills.

Asinine Mon 19-Nov-12 21:18:59

For people who think their dcs/dh won't eat liver or lentils, try putting them in bolognaise in small quantities, then increasing if no one notices.

My austerity spag bol is padded out with chicken liver, lentils and oats, as well as the usual grated carrot, basics mushrooms, bits of old bacon. Less meat improves the nutrition.

That means I can get away with say 400g mince for £1.24 (buy half price in Aldi when reduced on short dates) for 6 of us, youngest is 8 but eats like the older gannets dcs.

Ready meals of any sort get very expensive for a large, hungry family, even if I was prepared to eat them, which I'm not.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 21:33:52

I often put oats in my mince dishes. Nobody has ever noticed. Also lentils, grated courgette (the Sainsbury's basics ones are massive) and grated carrot.

redadmiralsinthegarden Mon 19-Nov-12 21:40:45

loving these kinds of threads! i menu plan, shop accordingly and try to cook one new recipe/ingredient a week.
however, i find it really hard to cook things that the DCs will eat! i co-parent with their Dad, who, I suspect, cooks alot of ready meals - all meat based. my food just doesn't compete when compared with sugar/salt/msg laden rubbish.

Asinine Mon 19-Nov-12 21:42:00

I do rice pudding in the slow cooker, big quantities and keep it in the fridge.
I also make yoghurt out of basics uht skimmed milk, from a basics probiotic yoghurt starter, 49p per litre.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 21:42:24

a lovely woman once posted these dahl recipes on my site years ago and i have used them ever since

we had hasselback potatoes tonight, with frozen sweetcorn and butter and some hideous meatloaf from the sale rail of M&S that i found in the back of the freezer (we are working through the freezer, i WILL have that bastard defrosted by Christmas). No-one ate the meatloaf (cos it might have been a barg at £2 but it was farkin' rank) but all were full on tattie and veg anyway.

hasselbacks, btw are just sliced floury tatties with some oil and salt on them. you can faff about with butter but i can't be bothered. The kids like them because they are unusual and crispy etc and I like them because they only take about 45 mins at 200 (longer if less etc) so you can do other things in the oven at the same time.

i am also a big fan of bulking out a can of tuna with white beans and garlic (with parsley if there's some floating around) and doing that with the hasselbacks.

stressedHEmum Mon 19-Nov-12 21:45:54

This is a Thrifty Plan recipe booklet.

This is the website that has a lot of the USDA info on it.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 21:47:03

but then i should say that i eat these things first and foremost because i LIKE them. so i'd be eating them, anyway, recession or no recession.

i also do a massive italian tomato sauce regularly, a proper italian recipe with just a coupla slices of smoked bacon, some garlic and tomatoes with half a teaspoon of salt and a huuuge glug of olive oil, simmered for an age. meat-wise, i've a free range chicken in the slow cooker at the moment, i'll take the meat off it later and it will do sandwiches, a couple of meals (risotto, venetian pasta) and fling the bones back into the slow cooker with a carrot, bay, onion, celery etc and it'll be stock for soup.

this is just what my mother did, tbh. we ate well on a very small budget back then, and that has informed my taste buds now.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 21:49:40

My grandad used to do the best hassle back potatoes with oranges, I have his recipe book from them somewhere I must dig it out.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 21:49:42

oh, i also sling the chicken into some of the dahl for a quick curry. sometimes with coconut cream/milk if there's any around.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 21:50:41

with oranges? ooooh, i can't imagine that at all, what did he do, do you think?

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 21:54:41

re quick food after work etc... i think that is harder. i do batch cook, though. hence the blardy ice monster in the freezer. grin ooh, another one is ratatouille, so long as the veggies are in season that's pretty cheap and filling, esp with some grated cheese on top. can be tossed through pasta or over rice/baked pots. especially nice with some harissa added if you're sending it a bit middle eastern.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 21:58:47

Ok I have the book now,

roast the scored potatoes for 40/50 minutes just before they begin to turn brown, meanwhile place orange juice (juice of one orange) oorange rind 1 tbsp demera sugar in a sauce pan and heat gently till sugar has dissolved, simmer for 3/4 minutes till glaze is fairly thick then remove from heat. When potatoes are begining to brown brush all over with glaze and continue to roast till a deap golden brow.

