Cost of Living Crisis: The 25p Meal

Cost of living crisis: the 25p meal

We want everyone to eat well during the cost of living crisis. We very much hope this article will help with that.

One of the cheapest ways to pare your food budget right back is to find out what time your local supermarket marks down its perishable products and do your shopping then. This makes possible what we call the 25p meal: feeding a family of four for £1, or under, all ingredients.

Don’t forget to check the Olio app for free food being given away in your area too. Food Heroes collect the yellow stickered items that didn’t sell and share them in the community. Desktop version here. People also share things that they can’t use up in time from their fridge, or cupboard items that they no longer want.

Cauliflower in a Cheesy Sauce

Cost of living crisis: a 25p meal

Cauliflower (25p) in a white sauce (milk/marg/flour/water totalling 20p), and 30p worth of leftover rice made into herby tomato rice. We added:  1 onion (7p, not marked down but really cheap in Lidl) a squirt of tomato puree (5p), dried herbs (5p) salt (1p).

Cost of Living Crisis Spaghetti

Cost of living crisis: 25p meal

Above was a nice meal based around getting an organic unsliced wholemeal loaf for 10p. We added marg and garlic to make it into garlic bread. Cheap spaghetti (often around 20p for 500g in value ranges) mixed with a tin of kidney beans at 25p and marked down pepper and courgette, both 10p each. Salad was a 10p lettuce with a squirt of lemon juice. There was a LOT of garlic bread made with that one loaf!

Pizza Bagels or Pittas

A firm favourite now, actually considered a treat in this house, is the meal of pizza bagels, or pittas, or, as pictured below, pizza paninis. Made with 4 Paninis at 19p for 2, then with pizza sauce consisting of an onion fried in a tiny bit of oil, tomato puree, herbs and salt, totalling no more than 10p. They only need a few minutes in the oven or under the grill as the bread bases are already cooked. We paired them with a reduced salad bag at 10p, reduced hummus at 32p and a tub of pasta salad marked down to 26p. Over budget by 6p! If we’d used cheaper bread, such as one pack of bagels reduced to 20p, we would have been under.

It would be cheaper to use the pizzas as a side to homemade soup (see our many soup recipes). Of course, you can add any topping you like to these, but the sauce is delicious in itself.

Cost of living crisis: 25p meal

Porridge: cost of living crisis food

This next one pushes the budget again, though only by 10p. For a luxury breakfast! It’s porridge (20p worth value range oats) made with water, but with a huge box of blueberries (marked down to 75p) and half a bar of Lidl dark chocolate (bar is 30p, so 15p), smashed up. Yum.

Our local Tesco usually does a big mark down around 6pm. The one in the next town is a little later at 6.45pm and its prices go right down to 2p for many items. Asda starts much earlier in the day with its reductions. Lidl has many things, including a basket of bread, reduced to 20p first thing in the morning. Martin Lewis wrote an article on the different supermarkets and their reduction times here.

Unless we’re going to use them that day, we tend to avoid ready chopped things which go off quickly. Whole vegetables and fruit will keep for a few days and bread will be good for a couple of days or can go straight in the freezer. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve filled our freezer with 10p loaves and buns!

Also see:

Our Sourdough bread for pennies post here.

The Free Food section about gardening, giving and foraging.

And check out clearance food sellers like Low Price Foods  and Approved Food for stocking your cupboards with low priced staples.

And all our frugal recipes.

It can be fun to use your imagination and ingenuity to make best use of what’s available on any given day in the reduced section. Please feel free to share your ideas and successes in the comments below. Let’s weather the cost of living crisis healthily together!

Ailish Sinclair‘s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, and featuring the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, is out now. On Amazon and Waterstones or see Author website for more details.

The Mermaid and the Bear Cover

Red Dragon Pie and Bargain Seeds

red dragon pie

This Red Dragon Pie was inspired by a recipe in the classic book Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen (BBC cookery series). Topped with creamy mash, the base is a rich mix of aduki beans – traditionally said to give you the strength of the dragon – and brown rice in gravy.

Red Dragon Pie Ingredients (serves six)

  • Aduki beans, 200g dried and soaked overnight or two tins of cooked ones
  • 200g of rice (brown is best)
  • 4 sticks of celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs (or fresh, lots of parsley is great)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • a teaspoon of yeast extract or vecon stock
  • salt, if needed
  • Potatoes, mashed with margarine and milk of your choice, for topping

Red Dragon Pie Method

Soak beans overnight if using dried ones. Place in a  large pan, cover well with water, bring to the boil and let simmer for a couple of hours until soft. Throw in the rice about half way through cooking. Add more water if needed. Once it’s all nearly cooked add the vegetables and boil a pan of potatoes for your mash topping, quantity up to you. We do like a nice thick layer of mash.

