After a blogging hiatus for a myriad of reasons – but mostly internet issues, a crazy workload and an impromptu decision to put our house on the market – it is time for a welcome return to some key tapping and camera snapping. Thankfully for the next six weeks I don’t have to work so there is time and space for all things “lifestyle”. However, while there may be time there is very little cash to finance my preferred champagne and lobster modus vivendi (as it turns out that getting a house market ready, planning a week in London and marrying a student combine to leave a paltry sum for the discretionary) and so I am attempting to morph temporarily into a “frugal foodie” of sorts.
The self-imposed challenge is to make €60 feed our family of two for a week. This budget is just for food and we have allocated €140 for the other stuff houses need to function – fuel, cleaning supplies, an occasional bottle of wine, books, toiletries and the like. We do gratefully accept dinner invites from our parents if we are lucky enough to get them (and we have been very lucky in this regard) as we are not complete masochists and would like to ward off a life characterised by endless rounds of beans on toast.
So with the frugal being pretty self-explanatory, where does the foodie come in? Well I like food..a lot. This means that there are other things as important as cost in this whole endeavour – like quality and nutrition. So the goal is to buy fresh and local, to cook pretty healthy food from scratch and not to simply save some cash by raiding the freezer section of the local discount supermarket. We are talking eliminating food waste, buying less (if any) red meat, looking for offers and seasonal produce and cooking…lots of cooking.
And I am discovering that not only is it fun, if you have the time, but it allows the credit card bill to be cleared, the house to be insured and any bills to be paid on time. Win win win.
So what do we eat? Well my goal over the next week or so is to share just that, along with some recipes and other general money saving tips.
And where better to start than today.
Breakfast – Berry Porridge with a drizzle of honey
A huge bag of porridge oats is a staple for any frugalista and although berries can feel like a luxury they are part of what puts the sunshine in summer and so I try to budget for them. And let’s be honest, porridge needs a helping hand. But there you have it, a regular on the breakfast rotation and probably the cheapest and most nutritious early morning meal available.
Lunch – Mushroom and Thyme Frittata
Having checked what’s in the house (the only sensible place to start) we have half a carton of chestnut mushrooms, garlic, some cheese and a thyme plant growing on the windowsill. There is also some baby spinach and some rocket. So…what can we do? Buy a box of local free range eggs (€1.79) and whip up some sort of omelette. It’s healthy and nutritious and it’s super cheap…..see this is fun! On top of that the recipe is simple. And for those who echo my husband’s sentiment of “it’s an omelette, why can’t she just say omelette, frittata is just a posh word for omelette?”, the answer is because they are not actually synonyms with varying levels of pretension. They are in fact different things and in my personal opinion this difference is subtle but important. Finishing the “frittata” under the grill as opposed to the “omelette” in the pan makes it a little puffier and more solid in texture and to my mind this is more filling. If I wanted something lighter I would just make an omelette!!!
- A good glug of olive oil
- A small knob of butter (optional)
- 10 sliced chestnut mushrooms.
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A generous sprinkle of fresh thyme
- 4 large local free range eggs
- Grated cheese (also optional)
- Sea-salt and black pepper
- Preheat the grill. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan on the hob. Reduce the heat and add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the garlic, thyme and plenty black pepper. Continue to cook for another few minutes.
- In the meantime whisk four eggs with a little seasoning and a drop of water.
- Add the eggs to the mushrooms, covering the bottom of the pan evenly and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Grate on some cheese and transfer the pan to the grill for about 4 minutes to complete cooking.
- Carefully turn the frittata onto a large plate and serve in triangular wedges with a lightly dressed green salad.
For dinner tonight I went to the local fishmonger and picked up some unsmoked haddock (€4.10) and then nipped next door to the vegetable shop for a handful of new locally grown potatoes (€1.69) and some nutritious broccoli (€1.49) and I am going to use all this with the lemons I have left over to make “zesty haddock with crushed potatoes & peas” for tonight’s dinner. Now I can substitute spring onion for chives and the budget will stretch to a small packet of frozen peas but what about the great caper dilemma of 2016?? How essential are they to the dish? Are they are worthy investment? Will I buy the capers and live 24 hrs without coffee? I am still deliberating but on balance I think capers are in and I will visit someone who will surely offer me a coffee if I am desperate!!!!! That’s the thing about a tight budget – it’s all about compromise. And as tomorrow is Friday we start all over again. I will report back on the capers tomorrow – and the caffeine withdrawals xx