Family Foodies: the Cheap and Cheerful round-up

It’s been a month since the deadline for entries into May’s Family Foodies challenge – do you remember that one, the one with the Cheap and Cheerful theme? I could come up with a list of excuses as long as my arm for taking so long to bring you the round-up, but it would make for pretty dull reading.

It’s simply been a case of work, family and, well, life really, having to take priority – you know what it’s like. And so I had to take a little step back from the blog for a few weeks. But hopefully things are back on a bit more of an even keel now.

But I hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait. We received some brilliantly inspiring and inventive recipes for last month’s Family Foodies, so if you are looking for creative ways to make your grocery budget stretch that little bit further yet still serve up temptingly tasting meals, then this is the recipe round-up for you.

Cheap and Cheerful Collage

For starters, we have a couple of soups. There’s a vibrant 5 Minute Smoothie Soup (1) from Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, which as well as being super quick and super cheap, it’s also perfect for anyone watching their weight at just 42 calories a bowl.

Katie from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter also brings a hearty soup to our Cheap and Cheerful table, with her Healthy Mushroom Soup (3). It sounds absolutely packed full of flavour with those lovely earthy mushrooms, alongside lots of garlic and chives and if you want to lux it up, you can add a glug of sherry and a dollop of creme fraiche. Ooh yum.

How about an Easy Cheesy Muffins (2) to go with your bowl of soup. Luckily that’s precisely what Lou from Eat Your Veg has brought along with her. These marvellous mini muffins would be ideal for packed lunches and are also a great way to get the little ones involved in the kitchen, as Lou’s gorgeous son Jacques demonstrates.

Talking of lunches, I think these next two entries would make a lovely weekend lunch and would also be perfect picnic food. This Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Quiche (4) from Ros aka The More Than Occasional Baker looks really quite decadent even though it’s made from leftovers, while this Quiche Lorraine with Slow Cooked Pulled Gammon (5) from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All is fabulously “fuss and fiddle” free and makes the most of value gammon from the supermarket.

And how about this dish of Spinach, Chickpeas and Peppercorns (6) from Sudha at Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous? Does it look delicious? It’s Sudha’s grandmother’s recipe and she makes it whenever she feels like she needs a hug from her. I love the way food can link us so directly to our loved ones.

Cheap and Cheerful Collage 2Linsy from Home Cook Food has three Cheap and Cheerful dishes to share. First of all there’s her Chanar Payesh (7), which is a Bengali-style cottage cheese pudding and a clever way of using up sour milk. Next she brings us a hot and spicy Sriracha Eggplant and Tofu (8) and she completes her trio with an Cheesy Pesto Pasta (9), perfect for a quick and easy, mid-week supper.

Not surprisingly for this Cheap and Cheerful challenge, we have a few more pasta dishes up next. Katharine from Leeks & Limoni gives us this very pretty bowlful of Penne with Speck and Leeks (10), which has universal appeal, just perfect for a family meal. Then a couple of pasta bakes up next. We have a Veggie Sausage and Pepper Pasta Bake (11) from Helen at Family – Friends – Food, a fun (and very tasty) way to use vegetarian sausages, and then a Meatball and Red Pepper Pasta Bake (12) from Alex at Gingey Bites, featuring lots of versatile and cheap ingredients, and very yummy looking meatballs.

Cheap and Cheerful Collage 3

If you saw the Mexican theme on The Spice Trail a couple of months ago, you’ll know I’m rather partial to Mexican food, and so I was very pleased to see a couple of burritos on the list of entries for Family Foodies. These Burritos with Cumin and Eggs (13) were the end result when Sudha from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous let her “imagination run wild” and what a delicious imagination she clearly has! Louisa at Eat Your Veg came up with these Veggie Burritos (14) for National Vegetarian Week back in May, and as with so much of her food, they are a very healthy and hands-on dinner for all the family to tuck into together.

These Beet Parathas (15) from Aneela at The Odd Pantry are a deliciously frugal dinner. Paratha is a stuffed, wholewheat flatbread and Aneela has stuffed hers with a fantastic filling made from just about every part of the beetroot that is then spiced to perfection.

My Braised Oxtail with Smoked Bacon (16) is up next, the first time I’ve ever tried cooking this extremely cheap cut, and I’ll certainly be coming back to it again soon.

