Category Archives: Frugal Family Meals

Beetroot and feta burger

Beetroot and feta burgerWe like to make a concious effort to eat less meat and more vegetable, but we do love a burger. So I thought I’d create a healthy meat-free burger that we could all enjoy. This week in the veggie box I got a bunch of beetroot.

Beetroot comes into season around this time and you can pick your own at Medley Manor Farm.

Usually I’d make beetroot into chocolate fairy cakes (see recipe here), but I thought for a change I’d make a dinner savoury delight. Beetroot’s are packed full of vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants demonstrated by their beautiful colour. This recipe is super easy and can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes. Instead of a bun you can also use lettuce leaves, or get the mini buns for when you’re entertaining others children.

Here’s the recipe; Take a 150g tin of chickpeas, drain and mash them (or soak and cook your own – it’s much cheaper!). Add 200g of grated beetroot, 100g of flour (any flour works – for gluten free try rice or chickpea flour), 100g of crumbled feta, two eggs, 1 tbsp of horseradish sauce and handful of chopped coriander. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and then portion them into 4 burgers (or 8 little burgers for kids) with your hands. Grill the burgers for 5 minutes on each side and serve with a dollop of hummus or mayonnaise and some salad. Healthy and delicious!

Chicken soup cures a cold…and is good for the soul!

Apologies for the lack of posts this last week. I’ve been ill in bed with the flu!

Chicken noodle soup cures a coldI haven’t been this unwell for over two years, when we were packing up our life in London, moving home, country and continent to live in Africa for four months.

All the stress of London living and the busy schedules got to me and I ended up with a chest infection that lasted most of our Ugandan trip.

Thankfully, this time round I’m in wonderful peaceful Oxford, where I can put my feet up and rest for the entire bank holiday weekend secure in the knowledge that my friends understand that I’m too sick to be my usual sociable self.

And to help me on the mend there’s nothing better than a large bowl of steaming hot chicken broth noodle soup to get me back into fine spirits.

According to scientific research, there is more to chicken broth than just a cold comfort. In fact, home made chicken stock contains the compound carnosine which helps the body’s immune system fight flu. I love adding other extra viral fighters – including plenty of garlic, ginger and greens – to create an all in one health elixir.

Chicken soup is not only good for the body and soul, it’s cheap to make too. Simply simmer your leftover roast chicken bones with two pints of water, a chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, celery sticks, bay leaves and salt and pepper for about 2 hours. Strain off the bones. To the stock add a portion of your favourite noodles, a tablespoon of grated ginger and another of grated garlic plus a handful of greens and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve in a generous bowl with a sprinkling of soy sauce to season. Absolutely delicious. I can feel my sinuses clearing already!

Sweet Potato Falafel

These tasty morsels are deliciously wholesome and cheap to make. They are the perfect Summer picnic lunch or evening family meal. Jazz them up with a wholemeal pitta, salad and some mint and yoghurt dressing and kids will love them too.

Sweet potato falafel with tahini dressingHere’s the recipe

400g cooked chickpeas (1 can)
250g baked sweet potato (about 2 medium)
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
2 handfuls of spinach
2 tsp cumin
1 handful of chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Salt and pepper

Bake the sweet potatoes whole until soft and tender (around 40 minutes). I soak my chickpeas over night and boil to cook, but you can also use a tin for ease. Bash the cooked baked potatoes and the chickpeas with a potato masher until roughly combined.

In a frying pan, cook the garlic in a little olive oil and then add the cumin and the spinach plus a dash of water. After a few minutes, when the spinach and garlic have cooked and you can smell the aroma from the cumin, remove from the heat and add to the sweet potato and chickpea mash mixing thoroughly.

Season with the lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped coriander. Taste to make sure you’re satisfied with the flavour. Now form the dough into balls – I made 17 with this quantity. You can place the falafel on a lined baking tray, pressing it down ever so slightly, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (gas mark 6). Or if you prefer them crispy like me, fry in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes on each side.

