Category Archives: Frugal Family Meals

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

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