Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Eating well while spending less

A while ago I heard about a woman who gave herself a challenge once a month to use every last thing in her cupboards while allowing something like $25 for fresh ingredients. This week, partly out of a fear of shops at Christmas time and partly out of money saving necessity I've been trying not to buy food. I've actually found a lot of pleasure in stretching out the food we have. It feels clever and tricksy to make one packet of sausages last two meals. I enjoy the smug feeling I get from it.

I'm not sure the rest of the family enjoys it as much. Ah well. Since it's almost that time I've decided that having a regular food stretching week will be one of my resolutions for the coming year. I don't just want to eat cheaply though, I want to eat well. That will be the challenge.

Here are some of the things I've served up over the last 7 days, with varying success.

Eight Sausages into Two Meals

This is one of my favourite tricks. All my adult life I thought you had to use one packet of meat from the supermarket for a main meal. It wasn't until about two years ago that I learned how to stretch it out and halve my meat bill.

I bought 1 pack of 8 organic, free range sausages for $5.99. They were also skinless but you can remove the skins yourself.

Four of the de-skinned sausages went into a bowl with a chopped onion, grated carrot, chopped celery stick, 2 cloves of garlic, some herbs, 1 C of LSA mix (ground nuts and seeds) and a tablespoon of tomato paste.  I scrunched that up with my hands and then pressed it firmly into a small loaf tin. You can add an egg or some breadcrumbs if you can eat them. Over the top I spooned a mix of tomato paste, soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. It was cooked at 190 degrees with some foil over it for 30 minutes, and then for a further 30 minutes with the foil removed.

We had it with some rice and steamed vegetables. Not your most glam dinner but it was family friendly and cost around $4.50 for our family of four.

For the second dinner I mixed the rest of the sausage meat with some cooked, cooled, white rice, some tomato paste and seasonings. I formed them into "hedgehog" meatballs (named for the rice 'spikes' poking out of the meatball) and put them into a casserole dish. Over the top went a tin of crushed tomatoes, some more tomato paste, some brown sugar, salt, and herbs. I put the lid on and cooked for 45 mins at 180 degrees. We had these with some crispy roast potatoes and vegetables on the side.

You can follow this principle with minced meat really easily. If you add pureed tinned chickpeas (drained) to some meat it'll go much further in a shepherds pie. Add brown lentils to mince in a bolognaise and no-one will know. Mexican dishes that are heavy on the beans and light on the meat are really budget friendly and better for you.

Vegan, Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

Who doesn't love chocolate cake? My theory is that you should always have really yummy baking in the house when you're stretching your food. Plain meals are happier when you have a slice of cake to look forward to afterwards.

This cake is made with cheap ingredients and uses no butter, milk, or egg.

190g flour (plain or GF)
200g sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
20g cocoa powder

(mix together)

235 water
80ml oil
5ml white vinegar
(mix together)

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Cook in a 175 degree oven for 45 minutes.

It's moist and chocolatey and yummy.


So today we have finished the German rye bread that I made on Saturday and there's almost nothing for lunch. I could go out and buy stuff but I thought I'd bake some bread rolls and save the money.

Rolls ready to prove for the second time
This is Jamie Oliver's basic bread recipe which is available here: Mr Oliver's Bread Recipe. I halved the recipe.

A nice hot bread roll with butter and marmite doesn't feel frugal. It feels like luxury!


I know.. soup is a bit blah. And not very summery. But then again, it's not that summery outside is it?
I bought a pumpkin this week for $2.38 and roasted it with some olive oil, ground nutmeg, and salt. Once it was nice and  gooey I took off the skins and put the flesh in a pot with some chicken stock that's I'd saved from a chicken casserole earlier in the week before blending it up with a stick blender. It was creamy and yum and perfect with some cheese toast on the side.

Of course it's Christmas and probably not the time to skimp on nice food. We have our huge grocery shop arriving on Thursday (thank you online shopping!) and there are lots of treats to be had in there. It's always worth knowing how to stretch your food and save some cash for when you need to (or want to).

1 comment:

  1. Very cool, I am on a healthy but budget-concious grocery bill reducing mission at the moment! Love your blog Becs! (ps. my name is Andrea Bedford ( nee McKeown)...we know each other ;-)


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