Category Archives: Frugal Family Meals

Monday Shop and Kale Aloo Recipe

Sarah at Monday ShopI was at the Monday Shop, on Monday funnily, where you can pick up surplus organic vegetables that have been on market stalls or veg vans around Oxford over the weekend. The shop runs by donation only, to help reduce food waste in Oxford. It’s a clever way of getting slightly tired looking vegetables to people that want buy organic and create healthy meals on a budget.

I couldn’t wait to get down and see what was on offer. The shop runs every Monday from upstairs at the Cowley Road Community Centre from 4-8pm. Cornflower Bakery in Wheatley and Sesi also showcase their products.

Kale from monday shopI arrived at around 6.15pm to many friendly faces. Thank you to everyone that welcomed me.

I was surprised to see that the vegetables were anything but tired looking. North Aston Organics had contributed some beautiful fresh herbs and there was an abundance of leafy green kale from the Cultivate Veg Van, as well as carrots, potatoes, parsnips and beetroot.

I picked up a bunch of fresh coriander and some of the kale and pondered over what I could do for dinner. I had some leftover chicken curry in the freezer from the other week and an idea popped into my head for Saag aloo – but using kale instead of spinach. So there it became Kale Aloo with fresh coriander.

Here’s the recipe;
Kale aloo1 bunch of kale
4 large potatoes
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp creamed coconut
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 small chilli
Salt and pepper

Scrub and chop the potatoes into small pieces and then boil until soft. Fry the potatoes in a little olive oil with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a small onion for 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, garam masala, chopped chilli and turmeric and fry for another 2 minutes until you smell the aroma of the spices. In the meantime, remove the very tough bits from the kale and slice finely before adding to the potatoes. Finally, add 1 cup of water, the tomato purée and creamed coconut. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until everything has infused together. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve alone with rice or as an accompaniment to other curries. Simple yet delicious!

How much does it cost?

It’s difficult to say how much this dish costs to make. But I would say you can buy all the vegetables for about £1 and the spices, tomato purée and creamed coconut come to about 50p. So £1.50 for 4 people.

Spring Greens Spaghetti

Spring greensOnce I’ve finished this month of budget eating I think I might write a book called 101 ways to cook a cabbage, because it does feel like we’re eating it about 3 x a week. No offence to the humble cabbage intended. It is actually a delicious vegetable when prepared with loving care.

This recipe discovery has renewed my passion for the younger variety of cabbage just coming into Season now. The Spring Green is a tender fellow that doesn’t need much cooking at all, and as a result this meal can be cooked in as long as it takes to boil some spaghetti.

Spring greens provide you with a serious hit of vitamin C to support your immune system, and vitamin K, to build bone strength. They also contain natural compounds, such as sulforaphane and indoles, and research suggests that these plant chemicals have significant anti-cancer action, as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which could help protect against heart disease and stroke.

Anchovies contain omega 3 fatty acids as well as plenty of calcium from the bones when you eat them whole. I’m always trying to find sneaky ways to get fish into our diet, but fish can be an expensive commodity, that’s why the tinned variety can sometimes be useful.

This recipe disguises the fishiness of anchovies making them more like a salty seasoning that complements the Spring Greens beautifully.

Here’s the recipe –

Spring cabbage spaghettiBoil some 300g of spaghetti until it is al dente. In the last minute before the spaghetti is ready, throw in a generous bunch of finely sliced Spring Greens. Meanwhile, as the spaghetti is cooking, mix a 50g tinned anchovies in olive oil, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of half a lemon and 1 chopped dried red chilli. Cook in a pan until the anchovies disintegrate. Add more olive oil until the mixture is runny enough to mix with the spaghetti/cabbage. Once the spaghetti and cabbage is cooked drain immediately. Stir in the anchovy sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon juice as required. Serve with black pepper and a sprinkling of strong cheese. Simple yet delicious.

How’s the budget?

Spaghetti = 20p
Spring greens = £1
Anchovies = 50p
1/2 lemon – 15p
Olive oil, chilli, pepper = 10p
Cheese  = 50p
Total = £2.45 for 4


Vietnamese Spring Roll Wraps & Asian Coleslaw

Vietnamese rice wrapsI love Vietnamese food, but I’ve never attempted spring rolls at home before. When I was out locating some of our local Asian supermarkets in Oxford – Thong Heng Oriental on Windmill Parade in Headington, Jing Jing on Cowley Road and Lung Wah Chong next to Oxford train station – I noticed just how cheap the spring roll rice wraps were. You can buy a pack of about 40 (maybe more) for just £1.99. Plus you get to fill them with exactly what you want (or whatever you have left in the fridge at the end of the week).

I’ve also been on the hunt for good cheap fish in Oxford. Geographically Oxford isn’t really well positioned for fish, and as a result we are short of local fishmongers. I did however come across The Fish Market Oxford, which is the wholesalers that supply the fish to the Oxford Covered Market. They also deliver to your door.

