Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cheap Eats #1

When I need to cut back on spending, the first thing I look at is the food we eat at home. It's not that we are all that extravagant at home but I always find something that we can cut back on. And for the past three months I've been making our lunches, buying Gav's snacks in bulk (workplace vending machines are so expensive!) and eating more vegetarian food along with some cheaper cuts of meat. With a food budget of around £30-£40 a week I've discovered quite a few new food ideas - all of which are healthy and filling as well as cheap! So, I figured it would be a good idea to start documenting them; a handy 'go to' guide for the future.

This week began with fish and chips. A large haddock fillet was sliced into two, pan fried on a high heat and served with these mushy peas and some homemade chips (Boston potatoes, chopped and par-boiled before being coated in oil & cayenne pepper and baked for 20 mins in a hot oven). Gav declared that my chips were 'excellent' and I must admit that I did think they were pretty bloody good. In fact the whole dish was a success and each portion came in at less than £2; using split peas for the mushy peas kept the cost really low and they seemed to work just as well as marrowfat peas. And I can thank Simmonite's on Division Street for the £3 fillet of haddock.

I turned to A Girl Called Jack's blog for midweek inspiration and I made both the kidney bean burgers and the falafels. We had more homemade chips, homemade flatbreads and salad with the burgers and some pittas and salad with the falafels. Both were easy and incredibly cheap meals, and best of all, there were leftovers for lunch too. I did alter the falafel recipe a little; I added some chilli to the mix (and next time I will also add some lemon juice) and I baked them rather than frying. In terms of costs I would say that both the burgers and the falafels, including the sides, came in at less than 60p a portion and they were worth every single penny!!

With not so fond memories of turkey casseroles cooked in my mum's slow cooker it's taken me a long time to come round to the idea of buying one of these gadgets for myself. But with plans of beef cheek casserole and a day in the pub, I finally gave in yesterday and bought this Breville from Argos on the basis that it's large, oval (which I hear is good for cooking whole chickens) and currently on offer. I used this recipe for the casserole, but ditched the skirt for beef cheeks. I also only used half of the ingredients as I wasn't feeding the five thousand and I skipped the dumplings. Using the slow cooker was extremely simple; I just seared the diced cheek meat before sticking it, and everything else, into the casserole dish and switching the cooker onto 'Auto'. Then we went to the pub for about 8 hours.

I served the casserole with some mash that I'd made earlier, (reheated in the microwave) and it was delicious. The meat was super tender, the veg was soft, but not mushy, and it was perfect post pub grub! Thanks to Beeches of Walkey who had some beef cheeks for £4 a kilo and the use of Tesco Everyday Value wine which is £1.49 for a 250ml carton, the whole dish cost about £7.40 to make. I'll get 5 portions out of it, so that's about £1.48 a portion (plus, say, 40p for each serving of mash). And tonight I'm gonna serve it as a ragu with some pasta; my favourite way to use leftover casseroles.

Now to plan next week's meals... you got any tips?

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