Frugal Potato Tip

Leave those skins on! It saves waste and money to not throw away a section of potato. Just give them a good scrub and cut any gnarly or bad bits off and you’re good to go (compost those gnarlies!). The skins are rich in both fibre and vitamins too. For mashing we cut them up quite small to save having large bits of skin in the mix; they also cook faster that way, saving cooking fuel.

Method cont.

As the beans and potatoes cook , add the herbs, puree and yeast extract to the bean mixture. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir well. Drain and mash the potatoes with marg and milk. Place the bean mix in an ovenproof dish, if not already using one, and top with the potatoes. Easier if using cookware that transfers from hob to oven such as a Cast Iron Casserole – and bake in a hot oven (200C/400F) until nicely browned. Running a fork round the top of your mash gives it lots of nice little crispy bits to brown.

Enjoy your Red Dragon Pie! Try our other frugal recipes here

beans for red dragon pie
Tinned beans from supermarkets: Tesco’s Adukis and Lidl’s mixed beans which do contain some adukis.

Thompson and Morgan have a seed sale on for the next 48 hours (time of writing 22nd October 2021 but they usually have good deals on)! Stock up on seeds for next year for £1. See the selection here and use code TM_TN2468W for the cheap price.

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic while FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

The blend of dark events and romance in these stories is perfect for Autumn!

Paperback & kindle: http://author.to/mermaid

Novels by Ailish Sinclair

Sausage and Bean Pie

carlin peasDelicious and filling, this sausage and bean pie is a perfect winter dish, and can be made with a variety of ingredients which will affect the overall frugality of it. At the end of a shopping week we found Carlin Peas at the back of the cupboard and soaked them overnight but any beans would do. We combined these with a box of Linda McCartney sausages from the bottom of the freezer.

To make the pie:
Pastry ingredients (for four people, adjust as required):
300g of flour (any type, self raising will puff up a little, plain won’t – we used wholemeal spelt obtained from Approved Food (also check Low Price Foods) in these pics, white would be lighter in colour).
150g of vegetable margarine
tiny amount of water (2 or 3 tablespoons)

Pastry method:
Place flour in a bowl. Break the marg into small pieces and rub it in to the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a very small amount of water and knead this into flour until you have firm dough (adding more water if too dry or more flour if too wet). Sprinkle flour on your working surface, divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each one out to fit your pie or oven proof dish. Line the bottom and edges of the pie dish with one section of the pastry, ready for the filling.

pieFilling and Baking:
Ingredients:
Beans of your choice (we used 200g dried beans). You could even used baked beans and skip the gravy part!
Sausages of your choice – we used six LM ones
a little oil
1 red onion chopped
gravy mix or flour to thicken
water as needed
salt to taste

Method:
Cook your beans and sausages as per packet instructions. Fry a red onion off in a little oil and add your pre-cooked beans along with their cooking water (or add water as needed if using tinned beans). Chop the cooked sausages into chunks and add these too. Make a thick gravy of the mixture (we used original Bisto) and add salt to taste. Place filling onto the pastry in the pie dish and then cover with the top pastry, sealing the edges with a little water. Make some cuts in the top to let out steam and bake in the oven at 200C/400F for at least half an hour or until the pastry is browned.

Nice served with a large salad.

carlin2



Crumble: fruit or rhubarb

rhubarb crumbleFruit crumble is a wonderfully frugal dish. You can use virtually any fruit (perhaps not banana!) and it’s a good way to use up items that might be passing their best. Summer brings luscious pink rhubarb, perfect for crumble. Autumn delivers apples and blackberries/brambles, also delicious. Here is a basic recipe for a combination of rhubarb and apples, adjust as you require:

Filling:
2 or 3 apples, peeled and chopped (if you use eating apples you could reduce the sugar slightly)
4 or 5 sticks of rhubarb, chopped into chunks
4 tablespoons of sugar
Surprisingly, rose petals combine with rhubarb to give a beautiful flavour.

filling

Topping:
100g. flour (for a gluten-free version use Doves Farm gluten-free flour)
25g. sugar
75g. vegetable margarine
optional additions: grated lemon rind, sunflower seeds, rolled oats.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Place the fruit in an ovenproof dish and top with the sugar. For the topping: rub the flour into the margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and any other additions and place evenly over the filling. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about half an hour or until everything is bubbling: crispy on top, soft below. Lovely with custard or ice cream.

