breadline britain - cheap fresh healthy food IS possible

(151 Posts)
afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 16:39:28

cannot see another active thread on this so sorry if there is

following the guardian stories on families in recession and some on the relyted MN threads e.g. here and was thinking that actually is possible to feed a family of 4 decently enough for five pounds without resorting to ready meals.

What I cook:
a tin of tomatoes, an onion and some cheap dried herbs with cheap pasta can feed a family with enough change left over for some cheese to sprinkle over??

a few boiled potatoes and carrots and a dash of milk makes fresh mash. add frozen peas and frozen herbs and you are still under five pounds.

am i being näive or do you do this too?

Time too. If you're out of the house all day it's even harder to prepare cheap, nutritious meals

dashoflime Mon 19-Nov-12 19:52:13

Colditz: "you need the mental ability to juggle cost analysis for recipes"

This is where I fall down. Having finally learned to cook, I still struggle to make a menu plan for a week. And having made one, I struggle to adapt it to take into account different offers and reductions once in the store.

Hopefully, as I get confident with more recipes, this will become easier.

CarpeThingy Mon 19-Nov-12 19:53:10

Thanks, Cogito smile Haven't cooked much with barley before but that sounds lovely!

Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 19:54:59

Yeah. I get in at 6 and need to have tea on the table before 7 unless I want the toddler to go into meltdown. I have tried cooking ahead and freezing but its the last thing you want to do in the evening after a full day at work and putting kids to bed.
Most poor families are working. They don't have time to cook and shop around.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 19:58:45

I must confess that i dont menu plan. I buy the same protein for the week, one thing of mince, one pack of sausages, streaky bacon, one tin of salmon, maybe some lambs liver or some stewing beef for curry and occasionslly there will be a sunday roast.

I then make whatever i fancy with what i have. But yes to do that you need some cooking capital. You cant wing it if you dont know what youre doing.

Oh and avoid anything involving dairy, lots of cheese and eggs as it really pushes the portion price up. I.e. toad in the hole and you cant bulk it up to use for two days like you can with spag bol sauce, ie chilli one day, spag bol or shepherds pie the next iyswim.

naughtymummy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:02:43

500g of rice and a whole butternut squash fed 4 of us tonight with some over for lunch tomorrow

freetoanyhome Mon 19-Nov-12 20:03:14

what is cheap and fattening? Thats what one of mine needs. He is seriously underweight.

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 20:03:20

Colditz you know what to do with a dead rabbit. That makes you an expert in my eyes.

Imagine if you had been brought up on frozen meat shapes and chips from Iceland, and progressed to having children and feeding them more or less the same. What cooking equipment would you have? What knowledge of cooking would you have? What would you and your children be prepared to eat? If you attempted a simple pasta and tomato sauce meal as described above it would probably be pretty grim (hard or burned onions, tomatoes not cooked enough to make them sweet cooked in cheap veg oil not olive oil, and with no herbs - pasta soggy). Chances are no one would eat it, in which case you wouldn't have saved £3.00 but wasted £1.50.

Most reasonably well off people in this country eat a hell of a lot of ready made food. The difference between them and poor folk is that it has more nutrition in it, and they have also probably learned to cook well enough for social reasons - dinner parties, etc, read recipe books, tasted good food in restaurants and at other people's houses. SOME poor folk live in areas where there is very little food culture to pass on. They have been brought up by parents who did not cook and no one has shown them since. Fact is, the knowledge of cooking basic food has been declining in this country for 30 years. Why just blame the people who have less money?

We need compulsory cooking classes in schools for every child to learn how to make mashed potatoes, cook rice, make tomato sauce, cook meat, plan a week's meals, understand what is good value and good nutrition - and I don't mean label the different parts of an egg and draw a poster promoting healthy eating. I don't see an alternative.

Violet77 Mon 19-Nov-12 20:08:57

I agree that we need cooking and budgeting classes at schools. Its sad that people do not have these skills.

I cook almost all my meals from scratch, saves a fortune.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 20:10:05

Lambs liver freetoanyhome. Roast veggies of any sort. Mackerel or other cheap oily fish on the fish counter.

afterdinnerkiss Mon 19-Nov-12 20:10:57

OP returns from her pasta dinner made with 4 fresh tomatoes plus a tin to top-up. i added some green frozen beans to the pasta when boiling to get in some more vitamins.
i really like the suggestions and ideas and agree that a bit of spice makes everything taste better - like jamie oliver i add chilli to practically everything, and either thyme (dried) or cumin to everything else. a little packet from the asian section of the big supermarkets costs 50p and lasts 6 months.

my daahl recipe: pre-soak the lentils (i like the orange ones best) and rice - pre-soaking reduces cooking time by up to half and stops the rice from breaking. fry a little onion, add the pre-soaked and then washed lentils. add a pinch of chilli powder and half a spoon of cumin, cook for ten minutes.

ishchel Mon 19-Nov-12 20:12:03

Already mentioned but needs mentioning again, 'ethnic' shops are great for certain things. Spices cost buttons vs supermarket prices. Rice, pulses, lentils the same. I noticed a spike in prices at the big supermarkets for basics since more people start to use them post 2008. Aldi/Lidl work out better for things like frozen peas and sweetcorn, tinned toms, pasta. Even with some veg. Sainsbury's £1 for 12 okra. Local Asian shop: 50p for 3x that amount. (Egg and okra is a meal in my house.)