Does sound like a bit of faffing around and not a lot to make them orangey but I promise they are delicious and really orangey in a nice way.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:00:16

mmm... i could imagine they would be really nice with waxy potatoes and lemon as well, don't you think? anything else in that book?

BornToFolk Mon 19-Nov-12 22:00:28

Cooking without meat undoubtedly takes far more skill, and time

I disagree. I do think it can take a bit of imagination as we live in such a meat-eating culture that people get a bit confused at the thought of dishes without meat.

But it takes no more actual cooking skill or time, IME. Dinner tonight for me and 5 year old DS was shepherd's pie made with nut mince and cabbage on the side. Cheap, filling, nutritious and (I think!) tasty. And took no more time or skill to make than a meat-based shepherd's/cottage pie.

I agree with the rest of your post though! I've been vegetarian for half my life now and DS has never eaten meat so this kind of food is totally normal to us. A person brought up on a diet of nuggets and chips is probably not going to prepare nut mince for dinner!

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:02:19

i've never even heard of nut mince. [embarrassed]

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 22:05:13

Aitch it's called the complete Christmas cookbook edited by Sarah Ainley my grandad left it to me along with his Leith cookery bible and techniques bible. All the recipes look delish and the truffles are amazing <drools>

stressedHEmum Mon 19-Nov-12 22:08:04

I don't think that it takes any more skill or knowledge to cook veggie, either, tbh. Perhaps a little more imagination or acceptance of different ingredients or combinations but you soon adapt.

it definitely doesn't take more time. Most of the stuff I cook takes well under an hour to make, some of it as little as 15 or 20minutes. I'm just not fit to stand or chop/mix/stir for very long nowadays.

Like Born, though, I have been a vegetarian for a very long time (over 30 years), and I have been low income for all of my adult life, so perha[s I am just used to it.

nailak Mon 19-Nov-12 22:09:00

One thing that makes it harder for me is lack of a decent oven/grill so where before I would oven bake or grill stuff, now I fry it.

Also at mums we would by veg, slice and keep in freezer, now I don't have freezer space so cannot do that.

HappyTurquoise Mon 19-Nov-12 22:12:54

Tonight's meal:
optional pack cheap pancetta (_£1.50_/lidl) cooked to crunchy to go on top
super saver pack of pasta (30p in Asda)
A little oil, 5p
1 onion (from a huge bag costing £1, so about 5p)
4 'lumps' per person of spinach from frozen bag (large saver pack/on offer, so 10p)
Cheese, 30p (I shop around and only buy cheese for less than £5 per kg. Found some in Asda which had an additional offer of 3 for 2)
some thyme from garden (free)
1 Jar pasta sauce £1 or less.
pudding: yesterday's leftover Apple Charlotte (free!)

- less than £4
cooked up extra pasta, after serving dinner, added finely chopped wafer thin ham and some extra grated cheese for tomorrow's packed lunches. (extra £1 for 2 - 3 lunch mains.)
I drive around for my job, and stop at supermarkets on my way home instead of making special trips.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:13:03

that does sound like a huge pita, nailak.
(your grandpa sounds like he would have been a handy feller to have around, Brandy).

HappyTurquoise Mon 19-Nov-12 22:14:05

nailek, it is worth getting a steel pan, and a steamer to fit in/on it so you can steam veggies and fish etc.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:14:37

Happy, can i ask, though, what the point of the pasta sauce was in that meal? hadn't you already made a pasta sauce, but for the addition of a thirty pence can (or two) of toms?

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:15:09

or was it just that you had it in anyway? (as per my boaksome meatloaf grin)

puffylovett Mon 19-Nov-12 22:18:57

(Not read whole thread but marking place for some great food ideas)

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 22:25:05

What I like about cooking veggie is that the leftovers can be kept for longer.

And honestly, you can use pulses and veg in the Old El Paso recipe kits, it even tells you how, or with jars of Patak's pastes, it tells you how to sub in pulses and veg for meat.

It takes about as long as it takes to ring and wait for a takeaway delivery.

I just don't get how it's cheaper to eat junk. I don't. I had to live on crap for nearly 8 months as had only a kettle and a microwave to use and fridge didn't allow for fresh meat or eggs.

I lost 2.5 st and it cost a bloody king's ransom! And that was just for me.

