Friday 5 January 2024

Frugal Friday…

Happy new year all, and, let’s be honest, there is nothing like a new year to rekindle thoughts of frugality and generally making sure that we look after our money so it can look after us, eh?

It’s been a while since we’ve done a FF post but it feels like time again - probably not for weekly posts, but certainly for one every so often.  Along with a few others on the lovely Money Saving Expert forums, I am planning a “how low can we go” month for grocery shopping this month. December always tends to be a steep one for most of us for food shopping doesn’t it - from the components of the traditional Christmas dinner, through to the snacky bits for boxing day and beyond, and of course all the treats because after all, it is a Christmas! As long as they can be afforded - and even better if they are budgeted for - then all well and good, but having spent our money on it, it makes sense to extract every last inch of value from it. And after all the spending in December, and undoubtedly for many of us still having plenty of leftovers from that, January is the perfect month to really make use of the resources we have and keep our costs below budget. 

Like many of us, I bought plenty of the supermarket 15p veg in the run up to Christmas week - while some items like the broccoli got used up fairly soon thereafter, I deliberately bought extras of items I knew would keep well - including several bags of parsnips. We love them with a roast dinner anyway, but the bulk of them were always designated for a favourite of ours - curried parsnip soup. It was made today, and turned in to quite the “use it up” meal too.

I started off with some of a  15p bag of shallots, cooked off in a little knob of ghee, then added the chopped parsnips and cooked the lot off gently for a while until everything had started to soften. While that was happening, I ground my spices that I had already toasted off a little earlier - coriander, cumin, black peppercorns and black mustard seeds, plus a little shake of smoked chilli flakes for a bit of background warmth…

Those were then added to the pot along with several big palmfuls of red lentils - these cook off to nothing but add some bulk and some protein to the soup - before it was time to add some liquid. This time round I used ham stock from the Christmas gammon - made up to the full quantity with an equal amount of vegetable stock. No salt being added this time as the ham stock is quite salty already. 

Then  it’s a case of stick a lid on and leave it to simmer until the lentils have essentially disappeared and the parsnips are starting to disintegrate, then off the heat and go and find your stick blender, ready to blast the heck out of it. Make sure to keep the blender fully submerged in the liquid too otherwise our next frugal Friday task will be “cleaning the kitchen with minimal products” - no need to ask me how I know… We’re looking for a completely smooth soup here, no lumps.  

Final step - and a bit more “using up” here - to add some creaminess you want a good slosh of cream, or, in my case today, half a tub of crème fraiche which is on the very end of its date…blend a bit more, and voila…

You end up with a pan of extremely tasty - and very economical - soup. I reckon this pan full cost around £1.50 in ingredients, plus the electricity to cook it - around 25p at a guess,  and it’s made 5 hearty portions, so around 35p a portion. It’s less than half the price of  supermarket tinned soup, and far tastier! Even with fully priced parsnips, it would still be really economical (and without the shallots, I’d just use a perfectly ordinary onion). 

This will be a good start to our month of minimal grocery spending as we’ll each have a bowl of this for lunch tomorrow along with some part-baked rolls we already have (gained as a freebie at the Good Food Show!) Meals are planned for the week ahead using ingredients we already have in too - with the only food on our shopping list this week being fruit, veg and milk. And who knows, I might even come back and update you on this little challenge - we’ll see! 


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