Serve with Tahini and yoghurt sauce made by mixing 2 tbsp of natural yoghurt with 2 tbsp of tahini (peanut butter works well here too), a crushed clove of garlic, 1 tsp of tomato ketchup, salt, pepper and chopped fresh mint. Summer heaven.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

Gathering nettles in the spring timeSpring time is the perfect time to harvest nettles. Cooked nettles have a very similar taste and vitamin content to spinach, but as they grow in the wild they are absolutely free. When foraging for nettles, make sure you wear thick gardening gloves and pick from an area far away from the pollution of a busy road.

Choose just the young leaves from the top of the plant. Harvesting the terminal (top) bud will stimulate lateral bud growth causing the plant to become more bushy and allowing you to harvest continually from the same plant.

Nettle pesto



  • 100g young nettles
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 75g strong cheddar, grated
  • 50g cashew nuts
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp of natural yoghurt or olive oil


Again, making sure you are wearing gloves, rinse the nettles thoroughly and discard any thick stalks. In a pan gently fry a crushed clove of garlic until golden brown. Add the rinsed nettles and a tbsp of water to the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until the leaves have wilted. Switch off the heat. Transfer this mixture to a food processor or use a hand blender to blend the nettles. Add the grated cheese, cashew nuts, lemon juice and yoghurt and continue to blend until you have a smooth green paste. You can add more yoghurt or olive oil if needed. Now simply stir the nettle pesto through some cooked pasta or spaghetti, season with plenty of black pepper and serve with fresh salad leaves. The pesto will keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a week.

The Roast Dinner and leftovers….

There’s nothing more frugal than cooking the way our parents used to, by roasting a chicken on Sunday, eating it with jacket potatoes and salad on a Tuesday, turn the brown meat into a curry on a Wednesday, then boil the bones for a delicious soup on Thursday.

Leftover veg from a roast dinnerAs I’ve been experimenting over the last 3 months with ways to save money on food – and I’ve discovered that our parents (and grandparents) really did know best. No part of the chicken was wasted. Portion size of meat may have been less, but this usually meant that more vegetables were eaten – which research has shown to be healthier in the long run.

With Easter approaching, there’s some fantastic deals on local meat. I bought a joint of local Top Side beef for just £7.99 a kilo at Q Gardens (which would be £13 a kilo in Tesco’s). Local Butchers have got in this seasons lamb, and there’s always the humble free-range chicken.

One of my favourite use-everything-up recipes at the moment is my leftover roast dinner soup. It’s simply some extra roasted roots that I’ve cooked on the Sunday (usually parsnips, sweet potato, carrots and potatoes), blended with stock made from the bones and giblets of the chicken. I add in some roasted garlic and rosemary to jazz it up a bit and serve it with some homemade foccacia – it’s delicious and hearty.

Chicken curryIf you’re after a simple frugal curry recipe, check this one out. The base is made from blended onions, tinned tomatoes and creamed coconut.

You can add in a couple of handfuls of cooked chickpeas to bulk it out if you’re short on meat. Simply serve with rice.

Ever wondered what to do with leftover broccoli stems?

Food waste broccoli stemsEver thought what a waste it is to throw away broccoli stems? Well this recipe will change you outlook of your food waste bin for ever! It is phenomenal.

Also, for anyone that is gluten free or just wants to be healthy but misses the satisfaction of biting into a pizza this is the recipe for you. I make it frequently for the family and everyone agreed; it’s better than real pizza!

broccoli pizzaPlus broccoli (or cauliflower which works very well too) is high in vitamin C, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds such as Indole-3-carbinol, research suggests that is has cancer and heart protective properties.Furthermore, it’s actually really simple to make.

Here’s the recipe – Basically grate 2 or 3 discarded broccoli or/and cauliflower stems then boil the gratings for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out all the water in a tea towel or muslin/cheese cloth. You want the pulp to be extremely dry so that when it cooks it crisps up.

Now mix in one egg and 100g of cream cheese. Divide and press flat onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Whilst the pizza base is cooking you could use the time to make a passata tomato sauce with a tin of tomatoes, a clove or garlic, some chopped onion, salt and pepper.

cauliflower pizza 2Once the base is cooked and crispy, add the toppings of your choice and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve with salad.

TOP TIP: If you’re a fan of juicing, this would be an excellent way to use up all the discarded vegetable fibre from your juice machine.