We have takeaways for birthdays and birthdays only. It's about £12 for pizza suppers and one fish single for 4 of us. For one meal?! How on Earth can that be cheaper than something you cook and have leftovers for?

I'm not talking about people who need to have special diets or who have SN, but those who don't, which is whom this article concerns.

'Oh, then DH won't eat it.' Bet he will if he gets hungry enough.

Because believe me, on the bones of your arse, that's where we live, you eat what's there because there is literally nothing else.

HappyTurquoise Mon 19-Nov-12 22:25:45

I had it anyway, and kids prefer that make of sauce (it hides the spinach). But yes, I'm going to be using jars a lot less, as they're going up in price so fast.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:27:41

EVERYTHING is, isn't it? and apparently it's all set to rise more, cos harvests have been so crap.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 22:28:03

Honestly, I never use jars of sauce. Or packet mixes. Or much pre-packed stuff at all. My recycling bin is always practically empty, where most peoples' are filled with jars and cans. I wouldn't even know how much a jar of sauce cost, but I bet it's more than the sum of its ingredients.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 22:29:20

I don't mean that to sound unbearably smug, honestly I don't blush

It just really doesn't cross my mind to buy a casserole/fajita mix or a jar of pasta/curry sauce.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:29:47

hey expat i want to hear your mexi-recipes...
re jars, i've heard patak's are good, but i've not used them. however, when i think how much a lump of farking ginger is costing nowadays i'm coming round to using them as a bit of a base.

HappyTurquoise Mon 19-Nov-12 22:35:23

Toby, I only buy the type of sauce mixes where I'm getting value for money in terms of ingredients and time saved, and only get them on offer, always under £1 for a large jar. But you're right, a tin of tomatoes, roasted veg, some other cheese, chopped herbs, garlic (don't have any) glug of wine (don't have any) would do instead! grin

HappyTurquoise Mon 19-Nov-12 22:36:29

I keep the jars and put home made chutneys in them too (although not many apples, so didn't this year.)

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 22:36:37

I do buy pataks curry paste, Jamie Oliver says there as good as you can get and I really couldn't be arsed to make a wet paste the odd time I make a chicken and chickpea korma.

Yes Toby give us your mexi recipe, I try with my fahjitas but never get it quite right I use caynne pepper, salt, pepper,tumeric and cinnamon

tbh the cajun spice mix packet comes out better and if you buy the packety seperate it's about 50p I think.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:41:21

good to know, will investigate next time am in supermarket.

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 22:54:29

Mexican Rice, serves 2 adults and 2 children or probably 2 adults and 1 teen so adjust accordingly.

1 cup of long-grain rice
2 cups water, diluted by half with tomato puree, tomato passata or ketchup, whatever you have to hand, just whisk it well
oil to cover the bottom of a lidded saucepan you're using to hold it
salt, pepper and garlic or garlic granules to taste
powdered cumin to taste or you can use a teaspoon of cumin seed but put this in when you throw the rice in
one chopped onion or frozen equivalent
one chopped pepper or frozen equivalent

Heat the oil in the pan until, when you throw rice in it, it cackles. Tip in the rice and stir it around and cook until it's translucent.

Add everything else.

Cover with a lid and turn down the heat until the water's boiled off.

You will have the orange 'arroz' served up with Mex/Tex-Mex dishes.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 19-Nov-12 22:58:05

yum. although damn yer cheat's garlic. grin

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 23:04:24

Pinto beans are fab, too.

I buy them dried in Tesco.

Measure out what you need by hand, I usually do 2 cups and rinse them in cold water.

Throw them in a pan of boiling water with whatever you've got - a ham hock or bacon cuttings or no meat at all, whatever chopped veg you have (I always put in an onion and celery), plenty of salt and pepper, garlic, chiles, some dried cumin. You can even throw in a crumbled stock cube.

Simmer them with the lid on, checking the water levels every now and again.

They take a couple of hours and you can also chuck in a teaspoon of bicab of soda so the skin goes soft.

Then you can serve them in tortillas with rice as they are, with grated cheddar and soured cream and salsa.

Or, mash them up with a masher or two forks and fry them in oil or lard as leftovers, or lay them on a tortilla, cover with grated cheese and stick them under the grill till the cheese melts.

