Advanced search

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?

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.

Somebodysomewhere Mon 19-Nov-12 18:40:27

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

pregnantpause Mon 19-Nov-12 19:07:31

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

I think this is the American thrift plan.

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.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now