Saturday, June 21, 2008

Re-post: What we're eating this winter - Nov 06

From Thursday, November 02, 2006

What we're eating this winter

I've just been asked to write about meals, which is very zeitgeist since I worked out our family finances for the next couple of months earlier today, and was thinking about the frugal meals we'll have to eat if Santa is coming down our chimney this year!

We've just been to Asda and spent half as much money as usual, so if I can keep that up we'll be ok. We went via the forest and I filled a backpack up with fallen wood, so that saved a bit more cash and was a lovely walk too. There are acorns everywhere there. I wonder if we can do anything with them. Lots of holly too - free Christmas decorations! The only mushrooms we found were some sulphur tufts, (pictured left) - very pretty, but sadly not edible.

So our food budget for the next couple of months is about £5 per day. After we've bought milk, bread, sunflower spread, honey, jam, canned tuna (Tom's favourite), mayo, tea bags etc for snacks and drinks, that will leave about £1.50-£2 per day for a main meal. Here are some warming, nutritional winter meals I'll be making to keep within that budget:

Toad in the hole

I'll probably serve this with roast potatoes and carrots, which I'll just chop into chunks and roast first for about half an hour, with salt and oil.
A packet of vegetarian sausage mix is about 60p, so I'll use that to make the sausages. To make the batter, I'll use 4 heaped tbsp wholemeal flour, 2 eggs, a spoonful of bicarb or baking powder, salt, about half a cup of milk and roughly half a pint of cold water, or however much looks right to get the batter to the right consistency. Next I'll heat sunflower oil in a baking tray until it's smoking hot, then pour in the batter and add the sausages. I'd serve it all up with vegetarian gravy, made with granules.

Potato and cauliflower soup

This is dead easy and all our family loves it. I make it in a big cauldron-type pan and everyone gets very full on it. First I fry some chopped onions and garlic in oil, then chop and add whatever veg I have, usually 5-6 big potatoes and a cauliflower. But it's also good with cabbage or carrots. I stir all that up , sprinkle a couple of vegetarian oxo cubes over the top and add boiling water from the kettle, up to about an inch off the top of the pan. Then the lid goes on and the whole thing boils for about 20 minutes, after which I blend and season it, and that's that! The kids eat it with chunks of bread.

Pasta with tomato sauce

Unbelievably, nobody here ever gets bored of this meal and it's one of the cheapest and easiest I make. It just consists of a bag of pasta (usually wholemeal), boiled and drained, with a tomato sauce made from onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil and a can of chopped tomatoes with a teaspoonful of dried basil.

Chilli and rice

This is one of the few meals that can stand being made from dried soya mince, which is a good thing because dried soya mince is very cheap! As are kidney beans and chopped tomatoes. So, big pan again, I soften chopped onions and garlic in oil first, then add spices - turmeric, paprika and dried chilli pepper - not as much as the boys would like! But they have a bottle of deadly chilli sauce to resort to if I don't make it spicy enough for them ;-) Then a can of red kidney beans and 2 cans of chopped tomatoes. I just let all that simmer while the rice cooks. Again I use brown rice.


This needs a red sauce and a white sauce, so I usually make the red sauce first. Chopped onions & garlic sautéed in olive oil, packet of soya mince, 2 tins chopped tomatoes, basil. Bit of veggie gravy mix if it looks like it needs it when cooked. White sauce: melt some sunflower spread - about an 8th of a regular sized tub, stir in a couple of tablespoonsful of flour (wholemeal flour for us but it doesn't matter which), stir & cook for a minute or two while boiling the kettle. Add about 2 pints boiling water to a stock cube in a jug and add a splash (about a quarter-cupful) of milk. Now keep stirring the flour & sunflower spread paste as you slowly add the liquid in the jug. It takes about 5-10 mins and involves a lot of stirring but you should end up with a smooth, creamy, thick white sauce. Then build up the lasagne in a deep oven dish by alternating dried lasagne sheets with the white and red sauces and top with grated cheese if you have any. Bake the whole thing at about 180c for 20-25 mins.

Vegetable pie

I'll boil up any veg we have - often just mushrooms and onions but other vegetables work equally well - broccoli, leeks, etc., whatever we have - then drain and add home-made white sauce as detailed above in the lasagne recipe. This makes the pie filling. We make our own pastry with wholemeal flour and sunflower spread, and bake the base blind for about 10 minutes before adding the filling and the pastry top. Lyddie usually makes some 'interesting' pastry shapes for the lid too! Then it gets brushed with milk and baked at about 180c for about 25 mins. If we were really hungry I'd serve this with roast potatoes and vegetarian gravy. Otherwise we'd just eat it as it is.

Curry and chapattis

Not sure if I make these 'right', but my chapattis just consist of salted wholemeal flour, made to a dough with water, flattened and dry-fried very hot for about 30 secs each side. The children love them with any kind of curry, so I have to make a great big stack of them and keep the stack warm in a coolish oven, wrapped in a towel. The curry will be full of whatever vegetables and spices I have to hand, but I always start by sautéing onions, garlic, fresh ginger if I have it, and spices (cumin, turmeric, a pinch of chilli powder, paprika, ginger) in sunflower oil, then adding chopped veg - usually a cauliflower, sometimes potatoes, courgettes, carrots, parsnips, swede, really any veg will do. Except mushrooms, for some reason. I wouldn't curry those. And stock. Sometimes I add a tin of chopped tomatoes and/or spinach if I have it, peas - often a can of chick peas, which you can get very cheaply. When it seems ready it gets served.

Other cheap winter meals which seem popular here

Sardines on toast
Creamed mushrooms on toast
Jacket potatoes with baked beans
Baked beans on toast
Creamed leeks, on toast or with pasta
Sushi (blogged last week)
Pancakes - my kids will eat these endlessly, with both sweet and savoury fillings.
Pizzas, both homemade and bought.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head for now, but I'll blog some other dishes as they come to mind. We'll save cash by picking mushrooms whenever possible, and we still have loads of potatoes to dig up in the field. Who needs gym subscriptions?! We're often given apple windfalls and other vegetables, as well as eggs from M's chickens, so we'll definitely get by. Put it this way, I've been poorer and still survived! I just keep reminding myself that we in the UK do live on one of the most fertile pieces of land in the world. There's no reason for anyone to starve, with Asdas and Tescos springing up everywhere you look ;-) And even real food, growing free in lots of places.

posted by Gill at 2:15 PM 18 comments


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