You can also use goat's cheese.

My father grew up on frijoles, rice and corn tortillas. Meat was for high holy days and then it was fajitas or cheap cuts and offal minced down and made into tamales or empanadas/pies or caldo or tripas (tripe) unless they had or someone had a chicken to kill, but chickens were very valuable for their eggs and were not killed off till they were old. Even roosters had worth till they were old.

Cheese was made from goat's milk, only rich people could keep cows. Even the classic Mexican sweet, dulce de leche is still sold in wrapped nuggets and made from goat's milk and cane sugar. The other is a nugget of quince seed jelly that you slice off by the piece.

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 23:05:01

I still use cheat's garlic and coriander/cilantro, which is hard to grow here.

littleducks Mon 19-Nov-12 23:05:14

Hmm. I try to cook nutritious and thrifty meals. But it needs to be quick too and that often throws one of the first two aims out the window. I am only home one day a week and no longer have time to hang around supermarkets for reductions.

The children and I have vegetarian lunches (I have no idea what dh eats and frankly don't want to as I rather suspect it is 2 for £2 nasty chicken burgers etc) so we do tend to have either meat or fish most evenings.

The children would eat pasta with tomate sauce and cheese, I think they would hmm at the idea of rice and tomato sauce. We are probably spoiled but I think everyone expects a 'meal.'

I cooked a big pan of haleem on saturday night and served that up again tonight, which dispointed the children despite them originally loving it. So I do feel bad batch cooking.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 23:09:29

Little ducks could you not of freezed it and brought it back out a week later?

Expaat your recipes sound delicious I am so trying them out!

littleducks Mon 19-Nov-12 23:18:25

This is one thing that doesn't freeze well and I had absolutely no time to cook anything new.

Most other stuff I cook freezes well though, but the trouble I have is freezing something big enough to feed four and then managing to get it defrosted in time with all the other components of the meal ready in time. In fact I think it is the thinking about it that stresses me out and takes up too much brain space! Far easier to pick up bung in the oven/microwave veg and stick some meat in the george forman gril.

Some weeknights are crazy here, I pick up kids from afterschool club get home and try and feed them something, attempt to get homework/reading books done (why a 4 year old needs to 'reinforce' their letter knowledge by doing a phonics worksheet daily is another thread) then have to pick up dh from station, before children in bed.

babbas Mon 19-Nov-12 23:20:47

I always try and make meals last two days. Eg last week we had chicken and potato curry for three (!) days. First day with boiled rice. Second day with pitta bread and salad and third day we bought fresh chapatti from our local curry house (4 for £1!!). On thurs I always do baked potatoes with cheese/beans/tuna. Fri is usually oven chips with egg and peas. Sat I usually do something like spicy chicken legs with cabbage bake and veg or lasagna. Once a month on a sat we spend £15 on a takeaway and Sunday is lazy dinner day so we eat leftovers from sat.

Luckily I don't have to watch my spends, but I do always try and cook with butter or nice olive oil. My kids would really struggle to have pasta with tin toms and cheese. Instead I would make homemade pasta sauce with nice gulf of olive oil, garlic, ginger, chilli, onions, simmered for a nice long while. I also make my
Own curry sauce. In butter with everything simmered slowly. This is part frozen and one week I'll add chicken to it. The next ill add veg or fish. I really believe in making food from scratch but don't think there's anything wrong with the odd oven chips day. I also think if making simple recipes then s nice bit of butter or oil or cream really adds to flavour and shared between the five of us it means it's not that fattening. My top quick recipe is one tray roast dinner: marinated chicken thighs, carrots, potatoes, parsnips all thrown in large oven tray bunged in oven for hour. Out of oven onto plates with huge side salad. Leftovers go in lunchboxes for next day.

OwedToAutumn Mon 19-Nov-12 23:23:33

I use a cheats ginger. It's a brand called Nishaan, and I get it from the supermarket. It's a proper grated mush, not chunks, and is fabulous for Chinese, Indian and North African styles of food.

babbas Mon 19-Nov-12 23:30:19

Oh yes, that ginger is good. I LOVE my Asian supermarket. I buy frozen garlic (100%. Garlic only) for £1. It lasts at least 4 months. I also buy ginger in a jar for a quid. My chicken marinade is from a packet of tandoori masala mix also 99p from the Asian supermarket. If you go to the meat counter they will chop up any onions you have bought and bag them for you in small bags for the freezer. Just ask nicely. I've recently also found that fruit is cheaper her as ate rice, herbs, flour, lentils etc.

expatinscotland Tue 20-Nov-12 00:44:30

I buy a piece of ginger and freeze it to grate.