Before Christmas I paid them a visit and found some excellent deals which I’ll be blogging about soon. One was their large bag of cooked and peeled prawns that I keep in the freezer for rare occasions. When used in spring rolls this way, you don’t have to use too many and so it can work out quite cost effective. Here’s the recipe:

Rice Wrap Vietnamese Prawn Spring Rolls

Vietnamese rice wraps and asian coleslaw 2Take 100g of rice vermicelli noodles and soak them in boiling water for 5 minute until they are soft, then drain. Finely slice any vegetables you have in the fridge that you think may be suitable. I used cucumber, mushrooms and grated carrot and a handful of home grown coriander and mint. But spring onions, peppers, courgettes and even grated beetroot would work. Once you have about 1 cup of chopped vegetables add these to the noodles plus 100g of defrosted cooked peeled prawns. Season with the juice of half a lime.

Fill a flat serving dish with hot (not boiling) water. Soak 1 pancake at a time for 15-20 seconds until nice and soft. Spread the rice wrap on a plate making sure it’s not sticking to itself. This bit can be a bit fiddly but after a few it’s easy to get the hang of it. Place a handful of the noodle prawn mixture into the centre of the wrap. Roll from the side nearest to you tucking the bottom edge over and under the filling. Fold in the sides and roll upwards to complete the roll. The rice wrap should stick to itself to form the seal. I made 3 per adult and 2 per child. They are quite filling. Don’t over fill or they split.

For the dipping sauce you can make a simple chilli dip with grated garlic, ginger, chilli, lime juice and 1 tsp of sugar in a little warm water. If you like it salty you can add a tbsp of soy or fish sauce too. Or my favourite, home made Satay sauce. This is easy to make and absolutely delicious on anything and everything.

Satay Sauce Recipe

Take half a tin of coconut milk and heat with 2 tbsp of home made peanut butter. Season with 2 tsp of soy sauce, grated ginger, 1 glove of crushed garlic and 1 dried chilli. Delicious!

I served everything with an Asian coleslaw which was simply grated cabbage, carrot and onion with a chilli, garlic and lime dressing. EASY!

How’s the budget?

10 rice wraps = 40p
Rice noodles = 50p
Chopped veg for filling = 30p
100g of prawns = 85p
1/2 lime = 15p

£2.20 for 10 wraps

Satay Sauce
1/2 tin of coconut milk = 50p
2 tbsp peanut butter = 20p
soy, garlic, ginger, chilli = 20p

Total 90p

Asian coleslaw
1/2 cabbage = 50p
Carrots = 20p
Onion = 5p
Lime, chilli, garlic, olive oil = 30p
Total = £1.05

Everything together = £4.05 for 4 people

If you want to make this even more frugal you could replace the prawns with crushed peanuts and use the chilli lime dressing instead of Satay sauce. This would probably save you £1. You could also experiment with left over roast chicken or sliced tofu – a very versatile recipe.


Kale pasta pesto

Kale pasta pestoThis has got to be one of the easiest and most versatile dinners to make. You can whip it up in about 15 minutes flat.

Plus kale is a super healthy vegetable containing plenty of calcium and magnesium which are essential minerals for bone health.  1 cup of kale contains 100% of your RDA for vitamins A, C and K and more iron per calorie than beef! Iron is essential for healthy blood, the formation of haemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

Wow what a food!

£10 veg and fruit box from The Garden Market at EynshamI got a beautiful bunch of black kale (cavolo nero) in my veggie box from The Market Garden at Eynsham on Tuesday (please see details of their awesome veggie box here) and I’ve been looking forward to making this recipe ever since. Here’s how it goes….

All you do is steam -fry the kale with a little garlic and olive. Basically begin frying the kale and garlic in oil but then add a dash of water and put on the lid to steam everything together.

Then blend the garlicy kale with 2 handfuls of grated cheese and 2 handfuls of cashew nuts (ground almond flour works too if your blender’s not strong). You can add olive oil or a tbsp of natural yoghurt to thin it out if necessary. Season with lemon juice and black pepper and stir through pasta. Many vegetables work in this recipe but my favourite to use are kale, broccoli and mushroom.

Is it within budget?

Bunch of kale = £1
100g cheese = 75p
100g cashew nuts = £1
Pasta = 40p
1/2 Lemon = 15p
Olive oil, garlic, yoghurt – 20p

Total = £3.50 for 4

Spinach Dahl & Rice

Yellow split pea channa dahlIf you’ve not visited Tahmid Stores at 53 Cowley Road, Oxford, I urge you to do so. This independently own Indian/Bangladeshi supermarket stocks Halal meat, a huge range of ethnic groceries as well as fruits and vegetables at very competitive prices. You can tell they are passionate about food simply by the diversity of their product range and the quality of their products. You can buy wholesale items such as 20 kilos of Basmati Rice that makes small packets of supermarket rice seem extortionately priced. Whilst this quantity may take you a year to get through, if you team up with a few friends and split the cost you get yourself a tidy deal.