And I have to say, I’m very tempted by these Guacamole Hush Puppies (17) from Gayathri at Spices Galore. They are her take on the hush puppies from the deep south of the United States, which are essentially deep-fried cornmeal fritters. Gayathri has added avocado, chilli and lots of fresh herbs to her version and I think they sound irresistible.

Cheap and Cheerful Collage 4Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen has come up with a healthier and tastier version of the ubiquitous chicken nugget next with her Chicken, Apple & Sage Nuggets (18). I think I’d like these as much as my children.

Something that went down well with my own family was this Spicy Chana Dal Cottage Pie (19). While it’s not meat-free, the chana dal does help bulk out the filling and helps make a little meat go much, much further.

After all those savoury delights, I reckon it’s high time we had some sweet treats, don’t  you? Corina from Searching for Spice has made us these gorgeous little Oaty Banana and Raisin Bites (20), made from just three ingredients, they really couldn’t be easier to make. Small chewy clusters of oats, banana and raisins, baked in the oven, they sound almost too good to be true!

And how about this sumptuous Nutella Bread and Butter Pudding (21) from Helen at Family – Friends – Food? Custard, chocolate and bread pudding – sounds like a heavenly combination if you ask me.

Cheap and Cheerful Collage 5 Chocolate Cakes

Did someone say chocolate? If it’s chocolate on a budget you want then these next six entries will have you whooping in sheer foodie ecstasy on a shoestring. Last month Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog set an interesting challenge for We Should Cocoa: to bake a chocolate cake for less than £1. And I’m rather pleased that many of her entrants saw fit to also submit their entries to Family Foodies as well. I couldn’t believe it was possible to bake an edible cake for less than a pound, until I saw this little lot…

Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Food for Family’s Chocolate Cake for less than £1 (22) looks absolutely decadent, although it must be said the chocolate topping wasn’t included in the costings. But doesn’t that chocolate sponge look wonderfully moist?

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog came up with two versions of a Chocolate Cake for £1 (23). There’s a malted hot chocolate cake, made using Horlicks (gosh, I haven’t heard that mentioned for quite a while), and then a banana hot chocolate honey cake. Both sound divine and I’m so impressed each one came in under budget. Just!

Admittedly Sarah from Tales from the Kitchen Shed used a smaller tin than normal for her £1 Chocolate Fudge Cake (24) but I think you’ll agree it looks like it must have cost much more than the 99½p it actually cost to make. It really looks rather extravagant and knowing how tasty Sarah’s recipes are, I bet this tastes the business too.

Caroline aka Caroline Makes went with a vegan recipe for her entry How to Make Chocolate Cake for Only £1 (25), and found it was actually cheaper to use plain chocolate from the basics range than use cocoa powder. I love how glossy that topping looks.

Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker used a packet cake mix from Morrison’s and even stretched to some peanut butter for her Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Butter Cake for £1 (26). Her secret ingredient was sour cream for extra lightness, and I love the fact she served up to people without telling them it was a budget cake and people were asking her for the recipe. Result!

Finally we have this very fine-looking Chocolate Syrup Cake for £1 (27) from Katharine at Leeks & Limoni, in which she replaced the butter with oil for a recipe she describes as a revelation. “The cake was really delicious,” she says in her post. “I mean, nicer than my usual standard chocolate cake and a cinch to make.” Who’d have thought that by cutting the cost on ingredients, you might actually stumble upon an improved recipe?

And the winner is…

So there you have it. Quite a collection of cheap and cheerful dishes, perfect for feeding a hungry family. It all goes to show, food doesn’t have to be boring when you’re on a budget. Although you do need to be creative and think out of the box a little, which of course isn’t always easy when times are tight and you have a family to feed, as I learnt a few weeks ago when my family and I took part in the Live Below the Line challenge. But some great ideas there to give us all food for thought.

But as ever there can only be one winner. And this month that much sought-after accolade of Family Foodies champion goes to Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog for her two very inventive versions of a Chocolate Cake for £1, and for coming up with such a fantastic blog challenge to run alongside the Live Below the Line campaign. Well done Choclette! A copy of the Passion for Juice smoothie recipe book will be in the post to you very soon – once you’ve sent me your address that is…

Thank you to everyone that took part in the Cheap and Cheerful challenge, and apologies once again for taking so long to bring you the round-up. Better late than never though, as they say!