If you like this, you may also like our recipe for Apple Pie



gluten-free vegetarian lasagne, frugal food

gluten-free vegetarian lasagne

This gluten-free vegetarian lasagne was made with gluten free lasagne sheets found in Lidl, making it especially frugal, though many brands exist and the recipe will work with wheat based products too. It made enough for four huge portions or six medium.

Ingredients

  • 1 250g pack of lasagne sheets

For the tomato sauce

  • a little olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • an aubergine, cut into small chunks
  • 4 sticks of celery, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 500g pack of passata
  • about 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano or other dried herbs
  • salt to taste
  • Method: fry the vegetables in the oil for a few minutes until softened. Add the passata, rinse out the pack/bottle with the water before adding it to the sauce. Bring to the boil, add your herbs and salt.

For the white topping sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable margarine
  • 1 tablespoon of gluten free flour
  • about a cup of soya milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Method: melt the margarine and stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk over a medium heat, stirring all the time to avoid lumps (though don’t worry too much, in this dish they’re not very noticeable), until the sauce thickens. Add your seasoning and pour onto the top of the lasagne.

In a flat oven proof dish layer up the lasagne and the tomato sauce. It’s best to put a little sauce on the bottom to prevent sticking. The Lidl brand of lasagne did not need pre soaking (thank goodness! It always sticks together!) but check the instructions on your pack.

Make the top layer sauce and spread on top.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for at least forty minutes or until a knife slides easily into the middle of the lasagne.

Variations

  • This recipe used the most basic of vegetables, you can use whatever you have to hand: peppers, courgettes, peas, sweetcorn. We added sweetcorn to the white sauce pictured.
  • A layer of tinned spinach instead of the last layer of tomato sauce is very nice and juicy. Ditto mushrooms.
  • We topped with a small packet of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
  • You can add tomato puree if the sauce seems overly runny, though remember it does need to have more liquid than plain pasta sauce as the lasagne will absorb some of it.

If you liked this gluten-free vegetarian lasagne, try some of our other frugal recipes here.

gluten-free vegetarian lasagne

Potato and Onion Pie, a frugal recipe

potato and onion pie

We love this potato and onion pie! Well, what’s not to love? Pies are simple and filling and people gobble them up. Last night we made the pictured potato and onion pie with a block of cheap puff pastry from Lidl on the top.

Filling Ingredients (serves 5)

  • a little olive oil
  • 1 bag of new potatoes washed and thinly sliced (skins left on)
  • 4 onions, peeled and sliced up
  • 3 tablespoons original Bisto powder (or other gravy mix)
  • salt to taste
  • water as needed (a cup or two)

Method

In a large pan fry up the onion in the oil until softened and add the potatoes, mixing well. Add water (not actually to cover, it will form your gravy) and bring to the boil as you preheat your oven to 200C/400F. Cook the potato mix for a short time so that the potatoes are partly boiled and then add your gravy mix according to packet instructions, though you are going for thick not pouring. Combine well in the pan, adding salt as needed.

Transfer your filling to a large pie dish or casserole. Roll out your pastry to fit the pie and plonk it on top, tucking in the edges if needed.

Cook for at least half an hour, maybe up to 45 minutes, until the pastry is risen and browned and the potatoes are all soft.

open pie

Of course, all manner of ingredients can go into a pie! This one was originally intended to be a cheese, onion and potato pie, but all the cheese was gone at the end of the shopping week.

Other pies and pasties on site

Autumn is coming. Enjoy your pies…

Gluten Free Cake – Apple, Banana & Raisin

gluten free cake

This gluten free cake contains no gluten and no refined sugar, but is sweet and even sort of juicy! It fitted a seven inch round cake tin.

Ingredients:
200g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
2 apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
2 bananas, mashed
1 cupful of raisins
half a cupful of sunflower oil
soya milk, or other milk of your choice to mix, about a cup and a half

Place the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in your oil and some of the soya milk. Add the mashed banana and the apples and raisins and mix, mix, mix, with a wooden spoon, adding milk as you go for a good consistency (thick but not dry, pourable but not runny). Pour into a greased cake tin and bake at 200C/400F for about half an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!

