2 October 2010

Money -v- Health

How do you write a food blog, when you've not had any "interesting" dinners to write about?

That was the quandary which beset me this morning.  You see, thanks to my having taken a day off sick in the last couple of weeks, my wages were reduced because I don't get sick pay.  Add to that several other factors like new school items, new car items, approaching birthdays etc. and we find ourselves temporarily completely strapped for cash.

Our menu list, this week, has consisted of :

Tuesday : Cornish Pasties, potato waffles and baked beans.

The pasties were the supermarket's own, because you just can't produce home made for the same price as the supermarket.  When you're buying for price, not for quality, these things make a huge difference.  The waffles we had already in the freezer, so no expense there - and the same with the baked beans, which are a storecupboard staple.

Wednesday : Pasta Bolognese

Good old Bolly.  What would we do without it?  To make things marginally more interesting, we tried the "cooking in the oven, on low, for 2 hours" (the sauce, not the pasta!) approach.  Hubby was cooking, but he reported back that it simply made the sauce watery.  Apparently he had to put it back into the deep frying pan and reduce it like heck, to make it palatable.  I have a feeling that perhaps we had it on too low, as it tasted good for it's long slow cooking and so would be worth doing again - but at a temperature high enough to burn off the water instead of it accumulating in the sauce.

The good thing, price-wise, about Pasta Bolognese is that a) we could use whatever pasta we had leftover in the cupboard (a mix of Fusilli and Penne, as it turned out) and it requires little more than an onion, some garlic and a few tomatoes in the way of fresh veg.  Unfortunately, fresh veg for every meal is what totes the price up.

Thursday : Pizza

This was of necessity, as we had to attend son's Parents Evening at school (where he's doing fantastically well, thank you for asking) and would be back too late to start cooking in a big way.  We had Asda's new "Loaded" frozen pizzas and very nice they were too.  Hubby and I always cheer ours up with the addition of snipped chilli and a little extra cheese for all three, but the basic pizza (triple pepperoni) was a marked step up from their bog-standard pizzas, which have deteriorated to the point where we can't face them any longer.

Friday : Sausage Casserole

At last, we're coming into the land of vegetables.  Hubby was cooking again, as he had an idea he wanted to explore, involving half a bottle of red wine.  Apparently it didn't quite come off as he had planned, but as I didn't know what he was planning, it seemed a very tasty and creditable sausage casserole, using swede and carrot and accompanied by some green peas.  Gosh, but it was good to see something green on the plate!

Saturday : Tuna Pasta Bake

This is again a strategic choice, as son often has friends who want to stay over for tea and so gain a bit longer to play.  Good old tuna pasta bake is usually accepted by everyone and also doesn't require the addition of fresh veg, which keeps the price down.  Again.

Sunday : Cottage Pie with carrots, broccoli and green beans with Rhubarb crumble for dessert.

At last, some proper vegetables, to prevent us all getting scurvy.  LOL  In truth, all this meal requires for us to buy is the mince, potatoes and broccoli as everything else we either had frozen (beans), in the fridge (carrots) or as a storecupboard ingredient.  The rhubarb would have come from Ruby - the plant in the garden - but for a friend supplying us with some from their giant plant!

Monday : Sausages, hash browns and baked beans.

Oh dear.  Well, we're shopping again tomorrow - which is about all that can be said for this meal, except for the fact that it only cost us the price of the sausages, as we had everything else in already.

We budgeted £60 for the entire week's shopping and came in under budget - not by much, but every little helps.  I can't help feeling that we under-achieved somewhat where the style and quality of the meals was concerned and that perhaps we could have done better where the inclusion of vegetables, and the exclusion of high-fat products like the pasties, were concerned.  However, it looks like we're all going to get fed - and that's something that was looking dodgy there, at one point!

We've got another week of super-austerity to get through before we can begin look at things other than sausages and mince.  I suspect we may very well be thoroughly fed up with both these things, by then.  However, I shall investigate options and recipes for the future, for when this situation attacks us again - as I am sure it will, if the current Government has anything to do with it!


  1. Sounds like a good weeks menu to me, tasty ingredients, cooked well together. One thing, try and reduce cooking time where possible. After all, we have to pay for the Gas/Electric.
    Ah!....Sorry.....But......What Sacrilege....Sauce
    cooked in the oven.....No! My Grandfather, who died at the age of 106, back home in Sicily, would turn in his grave. Mama Mia.....!
    Always, keep your eye on a Bolognese sauce, while it's cooking.
    Money being short, yes tell me about it, though one thing l have noticed, fish is cheaper at the momment, if you shop around for it....:).
    Give a Man a Fish and He'll Live For a Day...
    Teach a Man To Fish and He'll Live Forerver.....!
    Happy Shopp'in.....!

  2. The oven-cooked bolognese sauce was an experiment, as we'd seen it done that way on t.v. Sure, it might not be "authentic" as such, but if you've got to go out right at dinnertime, it's a good way of coming back to something cheap and cheerful!

  3. Willie, being from the 'old country' you might be able to answer a bolognaise question for me.

    Some italian chefs say to make the sauce with onion AND garlic. Some others say that garlic should NEVER be in the same sauce as onions.....

    I have often wondered if this is in fact the difference between a bolognaise sauce and a ragu?

  4. ChilliBob...Garlic should NEVER be used in a Bolognaise sauce, with onion. As you say in the 'Old Country'. Cooking is very basic and simple. There is only one Chef, on TV, l've seen, that made a Bolognaise, correctly, and that was Antonio Carluccio. Who made the sauce from two ingredients, tomatoes and onions, nothing else, and simmer for up to two hours. Just add water to keep moist. I've never tried this way, and l don't think l ever will. I like to use prime mince, as my Mama used to, in fact when she cooked for others, she would go to the bucher, get him to clean the machine, and use only Fillet. Ah! but that was my Mama.
    Difference between a sauce and a ragu'. I would say is, you cook meats, veg etc in a sauce, the ragu' you serve with the dish, of say pasta, meats etc. Other than that of course, their very similiar. And, at the end of the day, you cook with the things you like and enjoy the most.
    As for cookery books, got loads on the shelf here at home, have given quite a few away, may browse through now and again, but as you and Jenny are in this Blog, is to be creative.

  5. One of my best quick and healthy dinners (I need all three when I get home at 7.30pm!) is stir fry, but not the one where you have a bag of fresh veg - we get ours out of the freezer. I buy the supermarket bag of frozen stirfry mix (approx £2 and lasts us about 3 or 4 dinners), dried noodles and either a sauce or simply make your own (soy, nut oil etc, seasoning), bag of prawns (not essential - i always buy when on offer) eh voila! I think people can be a bit sniffy about using frozen and tinned veg, but it's not always possible to have fresh stuff ready and it's a healthy alternative to resorting to burgers. chips and pizzas from the freezer when you run out of fresh stuff.

  6. You're a girl after my own heart! Have you seen the post for Chilli Prawn Noodles? That's basically your stir-fry dish, except without the stir fry veg! :)


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