Wholemeal Focaccia recipe (25p a portion)

I did say I’d get round to making my own bread at some point! This recipe is very easy to make, though you do need to start a day ahead. It jazzes up any soup or salad dinner perfectly. You can vary the toppings with anything that you need using up.

Wholemeal foccacia recipeI met Anna Pitt on Monday who is a big advocate of Zero Waste and she suggested I go through all my cupboards and to see if there was anything that needed using up, and sure enough, lurking at the back of the fridge I found a jar of Jalapeños – I must’ve bought them for a Mexican dish many many moons ago, and some lonely looking sundried tomatoes. They looked fine, and I thought they could make a wonderful topping for a spicy Focaccia to go with the parsnip and coconut soup I made on Monday.

Keeping in local and healthy

I love using wholemeal grains as they are so much more nutrient dense. Shipton Mill sell their own flour which is grown and milled just down the road in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. A Kilo is a bit more expensive than a Supermarket brand but the taste is second to none. Here’s the recipe – it’s adapted from Peter Reinhart’s wholegrain breads.

In a bowl, mix 250g of wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 5g dried yeast, 240ml warm water and 1 tsp of sugar for 2 minutes.The dough will be sticky, but smooth. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the dough and mix for a few seconds. Now let the dough rest, uncovered for 5 minutes and then mix it again for another 2 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add a small amount of flour.

Wholemeal foccacia 1Line a tray with baking paper and add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil to grease the paper including the side walls. Place the dough in the tray. Rub the top of the dough with 1 tsp of olive oil. Flatten the dough a little using the palms of your hands. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover the entire baking tray, it will once it’s risen. Cover the tray tightly with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take out the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 4 hours. Remove the clingfilm covering the dough and drizzle on 1 tsp of olive oil. Using your fingertips, starting in the middle, press the dough so that it begins to fill out the tray. Loosely cover the pan and let it sit for 20 minutes. Repeat this procedure a second and third time. After the third cover the tray and let it sit for 2 hours.

When the 2 hours is nearly over, preheat the oven at gas mark 10 / 260 C/ 500 F. Sprinkle on your toppings – I used jalapeños, sun dried tomatoes and a grating of cheese, but just herbs, sea salt and olive oil would also be delicious! Reduce the oven temperature to gas mark 8 / 230 C/ 450 F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the tray around 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!


250g whole wheat flour = 32p
Salt, yeast, sugar = 5p
Olive oil = 5p
Tomato = 10p
Cheese = 30p
20g Jalapeños = 10p

Total = £1.02 (25p a portion)

Budget Beany chilli (52p a portion)

bean chilliI love this time of year for warming meals that you can leave to simmer for hours until all the flavour mingle and enhance.

A bean chilli is a true example of this – the longer it cooks the richer it becomes.

When cooking for kids I tend to go easy on the actual chilli, but do serve some sliced red firecrackers on the side in case anyone’s feeling adventurous.

I also find it fun to serve little additions to make the bean chilli more interesting, and it’s a great way to use up leftover cheese or a browning avocado. Here’s the recipe –

Soak 1 cup of each dried chickpeas, pinto beans and yellow split peas over night in plenty of water. Make sure you use a large bowl as these all expand. Rinse thoroughly and boil until tender in salted water (45-60 minutes). In a large heavy bottomed casserole dish fry 2 white onions and 5 cloves of garlic in a little olive oil. Add in whatever vegetables you have in the fridge that you’d like using up. I put in 3 carrots, a red pepper and a parsnip but courgettes, potato and pumpkin work well too. I slice the vegetables into small pieces so that they’ll cook easily.

Add 2 tins of tomatoes, 3 tbsp of tomato purée, 1-3 small dried red chilli’s (depending how hot you like it), 3 tsp of smoked paprika, 1 tsp of cumin and 2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper, put the lid on and place in a moderate oven (gas mark 5 / 190C) for 1-2 hours. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. If I have any red wine leftover I pour a glug in to make the sauce richer but this isn’t necessary.

Once the sauce is thick and reduced serve hot with rice or corn tortillas (I’ll be posting a recipe for these soon). I also enjoy a sprinkling of cheese and some guacamole  – deliciously hearty and tasty. This recipe is enough to feed a family of 4 for two nights.

