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

Eating Banana Peels: Pasta Sauce Recipe

eating banana peels - a pasta sauce recipe
Banana Peel Pasta Sauce

What’s this about eating banana peels? Is that even a thing?

It’s definitely a thing. Eating banana peels is actually good for you; they’re full of healthy fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. It cuts down on food waste and can save a bit of money too. Whats not to love? The peels can be added to smoothies and curries, and even made into a bacon substitute.

The riper the banana, the sweeter the peel. If using in a savoury recipe like this one either use less ripe peels or scrape the white pith bit away as it’s the sweetest part. We were a bit worried that it might make the sauce taste all banana-y and strange. It didn’t at all. The peels have only a subtle flavour.

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Banana Peel Pasta Sauce Ingredients (serves 4)

  • the peels of three bananas, washed well and diced small, hard ends cut off
  • vegetables of your choice. We used a diced green pepper, 3 diced celery stalks, half a diced courgette and a sweet potato cut into larger chunks.
  • herbs of your choice, a teaspoon of dried or a small bunch of fresh. Oregano is traditional. We used fresh parsley and lovage from the garden.
  • a tube of tomato puree
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

We made a a really simple oil free dish. For a more traditional approach you could fry some onions and garlic in a little oil first.

Place your banana peels, vegetables and herbs in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the veg and peels are tender. Stir in the tomato puree and season with salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta of your choice.

Other no waste recipes on site:


FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

Set in a castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the Scottish witchcraft accusations and a love story.

Paperbacks and kindle on Amazon UK and  Amazon Worldwide. Also on Kindle Unlimited and at all good book shops and even available in the library!

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

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



Spicy Sweet Potato Fajitas

Simple to make, lovely to eat.  Particularly frugal for us as we found these wraps reduced to 10p on Christmas Eve (freezer has quite a pile of them now) and the peanut butter at 4 jars for £1 at Approved Food, and it’s the nicest peanut butter we’ve tasted!

Ingredients for four people:
4 wraps or tortillas of your choice
a tablespoon of vegetable oil
3 or 4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin sticks
1 onion, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon each: dried coriander, ground cumin, dried fenugreek. Or you could just use some curry powder.
1 tablespoon desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon peanut butter
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan and fry up the onion and sweet potatoes for a few minutes before adding the spices and mixing well. Add the coconut, peanut butter and salt along with a small amount of water (a few tablespoons), cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft. It should only take a few minutes: sweet potatoes cook much faster than white ones.

Lay out your wraps and divide the sweet potato mixture between them. We lay it out in a line and then fold down the ends of the wrap before rolling the fajitas up for less messy eating!

Yum!


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Chunky Purple Pasta, frugal food

purple pasta

This purple pasta is a delicious and thrifty dish, made all the more frugal in this instance by the aubergine and beetroot being obtained during Tesco’s 2p evening reduction time (may not be all stores and times vary, worth asking).

Most supermarkets have value pastas available such as spaghetti for 20p and penne for 29p for 500g. Also try clearance sellers like Low Price Foods  and Approved Food.

Ingredients for sauce (amount serves four)

  • a little olive oil
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • a bunch of fresh beetroot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 small aubergines, cubed
  • a courgette, also cubed
  • 1 pack of passata (we prefer Lidl’s cheap brand to Tesco value, much nicer)
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano (or other herbs, fresh are nice too)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Cook the pasta according to pack instructions. Meanwhile, fry the vegetables in the oil until softened then add the passata. Bring to the boil, adding beans, herbs and seasoning as you go, water if too thick, tomato puree if too thin. Turn down to a simmer until all is cooked, probably for about 20 minutes; test for seasoning, adjust if needed, and pile the sauce on top of your pasta. Garnish with parsley and enjoy.

If you liked this purple pasta dish, try our other frugal recipes here!

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

aduki bean and amaranth pie

aduki bean and amaranth pie

This aduki bean and amaranth pie is a protein dense and filling meal, the recipe is a variant of red dragon pie. We bought the dried beans very cheaply from Approved Food, they do seem to get them in quite often.

The quantities listed are for an enormous pie that feeds four people with lots of leftovers for the next day. Adjust as required.

Ingredients

  • 500g of dried aduki beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 100g amaranth
  • 4 scraped and chopped carrots
  • 6 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves (remove before or while serving)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce
  • a bag of potatoes (I used 750g), peeled if needed and chopped. The smaller you cut them, the less cooking time they require.
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (optional, but they give a cheesy edge without being too rich)a dab of marge
  • splash of soya milk.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method

Place your soaked beans in a large pan, cover well with water, bring to the boil and turn down to simmer. Different brands seem to need different times of cooking. Supermarket ones could need an hour, organic types need less. Once they are beginning to soften, add your amaranth, vegetables, herbs and bay leaves and cook until tender. The amaranth will swell quite a bit so top up with water if needed. Once it’s all cooked add the soy sauce, tomato puree and season to taste.

It’s a good idea to put your potatoes on to cook at the same time as the amaranth, or before, for simultaneous readiness. Mash the tatties up with marge, milk and seasoning and place on top of the bean mix. It’s great if you have hob to oven cookware and can plop everything in the same pan, but if not layer them up in a suitable casserole. Run a fork round the top of the mash for a nice finish. Bake in a hot oven for 10-20 minutes until nicely browned.

The leftovers are often comprised of mainly bean mix, so get used as a base for pasta sauce the next day.

Gluten-free if you’re careful with your brand of soy sauce, some have wheat.

aduki2

Roast Potatoes with Peppers

A super simple and super tasty recipe for roast potatoes with peppers, made all the more frugal by knowing supermarket ultimate price down time. At two Tesco stores near us it’s around 7pm each day. Bread goes down to 10p and veg is available from 2p!

roast potatoes with peppers

Ingredients (quantities are entirely adjustable):
a bag of new potatoes (filled a medium saucepan), cut into chunks
1 bag of peppers (four peppers), roughly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a little oil to coat in the oven
Optional extras: herbs, spices, garlic, other veg such as carrots and parsnips, aubergine, courgettes, mushrooms…

Par boil the potatoes, leaving skins on, while you pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. Once partially cooked, drain and place the potatoes in a large roasting tin along with the peppers, onion, salt and pepper and toss well in the oil until everything is well covered. Roast for at least half an hour, until the veg is browning up.

Good as a side dish or as a main with rice and salad.

If you liked these roast potatoes with peppers, try our other frugal recipes here!

the mermaid and the bear

“The first time the sea killed me, my brother brought me back to life.”

So begins THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. Set in a castle, this historical novel features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic and a love story.

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…