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.
Cauliflower (25p) in a white sauce (milk/marg/flour/water totalling 20p), and 30p worth of leftover rice made into herby tomato rice by adding: 1 onion (7p, not marked down but really cheap in Lidl) a squirt of tomato puree (5p), dried herbs (5p) salt (2p).
Above was a nice meal based around getting an organic unsliced wholemeal loaf for 10p, and adding 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!
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.
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. 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!
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 🙂
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.
One of the cheapest meals ever is porridge. Great for a filling breakfast or even a pudding, we can’t quite believe we haven’t added it before. Even if you know how to make porridge, we have lots of ideas for toppings. Feel free to add your own in the comments too. Go see our porridge!
Seriously, centuries of Scots are not wrong: this is one of the cheapest and most fortifying meals ever.
Most supermarkets do porridge oats in their value range too.
For one person: Place 50g/half a cup of porridge oats in a small pan. Add 300ml/1and a half cups of liquid. This could be milk of your choosing, or water, or a mix of both. We like to use half soya milk and half water.
Bring to the boil, stirring frequently because porridge does like to stick to the pan, then turn down to simmer for 4 or 5 minutes until thickened, still stirring.
Pour into a bowl and eat.
Toppings. Some days we like a chocolate swirl (choc shot), other times we go for a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and raisins. Some like jam. You could use fresh berries. Blueberries go particularly well with the chocolate swirl!
We recall grandparents having their porridge made with just water and seasoned with salt which is undoubtedly the most frugal way to take it but… *shudder*
You could even sprinkle one compartment of a graze box (first one free) onto it!
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
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!
A truly versatile and cheap dish this as the filling can be more or less anything you want. Weve done basic vegetables here but leftovers can make a spectacular pasty to rival expensive ready made ones (chilli, curry, bean casserole). Making your own pastry is also very thrifty – at the time of writing value brands of flour come in at 43p for 1.5 kilos making the flour in this recipe cost just under 10p. If using margarine at £1 for 500g that’s your block of pastry for 40p all ready to make 4 substantial pasties (or one big pie).
for the pastry:
300g of flour (any type you like really, self raising will puff up a little, plain won’t – we used wholemeal in these pics, white would be lighter in colour).
150g of vegetable margarine
tiny amount of water (2 or 3 tablespoons)
for the filling:
teaspoon of oil (olive or sunflower)
1 onion, chopped
1 medium sized potato, diced
1 carrot, diced
a little salt for seasoning
That would make the basic pasties but we added optional:
a teaspoon of finely chopped fresh thyme from garden (any herbs you like would do)
a half teaspoon of Vecon Stock (stock cube fine too)
a tablespoon of dried soya mince and a few spoons of water as needed for this and stock to combine well
other additions that spring to mind: frozen peas, red kidney beans, other root veg.
To make the pastry: 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 four equal pieces and roll each one out to a rough oblong shape.
To prepare the filling: add oil to pan and heat then add in the vegetables and salt and mix well. Add other ingredients if using, stirring thoroughly to combine and prevent sticking. Cook for a few minutes.
Share the filling out onto the pastry oblongs, placing it on the front half of each, then fold it over and squeeze the edges together to seal (you can use some water for this if a bit dry and not sticking well). Onto a baking tray and into the oven at 200C/400F for 20 minutes to half an hour until pastry is well browned. Nice served with oven chips (50p a kilo in Lidl at time of writing) and salad or great in a packed lunch.