The juiciness of the fruit means this gluten free cake does not dry out like some and is good for two or three days. Best kept in the fridge.

If you liked this gluten free cake, try some of our other delicious frugal recipes.

Brambling Free!

Underground, overground, brambling free! The brambles of Wimbledon Common are we…

I don’t know if Wimbledon Common is a good source of brambles (blackberries) but many hedgerows are this time of year, and that means: fruity purple cakes. With chocolate chips. Just because.

Bramble Chocolate Chip Cakes
Ingredients:
300g Doves Farm Gluten free Self Raising flour
100g caster sugar
a couple of handfuls of freshly picked brambles
about a third of a cup of soya milk
about a third of a cup of sunflower oil
100g of chocolate chips (we used Moo Free)
water to mix to a good thick batter – though you don’t want it too runny

Mix the flour, chocolate chips and sugar together (keep some chips back for sprinkling on top). Blend up the brambles with the soya milk and mix this in along with the oil, adding some water if the batter is too thick. It should be purple!

Divide between 12 cake or muffin cases. Place in a muffin tin if using paper ones; silicone reusable cases are better in many ways, not least of which is that the cakes will not stick to them like glue as gluten-free mixes are prone to do. Top with the remaining chips. Bake at 200C/400F for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and browning. And slightly purpling!



potato bake – a super frugal recipe

Potato Bake submitted by Scottish author Ailish Sinclair

Extremely simple and cheap – even if you’ve never cooked before you should manage this one!

potato bake in a Halogen oven

Ingredients:
6 or 7 medium sized potatoes, peeled
1 large can of baked beans in tomato sauce (approx 800g – you could use 2 standard size tins instead)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 or 3 sliced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of margarine for dotting over the top
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds for sprinkling on the top
other optional layers:
1 or 2 cups of left-over rice mixed with some soya milk and herbs
sliced mushrooms mixed with a little veg. oil and 2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 can of sweetcorn
1 can of spinach

Part-boil the potatoes for 5 or 6 minutes until starting to soften. Thinly slice them. In a large casserole or lasagne dish place a layer of potatoes then a layer of beans, then onion and repeat until all used up. That is the basic dish but you can add any other layers you like (experiment! Any tins lurking in the cupboard?), such as the garlic mushrooms, sweetcorn, spinach or rice ones above, making the last layer potatoes. Spread the sliced tomatoes over the top, dot with the marg. and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Bake for about an hour or until the potatoes are soft at 190C/380F.

Pictured Potato Bake cooked in an energy saving Halogen Oven.

Ailish Sinclair‘s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, and featuring the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, is out Autumn 2019. On Amazon and Waterstones or see Author website for more details.

The Mermaid and the Bear Cover

homemade cookies or biscuits, frugal baking

homemade cookies

Homemade cookies are really quite easy, and fun, and very frugal. This recipe makes about 40 small (2 inch/6cm) cookies

Ingredients

  • 150g/5oz/three quarter cup caster sugar
  • 150g/5 oz/three quarter cup vegetable margarine
  • 5 tablespoons of soya milk
  • 300g/10 oz/1and a half cups of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease cookie sheets. Cream together the sugar and marg. Mix in the soya milk and vanilla and then the flour. The mixing of the flour is best done with your hands (messy but fun!). You should have a workable dough (add more flour if it’s too wet or more soya milk if too dry and doesn’t hold together well). Roll out on a floured board (to just under 1 cm thick) and cut into cookies (if you don’t have cookie cutters you can use an upturned glass). Lay on cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes for soft bake cookies or a little longer for dryer, crunchy ones.

Variations

  • Add choc, nuts or/and dried fruit 
  • Half dip the cooled cookies in chocolate – choccy biscuits!
  • Crushed chocolate beans are a colourful replacement for chocolate chips. They can also be pressed all over the top prior to baking.
  • Plain cookies with a handful of sesame seeds or desiccated coconut added into the dough are delicious.
  • Jewel biscuits: make a hole in the middle of your uncooked cookie once it is placed on a baking tray and place a boiled sweet in the space – this will melt down and fill the hole in the oven and then reset once cool – lovely for Christmas tree decorations!
  • Plain cookies with a square of chocolate pressed onto them before baking work well too.

If you liked these homemade cookies, don’t miss our Frugal Christmas section!

The Mermaid and the Bear Cover

Ailish Sinclair‘s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, and featuring the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, is out Autumn 2019. On Amazon and Waterstones or see Author website for more details.