We live in the middle of absolute nowhere. People used to kill each other or send them to gaol over stolen sheep or cattle because let's face it, if someone stole your sheep or what cows or pigs the laird had by his tenants, there was a good chance those people would starve over the winter.

The cheapest way for me to get to Glasgow, on a 'cheap' return is £14 and £8 for a child above 3 and under 16, and then I surface at Central, after 2 hours of travel in good weather, to have to take a bus or walk for miles. Last winter, it regularly took me 5 hours to get through here, so I don't have a lot of sympathy for whingers.

The ferries were off yesterday and the Rest and Be Thankful Pass closed. If you needed medical help, it's the Royal Navy helicopter for you or nowt.

It is raining again and the wind is up. After dawn, who knows. This is 2012 and still, this is area can be entirely cut off.

You live in a place where takeaway is even an option? Must be nice!

But don't tell me your only choice is junk and no, I'm not talking about disabled or the sick and SN, been there, bought the tshirt. Still here now.

My son went without dinner because he refused what was served, noodles and chicken thighs with a peanut butter sauce. Well, we have no money till Wednesday and tax credits but what I've bought on our last shop, so he'll gobble up his porridge in the morning.

TobyLerone Tue 20-Nov-12 08:09:56

I do my chicken fajitas by slicing chicken breasts and marinating them in lime juice, cumin and a bit of tabasco or chilli powder. Sometimes smoked paprika.

Then just fry the strips in a bit of olive oil until browned. They only take a couple of minutes. Not particularly authentic, I'm sure, but delicious!

Before I do the chicken, I fry loads of sliced peppers (a pepper per person, if I have enough in) and sliced onions together until lovely and sweet and soft, then put them in the bottom of the dish I will serve the chicken in and keep them warm in the oven. It makes the chicken go loads further.

If you don't eat meat, quartered mushrooms work really well in place of the chicken (if your DC will eat them, unlike mine sad )

Serve with iceberg lettuce, salsa/guacamole (DD makes the best guacamole in our house), grated cheese, sour cream and tortillas. Not particularly cheap, I shouldn't think. But nice for a treat.

stressedHEmum Tue 20-Nov-12 08:21:44

I'm with expat on this one. All tis stuff about "may family wouldn't eat that". if there was nothing else and they were hungry enough, they would. That's how we live - eat what there is or or don't eat at all. DS4 and DD wouldn't eat the eggs I made for tea last night (toast beans and egg blush ), so they will be hungry for their potato scones for breakfast, then.

We don't have the geographical challenges that expat has because we only live in a semi-rural area of Scotland. but it is an area of very high deprivation where people come to blows in shops over reduced price stuff so I have little sympathy with all of the "couldn't/wouldn't eat that" stuff. You have to cut your cloth and adjust expectations.

I can't believe that it's cheaper to eat junk and take aways, either. The last time I bought a chippy tea in here, it was well over £20 for my lot. The last Chinese ( for a birthday 2 years ago) was over £40 - that's my weeks food money.

TobyLerone Tue 20-Nov-12 08:23:36

Absobloodylutely. There is no room for pickiness when you can't afford to waste food and have to cook as cheaply as possible.

Lesbeadiva Tue 20-Nov-12 09:17:39

I fed our family of four for £2.50 last night! Bag of drastically reduced filled tortellini (50p) garlic bread (50p) and basic tomato sauce with basil(80p) and an extra special chocolate tart reduced to 70p. Some days you just hit the bargains at the right time. Our local coop does great reductions. Puff pastry at 10p etc. For those looking for higher fat cheap meals, a sheet of puff pastry covered in a basic tomato sauce and topped with roast veg is a good one, so is mince in Spag Bol etc.

Also from chicken bones on a Sunday, make a stock with them. A carton of coconut milk and a jar of thai curry paste cost £2 for both, mix in with chicken stock(only about 2 tablespoons of curry paste,so you can use the other half to make a curry in the week) a pack of udon noodles (or any noodles) another 50p and some spring onions makes a really good cheap soup and all the extra left over meat off the chicken in it too. It fed us 6 portions and cost less than £3.