Chrestomanci Mon 19-Nov-12 20:23:41

Cooking without meat undoubtedly takes far more skill, and time, meat is so popular because it is tasty. I love vegetarian food, but do find it takes more effort to make it appealing to DH for example who is less keen.

Also, if you are poor it is exhausting and depressing having to think about money all the time. Food is a shared pleasure, and eating something quick and guaranteed tasty in the evening is cheering. The easiest way to get that is junk food because of the high salt and fat content. I cook from scratch, but I have to be honest, the sound of some of these recipes is off putting - yes they are cheap and nutritious, but coming in at 6, tired and fed up I would much rather have some chips than inexpertly cooked rice and lentils. It takes time, skill, and to a certain extent re training of taste buds - all of which are long term projects and don't help the immediate need at 6pm!

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:26:48

Mmm I like okra never had it with eggs before.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Mon 19-Nov-12 20:27:38

I dont think quick food needs to be junk food though. When i have got ten mins the dc get microwaved jacket potatoes topped with tinned salmon mixed with salad cream, sounds disgusting but its actually quite nice. Honest. blush

dementedma Mon 19-Nov-12 20:29:10

Cheap favourite in our family is spaghetti mozzarella bake. Own brand spag- about 45p in Aldi -tin of toms or jar of cheap pasta sauce, two mozzarella balls, one onion.
Cook spag, fry chopped onion, combine and mix with tomato sauce. Put half in dish, layer of torn mozzarella, repeat, bake. Yum.

expatinscotland Mon 19-Nov-12 20:32:38

4 portions of chips, £5. What if you truly couldn't afford that every night for one meal? Best buy a cheap slow cooker and plug that in.

Of course, there's always an excuse to eat junk.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:04

I usually have a load of froozen portions of things like spag bol and chilli which I batch cook. Before I leave to take dc to school and go work I put one in the fridge so when I come home all I have to do is cook rice/pasta and heat froozen portion up in microwave. Batch cooking doesn't really save money though it re-arranges it, it saves time.

I don't like any ready meals apart from Icelands lasanga (sp) mmm I can eat a family sized one to myself blush

Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:39

I cook my own chips. Lots of people have a chip pan. Cheaper than a slow cooker.

Meglet Mon 19-Nov-12 20:34:18

I would love to buy the giant bags of rice or potatoes but I don't have a big enough kitchen. It could sit in the living room I suppose but I don't rate its chances against the dc's. Although the problem with rice dishes is that as I now understand it can be risky to store and re-heat so I'm not starting cooking rice when I get in after work / swimming / beavers. Pasta is more practical.

My priority for my next house is somewhere I can put a big freezer so I can batch cook and store more food.

I wish I could buy the reduced items at the end of the day, but as a LP I can't leave the DC's in bed to dash out to stock up.

InNeedOfBrandy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:35:49

YY meglet if I had a dp my freezer would be stocked with about to go off meat grin

TheProvincialLady Mon 19-Nov-12 20:37:05

I agree Chresto. For example, a decent dal recipe IMO requires about five different spices and takes a bit of practise. Plus it is still only 1 of the 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.

Indian food is by far the best for dirt cheap, tasty and healthy IMO if you live in an area where there are Asian grocers. But it takes a serious amount of time to learn even the basic skills.

Asinine Mon 19-Nov-12 21:18:59

For people who think their dcs/dh won't eat liver or lentils, try putting them in bolognaise in small quantities, then increasing if no one notices.

My austerity spag bol is padded out with chicken liver, lentils and oats, as well as the usual grated carrot, basics mushrooms, bits of old bacon. Less meat improves the nutrition.

That means I can get away with say 400g mince for £1.24 (buy half price in Aldi when reduced on short dates) for 6 of us, youngest is 8 but eats like the older gannets dcs.

Ready meals of any sort get very expensive for a large, hungry family, even if I was prepared to eat them, which I'm not.

TobyLerone Mon 19-Nov-12 21:33:52

I often put oats in my mince dishes. Nobody has ever noticed. Also lentils, grated courgette (the Sainsbury's basics ones are massive) and grated carrot.

redadmiralsinthegarden Mon 19-Nov-12 21:40:45

loving these kinds of threads! i menu plan, shop accordingly and try to cook one new recipe/ingredient a week.
however, i find it really hard to cook things that the DCs will eat! i co-parent with their Dad, who, I suspect, cooks alot of ready meals - all meat based. my food just doesn't compete when compared with sugar/salt/msg laden rubbish.
sad

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