Bargain Hunt ~ please ignore this post if you live in the St. Austell area!

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a rant about a girl who claimed to be too poor to eat well. I’ve been pondering on this as I eat really well on a low budget and I believe that this is not only because I know how to cook but also because I know how to shop ie. I pick up a lot of bargains. For instance this is what I've eaten over the past few days.

Lemony, Peppery Sea Bass Fillets with Asparagus and Sautéed New Potatoes ~ 90p

This was quickly and economically cooked in one pan. I had a few cooked new potatoes leftover from an earlier meal so sautéed them in a little oil till crisp then pushed them to one side of the pan and pulled that side off the heat.  I wiped out the rest of the pan, added a knob of butter, the seasoned fish fillets and 3 stalks of asparagus, sliced.  Both the fish and the asparagus took just a few minutes to cook. I served up the potatoes before sprinkling the fish and asparagus with freshly squeezed lemon and a good old grind of black pepper. 

The sea bass was 66p, reduced from 4.40, the asparagus 49p for 9 stalks so about 16p, the new potatoes were 10p for a kilo so perhaps 1p!

Scallops in a Creamy Leek Sauce, in Crispy Buckwheat Pancakes ~ 90p

½ small leek – cleaned and thinly sliced
7g butter
1 tbsp white wine or vegetable stock
60ml double cream
80g raw scallops

~   Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the leeks to coat thoroughly.
~   Turn down the heat and press something suitable (ie. a butter wrapper, greaseproof paper of piece of foil) directly onto the surface of the leeks.  Cover the pan.
~   Cook gently for 10-15 minutes keeping an eye on things and giving the occasional stir till very tender.
~   Add the wine or stock and allow to simmer for a minute or two.
~   Stir in the cream, bring to a boil then turn down the heat add the scallops and simmer gently for just a minute.

Serve with crispy buckwheat pancakes the recipe for which is here.

The pancake recipe makes 6-8 crepes so I ate 2 and froze the rest, in pairs, for my future delectation (the best way to reheat them is individually in a dry frying pan so that they crisp up again).  Buckwheat flour, which is gluten free, is about £2 a kilo, so my recipe for 6-8 crepes costs about 70p which is about 20p for the crepes, the scallops were reduced from £4.00 to 60p so 30p for them, ½ leek is about 20p, so with the wine and cream – say 90p.

Peppered Steak Salad ~ £1.70

We always pick up the little ends of steak reduced in the supermarket, I use half for either this salad or for Bulgogi and the other half in a fry up for my real man.  On average a small fillet steak trimming costs about £2.50 so that’s £1.25 for my share. handful of lettuce from our favourite mixed bag – 20p, pepper, brandy, cream say 35p. The recipe for the salad is here and as I say it is one of my most popular dishes ever.

Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potato Fries ~ £1.36

Some while ago Jamie Oliver was berated for the expensive ingredients in his book “Save with Jamie” and in particular people seemed aghast at his use of salmon but I can see his point because occasionally Tesco have a half price offer on whole salmon (I used to scale and fillet them myself but recently discovered they’ll do it for you which is even better).  A whole 4kg or so salmon costs about £26 normally, but we never buy one for more than half price, ie. £13.00 and I have seen them occasionally for £6.50!!!

Working it out on the half price version I cut it into about 16 portions so 81p each.  I always keep a sweet potato in stock, 1 sweet potato costs about 60p and is too much for me but the lucky thing is the remaining cut portion keeps well in the fridge with the cut edge covered for about 10 days to 2 weeks so I get three goes at it. Salmon 81p, sweet potato fries 20p, handful of salad 35p = £1.36.

Even better – sometimes I leave a little of the salmon and have it for lunch the next day ... 

Courgette Fritters with Salmon Mayonnaise ~ very little!

Quite often I can’t quite finish my salmon (aren’t I pathetic) so, in this case, I mixed the leftovers with mayonnaise and ate it with courgette fritters using this universal fritter recipe mainly because  we bought 3 gorgeous courgettes for 8p! 

Ham & Pease Pudding Soup with Crunchy Croutons ~ say 30p

This is thick, warming, savoury and delicious and literally costs pennies. See here for the recipe and add some shredded ham if you can. 

This time I served it with croutons about which I hold strong opinions; they should be torn rather than cut as this way you get lots of little ridges and points to go crunchy. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil plus salt and pepper, spread on a baking tray and pop in the oven for a few minutes till golden and crunchy. It’s best to make these when you have the oven on for something else so I can’t give exact timings as I don’t know what temperature you’ll be using but it’s not long. If you keep a collection of bread scraps in the freezer (old crusts and trimmings) they cost virtually nothing whereas a 100g bag of croutons from the supermarket is about £1.00!  Rip off!

I eat this well and this cheaply all the time and if I can do it so can anybody because not only is the food I use cheap but in most cases it’s a doddle to cook and takes very little time or energy – either mine or the electricity type. I realise that as I love cooking and have been at it for years this sort of thing is easy for me but it really honestly ponestly isn’t difficult – and there’s loads and loads of info out there to help, even some stuff by me!  I also know that it is probably easier for me just cooking for myself (and my real man, this is how he eats) but I am confident that I could feed a family reasonably cheaply and healthily too.

We don’t live anywhere particularly bargainaceous (inland Cornwall, we usually shop in St. Austell Tesco) and we don't spend a lot of time searching out deals. We only shop once a week but we do always pick up any bargains we see and luckily I know what to do with them. Often the first step is put it in the freezer which means I always have lots of inspirational bits and pieces to turn to. If you live in the St. Austell area I would, of course, appreciate it if you’d please ignore the above post and leave all the bargains for us!

If you have the time and the inclination it is possible to do the job even better; we have friends who make a point of visiting Morrisons at about 3.30 on Sunday afternoons and they really clean up.  They bought 4½lb vine ripened tomatoes for 45p a couple of weeks ago – respect!


cumbrian said...

Always surprises me as well when people "can't afford to eat well".

Agree the shopping can make a big difference, our menus revolve around what's been reduced on yellow stickers, and we always eat very well.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is possible to eat well but very cheaply as I picked up some very good markdown food last week. Your meals look delicious and it is also about knowing how to turn a reduced price food into something special. Thankyou for info on the salmon I buy reduced individual bits but never thought to buy cheaper big one and portion it myself for freezer.