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.

 

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.

Thrifty grocery shopping

It is unfortunate that when it comes to saving money on grocery, we sometimes have to sacrifice goodness. This is one reason why people’s health declines during times of recession. However, in order to survive financially, it is something one must do sometimes. On the other hand, there are ways to circumvent the negative effects of eating less than healthy diets, but it does require diligence and hard work (e.g., exercise). Recession teaches us a lot about thrift, and everyday we are learning new ways of being thrifty.
Buying cheaper alternatives when it comes to meat means that you will get fatter cuts of meat. If this is the best you can do, you should remove as much visible fat before cooking and always drain the fat after the meat is cooked to avoid a high intake of fat and cholesterol. Similarly, canned meats may be full of sodium and other preservatives. To my surprise, Morrison’s carries their own brand and a few lesser known brands, some of which are low in fat and/or sodium, and are quite inexpensive.  Jamie Oliver can say what he may about cheap sausages, but we cannot afford to pay 10GBP for 20 sausages.  We buy the 1GBP pack, which lasts us a week, and probably contains the worst parts of pork and chicken, but we like it.  There does not appear to be much fat that comes off when we cook it, either.
Buying in bulk makes good financial sense. This is especially true when there is a special and no buyer limits. Morrison’s often have ‘buy one get one free’ offers, or even larger bulks. The same product may be on offer several times a year, with a different offer each time. These items should be purchased when there is a special. If they are nonperishable, you should stock up well until the next special. It may sometimes mean that you will have to rearrange your dinner menus to incorporate the specials.

Although it is difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in bulk, it is best to buy them when they are on special. This is usually the case when said fruits and vegetables are in season, which makes it reasonable to eat healthy and cheap at once. If fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to obtain, frozen or tinned fruits and vegetables are available. They may not be as healthy, but they are a cheaper and non-perishable alternative.

These are only a few ways to save money when shopping for groceries. We have managed to follow some of these ways in order to feed a family of four on around 50 GBP a week. Hopefully, in future blogs we can include some recipes that are simple and use cheap ingredients.

Lidl’s shopping

Lidl’s (sounds like, Little’s)

Neither of us had ever heard of Lidl’s before. My mother-in-law actually introduced us to it. Lidl’s is a German-based grocery store that offers many products from various EU countries. It reminds me a little of Aldi’s (also found in the UK). Whereas Aldi’s sold things in bulk, Lidl’s is mostly for smaller consumption.
Lidl’s is a small store, selling a little of almost everything, but not a lot of any one thing. Selection is, obviously, limited. Yet, the prices are quite incredibly affordable. It definitely caters to the working class. You can get brand name products from other EU countries without having to pay the high prices. There are a few generics, but they are not common. (We bought generic body gel for 13 pence – can you top that? – and no, we did not break out into rashes.)
Before we became settled, we were able to shop at Lidl’s for only 35-40 pounds sterling a week. That fed our family of four. Unfortunately, once we became a little more settled, there were other expenses to consider and our spending went up a bit. That is why we have learned to shop around for the best prices on practically everything. Lidl’s still plays a big part in our normal weekly routine but we have added a few other shops to our limited list in order to supplement our growing needs.