We get a lot of fruit "whoopsed" too. In fact there is not one item in my freezer without a yellow sticker blush

dashoflime Tue 20-Nov-12 10:31:14

Yy to tinned minced ginger. I get the tinned minced garlic too. Quicker, easier AND cheaper smile

VerySmallSqueak Tue 20-Nov-12 14:46:14

Thanks for the dahl recipes!

Tonight we have eggy bread, and oranges for afters.

I have to mention here though that my meals also take into account that the kids have a cooked meal at school which is well balanced.And there is always fruit/cucumber to hand at home.It certainly makes it easier to cook a cheaper meal when you know they have already had a cooked meal.
I find it easier to cook non-meat meals.I am not a confident cook at all,and I always worry with meat that I've cooked it properly.

stressedHEmum Tue 20-Nov-12 15:10:28

Tonight's dinner in here is butternut squash and lentil curry.

2 butternuts (70p each, Aldi super six), 3 onions from a big bag (20p), bag lentils (4 packs for £1 from Approved Food), 2 tins coconut milk (75p each), few blocks of frozen spinach (30p) curry powder, salt and pepper (10 or 15p), 1/2 a bag value rice (20p), total cost £4. It will make 8 servings, so 50p a serving. it has 3 of your 5 a day, protein, carbs, plenty of micronutrients. It's cheap, easy and takes less than 1 hour to make. How is eating junk food any cheaper or easier, really than that?

Lunch was cheese and ham toasties and apples. I got the bread reduced to 20p, the cheese reduced to 20p, the ham reduced to 30p and a bag of apples reduced to 25p, so lunch cost under 20p a head.

Breakfast was potato scones (reduced to 20p a pack) and 1/2 a jar of value peanut butter (about 30p), kids had milk to drink. So that was about 30p a head.

3 decent meals for £1 a head. I can't see how junk food can be cheaper than that.

TobyLerone Tue 20-Nov-12 15:17:23

I wish my DD would eat butternut squash. It's on her 'hate' list. The rest of us love it, and you can make so many delicious cheap meals with it.

multitaskmama Tue 20-Nov-12 16:31:26

It is a little about education ie. but all is not lost as long you know the basics. I came from a family of 5 where money was tight so got used to cooking. Also we could never afford to eat out.

I am a SAHM but even when I worked in the City I cooked daily when I got home. To give mums some encouragement, you can cook a deliciously healthy meal that doesn't cost a lot.

Here are some examples of my delicious but cheap meals:

1) daal/lentils and rice (costs approx. £2 to feed the family)
2) chickpea curry and couscous (again £2)
3) potato and pea curry with chapatti (£2, £1 for chappattis, 3 chickpea tins for a £1 + cost of spices)
4) Fish (frozen from Farmfoods costs £2-3 or £3 from Iceland + homemade chips from spuds for 50p (meal for £4)
5) 4 or 8 mini pizzas made on wholemeal pitta (£3 for 8 mini pizzas)
6) Chicken stir-fry. To make chicken go further, make a stir fry with left over chicken, peppers, tomatoes, sweetcorn (£3)

If you have access to an Indian grocers or a large supermarket, buy your oil, onions, lentils, pitta bread from here, its much cheaper eg 4 pitta packets from an Indian grocer for a £1 and they can be frozen!

Alternatively, in the Indian grocery aisles of major supermarkets, you have oil, tomato tins, chickpea tins, rice etc at a good price.

When buying basics such as flour etc, I tend to buy the supermarkets own brand, it saves a lot of money eg. small items such as tomato puree will be 29p from Lidl as opposed to 70p for a well known brand.

Being of Pakistani origin but born and bred in the UK, I have learnt to make a little go a long way as we traditionally used to have large families to feed.

For inspiration on some healthy delicious recipes with not so fancy ingredients, check out this:

Cheap Healthy Recipes

Please feel free to ask any questions. If anyone is local to me and would like a lesson, I am happy to oblige, as I am passionate about cooking quick healthy food on the cheap and would love to help other mums smile

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).

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.

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.

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

fish fingers, chips & peas.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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