This family recipe that we ate for dinner last night cost less than £2 to make for 4 people, and there was enough left over the next day for my husband to take for lunch at work. Here’s the recipe:

Frugal Dahl and Rice recipeEasy Spinach Dahl

1. First rinse and then soak 250g dried yellow split peas or channa dahl.

Soaking peas overnight in water shortens their cooking time. But soaking isn’t entirely necessary. Split peas cook relatively quickly. Unsoaked peas take from 1 to 2 hours of simmering; soaked peas take about 40 minutes.

2. Discard the water and boil the peas in 1 litre of fresh water with 1 tsp of salt. Split peas absorb lots of water as they cook, so check the soup often and add liquid as needed.

3. In a frying pan fry 1 small onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 dried chilli and a tablespoon of garam masala for a couple of minutes.

4. Once the peas are very tender and soup like add in 300g of tinned or frozen spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.

5. Add in the fried onion and spices and season with salt, pepper and the juice from a lemon.

6. Serve with Basmati rice and a dollop of natural yoghurt.

How are we doing on nutrition?

Split peas are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fibre. Not only can dried peas help lower cholesterol, they are also of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fibre content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. Split peas also provide excellent amounts of molybdenum, manganese, copper, folic acid, vitamin B1, phosphorus, vitamin B5, and potassium with one cup providing nearly 50% of your RDA for all these vitamins and minerals. Coupled with rice, split peas provide all the essential amino acids to form a complete protein. Spinach (as does all green leafy vegetables adds more minerals, this time magnesium and calcium for strong bones and iron for your blood. If you season with lemon juice, the vitamin C from this fruit makes the iron more easily absorbed. All in all, it’s no wonder that Dahl and rice is an Indian staple.

And budget?

250g Yellow split peas = 26p
1 lemon = 30p
Spinach = 60p
Garlic = 20p
Garam masala, chilli, salt and pepper = 20p
Rice = 40p

Total = £1.96 for 4 people


Spaghetti Squash with parsley garlic butter

Spaghetti squashThis big yellow squash is heavy, hard to peel and hard to cut (careful of your fingers).  Yet it will be one of the easiest vegetable dishes you can make. Just place it on a baking tray and pierce a few times all around with a sharp knife or skewer. No cutting, or peeling, no marinating or massaging, just put it in a medium oven whole (gas mark 5/180C/375F) for one hour.

spaghetti squash 2If you haven’t got the time, cut it in half and place face down on a tray in the oven for 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done when you can pierce it easily without resistance with a knife. Let it cool, then slice open and rake out the seeds. Then use your fork and scrape away at the amazing spaghetti strands that appear! If it seems really hard to scrape out the squash, return to the oven for another 10 minutes. One squash feeds lots of people and it’s really filling.

Spaghetti squash with parsley garlic butterIn a saucepan fry lots of garlic in a little butter or olive oil and throw in a bunch of parsley or sage (or any other herbs you have to hand or even better growing in the garden?!?). Add the spaghetti squash strands and season with salt and pepper. If you have any strong cheese handy like Parmesan, grate a small sprinkling on top. Serve with salad leaves, or for an even more frugal accompaniment freshly picked dandelion leaves, which are spicy and peppery just like rocket.

How are we doing on the Nutritional content?

You’ll get small amounts of almost every essential vitamin from eating spaghetti squash. Vitamin C, A ( in the form of beta-carotene) and B-6 are the vitamins found in highest concentration of which you’ll find 100% of the RDA in just 1 cup of baked spaghetti squash. Vitamin C plays a role in the growth and repair of body proteins, aids in wound healing and supports your immune system. It’s also an antioxidant that helps defend your body against harmful free radicals. Vitamin B-6 is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions in your body, including energy metabolism and haemoglobin production, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A is key for good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth.

Every essential mineral is found in the flesh of spaghetti squash. The mineral potassium plays a part in building muscle, metabolising carbohydrates and maintaining proper muscle function, and blood pressure. It also helps to regulate fluid balance and the acidity, or pH, of your blood. Spaghetti squash also contains the minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium.

1 cup of fresh Dandelion leaves supply over 100% of the RDA of Vitamin A and K and a large proportion of the RDA of folic acid. Best of all they’re considered a weed and so grow abundantly every where and are absolutely FREE!!!

How’s the Budget?
Spaghetti squash – £1
Garlic, butter, herbs – 20p
Dandelion leaves – free
50g Parmesan cheese – 50p

Total = £1.70 for a family of 4