Meals on The Cheap (And A Badly Thought Out Simile)…

I don’t profess to be a good cook.

I mostly manage not to set anything alight but that’s likely due to a reliance on crock pot ‘bung it and walk away’ methods of meal preparation.

I have a love of baked goods, a gut absolutely unable to tolerate them and an insatiable curiosity when it comes to the latest foodie fads (I’m reading up on the Paleo approach at the moment – partly because it’s grain free).

I’m also skint.

Catering to an intolerance on a restricted budget is, at first, a little daunting – until you realise that supermarkets encourage us simply to replace the convenience food that’s been slowly doing us in (whether that be gluten, dairy, egg or what-not) with more (better regulated) ‘Free From’ convenience food.

When I stopped trying to trade in my old eating habits tit for tat, life got a heck of a lot more labour intensive but notably lighter on the wallet.

I didn’t even need Jamie Oliver to hold my hand and gently talk me through it (prick).

That’s my point, really.

We’re so het up on this ‘prescriptive’ method of cookery and eating – from the grocery giants and their little, deceptively expensive ‘mid-week meal’ leaflets to your notorious TV chef (come brand) coaxing us hoi polloi into utilising our leftovers – that we’ve forgotten the joy of shit like making soup, corn beef hash, chicken, rice and peas…

…As a matter of fact there’s a whole arsenal of five ingredients or less recipes loitering in cupboards, languishing at the back of vegetable crispers or the humble freezer as long as we have twenty minutes and a half decent spice rack.

Prime example:

  • This week I got a £2.50 pork crackling joint, covered it in dry jerk seasoning and put it in the fridge.
  • The next morning I used a stock pot, a miserable looking carrot and some garlic – lobbed it in a slow cooker (8 hours use roughly equals 30 minutes on your average hob cost wise) and went out.
  • By the evening I had perfectly pullable pork (which we’re still working our way through as stir frys, salad toppings and probably a curry when it’s on the turn).
  • I left all the little bits and bobs in the stock, threw in a parsnip and my last sweet potato – re cooked it and made a soup.
  • This soup has now done two meals for me and the kiddo. The last ladle became the sauce (with a little cajun pick-me-up) for a ‘what’s lying around my fridge’ stew but could easily have been thinned out and formed the base of another soup or been frozen.

It’s like whole foods cookery Human Centipede style, without the pooping.

While we’re at it, I’m also a major advocate of the microwave. It has so much to offer outside of chicken ding, being not only one of the most economical means of reheating food but a pretty nifty cookery appliance in it’s own right.

Here’s a recipe for a kickass microwave mug brownie – gluten, dairy and refined sugar free (I might smugly add) but containing coconut flour which is by no means cheap but pisses all over several gluten free ‘faux-flour’ alternatives:

  1. Gather together 1 egg, 1 Tbsp. coconut flour, 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder (the type you use for baking or drinking chocolate), 1 Tbsp. almond/soy/coconut/non-dairy milk of your choice, 1/2 Tbsp. honey (or other natural sweet stuff that’s not granulated sugar), 1Tsp. vanilla/orange/almond/rose etc flavouring (or extract if you’re feeling fancy).
  2. Add into big mug (or bowl) and mix the crap out of it – a fork is just as good as a whisk for this.
  3. Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  4. Dollop on something awesome – peanut butter, banana, cream…whatever.
  5. Eat.
  6. Repeat.

Wonderful as the concept of ‘good living for all on a budget’ is; the major flaw in the universal applications of this plan is that I’m only cooking for 1 and 1/2 – my condolences if you’re feeding a family of four or more, I can only suggest you resign yourself to the late night produce mark-down session at the nearest shops and perhaps invest in a catering vat of some kind.

Ava

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