I was chatting to a lady in the park yesterday whilst baby-sitting my grandson. As is usual recently, the conversation turned to the cost of living. I was talking about some of the frugal foods I buy and cook with in order to keep costs down eg oats, rice, flour, barley, beans, pasta etc. She turned her nose up and said that bland, boring food wasn’t her thing. To be honest it isn’t mine either, and I don’t think of the food we eat as boring. It got me thinking about ways that we make frugal food seem special. Even when I had guests last week I made frugal food, and they thought that it was amazing because I disguised it. Here are some of the things that I do.
- Make things from scratch. Things like homemade bread, flapjack, soup, burrito bowls can all be made from inexpensive ingredients but taste so much better than ready made.
- Add herbs and spices. We infuse tasteless cous cous with home grown herbs, add cinnamon to foraged apples, curry powder or chilli to leftovers, Harisa paste to some left- over rice with a few sultanas and veg to give a Moroccan twist. Even adding salt and pepper can enhance taste. If like me you are using home grown herbs, the general rule is that you put 3 times the number of fresh herbs into a recipe to what you would dried herbs
- Garnish the food. A few home-grown basil leaves on a pasta or tomato soup, a sprig of mint on a dessert, salad garnishes, or a raspberry on top of a mini trifles all make the food look special and appetising.
- Even if I am making the same food weekly eg. Bolognaise I will mix it up by using the base dish in different ways. It can make nachos, it can go in a lasagna, fill a pasty, be served with different pastas, stuff pasta, go in quesadillas, have under mash etc. Variety is the spice of life. Don’t have the same boring meal plan each week.
- Sit and eat at the table and get that nice crockery out that you are saving for special occasions, even if it is once a week. Yorkshire puddings are made with cheap, simple ingredients but filled with some frugal, tasty stew, enhanced with herbs, on a nice plate it can feel like a posh meal.
- Add homemade sauces, fruit vinegars and chutneys etc to boost taste. We make ours from homegrown ingredients. Sweet chilli sauce can liven up an ordinary chicken wrap, a fruit vinegar can jazz up a simple salad. Once when we were running low on food and only had two sausages, a bit of mashed potato some home-made tomato chutney and a little bit of cheese in the fridge I made some pasties to stretch it out for two of us and they were to die for.
- I always have a bottle of lemon juice and lime juice in the fridge. A bit of lime juice added to icing sugar to cover a basic sponge adds lots of taste. Citrus juice is lovely over salad, in stir fry, and even on pasta, cous cous and rice.
- Make the food colourful and attractive to the eye. Eating the rainbow is also healthy. Add different coloured seasonal veg to your meals. To cous cous or rice we chop herbs, red onion, tomato, defrosted sweetcorn and orange pepper and mix through. We also add fruit compote or home- made jam to bland milk puddings to brighten them up.
- Have a dish from a different country each week. Italian, Chinese, Greek, American, Indian, Morrocan and meals from other countries can all be made from frugal ingredients. Chose recipes that don’t need lots of ingredients and use spices you already have in.
- Try to add a new recipe to your repertoire each week. We play ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ with what we have in every week and some of our favourite meals have been discovered this way.
How do you disguise the fact that your food is frugal? I would love to learn from your ideas