As promised in my previous post, here are some notes to close-out the Basic Kitchen project.
The first thing to say is that it was certainly hard work – I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I didn’t work part time, and if I didn’t enjoy cooking.
What I was really rubbish at was keeping a good record of what I spent, which isn’t very helpful for a roundup of how the project went! We were pretty close to £10 each week though. What I will share with you are some shopping tips and things which I consider to be the ‘best buys’, and the favourite things we ate.
The first week we really missed green vegetables and colourful food – not that we ate badly, it’s just that the cheapest vegetables tend to be carrots which can get rather dull. In subsequent weeks we managed to do some good market shopping for vegetables. The best bargains came when we went to the market not long before it shut.
I would highly recommend finding out the best time to visit your local market.
Most of the meat and fish we bought came from the reduced section of the supermarket, with the exception of the wonderful ‘cooks bacon’ (the cheap offcuts). This meant that I had to think on my feet a little bit when shopping.
A good buy was the pack of beef sausages which I got in the first week. I used some straight away and then froze the rest in batches of three. Really yummy in casseroles.
Another bargain was some reduced beef mince. I decided at that point to reintroduce a big frying pan with a lid so that I could bulk cook traditional Bolognese. This fed us for a number of meals and cost just a few pounds. I will write up a Bolognese recipe for you at some point.
A good way to get protein and good flavour into budget food is to buy ‘cooks bacon’ from your local butcher or supermarket. These are the ‘scrag ends’ or offcuts – exactly the same meat as rashers of bacon but not a uniform size. If you’re going to chop it up for cooking anyway then why buy anything else?
I started the project with stock cubes, mixed herbs, chilli flakes and salt and pepper, in the hope that over the weeks I would be able to add to my spice cupboard within my budget. This was not possible. This is a bit of a disappointing discovery but hardly a surprise – £10 a week may be sufficient to eat healthily (if you have the time and energy to shop and cook carefully) but it doesn’t allow for very exciting ingredients. When I did my £5 challenge at the start of this blog in 2016 I allowed myself the use of what was already in my store cupboard, including spices; I found it significantly more difficult to cook creatively without this.
What I Cooked
One of the things I really enjoy about restricting my budget is that it forces me to be creative with what I have. Despite being somewhat limited this time – with having only chilli, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, I still found that I made some good discoveries.
- One Pot Pasta! This is a one pot wonder. It is so simple to make, and easily varied depending on the ingredients to hand, that I wrote up two different versions of it (and made it many more times than I wrote about). It also makes for less washing up – bonus. One Pot Pasta has definitely entered my repertoire for good – just this week I made a delicious creamy version with bacon, onion, homemade stock from the freezer, crème fraiche and cheese. Yum.
- Mackerel stuffed with haggis – I appreciate that this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this was a truly magnificent and decadent meal – which cost only £2.30 to feed three people. It goes to show that, with making good use of the reduced section of the supermarket and some imagination, you can still make a rather impressive dinner party meal on a tight budget.
- Breakfast Muffins – these were very yummy and cheap to make, and even such a reluctant breakfast eater as myself enjoyed them.
I found that I cooked a lot of tomato based dishes, because tinned tomatoes work well with chilli and with dried herbs. I managed to vary things a little by using fresh herbs from the garden; flat leaved parsley and sage were in season and I was very glad of them. I have to say though, that after a while I got somewhat bored of Italian inspired dishes and simple chilli dishes and really craved curry! Curry can be a fabulously cheap to make if you already have the basic spices, especially when you use a lentil base.
Anyway, that’s that. I hope that you found some inspiration from my little £10 a week project. I would love know what your favourite frugal recipes are. If you fancy writing up a favourite recipe as a guest blog post that would be fabulous – do get in touch.
‘over and out