1 cup dried chickpeas – 25p
1 cup dried yellow split peas – 25p
1 cup dried pinto beans – 25p
2 tins tomatoes – 64p
3 tbsp tomato purée – 10p
Herbs, garlic, chilli – 10p
Vegetables – £1
Cheese – 75p
Avocado – 50p
Rice – 12p

Total = £4.16 for 8 portions (52p a portion)

Frugal Fish pie

It’s the beginning of the month and I’m feeling flush. A new budget means new possibilities. Although I must remember not to over spend at the beginning so we don’t exceed the budget at the end. Fortunately, February is a short month! 4 exact weeks – no extra days!

Oxford fish marketI really missed Salmon last month so I thought I’d kick start with a frugal fish recipe. The Fish Market Oxford on Botley Road do a frozen fish pie mix that I keep in the freezer. It cost £6.95 / kg but contains a mixture of salmon and white fish. That might feel steep but it’s a lot cheaper than buying salmon fillets. Plus I like the fact that it’s all the left over tit bits that would usually go to waste – somehow it feels good not to use every bit of the fish. After all, Salmon is a very healthy omega rich fish that should be celebrated. This recipe is super simple as well as hearty and healthy.

Frugal Fish & Leek pie with mustard mash

frugal fish pie and peasDefrost the fish thoroughly. Infuse a pint of milk with nutmeg and a couple of peppercorns by warming them gently together in a saucepan. Place the defrosted fish and 1 or 2 sliced boiled eggs in the bottom of a deep casserole pan (you may need 2 pans – this is a lot of fish) and squeeze over the juice of 1 lemon. In the meantime, boil about 1 kg of potatoes until cooked through and set aside.

In a saucepan melt 30g of butter and gently fry leeks until very soft (about 10 minutes), add 2 tbsp of plain flour and mix to form a roux. Gently fry the leek roux for 30 seconds before whisking in the milk, leave over a gentle heat to thicken. Mash the potatoes with a little milk and some butter and 2-3 tsp of English mustard, season with salt and pepper.

Scatter some parsley over the fish and pour over the thickened white leek sauce. Top with the mash. Place in the oven for 40 minutes at gas mark 5 / 180C, until golden brown. Serve with peas.

This is enough for 2 family meals. So unless you want to eat it 2 days in a row, divide in half and freeze.


1 kg fish pie mix = £6.95 (Fish Market Oxford)
1 kg potatoes = 28p (Rectory Farm)
3 leeks = £1
Organic Milk = 60p
Butter = 20p
Lemon = 25p
Herbs, salt, pepper, mustard = 10p

Total = £9.38 for 8-10 portions (93p a portion)

My basic frugal curry recipe

I use this recipe a lot, all the time, every week at least once! It’s easy, delicious and very budget. You can add leftover roast chicken, frozen fish or just some wholesome chickpeas and spinach to complete this dish. With rice on the side it will feed a family of 4 easily.

Here’s the recipe –

Chicken curryIn a blender place 3 large peeled white onions, 5 cloves of garlic, 100g grams of creamed coconut, 1 tin of tomatoes, 2 cups of water, 3 tbsp tomato purée, 2 red chilli’s or more if you like it hot, 1 small knob of ginger, 3 cardamom pods and any leftover stems from some fresh coriander. Blend until smooth.

In a heavy duty casserole dish fry 2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tbsp of cumin, 1 tbsp of garam masala, and 2 tsp of turmeric (in a little olive oil or butter) for a couple of minutes until the aroma fills the room. Pour in the blended curry sauce you have just made, mix it altogether, season with salt and pepper and allow it to simmer away for 10 minutes. Taste to see if it needs more salt, pepper or spice – adjust accordingly.

Now add your filling, and place the casserole dish in the oven on gas mark 5 / 190c for 1 hour. Do check it now and then to make sure it doesn’t burn, and give it a stir. If it reduces too much add a dash of water. The sauce should become thick and flavoursome. Serve with basmati rice and natural yoghurt.

Here’s the cost –

1 tin tomatoes = 34p
Tomato purée = 15p
Creamed coconut = 50p
Onions, garlic & ginger = 30p
Spices = 10p

Total = £1.39

Add roast chicken = £2
Add pollack = £2
Add cooked chickpeas = 28p