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Virgin Bloody Mary soup – a recipe for Live Below the Line

virgin bloody mary soup

When Save the Children first invited me to contribute some frugal recipes for the Live Below the Line challenge, I knew immediately I had to get involved. Trying to eat good food on a budget is what I’m all about after all. But as soon as I started pulling together possible recipe ideas, it dawned on me this was going to be really rather difficult.

People taking part in Live Below the Line are getting sponsored to live below the poverty line on a measly £1 a day for five days from Monday 29 April to Friday 3 May. That’s just £1 for all their food and drink. No foraging or gifts allowed. £1 wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee in your average cafe. It’s harsh, but it’s also the reality 1.4 billion people around the world wake up to each and every day.

Everyone taking part in Live Below the Line for Save the Children will be doing their bit to raise awareness of the plight of people facing extreme food poverty, while raising vital funds to help change the lives of vulnerable children everywhere.

Save the Children has challenged food bloggers to devise dishes that cost less than 40p to make from scratch. Every single ingredient has to be costed; every grind of salt and every splash of oil.

As I was thinking up ideas, it quickly became painfully clear just how difficult it is to eat well on such a low budget. Fresh vegetables and meat are practically out of reach, making tinned and frozen foods so much more attractive. While sliced, white bread might offer virtually no nutritional value, it does has the advantage of being cheap, and fills you up for a short time at least.

If you’re going to try to eat anything vaguely tasty or interesting while on the Live Below the Line challenge, as opposed to surviving solely on beans on toast, it pays to cook in bulk to get your money’s worth. Team up with others as it’s pretty much impossible to cook cheaply for one. And plan your meals. For instance, to get the cheapest onions you need to buy a big bag of them. So then you need to plan a whole list of meals to make sure you get your money’s worth. That’s why the three dishes I’ve come up with for Live Below the Line all revolve around onions, oil, garlic and spices to make sure I made the most of them.

Coming in at just under 34p a serving, the first of my dishes is a spicy tomato and red pepper soup, flavoured with celery, Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce rather like a Bloody Mary, but alas without the Vodka. You really couldn’t sneak that in on this budget! I did intend to use Tabasco but found I couldn’t afford that either, so had to find a cheaper alternative. The soup is served with crispy garlic croutons, which I reckon is a pretty good use of cheap white bread, and helps bulk it out.

virgin bloody mary soup

Virgin Bloody Mary soup with garlic croutons

Serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil (15ml)
ASDA sunflower oil £3 for 3 litres = 1.5p

1 onion, chopped (around 100g)
ASDA Smartprice brown onions £1.16 for 2kg = 5.8p

1 celery stick, sliced (around 35g)
ASDA celery sticks £1 for 350g = 10p

1 red pepper, chopped
ASDA red pepper = 40p

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
ASDA Smartprice chopped tomatoes 400g = 31p

500ml vegetable stock (made from one stock cube)
ASDA Chosen By You vegetable stock cubes 12 for 78p = 6.5p

Dash Worcester sauce (5ml)
ASDA Lea & Perrins £2.16 for 290ml = 3.72p

Dash hot pepper sauce (5ml)
Tesco Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce Original 148ml for £1.00 = 3.37p

Salt (2g)
ASDA Table Salt 29p for 750g = 0.07p

Pepper (1g)
ASDA Smartprice Ground Black Pepper 25g for 20p = 0.8p

2 tbsp olive / vegetable oil (30ml)
ASDA olive oil £1.98 for 500ml = 11.88p

4 slices white bread, cubed
ASDA Smartprice medium sliced white bread 50p for 22 slices = 9.09p

3 cloves garlic, crushed
ASDA loose garlic 30p for approx. 8 cloves = 11.25p

Total cost = £1.35. Cost per serving = 34p.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and cook the onion, celery and red pepper until soft. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add a dash of Worcester sauce and hot pepper sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes while you get on with the croutons.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic until it has just turned golden. Throw in the cubed bread and stir well so all the pieces are coated in oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. When the croutons are looking crispy on the top, use a spatula to turn them over and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes depending on how just how dry and crunchy you like them.

When the soup is cooked, blend in a liquidiser until you achieve a fairly smooth consistency but not completely – it’s good to have a little texture. Serve in bowls and sprinkle a handful of garlic croutons on each. Grub’s up!

virgin bloody mary soup

As this dish is so utterly cheap and cheerful, I’m entering it into April’s Credit Crunch Munch, a wonderful blog challenge celebrating the very best in fantastically frugal food. This month it is co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.

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