Chicken Dinner for Under a Pound

I’ve spoken before about Morrison’s supermarket and some of the ways they can help when trying to live on a tight budget. However, last week I discovered another.

I popped in to our local Morrison’s at 8:30pm, a half hour before closing time, for a loaf of bread. I got the loaf and then headed round store to see what special offers they had going that week. As I got to the cooked meats section, I noticed the lady behind the counter bagging up cooked chicken pieces, however there were no customers in sight. I hesitated to see where the chicken pieces were going and eventually she priced them at 99p and placed them on the top of the counter. When she had bagged up all the remaining chicken from the hot plates (amounting to about 7 or 8 bags) there was a storewide announcement across the Tannoy system inviting customers to pick up a bagful of cooked chicken for 99p. I grabbed a bag and headed off home. The bag had seven chicken pieces (drumsticks and thighs).

At the time, I thought this might be a one-off opportunity and I had just gotten lucky. However, I have been back on a few occasions since and this seems to happen regularly. Sometimes, remaining fresh made bread is also sold off for a pittance. A great way to pick up a cheap dinner!

Finding good value in dining out

When dining out, it is always advisable to find best quality and quantity for the money. With the recession, we find that dining out is a luxury that we cannot afford too frequently. However, there are circumstances beyond our control when we are on the road and have not packed enough food for the day. Or, at other times, when we intend to be out and cannot pack dinner.
One such occasion occurred not too long ago when we decided to attend a pantomime in Eastbourne. We planned to find a small café for a quick dinner before the performance. However, once we arrived, it was difficult to find any place to eat. We opted for an Italian restaurant near the theatre because the kids wanted pizza. As it turned out, it was a good choice. The restaurant was Pomodoro e Mozzarella. Not only was the food and very reasonably priced, the servings were large. The kids each had a pizza and it was not a personal size you might get at the local pizza take-out. It was as large as a dinner plate. I was afraid the kids could not finish (they normally don‘t), but they were very hungry and the food was good, so most of it was consumed. Our dinners were in good portions as well and we were quite stuffed. We had each chosen a three-course meal as a Christmas special. Our total bill was only 30 GBP. It was a very good price to pay for filling our stomachs.

This restaurant definitely deserves a recommendation for quality, quantity and price. It was also family-friendly. The Pomodoro e Mozzarella Pizzeria ristorante can be found at 23/24 Cornfield Terrace in Eastbourne. You can also visit them at www.pomodoro-e-mozzarella.co.uk.

 

Chicken broccoli cheese soup

This soup can turn out to be a chowder, depending on how thick you make it.  This soup is great for the winter as it is nourishing as well as filling.  Cooking this as a big batch, then freezing it in small portions will save you time, money and energy.  Again, you may vary it according to your tastes.

Ingredients: one whole chicken; one bag of frozen broccoli, one large onion chopped up; a bowl of grated cheese; box of potato flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

You start by making the chicken stock in a large stock pot.  It would be best to boil a whole chicken.  We used to use skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs but cooking with skin and bones gives the broth a richer taste.  Add the broccoli and onions.  The longer the broccoli cooks, the softer it becomes until it starts to fall apart.  Lastly, add the cheese and potato flakes.  You may add more flakes to make the soup thicker if you like.  Salt and pepper to taste.

If you are using a whole chicken, you may end up with a lot of fat in the stock.  It would be best to remove as much of this layer of fat as possible before proceeding to the other steps.  I have not stated what kind of cheese to use, but cheddar melts the best.  We like our soup to have a little extra kick, so we do prefer the PepperJack or a similar cheese.  You may choose any flavour to vary this soup.

The cost (according to Morrison’s): one whole chicken 3.50, 1 pack of frozen broccoli 1.00, cheese (varies) 2.50, potato flakes 2 boxes for 52p, one onion 10p.  This recipe makes at least 10 large servings.

On a cold winter day, especially a snowy one, it is nice to warm up to a cup of this delicious soup.  When you reheat from frozen, make sure you do so slowly in the microwave.

Avoid waste – use your freezer wisely

Did you know that you can freeze almost anything and keep it fresh? It is one way that you can save food from rotting. Which in turn, cuts down on waste and you won’t feel guilty.
If you find a good deal on bread and want to buy several loaves, make sure you leave one out and freeze the rest. Thaw the loaf about a day before using it. Did you know you could do the same with cookies? Bananas can be frozen and this prevents them from over-ripening. The skin may turn black, but the fruit is fresh. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in the microwave. Just imagine not having to cook dinner for one evening.

Buying frozen vegetables can often be cheaper than fresh. And they often taste fresher than the tinned. They can be thawed under running cold water and used as fresh.

Meat and fish are often found frozen. Though we buy frozen fish in large packs, I have yet to find a way to cook them so that they taste like fresh. But I still enjoy them. When we buy fresh fish and meat and do not think that we will use them in the next day or two, we will freeze them. This makes them last much longer.

Though many are in the habit of shopping on a frequent basis to get fresh foods, we have found that we do not have enough time on our hands to do this. We usually shop once a week for everything we need that week. We have learned to use our freezer to keep things still fresh at the end of the week.

Ham and Pasta Salad with Mango Chutney

Inspired by the various pasta salads which we dined on during our journey before we became “settled”, this is an easy and versatile salad.  Because the ingredients are fairly cheap, we find that we have this salad frequently for lunch.  As with any recipe, you can adapt your own tastes by substituting the ingredients. 

Specifically, we used a bag (500g) of pasta twists, two tins of chopped ham and pork, a jar of mango chutney, almost half a bottle of salad cream (the 400g bottle), some carrots and celery, and a jar of pickled onions.  I am not a chef, just a mother, so I when I create my own dishes, I tend to measure to taste.  I also prefer to make big batches, so that we have extra helpings for leftovers on another day.

Directions:  Boil the pasta as directed.  Slice the tinned chopped ham into thin strips.  Grate about a cupful of carrots and chop up a couple stalks of celery.  Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add more salad cream if desired or required.  You want to make sure you cover all the pasta, otherwise, it may be quite stodgy.  Enjoy.

This recipe makes about 4 servings.  These are “our” servings, not the recommended servings.  If you measure based upon the amount the grocery stores sell as a serving, it would probably be about 8 servings.  If you were to buy 8 servings of pasta at the stores, it would cost you anywhere between 8-10 GBP.  But the ingredients above (pasta – 39p, ham – 45p each, chutney – 89p, pickled onion – 86p, salad cream – 45p, carrots – 25p, celery – 50p) add up to less than 5 GBP.  Prices are based on our regular shopping at Morrison’s.