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Cooking on a budget


MarkN
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Stuffed peppers

 

Fry your mix: garlic and onion, then either meat or soy mince, veggies* or a mix until cooked if meat or browned if not, then a tin of diced, purée or other tomato sauce, and finally any herbs, spices or seasoning.

 

While this is cooking cut your peppers length ways and de-seed and grate some cheese 

 

Once your mix is ready fill your peppers with it, add a bit of cheese on top and in the oven for half an hour at 400f or until the cheese is browned and the peppers slightly blistered.

 

*A good veggie mix is mushroom and aubergine with cumin and a pinch of chilli flakes 

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I'lll get around to another recipe later, but while I think of it - one of the best value ingredients to use right now - savoy cabbage. Aldi have them for 43p and Sainsbury's are price matching them. If you can find a big one, that's an awful lot of very nutritious food for very little. It's full of vitamins and fibre, you can add it to loads of things, and it goes a long way. (You could add it to the chilli I listed above - possibly not the best addition, but it would be perfectly pleasant to eat. Pull a few leaves off, cut the stalks out, chop those and add it with the carrot, slice the leaves up finely, and add them maybe 10 minutes before the end).

 

I know cabbage has a bad rep, but savoy is properly delicious. I've been living off the things recently. I've got a lovely veggie stew with some in for my tea tonight, and have a few portions of very nice Minestrone in the freezer for later that also has it. There's still at least two recipes worth left in my current one, and an added bonus is that it keeps for ages. This one's been in the fridge for a week already. The outermost leaves are a little limp, but they'll be fine blitzed down in a soup, the inner ones will be perfectly good anywhere else I care to use them. I keep meaning to try a cabbage curry - I think something mellow and coconutty would be really good.

 

While I'm at it - a tip on the coconut in curry side of things. I never buy coconut milk. It's expensive. Instead I buy blocks of solid creamed coconut from the world food aisles. A small piece of this dissolved in hot water and then mashed up works a treat. The rest of the block will keep forever wrapped in your fridge. The block of this is about the same cost as one tin of coconut milk. It will go at least ten times as far, I reckon (probably much further), and will keep indefinitely.

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Use tinned chickpeas and beans instead of meat in curries, chillies and suchlike. 

 

A decent veggie lasagne is dirt cheap just add a load of tomato puree to the ragu to give a nice umami depth of flavour. Cook double the ragu and freeze it so you can use it later. 

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For what it's worth one of the most economical habits we got into over the couple of years was meal and lunch planning. 

 

We did it mostly because we had been doing various stints of keto / fast dieting where we had to be really considered about ingredients. But we (my wife) sit(s) down and makes a spreadsheet of what we're having each day and buys veg etc accordingly with the online shop. 

 

As a result almost no veg or anything goes off so our food waste is basically zero now. Seems obvious but the planning isn't very fun to do and easy to just "see what you fancy tonight" but it always led to something going off at the back of the fridge because we forgot we had it. 

 

It's tough because it's not particularly fun to do all the admin but it pays off in the end... 

 

... And helps because it's not me it's my wife. My side of the deal is I have to cook it. 

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Get one of those 35p Tesco Microwave Rice pouches. Perfect for fried rice.

 

Get wok or large frying pan searing hot. Throw in some vegetable oil. Chop up and then dump any veg you have in the fridge in. Throw in any left over meat you have. Make a bit of space in pan, scramble two eggs in that space. Mix it all. Throw in rice pack, soy sauce, pinch of msg and some sesame oil. Mix well. I like to add chopped spring onions, fresh coriander and chilli oil on top but you can skip that. My favourite struggle meal. I could basically live of it forever. Good for using up any leftovers.

 

Meat wise. Chicken drumsticks and wings are usually cheap. Coat in some oil and cover with Dunns Rivers Jerk seasoning then either oven bake or better air fry. Make loads. The leftovers are great cold lunches. All the Dunns River seasonings are amazing and cheap. Most bigger Tesco's have them in world food isle. 

 

Great tip is goto your local asian supermarket! You will probably be bewildered at first. So just buy a few basic things like soy sauce, sesame oil and chilli oil. Get some spices too. Everything will be three times the size of the same stuff in supermarkets but half the price. They are goldmines for tasty but cheap eating.  

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Yeah the food prepping thread has lots of what I think are good recipes, links etc but it was never about cooking to a budget - that’s a quite different skillset.

 

The other thing too nowadays is the method of cooking, yes there are cheaper cuts of meat that need a lot of cooking, but having an oven on for hours isn’t cheap. 


It’s a bit like suggesting getting solar to reduce electricity bills if you don’t have them, but if you do then things like slow/pressure cookers and small worktop ovens will be helpful in having reduced energy requirements.

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52 minutes ago, Gotters said:

It’s a bit like suggesting getting solar to reduce electricity bills if you don’t have them, but if you do then things like slow/pressure cookers and small worktop ovens will be helpful in having reduced energy requirements.

 

I came in here to recommend electric pressure cookers, for their energy, space, and time efficiency. I don't think they are quite as bad as recommending solar, that would be suggesting someone getting a Thermomix. Brand new Instant Pots are on par with cheap microwave ovens, and they frequently pop up on eBay for less.

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Funnily enough I was thinking about the energy consumption of cooking a microwave bag of rice (at 35p a bag) versus buying a massive bag and cooking on the hob.

 

Obviously the big bag (I'm talking a 5/10kg bag here) is a massive saving, but then boiling it takes ~25/30 minutes to get the water up to boiling and then cooking it, versus 2 minutes in the microwave. 

 

Is there an easy way to calculate the costs of both? More for my curiosity than because I need to save money. 

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I cook my plain rice in the microwave. I've cooked for 2 and 4 people using the same method.

 

Put rice in tall sided tub. Add enough water to cover plus about 2cm over the top. Place lid loosely on top. 

 

Cook for 9 minutes. My microwave is 800 watts. Then leave for 4 minutes. Usually have some starchy water boil over onto the plate 

 

That works out at about 4p per cook. Perfect rice.

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