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

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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Beer Battered Onion Rings, frugal food

beer battered onion rings

These beer battered onion rings are gorgeous! They’re light and crispy and fluffy and wonderfully flavourful. And really, really simple to make.

Ingredients (for four side portions or two greedy ones)

  • oil to fry; we used sunflower
  • one large onion
  • about a cup/120g of self raising flour, we used Asda’s gluten free
  • about 200ml of beer of your choice; you could substitute sparkling water instead
  • half a teaspoon of salt
  • a quarter teaspoon of dried turmeric (optional, makes the batter more colourful)

Method

Slice up your onion to make the rings, not too thinly, and discard the skin. Whisk together the flour and beer/water until a nice thick batter forms. You don’t want it watery but neither do you want it too stiff like a cake mix.

Heat your oil. If you have a deep fat fryer: go for it! We used a large pan with the oil at about an inch deep and did the rings in three batches. Test the oil with a small drop of batter: if it starts bubbling and frying, it’s ready.



Dip the onion rings in the batter, coating them well, and then pop them into the oil to fry for a few minutes until the batter goes nice and golden. It’s best to do this, both the putting in and lifting out, with a fork or other implement: don’t burn those fingers!

You can lay them on a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil if you want.

Pile them up and enjoy!

beer battered onion rings

If you liked these beer battered onion rings, be sure to check out our other frugal recipes here.

Root Vegetable Soup, frugal cooking

This is a sweet and flavoursome root vegetable soup, perfectly fortifying for those colder days.

Ingredients for a large pot to serve four people

root vegetable soup
  • half a cup of red split lentils
  • 5 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 5 medium carrots, scraped and chopped
  • 2 small potatoes, diced but with skins left on
  • a couple of red onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large sticks of celery, chopped
  • several sprigs of fresh rosemary (dried can be substituted), finely chopped or scissored into the pan
  • water to cover
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

Place the lentils in a large pan and cover well with water. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmer while you prepare the other vegetables. Add the chopped veg and rosemary and cover well with more water (cooking time is reduced if you boil the water in a kettle first). Once the vegetables are tender, mash thoroughly and add salt and pepper. Nice garnished with fresh parsley or finely chopped spring onions as in the picture above.

If you liked this root vegetable soup, try our other frugal recipes here.

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

rice salad, super simple, super frugal

rice salad

This rice salad was submitted by the Wee Writing Lassie

This recipe is quick, easy to make and a good way to use up all that old tat lying around your kitchen before it goes by its sell by date and gives you food poisoning!

Rice Salad Ingredients

  • cooked and cooled rice
  • 2 or 3 spring onions, chopped (or a bunch of chives)
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • a quarter of a cucumber, diced
  • olives
  • a tin of red kidney beans
  • a little vegetable oil
  • a little cyder vinegar
  • optional ingredients: any fruit or veg as long as it’s not rotten or a banana cause that’s just wrong.

Method

Mix Together. Really. It couldn’t be more simple. If you can’t manage that I have to question your ability to function in the world!

This rice salad is lovely with a baked potato. Below it is topped with borage flowers, from a herb you only have to plant once. As long as you are not too fastidious a weeder, it will self seed all over your garden!

rice salad with borage flowers
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.

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

Mushroom Pea Rice, frugal food

mushroom pea rice

Mushroom pea rice is a very simple dish, but utterly delicious. Nice with salad as a light meal or as part of a larger dinner with a baked potato or oven chips. It is pictured above as an accompaniment to a curry.

Quantities are entirely adjustable. For our huge horde we cooked 500g of rice, 2 punnets of mushrooms and half a bag of peas.

Extra frugal if you follow our food shopping tips or forage for mushrooms.


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Ingredients

  • rice
  • a little olive oil
  • sliced mushrooms
  • frozen peas
  • salt to taste.

Method

Prepare the rice as per packet instructions. While it’s cooking, fry the mushrooms and peas in the oil. Cover and let the peas simmer in the mushroom juices for a few minutes until cooked. Add salt. Once the rice is ready, mix it all together.

Thrifty tip: prepare more rice than you need and make tomato and rice soup or rice salad the next day

If you liked this mushroom pea rice recipe, try our other frugal fare!

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.