Some honest to goodness frugal cooking has been happening this week. It all started with a marrow. Quite a large one, which Morrisons were selling for £1, and I bought. I like marrow, I especially like it baked, and stuffed, or baked, with a sauce over it. the intention was that it would slot nicely into last weeks meal plan on Wednesday evening - there it was, in black & white "Stuffed marrow & couscous" (We have quite a lot of couscous, thanks to some very cheap Approved Food prices and a slightly overenthusiastic order earlier in the year). Only I had forgotten that we were out on wednesday evening - to be exact we were out at the Olympic Stadium, enjoying some some paralympic Athletics, and very good it was too! however, it left the marrow feeling neglected in the fridge. Poor marrow. Altogether now, ahhhh!
On Tuesday I remembered it again, and reinstalled it onto the meal plan for this week, for that very night, as "Baked marrow with bolognese sauce" which sounded delicious, but meant that I would need to actually cook some sauce to go with it, as previous supplies has been exhausted. A quick freezer-raid revealed a small (250g) pack of mince, and everything else I needed was in either the larder or the storecupboard.
I started off by frying four smallish onions and about three cloves of garlic gently until they were softened and had started to brown. The mince got thrown in to cook through, along with a green pepper from the depths of the fridge (the beauty of this sort of cooking is that it enables you to use up all these odds and ends of fridgey vegetation) and half a pack of "basics" mushrooms. The whole lot was then fried until everything was softened and cooked through. A third of a bag of frozen mixed peppers was added, along with a large handful of porridge oats (these not only bulk out the sauce and make the relatively small amount of meat go a lot, lot further, but also help to thicken and add a lovely creaminess. Oatmeal will do the same job) and a beef "Stockpot" stock concentrate (much nicer than those cubes, although slightly more expensive, but with less hidden salt and nasty chemicals, so well worth the money in my view).
The liquid was provided by a huge catering sized tin of chopped tomatoes...
...bought for the bargain price of £1.50 from Approved Foods a while ago. Once that had come to temperature, I added a good shake of dried basil (if you have fresh, use it, but stir it in at the very last minute in the cooking process) and a couple of heaped teaspoons of mild smoked paprika - which adds a subtle background warmth. I also seasoned with salt & pepper at this point. An hour of simmering produced a lovely thick silky sauce with masses of flavour, and on ladling out into plastic pots we proved to have enough for 6 meals for the two of us. Full ingredients and estimated costs are below:
250g British beef mince - £1.40
2.2kg tin toms - £1.50
Third bag frozen peppers - 40p
1 x fresh green pepper - 25p
Half pack value mushrooms - 40p
Beef "Stockpot" - 25p
Large handful porridge oats
Garlic - as much as you like
Dried Basil (fresh at the last minute if you have it)
Seasoning - salt, pepper, smoked paprika
Call it £4.50 all in inc cooking costs for the whole batch - it has made six meals for 2 people, so 37.5p per portion. Frugal food indeed, and all without any nasty "fake" foods, or cutting corners on taste!